Saturday, June 29, 2013

Books, Books, Everywhere!

As I contemplated our latest library book pick-up, I had to laugh. We truly are the local library's dream come true - either that, or their worst nightmare. We reserve at least 20-30 books per week, and it's soon slated to skyrocket to at least twice that.

Why they're on the counter - I wipe down each and every children's book with vinegar before they are used in our home. Do you know what kids do to books?  (*Gag*) Thus the vinegar. 

As a child, I regarded libraries with something of an apathetic aversion. Our public library was dark, dingy, and unpleasant, and I associated it mainly with finding homeless persons bathing in the bathrooms and shelves full of unattractive "library cover" bound books that one could never, ever, ever find even if the library did happen to have them. I avoided it as much as possible and swore it off completely as soon as I graduated.

But then, several years ago, a dear friend introduced me anew to our local library. Our Arizona libraries are much better than the Southern California libraries that I grew up with - and libraries on the whole have, I think, changed for the better as well. They are bright, clean, attractive, and the horrible library book bindings are no longer in use (thank goodness!). Not to mention the fact that one can now reserve and renew books online! I love ordering books (by the bucket-load!) from home at any hour of the day.

Having massive amounts of books around (both owned and loaned) is an essential part of our home education program, and we rely heavily upon the libraries. I also use the libraries for lots of reading myself. I had never before known how much of an education there is in simply reading - reading widely and deeply and in massive quantity. I have easily gotten as good (or better) of an education from consistent reading of living books from the library than I ever got in K-12 or university education.

Public libraries are regrettably deficient in good-quality Christian books (theology, Christian living, Christian-based science and history, etc.), but in every other area I have found them to be excellent. (I do have concern with how modern libraries are leaning toward jettisoning quality books in favor of twaddle - but that's a subject for another day.)

Here are my newest reading projects! You'll notice they're all home education books - right now learning about every aspect of home education is pretty much my life. I suspect that that will be the case for some time!

Last Child in the Woods - The importance of getting kids OUTSIDE (and off of endless screen-time). Can't wait to read this one.

The Complete Guide to Homeschooling - A catch-all book - love these informational books! I always get great ideas.

Teach Your Own - John Holt is a home education celebrity, and I'm so excited finally to get to read one of his books.

The Homeschooler's Guide to... - Another general catch-all book.

When Children Love to Learn - I am currently reading this book, and it is great! It is, unfortunately, the only book our entire library system has on the subject of Charlotte Mason education, but thankfully it's a very complete and excellent one. I'm learning so much!


Other excellent books I've read lately:

Simplicity Parenting - Review coming soon! Love this book!

The Busy Mom's Guide to Daylight - We were blessed to hear Heidi St. John at last year's convention, and she is awesome - and now I got to read her excellent book! (I only disagreed with one point!) Love her, love her book.

Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe - We also got to hear Todd Wilson at last year's convention. Wonderful guy, awesome book - and the "lies" he writes about are all so true!


I'd love to hear about what you all have been reading lately! Any gems out there?

Friday, June 28, 2013

"The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short"

"The days are long, but the years are short."

 In parenting - it's so true.

 But it's also true in... marriage! Today my husband and I celebrate the end of our first decade - our tenth wedding anniversary.


It's just gone by so incredibly fast.

When I look back to that day, though, it's easy to see how much we've matured and grown. I really cannot believe, as a matter of fact, how immature I was back then. How far I had to go, spiritually and maturity-wise (though I certainly didn't know it back then!).

At 22, I was a new Christian. I was still at least mildly pro-abortion. I was still good and brainwashed by the secular and ungodly teaching that I had received through seventeen years of public school education (and again... didn't even know it - and would have been quite indignant had anybody tried to tell me so). My theology was weak (though growing), I was very immature spiritually, I had little to no  practical skills for living in the real world, and I was extremely naive, both politically and spiritually.

So much has happened since then during these past ten years.

If I had to describe this past decade of marriage, I would describe it as a decade of firsts.... or a decade of change. Everything has been new, and there have been constant introductions of new relationships and states of being into our lives.

In the past ten years, we have experienced...

- The first days, months, and years of early marriage, and of living away from my parents' home.

- Five or six moves.

- Our first experience with owning a home.

- The life-changing nightmare of hyperemesis gravidarum.

- Childbirth - three times.

- The babyhood of three very different children.

- Parenting. ACK!

- The challenges of multi-age children (which neither of us had experienced in childhood).

- Parenting a child with special needs and interfacing with the medical system.

- The beginning of our adventure into home education.

- Massive changes and growth in our views on a number of political, financial, spiritual, and theological issues.

In many ways, this has felt like navigating uncharted waters - it's the first time through these adventures for us, of course, but our chosen way of life is very different (on the whole) than that chosen by our parents (especially mine). For example...

- My mom was a career woman. I am a homemaker (best decision I ever made!).

- Both of our parents chose voluntarily to stop with one birth only. (I am an only child; DH is a twin.) We are learning the ropes of multi-age parenting, of dealing with pregnancies while already parenting, of trying to home educate with toddlers underfoot.

- I was raised in an extremely liberal church. We have chosen to choose churches that are instead very Bible-based. (And if you know anything about Christian culture, you know that liberal Christianity and conservative Christianity are basically different religions - no joke.)

- DH and I were public school kids. We have chosen to home educate.

All of these (and more!) make for many new adventures, and our parents seem sometimes to be looking at us as if we are stark raving mad. (They may be right.)

One thing that strikes me about the past ten years is how much I can see God's hand working in my life to grow me, shape me, sanctify me, and gradually chisel away at my selfishness and self-sufficiency. Hyperemesis expecially was a huge lesson in learning humility and compassion. Parenting, also, has been one long adventure in learning to die to self and consider others as more important than my own desires. (Not to mention that it forced me to grow a backbone, something that I definitely don't have naturally! Learning to develop the virtues of persistence and perseverance has been a tough road.)

Though I have passed through many experiences over this past decade that I considered horribly painful or unpleasant, I can now look back and see God's guiding hand, and I would not wish to go back to being the person that I was before passing through those fires. As this awesome article says
(concerning hyperemesis),
"I can take pleasure in illness, I can count it joy that I suffer, I can be thankful in all things, and when I am sick now, I make every attempt to praise the God who sought me, and bought me, and won’t let me go away unchanged. He is faithful to work in me the image of His Son, to continue pressing me when I am foolish and stubborn and want to remain a child. He is faithful to complete in me, the work which He began. I hope that I might be faithful to accept, and find joy in His workings."
Not that I'm exactly eager to experience suffering (are we ever?), but the trials of this decade have been the impetus for incredible growth in my life. God is faithful to complete His work.
"'Would you exchange them - now - for two years filled with fun?'
'No,' said Rilla slowly. 'I wouldn't. It's strange - isn't it? - They have been two terrible years -a nd yet I have a queer feeling of thankfulness for them - as if they had brought me something very precious, with all their pain. I wouldn't want to go back and be the girl I was two years ago, not even if I could. Not that I think I've made any wonderful progress - but I'm not quite the selfish, frivolous little doll I was then. I suppose I had a soul then, Miss Oliver - but I didn't know it. I know it now - and that is worth a great deal - worth all the suffering of the past two years. And still' - Rilla gave a little apologetic laugh, 'I don't want to suffer any more - not even for the sake of more soul growth. At the end of two more years I might look back and be thankful for the development they had brought me, too; but I don't want it now.'
'We never do,' said Miss Oliver. 'That is why we are not left to choose our own means and measure of development, I suppose. No matter how much we value what our lessons have brought us we don't want to go on with the bitter schooling.'" ("Rilla of Ingleside", L.M. Montgomery, p. 186)
 Before I paint this decade too much as a vale of tears, let me quickly say that that is not my intent. This past decade has been awesome. We have had wonderful experiences, rejoiced in the births of our children, and made wonderful friends, along with great strides in personal growth. However, in reviewing the challenges and trials that this decade has brought, I can also see through them the hand of God in shaping and changing us for the better, and that's as much of a blessing as the joys and triumphs that have brought us pleasure.

Should I be allowed another decade on this planet, I am sure that I will look back and say the same things at our twentieth anniversary, when I am 42. Whatever lies ahead, God is using it for His glory and our good. (Though I can never remember that in the moment. I tend to be more of the "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" type - I can only gain perspective in the long term.)


This past year, our tenth year of marriage, has been what I would call a year of "coming together." It's been an incredible year.

When DH and I married, we had many, many, many areas of disagreement - both minor and major - in just about every area of life. Finances, spirituality, theology, practicalities, you name it - areas of all kinds where our opinions clashed. Don't we all?

While we still have those areas, this year has been a huge year of drawing together - of finally coming to agreement about a huge number of areas that had previously been bones of contention. This was truly the grace of God, and I am extremely thankful for it.

Thus, to all the newlyweds in the audience, I will say - don't lose hope! This time of coming together took ten years to arrive. For many marriages it takes longer - but it eventually can and does happen. This has been a great year, unemployment and all. (Not to say that we agree on everything, but a major shift has definitely taken place for the positive.)

And so, with all that said, we're off for our new (started last year) anniversary celebration tradition - milkshakes at Joe's Farm Grill! Of course, I can't have a milkshake, so I'm going to spend my tenth anniversary... watching other people have milkshakes. Can you imagine anything more enjoyable?? (But I am thrilled that since we have finally managed to develop an anniversary tradition, I no longer have to think about planning our anniversary! Hip hip HOORAY!!! Especially since our anniversary comes at the end of an exhausting birthday season when I am in no mood to plan yet another celebration. Bring on the milkshakes and I'll watch with complete contentment. It's five minutes that I actually get to sit down.)

Celebrating God's faithfulness for the first ten years and on into the future!

And a very happy 10th anniversary to our anniversary twins - you know who you are! Y'all may have been married five hours longer than us, but we'll catch up sometime!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Charles H. Spurgeon, Stand-Up Comic


Both my husband and I are big fans of Charles Spurgeon. Not only was he a great preacher and truth-teller of his time, but he also fought the great fight against the encroachments of higher criticism, the force which would later maim many of the mainline Protestant denominations (for more information, see "Spurgeon and the Downgrade Controversy"). He was a fascinating and inspiring man!

We were, therefore, extremely excited to find a film made about the life of Charles Spurgeon, and we're currently in the middle of watching it. It's very informative and interesting, and we're looking forward to seeing the rest. If you enjoy church history, or just want to learn about Spurgeon, check it out!

After you've watched and learned, watch it again... this time with closed captioning turned on. You will die laughing - no joke.

DH and I always watch films with closed captioning, because we find that little things here and there are lost otherwise. Usually it's very helpful... but in this case, the wording is done so poorly (I'm assuming it's computer-generated) that it would be unintelligible by itself. However, it's screamingly funny.

DH, who wasn't paying attention to the words on the screen, kept wondering why I was snickering during the film. When I told him, he - of course! - started reading the wording, and from there on out we were doubled over with laughter (the kind where one is gasping for breath). We eventually had to turn off the closed captioning just because we were laughing too hard to pay attention to the film.

So... Watch it once for history, once for comedy. An all-around hit!

Any other Spurgeon fans in the audience?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Summer Re-Do!

We are now almost four weeks into the new school year (wow!), and during those four weeks I have had time to contemplate how our first official "summer break" went. I have come to the conclusion that I did it all wrong! And here are the two biggest mistakes that I made: (1) I planned too much for our summer break, and (2) I didn't plan nearly enough for our summer break!

Let me explain.

I planned too much for our summer break - That is, I planned too much for ME. My personal to-do list  was overwhelming and exhausting (and impossible to accomplish in four weeks!). I had a hazy idea that during summer break, the children would play peacefully by themselves and let me get things done - decluttering, deep cleaning, tackling various projects, planning, making lesson plans and curriculum choices, and preparing for the coming school year.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! 

As you can imagine, that didn't happen. Kids require just as much supervision, food, diaper changes, mess clean-ups, help, etc. during the summer as they do during the school year. (Possibly more, because there's no school work to occupy them.) Perhaps I'll get a bit more "summer free time" when our children are older and can play together independently, but not right now. Thus, I experienced a great deal of frustration over not being able to buckle down and tackle my to-do list properly.

Additionally, I didn't plan nearly enough for our summer break - That is, I didn't plan enough for our family over our break. I am beginning to realize (too late for our break!) that family times require a great deal of planning - and the larger our family grows, the more planning is required. Outings, field trips, game nights, activities - all of these require massive amounts of logistical planning and preparation (and lots and lots of food). If I don't plan, things don't happen! Spontaneity just doesn't work with young children - it's usually a recipe for utter disaster.

Thankfully, I get another chance! Though our "summer break" is over, it's still summer - and there are lots of summer activities out there for our family to participate in, and I'm doing my best to dive in and make it a success. After reading a friend's post about making a summer planning notebook, I'm giving it a go!

Here is our checklist of fun family things to do over the coming summer months!

And since the computer is acting wonky, and that image is extremely blurry, here's the list again:

Things to Do This Summer! 

☐ Go stargazing
☐ Game night
☐ Roast marshmallows
☐ Have a water balloon fight
☐ Go to a library event: ____________________
☐ Go to another library event: ____________________
☐ Go to yet another library event: ____________________
☐ Go to still another library event: ____________________
☐ Make s’mores
☐ Go swimming
☐ Go to Bass Pro Shop
☐ Go on a night-time walk with the lantern
☐ Go on another night-time walk with the lantern!
☐ Eat dinner outside
☐ Have dinner outside again!
☐ Play outside in the sprinklers
☐ Wading pool outside
☐ Paddleball outside
☐ Make homemade ice cream in the old-fashioned ice cream maker
☐ Celebrate the 4th of July!
☐ Go stargazing at the Riparian Preserve observatory
☐ Go to a summer camp activity at Bass Pro Shop
☐ Joe’s Farm Grill for milk shakes for our tenth anniversary!

Next year, I hope to plan proactively for our "summer break," (which will hopefully be April) as well as for our actual summer. In the meantime, I'm doing my best for this coming summer.

What fun things do you have planned for your family this summer?

On one of this summer's field trips. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Moment to Remember

This past weekend, while we were at the AFHE home education convention, Grandma and Grandpa took our eldest to their complex's swimming pool.

While they were, the 7yo fell into conversation with another lady who was swimming. After they spoke for a while, the lady asked him what grade he was in at school. He said, "I'm home-schooled." She immediately responded with:
"I knew he had to be home schooled! I've traveled around the world, and have seen again and again that only the home schooled kids are this well-informed and verbally articulate."

You know, moments like this are the bursts of inspiration that I need to keep focused on our home education goals - to keep motivated on this journey. Especially during weeks like this past one, in which I spent a good deal of time wanting to wring said child's neck.  

Dear readers, when you see a child exhibiting some sort of good behavior - be it moral, academic, or whatever - tell the parent! You never know how much you may encourage a struggling mother by doing so. Even though I didn't meet this woman, I will probably remember the kindness of her encouraging words till my dying day - as I do those of other similar situations. (Just ask me. I can name them all.)

Never underestimate the power of encouraging words - especially to those in situations (like motherhood and home education!) with a lot of discouraging moments when one often feels like one is doing everything wrong.

(And, as a postscript, no I am not trying to discriminate against schooled children. This is just one incident that happened to our family!)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Local Field Trip: Cerreta Candy Factory (Glendale, Arizona)

This past week we travelled to Glendale with one of our homeschool fellowship groups to attend a scheduled tour at the Cerreta Candy Factory in Glendale.

The Cerreta Candy Factory is quickly approaching its 100th anniversary - it's been around for a while! So it has a wonderful history and culture that goes along with it.

The 300-lb. chocolate football. Milk chocolate goes for $12/lb. You do the math!

When we first walked in, there was utter chaos, because one tour was going on (equaling lots of noise) at the same time that another group of people (including us) was registering for the next tour (equaling even more noise!). We didn't know what was going on, or even if we were in the right place, and both DH and I had to fight a strong compulsion to turn around and go home (made worse by the fact that both of our babies, one in particular, decide to start getting super-cranky from the high noise levels). However, we stayed, and we're glad we did! We had a great time.

Trying to hold the giant chocolate bar. 

Not sure what's going on! 

Possibly a bit ragged after holding a crying child for 20 minutes. 
The tour was short - less than 30 minutes, and there were lots of free samples that the kids (and DH) loved. We got to tour the factory, see the candy-making in process, and talk with employees. The only down side was that it was hard to hear the lecture due to the high noise level in the factory, but they did their best.

The man himself! 

The chocolate-dipping machine. 

"This machine is a replica of the machine that "Lucy" worked on "The I Love Lucy Show. "

We had a lot of fun on this tour. Were we to do it again, I would do the following:

(1) Make sure that we had 20 people in our group so that we could request a private tour (we fell just a few people short and thus had to join the huge tour).

(2) Go during a time that was NOT summer break. In other words, anything to cut down on the crowds! Apparently this is a popular tour with summer programs (Boys & Girls Club, daycares, etc.).

Watching the candy process. 

The candy shop! 

Afterwards, everyone headed to the candy store! DH and our eldest each picked out four pieces of candy per person, for a total of $2.08. Quite a bargain in terms of a field trip!

(The tour itself is free, which is awesome! For an added fee, you can join in some sort of candy-making activity at the end, something that we chose not to do this time.)

We'd definitely be up for going back!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"A Lazy Thought"

A Lazy Thought

There go the grownups
To the office,
To the store.
Subway rush,
Traffic crush;
Hurry, scurry,
Worry, flurry.

No wonder
Don't grow up
Any more.

It takes a lot
Of slow
To grow.

- Eve Merriam

And that pretty much sums it up, folks! Love it!

Happy Sabbath, everyone! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Personal Safety Curriculum for Children {Final Draft}

A while ago, I posted a draft of the personal safety curriculum that we developed to use with our home education materials. Now, having added in reader suggestions, I want to post the final draft! Feel free to use this or pass it on to anyone who could use it.

I tend to be fairly free-range with some issues. For example, I would be fine with giving our 7yo hammers and nails and telling him to go nuts building something. I want our children to learn to shoot, to use knives, to take risks, to go on adventures. But I do not take that same attitude into the area of letting them go into situations in which their purity and innocence could be violated. I recently read this awesome article on the subject, and I highly agreed with it!

This safety curriculum really doesn't cover a lot of the topics mentioned in that articles (sleep-overs, etc.) because those issues have not yet come up in our family. I'll have to add that information to the below at some point. (Pointers, anyone?)

But in the meantime, here's what I have!


Safety Curriculum

1. Personal Information 

- Full name
- Phone number
- Daddy’s cell phone number
- Address
- Parents’ names
- Birthdate

2. Personal Safety

- If lost… look for a woman, preferably a mommy (woman with kids).

- If lost in a wilderness area… sit down and wait for us to find you.

- If lost in a store… Look for someone who has a nametag or uniform, or go to a register and tell the employee you are lost.

- If someone says “Don’t tell this to your mommy or daddy,” immediately go tell your mommy or daddy.

- If someone tries to abduct you, RUN. If someone does manage to grab you, (1) BITE as hard as you can, (2) SCREAM as loudly as you can, and (3) STRUGGLE. Do not stop doing so even if someone threatens you with a gun or a knife.

- If someone ever tries to touch you in an area normally covered by your swimsuit, or to touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable… immediately go tell mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If someone you don’t know comes up to you and asks for directions… leave right away and find mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- Never get in a car with someone you do not know. Run away and scream if they try to make you get in a car or go with them, and go right to mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- Get permission from mommy or daddy before getting into a car or leaving with anyone.

- If someone comes up to you and says, “Your mommy and daddy told me to come pick you up,” do not go with them.

- If you are walking and a car pulls up next to you, turn around and go the other direction – and go right to mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If an adult asks you for help (to find a lost pet, etc.), leave right away and go to mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If you ever feel uncomfortable, leave and find mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- How to call 911 – mechanics of dialing, what information to have ready.

- Always tell mommy or daddy where you are going.

- Answer the front door only if it is someone you know, or if mommy or daddy says that it’s okay.

- Always ask mommy or daddy before leaving the house (or wherever we are). When you are given permission, make sure to tell WHERE you are going, HOW you will get there, WHO you will be with, and WHEN you will return home. If your plans change at any time, TELL MOMMY OR DADDY first.

- Get permission from mommy or daddy before accepting anything from anyone.

- Our family password that means “Come and get me, I want to come home” is ___________________

3. Practical & Household Safety

- House fire – How to get out of the house; don’t hide in the house, and don’t hide from firemen or other emergency personnel.

- Fire – Stop, drop, roll

- Earthquake – Duck and cover

- How to use a fire extinguisher

- How to turn off the gas main

- How to turn off the water main

- How to turn off electricity to the house

- How to turn off the water to a toilet

- How to change a tire

4. Outdoor Safety

How to deal with…

- Snakes

- Scorpions

- Cactus

- Spiders

- Streams and stream beds

- Lightning

Friday, June 21, 2013

Beginning to Homeschool: Answering Your Questions!

After my post about the awesomeness of this year's home education convention, I received a short note of questions from a sweet reader and friend. Since her questions were so good, I asked her permission to turn the comment/answer into a separate post. Here goes!

Before I begin, I'd like to add one caveat, and it is this: I am still very much a beginning home educator. I haven't passed the three year learning curve yet. I haven't graduated any children, and I haven't even gotten one through elementary school at this point. I am a beginner, a neophyte, a newbie. Therefore, everything I say should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

That leads me to two points:

(1) More experienced home educators following this blog... please add your own comments to my answers!

And, most importantly...

(2) One of my biggest pieces of advice for new home educators is this: Find yourself some truly experienced mentors - that is, home educating mamas who are significantly further along the road than you and who can offer the wisdom and insight of those years. This is so important!

I have a number of mentor-moms in my life - some who are "graduated" home educators (all of their children have completed high school), and some who are just significantly further along the journey than I, and all of them have selflessly and lovingly offered hours (and emails and emails and more emails) of loving encouragement and reassurance. One in particular has spent most of her spare time over the past five years in scraping me off of various ceilings. ("Breathe. Keep going. Don't give up. It's going to be okay.")

I don't know where I'd be without them! (And though I'm sure you know some in your new locale, dear reader-who-asked, almost all of mine are mutual acquaintances of ours, and I'm sure they would love to add you to their mentee list!)

And now... to the questions! (Some I have slightly reworded so as to be able to tackle them individually.)

"My question for you is how do you process the fear that you might mess things up for your kiddos? I am absolutely confident that I am my children's best teacher, but I keep worrying that I am making the wrong decisions about curriculum. My worry has paralyzed my decision-making ability."
There are many experiences common to home educators, and one of them is TOTAL AND COMPLETE CURRICULUM OVERLOAD. In other words, you decide to home educate, you do a bit of research, and then BAM - your brain explodes as you find out just how many hundreds of choices are out there. It's bad.

I think that your panic is completely normal - I'm just starting to breathe again myself after experiencing the curriculum overload, and the fear that I am going to make irrevocably bad decisions that will screw up my kids. It seems to be a part of beginning the journey.

This won't be the least bit comforting, but I've found it to be true... Finding what works for your family takes time. I am just now starting to settle into what is right for our family - and I still haven't made decisions regarding history or science. It just takes time. It also takes a lot of prayer, and a lot of consulting your husband. Give it those three things (time, prayer, hubbie's advice), and that makes a big difference.

Secondly.... Just realize that you will make mistakes. You will occasionally pick curriculum that doesn't work out, and that's okay. The kids will live through it - truly.

I had one friend tell me that she had purchased an expensive curriculum that she didn't end up liking. Determined to avoid the same fate, I put in hours upon hours into researching our kindergarten curriculum. We spent nearly four hundred dollars on it. And.... it didn't work out. (Seriously? Yup.)

But that's okay! Because we learned a lot through the experience - it was one of the best ways to learn. The next year I knew much more about what I wanted, and I was able to spend a whole lot less money. It was just part of the process.

I've heard it recommended several times that beginners start with a "box curriculum," i.e. buying a whole packaged curriculum from one company. A popular choice for kindergarten is My Father's World. After buying a boxed curriculum (which is what we did), usually a mom will start finding out what works and doesn't work in that curriculum, and start replacing. "We like their language arts, but didn't like their math, so we switched to...."

My main points:

- Realize that you'll pick something that doesn't work, sooner or later - and that's okay.

- If and when you pick something that doesn't work, you can just switch. There is practically no homeschool family on the planet that does not change curricula at least occasionally. It's just part of the journey.

- Curriculum choices are highly individual... don't feel pressured to pick Curriculum X just because someone else picked it - it might be great for them and awful for you, and that's something that just comes with time.

- Great ways to start working into a comfort zone (learning the terms, getting familiar with curricula, etc.) - Finding local support groups, subscribing to a list of great homeschool blogs to read, and reading through any and every homeschooling book you can find or borrow from the library. Great Facebook groups are also great - out here we have Arizona Christian Homeschoolers, and it's a great source of information.

- Your children will be okay even if you switch multiple times before you find what works for your family! 

"[I am struggling especially with finding a reading curriculum] - this is such a fundamental skill that if it is lacking at a young age can have implications for the future!"
You are right - reading is one of the truly essential skills.

However, one important note: There is a big difference between home education and school education with regard to pacing. In a school environment, a child who does not learn as quickly as his class does will, by definition, fall behind his class and thus face all of the social and emotional ills that befall a "struggling learner" who feels all of the weight (and social ostracism) of not being able to keep up with classwork.

In home education, on the other hand, a child who learns more slowly, is simply... learning more slowly! That's all! It means that lessons need to be slowed down or halted for a time while you wait for readiness. None of the other evils that would accompany slow learning in a school environment need be present in a home environment. That's one of the great beauties of home education.

All that to say that you don't need to panic if your eldest doesn't learn quickly. He may learn quickly, and he probably will (from what you have said about him, I get the feeling that he is much more academically-minded than our eldest!). But you can go at his pace, whether that's slower or faster than grade level, without having to panic.

(Here is a great article about pacing with beginners.)

There are tons of great reading curricula out there! I've used "100 Easy Lessons" and "Rocket Phonics" and been pleased with both, but those are the only two I have any experience with. But there are lots of great ones out there, and that would be a great question to ask the email chain of a support group (at which point you will receive twenty-five different answers and your head will explode all over again with choice-overload).

"Our financial situation does not allow us to just try something out and shelve it if we don't like it."
It is completely possible to drop four to eight hundred dollars for a year's curriculum - like I did. On the other hand, our mutual acquaintance (the venerable Cindy B.) has told me repeatedly, "All you need for successful home education is a Bible, a math curriculum, and a library card." And it's quite true.

If you want to start out with just a reading curriculum and a math curriculum, plus lots of read-alouds and real-life experiences, that would be more than adequate for kindergarten! (Of course, if you want to go all the way with a boxed curriculum, that's great too - it's just that you don't need to feel pressured to buy huge, fancy curricula [and spend that kind of money] unless you really want to.)

Here is one awesome article that was so encouraging - it was written by a mama of nine children who does kindergarten with only reading lessons and "animal cracker math."

Here is another amazing article that I read periodically - it is such an encouragement: Schooling When the Oldest Was Only Five.

Additionally, buying used curriculum is a great option. I bought our Rocket Phonics (for $30) and my Galloping the Globe (for $8) from Homeschool Classifieds. Many times you don't need the complete kit, or even the teacher's manual, and that really helps.

You can also buy all of your curriculum together at Rainbow Resources - although there's a wee bit of middleman markup, you don't have to pay shipping on orders over $50.

You can also look on E-bay and Amazon.

Buying workbooks directly from the vendors in your convention's exhibit hall will save both middleman markup and shipping fees - that's what I did this year with our handwriting workbook.

Also, many larger homeschool support groups hold used curriculum sales at the end of the school year. These are an awesome source for used curricula, as well as lots of other great stuff (reading books, how-to books, toys, math games, etc.).

It is, of course, important to budget for home education... but it doesn't have to break the bank, especially in the early years!

As a note, here are what our expenses have been:

Year #1 - Broke the bank with our $400 kindergarten curriculum, plus about $15 for phonics.
Year #2 - About $25 for math, $15 for handwriting (cheaper by half if bought at the convention), $30 for phonics.
Year #3 - $50 for math, $15 for handwriting, $0 for phonics (continuing with the same program), $7 for map skills, $8 for history

Add to that: Fees to attend the yearly convention, membership fees (usually pretty low) for local support groups, field trip fees, and here-and-there purchases. There are people who spend both more and less than us, but we manage to keep our expenses fairly low - especially by making big use of the library and free local field trips.

"I am putting a whole lot of pressure on this first year of teaching since [our son] has such a strong desire to learn to read."
One word: Don't!

In other words... Give yourself grace. You are learning; he is learning. There will be difficult times, and you'll likely switch directions at least a couple of times. It's okay to make mistakes, to pick yourself up and try again. (I think I do this on a daily basis.)

Do your best. Keep praying. Keep trying. Find some mentor mamas who will scrape you off of the ceiling and encourage you to keep going. God is faithful, and He will hear your prayers. And especially in the early years... you have time!

 "My second question for you is how do you integrate Bible into your homeschool day? I don't want it to just be another subject in the day! I have some ideas but would love to hear what you do!"
Oh, dear. I am the wrong person for this question!

We actually don't have a Bible curriculum, though there are many-many-many out there. Part of this is laziness, and part of this is just that we have discovered that plain ol' Bible reading is serving us very well! But there are tons of great curricula out there, and that would be a great question for a good Christian homeschooling Facebook group or support group.

What we are currently doing right now for Bible is the following:

- I read a Bible passage and a Proverbs chapter every morning. We also do the Catechism for Young Children and memorize one Bible verse per week as well. In the evening, Daddy leads a devotion time as well that includes hymn singing, Bible reading, and part of a Bible study book.

I find that just reading the Bible aloud sparks many questions and discussions, both at the time and later (when the eldest will just spontaneously pop out a question about a passage read sometime earlier). It often branches out into religion, theology, history, science, culture - you name it!

And it works the other way too - science and history readings often give an opportunity to talk about God's story through history and through Creation. It's a very organic, interwoven way of talking about God because it is simply present in all areas, rather than sterilized of all mention of God like it often can be in school.

However, again - there are lots of great curricula out there, so please do ask those ladies who can head you in the right direction!


In re-reading this, I'm struck by a very odd fact - the fact that I sound like I know what I'm doing.

I don't. 

I am very much in the learning phase. I make mistakes daily. I clash personality-wise with my son all the time. As a matter of fact, today was a rotten parenting/educating day when I felt like almost everything went wrong. On several occasions, I spent serious time in prayer begging God to turn this day around and give me the wisdom I needed. It is only by the grace of God that we have made it this far, and only by God's grace will we finish this journey. It is not easy (though it's gotten easier - sometimes) - in fact, it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

But it's worth it - and I'm here to cheer you on when you need it!

Readers, please chime in!

And now... good night!

Goofing for the camera during yesterday's math lesson! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In Which I Have a Creative Idea! (Or Not)

This past month, I had an absolutely brilliant idea.

Stop the presses, folks! She actually had a decent idea!

Creativity is not my strong point. But I actually did come up with a great idea - putting a big map under a clear table cloth in order to have a living geography lesson at our fingertips each time we used the kitchen table! Is that awesome, or what?

But then, this past weekend, at the homeschool convention, one of the speakers said, "Hey! If you want to help your kids learn geography, just put a big map under a clear tablecloth on your kitchen table, and you'll have a living geography lesson at your fingertips each time you use the kitchen table!"

Hey, hey, HEY! I don't have a lot of brilliance here to work with, people! Don't steal my thunder! 

All joking aside, however, having a map on our table has been great! Our 7yo only occasionally pays attention to it, but it has been great for DH and I, both of us having rather weak geography skills - and so we end up having a geography-based conversation at almost every meal!

Right now I'm using a United States map, as that's what I could find, but I'm hoping to find a world map soon. I'd love to display both, but we have only one table - finding a place for the second map will be an adventure for another day. Suggestions, anyone? My store of brilliance has been exhausted with this effort, so I'm out of creative ideas.

The adventures never stop with home education! There's always something to learn or try. Love it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Overdosing on Utter Awesomeness!

This past weekend we again travelled into Phoenix for the annual AFHE homeschool convention, and WOW did we have a great time!

We knew we would, of course! We always do. Each of the three times we have attended has been memorable and wonderful. It is truly the event of our year - equal to or more so than Christmas! (And considering that there's not an insanely busy month of stress and strain leading up to it, as there is with Christmas, the homeschool convention may come out considerably ahead!)

This year's keynote speakers were...

Jessica Hulcey - the creator of the first homeschool curriculum, KONOS. She was great! We ended up hearing her speak at least four times, and we learned so much. She is an inspiring woman, and one who has tremendous insight and wisdom (that's what happens when you homeschool for thirty years and counting!). She is also tremendously witty and funny in her presentations.

Although I still find KONOS a bit too overwhelming for our family, I really did catch a vision for connecting history/science with hands-on activities, especially reenactments and literature-based activities (making recipes mentioned in history texts, etc.).

Michael Farris - one of the world's most knowledgeable lawyers in the subject of Constitutional literacy and fighting for individual, parental, and family rights (check him out over at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association). This guy was awesome and spot on (which was slightly depressing, as his opinion as to the current and coming state of liberty in this country is not sanguine, a position with which I heartily concur). Listening to Mr. Farris was an education in itself, and I was so excited to get to hear him!

Hearing Mr. Farris was also an excellent experience for DH, who has until this point remained on the outside with regard to the current politics in the areas of individual, parental, and family rights. He got an ice-water bath, so to speak, and he is now eager to get started in political discussion and activism. This is awesome! I don't do too well in political and issues discussion, because I tend to deal with too much anxiety and stress when I do. DH, however, like most men can engage in those battles without those side-effects, and I'm thrilled to see him go at it.

I was also excited to meet Michael Farris because his wife, Vickie Farris, is the author of "A Mom Just Like You," one of my ten books that changed my life (read it!). How exciting! Unfortunately I never did get to meet Mr. Farris, but I am going to email him anyhow to say a big thank-you to the two of them.

Besides the keynote speakers, we also got to hear our very-very-very favorite speakers, Hal & Melanie Young, authors of one of my favorite parenting books, "Raising Real Men."

As expected, they were absolutely awesome! We so enjoy their straight-forward, truth-speaking lectures, and they have so much wisdom to impart! I can't wait until we can hear them again - the sooner the better!

I was also able to stop by their booth on a couple of occasions to speak individually with Hal and Melanie to let them know how much we love their book. Wish I'd thought to get a picture with them - definitely on the to-do list for next time!

Other highlights of this convention...

- As always, we attended each and every class session, and they were awesome. If you attend your convention, don't skip the classes! They are worth their weight in gold!

- We loved getting to chat and catch up with friends from all over the valley - it's like a giant family reunion, and more so every year as we get to know the community better and better.

- We also got to catch up with curriculum vendor friends that we made last year! Specifically we were able to greet our Mennonite friends over at Christian Light Education, and it was so fun to see them again.

DH was homeschooled during high school, so he took a moment to pose with his alma mater's booth.  
- We also spent hours feverishly going through the exhibitor's hall, which is the acre-upon-acre space where curriculum vendors display their wares. Thankfully it's not nearly as overwhelming as it was at first, and I also had a better idea of what I needed to buy and where I needed to go. That was a big improvement on our first year, when I basically walked into the exhibitor hall and felt my brain explode with curriculum-overload. New home educators, beware the exhibit hall! It truly can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're someone like me who does not like lots of choices.

Here are the things that we bought this year (total bill: approximately $50):

Handwriting for First Grade: I know it's upside down, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it. 

Map Skills, Book #1. 

I bought the original "Books for Boys" at a used curriculum sale last month, and this is the sequel! Highly recommended! 

A session recording from Hal & Melanie Young...

.... and another session recording! 

Three of Hal & Melanie Young's recordings of "Hero Tales" - written by Theodore Roosevelt and recorded by Hal Young. 

What can I say? The homeschool convention is truly the highlight of our year, and we love it. We don't plan to miss it in the future except for medical emergencies. It's a wonderful combination of teaching, encouragement, inspiration, rest, revival, community, spiritual strength, and a marriage/parenting retreat - all in one wonderful weekend.

Next year.... Join us! 

P.S. I'd be glad to answer any questions about the convention or about home education in general (as far as my limited knowledge allows). Fire away!

Coming soon... Curriculum round-up for 2013-2014! Don't miss it! 

These two pics were taken on the way out, when we realized, "Oh, crumbs! We forgot to take pictures!"

Brothers reunited after the eldest returns from Grandma &Grandpa's house! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is It Christmas Eve?

Or the night before my birthday?

Or the eve of a huge trip to Disneyland?

Nope, it's not... but it's something just as good (and in the case of Disneyland, something much-much-much better)... it's the night before the Arizona Home Education Convention!

(*insert sounds of wild celebrating, partying, merriment, etc.*)

I am so very excited!

Truly. You all out there are snickering, but this is truly the high point of our year. We love the convention! And tomorrow morning we'll be out the door and on our way!

At last year's convention, when the Moose was still an adorably chubby baby! 

This year our eldest is heading north to stay with one set of grandparents (his first time ever away from us!), while the other set of grandparents is in town to watch the babies. I am considerably nervous about all of those arrangements (whether or not the 7yo will behave himself, whether or not the nurse-to-sleep baby will cooperate by napping without mommy, etc.), but we'll just have to see!

Last year's convention was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. It changed our lives in many ways, and we remember it with much fondness. I don't think we can expect a repeat of that, but we know that it will still be great!

A funny memory from last year:

While we were in the main convention hall, we happened upon several occasions to sit behind a large family (seven-plus children, all under age 10), and all of the children in this family were fabulously well-behaved - not to mention wearing adorable color-coordinated outfits with matching polo shirts! (Ack!) Though they were all young, they sat quietly in their seats through the whole session, coloring or reading quietly. It was amazing.

And what thought of wisdom and insight immediately popped into my head? (I'm serious, this is actually what ran across my mind.) Here it is...

Hey! If I dressed my kids all alike in cute matching polo shirts, maybe they'd behave that well in a convention setting too!

Sometimes I amaze myself with my own idiocy. Amusing, nonetheless.

As a matter of fact, we have really been working on sitting skills with our children - during nightly devotions and during church, and they've really improved over the past year. But not that much! If I end up behind that family again, I'll probably still be drooling with envy. Next year.... next year.

As I approach this year's convention, I've been spending a lot of time trying to think and pray about what I want our family's home education style to look like. There are, you see, many styles of home education - and I am enough of a newbie that I am still a sucker for all of them. Unit studies? Sure, why not? Charlotte Mason? Yep. Textbooks and workbooks? Bring 'em on. Classical, unschooling, eclectic? You bet. 

But the truth is that one cannot do everything - and each family has a unique personality with unique needs. Just because I talk to the local home education gurus (also known as Institutional Pillars of Greatness, or IPGs) and find out their curriculum choices does not mean that I have found what will work for our family. That must be worked out on an individual basis, though it's always helpful to hear from others.

As for our family's educational style, schedule, and curriculum choices, I can only say - I do not know. I am praying about those choices and discussing them with my husband. When I know, y'all will be the first to hear.

But in the meantime, I have been putting together a brief list of characteristics that I want our family's home education to have, and I hope that this will help us in future decision-making. Here goes...

Desired Characteristics for Our Family's Home Education

Key Words: Clear, Uncluttered, Simple, Clean

What does this mean?

It means that I am not going stress out about decorating a homeschool room or putting up educational posters.

It means that I want to use lots of checklists. (Love these!)

It means that I want assignments to be clear, concise, easy-to-follow, and uncluttered.

It means that I am looking for curriculum that is clean, clear, and not covered with extras. For example, I love the clarity and simplicity of Rod & Staff Publications. On the other hand, when I opened a KONOS book, I was immediately overwhelmed by anxiety and a great feeling of distaste for all of the clutter in that book. (Don't get me wrong... KONOS is great. But it's obviously not for me.)

It means that as much as possible, I want to keep things simple.

Time Efficiency

I do not want lessons to take all day. Ideally, I hope to be done by noon like this family. This is not because I wish to slack off, but simply because I realize that most time in institutional schools is wasted time - and there is no need to mimic that. One-on-one education can be completed in a couple of hours per day. Additionally, there is a vast amount of valuable learning that goes on during free reading, free play, contemplative time, and free time of all sorts. I value that learning just as much as I do bookwork. (It's the unschooler in me breaking out!)

Few Textbooks for Science and History

I have had the opportunity to look through quite a few history textbooks, even the highly recommended ones used by home educators... and have immediately been overwhelmed by boredom in each and every case. History textbooks simply don't cut it for teaching real history that is interesting and memorable. Ditto for science (though not nearly as much so as for for history.) However, we end up teaching history, I want it to be with real books.


We haven't done a lot of notebooking yet, but I really like what I've seen - and it fits in really well with a Charlotte Mason style of education. I am spending most of my free time researching this right now!

Real Books

I love real books! (Real books = non-textbooks.) However we end up doing our lessons, I want my children's lives to be filled to the brim with real books, both during lessons and during free time and family time. I can't get enough real books!!

So there you have it - Simple. Efficient. Real-books based. That's what I want for our family, and what I am praying about right now. Hopefully we will get some good ideas at tomorrow's convention, and hear some great speakers to inspire us in the areas where we need help (which is everywhere!).

I'd love to hear from fellow home educators - what are the characteristics that you want in your family's education? How do you pursue those? Tell me about it!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Blurry but cute! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Awesomeness of Unemployment, Continued!

As I write, we are approaching the eight month mark of unemployment. I've already written about why unemployment has been such a positive experience for our family, and I continue to see evidences of God's sovereign hand in all of this. Unemployment is not fun, but it was something that we needed for this time in our family. Not only has it had an incredibly positive impact on our family and our marriage, but it has come during a time of incredible change for our family, and we needed the extra together time for processing and for the endless discussions that have accompanied the changes we have made for our family over the past year.

Of course, there are worries that go with the unemployment territory. We do not know when we will again have a sustainable income. We do not know all the "what ifs" of the future. Will we lose our house? Will we be able to secure an income before our funds run out? How long can we put off purchases that we need (and want!!) but can't afford? But God has been incredibly gracious, and He has blessed us abundantly. Our money has lasted far longer than we expected it to, and we have been able to keep going while DH figures out the issues for our financial future.

This past week, we experienced some incredible blessings. For example, DH had been praying about our trimmer. It has been a lemon ever since we bought it, and is now completely unworkable - but we did not have the money for a new one. This week, however, DH went over to some friends' house to help them pack up their house - and while packing up the garage, the husband said, "Hey, do you need a trimmer? We're not taking it with us!"


Not just a trimmer, but a much nicer one than we would ever be able to afford! 

Then, this past Saturday, I began to pray about our babies' sleeping situation needs. We needed some new accommodations, and really didn't know how we would accomplish that.

On Sunday, this showed up on Freecycle - and we got it.

Our first-ever toddler bed!

And on Monday, this showed up on Freecycle - and we got it.

Plus the mattress, not shown! 

It is so evident that God is providing for our needs! He is so incredibly gracious, and learning to rely on Him for our provision (rather than just hopping online and clicking "buy now") has been such a wonderful and faith-building exercise.


I've noticed two particular challenges about having a husband home: (1) Getting the kids to realize that Daddy is not staying home so that he can play with them around the clock (this is pretty much impossible), and (2) Refraining from the nearly-irresistible temptation to put waayyy too much of my own input into DH's job efforts. That second part is a big challenge! But I continue to learn the fine art of keeping my mouth shut (rather than commenting on each and every thing that DH does or does not do!) and trying to keep my mind on my own concerns and responsibilities, rather than constantly breathing over his shoulder. Oh, the challenges of womanhood!

This coming week will be super-busy for us. We are having a family reunion at our home this weekend, for both sides of the family, and this coming week is the home education convention in Phoenix - the latter of which is my favorite event of the year (except possibly for Christmas Eve service... it may be a tie). I cannot wait! If you are going to be there, I will see you there... and if you're not going to be there, then you should be!!

But in the meantime, it's time to get ready for having family in town. Quick! Scrub the stove! Bleach the coffee pot! And above all, wash the cheese grater! (Yes, each of those has its own unique and hilarious - though humiliating - story.) I may or may not be blogging during this time, but if I don't, have a wonderful week! I'll post convention pictures soon!

Love to all!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In Which Our Third Year of Home Education Begins!

It's that time of year again... the beginning of the our school year!

What was that? You say that most kids are just getting out of school? Yes, indeed - and that's one of the beauties of home education - not having to follow the traditional calendar! My plan, which I am loving, is to do school during all the hot months and take most of our breaks during the cooler months - specifically December, for Christmas, and April for "summer."

In all honesty, I did not feel ready to start school. A four-week summer was not really long enough to feel refreshed, especially as I had overloaded myself with an impossibly-long to-do list and was absolutely exhausted from trying to work through it.

However, now that we have started, I'm glad to be back! Additionally, it's been a rather smooth start, due to (1) the fact that the habits of our school days were forged last year, so we are simply continuing the pattern this year rather than having to start back at the beginning, and (2) I took some steps to make the beginning of school more pleasant (see below).

With that in mind, here are a few notes about various school topics. Feel free to chime in, my friends!

Last year: Mistakes to Avoid Repeating (i.e. Lessons learned the hard way)

My biggest mistake over the past two years has been trying to force skills before the readiness was there. With our growing American penchant for hardcore academic preschools (starting at younger and younger ages), this is a natural and extremely common mistake, and I fell into it.

Children are, of course, ready for academics at extremely different ages. I have a friend whose daughter was reading, writing, and completing full-blown unit studies at the tender age of three - and thriving on it. However, with our eldest child, he was not at all ready for academics (especially writing) until quite recently.

With our future children:

- I will not attempt to do any formal preschool... unless there is clear readiness and desire.

- I will wait to do kindergarten until age six... unless there is clear readiness and desire.

- Kindergarten will consist only of reading lessons and non-writing animal cracker math - again, unless there is clear readiness and desire for more.

In other words, I am done with undergoing and enforcing the kind of torture involved in trying to force skills for which a child is not yet ready.

Last Year: Things to Keep Doing

Here are some things I plan to continue:

- Our Family Time that opens our day (I will write about that soon!).

- A simple and minimalist approach to home education. In other words, I am not a "bells and whistles" type o' gal. I like things to be simple, uncluttered, and not take up our entire day. I place great value on the learning that comes through play, through unstructured free time, and through independent reading of real books. I do not want book work to violate the time that should be spent on those pursuits. In other words, get it done - and then move on to the real learning that comes through play, creative time, and reading.

- Mornings for lessons, afternoons for free time and read-alouds.

- Scheduling my computer time and using a timer for it. This has been a big blessing, as I, like many people, can easily become lost in the computer.

- Lots of field trips!

- Participation in local homeschooling support groups - these are GREAT and are such a blessing and a helpful resource for our family!

Making the First Day Fun

Our son was not particularly enthused to hear that it was time to get back to lessons, so I took a few steps to try to make the first day of school fun (ideas from this article). Some of these included:

- A special card and bag of candy for each student

- Special signs put up on the walls

- Donuts for breakfast - We have never done this before, so it was a huge hit - getting to go out with Daddy to get donuts! We plan to make this our annual first day of school tradition.

And... it worked! Our 7yo became very enthusiastic about starting school, and he loved the signs and the cards (and the candy and the donuts!). A little effort really went a long way to get off to a good start.

Goals for the Coming Year 

I have so many goals for the coming year! You'll notice that these are mixed up with parenting and family goals, but that's how it is with home education - it is more organically intertwined with life, since all areas of family life are combined rather than existing in separate spheres.

(1) Working on rhythms - on doing our day in a predictable sequence at roughly predictable time. Examples: Getting ready routines, lessons, bed time routines, bedtimes and waketimes, meals and meal clean-up routines, etc. We're a bit too random right now.

(2) Working on character - honesty, diligence, kindness to siblings, etc. Last year we heard Heidi St. John say repeatedly, "Character before curriculum," and it is so true. Academics are important... but character is so much more important. If there is no basis of good character, then brilliant academics are pointless (or can turn into incredible evil... think Kermit Gosnell).

(3) Working on (my) patience - There is one thing that I am learning, and that is that children cannot be hurried - and doing so will cause me to tear my hair out. Trying to say, "Hurray up, HURRY UP, we've got to GO" does nothing more than cause blank stares and even slower work. I need to allow enough time and realize that it takes as long as it takes. Dawdling is not okay, of course, but trying to hurry a child through lessons is pointless - and more importantly, can seriously harm parent-child relationships. It's not worth it.

(4) Planning snacks and snack times - Otherwise, the snack issue is going to drive me mad. Working on this as we speak.

(5) Planning, planning, planning - I am learning that planning (and more planning and more planning) is absolutely essential to success - success in education, success in meals, success in having meaningful summer breaks, success in trips and outings and vacations - and the more children we have, the more planning has to be done. In fact, if I don't plan, I can pretty much plan on disaster.

(6) Scheduling computer time - As mentioned above, computer time can be beneficial or harmful depending on how it is conducted. Two things that have helped me are (1) staying off the computer till lunch time, and (2) using a timer for my computer time. Right now I'm trying to limit myself to the following: 15 minutes per day of email, 15 minutes per day of desk work (all the little things that I need to order, look up, etc.), and 15 minutes per day of education planning or blogging. Now I just have to trim off all of those little "quick email checks" that inevitably morph into big huge time-wasters.

(7) Continuous deep-cleaning and decluttering - I am now recovering from a huge decluttering spell (the uncontrollable type that strikes once a year or so and has me scrubbing the floors with bleach at 2:00 a.m.). Thankfully it struck during summer break! But I find that life is easier when I do a little every day - so I have also added 15 minutes per day of deep cleaning or decluttering.

(8) Focusing on Real Books - Though we are taking more of a "basics" approach to formal lessons, my emphasis will always be on reading masses of real books (real books = non-textbooks). This is where the real and memorable life-lessons are, and I want lots of them in our life and in our non-formal curriculum. One challenge now is remembering to read to the older child and to the babies - it is easier to focus on the eldest and neglect reading baby books - but I'm making strides with our daily preschool time, and also with our bedtime books.

I'm sure there's more, but chores and bedtime call!

What are YOUR goals for the coming school year? I'd love to hear about them!

DH and the no-longer-a-baby on our first day of the 2013-2014 school year!

Hey, at least I remembered to take a picture, even if it's not formal and dressy!

Coming soon.... Our curriculum round-up! I would post that now, but we have not yet selected a Language Arts program (to be accomplished at the home education convention, God willing!). As soon as I do, I'll post here!


* Note that I am still on a FB and blog-reader break! So don't take my silence personally, dear friends!