Meet Beth

Beth and her husband live in New Jersey. They have four kids and have been homeschooling for seven years. Beth is in the thick of homeschooling. She has two elementary-aged children. She just added a Kindergartner this year. In addition, she has an active toddler to entertain! She gives honest, but encouraging advice to moms who are starting out homeschooling for the first time. If you are juggling homeschooling and preschoolers, you will relate to this conversation with Beth!

Hi! My name is Beth Kline. I have 4 kids, two girls ages 10 & 8 and two boys ages 5 & 2. My husband is a sales manager for an energy software company. We moved to New Jersey from Pennsylvania 9 years ago and absolutely love it! We are pretty close to the ocean and spend a lot of time at the beach. We have been homeschooling since my oldest was 4 so this is our 7th year. I was introduced to Classical Conversations when I first started thinking about homeschooling and have been involved in our local C.C. community for the last 7 years. 

What attracted you to homeschooling?

Before I had kids, I never would have thought that homeschooling would be something I would be doing. When my daughter was 3 or so, my mom, who was a kindergarten teacher, really helped me realize I didn’t need to send her to preschool, that I could teach her everything she needed to be ready for kindergarten. This in itself felt like a huge step because everyone I knew who had younger kids was sending them to preschool. At the same time, I met a family with 5 kids who homeschooled and they were a really great, well-adjusted family. Most of their kids had already graduated and were in successful jobs. I could see that homeschooling could be done well.  Also, I should mention that my husband and his brothers were homeschooled. Although I don’t really think that effected my decision. He pretty much stayed out of the decision-making process because he knew that it would be my responsibility and he was willing to support me one way or another. He knew how hard it was and didn’t want to put that on me if it wasn’t something I wanted to take on. Now that we are about 7 years into it, we are both so grateful that this is our reality. I feel unbelievably blessed to be able to stay home and be with my kids and learn with them. 

Can you give advice for new homeschool moms?

My advice for new homeschoolers is to keep it simple. Start with math and a language arts program and find great books to read together. As you get a rhythm and understand what your kids need, you can add new things. Simple is better.  Getting outside every day is important for everyone’s sanity. Find a good book list and get to the library. Connecting with a community of like-minded people is vital. It is really important to have people you can connect with and run ideas by and ask advice from who are going through similar things. Be easy on yourself. Homeschooling can have some really rewarding days but there can be tough days too. Giving yourself grace and relying on the Lord for strength is so important. 

My favorite Resources:

I love listening to podcasts in the car or when I’m folding laundry. 

  1. The Homeschool Sisters has been a favorite lately. 
  2. At Home with Sally
  3. Read-Aloud Revival
  4. The Boy Mom podcast with Monica Swanson 
  5. Your Morning Basket by Pam Barnhill
  6. Wild & Free 

I also discovered Nicole the Math Lady around the start of the pandemic last year. Her website has been incredible for my 5th grader to be able to understand math without my help. is my absolute favorite place to buy used books. Anytime I see a book I want to purchase I check there first and they usually have it. I save so much money shopping on this site. 

Two books that I love and pick up often are Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson. I so appreciate both of these. 

I really appreciate Beautiful Feet Books for history. We are using their early American history curriculum this year. I absolutely love reading real books for history and using stories to capture our imaginations as it relates to the past. This year they updated their reading list to give more insight and different perspectives of historical characters. It has really led to some good discussions with the kids about empathy and compassion for people who traditionally have been left out of history books. 

What’s your biggest challenge?

Right now I have two challenges. The first is trying to school with our 2 year-old. No place is safe and he is so busy! We all breathe a little bit during his nap time and try to get as much done as possible but it’s tough and I don’t really have a great solution. My husband works from home and is on the phone a lot so we have to be extra quiet. And my other challenge is giving a solid amount of time to each kid. The oldest, in 5th grade is thankfully very independent. She works on most of her work by herself and I check it all when she is done. The younger 2 need a lot of help still so it has been challenging to bounce back and forth between them. 

My son just started kindergarten this year and man, boys are SO different than girls! I am learning that he really needs exercise and creative free time. My daughters (especially my oldest) would just sit for hours and we could read and do work without needing too much of a break. He is in constant motion. So I am learning to let him have many breaks. If I think of it, I have him do some laps out in our cul-da-sac before he starts work. I also let him build with blocks or Legos while I am reading so he is still moving but he can hopefully focus a little better. Another tip which I really think helps is I discovered an essential oil called that I diffuse while we are doing work that seems to make everyone a little calmer and more focused. 

What keeps you going?

Coffee! I always have a cup of coffee in my hand. But seriously, even when it’s really challenging, I’d rather have my kids with me than not. I want my husband and me to be the biggest influence in their lives. I want them to learn how to be independent, life-long learners. I love the freedom it allows our family to travel when we want to.  Remembering the overall purpose is really important. 

Some of the chapter books we have read together The Wheel on the School (9780064400213): DeJong, Meindert,  Sendak, Maurice: Books
Old Yeller (text only) Newbery Honor Book edition by F. Gipson: F. Gipson: Books
Where The Red Fern Grows - By Wilson Rawls (Paperback) : Target
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia): Lewis, C.  S., Baynes, Pauline: 9780064404990: Books
The Little House (5 Volume Set) : Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams:  8580001065465: Books
Pollyanna (Sterling Unabridged Classics): Porter, Eleanor H., McKowen,  Scott, Pober Ed.D, Arthur: 9781402797187: Books
Understood Betsy: Canfield Fisher, Dorothy, Root, Kimberly Bulcken:  9780805060737: Books The Trumpet of the Swan (9780060263973): E. B. White, Edward  Frascino: Books
Personalized Literary Classics - The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood |  Signals | HR3222
The Book Trail Heidi - The Book Trail
Caddie Woodlawn (Caddie Woodlawn, #1) by Carol Ryrie Brink

Because of Winn-Dixie: DiCamillo, Kate: 9780763680862: Books

Some picture books we read often:

The Raft: LaMarche, Jim, LaMarche, Jim: 0046594008503: Books
Roxaboxen: McLerran, Alice, Cooney, Barbara: 9780060526337:  Books
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel | Virginia Lee Burton | First Edition The Piggy in the Puddle (Reading Rainbow Books)  (9780689712937): Pomerantz, Charlotte, Marshall, James: Books
Curious George The Monkey Collection 7 Book Set Pack Series (Dinosaur,  Fire-fighters, Visits the Library, Birthday Surprise, Visits a Toy Shop,  Catches a Train, Goes to a Chocolate Factory) (Curious George): Margret
The Berenstain Bears Books by Janice and Stanley Berenstain: A Childre –  TheBookBundler

Some books for our early American history curriculum this year include:

Leif the Lucky: Ingri d'Aulaire, Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar  d'Aulaire: 9780964380301: Books
Christopher de Lotbinière's Rare Books - Parin d'Aulaire's Columbus, 1st  Printing | One Kings Lane
Pocahontas: Ingri d'Aulaire, Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin  d'Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire: 9781893103283: Books

George Washington: Ingri d'Aulaire, Edgar Parin d'Aulaire: 9780964380318: Books
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Phoebe the Spy by Judith Berry Griffin
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor  Book): Weatherford, Carole Boston, Nelson, Kadir: 9780786851751: Books

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

10 Reasons Why Homeschooling Can Be SO GOOD For Kids

What does it take to make it in homeschooling? What’s necessary to make it work for the long haul? Homeschooling is an endeavor that is not for the faint of heart! In my opinion, to make it for any period of time longer than a year, you have to be confident and you have to firmly believe that what you are doing is a great option for your kids. I recently read an article from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association which validates these two premises. In this article, the author listed two crucial attitudes that are necessary in order for new homeschoolers 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 know more about the first necessary attitude, take a look at my last post “To the New Homeschool Moms Wondering, ‘Can I really Pull this Off?‘”

Also, many of these are described in further detail in Why We Homeschool and Why We Homeschool Part 2.

In this post, I’d like to share some of the reasons I believe homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids.

Shorter School Day The chart below represents what I think is a useful measuring tool based on the needs of kids according to age. I’ve never timed exactly how long our kids do school, but I think this is roughly how it plays out for us. You can easily tell if you are doing too much. The child will be frustrated, constantly distracted, and discouraged. On the other hand, if your child has finished work and is walking around with nothing to do, bothering siblings, getting into trouble, he or she may need more work. Aside from this chart, how do you know if they are really doing enough? When kids have finished their work, they will naturally move on to their interests. For young kids, this is usually play. For older kids, it might be hobbies, exercise, or time with friends.

Leading Them TO THE ROCK : How Long is Your Homeschool Day?

Interpersonal Skills Homeschoolers learn many interpersonal skills every day from people who have much more life experience than they have (their parents) -not their peers. Here are a few of them. Basic etiquette. Accepting compliments and constructive criticism. Listening well. Communicating effectively. Responding to emotions. Respecting others. Expressing an appropriate sense of humor. Self-discipline. Focusing on a task. These type of skills are often caught rather than taught.

Life skills In a home environment, the opportunity for life skills are everywhere. Even for homeschool parents who are not intentional about teaching life skills, homeschooled kids are just there when all these things are happening: cooking, car maintenance, running laundry, daily meal clean-up, paying bills, making phone calls, making a bed, home repairs, using kitchen appliances, managing time, and so much more.

Frequent Breaks Don’t underestimate the weight of this one. Do you fully realize how really GOOD this is for kids?! Even adults cannot sit and focus on something for long periods of time. To be able to complete a challenging lesson and then run around in the sunshine or shoot a bow and arrow or kick the soccer ball, it’s what kids need! After short, frequent breaks, they are able to come back, concentrate and may be even more curious about what is in front of them.

Close Connection to Nature What varieties of trees and flowers are in your yard, your neighborhood? Before our recent move to a new property, we lived in a small suburban neighborhood for 12 years. We went for a walk almost every day. We learned all the diverse kinds of trees and flowers in our neighborhood simply by seeing them every day, through every season, for many years. Every spring, we watched a Mulberry tree on the corner of Sunset Road for signs of ripe mulberries to collect. In autumn, we always looked for the bright yellow leaves of the Ginko tree down the street on Hunter Drive. Several families of cardinals in the hemlocks across the street entertained us in the quiet winter months. When we saw the streets littered with natural debris in spring, we knew the oaks were all flowering. We would never have noticed any of these beautiful displays right in our own backyard except that we observed them every day for several years.

Heroes Who are your kids’ heroes? Because of the flexibility in choosing educational resources, parents can challenge their kids to dream by reading to them or assigning them books to read about great people. Here are some of the heroes that have inspired our kids: David Livingstone, Ben Carson, Leonardo da Vinci, Anne Sullivan, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Cranmer, Frederick Douglass, William Tyndale, Isaac Newton, Abigail Adams, George Mueller… just to name a few! Give them heroes that inspire them!

Habits We all know the value of being able to maintain good habits. The older our kids get and the longer these habits have taken to form in myself and in them reminds me just how crucial it is for us to continue practicing them. Making a bed, personal hygiene, keeping a clean work space, morning devotions, completing a chore thoroughly, writing letters, journaling. To which habits do you aspire for your kids? Habits give a great advantage in life!

Less of the wrong kids of peer pressure. Are homeschoolers sheltered? By its very nature, homeschooling is somewhat sheltering. Maybe you have known a family that over shelters their kids in a way that is unhealthy and does little to prepare their kids to function in the real world. Here’s a question. Can there also be a kind of sheltering that is healthy? A kind of protection that encourages them to function appropriately in all surroundings while cushioning them from the barrage of negativity so common in the school system? I’d believe there is. Because they face negative peer pressure less frequently or at a later age than the norm for kids in school, many of them display a positive self-assurance that stands out from the crowd. I’ve noticed from many homeschoolers that they are unaware in group situations that they are supposed to be “too cool” to answer questions or speak up. They are confident with who they are because they are used to being in an environment, whether at home or in the community, where everyone is treated with respect.

Child comparing progress against themselves, not other kids in their grade. When kids are measured by their own progress instead of “what all the other fourth graders should be doing”, they challenge themselves. They gain confidence instead of losing it.

Transfer of Family Values Each family has their own flavor. Individual parents have certain values that they want to pass down to their kids. In our family, we have taught our kids to do things that we enjoy and value. Here are some things my husband and I love and hope to pass down to our kids. We both love playing music and singing. We love gardening, caring for animals on our farmette, growing and preserving our own food. My husband and I are also very different, in personality and hobbies. He enjoys making things with wood, using tools for any kind of mechanical work, and investing in his growing eBay business. I enjoy reading, knitting, and writing. What unique gifts and interests do you hope to pass on to your kids?

This list is by no means exhausted! But I hope it is enough to whet your appetite. Why do you think homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids?

To the New Homeschool Moms Wondering, “Can I really pull this off?”

You have stepped out to homeschool your child- timidly, but surely. You’re excited, but scared to death. Will we be able to keep up? Will my kids have friends? What if they are missing something? What if I ruin them?

I recently read a fantastic article put out by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association in which the author listed two crucial attitudes necessary for new homeschoolers to make it.

They need to believe

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

2. “Homeschooling is good for our children.”

These two thoughts were the inspiration behind this post and the one I will publish next.

Here’s why I believe you really CAN pull this off!

You will learn as you go. You will fail. There will even be days when you will completely blow it, but you will learn as you go. Does your daily schedule not seem to be working? You will work it out. Are you having trouble managing both the house and school? You will find a workable routine. (And you just might become more flexible!) Do you stink at math? You will grow in it. You will become better at math AND you will become a better math teacher.

The other day my husband happened to be home for a school day and our 7th grade son asked him to help him with his math problems (fractions). My husband gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look across the room, telepathically asking for my help. It’s not that my husband doesn’t know fractions or that he’s bad at math. It’s not that I’m a math whiz or that math has always come easily to me. The fact is that I have been studying and teaching math every day for the past 10 years since our oldest (now in 10th grade) started Kindergarten. When you work at something everyday, you become better at it. It’s fresh in your mind and you can more clearly break it down in a way for others to understand. As our oldest grew and started some of his higher level math work, I had that same deer-in-the-headlights look at times, BUT we figured it out together step by step. Now I understand how to do it and teach it to the kids who are coming up behind him. You will learn as you go. When I was back in the early years with our kids-with two or three young kids in different math levels, I was always learning with my oldest child. Sometimes we would get to something new and I would begin to think I had reached my limit of what I could help him in with math, but we just slowed down, took it one step at a time and kept going. Stay one step of your oldest child.

You will learn as you go.

It gets easier as your kids get older. This is one thing I really wish someone had told me. The longer you homeschool AND the older your kids get, homeschooling does get easier. Yes, maybe the content becomes more challenging, but managing schedules, finding your style and your kids’ styles, gaining confidence, homeschooling with littles underfoot- all these things become easier.

The longer you are homeschooling, the more readers you have in the house. The more readers you have, the more independent they can be with their work.

In the beginning, everything feels so foreign, especially if you grew up going to school and homeschooling is a brand new concept to you. Choosing a curriculum at the start can be daunting. Becoming familiar with your curriculum also takes time. In the beginning, you may be just starting to establish a community that is a good fit for you and the kids. It’s not always easy finding and making new friends!

Many moms start homeschooling their Kindergartner while also juggling a preschool child and a baby or pregnancy. That is not an easy task for sure! BUT it is doable! And it is foundational work that is necessary in the early years. In any new endeavor, building the foundation is always the hardest and the most crucial part. My first several years of homeschooling were hands-down the hardest for me. BUT now I am reaping the rewards of that hard work and I’m so glad we stuck with it! Of our eight kids, six are school age. We have six readers and five fairly independent learners. I still have a preschooler and toddler, but it is different now than it was when my oldest was starting school. Back then it was a challenge to help the oldest with school work while keeping the baby occupied and the toddler from flushing something down the toilet! Now, my littles tend to follow the older kids. They want to do “school” since that’s what everybody else seems to be doing! They will sometimes sit beside them and draw or pretend they are doing their own work. Often my older kids will take a break and read to the littles. It’s a whole new world when you have older kids!

It WILL get easier as your kids get older!!

Encourage your kids to be self-learners and watch them thrive. When I was fulfilling my student teaching requirements in college, I studied under a cooperating teacher who gave me some excellent advice. She said, “The one who is doing the most work is the one learning.”

Think about that. Are you doing everything for your child? Are you holding their hand all day long as they muscle through their work? Consider pushing them to be self-learners. Give them their own checklist to follow. Make them responsible for all the work that they can do independently.

In our early years of homeschooling, I used a math curriculum that was very hands on and was taught by using manipulative and games. I thought it was a perfect fit for our second son who is a hands on learner. I was surprised, however, at the change I observed in him a few years later when I switched to a more self-directed curriculum. I didn’t want to change math programs because I loved the philosophy behind what we were using, but due to our growing family, I simply could not teach three math lessons to three different kids every day on top of all our other school work and caring for a baby. I was hesitant about the new curriculum, probably because I really felt that they needed someone to teach them a math lesson every day, but switching to a more independent program was really my only option. Given my teaching background, honestly, I was very skeptical about encouraging kids to be self-learners. Don’t they need someone to teach them a lesson every day in each of their subjects? How are they really going to learn it well otherwise? What I observed in my son, though, completely changed my opinion on this. He liked being able to see how much work he had to accomplish each day-as opposed to me teaching a lesson for which he had no idea how long it would take! Since he is the kind of child that only wants to hear what he really needs to know to figure out how do do things (no fluff!), he was able to cut to the chase when I set him free to be responsible for his math lesson. I became more of a facilitator in his learning rather than a lecturer. He came to me for the important things for which he needed help, but many other things he figured out on his own by reading and studying the lesson examples. He was learning HOW to learn himself! What a valuable skill!!

Reading covers a multitude of sins. Ask any experienced homeschool mom for advice and you will hear this across the board. READ. TO. THEM. Read a lot. Read to kids who can already read.

Whatever mistakes you will make your first couple years (and you will make them!), they aren’t terribly crucial if you are reading to them a lot. Reading covers so much ground. It fosters their imagination. And more importantly, it creates in them an insatiable desire to learn more, to read more, to know about things at which they have always wondered. Reading will be your margin for error. It’s okay to make mistakes in homeschooling if you are reading to them a lot.

How much reading? Little snippets throughout the day. Here a little, there a little. For more on this, see my post Teaching a Child to Read and Teaching a Child to Read Part 2.

Find a community. I’ve met them. The people who say they’ve tried homeschooling and it just didn’t work for them. This is what they all have in common. They tried to do it alone. Don’t make this mistake. Don’t think you can pull this off without somebody in your corner. No man is an island. You need to meet other homeschool moms and your kids need to have friendships other kids who are also homeschooled.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a great resource for national listings of homeschool support groups. They have a community section on their website where you can look up organizations by state and more specifically, by county. If you live in my home state of Pennsylvania, CHAP has many resources for homeschoolers including homeschool laws in PA, community groups, and homeschool convention details. If you live in Lancaster County, I highly recommend visiting CHALC which lists all the homeschool co-ops in the county and coordinates a phenomenal county-wide graduation ceremony for homeschool graduates.

Another great way to find community is simply to ask around. Many churches hosts co-ops. Look for groups on Facebook. Asking people helps give you a feel for the best options in your area.

If you have a pioneer spirit, you can also start your own support group! That’s how our co-op started over ten years ago. There were five of us moms with kids about the same ages. We met and talked about homeschooling here and there. We decided to start meeting in each other’s homes every week. It was a wonderful way to start, especially because we were all at the same place and had so many things in common to talk about. Over the years, our group expanded and we now have 35 families and over 150 kids! Our co-op is like family to us. I can say with certainty that I would not have continued homeschooling if it were not for the wonderful friendships and support we found through our co-op.

YOU are the expert on your child. Here’s the biggie. I really believe this is the number 1 reason you can pull this off! No one knows your child like you do. No one has a personal, life-long investment in your child like you have. There is no one who will work harder or search more diligently than you will to find the resources your child needs for their struggles AND their gifts. While I have great respect for the amazing teachers in our schools (being a former teacher myself), the teacher is an expert in his or her field. They may be specialize in teaching a certain age such as primary or middle age kids. Or they may be an expert in a certain subject, like technology, math, history, etc., but YOU are the expert on your child. And the more you homeschool, you become even more adept at understanding the unique person they are becoming.

Imagine the following scenario. Imagine that your child went to school from K-12th grade. Imagine that among many teachers along the way, he had one teacher, chosen because he or she had the utmost ardor and care for your child. Imagine that this person remained his teacher, his advocate, his role model, his champion from Kindergarten through the culmination of his education, his final year. That teacher is you. YOU are the expert on your child.

Let me just say something here to clear the air. I have a teaching degree. I have teaching experience. I cannot tell how many times I have been in conversation with homeschooling skeptics, who, when they hear that I have a background and experience in education, completely change their tune when they hear I have a teaching certificate. They quickly decide that that background and that experience somehow “qualifies” me to homeschool my kids. While I have great respect for teachers, being a former teacher myself and coming from a family of teachers, I personally do not believe that having an education degree or teaching experience makes you a better homeschool parent. Some of the most amazing homeschoolers I have met have had no education background at all! The two basic qualities that I see great homeschool parents have are these: 1. An insatiable desire to learn and 2. a passion for their kids’ success.

Not every parent wants to homeschool. Not every parent is called to homeschooling. But it is my personal belief, that ANY PARENT can homeschool their child well. Given that their motivation is their child’s best interest and given that their drive is to educate themselves at any cost in this attempt, I believe any parent can create a learning environment that thrusts their child to love learning and life.

When I started homeschooling over ten years ago, I felt alone and unsure of myself. I knew that God had called me to this. And I really loved it.. even with the challenges. I just wasn’t sure how it was all going to turn out. I wanted our kids to have the very best. I remember reading this verse one morning and tucking it away because it was so encouraging to me.

Psalm 37:6 “He will make your righteousness shine like a light, your just cause like the noonday sun.”

If you are going to make it this year,

you have to know,

from this experienced homeschool mom who has been where you are….

don’t doubt yourself,

don’t underestimate what God can do through this,

you really CAN pull this off.

Meet Kay

Brandon and Kay Gilanyi live in Willow Street in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Brandon just graduated Seminary over the summer and is currently looking for a job in ministry.  Right now he is working at the family business for Kay’s Dad as General Manager at “Lancaster’s Furniture To Go!!”  Previous to that he held manager positions at Sherwin Williams for 12 years.  Kay is a SAHM, but the couple has also taught Bradley Method Birth Classes for the past 9 1/2 years.  Kay also runs a Homeopathic Consulting Service.  She helps individuals through the use of this alternative system of medicine with everything from the flu, to ear infections to eczema to anxiety.   Her driving force is to make better healthcare available to everyone using natural, effective and affordable Homeopathic remedies.   She discovered and fell in love with this system of medicine more than 10 years ago and has made it her mission to try to spread the word and teach people how to listen to and support their body.  She consults for chronic as well as acute cases as she studies under her Homeopath, who is also a medical doctor. She hopes to pursue an educational degree, but for now her passion for homeopathy and helping people get well drives her hands-on education.  You can learn more about Kay and all her passions at her blog (which she tries very hard to keep up with!) 

Here’s my interview with Kay and Brandon: (Yes, we get to hear from a homeschool dad, yay!) Kay’s real passion in homeschooling is being together in life and giving their kids a childhood. She says, “I see it as my mission to first understand my children, and then help them understand themselves and who God has made them to be, so that they can see how their gifts and abilities fit into a greater plan to serve and love Jesus.  This is our great commission as parents! “

My name is Kay Gilanyi and I am a wife, homeschool mom, and health educator, I guess!  I tend to be a very passionate person and when I am into something I am all in and want to bring everyone along with me!  One of the reasons I hesitated looking into homeschooling at the very beginning was because I knew that once I dipped my foot in, if I felt it was best, I would be throwing myself in with a vigor and conviction that, honestly, I wasn’t sure at that time I had the energy for!  Haha. I have a few big passions, and one of them has become homeschooling my kids as a stay-at-home parent. 

What drew you to homeschooling?

I didn’t always want to homeschool, but I didn’t always want to be a mom of 5 kids either.  God has a way of directing us into things we sometimes wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves and then blessing us with what we never dreamed.  I had a diverse education experience having started in a very small private school in New Jersey, then moving to PA and into the public system for 2 years, and then an abrupt change to homeschool on nothing but my parent’s very strong conviction, their willingness to take on new adventures, and their idealistic picture of home education.  It was not my favorite year.  Then they sent us all off to a very highly academic private school which we were all ill-prepared for!  I finished my high school years back at home and did not think I would ever homeschool any children-should I have them!  But God, when my oldest was 5 years old, stirred in mt heart a realization that I was not quite ready to give him up to another adult and 20 children for the majority of his days.  I couldn’t imagine how much more quickly his little life would go by than it already had, despite the difficulty of caring for him and learning to be a mom, and raising two others at the time, when days seem never to end.  I knew that I just wasn’t ready to make the transition to saying good-bye everyday for all day, and never getting that time back again-ever-until he graduated and then left the home!  It was just not something I was willing to sacrifice.  Instead we decided we would take the next 3 years to figure things out and take it one year at a time.  We’ve never regretted that choice.  

What advice do you have for new homeschoolers, especially those who are homeschooling unexpectedly for the first time this year ?

I think that many parents, though they are facing many difficult challenges this year, have been given a unique opportunity to do the same; take their time to figure things out and get time that they otherwise would not have had with their kids, and use it for relationsip building, life skill learning, and character building, and not stress so much about the academic part.  If you have found yourself in a position you never would have chosen otherwise by being forced to homeschool, I would say this: think about what is most important to you to impart to your children and focus on nurturing that in them this year.  If it is temporary, remember that this is time you will never get back, and think abot how you would like to remember it in years to come.  I’m sure we’d all like to remember time with our children with fondness.  I would challenge you to not give them over to a vitrual teacher, a computer screen, or a system which was not made to be work in your home, and trust that as their parent you can do the best job at teaching them the things that are important, and allow them to become independant thinkers as they teach themselves from good books, and an inquiring mind.  You have basically all the tools you need already, be bold to use them, and ask for help of other seasoned homeschoolers!  

What has been your biggest challenge?

 I’ve faced my own challenges and expect to face many more!  One of my biggest challenges was reconciling my idea of homeschooling with my reality, and learning my children.  As your child’s teacher you really have to be the best student- of THEM.  Realizing that each of my kids learn in a different way, are interested in different things, and communicate uniquely, is not only overwhelming, is also very rewarding, if you embrace it and commit to learning THEM.  It is also very freeing as a homeschooler to be able to give them space to blossom in their own time and not feel as though they are falling behind in comparison to others.  I’ve learned to quiet the doubt in my mind that I am not enough for them, or that I will make mistakes that will set them back, as their parent, I truly want to the best for them, no teacher can compare to a parent’s motivation! 

What other hobbies do you enjoy?

I wouldn’t say that homeschooling consumes all my energy or passion.  I have some other interests outside of my role as a mom and teacher.  My husband and I have taught Bradley Method Birth classes for more than 9 years!  We have a desire to educate parents as they seek to learn more about the very important work of bringing a baby into the world safely, prepared as a team, and well-informed.  It is a great responsibility that we know ourselves, how our Creator has fashioned us, and how we can be a part of his flawless design.  I love educating women on the fascinating, intricate, and perfect design God has blessed them with so that they can be confident and not fearful.  I also love educating and informing people on health matters.  I have used and studied Homeopathy; a system of medicine, not to be confused with a general term for natural medicine, herbs, or supplements.  It is natural, but it is very unique and very effective for all things from mental health and chronic disease, to acute care at home.  I’ve been helping people use it successfully at home for about 10 years, but now I have had the privelege of studying under a doctor to be able to help people with chronic conditions.  I want everyone to be able to have affordable, effective, non-addictive options when it comes to taking care of themselves, and what medicines they put into their bodies, and this is my one small but impactful way that I can make a difference in people’s lives in that regard. 

Book That Inspired Kay to Homeschool

I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris Davis

Read Aloud/Audio Favorite for Ages 3-10

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard,  Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

These books are slow and lovely.  He paints quite a picture and uses lots of play on words which make it more and more interesting to children as they grow and are able to understand it in a new light.  I also loved the vocabulary that it introduced to my kids.   My children have all been delighted with these timeless, non-fantastic stories. 

Henry Huggins Complete Collection by Beverly Cleary

Again, these stories, set in the 1950’s, are classic storylines any child can relate to, and while they are not one big plot, or anything super exciting, they draw you into the simple truths of what it is to be a child.  I enjoy them as much as my kids do!

Adventures in Odyssey Megapack CD Library-75 Episodes on 25 CDs!:  9781589978874 -

All of my kiddos love listening to these stories. The concepts they tackle are sometimes ones that I am glad my kids get to be introduced to though a story that promotes some good discussion. 

Ages 5 and Up

The Little House Books Complete Set: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams: Books
A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of  Home: Cole, Henry, Cole, Henry: 9780061704123: Books

This is a true living book which introduces them to James Audubon in a round-about way. We read this book for school this year and all my kids loved it.  We can’t wait to read others by this author.  

Ages 8 and Up

The Ultimate Harry Potter Book List

Harry Potter (the first 3 are suitable for ages 8 &9, beyond that, they get a little more intense for young kids) My 10 year old devoured these books!  He read through the entire series twice in less than a year.  I had never read the books before I read them to my son, and I am now a HUGE fan.  Like- I cried at the end.  The story is powerful and moving, full of great role models and is full of Christian imagery that will capture you.

Jonathan Park Volume 1: The Adventure Begins: Creation Works LLC:  9781941510087: Books

Jonathan Park is a great Audio series sort of like Adventures in Odyssey but with a focus on Creation Science.  My boys have really enjoyed it.  

Have questions for Kay? You can contact her at You can email her with any questions or also to see if your health concerns can be addressed with homeopathy. Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!

Keeping a Homeschool Portfolio

This video details the steps I use to create a portfolio and three benefits I see in keeping this practice from year to year. .

We all love looking back at old pictures. Kids especially love looking back at the places they have been and what they were doing at a certain age. When I pulled out some portfolios from previous years for pictures for this post, it didn’t take long for my kids to find them and start looking through. They were completely absorbed! They love to remember and see what they have learned in previous years. They are PROUD of their portfolios.

Some states require parents to keep a portfolio. Ours, in fact, is one of them. But I don’t keep a portfolio merely because of the requirement. I keep a portfolio because my kids like it so much.

A portfolio can be put together at any time of the school year. You don’t have to start it at the beginning, but some years I have done that. You can wait until the very end and put it together in a day and it can been just as good. So, just know that a portfolio is something you can start at any time of the year.

I really think the key to keeping a portfolio consistently from year to do is to keep it very basic. Homeschooling is tough. Some years, I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING extra so if putting together a portfolio is going to feel like a major project, I’m OUT! If you like adding pictures and Cricut designs, by all means, indulge yourself! But be aware that you may come to a year where all that just feels like too much. Your child’s portfolio can be unadorned and still be special to them and you.

Our Portfolios

Notebook Cover. I choose 1/2 inch binders with the slip cover in the front and allow our kids to design their own covers. Some of them choose to draw their own and others have designed them on the computer. Encourage them to take their time, use color, and make it beautiful. Sometimes, especially for younger children, I will print in large letters the child’s name and grade level on a blank sheet and have them design around it. Older kids may want to write their own name and grade level in large, colorful letters.

  1. Cover page. This is the first page you see when you open the notebook. It is a one page, typed summary of their school work for the year. This is the only page of the book that actually requires work on my part. I do my best to keep it only one page so it doesn’t seem like too demanding a task from year to year. (The rest of the portfolio is as easy as punching papers with a three whole punch and putting them in the notebook.) Here are some examples of what I might put on the cover page.

-Begin with a short paragraph about your child summarizing their accomplishments and interests for the school year. I like to put specific things that they were interested in for that year. Maybe they learned to crochet or caught their first fish. What is their favorite book at this age? What do they want to be when they grow up?

-Briefly summarize what they learned in the main subjects.

-Field trips. Keep a list of all the places you have visited throughout the year- either with co-ops or on your own. I include state parks and educational places we have stopped at on family vacations.

-Any music lessons, art lessons, clubs, sports they were involved in.

2. Book List. The second page of our portfolio notebook is their book list. I give a clipboard to each of our kids with an empty booklist template for them to complete throughout the year. It has a section for books they read and a section for books read aloud to them either by myself or audio books. Often, when I look at the kids’ portfolios at the end of the year and pull out the booklist, I am pleasantly reminded of books we read at the beginning of the year that I had completely forgotten about.

3. Quality work from major subjects. I usually pick a sample from the beginning and end (2 samples) of the school year for major subjects like math, english, history, science. Labeling them by tabs is a nice touch, but not necessary. You can slowly collect things throughout the year and stick them in your notebook OR you can gather them in one day at the end of the year. I have done both. For other subjects, I only include subjects at which that child has especially shown interest- maybe art, foreign language, or mechanical skill projects, science experiments, etc. It’s also nice to include one or two special writing assignments like a research paper or book report or other writing assignments. In the pockets of the notebook, I might stick bulletins from performances or orchestras they attended, certificates from camps or other events in which they participated.

And that’s it. There’s really not much to it! Other than the kids’ designing the cover of their notebook, I have only three sections in our portfolios-cover page, booklist, and collection of work. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I really believe that keeping it simple is the key to consistently keeping a portfolio from year to year.

This is something you can put together on the last week of school as part of their school work. It can be easily done in a day. It’s a nice way to wrap up the year. It helps them remember all that they have done and gives them pride in their accomplishments.

One other benefit I have seen is that a portfolio is a great way to show grandparents what the kids are learning while they are at home. Do you have family members who question whether or not your child is receiving a quality education? Share their portfolios! The kids will proudly stand beside and tell about all the things in their book. It could help a family member see your homeschool effort in a completely different light.

If you have not before, I encourage you to try keeping a portfolio this year. It is a project your kids will take pride in! And you might find that keeping a portfolio is a huge confidence booster for you as well! When you start doubting yourself and how much you are accomplishing this year, look through last year’s portfolio at all you completed in one year. I think you will surprise yourself with how good it makes you feel.

If you have been keeping a portfolio, I’d love to see pictures and hear how you put yours together!

Five Minute Math Games to do with Everyone

Looking for ideas for Math? Math is a subject that that should be done individually because it is a skill. Since each child will progress at their own level and ability, it is not a subject that is easily taught in a group. There are, however, some math games that I have practiced at the lunch table with all of my kids together from time to time to sharpen their skills. Our kids love this and often compete to get the most correct at their level. Especially as some days can become humdrum and more of the same, I will occasionally throw in games like these and the kids love it, each begging to be next.

Number Sense

Young Children-toddler, preschool, early elementary

  • Count as high as you can.
  • Count backwards from …10, then 20, then 30 and so on.
  • I will say a number and you say the number that comes after.
  • I say a number, you say the number that comes before.
  • I will say a number and you say the number that comes 2 after. (Me: 5, Child: 7)
  • I say a number, you say the number that comes two before.
  • As they progress, you can ask addition and subtraction facts, making it a game.

Elementary Children

  • Teach them to skip count. Starting with 0, what is two more? Then two more after that? Skip count 2’s to 20. They have learned even numbers and multiples of 2.
  • Starting with the youngest who is able to skip count, have them say multiples of a number (skip counting) by level, according to their ability, 2’s to 20, 3’s to 30, 4’s to 40 …up to 9’s to 90.
  • Extension: Say the multiples backwards, starting with the highest number. (ie. 90, 81, 72, 63, etc.)

They may not realize it, but these are all their multiplication and division facts.

Playing a form of Old Maid that helps him learn the combinations that make ten by finding those matches.. 1+9, 2+8,3+7, 4+6, 5+5
Playing that same matching game with a sibling.

Making Change for All Ages

For Young Children

  • Easy: I say a number, you say the missing number that makes 10. (Me: 3, Child: 7) Use all the number combinations that can make ten and see if they can guess them. This is preparing them to be able to make the matching number for 100.

Elementary and Middle Children

  • Progressing: I say a number, you say the other number that makes 100. (Me: 27, Child: 73) We do this one over and over until it becomes automatic. It’s actually a challenge for me as well to be able to think of it before they do!
  • Medium: I say an amount of change. You say the opposite amount that would make a dollar. ( Me: $0.43, Child: $0.57)
  • Hard: I say a dollar and change amount. You say the change if you give a $10 bill. $20?

Middle and High School

You may not know anything about Algebra or quadratic equations, but you can still prepare your child for the kinds of problem solving that they will have to do in Algebra I and II. In preparation for solving quadratic equations (example below), this is an excellent game to help sharpen their factoring skills! It is super easy! It involves basic addition and multiplication skills. Maybe you don’t know the least thing about solving quadratic equations yourself, BUT this simple game will sharpen your kids’ factoring skills -a very helpful skill in solving quadratic equations! It will prepare them for solving them in class.

Factoring quadratics: leading coefficient = 1 (article) | Khan Academy

I begin with a number with several factors, for example, 24. Look at the factors in the number 24 and ask these questions. (They will eventually see the pattern, but do not tell them beforehand that you have picked the number 24!)

Find the Factors of Any Number and Learn Prime Factorization - Maths for  Kids

-What two numbers multiplied together make 24, but added together make 25? (1×24)

-What two numbers multiplied together make 24, but added together make 14? (2×12)

-What two numbers multiplied together make 24, but added together make 11? (3×8)

-What two numbers multiplied together make 24, but added together make 10? (4×6)

Play this game over and over again with numbers that have a handful of factors like 20, 30, 36, 40, 42, 48, 60, 72. This game really sharpens their multiplication and factoring skills and after playing several times, solving quadratic equations will seem easy peasy!

At our house, I keep a handful of games like these in my back pocket and when we need something different in our routine, I will pull them out to mix things up. For example, at lunch, we might go around the table, starting with the youngest child, asking questions according to their level and going around up to the oldest. In our family, they all can’t wait until its their turn again to get a question! They like to be challenged and to show that they can answer in front of other siblings.

If you try any of these games with your kids, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Meet Kathy

Kathy lives in Lancaster County and has started homeschooling all three of her children together for the third year now. Her husband, Steve, is an electrical engineer. She loves to find ways to save money and take unique field trips in the Lancaster County area and share them on her blog and YouTube channel. She is also a local director for Classical Conversations.

Three years ago Kathy pulled her children out of school to try homeschooling. What she discovered in this experiment was that she LOVES learning alongside her kids!! She shares what drew her to the classical model of education and their involvement in Classical Conversations. Kathy and her three children love to visit local attractions! She shares their experiences on her blog, and YouTube channel, Frugal Lancaster.

Hi, I’m Kathy. I’m a wife to Steve, and a mom to Caleb, Kaylee and David. I live in Lancaster County and I started homeschooling three years ago.

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

No. My husband and I both grew up in public school families and we were very adamant that our kids would go to public school as well. We’re not sure when, but at some point before my oldest turned 4 years old, we discovered classical education and fell in love with it. For us, we loved how students would learn world history and Biblical history together. It always confused me in school to think about how Greek gods fit into the Bible, probably because it was always studied separately.

Anyway, we then decided to send our kids to Veritas Academy, a classical school in Lancaster County. I had two other little ones at the time, and since my husband and I didn’t agree completely on homeschooling, we thought this was the best option. Two years later, God brought us both on the same page, and we started homeschooling all three of them at Pre-K, 1st and 3rd grade. 

I think the main reason I wanted to homeschool was so that I could learn with them. Not just seeing them learn (which was cool in itself), but me learning with them. The classical method captivated me and in a sense I felt like I had the opportunity to go back to school again and really get a deeper education. Suddenly topics like history and science were enticing to me and exciting and my love of learning was reignited.

I loved that in homeschooling, I knew exactly what my kids were learning and since I was learning it with them, if we were at a museum or listening to something on the radio, and my kids heard a historical name and connected the dots, I knew what they were talking about because we had studied it together! 

We were also able to see God’s fingerprints all over our days. One time I remember my 4 year old was learning something in math, that then appeared in my 6-year-olds English assignment, and then we heard the same thing in a book we were reading later in the day. My 4-year-old yelled, “Mom, that’s what we talked about in math today!” I can’t tell you how many times God connected our academics like that, which makes learning fun. We’d laugh and say, “God did it again!”

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

Keep it simple! If I have learned anything since I started homeschooling, it has been that schooling your kids is something that takes time. Don’t stress about them accomplishing a certain academic skill at the right age. Just model loving to learn and find ways to capture their wonder and instill a love of learning in them.

Especially for the elementary years at least, which is the stage I am still at. Here are three ways to keep it simple. 

  1. Have them practice reading, writing and math every day. This can literally be as simple as getting a cheap workbook at the Dollar Tree for math and phonics and spelling. It does not need to be fancy. As you talk through things with them in everyday life, they will be learning. For math, they can practice the facts but then as you cook together they’ll learn measurements, and as you leave the house and look at the clock you can slowly teach them time (just take two minutes to show them the hour hand to start), and have them practice handwriting by copying paragraphs from books or Scripture or poems. As they get older, they can copy historical documents like the Constitution!
  2. Read aloud to your kids as often as you can. I heard someone say once, that if you have 10 minutes til you need to leave the house for an appointment or an errand, sit down and read til you have to go. Short increments add up, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you finish books. This has been my absolute favorite part of homeschooling!
  3. Study history and science together, no matter what your kids ages are. If you have more than one kid, it would be ridiculous to do separate curriculums for these subjects with each of them. I have heard of several families who will be studying the United States this year—geography and history. All age kids can study together and it will build unity in your family as you cook recipes from each state, research the state flags and flowers and birds, make crafts, do coloring sheets, reenact battles, memorize the Gettysburg address or whatever your family is interested in! Start with Columbus in 1492 and work your way to modern day current events. And for science you could pick the human body and study that all year—just learning about the parts your kids (or you!) are interested in and wonder about. So many fun crafts and experiments you can do while learning about bones, cells, and human anatomy.

-What is your favorite thing that you do with the kids?

Read aloud. We have had SO MANY good times and memories with read alouds, starting when my kids were very little. When my youngest was 2 and the others were 4 and 6 years old, I started learning about Classical Conversations. One of the mentors in the program mentioned a piece of classical literature, The Princess and the Goblin, and spoke so highly of it, I decided to borrow it from the library and read it with my kids. It was the first non-picture book I read to them, and I was a little skeptical. It wasn’t the easiest book to read because there was a lot of old English, but I had fun with it—reading it every evening before bed. I was amazed at how well even my 2-year-old listened, and now at age 6, he’s the first one to beg me to read a book. Don’t get me wrong, we still read picture books too, but chapter books are always on our to do list too.

I actually hated reading when I was a kid, and in third grade I remember every day at school we were given the choice to either read or write during a quiet time. I always chose to write my own stories, instead of read. I wish I would have loved reading, but I feel like I’m making up for it a little bit now. 🙂

Some of our favorite books have been Charlotte’s web, Stuart Little, The Trumpet Swan, Anne of Green Gables, White Fang (be careful with the age of your kids with this one—I skipped some parts), An Incredible Journey (be sure to watch the movie after you read this book, and then watch Homeward Bound too because that’s the newest production based on the book), Pollyanna, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, The Bronze Bow, The Door in the Wall, all the chronicles of Narnia books, and the Secret Garden.

Last year we also enjoyed Old World Echoes (by classical conversations). Every morning at our morning time we read a short story of a classic ancient piece including portions of Shakespeare, Cinderella, Robin Hood, and many other classical tales from around the world. If there was a movie about the story we then watched it and compared and contrasted the differences. In every case my kids thought the book was WAY BETTER than the movie. Movies leave out too many details, they would say. 

-What has been your biggest challenge? 

My biggest challenge has been comparing myself to other homeschool moms and families. I know this about myself, and so I work hard to guard it, but it is just SO EASY for me to slip into the comparison world and think I’m not doing enough with my kids, or I’m not good enough, or I’m doing things the wrong way. It has been an ongoing process to remind myself that God has made me the perfect mom and teacher for them. By choosing to educate them, I’m just continuing the purpose He has for me in training them and raising them up.

Do you have any favorite hobbies? 

I feel like my main hobby is learning about classical homeschooling, ha! But in all seriousness, a lot of the things I do, and am learning about, are opportunities for my kids to see me loving to learn new things. I love trying new things and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone—usually!

One hobby I picked up on this year more was gardening. The kids and I started seeds inside, and planted some extra garden beds and space around our house because we didn’t know what would be in the few months ahead and we wanted to make sure we had plenty to be generous with! As the year went on we learned how to make a raised bed, transplanted our strawberries, learned how to cut basil and mint at the stem and let the roots grow in water and then transplant it to a pot or the garden. We watched YouTube videos on how to excel at vertical gardening and made our first cattle panel arbor for cucumbers and butternut squash! We also grew potatoes in a container and in a side flower bed. I know that sounds weird, but it is working out really well so far. We’ll be harvesting them soon. 🙂

I also love to play the piano, but it is just for fun. I never really took lessons so I just play around on the keys and I think of it more as exercising my fingers. 

If you count traveling and enjoying the outdoors a hobby, then those are on my list too! My husband and I love to travel with the kids, whether its for longer vacations or short day trips. We’ve been camping quite a bit more too, as we also enjoy kayaking together.

What is your favorite thing that you do together? 

Traveling. It is fun, we see new things and we can point out God’s amazing creativity in nature, as well as His order and structure. Through it all, we learn more about Him. We especially enjoy kayaking, boating, swimming, hiking, camping and finding local hidden secrets, like the 300 year old sycamore tree right in the heart of Lancaster County that we never knew about!

Any interesting projects or experiences?

When I was a kid my parents led tours to Europe, to show people where their ancestors lived and numerous Anabaptist sights. Each year they would take either myself or one of my siblings along with them, and two years ago, we had the opportunity to take our family along with them. Our kids were only 4, 6 and 8 at the time, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous at first when considering the idea of spending 10 days in Europe on a tour bus with 40+ other individuals, but it worked out very well! I would not trade anything in the world for the opportunity to experience what we did through the eyes of children. Such a rewarding experience and I know they will remember it forever too.

Kathy’s Favorite Read Alouds

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery | Audiobook |
E.B. White loved animals, including spiders. Lucky for us: this week in  books -
White Fang - By Jack London (Paperback) : Target
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
Pollyanna (Sterling Unabridged Classics): Porter, Eleanor H., McKowen,  Scott, Pober Ed.D, Arthur: 9781402797187: Books
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch - By Jean Lee Latham (Paperback) : Target
The Bronze Bow - By Elizabeth George Speare (Paperback) : Target

Kathy’s Must-Have Homeschool Products

Farberware Luna 2.5 Qt Tea Kettle, Aqua
AKAGO 3-Tier Rolling Utility Cart Storage Shelf Rack with Wheels and Mesh Baskets

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

Catch 22

If you decide to homeschool, be prepared for people to question everything. you. do. Anytime you step outside of cultural norms, people question you. You will unlikely be able to satisfy their curiosity no matter what you say.

We had a very sweet ninety year old neighbor who could never understand the idea of homeschooling. We developed a close relationship with her. When I would have a new baby, she would have me over for tea and, of course, she wanted to hold the baby! Over the years, we would take her samples of desserts we had made and she would send over her extra bananas that were starting to brown. Every season, she would bring the kids Easter and Halloween candy. She loved our family, but she could never get over the whole homeschooling thing. Occasionally, she would ask me about it and I would try to explain in the best way I could. Each time, she would respond with this puzzled look on her face. I went over it again and again from every angle. Yes, Helen, they have friends. Yes, I report all their work to the local school district. Yes, they are involved in the community. Would you like to buy some Cub Scout popcorn? No matter what I said, she would just look at me with a baffled expression. On one occasion, dear Helen pulled herself up to her full 4’11”, looked me square in the eyes and exclaimed, “When are you going to put those kids in school?!!”

Yes, if you swim against the current, you will find people will question you, no matter how well you and your kids are doing.

Here are some examples.

If you homeschool your kids because you want to pass down your faith to them, you are probably brainwashing them.  

If you follow a more relaxed, interest-led style…. they are probably not getting a “real” education.

If your kids excel at academics, scoring above grade-level in every area on standardized tests, you are too hard on them, trying to produce the perfect child. “Loosen up a little, let them be kids!”

If your teenagers aren’t wearing a certain name brand and giving you attitude, they are sheltered and unsocialized. On the other hand, if they have a great group of friends, people assume they must all be in the same sheltered bubble.

And finally, if they look “normal” and all your ducks are in a row, you are too perfect. Only a supermom could do that!

In some ways, you really can’t win!

Here are questions you will get as a mom. 

If you LOVE that you get to spend so much time investing in your kids,

… don’t you want to do something for yourself, though?

(If you teach other people’s kids, that is a career, but if you teach your own, its . . . what?!) 

When you are overwhelmed, exhausted, and your kids are driving you crazy,

… why are you doing this to yourself?!

When homeschooling feels tough,

. . . you know, you could just put them in school!

I say, it’s tough for a reason, and I’m good at what I do. I am proud of what we learn here in our home, more than anything I did in the classroom as a public school teacher. Homeschool moms can take pride in their work because its done with the gut-wrenching, self-sacrificing love that only a mother understands.

On the other hand, if your kids are happy and well-adjusted and everything is going well,

…well, what are you going to do with them in high school? How long are you going to do this to them?!

Maybe you have read the popular meme that says homeschooled kids are asked questions that adults could only answer with their smart phones. This is absolutely true. People will randomly ask your kids their multiplication facts, history trivia, how to spell random words. If you haven’t experienced this yet, just wait, it’s coming! Really!

They want to know if your kids are smart. And if they ARE smart, well then do they have friends?  These two questions are pretty much circular. 

If you’ve stepped out and decided to homeschool your kids, you are going to get all kinds of responses from people. These are ALL questions that people have asked me. And, if they haven’t already, they will ask you too! Just so you’re prepared for it. 😉

Meet Emily

Meet my friend Emily! Emily lives in Landisville, Pennsylvania with her husband, Travis and their four children: Hollyn (14), Iyrie (12), Liam (10), and Selah (8). They have been homeschooling for 10 ten years and are actively involved with the leadership team at the In the Light Ministries in Lancaster City. When they aren’t busy renovating their 200 ear old house, they enjoy kayaking, hiking, and working on their “homestead”.

Emily views homeschooling as an opportunity to inspire kids to a love of learning that follows them through life. She sees herself as more of a consultant in their learning process rather than a teacher. She shares how homeschooling has changed for them from the elementary years to high school years.

Hi! My name is Emily. Enjoy a little sneak peak into our family!

What attracted you to homeschooling?

A few things-

1.  I have a degree in Elem Ed and taught second grade, so having someone else teaching my children to read felt weird…

2.  I taught in the public school system so I had first hand knowledge of what the environment was like- I wasn’t quite ready to “throw my babies to the wolves” so to speak…  We felt it was very important to help them develop a solid Biblical Worldview first. 

3.  I wanted the freedom and flexibility not to be tied down to anyone else’s schedule or demands.

Having said all that-  I STAY homeschooling because I’ve seen the benefits to my children-  emotionally, spiritually, socially, and educationally.  What started as maybe a bit of a “control issue” on my part has really developed into a way of life for us.

What does homeschooling look like in your home?

We typically set up at the dining room table, but “school” happens all over our house and property… My kids work independently on math, writing, language arts, and Latin/ Spanish, but we have always done history and science together…

How has it changed from the younger years to high school? 

Definitely a greater shift toward independence. My middle school and high school kids fill out their own weekly planners and now take most of their classes at a co-op 1-2 days a week.  I view myself more as a consultant or coach and less of a teacher for them.

What kinds of “school” happens outside your home and what does that look like? 

Aside from co-op, we spend a lot of time working on our house and in our yard  (we are renovating and have a garden and animals etc).  When we have free time, we enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, skiing etc. The kids have played some sports and take music lessons.  They also spend a lot of time with their grandparents and other family members. The older kids are involved in our youth group and we are active in our church community.


With all that is happening in our country with COVID, do you have any advice for people who are pulling kids out for the year?

Just do what you can.  Don’t compare yourself to those of us who have been homeschooling forever and are passionate about it (and we constantly need to remind ourselves not to compare ourselves to each other).  Take it one day at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Above all, try to have fun and enjoy this time with your kids… think of things you can teach them like cooking, or woodworking or some other skill you have that they may not have had the time to learn otherwise… Kids are resilient- it’s not the end of the world if you struggle in one or two areas-  if you walk through it gracefully together, they will remember your love and willingness to try.  The biggest thing you can teach your kids is HOW to learn-  you can never possibly teach them all there is to know about anything, but if they know how to find it when they need it, they will be set for life.

What’s your favorite thing that you do?

Reading science and history together. I love learning with my kids and I greatly value the dinner table discussions we can have since we are all studying the same thing.

What’s your biggest challenge? 

Keeping all the wheels turning- keeping everyone on task and working diligently… it seems like no one needs me one minute, and everyone needs me the next… Closely related to that is helping my kids to stay focused and not get distracted… I have one child in particular that needs a quiet environment, and our house is not usually very quiet!!

Is there anything unique to your family that you’d like to talk about? 

We tend to be late night folks- so my kids sleep in and our day is shifted a bit compared to many others…  our homeschool day is usually 9-2 or 10- 3ish (with lots of breaks in between) sometimes we don’t even eat lunch until 2pm… but that’s okay! I love the flexibility to do school on a schedule that works for us…Also, we’ve moved 3 times and renovated 3 houses in 4 years… I have no idea how we would have done that if we didn’t homeschool- I don’t think we would have… I’m glad that my kids have had those experiences and we were able to count a lot of it as “school”.

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

Teaching a Child to Read Part 2: Reading Practice

If you read my last post, I wrote about the two necessary habits that must happen every day with your child for them to become a successful reader.

  1. You should read to your child- A LOT.
  2. Your child should practice reading 15 minutes a day.

In my last post, I elaborated on the first point explaining what types of books you should be reading to kids and how to use them. In this post, I will focus on the second part of learning to read: reading practice.

Practicing Reading

A child who is beginning to read for the very first time should spend at least 15 minutes a day practicing reading. Fifteen minutes is enough time to challenge him, but not exhaust him. This time period should slowly increases as he improves in reading skill.

I have chosen a plain, inexpensive approach to teaching my kids to read. I haven’t spent a lot of money. I did not research the top-rated reading curriculum. It would be easy to find a flashier, more trendy reading curriculum. Instead I picked something simple, but I assure you it has worked very well for all of them!

Be aware:

You don’t have to find the BEST reading curriculum out there!

You can use a very simple, plain reading curriculum. It doesn’t matter so much what you choose. It matters that you start and consistently progress every day.

You can just pick something and start. In fact, that’s what I suggest.

Here are the steps I have used to teach our kids to read.

  1. Don’t start until they are ready!! If you are already reading to your child A LOT, they are going to naturally acquire a pleasure for a good story. When they are alone at play, you might see them with an open book pretending to read. They might start asking about letters or pointing to words and asking about them. They may try drawing letters. Any of these things are signs that your child is ready to read.
  2. Letter sounds. Start by teaching your child the names and sounds of each letter of the alphabet. You can use flash cards. We use some Leap Frog flash cards that were given to us. Flash cards are one of my favorite tools for teaching letter recognition because the kids like the competition of seeing how many they can recognize. You can use Alphabet books. Dr. Seuss’s ABC Book is a book we have used to teach letters. Also, is a website that kids love for learning letters and their sounds. The important thing is that they are seeing capital and small letters together to be able to recognize the difference between both.
  3. Putting sounds together. I like to start with a white board and an exercise like this. Write an easy three letter word and change out the first letter by erasing it and writing a new one in to see if they can read it as you change the beginning letter. Point to each letter and say the sound, then slide from left to right as you slur the sounds together to make a word.






When they can read the word every time you replace the first letter with a new one, try making a list of about ten _AT words and having them read a list.

After _AT, you can experiment with other endings, especially introducing words with other vowel sounds in them: _EN, _IN, _OG, _UT

4. Begin your reading curriculum. For our Reading Curriculum, we have chosen Bob Books. Bob Books are a five box set with each box containing 8-10 beginning reader books. Our reading curriculum is two-fold in this order.

-Phonics practice (5 minutes). I created our own phonics practice book to go along with our Bob Books. I made it over time by adding a few words daily as we came to them. It was effortless. Every day that we started a new Bob book, I looked ahead at any new sight words or new sounds in that book and wrote them down in a notebook, adding to it as we moved along to each new book. I did this to introduce the new sounds and words before we read them and to review them after we read them. I wrote first, a running list of sight words and second, lists of sounds with 2-3 sample words below them.

-Reading 1-2 Bob books (10 minutes). Though introduction and review of phonics is important, more time should be spent actually reading the books. Reading real books is the fun part they have been waiting for!

Complete Set

Samples of the phonics practice book.

Consistent work in this fifteen minutes a day practice will produce results. Again, do not neglect the very important step from my last post- reading to them A LOT. If you have a child who is struggling with reading, my question would be: how much are they being read to throughout the day? Try scaling waaaay back on the reading practice and upping your read aloud time. If you are reading to them and practicing reading every day, your child will gain confidence and progress with time.

5. Move from reading beginning readers to picture books and eventually, chapter books. When we finish our 5 Bob Books boxes, our budding reader is ready for reading real books. Here are some books I have given to our kids to help them move from picture books to chapter books. You see, picture books are very concrete for a child. They have fewer words and more pictures. Chapter books, because they have more words and fewer pictures, challenge a child because they require him to use his imagination.

The Frog and Toad Collection Box Set: Includes 3 Favorite Frog and Toad  Stories! by Arnold Lobel, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Little Bear (I Can Read Book Series: A Level 1 Book) by Else Holmelund  Minarik, Maurice Sendak |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Amelia Bedelia I Can Read Box Set #1 : Peggy Parish : 9780062443564

Have more questions about teaching a child to read? Id’ love to hear them!

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