Category Archives: Homeschooling

Homeschooling Lessons, Part 5

It wasn't intentional, this three week break from blogging.

Life is full right now. Not in the "Just a few more weeks and life will calm down again" type of full, but rather, the "Wow, we really have six kids age 10 and under and I am trying to raise and homeschool them and deal with the day-to-day stresses of life overseas" and "Oh yea, I am also trying to be more intentional in our relationships with those around us" and while I am at it, "I am relearning how to feed my body and my familyand since I don't have anything else to do, "In the wee hours of the morning I am trying to convince myself that even though I am 36 and have given birth six times,  I can still be a runner" type of full. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. This is the life we have chosen. We love it. It's crazy and busy and sometimes maddening, but we know that we are blessed.

I guess this fullness gives evidence to homeschooling lesson number 5You have to be okay with interruptions and imperfection.

Interruptions. There are lots of them. In homeschool. In life.

And perfection? It's just not going to happen.

Kids get sick. Parents get sick. Schedules fill up. Two-year-olds get into makeup. Babies need to be held and nursed. Food needs to be made. Hearts have to be shaped. People die. Emotions take nose-dives. Bitterness and discontent bubble to the service. Waiting for future moments distracts us from present moments. Sometimes hearts have to trump education. Rain needs to be played in. "Chocolate milk" needs to be made.

If I wait to do school until everything in life is running smoothly  and we can accomplish our to-do list and curriculum objectives in perfect order, it will never get done. If I wait to start school until everyone is dressed, the house is clean, the meals are made, and the kids are happy, it will never get done. E.B. White said,

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."

Reworded for us,

"A homeschooling mom who waits for ideal conditions under which to educate her kids will die without anyone knowing anything."

I can't say that we have ever had two days run exactly the same. Each day is filled with its own interruptions and imperfections. Kids cry. Mom forgets to print math pages. The two-year-old needs cuddles instead of another, "Just a minute, honey."  

I have to find our rhythm and routine within and despite the distractions. No day, week, month, or year has or ever will like the one before. I have to be okay with that. Some years we can do a lot. Other years (like during pregnancy), we barely get the basics done. It's okay. It's like I tell my kids almost every day, "It's the small steps that count. They don't seem like much, but over time, they add up to great distances."

Little by little, we press on. We're learning to read, write, do math, understand history and science, and how to prepare the soil of our hearts. Just like we can't see the minuscule changes in our children's height or the growth of their hair, we can't always see the learning that is taking place. When your nine year old has to sound out a word he has read five times in the last three minutes because he still can't remember it, it's easy to think that no learning is happening. When your five year old sounds out, "iiiiiissssss" for the tenth time when in actuality the word is "it," it's tempting to believe that we're not cut out for this homeschooling thing. Every once in a while, however, like when your seven year old explains that "We shouldn't worry about making a lot of money or buying big houses because we could instead spend our time and energy filling up our piggy banks in heaven", I realize that despite the many interruptions, real learning is happening. And it's beautiful.

Homeschooling Lessons, Part 4

4. In order to feel confident that your children are getting what they need, you need to be convinced in your own mind of what exactly those needs are.

When I first started homeschooling, I had lists of things that my kids were supposed know at certain ages. I kept the list at the front of my well-organized binder (with my well-organized lesson plans) and I referred to it frequently. I wanted my kids to be at "grade level" and I wanted to be sure that there were no gaps in their learning. I wanted my children to learn everything their school-going peers were learning and so much more. We would do it all; of that I was sure.

And then reality hit. That kind of homeschooling wore me out. I didn't want to teach. I was grumpy. I was stressed. I had my first (and only) panic attacks. No one was happy. And, I must admit, I am not sure that they were learning all that much anyway.

Knowing that what we were doing wasn't going to work, my homeschooling thought process started to change. However, as soon as I started formulating plan B, the little stick turned pink and I spent the next 26 weeks standing over a toilet bowl. School happened. Or it didn't. When it did, we reached great educational heights such as playing Uno on my bed or knitting baby hats (because every newborn baby that lives 7 degrees off the equator needs thick winter hats!) As guilty as I felt about that year, I learned something (and I'll get to this more at a later point): So much education happens when we are just living life.

At the same time, the realities of the principles from What is Family, Mission of Motherhood, and Ministry of Motherhood started to become more visible in our home. I started to truly understand that education was so much more than the 3 Rs.

With my new baby and my new mantra of "home is education and education is discipleship and discipleship is home" we started finding our groove. Thankful for the wise women who said it would be year three before we felt confident, we pushed through that year clinging to what was working and setting aside all that wasn't.

At the end of year three, I read another book that changed so much of my homeschooling philosophy. Well, maybe changed isn't the right world. Evolved. Strengthened. Refined. Sculpted. I read The Core by Leigh Bortons (the founder of Classical Conversations).  I devoured that book, knowing that she was speaking words my heart didn't even know it had.

And what happened next was so beautiful...I figured out what I wanted my children to know. I imagined them ready to leave the nest (for college, marriage, or whatever else God might have for them) and I could see the kind of people they were. I could see their character. I could see their compassion. I could see their reading and writing experiences and abilities. I could see the grasp they had on yesterday and how it affects our today. I could see the years of hard and diligent work done in a relaxed and loving home. I could see some amazing young adults. I knew what I wanted for them and what they truly needed.

Being confident in what my kids real needs were, I was able to become confident in our educational choices.

I no longer look at lists of "Your 3rd grader should know..." I no longer browse through curriculum catalogs wondering if I should try something new. I no longer worry about what other moms are doing. I know my goals, and while I still fear my inadequacies, I am confident in the road ahead. I know what I want my kids to know. I want them to know how to read purposefully, thoughtfully, and with variation. I want them know how to write effectively. I want them to know that there is a big world with many different cultures and that Christ died for them all (and therefore all are important). I want them to grasp math and the beauty of God's ordered world. I want them to know how to show empathy, sympathy, and compassion. I want them to know how to care for their bodies, both through movement and nutrition. I want them to learn to be flexible, to sacrifice for others, and to be patient. I want them to know how to work hard and I want them to know how to work smart. I want them to grasp history and to see God's hand in it all. I want them to see that learning doesn't happen in isolation but that God is in math and math is in reading and reading is in science and that science is in the kitchen and the kitchen is in the Bible and that the Bible is in play time when "school" is all done.

And I want my kids to know that some days will be hard. Some days will not go as planned. Some days, we will all be stretched to the breaking point and impatient words will get spoken and attitudes will spiral downward. I want them to know that when those days come, we have a choice: we can push through our agenda and check things off a to-do list or we can set our last few subjects aside, realizing that there is another day, and instead grab a blanket and some snacks and just be together. I want my kids to know that their education will never trump their hearts. I want them to know that sometimes the greatest learning happens as we laugh and cuddle and play with those we love. I want them to know that sometimes, enjoying sunshine and snacks is all the education we need.

Homeschooling Lessons, Part 3

3. In schools, grade levels serve a purpose. At home, they are just numbers. 

When I first started homeschooling, having kids at "grade level" was important to me. I had asked the school where Jason works to print me the curriculum guides for each level so that I could ensure that my kids were getting what they needed. Every few weeks, I would run down the list and determine my worthiness as a homeschooling mom by the number of checks on my list.

While they helped in a few ways, I don't have lists anymore. I don't worry about what my kids know and what they don't know compared to other kids. What I do worry about is that my children are making progress. I want to see that they are steadily inching forward in their knowledge and understanding in different subjects.

But this is where homeschooling really offers an amazing advantage: if I notice that one of my kids isn't making steady progress (and not for lack of motivation), I have the freedom to set it aside until they are ready. I don't have to push forward in the hopes of finishing a book or unit before Christmas break. I don't have to close the last page of 3rd grade math before summer begins. We aren't bound by numbers.

For Caleb, I had to put reading away three years in a row. He was not ready and pushing him was leading towards his frustration (and mine!) Instead, I watched him carefully and I brought it out every once in a while. I prayed for wisdom and discernment as I searched for signs of readiness. They came. One day, when he was almost eight, we were sitting in my room and I turned around and saw him reading a book that he picked up voluntarily. It was a very happy moment.

I am so thankful that I didn't push him. I have often said, "I don't ever want to take away the love of reading from my kids. If I take that away, I take away the world." I knew that if I pushed him before he was ready, he would hate to read. Reading would always be associated with frustration and feelings of inadequacy. I didn't want that. Books are one of life's greatest gifts and I didn't want to make him forever hate them just so I could rest knowing he was at grade level. And now—a year later—that steady (albeit slow) progress that I was looking for? It's there. Each day we pull out his reading and although it doesn't come easily for him (there are definite learning disabilities), he presses on. He doesn't feel ashamed at his reading ability. He doesn't feel left behind. He wants to read aloud during family worship. He feels good about his progress and he is excited for the successes to come.

With Alaina, I noticed that math was a struggle for her. Every day the tears would fall and her measly three pages would sometimes take her hours. She was frustrated. She felt defeated. Math was always easy for me so my sympathy didn't come naturally. One day, I decided to sit and really watch her do her math. I wanted to see if there was a specific issue at hand. It didn't take long to find it: She hadn't memorized her times tables. She had done multiplication before and skidded by, but as her further lessons depended on that multiplication, not only was she trying to understand new concepts, but also she was trying to figure out the multiplication. No wonder it was taking her so long!

I looked her in the eye and said, "We're putting this math away. No more pages. Your only math assignment from now on is to spend 30 minutes working on memorizing your multiplication tables. That's all. Memorize them. I want you to know them so well you can do them in your sleep. I want them to ooze out of you. It will be hard work now, but I promise you, it will pay off. If you do this well now, you'll never have to do it again. And every day for the rest of your life you will be thankful that you have these memorized."

She wasn't happy with me, but we did it anyway. We put away her math curriculum and she worked on memorizing her times tables. I didn't worry that she wouldn't finish her book by summer. What I cared about is that she knew her math facts so that when she did return to her curriculum, she wouldn't be doing double-duty learning. She did it. She learned them backwards and forwards. And now, although days like yesterday sometimes happen, she enjoys math. She moves through her lessons quickly and fluidly. When we come upon real-life math situations and she knows the answer to something I say, "See...aren't you glad you memorized those multiplication tables?" Her smile shows that she understands how important that break in curriculum was.

Levi is my whiz-kid. Ever since we started homeschooling (when he was three), he has been my most eager student. In preschool 3 and 4, I give my kids the option of "doing" school or not. If they want to be with us, great. If not, they can play. In all of our first year, Levi chose to play once. One day. Every other day he was learning right alongside Alaina and Caleb.

If he were in school, he would be in 2nd grade. Currently, he is blasting his way through third-grade math. I suspect he'll finish third- and fourth-grade math this year. He gives Alaina a run for her money on multiplication tables (I learned my lesson and I drill all the kids every day in times tables). I love that I don't have to hold him back. In first-grade, he closed the last page of first-grade math and opened second-grade math. A few months later, he closed second-grade math and opened third-grade. His own ability dictates his progress. It isn't his grade level.

I understand why there are grades in schools. I really do. The days of one-room schoolhouses are over and there has to be some semblance of order. There has to be a set curriculum. Chaos would ensue if every kids was working on different things at different times.  There are amazing teachers doing amazing work accommodating students with various needs. But no teacher (at least that I know of) has the complete freedom to put curriculum away indefinitely until a specific student is ready. No teacher can be working through different math programs with different students. It's not that they aren't willing, it's just that it doesn't work.

But that is one of the benefits of homeschooling: schools need to group students by a specific criteria (and in most schools, that criteria is age). I don't have the same restrictions. I get to look at my children and their ability levels and move at their own pace, not a pace set by my curriculum. I get to work one-on-one with each of my students, for as long as it takes. For all of my many reasons for homeschooling, this perhaps, is one of the most important. God made each of my children unique in their abilities and strengths and weaknesses and I love not having them bound to a specific number.

The numbers are needed in schools. They aren't at home.

Homeschooling Lessons, Part 2

2. Every family is unique in its situation, resources, size, personality, time, support, and passions. Because of this, rarely will two homeschooling families look alike.

Oh how I wished that I had learned this earlier!

Before I started homeschooling, I had a vision in my head of what it would look like. I imagined us getting up and dressed, having a nice breakfast together, and then diligently getting on with our amazing and fun lessons. I thought about the long hours I would spend reading to kids, sipping on tea, getting lost in the amazement of teaching my children. I imagined us exploring nature, cheering for one another as we made new discoveries, and enjoying leisurely breaks where we would stretch our legs and soak in the wonderment of being together. I dreamt of pouring over curriculum (and of course, in my dreams, those curriculum choices had no dollar signs attached). I imagined where our shelves and shelves of books would be and I diligently planned out our systematic method for one-on-one time. We would work steadily and happily until lunch. We would eat together enjoy rest time for all, and then get ready for dad to come home and for dinner to be served. Homeschooling was bliss...until I actually started.

This is reality.

I wake up 40 minutes later than planned, most likely due to the unappreciated 2:00am wake up call from Zachary. I slip out of bed, almost kicking Jason as I realize he is at the end of the bed because sometime in the night Katie slipped in and stole his spot. Knowing that if the rest of my schedule doesn't get moving we'll never get through the day, I skip checking email and head downstairs. I hastily make my coffee and try to concentrate on my Bible. Instead, I am distracted as I watch the available Jason-is-home-and-can-be-on-kid-duty minutes disappear. I refocus and read. Always, always...the Word first. Manna in the morning. With Bible time done, I get my shoes on, debating about whether I should run or walk. I'm ready to leave but am already stressed because I am leaving 40 minutes later than usual. My left leg is bothering me so I take the day off from running. A walk it is. Better hightail it because my walk takes longer than a run. Forty-eight minutes and 3.2 miles later, I return home. Jason is getting ready to leave for work. I know I should stretch but don't have the time so I justify the omission with the fact that I only walked. As Jason rolls away on his bike, I ask who has eaten. No one.

I head into the kitchen. I have three kids asking for three different things. Alaina is asking about lunch ("Honey, it's 6:30am and I am not ready to discuss lunch!") Caleb wants me to make him oatmeal that I have showed him numerous times how to make. Katie wants a different kind of oatmeal. I know Zach will be up soon so as I help Alaina with her lunch plan,I quickly make two bowls of oatmeal. I grab an energy ball for my own breakfast (knowing that it is now or never) and quickly go upstairs to attempt a shower. I learned from yesterday that if I don't get clean now, it probably won't ever happen. I hop out of the shower and hear Zach. He'll have to cry for a few minutes. Getting dressed isn't an option.

Alaina, Caleb, and Levi are downstairs working on math and are already asking for help. I grab Zach and start to nurse him while I help Caleb with telling time. Alaina is on the couch in tears because she can't figure out the discounted price in one of her word problems. Katie asks me if I am ready to do her handwriting with her. Zach gets distracted and I have to coax him back to nursing while I try to be patient as my not-so-mathematical 10-year-old wipes tears away. Oh wait...where is Bethany? Is she up? I haven't seen her. "Bethany!" She toddles down the stairs...who knows what she has been doing. "Noodles!" she says. Always, always, she wants noodles for breakfast. Sometimes I don't even attempt to get the Asian out of her.

With Bethany eating and Katie trying (not very successfully) to wait patiently, I get Alaina and Caleb through math. I make my green tea and head outside to where Alaina and I do her First Language Lessons. Thankfully, she loves language arts and the tears shed earlier over her math are forgotten. I'm thankful for her love of words and I wonder what God will do through her. In the middle of diagramming sentences, Levi comes out, hoping for help with his math. While Alaina diagrams, I help Levi with his this-is-prep-work-for-your-someday-algebra puzzle corner problems. Alaina gets tired of waiting for her next sentence and peeks in the book for her next words. Levi figures out what triangle and square equal and Caleb says he is waiting for help with some story problems. Zach cries and so I bring him outside with us, trying to keep him happy while I make sure Alaina's direct objects are on the right line and Levi stares at yet another square and triangle problem with a helpless look on his face.

With subjects, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and direct objects in their rightful places and with triangle and square finding their true identities, we come inside. Bethany wants to watch Sid the Science kid and Katie (still in her nightgown) asks me to tie her shoes so she can ride her bike. I sneak upstairs to get my hair and makeup done so I can look somewhat presentable when I take Alaina and Caleb to school for art and music. Those pesky forever-long school applications taunt me and I throw them in  my bag, willing myself the hand cramps it will take to fill them out. Caleb can't find his water bottle so I promise we will stop and get some water on the way. I pry Bethany's hands off of me as we hop on the motorbike. "Mommy will be home soon. Ibu Erna will be with you until I get back." We hop on the motorbike and almost get hit by another driver who isn't paying attention. We buy Caleb a bottle of water and head to school.

An hour and a bazillion application pages later, I come home and find some leftover pancakes to eat. I grab some water and sit on the couch to read with Levi. He struggles through his book as Bethany helps herself to a pancake and gets it everywhere. Katie talks and talks while Levi tries to read. Bethany has game pieces in her mouth and my leg is cramping. Maybe I should have taken the ten minutes to stretch. Oh well. No time now. Levi finishes his reading and I send him to to the table to finish his Explode the Code. I work with Katie on handwriting. "Big line down, frog jump to the top, little curve, little line." Her letter "R" is unrecognizable, but hey, she's only on day 5 of kindergarten. We'll get there. I try to pop into my inbox while Katie makes her big lines. We stop and work on her pencil grip for a few minutes and I wonder how something so simple could be so hard. I cringe every time I hear the neighbor boy screaming at the top of his lungs and I think that being able to hear someone else's toddler scream and throw a fit as well as being able to hear and smell our neighbor frying food is a little too close for comfort.

An agonizing ten minutes later, I sneak upstairs to finish a bit of work while Zach is still napping. It won't be long. I get about ten words typed and Katie comes up to "chat." On and on she goes and I can't remember what I was writing. She wants to watch a Leap Frog video with Bethany but doesn't know how to put the DVD in the computer. I tell her I will be down shortly. She keeps on talking and I try to put words into sentences. I glance at the time, hoping I am not late for picking up Alaina and Caleb. Oh good. I still have 25 minutes. Oh wait, the other kids haven't eaten lunch. Too bad all the leftover pancakes are gone.

I go downstairs, make Levi some lunch, and get ready to pick up the other kids from school. Bethany wants to go so we get her shoes on. We head to school. With everyone on the motorbike, we head back home. I give the kids a few minute break and then we sit down to do group work. Bible. Scripture memory. Times tables. History Timeline. Catechism. It takes forever because Zach is unhappy but doesn't nurse well when others are around and Bethany wants "my turn" on all our memory work. Although it is endearing listening to a two-year-old try to say, "Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy..." this isn't getting us where we need to be. I try to talk about our history but we can't hear ourselves talk over the call to prayer that is blasting from the local mosque. It's almost 1:30 and we still have work left to do. I cut our times tables review short and move on to language with the boys. Levi is distracted by Katie who decided to make herself a peanut butter sandwich right next to where he is sitting. She can't spread the peanut butter or jelly, though, and wants my help. Zach keeps grabbing the book I am trying to read from and Levi still can't answer one question from his narration exercise. I hear Bethany screaming. Then I hear Alaina calling from upstairs, complaining that Bethany is interrupting her silent reading time. A few minutes later, Alaina carries a naked Bethany downstairs and delivers her to me.

We finally squeak through til the end and I am excited to put Zach down for a nap and have a little downtime before I need to start dinner prep. As I begin to walk upstairs, the little girls ask for green tea to go with their sandwiches. Katie watches Zach while I make the tea. While I wait for the tea to brew, I decide to make some cashew butter. Caleb calls from the other room because he can't get the laptop to turn on. I fix the laptop and start to put the cashew butter away. Bethany wants a bite. Satisfied, she returns to her tea. I go back to finish the tea and bring Zach up to his room. He screams. He's hungry. I feed him again and quietly sneak out of his room. I head upstairs from where I hear screaming. I deal with the noise and sit down to write a bit. Alaina pops in, asking if they can watch Leave it to Beaver and have popcorn. "In a little bit, sweetie. I just sat down." I type a few sentences. I hear screaming. Apparently Caleb accidentally kicked Katie. I go downstairs and start to make the popcorn. I hear the girls screaming upstairs and I leave the popcorn on the stove while I try to keep the girls from waking Zach up. Back downstairs, I finish the popcorn (thankful that it didn't burn) and I hand it to the kids. A few handfuls in my bowl and I head upstairs, hoping to sneak in a few quiet minutes that my introverted soul is craving. The words start to flow as I look at the clock. 3:20. I still haven't read with Caleb and dinner has yet to be started. But we did it. Another homeschool day done. 

This isn't the homeschool life that I pictured, but it is the one we have. We have unusual circumstances. We live a different life that others. There is no way that our experience could ever mimic the experience of others. I could talk to a hundred different homeschooling moms and probably none of our days would look the same. We have different size families. We have different aged kids. We have different husbands and different homes. Some are introverts and some are extroverts. Some have unlimited funds for all the homeschooling materials and some have to work part-time from home in order to makes ends meet. Some have a lot of outside activities and some have none. Some have huge houses to clean and some have tiny apartments. And some of us lucky ones living overseas have someone to clean the house for us. Some of us are pregnant. Some of us are nursing. Some of us are dealing with special needs. Some of us are extroverts and resent never being with adults and some of us are introverts and resent never being alone. Comparing myself to any other homeschooling family serves no purpose.

This realization didn't come quickly or easily. But once I learned to rest in the fact that we are who we are, I was able to enjoy this crazy homeschooling life. It isn't always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

P.S. From looking at the picture above, I am pretty sure you are glad that your family doesn't look like ours 😉

Homeschooling Lessons, Part 1

Our first week of homeschooling, August 2009

I mentioned yesterday that in the years we have been homeschooling, I have learned a few lessons. Coming to grips with some of these things has smoothed our home education road. As I think back on our first year and how incredibly hard it was, I am thankful that lessons have been learned and I am a much better homeschooling mom now than I was then.

Before I share my thoughts a little bit more thoroughly, let me re-emphasize that these are my lessons. These are the thoughts and convictions that shape our home and our education. Underlying these thoughts are assumptions and beliefs about God, His plan for family, and His lavish grace and His new daily mercies. I believe that my own walk with the Lord affects my homeschooling path. I am hopeful that in years to come, my homeschooling will improve as I lean in closer to my Savior and discern more of what His plans are for our family.

That said, let me elaborate...

1. The best curriculum is the one that gets done.

I think that this is one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn. By nature I am a creative thinker. I am always excited to try new things, to get messy, and to push the boundaries. One of the most exciting parts of homeschooling for me (before I started) was the idea of getting to plan elaborate projects, amazing art lessons, intriguing unit studies, and exciting nature explorations. My own elementary education was highlighted with a few creative teachers who had us do fun things like build castles out of styrofoam and choose projects to do on China from a Chinese "menu" with the "prices" being the points we would receive for the project. My mind gets giddy thinking about can be done with an endless source of craft supplies.

In our first year, I tried to live out this fantasy. And when it worked, I loved it. I loved painting with leaves, wrapping mummies, "flying" around the world with our passports as we studied different countries. It was so, so fun. But, it was also a lot of work. A lot of planning. And when I made time for these activities (both their planning and their execution), it left no time for other important things. Like math. Like reading to my children. Like meals ready on time. Like having my evenings free to spend time with my husband. I would get so exhausted after a few weeks of heavy planning and prepping that I would then not do anything. Sometimes, for weeks. Not really the best approach to educating my kids.

I had to learn the hard way that as much as this approach to school excites me, it doesn't work for us. That isn't to say we don't ever do projects, because we do, but it isn't the focus of our curriculum. Instead, I have had to choose curriculum that requires less planning and prep work. We have moved to curriculum that actually gets done. There are so many curriculum choices for homeschoolers. I would love to try them all. But in the end, I have to choose what works for us. I have to choose curriculum that doesn't get discarded after week two because there is too much prep. I have to choose curriculum that doesn't work against the grain of our personalities. I have to choose curriculum that meets the needs of a family with six children age 10 and below. I have to choose curriculum that works with our overseas living. I have to choose curriculum that allows us a very flexible schedule, both daily and weekly. I have to choose curriculum that allows my kids to work at their own pace. And I have to choose curriculum that we will actually do. There is nothing worse than pretty and expensive curriculum that never makes it past page 10.

And so, in our fifth year, I am thankful that we have found curriculum that works for us. And not only does it work, but it also gets done and we love it. In fact, we love it so much that we didn't make any changes to our curriculum this year. My wallet is thankful. This isn't the entirety of what we do, but here are a few of my curriculum loves. For our family.

Math Mammoth — Can't say enough good things about this program. I love to sing its praises. This is our fourth year using it and I can't see us ever changing. I was great in math growing up and even I am learning a thing or two. I often tell people that Math Mammoth is a lot like Singapore Math (in that it teaches kids to think mathematically, not just know how to do the problems.) I also love that I can download and print, thus being able to use it for multiple children.

First Language Lessons — Love. Love. That's all there is to it. When I started homeschooling, I had no idea how to teach grammar. FLL makes it so easy. I love how much my kids are learning and retaining. Truth be told, I like how much I am learning and retaining.

Writing With Ease — Love this as well. I believe that before we ask kids to "be creative" when they write, they need to know what good writing looks like.

Handwriting Without Tears — A great systematic way to teach handwriting. I don't do all of the accompanying activities, but the simplicity of the program makes it easy for kids to learn.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons — Teaching children to read scares me. This book makes it so much easier.

Classical Conversations — We aren't in the States, so we aren't part of a CC group, but the memory work over the past year has been amazing. It has helped shaped my views of what I want for my kids and I have seen first hand how the classical approach makes sense. There is something really amazing about watching your children dance around the living room singing about the Western Roman Empire falling to Barbarians 🙂 We have all learned a lot and we have been able to start connecting the dots between history and our Bible lessons. Because we aren't part of a local CC group, we don't feel the pressure to do all of the memory work. We haven't done any Latin and I don't do the grammar (because we already memorize grammar rules as part of FLL). Regardless, it was a great addition to our schooling last year and I am excited to dive in deeper this year.

I am so glad that I have learned to be honest with myself about my personality, my time, my resources, and my desires. It took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that I didn't look like other homeschooling moms. Our house isn't covered wall to wall (or floor to ceiling) in books. We don't have science experiments growing all over the house. We don't have a pottery wheel or a xylophone in the living room. But we have happy kids who enjoy school, who are learning a lot, who are enjoying being together, who spend a lot of time outside, who are learning about their own strengths and weaknesses, and who are appreciative of a mom who isn't too stressed with all her school planning that she has no energy to actually teach them anything.

P.S. Alaina informed me that I hadn't updated our kid section since I started this blog two years ago. I finally fixed that!

We’re Three Days In

It's hard to believe that this is year number of five of homeschooling. In all honesty, I often still feel like I am fumbling around, not knowing what I am doing. I still worry that my kids aren't learning what they need. I still feel inadequate. I still get sidetracked by others and convince myself that I will never measure up. I often wonder if I took a tragic wrong turn the day I withdrew my kids from school.

Alaina, age 10

Taking your children's education into your own hands — it's not easy. It's not without trial and error. It's not without gaps in learning. It's not without days dreaming of a yellow bus that will pick the kids up  for eight hours every day.

However, through all the hard bits and the days that I think I may go literally insane for lack of quiet, this is the path we are on. It is one we chose and yet also one we feel called to. We trudge through the valleys and marvel at the peaks. It's hard work, but I am thankful.

Caleb,age 9

As we begin our firth year of homeschooling, I thought I would share a few things I have learned along the way. I am by no means a homeschooling expert, not do I ever envision myself to be one. I imagine I'll still be fretting about not doing enough in my 20th year of homeschooling if the Lord keeps us on this path that long. However, I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to homeschooling my children. I have learned what works for us, what doesn't work for us, what is important to me, what I could take or leave. I have become more convinced and comfortable in the approach we are taking, even if it doesn't look anything like anyone else's approach. We're on our own journey, and some lessons have been learned in the process.

Levi, age 7

Over the next few days, I will some lessons that have helped shape us into the homeschooling family we are. Always keep in mind, though...these are our lessons. This is what we have learned. If it helps you in your journey, great. If not, that's great too. You might be on a different educational path (homeschool or otherwise.) Each of us have a different route to take to get where we are going. Rather point out how different the road, let us cheer one another on as we seek to do the very best for our kids.

Katie, age 5

I'll dive into these more over the next few days, but for those overly eager ones, here are ten lessons I am thankful for (in no particular order).

Bethany, age 2

1. The best curriculum is the one that gets done.

2. Every family is unique in its situation, resources, size, personality, time, support, and passions. Because of this, rarely will two homeschooling families look alike.

3. In schools, grade levels serve a purpose. At home, they are just numbers. 

4. In order to feel confident that your children are getting what they need, you need to be convinced in your own mind of what exactly those needs are.

5. You have to be okay with interruptions and imperfection.

6. You have to admit how little you know and be willing to learn alongside your children.

7. The greatest education (both in amount and in importance) happens outside of "school" time.

8. Memorization is a beautiful thing.

9. You have to take the bad days to get the good ones.

10. I am ever-thankful for Philippians 4:13.

Zachary, almost 5 months