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."