Archive for Homeschooling

20 Homeschooling Articles to Help New Homeschooling Moms

Several of you asked that I post all of my homeschooling articles in one place. Here you are. Happy Homeschooling!



Five Questions Every Homeschooling Mom Should Ask Before Choosing Curriculum

Favorite Homeschool Resources/Tools Series :Part I, Part II, Part III

Good Advice On Home Education

The Early Years of Home School

Favorite Friends In the Early Years

Being Scared to Death Of Homeschooling

God Is Bigger Than Our Educational Choices

Grace For the Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling {or not} During Times of Crisis

One Reason I Love Homeschooling

Fun Things For Homeschool

A Little Trick I’ve Learned Through Homeschooling

We Censor Our Kids’ Books {And a trick that makes it easy}

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

Charlotte Mason on Taking our Kids Outdoors

Limitations Make Children Creative

Advice on Education from Across Party Lines

Summer: The Perfect Time to Start Nature Study

Adding Watercolor To Your Nature Study

An Example of Charlotte Mason Narration


Thoughts on being scared to death of homeschooling, and thoughts on the thoroughly educated child

I’m entering my 17th year of homeschooling.

If you’ve read here for more than two minutes you know I favor the Charlotte Mason method, have an artsy/crafty bent, emphasize music and poetry, read a lot, and tend to be rather eclectic.

What you might not know is that I feel totally unqualified to do this job.

I’m not musical. I was an average student. I didn’t like to read. I’ve not mastered higher math or science, so how could I ever teach it!?

(I am artsy and that’s about it.)


I’ve always known that I could not give my children the kind of education they need.

This has been the cause of a lot of fear in my life. I love my kids and didn’t want them to suffer because their mom was a bumbling idiot who thought she could do a better job than an actual teacher. I’ve always realized that if I messed this homeschool gig up, my kids would be the one to suffer in the long run. No pressure there.

I decided early on that the best course of action would be to attend a local homeschooling conference. For me, it was overwhelming and seemed to confirm what I already knew–“I’m not cut out for this.” Walking the aisles, eyes scanning the mounds of curriculum (too many choices!) I literally feel dizzy.  I was afraid that someone might try to strike up a conversation with me about what curriculum I’ve been using, and recognize me as the homeschooling fraud of a mom that I felt like.

I didn’t benefit from a homeschooling conference, but I did greatly benefit from an experienced lady at our local support group, Debbie. She listened and gave feedback. She encouraged me although she had a gazillion other things to do. She talked to me about all of the different ways people homeschool. She just gave me courage.

As I took each step, I also learned another truth: God had gone before me and was there to help me each step of the way. He was walking my homeschooling journey with me. He knew before the foundations of the earth that I’d be doing this job that I felt totally unqualified to do and that half the time I thought I’d lose my sanity performing. (You’re with your kids 24/7, ya’ll. That can be oh-so-good and bad.)

When I asked for guidance, He gave it. When I seemed lost, He helped me find my way through the advice of a friend or by information on the internet.

I learned that knowing my own limits as a teacher and understanding my personality mattered tremendously because I couldn’t be someone who I was not. And learning the personality of each child was crucial to understanding their learning style.

I devoured For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School and A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning and Educating the WholeHearted Child  and realized that I was drawn mostly to the Charlotte Mason method.

I connected with Charlotte Mason’s respectful ideas about children:

  • that they are not creatures to be molded/created but were already born a person;
  • that adults should not abuse power or use fear/manipulation to make a child learn; (all I can think about is Mr. Gradgrind in Dickens’ Hard Times!)
  • that the mind of a child thrives on quality knowledge.

I appreciated that she taught that children should be kept clean, taught good manners, never demeaned (this during Victorian England when children were to be seen and not heard).

In short, children are capable and deserve respect. You don’t teach them how to learn—they already have that capacity. You provide excellent resources.

I realized that I don’t have to be an expert on anything to read my children excellent books and to expose them to the lofty ideas and beautiful language of people more intelligent than I.

I try to lead a “beautiful life” (cultured) with my kids. Much of this comes by adding music, art, literature, and details to our surroundings during the day. For instance, I might add flowers or a candle to our school room. I display the artwork of one or two artists per month on my fridge to familiarize them with that artist’s style. We read the poetry of one or two famous poets per month.We bake and craft.  We take nature walks to enjoy the creation. We have tea and cookies in the late afternoon in the fall/winter. We enjoy local produce and do seasonal excursions. These are all things that anyone can do. I’m trying to raise kids who notice and appreciate little things because education is more than taking in information.

To be truly educated, you have to care about how you fit into the grand scheme of life. Knowledge has to change you for the better and move you to action. You have to appreciate beauty simply for the love of it. You have to be curious about the inner workings of that concept you don’t quite grasp.

A truly educated person cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others no matter how “insignificant” they are on the social scale. I don’t care how much my kids know book-wise if it doesn’t cause them to be better neighbors. 

I think as a society we’re satisfied with a shoddy definition of education. As moms, we have to make sure that we don’t confuse taking in information with being educated or advancing through school with understanding knowledge.

We need to see our kids as whole people–education being a small part of who they are.

They need to know that they were created for a relationship with God and that outside of that relationship, nothing else makes sense. Their minds need to be informed and infused with the mind of Christ.

As I enter another year, I am confronted yet again with my own lack: lack of expertise, energy, and knowledge. And I know that though homeschooling can be lonely, I am not alone; God has gone before me and will be with me (and you!) as we start this new year.




{*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. }


Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!


Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.



In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.


In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.


The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”


In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 


Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.


That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.



Grace For The Homeschool Mom

I’m a homeschooling mom of nearly 20 years and I’m weary.

This post is to help you, the weary, burnt-out homeschooing mom, embrace a word that we seem to ignore: enough.

Homeschooling moms have many wonderful qualities to be sure, but I’m not sure that giving ourselves grace is one of them.


School is never enough. We always do more, expect more, try more. Homeschooling marketers KNOW this and feed this insecurity in all of us: buy this, do this, try this, don’t miss this! And buy it we do.

We keenly feel our own under-qualifications for this monumental job and so we try to overcompensate. In the end we burn ourselves out, scare away other would-be homeschooling moms, and discourage fellow homeschooling moms at the very meetings that were started for our support.

I’m just gonna say it:

I don’t want to attend another homeschooling conference.

I toss out homeschooling catalogs that come in the mail without so much as a flip through them

I really, really don’t want another tutorial on making Valentines sculptures with plaster of paris or a how-to guide on building a rope course.

Please don’t send me that link to that amazing lap-book website you were telling me about. {I die a little inside when I realize that moms out there do all THAT in a typical homeschooling day.}

Grace is what I need right now. Grace with myself that affirms, “Sarah, you are doing enough. God will fill in what lacks.”

There comes a season when you really step back and assess your current course. You ask the hard questions like:

  • What exactly is an education?
  • How do children learn?
  • What do MY children need to learn?
  • What strengths can I encourage in each child? What weaknesses need work?
  • Have I allowed comparison to steal my joy and drive us all a little neurotic?
  • Have I forgotten that I DO, I WILL, and I ALWAYS WILL HAVE limitations? {So does every other teacher in America! Not to mention the limitations of the kids.}

I need to recall why we started doing this in the first place:

  • I want time with my kids.
  • I want to teach them our family values, and about our God on a day in and day out basis.
  • I want them to be avid readers.
  • I want them to love learning and pursue it life-long.
  • I highly value family time and flexibility.
  • I want them to have time to pursue the interests they love.
  • We want to travel.

When I step back I realize that my list is quite short,

but my self-made daily to-do list is oh, so long, burdensome and unnecessarily complicated. 

So, I’m saying no. I’m calling good enough enough.

I’m growing whole-hearted children over here and that takes inspiration and creativity and time. It means saying no to a million good things in order to make way for what we value most.

I don’t just want them to read a snippet in a text book, answer 10 questions for a test, and believe they are educated on a topic. We’re going to read living books (Books that inspire and are written by an author with uncommon knowledge and a passion for that subject.) on a variety of topics and enjoy the read. We’re going to discuss, debate, and digest the material.

I want them to empathize and feel deeply the sorrow of those who have suffered injustice in their history readings and biographies and rejoice with those who discovered cures for once life-threatening diseases, or stood up against the wrongs of society with uncommon bravery. I want them to feel the energy of the symphony orchestra and experience the joy of preparing a nutritious meal to present as a gift to your loved ones. I want them to remember that hearts are tied together around the candle-lit dinner table over simple things like spaghetti and garlicky bread.

I want them to enjoy famous composers, artists, poetry and try our hand at our own.

And while Pre-calculus is a necessary evil of high school life and requires a textbook, we’re not going to let textbooks rule our education.

We’ll discuss and hash out politics, theology and different ideas around our dinner table.

We’ll visit museums, concerts and libraries and take advantage of the rich History we enjoy in the New England area.

And when mom can’t remember what an independent clause is or the difference between mitosis and meiosis, we’ll all sit and watch Kahn Academy. Or we’ll  learn via the History and Discovery Channel.

We’ll embrace quiet times alone with our thoughts.

We’ll cultivate creativity, by picking up hobbies like knitting or crocheting.

We’ll do what we can and breathe. We’ll be happy and call it a day.

We’re no longer calling it school, but instead real life. And it is enough.

Are you burnt out? Take some time to invest in yourself, too. You can’t always give. You need little snatches of time to take in.  It might be a walk through a beautiful shop, buying some flowers, arranging some furniture in a creative way, reading a book, painting, sketching, walking or talking with a friend. There’s nothing noble about running yourself ragged into the ground.  Do what it takes to get yourself in a good place where you are ready to jump in, serving your family with a renewed outlook. :)



Homeschooling {or not} During Times of Crisis

Wednesday morning, all was normal. I was sitting behind an observation window, chatting and drinking iced coffee with my sister Hannah while our girls tumbled and jumped at their gymnastics lesson. I received a startling phone call that Peter’s mom had several strokes that morning and was now in the hospital. After an extremely high risk surgery, she is still recovering in the ICU tonight.

I have to tell you, that after a week like this, I am all the more thankful that we homeschool our kids. School schedule is never a thought during a crisis. Learning is a lifestyle and not an artificial time slot we need to worry about making the kids fill. I’m not stressing about whether we’ll get lessons done today or tomorrow. They’ll get done. We’ll do their math when we are ready. We have all day or all week if we need it.

We took the kids to Woodneck Beach today in Falmouth, MA. So peaceful and beautiful.

We took the kids to Woodneck Beach today in Falmouth, MA. So peaceful and beautiful.

Homeschooling has allowed us to really be “all there” in a family emergency. Yes, by the end of the year I am ready to pack all of our books away and never ever look at them again, but in so many ways, homeschooling has helped us to tailor our lives around what is most important to us.

It was important for the kids to be with their grandmother at 11pm as she’s coming out of the surgical unit. It is important that they sleep in after an emotionally stressful night. It was important that we have a family day today after this type of week.

I’m sure homeschooling has many weaknesses and just a week ago I would have been ready to rattle them off to you because

But tonight, I’m thankful for it.

I hear so often, “I don’t know how you homeschool five kids!” And tonight, I have to say, I don’t know how women who don’t homeschool do it!


Diet, A Few Recipes and What’s New


Just an update on what we are up to lately, besides getting over the flu. :)

1. Diet Details and a Recipe.

Many of you have asked about the details of my new diet. I am the last one to be giving diet advice since I have a long lasting love affair with One-Bowl Brownies and Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, and I am still figuring out what I am doing, but for right now, I’ve eliminated several things from my diet: white flour and sugar, hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and anything “highly processed”–meaning that if it is a chemical name that I don’t recognize, I don’t eat it. My grandmother has not eaten flour or sugar for years, and I am beginning to think that her sensitivities to them are hereditary. :)

So far it is going well. The biggest surprise of this diet is that my energy level is back to normal for the first time in two years. After my bout with mono, I had resigned myself to a life of low energy. I am beyond thankful that my energy has returned. I no longer feel like I “need” a cup of coffee in the a.m. As a matter of fact, I skipped coffee a few days last week and never noticed.

So, what am I eating? Fruits, veggies, salads, chicken, beef, roasted root vegetables (sweet potato is a fav) whole grains, soups, nuts, etc…

Here is a great recipe that I enjoy for Crustless Quiche. What I love about it is that it is very forgiving. I rarely make it the same way twice and it always comes out great. Here is the original recipe:

Crustless Quiche with cheddar, onion, mushrooms, pepper and baby spinach.

Crustless Quiche

4. c thinly sliced and unpeeled zucchini

1 c. chopped onions

1/4 c. water

2 eggs, well beaten

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

2. T parsley

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

1/4 t. garlic powder

1/4 t. oregano

1/4 t. basil

Saute zucchini and onions in water for 10 minutes; drain. Combine eggs, cheese and seasonings. Fold into zucchini mixture. Pour into 10 inch pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

***My variations:

First of all, I use 6 eggs for my family and double the spices. I bake it in 9X12″ glass pan. I use whatever veggies I have on hand that day. Today I used 2 small onions, baby spinach, 1 cup chopped mushrooms and some yellow pepper and fresh chopped basil. In total it was about 4 cups of veggies. I also substituted sharp cheddar cheese. After I put it in the pan, I topped it with sliced fresh tomato slices.  I bake it for about 8 minutes longer for the bigger version, so that the sides are browned slightly. This recipe is from an older woman in our church, (a woman who had 15 children!!), and I love it because it is economical and delish! :)

2. Family News:

This weekend my daughter Emily was part of the Southeastern Mass. District Orchestra. It was a great experience for her, and we are blessed that she was given this opportunity.

Proud parents. :)

3. Books I’m Enjoying:

I am reading The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management and am thoroughly enjoying it. Of course, books like this make sweeping generalizations about a culture when they write about what the “French” do, but still, it is a great look into areas of obvious differences in thinking between our two cultures.

For instance, French women value quality in their food. We tend to value quantity. (and our bodies are showing it!) The French use internal cues to tell them to stop eating, as in “I am full.” Americans use external cues, as in, my plate is clean, or this TV show is over. If one symbol could depict American’s eating habits, it would be a car; the French, a table. It is a very insightful read. :)

Also, I’m reading How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor’s Secrets to Getting Gorgeous without Breaking the Bank. It is full of common sense beauty tips and she references Kate Middleton quite a bit. Enough said. It covers how to ask for the right hair cut, applying make up without looking cheap and made up, the top ten lipstick shades that make up artists swear by and other awesome tips I’d never heard of. For instance, did you know that to apply the right amount of perfume, you should squirt a little on your hairbrush and comb your hair? It will cling to the natural oils in your hair in just the right amounts so that your scent is not overpowering! :) (Caveat: I have had to take my black sharpie to several words in this book.)

4. Favorite Products:

This winter we started our fifth child on Considering God’s Creation. I was reminded again how much I love this program. It is notebook-y in a way, but uses the power of observation to help guide the child in classifying plants, bugs and animals. I love that it melds the scientific method with a Charlotte Mason-ey flair. :) If you haven’t used it, I would highly recommend it.

Hope just started Considering God's Creation this semester.

5. A Fabulous Recipe from a man’s blog! :) Who knew?

I knew I had to try this recipe when I stumbled upon the title “100 Year Old Recipe” on Tim’s blog. I made this treat for my family and can verify that it was indeed delicious. (I tried a bite! ahem!) Anyway, it is full of apples and cinnamon with a caramel glaze and would be great with coffee or tea.

100 year old cake recipe.

I love trying old recipes and love reading old “receipt” books. Years ago, recipes were not more than a list of ingredients, hence the term receipts. I am always fascinated that women years ago had a general understanding of what measurements yielded soft, fluffy biscuits or a fluffy cake without worrying about exact measurements.

6. Quotes I’m Pondering 

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

The highest glory of the creature is in being only a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be all. Water always fills first the lowest places. The lower, the emptier a man lies before God, the speedier and the fuller will be the inflow of the diving glory.”

Andrew Murray

Your turn!  Tell me what you’re reading, products you’re loving this winter, or link to fabulous recipes you’re making right now. AND any diet tips are welcome! :)

Charlotte Mason on Taking Kids Outdoors

This week I have been re-reading Home Education  by Charlotte Mason to my great delight. I am gearing up for the fast approaching school year.

Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to take their children outside for walks and to observe the nature that is all around us. She believed it trained their power of observation and expression.

“This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,––when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’ And she is training her children in truthful habits, by making them careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission or exaggeration. ”

Kids at Scituate Lighthouse

Charlotte Mason recommends that children should be taught:

The names of field crops in the area. We drive by a stretch of gorgeous untouched farmland each time I go to my mothers. I always enjoy seeing the rotations of seasons in the farmland. Farmer tilling the field, next time, planting, and the next, tall corn growing. The kids enjoy seeing the animals as well. And of course, my father is a cranberry grower so we enjoy watching the progress of the family crop as well. (cranberry unit study here)

The names of local field flowers: Learn the wildflowers and flowers by name in your own yard first, then expand.

The names of local trees: Learn the trees in your own yard first, then expand.

The names of local birds: I used to tape up pictures of birds in our back yard for the kids to learn (and for me to reference incase I forgot!)

Seasons should be followed: Comment on the seasons: the chill in the air, the salty taste of the ocean air, the burnt orange hue of the leaves. This is the easiest way to follow the seasons. Or, in your nature journal, sketch the same flower in your yard through its growing season. Record the date on each sketch.

Or set up a nature table. This is a small area in your home of the season’s treasures: shells, starfish, beach glass, for summer; leaves, acorns, pinecones, lovely art for fall. My friend Kara has a beautiful article on nature tables here.

Nature diaries should be kept: These can be a sturdy covered notebook with pages that will accommodate both watercolor and ink drawings. If you attempt these, too, mother, your children will gladly copy you. Whenever I pull out my paints with the kids up, they always want to paint with me. This video shows you how to watercolor your nature journal using only three colors.

Entrance to a Concentration Camp in Germany.

When the children were younger, I would pack up a picnic lunch and head over to one of the family cranberry bogs to spend an afternoon. We’d eat lunch out doors and the kids would explore the woods looking for something interesting to share that they had not seen before. We’d sketch their find in a nature journal, then bring it home for further investigation. The time spent outside, eating in the fresh air and the memories of the kids playing in the sunshine are gifts to me. I am glad I was there with them.

Rebekah surprised me the other day, when she pulled out her journal and asked if I wanted to see her sketches from Germany. Apparently her camera broke one day and she recorded her memory in the form of a sketch.

Church at Worms where Martin Luther said "Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God."

This week we spent some time outdoors with the kids. Peter took us to a beach in Scituate and we spend the afternoon climbing the rocks and walking the shore. I took these photos with my phone, so I apologize for the grainy look.












I can feel myself getting re-energized for the upcoming school year. How about you? :)

Our Favorite Homeschool Tools: {Pt. 2. History}

This is part two of our Favorite Curriculum series and today I am sharing what worked for us for History.

If you missed part one, read here for our favorite Homeschool picks for Math and Language Arts.

When our children were young, we used several resources:

Your Story Hour Audio Tapes were staples in our family. They are dramatized stories about a specific person in history. My kids listened to these on car trips and during rest time after lunch. If you follow this link you can get them free with a trial membership. :)

We also loved reading the Childhood of Famous American’s series. These are engaging books (written at about a third grade reading level) that we always enjoyed. We loved reading about the childish antics and mishaps of Thomas Alva Edsion, the strict family rules of Benjamin Franklin’s mother, the love of animals and the almost crippling shyness of Clara Barton, and the crazy inventions of the Wright brothers as children.

One of our favorite things to do is to visit a visiting living history museum. We are fortunate to live in a part of the country that is rich in American History and take advantage of trips to local museums. Plimouth Plantation, Sturbridge Village, Strawberry Banke, York Historical Society and other hands on museums are a great places to let kids see what life would have been like during Colonial Times. You can tour homes of famous people like Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House,  John Quincy Adam’s home or Thoreau’s cottage on Walden Pond. If you can’t visit in person, many of these sites have interactive activities for kids on their sites.

Hope using tools at OSV.

Holly trying out the washing machine at Old Sturbridge Village.

We also used The Story of the World series by Susan Wise Bauer of the Well Trained Mind.  As the kids got older they used BJUPress textbooks as jumping boards for independent study. Also, we also felt that our kids would benefit by reading the History of England via AmblesideOnline’s resources which are free and in the public domain, because of course, English history was our history before we were “America.” :)  We also benefitted from Susan’s Bauer’s complete history books for adults. (caveat: it is written for adults, and does not sugar coat the depravity of man when unhampered by rules. Matthew’s summary: “Boy, Mom. The kings were pretty dysfunctional. They killed their own families whenever they felt like it.” Yup. They also include homosexuality and other topics that you might want to edit before letting your kids loose on these books– depending on the maturity of the child.)

I know this list is incomplete. What have you loved for history? Do tell. :)


Our Favorite Homeschool Resources (Pt.1. Math and Language Arts.) Share Yours, Please!

I have received several requests for me to share what homeschool tools I use to educate my children, so this week I will be sharing what we use. BUT,

I feel funny telling you what works for my family, because any homeschooler worth their salt knows that each family and kid is different. Personality types of the child AND mother need to be taken into consideration before choosing materials. THAT is the beauty of homeschooling.

Hope learning to crochet.

1. So before you start choosing curriculum read this post which gives you five questions to ask yourself before you choose homeschooling materials for your family.

2. Remember that homeschooling is great but not an end all. In fact, God is bigger than our educational choices and homeschooling is not for everyone!

We have used many different things over the years. We started out with a traditional approach, mimicking the classroom until a friend gave me some great advice. Begin with the end in mind, she said. What did I want as a final product? That decision changed my approach to education, and I  gradually moved to a literature based approach. Living books became our best friends.

Today, our top pics for Math and English; tomorrow, History and Science. And then general resources that we cannot live without. (no, iced coffee is not on the list. :))

So here goes:

First, we tend to use a mix for all subjects except for Math and English. With those two subjects I am a Spartan mom: do it even if it kills you.

So I will cover the no nonsense stuff first:

We use BJUPress Math through grade six, and then we switch to the Teaching Textbooks (cheapest through Timberdoodle. com here. )and use them through 12th grade.

When the kids were young we also loved math wrap ups. We love using online math games to reinforce skills. We also use flash cards.

For English, we use several things at grade level:

Explode the CodeEasy Grammar, Wordly Wise, Writing With Ease, Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind, Editor in Chief, Writing Strands,  and ABeka Grammar in 9-12th grade.

I rarely use spelling workbooks. The kids make spelling lists of words they commonly misspell and write those.

Handwriting was done with Italic and A Reason for Writing.

Reading was done with various readers including The Pathway Readers, Bob Books , and anything else that was age appropriate.

Literature was approached by reading complete works from the time period we were studying in History. So, instead of reading snippets of books, we read aloud Great Expectations, Hard Times, The Christmas Carol and Anne of Green Gables to name a few, and then we discussed the stories. Reading aloud as a family is one of my favorite family memories. If you are not familiar with the different parts of literature analysis (plot, mood, setting, conflict, etc) try to find a used copy of Heart of Dakota’s “Drawn into the Heart of Reading.”

Poetry was done on the Ambleside Online schedule here

Ambleside Online is a great resource for homeschoolers who want to use a literature based approach to learning. It uses many free books that you can find online, and although the website is confusing, they have a great community of women that can answer many of your questions.

AND, last but not least, let’s not forget our trusty LIBRARY CARD! (woo hoo!) What would we ever do without you, trusty friend!

What are your favorite resources for English and Math? Please share in the comments.