Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Determine Your Homeschool Schedule

There are a couple of things to consider before setting your homeschool schedule:  1) when do your children learn best, morning or afternoon -- you may not be able to determine this until trying one or the other and seeing how well it works; 2) what is your husband's work schedule -- if he works a shift that requires him to sleep during the day, you may need to figure out how to school around that, or if he works a shift where he is only home a few hours during the children's awake time, you may want to be sure to spend that time with him and have him be involved and then do other studies while he is working; 3) consider yourself, allow flexibility for unexpected events or emergencies to avoid being stressed when deadlines loom and you haven't finished schooling yet.

That being said, I'll explain my choice of schedule to give you an example and give a few other options.  My husband works during the day and is home evenings and weekends and I like to get work done in the mornings and have the rest of the day to enjoy and do what I enjoy, therefore, I trained my children that way as well, because I found that if I allowed any play time before school work was complete, they had a hard time getting back to school work.  Therefore, our rule became "schoolwork right after breakfast until it is finished, although we take lunch when it is lunchtime.  Then when schoolwork is finished, the rest of the day is your time to do what you want."  This has worked very well and most days, we are finished with school by lunchtime, although sometimes we need to finish after lunch.  We hardly ever go past 2 p.m.

We begin school every year in July, the week after Fourth of July week and we end by the end of the first or second week of May.  That gives us a full two months off, and we have found that if we take any longer than that, the boys become bored and start asking to start school.  We also take at least one full week, but usually try to take two full weeks, off at Christmas.  I like to take the week before to be able to decorate, bake and shop without getting stressed by trying to fit school in too, and then the boys like the week after so that they can enjoy their new gifts for a while before having to get back to the schoolwork.  We really like this schedule because it still gives us enough flexibility so that if an emergency or unexpected situation happens at any other time of the year, we can take a day off here or there without having to stress about it.

We don't always take a family vacation, but if we do, we do several things that can be counted for school so that we can keep our schedule.  By this, I don't mean that we make the boys "crack the books" on vacation; what I mean is we visit something educational such as a museum or a zoo -- something that is fun but where they are also learning something about history or science.

I know lots of people who still choose to take the entire summer off and follow a schedule like the public school.  I also know people who homeschool all year round and simply take breaks throughout the year like a Spring break, a Fall break, a Winter break and a Summer break.  It all depends upon what works for you.  Plan your schedule according to what you find works best for your family and creates the least amount of stress for you and your family, and that will help you to be able to continue your homeschool journey year after year.  It helps avoid burnout.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Unit Study Approach to Homeschooling

Some families like to do unit studies for their homeschooling.  You can purchase a unit study curriculum or you can create your own.  Unit studies are an easy way to teach to children of multiple ages and grade levels at the same time.

Our first year of homeschooling, we used a unit study curriculum.  We used Konos in a box.  We studied, knights and horses and the lightbulb and made our own old time lanterns and made candles out of melted crayons.  We enjoyed it, but there were things I chose not to do because I didn't know how to make those things understandable for our son who was in kindergarten at the time.  Therefore, we finished Konos a few weeks before we reached our 180th day of school, so I decided to create my own unit study for the boys to finish out the year.

I asked the boys what they wanted to study, and they both decided they wanted to study China.  So, we went to our local public library and we checked out books about the country of China, Chinese cooking, a book about Tiananmen Square, a book about Confuscious and a book entitled The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean.  We also checked out a video on how to make a dragon.

The boys made dinner one night from a couple of recipes from the Chinese cooking book, they enjoyed making the dragons out of egg cartons and paint.  They enjoyed learning all that we learned about China for those couple of weeks.  Today, this unit study remains one of their favorite memories of homeschooling, and The Kite Rider remains one of their favorite books.

The unit study we did on China included every subject except math, science and music.  We had math and science, but I was trying to figure out what we could do for music.  Then I remembered that we have a store nearby that sells things from all over the world, and one of the things they carry are CDs of music from most other countries, so I took the boys there with the intention of buying a CD of Chinese music.  However, when we arrived at the store, I discovered that they had sample CDs that you could listen to through a boom box and headphones, so we listened to a few selections from a couple of CDs and then we went home.  The store people didn't mind and the store wasn't busy at the time.

So, you can create a unit study without spending much money or you can purchase a unit study curriculum like Konos or Amanda Bennett.

One word of caution when checking things out from your local public library, be sure you choose your books and resources wisely, making sure that they are in line with what you want to teach your child(ren) -- the correct world view, and if they don't be sure that you can effectively explain to your children the difference between what you believe and what the book is saying.  We, of course, had some interesting discussions about Chinese culture and their beliefs as compared to our own, and my children understood that our beliefs are in the one, true God.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Can You Teach Your Child About God in Every Subject?

I know that it is easy to include God in history, English/language arts, science, current events, and pretty much every subject except mathematics.  We have read and watched lots of great videos that show God in the history of our country.  We have read Answers in Genesis and watched some of their great videos and have listened to many Jonathan Park adventures produced by Vision Forum and have seen God in science.  We can read great books about missionaries, we can read the Bible, and we can read great living books with a Christian worldview that show us God in English/language arts.  We can get magazines for different age groups from God's World News that teaches them about current events from a Christian worldview.

For the record, worldview is your framework for understanding existence -- the way you look at the world.  Every worldview is based on certain faith assumptions.  A false worldview causes you to see reality in a severely distorted way and dooms your plans and visions.  What you believe about God and man determines what you believe about everything else.*

One of the very best apologetics for Christianity is the fact that it differs radically from every other version of reality, and that its differences match reality.  In order to understand and articulate these differences, the Christian must under his own worldview and the various worldviews* around him.

This is why it is so important for us, as our children's home educators, to know and understand what our own worldview is, to be sure our worldview is what we want it to be -- what we want others, especially our children, to see in us.  If we have the wrong worldview or have no concept of what a worldview is, it will be more difficult to teach the proper worldview to our children.

All of that being said, I was recently introduced to the fact that many Christian homeschool families teach their children about God in all subjects, including math.  This has resonated in my soul, as the more we can teach our worldview to our children, the more they will grasp it.  As Christians, teaching our children our worldview is of the utmost importance to us.

Therefore, I remembered a book I purchased at a previous homeschool convention several years ago, but still haven't read.  It is entitled Mathematics:  Is God Silent? by James Nickel.  I have pulled this book out and plan to read it before we begin the new school year.  There are high praises for the book, on the back cover, by both Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and Reverend Rousas John Rushdoony of Chalcedon Foundation.

I plan to make teaching our children about God in every subject a matter of prayer during this break, and plan to implement it into our homeschool in the coming new school year.  I encourage you to read Mathematics:  Is God Silent by James Nickel as well.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thoughts and Experiences of Mathematics

I would like to begin this post by sharing our homeschool experience with mathematics.  When we began homeschooling, we used Saxon Math.  Why?  I really don't have a good reason.  Unlike other curriculum, I didn't really research a lot of different math curriculums, maybe because I never really did well with math in my own schooling.  Therefore, I purchased what the majority of the homeschool families I knew were using at the time.  They all seemed happy with it.

Now, lest I sound negative toward Saxon Math, I would like to say that it served us quite well through elementary and junior high school.  I liked the way that each lesson built upon the previous lesson and the boys seemed to be doing quite well.  Saxon is a bit more advanced than some of the other math curriculums, and I don't feel they give you, the teacher, enough explanation to help the student grasp the concept, but, as I said, my boys did fine through elementary and junior high.

We hit a major roadblock when our oldest son reached the pre-algebra level.  He didn't understand it and I, not being mathematically inclined and without enough explanation, couldn't help him.  Math was not his strongest subject nor his favorite, either, and with the frustration of the pre-algebra, he began to cry over math.  Now, this is a child who absolutely loved school and learning and had never shed a tear over anything academically related before or since, so I knew we needed to start looking at other math curriculums and make a decision.

We found Math-U-See.  We were impressed with the demonstration we saw at a homeschool convention.  We liked the fact that it included video instruction by the man who created the curriculum, Steve Demme, and it had manipulatives to help reinforce what your student(s) had to do.

We purchased Math-U-See and our oldest son was happy and relieved because watching Steve on those videos was extremely helpful.  He understood and he did well in pre-algebra and algebra.  I am sure that he could have done more with Math-U-See, but he didn't need any more math credit to graduate and wasn't going into a field that required any more math.

We decided to follow the same path with our second son since he was already working on Saxon Math and doing well also.  We switched him to Math-U-See for algebra I.  He didn't need pre-algebra.  He is more mathematically inclined than our older son and he likes math.  He will be doing Math-U-See's Geometry this next school year.

For our youngest, we decided simply to start him with Math-U-See and simply let him go all the way through it.  He loves the videos with "Mr. Steve" and he really grasps each concept before we move on to a new one, and he can do math problems in his head pretty quickly for a second grader.  We have become big Math-U-See supporters, and though, the Saxon worked okay for the other two boys through elementary and junior high, and they are competent in their math skills, I do think they may have fully grasped the concepts better if they had used Math-U-See all the way through.

Oh, and for the record, Saxon Math has been used in public schools.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Charlotte Mason Approach to Homeschooling

There are several different styles of homeschooling.  I will try to cover as many of them as I am able.  I would like to begin with the one I use most and like best:  The Charlotte Mason Approach.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who devoted her life to improving the quality of education in England at the turn of the twentieth century.  She wrote several books on education, and two key mottos taken from the principles written in her books include "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and "Education is the science of relations."  She believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such.  Her motto for students was "I am, I can, I ought, I will".

Her method of teaching includes reading living books.  "What are living books?" you may ask.  Living books are usually written by one person with a passion for the topic and a broad command of the language as well as the ability to write in an engaging, literary style while communicating great ideas rather than mere facts.  A living book should be alive and engaging, and you can find living books for almost all subjects.

Some great living books I read with our youngest this past school year are:  Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field.  This book was a wonderful story about a wooden doll and the places she went and the children who played with her.  We used it for both history and geography.  It was suggested by my friend, Karen Andreola, who also wrote A Charlotte Mason Companion.  Karen also has a lovely blog you can follow at:  We also read a fantastic book about Benjamin Franklin entitled Go Fly a Kite, Ben Franklin! by Peter and Connie Roop.  We read this book for history.  The Magic Schoolbus books are great living books to use for science and health.  Other great living books for geography are the ones written by Holling C. Holling, like Pagoo, Paddle to the Sea, Seabird and Minn of the Mississippi.  There are lots of great living books for history as well.  Years ago, when the two older boys were studying Abraham Lincoln and slavery, we read a series of books that included the title:  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  They loved these books, and they are still some of our oldest son's favorites.

Charlotte Mason's method also includes narration -- that a child is expected to tell what they have read, either orally, written or drawn.  This should be done after just one reading of the material, and you should not correct or interrupt the student while the student is presenting their narration.  This requires the child to train his powers of attention, to combine all he has read into one condensed piece, to organize the material in his mind and to determine how best to communicate all that he remembers in his own words.

In early years, you can simply have your child look at great art photos and have them tell you about it.  This will help them learn how to compose a story.

Charlotte Mason also strongly believed in habit training.  She believed that habit training was a powerful force in helping children to take charge of their own education.  She specifically encouraged the child's learning of the habits of attention, perfect execution, obedience, truthfulness, an even temper, neatness, kindness, order, respect, recall, punctuality, gentleness, cleanliness, among others.

Charlotte Mason advocated that lessons be kept short and focused for younger children, seldom more than 20 minutes in length. As children mature and develop greater mastery of their powers of attention, lessons grow progressively longer. Students were given a schedule so they knew they had a limited time to complete the lesson. Miss Mason believed that dreary or dawdling lessons 'stultified a child's wits' and blocked his intellectual progress at the start. Mason believed these short, concentrated, focused lessons encouraged the habit of full attention, and securing such a habit early in life equipped the children to receive a broad education encompassing a well-ordered feast of subjects. Miss Mason also recommended alternating lessons so that children were doing a variety of work so as not to fatigue the brain- sums would be followed by a lesson in writing, for instance, rather than two history readings back to back.

Miss Mason felt it was important to teach handwriting, and she used dictation and copywork to reinforce grammar and to teach spelling. Because grammar is a difficult concept for children to grasp, she recommended postponing the formal study of grammar until the child reached the age of ten. She believed that consistent practice in narration, dictation and copywork lays the foundation for grammar study.

Charlotte Mason taught foreign language. And, she believed that children deserved direct contact with the best art. She believed that the Bible should be read everyday.

If you have any interest in learning more about Charlotte Mason and her method of education, you can read more about her at:, which is where I found some of the information I have shared here.  However, if you think the Charlotte Mason method may be the method for your family, I highly recommend you purchase and read my friend, Karen Andreola's book, The Charlotte Mason Companion, available through

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dating or Courtship: Choose God's Best!

Let me start by saying that I don't like to use the term "courtship" because it is defined differently by different people.  That is also what Kathie Morrissey said when she began her seminar at the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention on this topic.

Kathie talked about the problems with dating, what courtship is and how to teach it in your home.  She quoted out of a couple of books and suggested some books and a DVD or two.

Problems with Dating:

1. Parents aren't involved
2.  Loss of physical purity
3.  Emotional hurt
4.  Keeps focus off the Lord
5.  Goal is selfish
6.  No destination
7.  Negative impact on the future marriage relationship

What is courting?

1.  One on one relationship entered into with a view to marriage
2.  Relationship that is fully supervised by the parents (not arranged marriages, but "agreed upon" marriages)
3.  Reserved for the time when you're ready for marriage

    A mentality of saving "all of my heart" for you.

How to Teach it in Your Home:

1.  Start when they are young to shape their values
2.  Teach self-control
3.  Encourage them to reserve pairing off for courtship; help them to develop brother-sister or "just friend"
4.  Help them to avoid preoccupation with guy-girl concerns, and to focus on spiritual growth and character
5.  Teach them how to handle attraction (attraction doesn't end once you're married; this is why self-control
      is important
6.  Encourage them to make a commitment

The main ideas behind courtship are:  to live under the protection of their God-given authorities and to guard their heart, and save it for that special one.

It is most important to be focusing on focusing on their spiritual growth and on God and not upon selfish desires.

If your son/daughter is talking about someone of interest and showing a lot of emotional focus, direct them from emotion to character by asking them what he/she likes about that person's character.

Encourage your son/daughter to focus on "being the right one" instead of "finding the right one".

One on one relationships or relationships based on selfish desires are distractions from God -- Solomon couldn't handle the distractions of relationship -- it turned his heart from God, and he was the wises man on the earth.  David couldn't handle the distraction of relationship -- it caused him to commit murder -- and he was a man after God's own heart.  If these strong men of the Bible couldn't handle the distraction of relationship, neither can any of our sons or daughters.

Some of the books that Kathie recommended:

Stay in the Castle by Pastor Jerry Ross
Seven Royal Laws of Courtship by Jerry Ross
For the Counscientious parent. . .  Dating:  Is it Worth the Risk? by Reb Bradley
Just Friends/guarding your heart for a wonderful someday by Mike Ray and Cary Schmidt

DVDs recommended by Kathie Morrissey:

"Seeds of Disintegration Planted by the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Philosophy"
"God's Plan for Finding a Mate"

I purchased all of the above items and read the first three books.  I will be reading the fourth book soon and my husband and I plan to watch the DVDs with our two older boys soon as well.  My oldest son has read the first two books so far.

There are other resources to consider, available at, which is Kathie Morrissey's website or you can also check out which deals mostly with the issue of purity.

I would like to add my own thoughts here as well.  I would encourage you to be careful in how you choose to direct your children in this very important part of life.  We, as loving, Christian parents, want the best for our children and we would like to protect them from the world, the crazy culture, and the mistakes we have made.  But we must remember to handle things in a loving, supportive, encouraging way and be careful not to be iron-fisted, legalistic or dictatorial in this.  We want our children to respect and honor our wishes because they, hopefully, understand where we are coming from and that we do want what is best for them and because they love us and want to please us.  We want them to feel comfortable in talking to us about their thoughts and feelings.  We do not want to hurt them, squash their spirits or turn them to rebellion.

I know that no matter how hard we try to raise our children up in the way they should go, there is always a chance they will rebel and go through a time where they choose to go their own way.  Teenagers and young adults can be very challenging and they may not see the value in our wisdom and experience.  They may end up making mistakes we don't want them to make and hurting and disappointing us, no matter how hard we try.  When these things happen, we need to remember that they are, first and foremost, God's children and allow Him to work in their lives.  We must give Him the control, for, ultimately, He is the one in control anyway.  No matter how much we think we are in control, we are fooling ourselves to think that way.  We must also trust our children because of the things we have taught them.

Sometimes, the only thing we can do is to cling to the Lord and pray, and if we have raised them in the way they should go, to trust that, even if they choose to stray for a time, they will return and not depart.

My husband and I have just begun this part of life's journey and our oldest does not agree with us on some of our courtship ideas because he has friends who have been hurt, angered and frustrated because of their parents, or the person's parents, whom they were interested in.  The problem is he is only hearing his friends' side of the story and not any of the parents' points of view.  My husband and I believe that our plan of courtship is good and fair and hope that he will learn to trust us -- for that is the other part of the equation -- our son/daughter's trust in us.

My prayer is that all of our beloved sons and daughters would trust our wisdom and that we, as loving, Christian parents would value our children's thoughts and feelings as well, but that ultimately, both parents and children would always have their hearts turned toward God.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to Help Your Child Write Creatively

Sandi Queen is a homeschooling mom who created her own homeschool curriculum.  Her five older children are award-winning authors and her youngest, (age 11), is currently writing his first book.  Sandi has written over 300 books.

She spoke at a seminar at the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention about helping your children with their creative writing.

She strongly suggests that children at the pre-reading level should be read to.  Read aloud to children.  Read living books and expose them to interesting stories of many different types.

I strongly suggest this as well.  I have done this with all three of our boys and though they all can now read on their own, they still love to have me read aloud because I always change my voice for different characters to make it more interesting and fun.  This is the first step to creating a love for reading in your children.

Next, Sandi suggested teaching them narration through picture study.  Show them a picture and let them tell you about it.  She uses beautiful pictures.  She has created her own books for this and also sells them to homeschoolers.  She encourages parents to encourage their children if they struggle with their description.  She suggests that you ask them questions to prompt them to pay attention to the details to help them build a story from the photo.  For example, if you are looking at a photo of a little girl with a basket of flowers, you can ask them questions like:  "What is the little girl carrying?" "How is the little girl dressed?"  "What do you think she's going to do with the flowers?"  "Where do you think she is going?"  "What season of the year is it?"  and so on.  This will help them learn how to build a story that will give their readers an accurate mental picture.

Sandi also suggests times where you allow your child, especially in their early writing attempts, to "Free Write".  This should be something that is short, fun, and non-threatening; something that will not be corrected.  Things like writing a description of their favorite meal, list of favorite activities, games, etc.  Create a list of words that begin with a certain letter, a list of color words, season words, etc.  Create a list of words that mean old, sweet, cold, etc.  Ask them to write about what it's like to be a horse, a shoe, a doughnut, etc.  These activities will encourage their creativity and build their confidence.

Once your child is confident and doing well and has the right idea with free writing, you can ask them to write a letter or a card.  When they are finished, look it over and tell them they did a good job, suggest sending a copy to the friend or family member and then say, "Let's go over it and be sure the spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct so that he/she will be able to fully understand clearly what you're trying to say."

Once a child understands and is confident and comfortable with their writing, they need to understand that writing needs to be expressive, descriptive and detailed enough to create an accurate mental picture, and writing needs to be correctly executed.  However, you want the child to be comfortable and confident with writing before stressing all of the technicalities or you can cause them to dislike writing.

I purchased one of Sandi's photo narrative books for our youngest, and as a writer myself, certainly agree with and appreciate Sandi's suggestions for teaching creative writing to our children because I have had a love of writing for a long time and it came from encouragement that I received from my school teachers.  However, my parents did not do their part to also encourage me in my writing, and a comment they made to me when I shared my dream of becoming a published author deeply hurt and caused me to cast my writing aside for many years.  I have just recently decided to work toward my dream of becoming a published author again because my oldest son said something to me that truly boosted my self-confidence in my writing. He is a talented writer and he said to me, "Mom, God gives us talents, but you taught me how to use that talent, so if I am a talented writer, a lot of it is due to your teaching, so you obviously have writing talent too."

You can find Sandi's homeschool curriculum at:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Are You a Procrastinator?

I attended a seminar at the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention that was given by Rick Grubbs and was about procrastination.  It was a fun seminar and our youngest son was with me, and he made me laugh, because his impression of Rick Grubbs was, "he seems really happy, Mommy,"  because Mr. Grubbs was very animated in his speaking.  He had a lot of energy and was fun to listen to and definitely held our attention.

He stated that Acts 24:24-25 teaches about Overcoming Procrastination.

Rick Grubbs defined procrastination as putting off until later what God wants me to do right now.

He listed the Three Stages of Procrastination as:

Diversion   --  James 1:14
Rationalization (ignoring obvious consequences in order to justify my behavior)  -- Genesis 3:6
Excuses   --  Proverbs 22:13

He gave Types of Procrastination:

Category                                            Slothful                                           Fearful
Focus                                            "Overwhelming"                               "Unpleasant"

Rationalization                               1.  Matt.   25:1-13                           1.  Exodus 4:10
Techniques                                     Short Term Focus                              Perfectionism

                                                     2.  Proverbs 22:13                           2.  Luke 10:41
                                                     Imaginary Obstacles                       Activity Without Accomplishment

Weapons                                      1.  Luke 14:21                                  1.  John 12:24
                                                        Deadlines                            Seeing Failure as Necessary for Success

                                                     2.  Job 31:1                                      2.  Luke 5:4
                                                       Commitment                                   Create Momentum

                                                     3.  I Peter 5:5

Mr. Grubbs said, "The one question to ask when tempted to procrastinate (I Kings 18:21):
"Will I obey God right now, Yes or No?"

There is no third option of "yes, but".    "Delayed obedience is actually disobedience."

A few other things from his seminar are:

"Procrastination is the assassination of your motivation."

"Work will expand to fill the time we allow for it."
"When the commitment is there, the freedom will follow."

"It is not the number of times you fail that matters.  It is the number of times you succeed.  And the number of times you succeed depends on how many times you try."

"It is always easier to edit than it is to create."

This was a follow-up seminar to one he had done earlier in the day that I did not attend.  But, Mr. Grubbs taught that we should look to God in how to spend our time, as we should look to God in all things, and he handed out bright, little stickers that say, "What does God want me to do Right Now?"

You can find out more about Mr. Grubbs and his teachings at:  He also has a newsletter you can sign up to receive.

I wouldn't say that I am a strong procrastinator.  I usually like to do what I need to do as soon as possible, but I have been known to procrastinate on some things, which is why I attended this seminar.  I found it very interesting and helpful.  It always makes me wonder, when I hear some of these teachings, "why couldn't I figure this out on my own?  I know that God is our source and provider for all things, but I guess we just need someone else to point this out to us sometimes."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Got Calm?

I attended a seminar by Kirk Martin at the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention.  He talked about "Ways to Stop Defiance and Disrespect".  He has lots of great parenting tips that focus more on us, as parents, and our actions and reactions than on the children's behavior.  He explains how we can change our children's behaviors by how we act or react.

He urges parents to sit down so that they can have a "conversation" with the child instead of a "confrontation".

He said that kids who ask why are often asking because they are big picture people and need to know the big picture.

Here are some of the quotes that he stated:

"I never want to give kids control of my home, but I will give them ownership."  (Get them to help)

"Your child owns you when you are out of control."

"We bludgeon our kids with words."

He said that kids who can't take correction internalize failure.

He explained how one of our biggest problems as parents is that we react to the outward behavior.  The outward behavior is always a sign of another issue.  We're in such a hurry all the time that we see it as irritating, annoying and inconvenient to ourselves.  He recommended that before dealing with your children, be sure your emotions and yourself are in control.

"When I control myself, I get clarity."

You can counter your child's anxiety by giving them something they can do.  Your kids are good as long as their brain is focused on something good and productive.

"If your kids can't come to you with their worst selves, they won't come to you at all later and will instead turn to their teenage friends/peers, which is not good."

We, as parents, need to realize:  "I don't need you to respect me; I respect myself.  You need to respect me for yourself."

Kirk was a dynamic speaker who had some humor in the things he taught.  He encourages parents to remain calm and to have a calm household.  He has some great audio CD sets.  We purchased all of the parenting ones for a significantly discounted price at the convention, but they are also available on his website.  He also has some audio CD sets for couples.  He explained, in the seminar, that he sells the sets for a fairly high price because he wants us to realize the value of them and how much they can help, if you commit to listen to them over and over because that is the only way to break the patterns and the things that were ingrained in us from our parents parenting.

I have listened to all of the parenting ones one time so far, but enjoy listening to them while relaxing in the evenings.  I copied the CD sets onto my ipad so that I can listen to them without disturbing anyone else, and my husband has a set in his car so he can listen to them on his way to work and home again.  I really like what he teaches and find that it really does help me to stay calm.  We have enough stress in our lives without stressing at our children.

Check out Kirk's website for more information:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hank, the Cowdog


We were introduced to Hank, the Cowdog several years ago, when our two older boys were young and John R. Erickson spoke at the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention.  Well, he returned again this year, and so we introduced our youngest son to Hank, the Cowdog.

John R. Erickson opened his seminars with one of his songs from Hank, the Cowdog.  He also read a chapter from one of the Hank, the Cowdog books and talked about the characters from the books.

Our older boys still love Hank, the Cowdog, as do my husband and I, and now our youngest, as well.  As a matter of fact, while I was working on blog posts this afternoon, he was playing on the floor nearby, and he was singing one of the songs.

We purchased some more of the Hank, the Cowdog books at the convention, as well as a T-shirt for our youngest, some of the books that are only available on CDs and the Hank, the Cowdog Tornado game.  Yes, we are big Hank fans.

This year, John R. Erickson also had a new book entitled Story Craft:  Reflections on Faith, Culture, and Writing from the Author of Hank, the Cowdog.  Our oldest son and I each grabbed one of these quickly as we are both writers.  We had them autographed by Mr. Erickson, who also autographed all of the Hank, the Cowdog books we purchased and the T-shirt for our youngest.

Several years ago, I taught a class at our homeschool co-op on Hank, the Cowdog and both boys and girls love the stories, and they are enjoyed by all ages.

A few years ago, our oldest son also purchased a copy of a book that Mr. Erickson wrote that isn't about Hank, the Cowdog.

Moonshiner's Gold

It has just come to my attention that he has created a series out of this as well, it is about a boy named Riley McDaniels.  There are two more books to this series.  Our oldest son enjoyed this book, though not as much as the Hank, the Cowdog books.  It is an adventure story, and it is different from the Hank, the Cowdog books.

You and your children can enjoy Hank, the Cowdog regularly by visiting the Official Hank, the Cowdog website at:  You can see all of John R. Erickson's books on this website as well.  He actually has quite a few nonfiction books about cowboys.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Are You a Member of a Church?

I'm sorry I've been gone for a couple of weeks, but we were finishing our school year, after which I put together our portfolios, and last Friday we had our end-of-the-year evaluations.  I should now have more time to devote to this blog and those of you who come here seeking information.

My last post was about one of the speakers and her seminars from the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention that I attended at the beginning of the month, and I promised to continue with information on other seminars that I attended.  So, here we go.

Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes To Raise Sons And Daughters Who Walk With God

Reading the above book was my introduction to Voddie Baucham and his ministry.  I loved the book and highly recommend it!  He has some other great books as well, including his newest:

Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes

Voddie Baucham was at the C.H.A.P. Homeschool Convention at the beginning of May and he spoke in several seminars each day.  I attended a couple of his seminars and purchased others on CD to bring home to listen to.

The first seminar I attended that he held was "Why Your Family Needs the Church".  I am sure that this seminar made some people uncomfortable as he talked about "church" vs. "home church".  He is very knowledgeable of the Bible and has scriptures that apply to everything he talks about.

He asked the question "What is a church?"  Then he answered it, "The church is a congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered."

He talked about Biblical Assembly and said that it requires:
Biblical Gospel -- Historic, God-centered, Christ-centered, cross-centered, Grace-Centered
Biblical Officers
Biblical Ordinance
Biblical Discipline

He stressed, "If it is not the gospel you are hearing, you are not in a true, healthy church."

He quoted many scriptures.  I did not write the scriptures out, but wrote down all of their references.  They explain what the Bible says about church.  Here are some of them:

Ephesians 3:20-21                                                      Acts 20:24
I Peter 2:13 - 3:6 and 5:5                                           Galatians 1:6
I Corin. 15:3-4                                                           I Corin. 9:12
Mark 1:14                                                                  I Corin. 1:17
Romans 1:1                                                                Galatians 5:11
I Thess. 2:2

Ephesians 4, I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5

I John 2:7, 11, and 19
Matthew 18:15-20

2 Timothy 4
I Corinthians 5

Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12
Acts 2 and I Timothy 5
Titus 2

Hebrews 13:17

So, there you go, now you can study what the Bible says about church for yourself.

The second seminar, Voddie spoke at, I attended with my husband, "The Role of the Father in Home Education/Discipleship".

He talked about some of the recent movements that have attempted to teach men about their true roles in their families and he said, "Men don't train to sing together in a stadium or to join an accountability group.  They train to fight and they need to fight in their homes -- to handle their responsibilities and duties."

"If you desire the reformation of your people, turn them to their families."

"You need to be the leader of your family, even if you don't think you know more than anyone else under you.  It's not about what you know, it's about order.  It's your job."

He talked about how important it is for the husbands/fathers to know the Gospel and to know what the Gospel is not.  He also said they should know Evangelism and Discipleship.

He said, "This is not about manipulation."

He said that everything he shared in this seminar is in his new book, which I have pictured above.

We have high regard for Voddie Baucham and his teachings and recommend his books.  If you want to know more about Voddie, you can visit: or you can read some blog posts he's written at:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do You Know About the Money Saving Mom?

At the 2013 CHAP Homeschool Convention, I started both Friday and Saturday off by attending seminars by Crystal Paine.  She was homeschooled, as was her husband, and now they are homeschooling their children.  She knows how hard it can be to live on a budget or on a single income, and she had some fabulous tips to share.  

Her first seminar was "How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half" and these were her tips, in a nutshell:
1.  Create a Budget 
       Use cash to do your grocery shopping; leave the debit card and check book at home
2.  Plan a Menu
       Plan according to your needs.  You can simply plan 7 dinners, or you can plan 7 lunches and
       7 dinners, or all 21 meals for the week, whatever you feel is most helpful for you.
       Make a list of your family's 30 favorite meals and this will make meal planning easy, as you can
       simply rotate these meals.  You can also use Pinterest for menu planning and to find recipes, use
       your store flyers to plan menus buying what's on sale, or take the flyers to Walmart because they
       will price match any ad.
       Also, use Recipe Cost Calculation in meal planning (You can google this and find one, you can 
       download an app for one, or you can visit Crystal's website and use the information she has there).
3.  Clip Some Coupons
       This doesn't have to be time consuming, and you don't have to invest in a newspaper subscription to
       get coupons.  You can type items you are planning to buy into the computer and find printable
       coupons.  You can also type in a store name, or "Coupon Match-Ups" or "Deal Bloggers" to find
       coupons online that you can simply print and take with you.
       Look for something you typically buy and for at least 40% off.
4.  Rotate Your Stores
       Consider more than grocery stores:  Big Lots, B.J.'s or Sam's Club, health food stores, K-Mart,
       Walmart, Dollar Stores, discount grocery stores, and scratch & dent stores
5.  Buy in Bulk
        Look for Co-Ops and Bulk Food Stores.
         Meat is best to buy in bulk to save the most money.  Look to local farmers for whole steers or pigs or
         get extended family or friends together to go halves or quarters.

The second day, she did a seminar "You Don't Have to be Wealthy to Eat Healthy".  She shared mostly the same points that I listed above but also mentioned cooking from scratch and planting a garden as ways of saving and eating healthier.  And, she mentioned shopping online.

For more details, recipes, tips and advice, check out Crystal's website:  I plan visit this website regularly, and she has a free newsletter you can sign up to receive.

She also did a seminar "How to Fill Your Freezer with Nutritious Foods in Just a Few Hours" where she explained that you don't have to plan to make 30 meals all in one day to do freezer cooking.  She had some great tips like simply planning to cook for about two hours and do as much as you can in that amount of time to make it more manageable and less exhausting.  She mentioned doing something as simple as doubling or tripling a meal you are planning on making one evening and freezing the double or triple parts.  You can also use your crockpot to do some simple things to freeze for later meals, and she talked about just freezing portions of meals as well; just some simple things you can do to save yourself time and energy.

Again, I recommend utilizing

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Note about the 2013 CHAP Homeschool Convention I Attended

Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11, 2013, my family attended the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's (CHAP) annual homeschool convention.  I didn't need to buy much curriculum this year as I have a 3rd grade and a 10th grade Sonlight package, and since those are the grades I am teaching this year, I didn't need much.  Now, I will be teaching these packages to my boys differently than Sonlight suggests because I am eclectic and I really enjoy being involved with the boys.  I may or may not have my 10th grader read the readers, or maybe, I'll just have him read some of them, because now that he's in high school, I like to focus on reading classics aloud to him and discussing them or having him write an occasional paper on one or a few of them.  My third grader will read some of the readers aloud to me.  I still feel that he needs some practice in reading and being asked questions to be sure the comprehension is there, but as the year progresses, I will probably have him read a couple of the readers to himself and then have him tell me about the story orally, or have him draw a picture or write a short paper about the story.

We will be using all of the history books for Sonlight, and my tenth grader will also complete the Mystery of History Book 1, that we only got halfway through this year.  My 10th grader will do some of the English that is with the Sonlight package, but will also complete the two books he was working out of this year.  My third grader will complete the book he was working out of this year, as well as work through a book entitled, Language Lessons for the Elementary Child by Sandi Queen.  We take a Charlotte Mason approach to most of our subjects, and this book has a Charlotte Mason flavor.

I will do a separate post on the Charlotte Mason Method another day.

My third grader will also work through a Wordly Wise Book A workbook to learn about vocabulary.  My older two boys used Wordly Wise workbooks for quite a few years to expand their vocabulary.  Now, I simply have them look up words that they come across in their reading that they are not familiar with and write a definition for it, so that they will learn those words.  We do a lot of reading and reading is the best way to learn vocabulary and grammar.

My third grader will also work through a workbook entitled, A Reason for Handwriting.  It is a transition workbook to transition from printing to cursive writing, and it uses scripture verses.

My tenth grader will also be doing the "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" computer program so that he will learn how to type using all of his fingers.  He doesn't have much interest in the computer, but I know he will have a need to use it sometimes, so I want him to know how to type with all of his fingers, so that it doesn't take him forever to complete something he works on.

I will do a separate post on Math another day.

I apologize for getting a bit off track with this post.  My intention was to tell you about all of the wonderful seminars that I attended and the speakers that I heard.  I mentioned not needing to buy much curriculum to lead into the fact that, instead of spending a lot of time shopping, I attending a lot of seminars.  That is where my refreshment and inspiration come from to keep homeschooling year after year.

So, what I will do now, is tell you about the seminars and speakers in the next few posts, follow those posts with a post about Math, followed by a post about the Charlotte Mason Method of teaching, followed by other ways of homeschooling, as well as a post on how to determine your school schedule, so keep visiting.  I'm sure you won't want to miss the upcoming information.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Prepare to Attend a Homeschool Convention/Conference

It is the time of year for homeschool conventions/conferences to be in full swing.  We will be attending our local homeschool convention this Friday and Saturday.

You will be overwhelmed your first year.  I certainly was.  To find out more about my thoughts on the importance of attending homeschool conventions/conferences, read my older post, from March 16, 2013 "Is it Important to Attend a Homeschool Convention/Conference?"

Here are my tips for being prepared to attend a homeschool convention/conference:

1.  Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes that are comfortable for sitting and walking.

2.  Be sure you know your homeschool law and what subjects you are required to teach at what grade

3.  Be sure you have money for parking try to arrive early for parking or be prepared to park a distance
     away and travel by tram or shuttle bus.

4.  Be sure you have money to spend because you will find things you will want to purchase.  However, it is
     a good idea not to spend any money the first day, but to simply look around and get a good idea of what
     you think will work for you and your child(ren).  Avoid impulse spending or you may purchase something
     that is not a good fit for you and your child(ren).

5.  Pack lunch or plan to spend for that and maybe dinner as well.  The prices of food at the convention/
     conference you attend may be unreasonable, so consider this and check to see what restaurants are in
     the area as well.

6.  You may want to stay overnight in a hotel if you travel quite a distance to attend the
      convention/conference.  Plan for this expense as well.  This is a great opportunity for a couple to have
      some time together without the kids, or for some moms to go together for some ladies' time.

7.   Be sure to have pen and a tablet or notebook for taking notes in the seminars you attend.  You may
      also want some money to purchase some CDs or MP-3 downloads of seminars you really feel you need
      to hear again or of a seminar or two you can't get to because it's time conflicts with another one you

8.   Be sure to visit the convention/conference website well in advance and print a copy of the speakers'
      seminar topics and study them and mark the ones you want to attend ahead of time.

9.   Also, print a copy of the vendor list from the website and mark the ones you want to be sure to check

10.  Look for any other information, on the website, you feel you need to know prior to attending the

11.  Be sure to visit HSLDA and sign up for membership.  It is a valuable membership you won't regret
       having.  I suggest a lifetime membership if you know you are committed to homeschooling and are
       planning to homeschool for 10 years or more because this is the greatest value for you.

12.  You will want to consider what kind of bag to take with you for your purchases or you may want to
        check the website to see if they offer a box/package option, where you can have your purchases
        packed for you, and then you can pull your car up to the loading area where you can pick up your  
        boxes.  There is a fee for the packing service.  If you take your own bag, I suggest something on
        wheels, but not too large to be a problem in narrow aisles.

I think I've covered all of the important tips.  Enjoy your homeschool convention/conference and be prepared to get refreshed, rejuvenated and excited about the upcoming school year!

My next post will not appear until Monday, May 13, 2013 as I will be at my homeschool convention/conference tomorrow and Saturday and at Sunday school and church on Sunday.  Have a blessed weekend everyone.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Our Decision to Become Part of a Family Integrated Church Part 4

Here are some of the activities that we participate in at our church:  biweekly fellowship meals, picnics at parks or at a local family's home, building and setting off rockets, father-son activities, ladies' teas, sponsoring a child through Compassion International, collecting for the local pregnancy center, helping by donating to missionaries in Africa, Ukraine and Ireland, as well as the MERF organization.  We had a special service and small re-enactment of the sinking of the Titanic last year for 100th anniversary, where several of our men spoke about what it means to be a man and to protect the women and children, and this included a special dinner.  Our men meet together one Sunday afternoon a month to share and to encourage one another and lift one another up in prayer, and our ladies meet once a month to encourage one another as well.

We've also played softball, Ultimate Frisbee, Airsoft (the boys and men), soccer, basketball, had game nights, mystery dinners, and movie nights to watch things like "Captivated".  We have had guest speakers -- several missionaries, as well as Terri Roberts.  We also have a special tradition each Easter -- we meet at a pond at a nearby park and read some scripture, sing a hymn or two, and pray.  Then we return the the church building and have breakfast together before Sunday school and church.  The meeting at the pond is because when the pastor and elders decided to begin this church, they had met at that pond early one morning to pray about it.  During their prayer time, they also witnessed the sun rise over the pond and that is how they decided to call our church "Sonrise Christian Fellowship".

In Sunday school, we also went through the Truth Project.

Our entire family has grown by leaps and bounds in our spiritual walks since we've been attending this church.  We are all a part of the church.  Many of the teens in the church participate in services by using their musical talents.  Our oldest son taught a short, 3-part, Sunday school lesson.

During the almost six years that we have been a part of this church, it has grown, slowly at first, but quite quickly more recently.  We now average about 60 people each Sunday.

We have many families come to us because they found us through our website, and they were seeking a family integrated church because they understand the value of such a church.  We now have families who drive and hour to attend our church, so we are no longer the ones traveling from the farthest distance.

We are blessed to be a part of this church, where we even get to personally know our pastors, as they participate in many of the fellowship meals and activities as well.

Our oldest son, turned 18 this week and we invited one of the church families and our pastor to join us for dinner to celebrate, and we had a lovely evening together.

You can find our church, Sonrise Christian Fellowship in Quarryville, PA.  Check out our website at:    If you are close enough or don't mind a drive, join us.  If a family integrated church is what you're looking for, we'd love to have you with us.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Our Decision to Become Part of a Family Integrated Church Part 3

We began regularly attending this family integrated church in late July of 2007.  We fully enjoyed the series on "Apologetics" that the pastor taught and took lots of notes.  I couldn't figure out why other churches weren't teaching this.  It is so crucial to being able to stand strong in your faith.

Not long after we began attending the church, they announced that Voddie Baucham would be speaking at a church even closer to our house one evening.  They explained that he was the man who began speaking and teaching about the need and benefit of family integrated churches.

Our oldest son and I went to hear Voddie Baucham speak that evening and were moved and inspired.  When we met Mr. Baucham in the foyer afterward, my son gave him a hug.  We spoke briefly to Mr. Baucham then and told him that we had recently began attending a family integrated church.  We also purchased his book Family Driven Faith, which I began to read the next day.  What a fantastic book.  I highly recommend it to all believers.  It explains so much about the importance of family unity and teaching our children the truth of God's word and why a family integrated church is a great model for bringing families together again, and how churches that separate into age/peer groups don't really help a family to be united.

A few years later, I also read Ken Ham's book Already Gone and realized that I had witnessed, what he talked about in this book, in our previous church, and knew that I didn't want this for my boys.

Our family integrated church doesn't just have us remain together as families during Sunday school and church services.  They are all about relationship-building within the church.  They believe in really getting to know one another within the church and building strong bonds within the congregations, truly becoming part of an even larger family -- knowing, loving, helping and encouraging each other in all things, often supplying a need without having to be asked, and always willing to help and supply a need when asked.

I will complete this series by posting Part 4 tomorrow, where I will talk about some of the activities our church participates in as a group.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Decision to Become Part of a Family Integrated Church Part 2

I suppose I should also mention that this church is not in our town, but it is a 40-minute drive for us.

The first Sunday we arrived at the church and were met outside by a gentleman who was very friendly.  He asked our names and where we were from, how we found the church and if we were homeschoolers.  He was thrilled to find out that we were homeschoolers and said that he can always tell homeschoolers at his job.  He works for a local tourist attraction as a guide and he said that homeschoolers ask more questions and ask intelligent questions compared to the public schooled students.  He told us we were going to love this church.  Then we went inside and were greeted with more friendly faces.

During the little bit of social time between the Sunday school and church service time, one of the teen boys came over to invite our boys to gather with the group of teens that were talking in an area.  Our boys hesitated and looked at me, and I told them to go.  So they got to meet some of the teens from the church, while my husband and I spoke with some of the adults.  It was a small church, only about 17 people besides us.

Everyone is together for both Sunday school and church service (all ages).  That is what "Family Integrated" means, so our children were with us the whole time.

After Sunday school and church were over, one of the ladies asked if we wanted to join them for lunch.  She said that a group from the church would be going to a restaurant nearby.  We said no as we were a bit overwhelmed on this first visit and wanted some time to process.

We went to the nearby Burger King for lunch, and the boys and I said how much we enjoyed the church, how much we liked the people and were impressed by their friendliness, and that the pastor's sermon was good as well. My husband reminded us that we weren't going to make a decision on just one visit.  So, we anxiously awaited the following Sunday.

The following Sunday, we went back and were again greeted by friendly faces.  We, again, enjoyed the pastor's sermon, and he had informed everyone that his current Sunday school lessons would soon be ending and he would be starting a series on "apologetics".  We had no idea what apologetics was, but he explained that it was to teach how you can know what you believe and be able to defend it to people who challenged your beliefs.  It sounded like something I really wanted to learn and so did Anthony.

After this second visit, we were convinced that this was were we needed to be; that God had led us to this church for a reason.

We returned to our current church the following week and gave notice in the teen department that we would remain just a few weeks and help to find a replacement to teach the junior high girls Sunday school class I had been doing my best to teach for a couple of months.  (I say "doing my best" because I had originally gone in as a helper and was suddenly thrown into the teaching position when the present teacher stopped showing up and then just quit.  Some of the girls in the class were very angry with me and wanted to know why the teacher wasn't teaching and a couple of them told me they didn't want me as a teacher.  They were very disrespectful and unkind, so I wasn't sorry to leave teaching this class behind.  I did, however, feel bad about leaving a couple of the girls behind, who did seem to appreciate me, but we had to do what was best for our family and go where God was leading us.)

Part 3 will be posted on Wednesday.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our Decision to Become Part of a Family Integrated Church Part 1

As we have been walking this homeschool journey, we have found our point of view changing along the way.  We have always been a faithful, church-going family.  We had been attending the church my husband grew up in, as he was raised in a Christian home.  It was also the church I was most familiar with, as my mother took my sister and I to church sporadically while we were growing up, and it was the church she took us to. It is a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church with people separated into age/peer groups for Sunday school and with a separate church service for children, one for teens, and the one for adults, so, in a sense, it is segregated.  Because this is what we grew up with, my husband and I didn't see it as a problem until our oldest son was to become a part of the junior high department.  The church had decided, that year, that 6th graders would be part of the junior high department and the junior high department was not always separated from the senior high department, which meant our 12 year old sixth grader would be in some discussions and activities with 17 and 18 year old seniors.  This was a concern for us.  We, as parents, felt this was too big of an age span and were concerned about what our 12 year old may hear from a 17 or 18 year old that we didn't think he was ready for or that we were ready to teach him about, as well as some things we still wanted to protect him from.

Our oldest, himself, came to us and said he doesn't want to go into the junior high department unless we come with him.  So, my husband and I volunteered to become part of the junior high department, so that we could be present and could see whatever was going on.  This remained the case for our oldest son's 6th, 7th and 8th grade years, and each year I could see more and more things arising that I disagreed with in the teen department, not to mention the disrespect we received from many of the teens.

When our son was faced with entering the 9th grade level of the teen department, he came to my husband and I on three different occasions and said, "Please don't make me go into the Senior High Department.  I don't want to go to the Senior High Department.  I don't have any friends here."  And this was the church he had been growing up in.  He had known most of these kids for twelve years.  How could he not have any friends here?  Well, it was because we were one of only two or three families homeschooling in the entire church.  We were the minority and none of the other teens were homeschoolers, so our son had been excluded from the group because he didn't attend either public or private school with any of the other teens.

So, we began to pray for God to help us to be able to affect a change in the church or simply for His guidance in all of this.

Our homeschool community has a magazine that we receive monthly that tells us about all of the homeschool groups and happenings in our county.  I received the June/July issue that year, and I always read this magazine from cover to cover.  As I was reading this issue, I came upon a page inviting people to a new church, a family integrated church.  There wasn't a lot of information on the page, but something about it piqued my interest.  However, I didn't think my husband would consider visiting or changing churches, so I simply laid it aside.

Several times over the following days, that page kept coming to my mind, until I finally decided to show it to my husband and talk about it.  I was surprised at his response.  After discussing it, he suggested we visit the church in the homeschool magazine on the two weekends surrounding his upcoming week of 4th of July vacation.  We talked to the kids, who were all for the idea.

We decided that we would attend the church those two Sundays and refrain from making a decision until after the second Sunday.

As this story is fairly lengthy, in order to share it properly and give you the important details, I will break this post into several parts.  This is the end of Part 1.  Come back Monday for Part 2.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ending the School Year -- Evaluations and Portfolios

We have just six days of school left for this year!  Then, we take a break, though not the entire summer.  I will post another day on our schedule.  For this post, I want to share what we are required to do for our end of the school year.

We are required to have a log showing that we have schooled either 900 hours (elementary)/990 hours (secondary) or 180 days.  I log days.  This is required by our state homeschool law.  Our state also requires that we have an annual evaluation performed by a certified teacher.  This means that we schedule a time with a certified homeschool-friendly teacher and we take our portfolio to that teacher and he or she looks over it and asks our student(s) some questions about their experience from the year.  Then that teacher provides us with either a check-off sheet or a short report stating that we covered the required subjects for the year, and that the student did, indeed, learn new things during the year.

What is a portfolio?  A portfolio is simply a sample of your child's work for the year.  We are to provide samples from each subject from beginning, middle and end of year.  For example, two or three math worksheets from the beginning of the year, two or three from the middle of the year and two or three from the end of the year.  The same for all other subjects, or a written report on something for a specific subject -- i.e. George Washington for U.S. History or Bird Migration for Science.  My youngest has completed four lapbooks this year, two for Science, one for Health, and one for History/World Geography.  We will take those along to our evaluation.  Any special project(s) the child completed and is proud of and wants to share, my middle son will be showing his salt dough map of Israel and Judah.  An evaluation takes about half an hour per child.

Then we have to turn certain things into our local school district at the end and at the beginning of each year. At the end of the year, some school districts require you turn in your portfolio every year.  Our school district requires that we turn our portfolios in just the first two years per student.  After the two years, we simply have to turn in our evaluator's report/check-off sheet.

My advice is that you study and know your state's homeschool law because there are school districts who will try to require you do more than the state requires, and they cannot do that. So, know your state's homeschool law and follow it.  Yes, you will have to follow the school district as far as whether or not your entire portfolio gets turned in yearly or if they have a different requirement for that, but they cannot require you to turn in more than a portfolio and/or evaluator's report.  Also, don't over-do your portfolio.  Don't put more in it than you need to.  The school district's job is simply to see that you are indeed teaching your child(ren) the required subjects and that your child(ren) are indeed learning something.  They do not have the right to tell you what to teach or how much of it to teach or any other specifics.  We don't give more than we absolutely have to because the government already oversteps their bounds into our private lives and we don't want to give them an excuse to overstep farther.

Most states/school districts also try to require you to turn in medical and dental forms showing that you are taking your child(ren) for medical and dental exams and having them immunized.  However, legally, you do not have to immunize (I know quite a few families who choose not to), and you can simply give them a letter stating that you get your children medical and dental exams and that you do not wish to turn in a form to them and this should be sufficient.  For further information and help with this, contact HSLDA or check out their website (I have a link on my sidebar).

Finally, I would like to impress upon you to become members of HSLDA if you homeschool your child.  You never know when a question or problem may arise that you have to face and aren't sure what to do.  Having HSLDA to turn to for such questions and problems is truly a blessing and offers peace of mind.  My husband and I renewed our membership this year to become lifetime members, instead of renewing annually or every other year.  If you are a committed homeschooler and know that you will be homeschooling for ten or more years, the lifetime membership is really worth it, and it much cheaper in the long run.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Having Children or Not Having Children -- Which is Selfish?

  I know this may seem like an unusual post to some of you, but I have been hearing and reading things where people criticize and/or complain about having children and that having children is "selfish".  So, I have decided to post my two cents on the issue, and since homeschooling is all about children, I don't think it's too far off the mark for my blog.
  I will start by telling you about my family.  My husband and I were unable to conceive and could not afford fertility treatments and such, so we decided to let it up to God.  Then one day on my way to work, as I was listening to our local Christian radio station, they were talking to some people from two of the local adoption agencies.  They talked about how it was now possible to "foster-to-adopt".  That night I spoke to my husband about it.  We prayed about it and then called the one agency.  We went to an orientation where the foster-to-adopt option was explained, as well as what was required of us to be approved for the opportunity to foster-to-adopt.  We thought it over and prayed about it and decided it was what we should do.
  Long story short, we have three wonderful boys, all of which came to us through the foster-to-adopt program.  Now, I will tell you that our original plan was to foster-to-adopt one boy and one girl.  We figured since we were going this route, we had the ability to choose.  Our first was a boy.  About nine months before his adoption was final, we had another little boy join us, but, unfortunately, it did not work out for us to adopt him and he went to live with his biological father right after the adoption of our first son was final.  A month later, we received a call for another boy.  Our first reaction was "No".  We weren't ready to jump in again after just having to say good-bye to a precious little boy.  Well, apparently God had a plan, because the agency asked us to at least look over his paperwork, and, of course, there was a photo included.  Another long story short, he ended up becoming our second child.  Then we thought we were finished.  Two children were enough and we wanted to live a normal life without the intrusion of caseworkers in and out of our house  so frequently.
  Five years passed, and then we decided we would try for a girl one more time.  Well, God really does have a sense of humor and His plans are not always our plans.  We ended up with one more boy.  After his adoption, we did remain with the agency for one more year, still hoping to add a little girl to our family.  Then, I had some health issues come up and we decided that our family is complete and it just wasn't part of God's plan for us to have a little girl, and I was finally at peace with this decision.  We did do a couple of short-term respite cares during that final year with the agency, all boys :)
  Our boys were not infants when they became a part of our family.  So the time we have with them is even shorter than people with infants are blessed with, and so our time with them is even more precious.
  Now let's talk about the selfish part.  Parents who truly love and want their children spend time with their children and value their children.  They give up things they, themselves desire, to provide for their children.  That doesn't mean giving the child(ren) everything they want materially speaking, but also giving them opportunities -- learning a musical instrument, playing a sport, going on missions trips, family vacations.  These parents also talk with with their children and really get to know their children.  They encourage their children in their talents, hopes and dreams.  They attend the basketball and soccer games and the music recitals, etc.  So, these parents are giving up time that they could be spending doing what they most desire, to spend with their children instead.  They are also sacrificing material things that they may want to provide for the needs or maybe a desire of their child(ren).  These parents put their children above themselves like the Bible verse:  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Philippians 2:3-4.
  Now what about the people who don't really want children or who see their children as a burden and a nuisance?  They resent their children because their children keep them from fulfilling all of their desires or because they need a few minutes of their time.  Or, maybe they work long hours and don't have time for their children because they want to live their lives in the manner they have always dreamed of -- big house, fancy car, expensive vacations, etc.  They focus more on what they themselves want.  They are the ones who say, "We'll start our family when we have our own home, or when we have X amount of dollars in the bank", etc.  or they choose not to have children at all because they don't want to have to miss out on what they themselves want to buy or to do or travel to the places they want to go.
  So, which ones are truly selfish?

  The ones who have children and consider their children a blessing and a gift of God will still have time to have some of the things they want or to do the things they want to do or to go places they want to go, when their precious children are grown and have their own families.  But, even if they don't fulfill all of their personal desires, they are not concerned about that.  They simply wish to leave a legacy of love behind.  They want their children to feel valued and to know that they were loved, even after their parents have had to leave this world.

  It breaks my heart and makes me feel ill the way our world has decided that children are a burden and have very little value, that they are disposable.  I weep and God weeps.  I pray that more people will realize that, yes, having children requires work and sacrifice, but there is no better job with better value to be found anywhere.  Raising a child and having the love of your child is the greatest reward we can have on this earth, aside from knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ, our Lord, and He teaches the value of children when the disciples want to chase the children away, and Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me."  Matthew 19:14a

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland

I have decided to include occasional posts about some more personal things in our lives because homeschooling really is a lifestyle, and I thought it might be helpful to you to see how we live.

On Sunday, April 28, 2013, we spent the afternoon and evening at Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.  It was an overcast, windy day and it rained a little bit, but we had so much fun.  We went with another family from church and our Pastor.  We attend a family-integrated church, and we spend a lot of time with people from our church.  (I will do some future posts about our church as well).

There were street performers.  This violinist was the first one I saw, and the rest of our group turned to go in the opposite direction, but I refused to follow the group until I had, at least, captured one photo of this talented young man.

Anybody remember where "Bubba Gump" became famous?    Have you seen the movie from years ago, "Forrest Gump"?

Yes, Ripley's has a museum there.  We did not pay to enter.  We simply viewed what we could from the sidewalk and took some photos.
This car was just the right size for our youngest.

Though he hasn't seen any of the Transformer movies, our youngest loves Bumblebee, so when we saw Bumblebee in the doorway, we knew we had to get this photo.

Looking into the museum, we could see the first couple of exhibits, and I had to take a photo of this.  This states that the tallest man was 8' 11" tall.  Our 15-year-old is 6' 2" tall and still has a few years of growing he can do.  I certainly hope he doesn't get as tall as this man was.  It's hard enough to get him shoes and pants now!

This street performer was not overly impressive to our group, as the other family has a son who could probably have done all of this performer's tricks at a higher level.  He was entertaining, though, and when he hugged this little fellow from the audience, I had to capture that moment.

This is Grandma Georgia and Grandma Ruth to all of the children at our church.  They are great ladies who are really a lot of fun to hang around with.  Here they are waving to us from a ship that they paid to enter to tour.  It was very historic and had four levels.  They enjoyed it.

Our youngest son said this ship reminded him of a pirate ship.

I thought these colorful dragon paddleboats all lined up at their dock made an interesting shot.

There were lots of beautiful flowers growing in many areas, but I really liked these pansies.

This is in the center of the Barnes and Noble bookstore.  We are pretty sure it was once some kind of factory or warehouse.  It is certainly a very sturdy building.

Something about this goofy fish statue, brought out the fish in several of our group:

My friend, Becky, is on the right, and her fish face made me laugh.  I told her I thought she looked like Dory ("Finding Nemo") and we laughed, and she said, "Everyone says that."  It's so much fun to laugh with good friends.

This young girl was the last street performer we saw, and she sang an original song that she wrote.  She had a lovely voice.  She is very talented and her dad was with her and had set up her keyboard and mic.

Below are some of the photos I captured as darkness began to descend:

Becky's sweet daughter, Chelsea, wanted to go into the candy store, so I said I'd go with her -- that was a mistake   :)
This was the name of the candy store.

Supersized boxes of Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers.  They had lots of supersized candy items.

Earlier in the day, we had discussed getting matching T-shirts with our church name on the back for the next time we go out as a group, so we can find everyone more easily when we separate for a while.  When Grandma Ruth saw these shirts in the candy store, she said, "Here are our T-Shirts!"  (They say "One Hot Chick")

This is sweet Chelsea holding a supersized Twizzlers.

Some stuffed candy characters (Nerds above and M&M's below)

My sweet baby with a supersized TootsiePop (No, I didn't buy it).  I did, however, buy a little bit of a few different kinds of candy -- Red Swedish fish, Cherry Nibs, Reese's Pieces, and some cool colored M&M's that don't come in the normal bags of M&M's. 

This was lots of fun, but the price when I went to the checkout was quite a shock.  Then Grandma Georgia saw this sign and said,

"They certainly do."   (The sign says, "We're gonna get you Sucker.")   Becky's husband, Warren, says they definitely rely on impulse shoppers, and that's what I was -- in a new, cool candy store, unlike any I've seen before and with novel candies.  I won't be visiting this store again, but I'm sure we'll return to Inner Harbor.  Our oldest son wants to ride in one of those Dragon Paddleboats.  (Yes, even though this was Sunday, I count it as a school day because we were on a field trip of sorts.  Monday, April 29, we went to the library and I checked out a book with lots of photos of the history of Inner Harbor for us to study a bit this week, to make this field trip experience complete.  Though, sometime, we'll have to go back to visit the Aquarium, and that's a field trip in itself.