Having trouble finding a homeschool community that fits? Consider this!

More than ever before I have seen a surge in parents homeschooling for the first time. According to this article from HSLDA, the number of parents choosing to educate their children entirely at home has doubled in the past year from 3.2 million to nearly 6 million nationwide.

I can’t speak for co-ops in other localities, but our co-op is bursting at the seams! We experienced a larger than average influx of students last year due to COVID, but this year we had to close our registration at the end of April because we had so many applicants. For two years in a row, our co-op has grown by more than a third of our size! Additionally, we have 10 families on our waiting list and this registry continues to expand.

It is SO hard to turn away families who are looking for support, HOWEVER, it can easily change the environment of a co-op to grow too quickly and this is what we want to avoid.

This is what I have wanted to tell so many of the applicants on our waiting list.

Consider meeting up with other parents to start your own group. This is exactly how many homeschool co-ops have started.

Most new homeschoolers understandably feel more comfortable finding a community that is already established. While there are many benefits to joining a co-op that is organized, it may be hard to find exactly what you are looking for in your area or, like our co-op, they might have a waiting list.

Starting a group with a couple of other parents can be just as good! In fact, you might like it better. One important benefit to starting a co-op with a few other parents is that it enables you to influence the direction of the group.

Our co-op started with five families eleven years ago. In the beginning, we were just a couple of moms stepping out of our comfort zones, not necessarily committing to anything long term. We loved the possibilities of homeschooling and wanted better options for our kids.

Because we were small, we were able to tailor our activities, field trips, and classes to the interests of our group.

We made personal connections. We were often in each other’s homes. We spent our summers creek-stomping and picnicking. We were a tight-knit family with our children’s future as our driving purpose.

And that community grew.

And grew.

It is still growing.

We had our first day of co-op yesterday.

When I walked into our new facility, I could feel the energy. This is an exciting place to be!

Seeing my kids meet up with their friends. Hearing the chatter of excited voices finding their new classes. Walking by the art room observing the creative hands at work. Seeing the action on the soccer field. Watching my three year old in his Kindermusik class. Connecting with moms during break. Walking into the youth room and joining with the middle and high school kids as they led the worship time. They were loud. It was vibrant!

It all warmed my heart.

Seeing all the classes that we, the parents chose, based on the desires of our group and the interests of our kids…Charcoal and Graphite Mixed Media Drawing, Church History, Card-making, Black American Literature, Science Experiments, Soccer, Cultures and Geography, Drama, Theatrical Design, Future Nurses, Science in the Garden…

This. is. good.

The freedom, the excitement, the community.

You know how this all started? It started with just a few parents who wanted something better for their kids. We were unsure. We were hesitant. It would have been so much easier not to step out…to choose the safer, default option.

But we took the risk. And I’m so glad we did.

Having trouble finding a homeschool community that fits? Consider meeting up with other parents to start your own group! Does this sound too daunting? Homeschooling in itself is a huge learning curve for any parent, but you may be surprised to find that the support you get from your small circle of purposeful parents outweighs your feelings of inadequacy. It might not be as hard as you think and it might just be a huge blessing to you and your family.

Poolside math!
Babies make everything better…especially school work!
Getting his driver’s license!
Creaming Corn
First day of school!

Welcome Baby Hollyn

In May, the Lord gifted our family with this precious baby girl.

Meet Hollyn Joy. 8 lbs. 8 oz. of pure sweetness!

I heard recently that coffee, homemade bread, clean linen, and babies are the top smells that make people happiest. I don’t know about the first three, but the last is absolutely the best! How is it that I have been blessed to experience a newborn nine times?

I feel. so. lucky!

When they laid her on my chest and I inhaled that fresh infant scent, my heart swelled.

Our kids adore her. The day she came home, it took nearly an hour for everyone to “get their turn” holding her.

I love watching my husband hold her with pride in his eyes.

On occasion…. if you have more than the average number of children, people give you looks of pity or make sarcastic (but probably well-intended) comments.

“Are they all yours?”

“You just can’t do it all! Don’t you ever want some time for yourself?”

“You poor thing. Do you have help?”

When people say things like this, it can be easy to doubt yourself and wonder if maybe they are right.

Because it IS hard. And I HAVE needed help from time to time. And, yes, sometimes I would LOVE more time to myself!

Laundry, meals, homeschooling, diapers, dishes…the barrage of interruptions.

There were times I almost let it get to me.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

I would have missed out.

Who would not be here? I can’t imagine NOT having one of them. The thought makes me heartsick.

This time of having and raising children is relatively short in the whole span of a life. It will end. The nest will be empty and I will have plenty of time…empty spaces to fill.

Investing in our kids is an investment in our future. Giving our kids a sibling is an investment into THEIR future. After all, a sibling is a gift for life! We will be gone one day, but they will have each other for many years to come!

We have the fullness on both ends. The midnight infant snuggles. The early rising toddlers… testing the boundaries and full of questions. Happy-go-lucky, imaginative middles fascinated with living things and building forts outside. Teenagers with late night energy and conversations that start just as you are ready to hit the sack.

It is SO full and I LOVE it.

Meet Liz


Hi, my name is Liz Lepley. My husband is Aaron and we have been married for almost 12 years. We have five children. Lucy, 10, Galen, 8, Jesse, 6, Millie, 4, and August, 1. 

We started homeschooling five years ago with the Sonlight Curriculum. We loved Sonlight but have now transitioned to Classical Conversations (CC.) 

How we decided to homeschool:

We wanted to protect our kids. Fear led us to it- which is probably not the best way to start something. I looked at our then five year old little girl and just couldn’t imagine her on a bus to a school I know nothing about. We also saw family friends on their homeschool journey and admired how their children behaved and loved to learn. We trust the Lord to guide us through our homeschooling journey. 

Video Interview

Does the idea of homeschooling appeal to you, but you are afraid to step out and try it? Then you need to listen to this conversation with Liz! She tells her own story of jumping into homeschooling in spite of her fears. Liz shares how she has overcome the challenge of feeling overwhelmed and how her family has found a good fit in Classical Conversations.

Encourage other families: 

  • I don’t think I said this on the interview but, you won’t mess up your kids. I was so scared to homeschool because I felt under qualified to be teaching my children. It turn out that I am learning along side them and I’m fully qualified to teach them. 
  • Take days off. Don’t totally stick to your schedule. I am a rule follower and this is hard for me. If we are having a rough day and we need a break, we take one. We can make up that time another day. And that’s okay. 
  • Have a support system. These can take a while to develop. Pray for the Lord to bring people into your life to support you. 
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. 
  • Simplicity- work with what you have. We live in a very small house that we love and use our dining room table for almost everything homeschooling. It gets messy and that’s okay. Memories are being made. We use the couch and we do school outside.
  • Don’t give up 🙂

My biggest challenge: 

  • Feeling overwhelmed! Realizing that we can take it year by year, semester by semester is so helpful!


  • Each other! We all want to help! Ask a fellow mom or dad questions for tips! If I don’t know the answer, I can direct you to someone who does. 
  • Askpauline.com- this website was and is so helpful when you are first starting out! Answers so many questions for rules to follow in PA. 
  • Sonlight book list. 
  • CC offers books to read to go along with what the kids are learning. 
  • Pinterest- book suggestions by age.

1 Thessalonians 5:11- “encourage one another and build each other up…” 

Have questions for Liz? You can contact her at elizabeth.lepley@me.com. Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!

Helpful Habits for Writing Well #4: Notebooking

Are you looking for ideas to help your child develop good writing skills? I’ve been sharing four helpful tools I have found that cover a lot of ground in teaching kids to write. Since our family is larger than the average size, these have been very helpful to me in minimizing the number of lessons while still developing the many sub-categories of writing: spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, handwriting, writing style, etc. In my last post, I covered Habit #3: Narration. Here I will wrap up with the final habit for writing well: Habit #4 Notebooking.

  1. Reading- Reading quality literature of many genres.
  2. Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
  3. NarrationReading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
  4. Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.

Habit #4: Notebooking

The habit of notebooking makes writing personal for kids. It is a way to write that involves their individual interests and experiences. A child’s notebooks are a portrait of the child.

The possibilities for notebooks are endless. They can keep record of daily life, seasonal changes in nature, vacations/trips, gardening plans, craft ideas, sports achievements and goals, poems, drawings, a bucket list, favorite quotes, and more!

Keeping notebooks should NOT be confused with completing worksheets or structured assignments. Although offering a pattern or structure to give ideas can be helpful in giving kids a starting place, the purpose of note booking is purely self-expression.

The habit of notebooking starts with a blank page. To keep a notebook is to record observations, express emotions, share events and achievements, copy favorite authors. It is to put in written form the thoughts that most capture our interest.

There is something about writing an idea down that cements it more firmly in our memory. To write something down is to remember it.

Every Bed of Roses: Take time to write

For a deeper dive into this topic, I highly recommend the book The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater. Laurie discusses the “art of the keeper” and divulges her note booking ideas in her “gallery of forms.”

This blog post from Brandy Vencel who writes at afterthoughtsblog.net is an excellent review of this book.

The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason: Bestvater, Laurie:  9780615834108: Amazon.com: Books

Our Notebooks

Here are examples of some of the notebooks that some or all of our kids have kept.

Letters One form of note booking that I have practiced with my kids is to write short letters back and forth to them in a small note pad. I fill a page with thoughts, encouragements, etc. and place it in their top dresser drawer where they are sure to see it. They return by writing a personal note on the next page and putting it in my top dresser drawer. It is a way to connect with their dreams, struggles, ideas. It helps them to share personal thoughts that can be hard to say in person. Sometimes it is easier to express thoughts in writing and these exchanges help us do that.

Notepads that we use to write notes back and forth with each other.

Personal Diary If you have ever kept a diary, you can probably attest to looking back through the pages and remembering things you had completely forgotten. A diary is like a photo album. It is a written account of where you have been, what you have done. Sharing personal feelings and struggles in writing can be a great way of coping with difficulties. Writing in a diary is excellent writing practice because a child can write freely without constraints of proper sentence structure, spelling, etc. which will help them to develop expression of thought.

Nature Notebooking On Fridays, our kids are assigned to write entries in their nature journals. If you are looking for inspiration for keeping a nature notebook, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady is a must read! I have found that the pattern in this book to be a very helpful tool to guide them in recording nature.

The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden ...

Page 1- Write the Month at the top in beautiful script or creative lettering. Draw pictures of what you see outside during this month. Copy a poem or quote to describe the month.

Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady | hubpages

Page 2- Keep a journal of observations by date. Write the day number and a short (2-3 sentence) description of what you observe.

The left side is page 1- Name of the month and picture. Sometimes they include a quote or poem. The right side shows journal entries of observations by date.

Sketchbooks A sketchbook does not necessarily develop writing skills, BUT it is a beautiful piece for a child to keep. It shows progress in drawing and observation skills. It is enjoyable for parent and child to look back and remember the ideas and environment that fascinated a child through different stages of growth.

Bible Journal A few of our children enjoy keeping a collection of notes from sermons they hear in church. It is a way to help keep attention during the service and to remember and reflect on past topics.

Other Notebooking Ideas

There are a few notebook ideas that I would like to inspire my kids to try.

-Math Notebooks: As new concepts are learned, a math journal might be helpful to keep charts and formulas handy.

-Bullet Journal: This is great for listing all sorts of things: bucket lists, vacations, gratitude journal, meal plans, exercise log, etc.

-Calendar of Firsts: This can be a seasonal record, noting the first flowers of spring, first time it snows, etc. It could also be a record of first experiences in life, losing the first tooth, first picnic, first garden.

Notebooking is a practice that captures vignettes of a child’s thoughts, experiences, and emotions at different stages of growth. It is a life habit with rewards. Our kids have enjoyed looking back through the notebooks they have kept and I have too! I’d love to hear your notebooking experiences and ideas!

Planting cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, and peppers.
Girls Tea with friends for Jenna’s 12th birthday.
Touring Kanati Studios in Myerstown, PA
Archery at Kanati Studios
Snowgeese at Middle Creek Wildlife Management

Helpful Habits for Writing Well #3: Narration

I’ve been sharing four helpful tools I have found that cover a lot of ground in teaching kids to write. Since our family is larger than the average size, these have been very helpful to me in minimizing the number of lessons while still developing the many sub-categories of writing: spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, handwriting, writing style, etc. In my last post, I covered habit #2: copywork.

  1. Reading- Reading quality literature of many genres.
  2. Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
  3. Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
  4. Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.

Habit #3: Narration

If the idea of narration is new to you, here is a simple description. Narration is hearing or reading a selection of a text and telling it back to another person in your own words. That’s it.

It seems too easy, doesn’t it? I mean, how much can a person really learn from doing something that basic? Shouldn’t there be more involved? Is this really teaching them valuable writing skills?

Does this sound too easy to be “real work”? Before you write this off as too simple of a habit to develop good writers, I challenge you to try it yourself. Read a short selection or chapter from a book and then tell it back in a one page narration. Put this post aside and try it. I have done this myself. Narrating a text myself is what convinced me that retelling something in your own words challenges many parts of your brain. It’s not as easy as you think.

Beginning Narration: Oral

I start this with our kids as soon as they are old enough to form sentences. After reading a short storybook, I ask them to tell me about it. This is informal. They usually don’t even realize that they are “narrating”. I just ask them to tell me about the story. In their eagerness to talk about everything, they readily like to tell their version of the story.

For younger kids, give shorter sections to narrate. It can be hard for them to wait until the end of a book to retell the story. They may need shorter chunks. Read a page or two and ask them to tell what is happening.

This does not only have to be done in response to a reading. Ask them to retell in many ways. Tell about their day in sequential order over the dinner table. Explain the steps involved in a project. Describe a scene or the view from your front door.

As children enter Kindergarten and progress through elementary grades, you can encourage them to develop their oral narrations. For example, some kids want to tell every single detail step by step and need help in seeing the the most important parts and keeping it brief. Others will need encouragement to be more descriptive.

Progressing Narration: Written

After children have been giving quality oral narrations for a period of time and once they are able to write sentences and paragraphs fluently, they can begin written narrations. This often happens beginning in the upper elementary years (3rd or 4th grade), depending on the particular child.

One thing I have done in the past to help my kids transition from oral to written narration is this. I have them orally narrate a story and I type it out word for word as they are speaking. I include everything they say, the “ums” and “likes”. When they are done, I have them read it aloud to me. This helps them not only to see what their narration looks like in written form, but also to hear how it sounds.

As they progress in written narrations, this is a wonderful opportunity to assess their written expression with them. How does the paragraph flow? Are ideas expressed in complete sentences? Are there run-on sentences? Does the writing reflect the main ideas of what was read? If someone had not read the piece the child is narrating about, would they get the same conclusions from what they have written? Are the beginning and ending sentences appropriate? Consider syntax. Are there a variety of sentence structures including simple and complex patterns or do the sentences appear repetitive?

I would discourage assessing their work every time they write a narration. Let them grow a natural habit without the pressure of assessment, building confidence as they perform the skill over and over. Then, after 4-5 narrations, review their work together discussing what is done well and how they can improve.

I aim to have my older kids do one narration a day. Realistically, this does not happen. It is more like 2-3 times per week. Currently, we are reading key sections from Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster.

Image result for abraham lincoln's world genevieve foster

The effectiveness of narration is best observed when done over a long period of time. At the beginning of the year, each of our kids gets a new narration notebook in which to keep all their writings successively. I like to look back through their narration notebooks as they move through the year to see how they are improving. (It’s also motivating to the kids!) Even comparing their work from one or two years prior to see their progress is a great motivator!

The regular habit of narration produces quality writers. Looking for a way to help your child improve their writing skills? Give narration a try. Do it for a year and track their progress over time. You might be surprised at how something so simple can be so effective!

I finally found a sourdough recipe the whole family LOVES. I can’t make it fast enough to keep up!

Two hours before we are ready to go her first Valentine’s Party, she says, “Mom, I’m ready!”
We have a new driver!
We have had some amazing winter sunsets here lately.

Meet Connie

Hi.  I’m Connie and I’ve been married to my husband Eric for 19 years.  We have seven children and are in the process of adopting our eighth child.  My husband is a bi-vocational pastor of a small church so our schedule can get a little interesting sometimes.    I’m learning to walk in joy that is NOT rooted in what is going on around me. 


Video Interview

Connie answers the question everyone is asking homeschool moms, “How do you do it all?!” Being a homeschool mom can feel like holding down a couple of full time jobs! Connie, Mom of 7, shares her passion for discipling their kids and what she has learned to help her get it all done each day.

Did you always want to homeschool? What attracted you to it?

I was homeschooled as child and had a great experience.  Homeschooling allowed me to study and pursue what I was interested and felt called to (especially in the high school years).  I wanted my children to have that experience too!

What advice do you have for people who are homeschooling temporarily for this year? 

Don’t try to make homeschool  look exactly like school.  It’s not possible at home.  Be ok with it feeling a little messy….but do enjoy spending time learning and growing with your kids! Advice from my husband:  Give it a strong try and consider it permanently.  Don’t expect it to go smoothly, especially initially.  Plan for “off” days.  

Advice for new homeschoolers?

I would say don’t feel compelled to say yes to everything.  Learn to pray about your schedule and then follow the LORD’S leading for your family.  It may look very different than the next homeschool family.  Too much (even of really good stuff) is just too much and can make homeschooling feel more stressful than it needs to be.  Feel the freedom to enjoy your children and to go at their pace (FYI…that pace picks up the in the teen years!!!)

What has been your biggest challenge?

 We have a large age range (3-16) and managing all their needs and spending individual time with each of them can be challenging.  The way I think about this has been really important.  The little things….like helping my three year old dress in the morning is time spent with her!  Impromptu conversations while I’m driving with my 16 year old is quality time spent!  It doesn’t have to always look a certain way(although many times I wish it did)!

One of these: Is there something that stands out as your passion with your family/homeschooling? 

Homeschooling allows us to live life with our kids and disciple them.  We try to do a discipleship night once a week with our older kids.  We read an encouraging book together and spend time praying for them.  We also talk about our beliefs and what the Bible has to say throughout our homeschooling day.  

Do you have any favorite hobbies? 

I love to really study GOD’S WORD, to hike, to drink coffee, to star gaze at night, and to read good books.

What is your favorite thing that you do together? 

My husband has instilled a love of soccer in all of our kids….we love to play together.  We also enjoy exploring different parks.  

Any interesting projects or experiences?

We traveled to Texas as a family five years ago.  That was an epic road trip that we still talk about!  Each year we try to plan one bigger family vacation and that has been so fun for our kids.  

Any other questions you think would be good or things you would like to talk about? 

Many times people ask me “How do you do it all?”  My short answer is that I don’t do it all.  There are many things I’m not doing in this season that I hope to one day.  I really rely on the LORD’S strength.  I ask for help.  My older kids have become really really helpful over the years too.  

Connie’s Favorite resources

A Gentle Feast

Mystery of History

Apologia Science

Simply Charlotte Mason

Book List

Parents and Children by Charlotte M. Mason Paperback Book ...
Book Review: The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes : 9Marks
Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the ...

Favorite Read Aloud Books

The Charm of the Penderwicks (Janie and Betsy and discuss ...
Sir Knight of the Splendid Way - Lamplighter Publishing ...

The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum — Reviews ...
Author Interview: Karina Yan Glaser - Teachers Who Read

Have questions for Connie? You can contact her at all4jesus31@msn.com. Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!

Helpful Habits for Writing Well #2: Copying the Best Pieces from Great Authors

In my last post, I listed four helpful tools I have found that cover a lot of ground in teaching kids to write. Since our family is larger than the average size, these have been very helpful to me in minimizing the number of lessons while still developing the many sub-categories of writing: spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, handwriting, writing style, etc.

  1. Reading- Reading quality literature of many genres.
  2. Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
  3. Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
  4. Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.

Habit#2 Copywork

How do we learn to do anything? We observe someone who is doing it!

In her book Think Outside the Classroom: A Practical Approach to Relaxed Homeschooling, Kelly Crawford writes,

“The grand goal is communication. Learning to communicate well will cover a multitude of deficiencies. How to achieve this? Copy others who do it well. It is the best way to learn almost anything!”

What should a child copy?

Copy passages of Scripture, Aesop’s Fables, poems, short stories or fairy tales, notable sections from each chapter of the fiction book they are reading.

Years ago, I found lists of copywork that I downloaded to our computer. I print them out as needed and put them in folders for our kids to copy daily. These lists are based on the amblesideonline.com book lists which I highly recommend! I usually choose copywork that coincides with the book that child is currently reading.

How much should a child copy?

A good rule of thumb is to copy one sentence for first grade, two sentences for second, three sentences for third, etc. or according to the child’s needs and abilities as you observe them.

How often should a child practice copywork?

Daily! When you copy the works of great writers as a daily habit for many years, you acquire a sense for how words flow together. You learn to discern the best ways of expressing thought.

What skills are covered in copywork?

I use copywork to teach spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and more. It takes a relatively short period of time for them to complete and teaches them so much at the same time. When I correct our kids’ copywork, this is the time I use to review the following skills.

Handwriting. I think it is important to expect children to produce their neatest work. Keep in mind, however, that “neatest” will vary from child to child. Usually, a parent can easily tell if their child has rushed to get it done or carefully copied the piece. A good practice is to have the child read it back to you. If they can’t read their own work, it helps them to see on their own that others will have difficulty reading it as well.

Spelling. In looking at their work together, we find any misspelled words and circle them. They practice spelling them correctly a few times. This is also a good time to explain spelling patterns or rules that will be helpful to them. I have always thought that the best way to learn spelling (rather than long lists of isolated words) is to learn them in the context of them being used- not only in the context of a random written sentence, but in a written piece. It has been my observation that if copywork is a daily habit practiced for several years, kids learn to spell well.

Punctuation. As I correct their work, we also discuss punctuation. All sentences start with a capital letter, but what different punctuation can come at the end? And how do you know which one to use? How do you punctuate a direct quote? A quote within a quote? When should you use a comma? (Side note: Starting in 4th grade, I also use a Language curriculum to supplement punctuation and grammar skills.)

Vocabulary. What words in this passage are unfamiliar to you? Looking at the context, can you figure out the meaning? How would you use this word if you wanted to put it in a sentence?

Writing Styles. Look at the different ways the author begins each sentence. How does the writer describe different scenes? What descriptive/persuasive/action words are used?

Personal note: Realistically, I don’t go through all of these skills in any certain way, just as needed or as the opportunity presents itself. The simple act of copying quality writing regularly, when practiced over several years, teaches these concepts by itself.

Extensions of copywork.

Cursive. If it is important to you that your kids learn to write cursive, you can require copywork to be done in cursive once they have mastered the initial skills. I like our kids to be able to read and write in cursive so that they can read historical letters and documents.

Typing. As soon as a child learns to type (we use free tools online), they can practice typing a portion of their copywork after they have written it by hand.

Dictation. To really see how well kids can spell, read aloud a selection from something they have memorized or written as a previous copywork and have them transcribe it. This will quickly show their skill level and areas that need improvement.

The thing I love most about copywork is that once the kids learn to write their letters, it is something they can do independently every day. It takes a relatively short amount of time AND they glean so much from practicing it. These are just a few ideas that I have used over the years. I’d love to hear your input and ideas.

Next up, Healthy Habits for Writing Well #3: Narration.

Helpful Habits for Writing Well #1: Creating a Literate Environment

When you think about all the facets involved in teaching a child to write well, it can be overwhelming!! The subjects handwriting, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary are just the start. They need to learn the challenging skill of expressing their thoughts clearly in written form. Add to the list the writing process, writing styles… writing a research paper, writing to persuade, writing personal letters… it can feel like a lot!

How can we teach our kids to communicate effectively? There are many excellent writing curriculums out there, but I have also found that there are simple writing habits that can be used regularly to cover a lot of ground. Kind of like a multi-vitamin or an all-in-one. In observing the positive results I have seen from these practices I have become so convinced of their effectiveness that they HAVE BECOME our main writing curriculum!

In short they are these:

  1. Literacy- Reading quality literature of many genres, memorizing, and engaging in conversations.
  2. Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
  3. Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
  4. Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.
The books we have been reading lately.

HABIT #1- Creating a literate environment.

How can you express something that you don’t possess? Children should have a vast mental “library” of written ideas before they will be able to clearly express their thoughts in written word. I wrote more on this concept in the post Teaching a Child To Read.

Every child should be read to-A LOT! This can happen in small, scattered moments throughout the day, but it should be lathered frequently with pleasure.

We should be reading aloud to our children- A Lot! In addition, as soon as they begin reading on their own, we should maintain for them a quiet space and quality literature on which they can feast their imaginations. This is providing for them a bank, if you will, from which to draw as they attempt to formulate their own ideas about the world around them.

Here are some ideas to help cultivate a literate environment for your children.

  • Read a variety of fiction to them including fantasy, historical fiction, folk tales, mystery, etc.
  • Read non-fiction to them. What subjects interest them? What do they ask about or spend a lot of time doing? Get books on these topics and look through them together.
  • Read biographies. Stories of great men and women of history inspire them to do hard tasks, overcome challenges, and be different.
  • Read poetry. I like to read poetry by poet. When I find a poet I like or that I think the kids will like, I read some of their best poems over and over. Poetry should be read more than once to fully appreciate the meanings behind each word.
  • Memorize together. Memorize Scripture. Memorize famous poems of history, historical documents like The Declaration of Independence or snippets from famous historical speeches. Memorize the planets, books of the Bible, Presidents of the US, states and capitols, planets, continents, oceans, and more!
  • Engage in conversations that make them think. Ask them questions. When they ask the questions, on the other hand, use their curiosity as an opportunity to start conversations that help them express their thoughts and feelings clearly.

A child can only express what they possess. Give them a broad foundation of knowledge and experiences with oral and written language. This will be a great starting place for communicating their thoughts in oral and written form.

Are you looking for help in teaching writing? If you have found a writing curriculum that you LOVE, then continue with what works for you and your kids! On the other hand, if the multi-faceted work of teaching spelling, handwriting, grammar, punctuation, writing form, etc. is adding too much to your plate, know that there are simpler and equally effective tools that can be used to help your children communicate well.

Up next, Helpful Habits for Writing Well # 2: Copying the Best Pieces from Great Authors.

Tea parties and calculators
Sewing Christmas gifts.

Personal Wellness and Homeschooling

Homeschooling can be all-consuming. It’s easy to become obsessive about planning, looking into new, exciting curriculums and enjoying this new-found freedom.

When I started homeschooling, my girlfriends and I would bounce ideas off each other, talk about our schedules, what was working/not working, the beauty of learning at home, giving our kids a wild and free childhood, and spending long hours with them outside.

In the beginning, I was so excited (and intimidated at the same time!) about our new lifestyle…homeschooling WAS my hobby.

This initial excitement is important and maybe necessary at the start. It helps plunge you into a whole new way of thinking and living. Over time, however, and as you progress, the excitement sometimes wanes and the demands of homeschooling can become overwhelming, exhausting, engulfing.

Do you feel yourself slipping into the dark hole of fatigue and monotony? The questions I’ve listed below are questions to ask to help keep yourself inspired, positive, and purposeful.

What’s your Source? Don’t neglect time alone with God. E.M. Bounds said, “To be much alone with God is the secret of knowing Him and of influence with Him.” You can only pour out when you are full. What is the first thing you do when you get a free moment? That is a moment you can run to the Source!

How often do you spend time doing things you enjoy? What hobbies do you have? Make the effort to stop everything a spend time doing something you love EVERY day. After all, what are we teaching our kids if we aren’t modeling our own personal growth?

Are you getting enough sleep? If you are in the temporary season of having an infant or if you are pregnant, make sleep a priority.

Are you taking care of your body? Exercise! Exercise not only for your body, but also for your mind! This recent article Need to Spark Creativity? Go On a Walk inspired me to try to go for a walk every day.

Is your marriage a priority? Don’t neglect your spouse. Make time for each other without the kids. As good as we all believe homeschooling is for our kids, a healthy marriage is much more important.

With what are you filling your mind? Beware of the trap of mindless entertainment. Scrolling endlessly on social media is draining, not fueling. Instead, read a good book. Work on a project. Journal. Watch a good flick with your husband.

Is homeschooling consuming your family life? Keep “academic” school hours during school hours. When you are finished for the day, BE DONE. Move on to living life with your family.

Do you spend time with encouraging friends? Go out with your girlfriends. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay at home, but spending time with good friends is life-giving. Encouraging friendships keep you going on the hard days!

Do you and the kids need a break? Take a day (or more!) off. There’s something to be said for just giving everybody the day off. Walk away for a little. Maybe everybody needs a reset.

What are some things that you do to stay positive and purposeful?

10 MORE Reasons Why Homeschooling Can Be SO GOOD For Kids

In a recent article in HSLDA magazine, the author listed two crucial attitudes new homeschoolers need to have in order to “make it”.

They need to believe 

  1. “We really can pull this off!” and

2. “Homeschooling is good for our children.”

If you’d like to read more about these topics, check out my posts To the New Homeschool Moms Wondering, “Can I really pull this off?” and 10 Reasons Why Homeschooling Can Be SO GOOD For Kids

Here are 10 MORE reasons why homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids!.

Time to Read. I don’t think it can be overstated that 1.) reading aloud to kids and 2.) giving them lots of time to read- catapults kids towards a voracious appetite for learning. Do you want your kids to love learning? Read to them. Do you want them to grow into a lifestyle of learning on their own? Let. them. read. Give them access to a plethora of quality books, whether through a home library or trips to the local library, and then provide plenty of time for them to read. The flexibility in homeschooling makes it possible to spend large quantities of time reading.

Healthy balance of time with friends and time at home. Rather than being locked in to a certain group of kids for certain time periods daily, homeschoolers own their schedules. Parents can influence their kids’ social lives as they observe their child’s needs. If a parent senses that their child needs more time with friends, he or she can plan more play dates or sign up for more co-ops, classes, or events. On the other hand, if its a busy life season- maybe a move or unexpected health crisis or even the holidays, the parent can block out the schedule and have more quiet days at home.

More opportunities to help people and be involved in the community. Do you know what it means to an elderly neighbor to have trustworthy kids nearby who offer to get your mail or help during the day if needed? Can you imagine what it does for them just to SEE kids during the day- outside playing or walking or working?! Seeing kids out in the middle of the day is a beautiful thing!! Because their schedule is more flexible, homeschoolers also have more chances to volunteer in community activities. These kinds of opportunities teach them sympathy and give them the satisfaction of contributing to a noble cause.

Kids can pursue friendships by choice. We all know there are just some people you click with better than others. Homeschooled kids can be choosy about the friendships in which they’d like to invest the most time. They are not lumped into one group or even one age level. *As a side note, parents have more freedom to discourage friendships that are unhealthy and encourage bonds that are mutually strengthening.

No bullying– No explanation needed!

Current Events. Because our kids are home, we can capitalize on current events locally and around the world. Most recently, the election has been prime opportunity to discuss the voting process and the electoral college. How many electoral votes are needed to win? Can there be a tie in the electoral college? What would happen in that event? We usually do current events in the morning with our breakfast. Resources like World Magazine, World Watch, The Worldview in 5 Minutes, and Voice of the Martyr’s Magazine have all helped to keep us abreast of what is happening around the world.

Free Time. What happens when your school day is shortened by several hours (as it is when you are homeschooled) and you have extra free time? You learn skills. Let me repeat that. You acquire and hone skills according to your interests. You paint. You play imaginative games with siblings. You explore outside. You experiment in the kitchen. You get craft ideas from Pinterest. You look up YouTube videos on how to do magic tricks or how to play a certain song on the piano. You practice your soccer skills. You try knitting.

Meaningful Conversations. Think about it. When do you have the most meaningful conversations with your kids? They are usually not scheduled. They happen late at night or in moments when you least expect it. When parents spend large quantities of time with kids, the chances for meaningful conversations to happen increase.

Length of lessons catered to developmental age and individual needs of the child. Many times lessons have been too easy or too difficult for our kids and I have the freedom to adjust as needed. If a lesson is too easy, I can assign more or give an extension activity. If, on the other hand, a child has spent a good deal of time on math, has only finished two problems, and is becoming frustrated, I have the freedom to sit down, work with him on one or two more problems and call it a day. There are times for plugging away at things, but an exasperated child will not make much progress. It’s better to walk away and try again tomorrow.

Investment in relationships that are life-long. By far, I believe one of the best benefits of homeschooling is the childhood spent investing in relationships that you will have for the rest. of. your. life. Your family. It is not easy to develop close relationships with siblings when you spend the majority of your waking hours separated, with people you will only know in grade school. It’s important to have friends. Being involved in a co-op and having your kids regularly see others in their inner circle helps them develop important social skills. BUT spending a lot of time with family is a long term investment that pays!

I’d love to hear why you think homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids!

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