Archive for the 'Homeschooling' Category

Building Your Home Library

How do children become good readers? By reading and being read to! It is important to have a rich home library full of “living” books; that is, books that are so engaging that you and your child will not want to put them down. These are not textbooks which list dates and such, but whole books which tell the stories of real people and their real lives. Here “real” can also mean fictional characters such as Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy Gale. Living books are written by one primary author, and that person has such a passion for their subject that it can be seen in the way the book is written.

Here are some general guideline about book selection:

  • Look for books with godly characters and lessons being learned. Avoid “twaddle” or as Charlotte Mason would describe, books that have been dumb-downed to a “child’s level” and in the process all the good stuff taken out. Examples would include the “Great Children’s Classics” adaptation of classic novels. While these may be at a younger child’s reading level, usually the meat of the story or character has been removed.
  • Avoid book adaptations of children’s movies like Disney movies. Not to say that all these books are labeled “bad” but there are more worthy books out there so save your money. Go for the original Little Mermaid and Snow White stories rather than the Disney-fied version.
  • Look for books, chapter and picture, which bear the seals of awards like the Newbery (author) and Caldecott (illustrator) medals. Here is a website with lists of the various honored books.
  • Consider your children’s reading level and challenge it. Here is a good site with grade level lists of books. Consider also that children will absorb whatever is read to them, so you can read much higher “levels” to them and it will still be beneficial.
  • Ask your Grandma! If the books she enjoyed as a child are still in print, they’re probably worthwhile.

Here are some ideas for building up your home library. These may be difficult in countries other than the U.S., but f you are on furlough, this can be prime “library-building” time (as if you don’t have enough to do!). Please share your ideas in the comments!

  • Scour thrift stores- I love going to Goodwill or Value Village and perusing their book aisles. Usually there are buy 3 get 1 free type sales and frequently you may find a golden classical book at a deep discount.
  • Library book sales- These kinds of sales are awesome! At my local library these happen about twice a year, but that will vary at different libraries.
  • Doctor’s offices, etc- My kids’ pediatrician’s office has a book bin and they welcome patients to take a book. We have picked up several classics like the Little House series.
  • Summer programs- Half Price Books has a summer program to encourage reading and rewards children with $3 per week in Half Price Books credit. Last year I signed up my two girls, 5 and 3, and we read and recorded each week, and got $6 per week. We then used it to buy out of the clearance bin where books were priced at less than a dollar. It was a great way to build up our home library for free and my older daughter learned a bit about spending money wisely (getting six $0.50 books or one $3 book).
  • Trade with your friends or church- Instead of a clothing swap, have a book swap! Maybe you have two copies of something someone else wants, and vice versa.
  • Public school surplus sales- Usually each summer the school district has a sale of all damaged, unused, or otherwise classroom material. My local district’s was open for 4 days and when I went the 3rd day I was the only one and there were tons of books leftover. It was like Disneyland!

I love books! I’m hoping that my children will grow up loving books too.

Do you have any other ideas to share about how you choose what books are allowed to take up precious space in your suitcases?

(Post by: Addie)

Learning First, Before Teaching

Awhile back I went to a homeschooling meeting with some people from my church. We were there to hear from a local homeschooling veteran, advocate, and education counselor. I’m so glad I attended because this wise woman spoke truth, as if God were speaking to me right there in the basement apartment on a Tuesday night.She went around to each attendee and spoke to each of us regarding our children, and each piece of advice was different because each family is different. To the parents of a high schooler she counseled them in this way and that, and to the new homeschooling family she told them to take an extended summer. Regarding my three children ages 6, 3.5 and 12 months at the time, she told me, with tears in her eyes, “Enjoy your children, take them to the park at least twice a week, play with them, because before you know it they will be all grown up and you’ll be walking them down the aisle toward their husband.”By the end I was tearing up too.It was exactly what God needed to tell me. I can get very caught up in teaching the “right” thing and “doing school” enough times per week that I sometimes forget to let my kids run around outside or to play a game with them! I didn’t think I would be “that” kind of a mom, but when I have so many things to do inside my house (school, cleaning, naptime) I sometimes forget to venture out for the sake of my kids.The whole thing, speaking with this woman, was something I’d been realizing that I had needed for a few months. I had recently been shown (convicted is too strong a word) that, much to my dismay and surprise, I don’t know everything. Yet I had been spouting off advice left and right about what to do, blah, blah, blah, when really I should be learning more and experiencing more before I go and say what someone *should* do. This includes my kids. I need to be focusing on making my walk with Jesus straight while I’m trying to train my children.

The woman at the meeting quoted Luke 6:40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount in this passage. If we as parents desire for our children to be lovers of God and doers of his Word, we first have to love God and do his Word. This had a profound effect on me regarding my roles in life and specifically my role as a homeschooler.

Practically it means I need to make time to meet with God and read the Bible and other supplemental books on godly living. I need to address issues and repair them. I need to meet with Godly women mentors and be discipled, not just disciple people.  If I want to make sure my kids have a strong relationship with God, I first need to have a strong relationship with Him. I feel the weight more heavily when I realize that my own study of the word and relationship with Christ affects not just me, but extends to my children as well. Yet it is not a burden. It gives freedom!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30

As you seek to teach your children, whether or not you are homeschooling, in what ways are you seeking to continue to be a learner yourself? Are there any ways that you feel you need to seek growth in order to better lead your children?
(Post by: Addie)

Notes from the Trenches

I have been homeschooling my kindergarten daughter for about 4 months (officially) and I by no means an “expert” but I have learned a few things along the way I wanted to share.  Even if you are not homeschooling, these hopefully will help you with balancing your roles as a wife, mother, missionary, etc.

  • Make sure you’re getting time with God!

I recently read “Shopping for Time” by Carolyn Mahaney (and her daughters) and it was a fantastic read. The main point is to make time for God, then everything will fall into place (or you’ll at least be able to cope). She suggests waking earlier than your husband and children, which I’ve been trying to do. It’s hard, but totally rewarding!


      • Take a break from book-learning and focus on discipline.

      I can easily get caught up in whether my daughter is learning the “right” thing and is staying “on-track” while ignoring her disobedience. I’ve found it helpful at times to put away the school books and spend time working on her relationship with her sister, obedience to me, and just having fun without the pressure of school.

      • Lower your standards for what is a clean house and gourmet meal (especially during your school year).

      I’m kind of a neat freak (and married to a neat freak). But homeschooling has forced me to let some things go. I have learned to make easy, quick meals instead of gourmet delicacies, let the floor get a little dirty instead of mopping every single day (my baby is a human vacuum cleaner anyway), and figure it’s okay to wear an outfit more than once.

      • Trust that God will fill in where you may lack.

      We are not homeschooling because I want my kids to become the next Einstein or Mozart. We are homeschooling because we feel God has called our family to it in this season. I’m not ready to send my babies off quite yet. I know there are some areas like algebra that I will need to “outsource” but thankfully we’re not there yet (the algebra). God’s got my children covered and for now we are working on the basics, including loving each other and honoring God.

      • Take time for yourself.

      My older two kids (6 and 3) don’t really nap anymore but the baby does, so in the afternoons we do “quiet time” for about an hour. This is my rest time too and it makes me a much better mommy to have a portion of the day to read, pray, exercise, or (gasp!) sleep. In addition my husband has been very helpful in letting me have a break now and then to go running or get a cup a coffee.

      Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

      Do any of you other homeschooling moms, new or veteran, have other tips to share that you have found helpful?

      (Post by: Addie)

      Revisiting My Role As Mom And Teacher


      This is Addie again. I haven’t been writing much recently, but I have a good reason. Wesley Robert joined our family at the end of January! Isn’t he cute? I think he is, but then I am biased!

      My girls and I have been adjusting to daily life again now that there is a baby around. As such, my view of homeschooling has changed a little bit. I am thankful for this change because I can see how my previous view wasn’t what it should have been. I was recently convicted that I am not really loving my children well. Sure I love them because they are mine, but I was having a very hard time finding joy in where God had placed me as their mommy. Mostly this was because they were disobeying and my husband and I weren’t doing a good job of disciplining them. Toward the end of last year I felt a huge burden as their mommy. I was just so exhausted. Sure I was 30 weeks pregnant, but even a non-pregnant mommy would be exhausted. This caused me to be very short with them and very angry. Not. a. good. time. Thankfully, God is sovereign and through this difficult time showed me my areas of sin and selfishness, and where I needed to help the girls so they could learn to obey mommy and daddy and love Jesus. It really challenged my view of being a mother, especially a homeschooling mother.

      I asked myself these questions, and discussed them with my husband:

      1. Why did God give us these children?

      2. What do we want for our children?

      3. What is our role as their parent?

      4. What is our role as their teacher, and what do we want them to learn?

      The answers, for me, to these questions were:

      1. to sanctify me and glorify Him

      2. to love Jesus

      3. to direct them to Jesus

      4. to direct them to Jesus and love Him

      I had to face that my role as their mom, even if we do not choose to homeschool, is to direct them to Jesus. It seems simple, but to me it wasn’t. I was very wrapped up in doing the fun crafts and activities but not living like Christ in their lives. I was choosing to plan fun things to do but was not disciplining them when they were disobeying and sinning. A good friend pointed out to me that my 5-year-old’s sin of not obeying is small right now, but when she is 15 it will mean sneaking out of the house, and when she is 25 it will mean being put in jail. Exaggerated, hopefully, but it could happen if we fail to teach her to fear and obey God! My job as her mother is to train her in obedience, train her heart to love God. This means not being short or angry with them, as I had been, and consistently doing what I said I would do regarding discipline.

      The timing in which I was learning this was certainly God-ordained. I was not glorifying God with my mothering, and there was about to be one more child to mother! I am so thankful God showed me where I needed to improve and, moreover, trust Him and His will. Proverbs 23:19 “Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.”

      In my next entry I will share some practical tips on how this has worked for my family, how it’s affected how we do school and some of the rewards we’ve seen.

      What do you feel are some of the good priorities that you have in place as a mom and/or as a homeschooling mom? Is it a ever a challenge for you to love and lead through disciplining consistently? Are there any ways that you feel like you’ve gotten off track? Let’s pray for one another in this!

      (Post by: Addie)

      Special Activities and Home Pre-shool

      Recently I wrote about using everyday activities for teaching opportunities. But another part of homeschooling is using your time to do special activities, things that don’t happen everyday and are outside of the pencil and paper teaching. Here’s one my kids and I did recently.

      A few weeks ago I decided it would be a good day for a tea party with my daughters who are 4 and 2. We have done tea parties with friends before and they love to play pretend tea party, but today we pulled out all the stops and used real dishes, a silver tea set, fancy snacks and had a good old time. Halfway through the prep I realized how many things I could teach them through a tea party.

      We served pineapple tidbits, cheese squares, and crackers with hummus. First I had Caley (4) use her fine motor skills to place toothpicks in the pineapple and cheese, and then carefully carry the plate to the table. This helped her learn balance and using two hands to carry things. She also helped set the table and carry the mugs and saucers to the table. At the table we poured some tea and set in to have a nice party. At first I poured and then let her do it. She also poured tea for Amelia (2). This helped her learn balance again and caring for her little sister. We also listened to classical music on Pandora ( which helped them learn to appreciate that genre of music.

      During the meal we talked about our memory verse of the week and I also modeled describing the things we were eating. I said, “I like the crackers because they’re crunchy” and then asked Caley why she liked the snacks. She said, “I like the pineapple because it’s sweet.” Learning how to appropriately use adjectives is an important skill and when used in the context of an activity, can have a stronger impact than simply reading about it in a book. In the context of a tea party we were able to touch on such subjects as music, grammar, etiquette, and motor skills. Plus it was so much fun and made for some great memories!

      What are some special activities you’ve done with your kids? What have they learned through the process?

      (Post by: Addie)

      Process vs. Product and Your Preschooler

      When planning projects and activities for your little preschooler(s) it’s important to understand process over product. Children learn by doing, not by simply producing something that’s of beauty to us as adults. As adults we are focused on the end result, whether it’s writing a provoking story, painting a beautiful picture, or arriving at a destination. Children, unlike adults, take their time and care less about the end result of their work and more about what happens along the way. As children age the end product will look more “correct” to us as adults, but that doesn’t mean the child whose product looks wacky didn’t learn anything through the process. To read more about this concept and get ideas for preschool art projects, check out Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product by MaryAnn Kohl.

      Here’s an example of some work my daughters and I did recently. The first picture is my product. I did the project in front of them, so they got to see how I did it instead of just seeing the end result.


      This next picture is what the girls produced. The craft on the left was done by my nearly 5-year-old Caley. Generally things are in the right place and proportionate to one another. The craft on the right was done by Amelia, who just turned 2. You can tell that hers has all the necessary elements but things aren’t in their “correct” places. Obviously we were going for a Jack-O-Lantern but hers is a bit unconventional.

      pumpkin project

      Both girls learned similar things during this project but their crafts turned out differently. We cut pipe cleaners and shaped them into eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and this reinforced learning shapes and emotions (happy or sad mouth). We mixed the colors red and yellow to make orange and they painted the paper plate which reinforced the color wheel and fine motor skills of mixing and manipulating a paintbrush. Then we placed the face elements on the plate, which reinforced positioning of body parts.

      As Amelia was doing her craft, it was difficult for me not to “correct” her and prompt her to put the eyes, nose and mouth in the “right” place. I had to remind myself that she will eventually produce a craft that is “correct” and it’s not a big deal for now if her products turn out this way. She is still learning and still had fun doing the project, and that’s really the goal.

      Check out these links for ideas on preschool art projects, and please share any that you may have!

      Art for Young Preschoolers

      Preschool Lesson Plans and Activities

      Christian Preschool Printables

      What are your thoughts about “process vs. product?” Is it ever challenging to not worry about the finished product when doing projects with your kids? What other home pre-school or  home-school topics would be of greatest interest or help to you?

      (Post by: Addie)

      Planning Your Home Preschool


      If you’re planning to homeschool your preschooler you may be asking, “What should I do?”  “Where should I start?” There are so many checklists  out there for what your child “needs to know” that it can be mind boggling. (Here and here are a couple of lists). As I continue to share here about homeschooling, and specifically home preschool, I wanted to share some questions that may be helpful in determining what and how to teach your preschool child:

      • What do you want your child to learn? You’re the parent, so what do you want your child to learn over the coming year? Some things that may be at the top of your list are Bible facts and verses, manners, cooperation, reading, and self help (as in dressing themselves and getting their own needs met). It’s helpful to know that children are born learning so a lot of the academic stuff like colors, shapes, and names of objects will be learned without your explicit teaching. Perhaps surprisingly, as you can read in this article,  many kindergarten teachers want students to know how to listen appropriately, follow directions, cooperate with peers, and have some independence over being able to add, subtract, and spell. However, for the homeschooling Christian mom, learning about Jesus is at the top of the list. If your child learns nothing but that Jesus loves them and died for their sins, in my opinion that’s a pretty good start to the homeschool adventure.

      • What does your child want to learn and what are his interests? If your child loves animals, capitalize on that and teach her concepts through working with animals. Count how many dogs you see outside on a walk, point out what colors the different fish are at the pet store, teach her to be gentle with animals and let Little Brother have a turn throwing a stick for a dog. Learning doesn’t have to only happen at a specific time you do “school” with your child; especially for a preschooler, school is life! Children are always learning, so take advantage of the day’s events to teach your child.

      • How do you learn and how does your child learn? Most people learn better by doing rather than just completing a worksheet, and the same is true for preschoolers. Keep learning fun for your child and it will instill  in him a lasting love for learning. Instead of counting pictures on a page, count out actual objects and make it into a game. Instead of looking at a worksheet about emotions, act out the emotions between the two of you. When teaching prepositions have your child crawl under something or stand between something, rather than just showing a picture of it. This will make his understanding of the concepts much more concrete and be more memorable for your child.

      Homeschooling during the preschool years is the beginning of a long and amazing journey, so there’s no need to rush into pigeon-holing yourself and your child into a rigid schedule or curriculum that might make your child dislike learning. Take your time, trust that God has your child’s best interest in mind, and have fun! Have fun exploring the world with your children and the academic learning will come. Take advantage of your child’s interests and just learn to love being with your child. They are only small enough to sit on your lap for a while, enjoy it and thank God for it!

      Are you or have you done any sort of home preschool with your child?  If so, what have you enjoyed and what has been challenging? What are some of the things that you most want your child to learn? If preschool is still in the the future for your little one, are you considering home preschool? What are your top home preschooling questions?

      (Post by: Addie)

      So You’re Thinking of Homeschooling?!

      (Please welcome Addie as she begins posting here by sharing her personal journey toward homeschooling!)


      Motivations for homeschooling are many. Dissatisfaction with public or private schools, illness of the child or parent, unusual work schedule, or needing to travel frequently may be some reasons. If you are a missionary in a country other than the U.S., there may be fewer education options available for your child. If you’re anything like me, the idea of homeschooling might not have sounded too thrilling at the beginning.

      Growing up I attended public school in a small town. I had good experiences and did well in my classes. I entered college without a set career in mind but went into the education department and specialized in early childhood special education, that is, the education of children with developmental disabilities. I was in this field for one reason; I cared about kids. I cared that children were given the best education possible and I worked hard to serve the kids in my classes and to help them  learn. None of the teacher candidates in my classes were in the field because they were looking to get rich quick; they were there because they cared about kids as well.

      In college I met this cute family at my church, who had the most well-behaved kids I’d ever met, and was surprised to learn they were homeschoolers. They didn’t fit my preconceived notion of the anti-social homeschooling family. To hear the mom defend their choice to homeschool just aggravated me—at first. It didn’t matter that they had prayed over their decision and had  researched curricula, state requirements and the law. I found it personally offensive that they believed (or I perceived they did) teacher’s motives to anything but well-intended toward their students. That certainly wasn’t why I was becoming a teacher. I loved kids!

      Then I became a parent. We had our daughter, Caley, in January of 2005. I was about halfway through my program to obtain a Masters of Education and teaching certificate. I believe God gave us our daughter at precisely the right time, because  it was then that I began to weigh what I was hearing in my classes with what I was living as a new parent. Becoming a parent showed  me that my love for my daughter was different than my care for my students. It also showed me that though teachers have many wonderful motives, they aren’t my child’s parent, so their level of involvement and burden to provide a good environment is less simply because they don’t have that parent-child bond God that gives to parents.

      It wasn’t instantly that I decided to scrap my plan on schooling. I finished my degree with the intention of returning to the schools when my kids were school-aged themselves. While staying home, God worked  on my heart even more. When Caley was about 15 months I remember actually considering homeschooling. At about 20 months I started a weekly play-group for Caley and her peers, mainly to keep up the skills I’d learned in school. Over time it became less about my skills being maintained, and more about educating my child. Here and there I could hear God say, “Yes you can do this” and “Just trust me.” He put me in community with other homeschooling families, and a few who let me observe how they do school and ask questions. He showed me resources in books and online with fun ideas and curricula to explore. He brought my husband on board, which was essential. Eventually I tried doing some direct “school time” with my then 3-year-old Caley and she loved it!

      We are going into our second year of homeschooling preschool and our schedule is more organized in terms of what we study and when we do school. But I feel like we’ve been homeschooling since Caley’s birth because really it’s just doing what comes natural between child and parent. As a parent you want your child to succeed. You taught them how to speak, walk, eat with a spoon, and potty in the toilet. You are also more than qualified to teach them how to read, write, add, and subtract if you are led to do so! Certainly homeschooling isn’t for everyone in every stage of life. I’m sure we will face a time where things will need to change, but for now, God has placed us in this stage and I know He has our best interest at heart.

      Addie 2By: Addie

      Have you ever considered homeschooling? What are your thoughts? If you are homeschooling, what are/were the reasons and circumstances surrounding your decision? Were you resistant at first? How have you seen God work through that decision?

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