Teaching a Child To Read

Though it really shouldn’t be, one of the most intimidating endeavors to a new homeschooler is teaching a child to read. You have already taught your child to do a host of other important skills as a parent: sleeping through the night, potty-training, talking. Reading is the next step. Parents get frustrated teaching their child to read when they feel pressured into thinking that reading should happen by a certain age or at a certain pace.

Here are some practical ways I have taught our kids to read. Though it is not comprehensive, the information in this post comes from my experience teaching in school and teaching our kids how to read.

These are simple principles for anybody to use. This is by no means a comprehensive description, but I hope it is enough to help someone get started. Teaching a child to read does not have to be difficult. It is slow work. It takes effort. The progression happens over a period of time, if you can be patient for it, but it is not difficult. And if you can relax with your child, it might just be enjoyable!

There are two things that need to happen every day for your child to become a fluent reader. One requires a lot of time. The other should be 15 minutes a day depending on the age of the child.

Here’s the first. 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.

The second. The child should practice reading 15 minutes a day. As they increase in level, the time also increases, but at the very beginning, 15 minutes of phonics/reading skills should happen daily.

Read to Your Child

When you begin teaching a child to read, you should make it your first priority every day to read to them often. This should not be in large chunks since that would overwhelm a young child. Read to him frequently in small chunks throughout the day. Imagine that as your child is learning to sound out words, he is drawing from the bank. He comes to a new word and as he is putting the sounds together, he is looking through the register to see which word is the closest match. He will be familiar with how to pronounce words, how they fit in the context of a sentence, etc. because he has heard them used many times before. The amount of exposure a child has had to the written word directly reflects the amount of words in his bank. The more words in his bank, the quicker he is to find a match and continue to progress in reading.

What should be read to a child?

With the exception of nursery rhymes for the youngest ages, all children can benefit from each of these types of books being read aloud to them. Even older children can appreciate quality picture books like those I have suggested.

Nursery rhymes. (young children) Why do children love nursery rhymes and simple songs? Because when you can’t read something, your mind is looking for some form of stimulation. Repeating the same sounds and rhythms is your reading. They are building a repertoire. What happens when a child hears nursery rhymes every day? They will repeat them throughout the day. Actually, when you teach a child nursery rhymes, you will hear, “Again! Do another one!” Children love to hear the same phrases over and over so that they can remember them and do them on their own. Many nursery rhymes have been put to song. If you can sing some of them and add motions, your preschooler will relish this time with you. You will be folding laundry and hearing them in the next room saying, “this little piggy went wee wee wee aaaaaall the way home!” with delight.

Picture books. Rather than a large collection of random books, I suggest a small library of 30-40 carefully chosen books. Set aside the cartoon character, “candy” books that do little to engage the imagination. Those are fine for fun, but a small collection of beautiful, timeless classics read to them by a loving parent, will draw them in AND fascinate them. When a child hears these stories read over and over again, they will become his friends. When the three year old lays down for nap or quiet time, he might be found looking through the book reading it to himself. You might overhear a fine rendition of “The Three Little Pigs”. He is not actually reading, of course, but he has heard the story frequently enough that now he can retell it in his own words as the pictures cue him and he feels like he is reading. This will fuel his desire to read more books on his own.

A Few Favorite Picture Books From Our Collection

Make Way for Ducklings: McCloskey, Robert, McCloskey, Robert ...
Christina Katerina and the Box: Patricia Lee Gauch: 9781590789155 ...
The Little Engine That Could: The Complete, Original Edition by ...
Roxaboxen: McLerran, Alice, Cooney, Barbara: 9780060526337: Amazon ...
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel: Burton, Virginia Lee ...
The Tale Of Peter Rabbit - (Potter) By Beatrix Potter (Board_book ...
We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Rosen, Michael, Oxenbury, Helen ...

Chapter books. Even if a child can read, he will benefit hugely from having someone read to them. You are adding to his bank. The more you read to him, the more he understands words. Additionally, reading aloud to a child creates a culture of shared experiences. When you read aloud to a child every day, you experience things unique to just you and your child. When a child begins reading chapter books, he moves from learning to read to reading to learn. The world is opening up to him!

A Few Favorite Chapter Books from Our Collection

Charlotte's Web: White, E. B, Williams, Garth: 9780061124952: Amazon.com:  Books
The Saturdays (Melendy Quartet Book 1) - Kindle edition by Enright,  Elizabeth, Enright, Elizabeth. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
The Adventures of Pinocchio - Walmart.com - Walmart.com
The Little White Horse - By Elizabeth Goudge (Paperback) : Target
My Side Of The Mountain - By Jean Craighead George (Hardcover) : Target
Mr. Popper's Penguins: Atwater, Richard, Atwater, Florence: 9780316058438:  Amazon.com: Books
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga Book 1)  eBook: Peterson, Andrew: Kindle Store - Amazon.com

Audio books. I highly recommend using audio books for bedtime. It gives them something to look forward to at bedtime. Most importantly, they are less likely to be distracted which often happens when they listen to audio books during the day.

Memory Work– Memorize something every day. Memorizing is a form of reading. It helps cement words and their meanings (and their spelling!) into their minds. Memorizing for school age kids is what nursery rhymes are to preschoolers. It is building a repertoire. Here are some memory suggestions: a poem, Scripture, part of a historical document or speech, Our kids are usually working on memorizing one chunk of Scripture and one poem. We don’t sit and read lines over and over or “try” to memorize. We only read the poem or the Scripture one time a day (usually in the morning) for a month or two. After a period of time, they usually have it memorized. Remember saying the pledge of allegiance in school? You never tried to memorize it. You just said it once every day.

Since it is helpful to see practical examples, here is a sample of how reading often happens in our home on an average day.

Breakfast– nursery rhymes (preschool children only) ,memory work , Bible story

After lunch-( for napping children) 2-3 picture books

(for non nappers) 20 minutes quiet personal reading, Mom reads aloud a chapter book, any other school-related reading

Dinner– Family reads a chapter of Scripture round-robin style

Bedtime Routine– Both of our extended families have a rich history of singing old hymns. Because we want to transfer this to our kids, we sing one hymn a night. Another reading opportunity.

Bedtime– everyone listens to audio books in bed

If I were to guess, this is an average of two hours a day that some form of reading or reading aloud is happening. And this does not include the times that they pick up a book just for fun!

15 Minutes Reading Practice

The second thing that should happen daily with your child is reading practice. A beginning reader should practice reading for fifteen minutes daily. Obviously, as a child progresses in their reading ability, the amount of time spent practicing reading or reading on their own naturally increases. Daily reading practice should include short review of phonics concepts (letter sounds, putting letters together, phonics rules) with a greater time spent on the actual reading. When a child has been read to A LOT, they will grow a love for stories and knowledge. At some point they will want the power to be able to do it themselves. They want the tool that gives everyone around them access to knowledge! Remember when your child was a baby and they reached a point in their development when they insisted on feeding themselves? That’s what happens when a child is ready to read.

If you are frustrated with your child’s struggle with reading, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Does your child want to read? If not, don’t push!!! Scale waaaaay back on reading practice and vamp up your read aloud time with them. It will come. You can still require them to practice reading daily if you feel they need it. Fifteen minutes of something painful never hurt anybody. Fifteen minutes is short enough for a child to do continue to progress, but not be frustrated.
  • Do you have expectations that your child should be reading by a certain age or grade? The point of reading practice is PROGRESSION. Ignore what everyone else says or makes you feel. Ask yourself, “Is my child progressing?” If they are progressing, they will be fine! Do not make the mistake of putting expectations on a child that will only discourage them! We live in a literate society. To do almost everything, you have to be able to read. The drive to want to read will become innate because of our environment. Reading to them adds even more fuel to this fire. If a child is discouraged, however, the distaste for reading may always be an underlying stigma. You want them to LOVE reading because that will fuel them for life.

Don’t look at their present reading level as the barometer for their future reading success. Gauge their reading success by how much they love hearing a good story or book read to them. That will be the force driving their reading mastery!

The rewards for teaching a child to read are huge. When you teach a child to read, you have given him perhaps the most useful tool that he will use for the rest of his life! You have opened up a world of knowledge and possibilities for him. I encourage you to relish teaching your child to read. You will be richly rewarded!

For more information on how I teach 15 minutes of daily reading practice with beginning readers, look for more in my next post!

Meet Robin

Meet my friend, Robin! Jeff and Robin live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Jeff is a self-employed contractor. Robin stays home with their kids and manages the bookkeeping for their business. They have four kids and have been homeschooling for ten years.

Robin was one of the first friends I met when I started homeschooling. Join us as she talks about her journey from teaching in a classroom to teaching in a home. She explains beautifully how her philosophy of education affects the choices they have made in the work of homeschooling their children.

Hi, my name is Robin Troyer and I have been married to Jeff for 22 years. We have 4 beautiful children and have been homeschooling for at least 10 years now.

What drew us to homeschooling?
I was very much influenced by my sister’s journey with home schooling. She started about 5 years ahead of me, and since both of us were previous school teachers we naturally had many conversations on the topic. The Lord also brought an older woman into my life who had home schooled all her children through high school and introduced me to Charlotte Mason and her philosophy. Learning about CM’s philosophy of education resonated so deeply with me, it did not take long for me (and my husband) to see the beauty and possibilities with home education.

What advice would you give to parents who are temporarily homeschooling this year due to schools closing?

~ Be aware of the temptation to compare yourself to other moms/families.

We can all struggle with this at times. You know your children the best, and you are the best one to make these decisions for them and the one that loves them most. G.K. Chesterton said, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”. I believe Chesterton to mean that we do not need to have things perfect to do something meaningful.

For example; gardening is a worthwhile pursuit, and at the moment, my garden is full of weeds, so I may think I’m doing “badly” at gardening, but it is worth the effort and I should persevere in it. As I grow in gardening, it may not be so full of weeds as it is now. The same is true with home schooling. I still struggle with, at times, this comparison trap, and think others are doing school better than I am. But as I continue to grow and learn, I need to remember that this is still a worthwhile endeavor and to persevere in it.

~ Every family is unique.

We may use the same curriculum, but in the end, how we implement it, or stress parts of it, will inevitably look different from one another. Do what is best for your family. Trust your judgement, and stick with it. Some of the “words” I keep before me each year: persevere, be diligent, be faithful.

~ Remember who YOU are and who your CHILDREN are.

Every mom has different strengths and weaknesses, as well as every child. Know your capacity; it will look different than other moms. Know your strengths and use them this year. Know your weaknesses and seek others to help you or encourage you. It helps me to write these things down, especially those of my children. This can help direct you with what you really need to focus in on, especially if you are homeschooling for just this year.

~ Keep things simple.

~ Read aloud to your children as much as you can. ALL ages. You will never regret it.

~ Take nature walks with your children…. especially on really nice days. Do not be afraid to be spontaneous.

~ Try to find community if you can. It will encourage you and your children in these trying times.

What does school look like in your home?

It depends on the season. Each year is a little different depending on what is happening in life, or the needs of my children. Currently, our days look a little like the following:

8:30—Math & Latin
10:00—Morning Time/Family Time
Afternoon—independent studies (Language Arts, History, Science)

How do you teach multiple ages?

This has always felt difficult for me especially after having experience with teaching in a classroom. I was so used to one age group at a time, one subject, and prep periods to do my planning. It has taken me many years to learn the ways of the “one-room schoolhouse”. Ha!

Early on I did as many subjects as we could as a family; I called this Family Time (before I knew of the concept of Morning Time) Those subjects were: Bible, History, Science, Art appreciation, Music appreciation, etc. The subjects that were done independently (or one on one with me) were: Language Arts/Phonics, Math, and Latin.

When the children were little, and still taking naps, I would usually do the independent studies with whoever was not taking a nap. As the children grew older, my older ones could do those subjects more and more without my help as I worked with my younger ones.

It is something that I am still learning to juggle. It is difficult. I am finding that even though I will have a high schooler this year, there are still challenges to work around. I would like to give her the Socratic discussion time she needs, but my youngest is only in 3rd grade and will still need me quite a bit. It may be one of my greatest challenges, but it is SO worth it, even if it is “done badly” on some days.

How do you start a new year?

I have tried over the years to make the first day of school special. I learned this from my wonderful sister. So, if I am able, we have a nice homemade breakfast or something fun like donuts. I usually try to give the kids little gifts: new pencils, a new “fun” book, erasers, candy, or a “brain” toy/activity. We fill out an “All About Me” paper after breakfast where the kids record fun things about themselves for that year: grade, age, favorite food, favorite activity, hobbies, etc. This is always fun to see how the children are changing and growing over the years. Then we usually take “school” pictures. Sometimes, we will then meet up with another family and go for a nature walk and have lunch outside. We also take time to set up their notebooks Charlotte Mason style.
There have been years, though, when we just have to “jump” in due to what is happening in that season of life. We usually find our way and rhythms for the new year as we tread water during those times.

What is your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is probably teaching the multiple ages as I mentioned above and maintaining the proper balance between school and home. I also do the bookkeeping for my husband’s business, so I am usually feeling “behind” in most areas. Despite this, I know it is worth the challenges, and I know that I can lean into my Lord as He provides the grace and strength, I need each day. I have seen over and over the truth that “When I am weak, He is strong”, and that He will carry me and my children through this amazing journey of home education. Each new day affords new opportunities to trust Him. He loves my children more than I do and has a perfect plan for their lives. I know that I can depend on and trust Him in this.

Describe your philosophy of education and how that plays out in your home.

My philosophy of education has been greatly influenced and shaped by Charlotte Mason. There is so much to absorb and contemplate in her writings and methods, that I believe it will give me food for thought for a lifetime!

I love Charlotte Mason’s three instruments of education: “atmosphere of environment, discipline of habit, presentation of living ideas. In short, Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” (For the Children’s Sake, MacCauley)

Education is an atmosphere: In the busyness of life, schooling, and running our own business, these three instruments of education have helped to direct my plans each new school year. I believe atmosphere encompasses a few areas: mood of the home, ideas and communication, activity, and décor/design of the home. In considering education is an atmosphere: Am I creating a comfortable learning environment for my children? A place where they can explore and discuss ideas freely? Are they surrounded by beautiful things; a feast for their eyes, and food for thought? Is there a sense of peace in our home? Some practical things I do to continue to grow as a homemaker and educator: we frequently bring nature into our home; cut flowers, branches, and greenery, as well as “nature” finds and place them all throughout our home. I tend to weave the beauty of nature naturally into my home décor. I also display prints of great artists throughout our home as well. I do not buy “kid furniture”, but instead focus on antiques, solid wood, and comfortable fabrics for our furniture. Each room of our home houses books, elements of nature, and even some type of “educational” instrument. Currently, our telescope is part of our dining room, and our globe and world map adorn our living room. When we can afford it, I also try to purchase well-made toys/manipulatives. I keep these in baskets within quick reach (and easy clean-up) for active minds and hands. I keep candles on hand for family meals, and those dark evenings in winter; and my husband loves to add ambient lighting throughout our house (light dimmers, string lights for the porch, solar lights for the garden etc. The lighting of a home really adds a comfortable and cozy element to any space.

But atmosphere is not just how our home looks. We must also consider the ideas and communication in our homes. Is our home a place where we share ideas and encourage critical thinking? Is it a place where we can come together in forgiveness and grace when one has been offended or sinned against? I am grateful that we are still in a season of life where we can have family meals most evenings of the week. This may be harder to do as our children grow older, but it has become a priority that I hope we will strive to keep. Meals are some of the best times for this “exchange of ideas” and participating in the “great conversation”. It is also a place where children should feel welcomed to share, learning how to speak well, and participate in discussion. Every now and then, a candlelight dinner just for the sake of it, adds an element of beauty and the beckoning call to linger just a bit longer together. One last practical way we work on the atmosphere of our home is asking the Lord to help each of us learn to “breath grace” to one another. This phrase was adopted from a sermon by Ken Sande, and has been transformational in our interactions with one another. My prayer is that our home is a peaceful home, full of grace and comfort, a haven for anyone in need.

Education is a discipline. Charlotte Mason was a strong believer and advocate for habit formation. I agree with her that it is in the earliest years of a child’s life that the formation of habits is essential. These habits range from every aspect of life. A few examples: consideration, truthfulness, obedience, attention, hygiene, etc. Some ways I incorporate discipline into our daily lives: reading books (picture books/chapter books) regularly for demonstrating character, working on manners in various life situations: meal times, when company comes over, community interactions, etc. At times I have picked a “habit” and we have focused on it for about 8 weeks, reading and discussing its importance as well as practicing it. At the beginning of each school year, I try to meet with each of my children individually and we discuss goals for the school year. I encourage them towards thinking about areas in their lives they want to see improvement. We pick a couple to work on and come up with ways they can grow in those areas.

Education is a life. “…the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.” (CM, Home Education) Our morning time/family time part of our day is a direct outflow of this instrument of education. It is during this time of our day that I endeavor to lay a feast before my children to nourish not only their minds, but hearts as well. Picture study, composer study, listening to classical music, learning a new hymn, reading the scriptures, nature note booking, poetry reading/memorization, reading aloud classic literature, are some examples of what might be a part of our morning time. I strongly believe that our children’s education is not just a six hour a day endeavor and then we shut the books and live our lives. Education is all encompassing. We are seeking to teach and train and instill a love of learning so that it lasts a lifetime. I desire that the end result of my time with them in our home is that when they leave these walls, they take a notebook with them to capture the Glory they will see and encounter, to continue to grow in their appreciation of all things beautiful and worthy, and feed their minds on honorable and trustworthy, living books and ideas.

The question is not, -how much does the youth know? When he has finished his education—but how much does he care? And about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set?
And therefore, how full is the life he has before him?
” (CM)

This is what we strive for, and on those tough days, it is helpful to step back and remember the vision and press on.

Robin’s Favorite Resources


For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School:  Macaulay, Susan Schaeffer: 9781433506956: Amazon.com: Books

For the Children’s Sake

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

The Living Page

Amazon.com: The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home  (Third Edition) eBook: Bauer, Susan Wise, Wise, Jessie: Kindle Store

The Well-Trained Mind


The Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos (1983-08-29): Amazon.com: Books

The Child’s Story Bible

History Lives Box Set: Chronicles of the Church: Withrow, Mindy, Withrow,  Mindy: 9781845508142: Amazon.com: Books

History Lives Series: Chronicles of the Church

Parables From Nature.

Parables From Nature


The Story of the World, 4 Volume Set: Susan Wise Bauer - Christianbook.com

Story of the World

Heirloom Audio Adventure {A Review} — The Better Mom

Heirloom Audio Productions: G.A. Henty audio adventures

K-3rd Studies - Beautiful Feet Books

Beautiful Feet Books literature packs

Language Arts:
Cottage Press

Singapore Math

Latin for Children & Latin Alive!


Handbook of Nature Study, Comstock, Anna Botsford - Amazon.com

Handbook of Nature Study

The Julia Rothman Collection: Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, and Food Anatomy  by Julia Rothman, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Food Anatomy, Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy Collection

Amazon.com: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (9780847858903): Holden,  Edith: Books

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

Picture Study Portfolios (Simplycharlottemason.com)

Family Literature Favorites:

Ralph Moody Series - $99.95 - Beautiful Feet Books

Little Britches Series

The Lord of the Rings Series by J.R.R. Tolkien - JESS JUST READS

Lord of the Rings Series

Narnia Series | Chronicles of narnia, Chronicles of narnia books, Narnia

, Chronicles of Narnia

The Little House Books Complete Set: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams:  Amazon.com: Books

Little House on thePrairie series

The Green Ember series | The Green Ember Wiki | Fandom

The Green Ember Series

The Little White Horse - By Elizabeth Goudge (Paperback) : Target

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Edith Nesbit books, any and all fairy
tales, and so much more!

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

Starting Your School Year Simply

If the start of a new school year finds you stressing over all you have to do, it shouldn’t. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some suggestions to help you start your year with peace.

Plan less. You can always add more later.

Have a basic plan, but you don’t have to have it all mapped out. Don’t feel like you have to have every detail planned to start your year. If you have a basic routine for your day and books for the main subjects -Reading, Writing, and Math- you can start with just that. I think the tendency for most homeschool moms is to plan way too much. We have our own ideas, we see Pinterest projects, we look through curriculum catalogs and websites and it all just looks SO GOOD! We are afraid of our kids missing something, so we overplan. What happens, though, as we make our way through the year, is that we start to feel overwhelmed. That overwhelming feeling is from DOING WAY TOO MUCH.

If you have special first day of school plans as some people like to do, great! Make the most of it! BUT you don’t HAVE to have something special for the first day. You can just start. Our family has a tradition of opening new chapter books on the first day of school and taking pictures. It’s always been something fun for all of us, however, because of COVID and items back-ordered, we won’t have that this year. But it is OK! Our first day will look very simple. We’ll probably take pictures, get back into our familiar school routines, start slowly with a few subjects, enjoy a good afternoon reading, and call it a day. I know that as we get going, we will pick up the pace, but I don’t have to have that all figured out from the start. It can be as simple as opening your books again. Many years, I spent so much time trying to map out the perfect schedule and fit in every ounce of the exciting ideas I want to try with them, only to realize as the days played out that my plan wasn’t workable. One thing I thought would take 15 minutes, took 45 minutes instead… and so on. You really have to see how the day plays out to know what is going to work best for your child and for you. You will probably need to re-adjust things as you go anyway.

As I share with you, I remind myself, KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Leave space in your day for the things that have to happen in a home.

This is not a school. This is a home. Remember that in a home, home things happen. Meals have to be made, dishes need to be washed, laundry run. Little ones want snuggles at nap time. There may be errands or interruptions. These may seem to be taking away from your school time, but I think core life skills are developed in these moments. A home is a place that is always moving, always living. That’s the beauty of home- the life happening in it. When it takes time in our day to prepare a meal, complete morning chores, water the garden, read to a younger sibling, take the mail to an elderly neighbor, the kids are not missing school time. No, they are learning very practical, life-long skills!

Remember that for little ones, learning the habit of a morning routine (dress, make bed, brush teeth) takes time! It can take weeks, months. (For some kids it takes years, ha!) Take the time to help them do it well. It will pay off as they grow!

With older kids, practicing life skills develops in them an awareness of the work it takes to keep a place running. If older kids are home to watch familiar meals made time and again, they might surprise you and ask if they can try it on their own. When they are part of the regular work of a home, they learn skills they will use for life!

Don’t feel like you have to manage all the house work and the kids school work yourself! Involve them in the work! Have them help as they are capable with meal clean up and other household tasks. If you are checking a child’s work and hear the washer timer, it’s ok to ask that child to switch the laundry while you finish correcting his work. Have the attitude that says, “We all work together to keep the house running!” If the family is tidying up and someone finishes early, it’s ok to give them more work if you are all working as a team to pick up the house. Work together. Then rest and learn and play together.

Have a routine, not a schedule.

If you are writing out a schedule with times on it, for example, what you will be doing from 9:00-9:30, etc., you are likely to be disappointed and frustrated. With kids at home, unexpected things happen. The baby has a blow out in the middle of math. The toddler refuses to nap. The dog gets out of the fence and you have to load everyone in the car and drive around the neighborhood to get him back. Your child has a rotten attitude and you have to deal with a discipline issue. You were up all night with a baby and you got a late start. These have all happened to me at some time or another-with plenty more examples I could throw in for good measure! Instead of a schedule, try making a list what you want to do for each day. Our kids each have their own checklist so it is visible for them as well as for me. They start with the first subject and move on as they finish their work. This is motivating to them to see what they will be doing now and what is coming next.

Focus on building character and having conversations.

This is one area that tends to get pushed to the side, but if given appropriate focus, it will pay dividends in your year. Are your kids squabbling? Does your child challenge you at every turn? Do you hear constant whining that wears you down? Do you feel yourself wearing down with the negative atmosphere in your home? Maybe it is time to pause and focus on character issues. How much learning can happen anyway when you are angry?

We have hit phases in homeschooling where the kids all seem to go haywire. Nobody is listening. Everybody has a sour attitude, including me! The kids are all fighting and driving me nuts. These were times when we all needed an attitude adjustment!! When you stop and address the heart issues behind the behavior, this is a good interruption in your day. It may be discouraging initially that you weren’t able to get through that day’s plans, but it will be one step back for many steps forward in the future!

As much as possible, limit distractions.

This does not mean that kids have to be in a room all alone with the door closed sitting at a desk. Maybe some kids need that from time to time to help them focus, but that’s not necessarily the solution. As much as possible, try to limit distractions. Does the TV need to be on during school hours? Unless it is for educational purposes like a documentary or the news, it could be very distracting. Even more distracting are devices and phones! This is tough because, of course, some of the kids’ school work is online. As much as possible, try to keep phones face down, silenced, or in a bedroom, or all three. This is easier to manage for younger kids than older kids. In my opinion, there is nothing more distracting in our house than my phone sitting alone on the center island. It seems like it calls to all my children! We have a general rule in our house. No entertainment-type screen use during school hours. If the kids have some of their school work online, try saving it for the last thing on their checklist so it motivates them to get the harder subjects done first. If older kids have phones, encourage them to check their texts and messages at breakfast, lunch, and after school. Screens can be a huge distraction for kids and adults alike!

Learning with your children can be a wonderful experience for both of you! This is quality time you are spending together. Don’t allow the pressures of what everyone else is doing- or what you think your child should be doing-or even all your great ideas-take away from what you are learning together right now.

Keep it simple.

Focus on building your relationship.

Help them get to the next level of their progress at a pace that is right for them.

Enjoy the process.

It can be a beautiful thing.

Meet Lauree

Meet my friend and cousin Lauree! Lauree and Darren live in Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Darren is Fish Biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. Lauree stays home with their daughter. They have been homeschooling for 6 years.

Lauree shares her travels, hobbies, and experiences homeschooling her daughter, Zoey. She has some great advice for parents who might be homeschooling for the first time.

Hi, my name is Laurèe Kramer. I have been married just over 13 years to my wonderful husband Darren and we have an incredible 9-year-old daughter named Zoey. We live in a community of about 13,000 in the Upper Peninsula of MI.


I hadn’t given much thought to homeschooling before our daughter was born but once we had her I knew it was what I wanted to do. As she grew, it was clear she was intelligent beyond her years. She was always deeply interested in books. Even as a baby at 10 months she would hold her books and study them. The ladies at our credit union loved to see us come through and see her in her car seat “reading”.
At 2 and 3 years of age, she enjoyed having Darren read his astronomy books to her and she always was more interested in non-fiction subjects until this past year. Her first favorite book was Wizard of Oz and she could read that on her own by 5 years old.

We’ve mostly had a positive experience with people’s reactions to our decision to homeschool with the exception of my mom-in-law who “hoped” we would
send her to school when she reached high school. When Zoey was 3, a stranger overheard her talking about the Perseids and told us he hoped we were planning to homeschool. Homeschooling is a great fit for us because I can work on Zoey’s level and know she’s not sitting bored in a classroom. I also love the flexibility that comes with homeschooling. If it’s a beautiful day, we can head outside on a blanket or even head to the park. One thing I started doing last year was packing up our book work and heading to a state park or other outdoor location. We have several places within an hour of us where we can find a picnic table, do our work and then take advantage of our surroundings. We have Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette, Kitch-iti-kipi (Michigan’s largest spring) outside of Manistique, Fayette (a historic iron ore mining townsite) on the Garden Peninsula, waterfalls in Munising, and the DeYoung
Family Zoo in Wallace among others.

Dissecting Owl Pellets
Robotics Camp with Lego’s


I am a night owl and can be up until 2 a.m. most nights. Zoey is also a night person. We currently have a strict 9 p.m. bedtime with reading until 11-11:15 depending on where she might be in a chapter. She is usually awake between 9:30-10:30 for the day and we don’t start school until lunch time. She likes to sit at her pink desk for most of her work but we might do it at the kitchen table, the living room floor or on a blanket outside. I write up a schedule over the summer but it’s more for giving us a direction versus a strict routine. Unless we are behind in a particular area, I will let Zoey choose the first subject for the day and we can sit and get most of all the school work done before needing a break and then we are done, or finishing up (usually with math), by the time my husband is home from work. At this time, I do all the schooling with her but as she gets older daddy will be more involved with hands-on projects and life
skills (changing a tire, performing an oil change, woodworking projects, etc.). She also has some items that help to her focus during school like a wobble cushion, a balance board, thinking putty, etc.

School Shelves
Learning to make cookies
Learned to make origami foxes

We participate in a local homeschool co-op where the classes are parent-led and it gives the kids opportunity to get together. We have organized field trips, swim classes, a year book, dances, talent/art show, cheerleading and basketball, etc. At this time, she’s been involved with field trips, talent show, swim, and cheerleading.
We have several performing arts centers within a couple hours of us and they offer discounted tickets for their education series. She has seen things like Pete the Cat, Daniel Tiger, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream, and Magic in Motion. There are also numerous museums, zoos and nature centers in those areas.

Laughing Whitefish Falls
Munising Falls

Wagner Falls


Find a local homeschool co-op. Local support is the best support. Go on Facebook and search homeschool co-ops in your area. If you can’t find one, contact your local churches and ask if they have a homeschool family with which they could put you in touch. Give yourself lots of grace. None of us have it all figured out even after years of schooling. Be prepared for your patience to be tested and strengthened, to get aggravated, to maybe yell and shed some tears, to watch your child struggle but also to see that moment when it all clicks and they find something they love. When it’s all said and done, it will all be worth it and you’ll know yourself and your kids more than
you ever thought you would.

Swim Class

I asked my daughter and she said science but for me it’s getting to spend that valuable time with her and build a strong relationship. My child is incredible. She’s funny, smart, sassy. She loves animals and Minecraft. I get to be a greater influence on her and the values I want her to have than I would if she was in a classroom at a desk all day and only home for a few hours in the evening. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything!


I grew up in an abusive home and didn’t have the opportunity to finish school. I eventually got my GED and have an associate degree in medical office administration. So my biggest challenge is my own insecurities but I still felt I could give her more opportunities and experiences teaching her myself. We administer the Stanford test through Bob Jones University (BJU) at the end of every school year and it helps make sure she’s not lacking in an area. She hasn’t been below average in an area yet so that helps build the confidence.

Volunteering on the Dog Trail

I became a beekeeper this year. I’ve always been fascinated by bees and so joined our local bee club in January of 2019, spent time in other people’s bee yards last summer and purchased two hives of my own this past spring. Zoey has a bee suit of her own but it has been so hot this year that she’s only been out with me once. My husband is training for a 210-mile bike race so I feel like a single parent most days right now as he’ll get home from work, change into his biking gear and be home by 8 or be gone for 10 hours for a long ride either Saturday or Sunday. We have fostered mama cats with kittens for the past two years and decided to adopt our last foster
kitten (which was our first solo foster) so now we are done fostering and will begin volunteering at the shelter itself. We enjoy camping and kayaking as a family.

Bee Yard
Darren Biking

Lauree’s Favorite Resources

Duolingo for Spanish
Local co-op group
Local library
Christianbooks.com for much of our curriculum
Local arts center where we have a homeschool art class
Great Homeschool Convention– in Cincinnati though there are 7 different locations country wide
IEW Fix It Grammar

Zoey’s Favorite Books


Anything animal

Warriors OMEN OF STARS 1-6 CP
Why Harry Potter Books are Great for School-Aged Readers | Speech ...
These books that you on a wild adventure as we follow Percy ...

The Wilderking Trilogy | Jonathan Rogers | Little Book, Big Story

Lauree’s Favorite Books

The Well-Trained Mind, 4th Edition - Well-Trained Mind
8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Child's Intelligences ...
No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are: Savage ...

…. anything else by Dr. Kathy Koch – I love her!

The Mummy Congress : Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead ...

for my own personal reading enjoyment

Have questions for Lauree? You can contact her at hummingbird9680@hotmail.com Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!

Should You Homeschool Next Year?

Still on the fence about what you will be doing next year? Here are some thoughts to consider.

Reasons Homeschooling Might Not Be a Fit For You

-You are happy with your child’s progress and overall experience in his or her school.

-Your child is happy with his overall school experience.

-Virtual learning and wearing face masks to school, though less than ideal, are worth the quality of education your child receives.

-You feel more comfortable putting your child’s education into the hands of a trusted teacher than trying to forge your own way.

-You don’t want to homeschool, but you feel pressured by friends or family to homeschool. (Being pressured to homeschool is never a good reason to do it. Be bold enough to tell them that homeschooling is not a good fit for you or for your family.)

-School is the best option for the needs of your family.

Reasons Homeschooling Might Be a Good Fit For You

-You would like your child to have one on one help in areas of struggle at a pace that is right for them.

-You like the idea of your child learning about things that interest them.

-Even though it might be more of a time commitment, you like the thought of learning WITH your child.

-You like the possibility of a shorter day with NO homework.

-Your child has asked to be homeschooled.

-You like the flexibility of your child not being confined to a building or computer at certain times.

-You are concerned that your child does not love learning.

-You want more time together as a family.

NOT Reasons NOT to Homeschool

-You don’t feel qualified.

-You think someone else could do a better job.

-You don’t know if you can do it.

You are the parent. There is no person alive who is more concerned about your child’s long term success than YOU. Although there are many homeschoolers who were former teachers or their spouse was a teacher, some of the most amazing homeschool parents I have met have had NO teaching experience!! They are just passionate about their child’s success! They love to learn. They will go to great lengths to find the resources to enhance their child’s experiences. Do not believe the myth that you aren’t good enough to teach your child!!

Reasons Homeschooling Might Be a Good Fit Long Term

-You are excited to watch the momentum of the fastest growing educational movement in the country. (That was pre-COVID!)

-You have observed that colleges are actively seeking out homeschoolers because they are unique with highly varied experiences.

You have to be yourself. If you are a contented parent of a schooled child, don’t question your choices. Do what is best for your child and for your family.

If you, however, are drawn to homeschooling and would really like to try it, but are hesitant to step out, do not doubt yourself! This could just be the best decision you ever make!

How can I say that with certainty?

Because it was for me.

Meet Rebekah

Meet my friend Rebekah! Rebekah and Greg live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Greg is an optometrist. Rebekah stays home with their kids. She has also started the non-profit fair trade company Havyn International which supports artisans and farmers in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. They have five children and have been homeschooling for over ten years.

In this interview, Rebekah shares her story of adopting their five children internationally. She talks about finding resources for kids with special needs and how she provides nurturing environment for her children who backgrounds of trauma.

Hi! I’m Rebekah! My husband and I have been married for 22 years. In our second year of marriage I almost lost my life to Meningococcemia and there was a very long healing process for me. We decided to adopt internationally and brought twin, two year old boys home from Russia in 2007. They were globally delayed, as they had been born 3 months prematurely and spent their first two years of live in an orphanage. Several years later, we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia when she was 10 months old. Three years after that we brought home our 3 year old, visually impaired son home from China. Our son also has autism. Then we went back to Ethiopia to adopt our daughter who was 15 months old at the time. So, we have 3 sons and 2 daughters from Russia, Ethiopia and China. 

What attracted you to homeschooling? 

When our twins came home from Russia we knew that they needed family, not another institution. We started considering homeschooling pretty soon after we brought them home. You know, this was before social networking was popular, and I really didn’t know anyone who homeschooled. In fact, my experience with homeschooling was extremely limited. I grew up in South Jersey, and I knew a hand-full of homeschoolers and always felt sorry for them. So, I was pretty nervous about homeschooling, but I knew in my heart that this was exactly what God was asking me to do for our boys. God is good and kind and He equips us when He asks us to do something. He brought some amazing families into our lives who also felt the call to homeschool. Because I had a support system right away, I feel like I was able to sort through and work through all that homeschooling entailed for our family…which, because of adoption and trauma and global delays, looked very different from the other families that we knew. But the support that we had and the budding friendships that our kids were able to enjoy kept us going even through the hard times.

What kind of resources did you find for the special needs of your children? 

Because all of our children came to us through international adoption, we have had some extra layers to work through.  Our kids deal with educational delays, ADHD, autism, anxiety, and trauma. So, we had to look for outside resources to help our children. We also had to think outside of the box for homeschooling. This was often a frustration for me, and it has taken me years to not feel like I have failed my kids because my kids are not able to be at the same educational level as many of their peers. But if I could encourage parents of kids with special needs, especially the unseen special needs….YOU are exactly what your child needs. It has taken me a long time to accept that, and honestly, I still struggle with wondering if I should have used the school system more. But I know deep in my heart that having our kids at home has given them so much more. Having said that, I do believe that parents have resources as homeschoolers that are available to them, and we should use them. Early Intervention and the IU 13 was wonderful. Our kids received speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision therapy, and play therapy through those services. The therapists came to our home for years. It just became part of our schedule. However, once a child is school age, the IU will no longer provide services for homeschoolers. One thing that parents should know is that if you have a child with special needs, even ADHD, anxiety, and those unseen needs, you can apply for Medical Assistance in PA. Medical Assistance will cover all of your child’s needed therapies. So, because of that our son with autism, who still needs therapies, is able to go to a private therapeutic center for speech therapy and behavioral therapy. There are also agencies out there that help with certain disabilities. My son with visual deficits is also very involved with Vision Corp. They offer activities and camps for the visually impaired, completely free of charge. Anyway, when you homeschool kids with extra needs, it really does fall on you to do your research and find the services for your kids. There is so much out there.

What would your experienced self tell your newbie self?

I would (and continue) to tell myself that what my family is doing doesn’t have to look like what everyone else is doing. That is the beauty of homeschooling. Our family looks and functions so differently than every other family in our circle of homeschoolers. It is tough and many times I have felt like I am failing, but knew that I couldn’t physically or emotionally do more than what I was doing. I remember asking a friend for their homeschool schedule. She emailed it to me and I bawled. I couldn’t attain to what she was doing. My kids couldn’t do it. We have had to be flexible in our days, because our kids have always needed more breaks. It takes us longer to get through math lessons, because some of my kids need more time to grasp concepts. I would tell my newbie self to cheer others on in their own unique homeschooling journey, AND to cheer myself on in our unique, homeschooling journey. Don’t compare. Live out what God has given to your family to the best of your ability.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think the biggest challenge was being in the adoption process several times, bringing children home and helping them through trauma while homeschooling. Adoption is all consuming and helping children learn about family and work through trauma and then have special needs on top of all of that is very emotionally consuming. And it is time consuming, because you are always trying to make sure that you have therapies and services that your child needs. But there was also so much beauty in it. I look back and know that being together has been a beautiful journey, even during the intense times.

Have you made mistakes and what did you learn from them? 

Well, no matter who you are, you will make mistakes. I think that as I said, one of my mistakes was comparing what we are able to do to what others are able to do. The comparison trap will kill your homeschooling journey. One of the wonderful reasons to homeschool is to be able to meet your unique child’s needs. Some kids need academic challenge to thrive. Some kids need to take things slowly. In the beginning, I pushed my twins to read too early. I actually think that it hindered them in their reading. I wish that I had just relaxed and not pushed kindergarten workbooks and things like that right when they turned 5. They weren’t ready and needed so many other things. 

 What does a typical day look like for you?

So our typical days have evolved over time. With each new child added to our family we have had to rework and sometimes fly by the seat of our pants. But now, I feel like we have a pretty good routine. I am not a schedule person and I need to be pretty flexible and intune to how my kids are doing on any given day. But typically, we begin our mornings at 9am with Bible and prayer together. I have found this to be very critical for our day. Each child prays for someone here or for our friends in other countries, we pray for their dad every morning and they pray for each other. After that, I tell them what the day is going to look like and make sure they know what chores they are responsible for that day. Then we go into our book work – math, spelling, science, history, etc. and I work with kids individually during the morning. Many times they will take breaks outside as needed. I have found that short breaks getting fresh air or working out for my 15 year olds, helps them to do better with their work. Once they get frustrated I have lost them for the day, so I often find myself gauging emotions and heading them off. At lunch time we all sit together and I read a chapter book aloud. Then they take an outside break and we either finish school for some of the older kids or chores get done. I typically allow them to watch something on TV while I am making dinner if everything else has been accomplished. So, that is an ideal day. But people should know that part of homeschooling is discipleship. I often find that I need to put a lesson aside to sit with one of the kids and work through some emotion that they are struggling with or to speak truth to them or share something from God’s word. I feel like being rigid and pushing schedules does not work for my family.

Havyn International

Rebekah’s Favorite Resources

Green Meadow Farm Green Meadow Farm offers free therapeutic horse therapy for children who have experienced trauma. There is also a “Pasture of Peace” for families to enjoy quiet time while their child is with the horse and trainer.

IU13 Therpeutic intervention for children who need extra services.

Schreiber Pediatric Private therapy agency, providing Speech, OT, PT, and Behavioral Therapy.  

Vision Corp Vision Corp helps individuals with vision loss to attain independence.  My son with vision loss has enjoyed their activites throughout the year and camp in the summer.

Math U See The math program that changed everything for my kids and taught this life-long “math struggler” how to finally understand math and how to teach it.  

The Struggling Reader A reading program that focuses on a kinestetic approach, offering multi-sensory activities to teach skills.  They also provide flash cards and testing materials.

My Father’s World We haven’t tried My Father’s world for the upper grades, but we have loved it for the elementary years.  It is a classical/Charlotte Mason mix.

Pathway Readers

Rebekah’s Favorite Books

Raising World Changers in a Changing World: Welch, Kristen ...
Different — SallyClarkson.com

Sally Clarkson- Different. I absolutely love this book, as it gave me a sense of “I am not doing this all wrong”.  She and her son, who had some challenges, wrote it together.

Kisses From Katie - By Katie J Davis (Paperback) : Target
Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the ...
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace ...

The Kids’ Favorite Books

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story: Park, Linda Sue ...
Boys of Grit Who Became Men of Honour (Volume 1): Archer Wallace ...

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Hobby Lobby | 1515022

Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. We have read through this together many times.  Even my teenagers enjoy these stories time and time again.

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

Considering pulling your kids out for a year? Here are some tips from homeschool moms.

This school year many parents are homeschooling, not by choice, but as an only option. If you are one of these parents and you are looking for practical help this year, I encourage you, along with the direction you are probably already getting from your child’s school or teacher, to seek out other homeschool moms who were homeschooling pre-COVID. Homeschooling is very different from learning in school. On the other hand, if you are a homeschool mom with experience, please consider how you could offer help to parents who have been thrust into a school year at home against their choice. Let’s come together as communities to help each other. Although these are difficult times, if there was ever a good time period to be required to teach our kids at home, the Internet age is it. With a Google search just a click away, you can learn about anything you want to learn. We have unbelievable access to unlimited information.

The tips in this article are not entirely my own. This is “our” life homeschooling, after all. I’ve collected the thoughts of several homeschooling friends and compiled them for you. If you will be homeschooling next year, either temporarily, or possibly long-term, I hope you find these helpful.

1.Familiarize yourself with the homeschool laws of your state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is an excellent resource for new homeschoolers. Their website offers details on the homeschool laws by state, resources for getting started, help for special needs, and information on homeschooling high school.

According to their website,

“We believe every child is unique. That children should learn in ways that meet their needs. And that you want the best for your child. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to personalize their education so they can realize their potential.HSLDA passionately advocates for the freedom to homeschool and offers support for every stage of your homeschool journey.

2. Pick a curriculum and just start. You can be choosy, get some material in hand to look through, take your time, but understand that you will never be completely satisfied with your choice. I highly recommend Kathy Duffy’s Homeschool Curriculum Reviews. Use caution though! Finding a homeschool curriculum can be very overwhelming. There are so many great options available. Ask another homeschooler or use curriculum reviews, but pick something and just get started. You will learn as you go.

2. Remember the 3 R’s. Make sure they are reading, writing, and practicing math every day. These subjects are skills. Do not short-cut these! They should be progressing in these three areas daily. This is the work we start with every morning because it is often the most challenging. Have them conquer these when they are fresh. The other content areas can have some flexibility, but reading, writing, and math should be a priority.

3. Read. A Lot. Read to them, even if they are already readers. Find a good book list and start purchasing or ordering from the library. Many homeschoolers use Sarah Makenzie’s Read Aloud Revival booklists. Kids of all ages can enjoy someone reading to them. When you make this a daily habit, it is one chance you both get to sit together, to look at one another, to explore places, ideas, words, feelings. This will mean more to them than any cheap thrill or gadget you buy them. In addition to reading to them, allocate time in your day for them to read quietly. We have a time right after lunch when everyone drops everything to read something purely for enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. We do 15-30 minutes. Audio books are another great option, especially for struggling readers. Let them listen to an audio book every night in bed. Bedtime is a great time for audio books because they are not as easily distracted as listening to a book during the day.

4. Find a community of other homeschoolers. This is a biggie in my book. It’s the difference in sinking or swimming. If you have support and your kids have great friends, you might start loving this. Many homeschool co-ops meet weekly or biweekly to offer classes, field trips, concerts, book clubs, dramas, sports programs, music lessons, and much more. There is one caution that I would give. Be aware that if you choose a type of virtual learning that requires kids to be on the computer at certain and/or random times, and if you have more than one child, it will be very difficult to be available enough to be part of a regular homeschool community.

Our co-op field trip to Washington D.C.

5. You don’t have to teach individual subjects for each of your kids in all areas. Although math, reading, and writing are subjects at which they must progress at their own level, other subjects can be combined for multiple ages. History, science, other content areas con be covered as a group. For example, in history, pick a time period and explore that for a year. Pull library books, cook recipes, watch documentaries, visit museums, if your kids are crafty, let them make costumes or dioramas. For science, ask your kids what they have always wondered about…the human body, simple machines, weather? Find a book of experiments on that topic and let them discover! Use this as a chance for them to learn about things that interest them! What do you remember from history and science in school? You remember the things that interested you.

6. Use this time as an opportunity. Do things with them that you’ve always wanted to do, but never make the time to do them. What is that one thing that you never have enough time to do with them? Try asking the kids, “What is one thing you have always wondered about?” Or, “If you could pick one thing you would really like to learn about, what would it be?” Then, take them to the library and find everything you can on that subject. Go places and talk to people that can teach you more about that topic. Watch documentaries on it. Is there a skill they want to master? Have them watch YouTube videos to learn how to do it. I guarantee you, if you try this, your kids will learn things that they will never forget. In addition to that, they will love learning this way.

7. Don’t worry about what they are missing in school. If children across the board are supposed to be learning and achieving certain skills or material at a certain age or grade, we are forgetting that children are unique individuals. While we should have high expectations for them and we should be requiring daily, diligent progress, here is what happens when we set specific objectives for all children of a certain age. In some areas a child might be ready to move on, but held back by these limitations and in other areas of study, he might be struggling and need more help or a slower pace, but be forced to move on. In my opinion, when we try to fit large groups of children into “what you are supposed to know in X grade”, we ignore the uniqueness of the child. Your child is an individual. Do not underestimate the headway you can make working one-on-one with your child! Do not worry about what they are missing in school. If they are progressing every day, they will be fine.

8. Pray. Pray about your school year. God gave your child to you and you to your child. He thinks you are the one person who is best equipped to raise him or her! Ask Him for help with practical things… how to schedule your day, how to help your child in areas of struggle, how to teach math. Watch Him direct your steps and lavish His grace on you. Don’t doubt God’s ability to do “abundantly more than we ask or think.”

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.

Psalm 37:5

Meet Jackie

Meet my friend Jackie! Jackie and Brandon live in Arkansas. Brandon is a production manager at Keto Brick, LLC. Jackie stays home with their kids. They have five children and have been homeschooling from the beginning.

In this interview, Jackie talks about what attracted her to homeschooling, her philosophy of education, and how to push through the hard spots that are sure to come.

Hi! My name is Jackie Clark. I have been married for 15 years and have 5 kids. My boys are 13, 9, and 7. My two girls are 11 and 4. We have been homeschooling since the very beginning.

What attracted you to homeschooling?

In the beginning I just wasn’t ready for my firstborn to leave me and go off to school all day! So I decided to keep him home and try homeschooling. Homeschooling was not foreign to me. My husband and I were both homeschooled on and off and my sister was homeschooling her kids. However, you need more of a reason to keep it up as the hard days will come, and that school bus starts to look like a nice trip back to sanity. A few years went by, our family grew, and my husband and I realized how important it was going to be for us as parents to lay down a firm foundation for our kids. A strong foundation in Jesus Christ and His Word. We felt that for us the best way to do that was through homeschooling. We really see it as discipleship. We are sharpening our arrows to send them out into the world.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every year is different. This is how a typical day went this year. I’m not an early riser but I still need some mom time (coffee, Bible, and morning walk) so that means school usually won’t start until 9. All kids need to be dressed and ready, rooms cleaned, & had breakfast by this time. My older two will start their independent work at this time while I start lessons with my younger two. I usually read to them from a history book, and also a devotion book. We then transition to their seat work. There is a lot of back and forth during this time and they sometimes have to wait on mom to answer their question or to move on to the next thing. After that is over it is time for them to play and I will see if older ones need any help. We then take a short break and all go outside. Then it’s lunch time. Next, everyone has a quiet time on their
bed reading a book, looking at books, or resting. Afterward, we meet for family time
which includes, but not all everyday: geography, poetry, music, hymn, verses, our read
aloud, and usually a youtube video on a subject or person we are studying. The last
thing we do together is Science or nature study together. My little one is right there with her two older brothers as I read to them and I bring things out for her to do as they do their seatwork. I have found it’s so much better to just include the young ones. We usually finish up at 3.

What is your favorite thing about your family’s way of doing school?

I love when we read aloud together. It brings us closer as we travel to
distant worlds together in a book.

Have you made mistakes and what did you learn from them?

I had in my mind that if I homeschooled, my children would be super smart. They would excel academically. When it came time for the end of year testing in the early years I would just be crushed when the assessor told me all the areas that my children needed work. This led me to push way too hard on my oldest. We could just feel the pressure in the room as he just wasn’t getting math concepts and didn’t want to sit for long periods doing grammar lessons. What I should have done is realized he was not ready for certain things and put the books away. Eventually, the light bulb will come on and when it does it makes learning so much easier and more enjoyable. I learned it is more important that they love learning, not what some test tells me about their percentile. By the way, that same son loves learning now and is thriving in so many areas.

What would your experienced self tell your newbie self?

I would say focus on the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic)! There is so much great curriculum out there with fun history and science included to teach in the early years. However, when you are pregnant and have a toddler running around you can’t get it all in everyday. Don’t get distracted on making Egyptian costumes and lapbooks for everyone or you will get overwhelmed. Keep the 3Rs going everyday and if by God’s grace baby sleeps longer than normal or grandma is over to babysit, throw in those fun activities or learn about some famous Greeks and Romans.

Can you tell a little about your philosophy of education and how does it practically look in your day to day life with your kids?

I think choosing your homeschool philosophy is very important. It helps you sort quickly through the many curriculum choices. It helps you decide which co ops you will join. It helps you stay focused and it also helps you when you fall into the comparison trap. Early on my mom gave me the book For the Children’s Sake. I loved it! I then read A Charlotte Mason Companion, Teaching from Rest, Mere Motherhood, and now am working my way through Mason’s own books. All of these resources helped shape the direction of our homeschool. This means we don’t do a lot of workbooks and do not use many textbooks. I really see my job is to lay out a feast for them to digest. I’m not cramming food down their throats or chewing it up first before they eat it. Sorry, that was gross, but you get the picture!

What is your social network? Do your kids have friends?

There are so many extracurriculars out there for homeschoolers to get involved in outside of the home and to give them the opportunity to make friends. In fact I’m learning to say no to things because we get too busy and are not getting enough school done! I’m learning the best thing to do is just to invite another family or families over to hang for an afternoon at your house or park. That is when you really are able to develop friendships.

What is one last thing you want people to remember?

With all things in life you are not going to see the fruit of your labors till closer to the end. I heard Cindy Rollins say and she could be quoting Mrs. Mason, “Short lessons everyday, every year will add up to a most beautiful education.” Also, don’t forget to lean hard on your Maker and Sustainer. If I’m drained or wanting to give up my Heavenly Father, when I ask it of him, will give me the strength to keep going. I can’t tell you how many times when I’m at my worst the baby takes a 3 hour nap or my older ones stay outside for hours engrossed in playing pioneer days or someone offers to watch all of them so I can regroup. I know that is all HIM! He always comes through when I ask and believe.

Jackie’s Favorite Resources

amblesideonline.org If you want to really do the Charlotte mason method all the ways for your school this is the way to go. They have great resources and amazing books.

Beautiful Feet I highly recommend the Medieval Ages. My kids pretty much loved all the books we
read, even my child who does not like history!

Math Mammoth She gives your kids several ways to learn a concept, which I think is great.

Masterbooks Math Lessons for a Living Education

Institute for Excellence in Writing We have done the theme books for years now and it has made writing simple and easy for us. I use their PAL program to teach my kids how to read.

Science books by Jay L. Wile

Apologetics Resources

Cold Case Christianity for Kids is a great book for older elementary and middle school.

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist video series for when they enter high school.

Jackie’s Favorite Read-Alouds

Little House on the Prairie by [Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams]
Christian Heroes: Then and Now | Kid's Books Without Borders
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ...
Understood Betsy: Canfield Fisher, Dorothy, Root, Kimberly Bulcken ...
Parables From Nature.

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

The Children Are Hungry

The children are hungry! They have an appetite for knowing and experiencing.

It is the strong, real world that interests them so much, where the unexpected can happen and there is wonderful mystery.

-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay For The Children’s Sake

When I started out homeschooling, I relied almost completely on my experience as a public school teacher. I printed out the state standards for Kindergarten. Using this as my guide, I was confident I was going to give my child a solid education. We began our year, doing the same work that kids were doing in school. We did not have a classroom and schedule like everyone else, but we were doing essentially the same work except with a little more freedom and flexibility. As we worked our way through the year, I started noticing something that I did not expect. What I observed was that my son started to wonder. Not wander. Yes, he did some of that too! No, he began to WONDER.

  • Look, there is a bug on that leaf. What is it? A bee. Oh, what kind? What is the bee doing? What does a bee eat?
  • Why is the sun at noon directly above our house in summer, but at noon in winter, it is along the tree line?

As I read story after story of quality, carefully selected books, without limitations on how we read it or how long we read, he wanted more. He had more questions.

What started with careful adherence to the standards shifted as I found that we were doing more than the standards in some ways. In other ways, some of the things he was interested in or I thought were important for him to learn didn’t line up with what we were “supposed to be learning” for that year. I found that he was absorbing and retaining so much in addition to what I was teaching him. He was fascinated by the world around him and had a zest for learning. At home, we were able to get our school work done in a few hours leaving him with an afternoon of free time. With a condensed school day, short lessons, quality time with books, free time to imagine and to create, to go outside and play, I watched my son thrive. Yes, he still had mornings that he didn’t want to do his lessons. We had our moments arguing over his work. There was still the hard stuff that he had to diligently plod through, but his school work was done in a relatively short amount of time.

And what did he do when we finished? He would go out and shoot his bow and arrow in the yard. He would finish the book he had started the night before. He would go outside and figure out how to put the chain back on his bike. He would find a snake in the yard and want to keep it, so he would research everything he could about what a snake eats, what a snake needs to survive. He would encounter real-life problems that only happen in the real world and try to solve them. He wanted to explore, to grow, to produce. He wanted to learn. Without sounding like a brag or disclosing his test scores, suffice it to say, my child THRIVED under the freedom of learning- for the pure enjoyment of it!

I have found this same result homeschooling all our kids.

Just think about how many real life problems there are to solve when you live in the natural world. I know that if my kids were in school, they would still encounter problems to solve, but they they just happen so much more frequently when you are consistently in a living environment. I recently sat down one day and wrote out all the real-life problems my kids asked about and tried to solve in a day.

Here they are in my words.

-7 year old. While eating our breakfast, “Where does maple syrup come from?”

-9 year old. If I make zucchini bread and it calls for 3 cups of flour and I want to use half white, half wheat flour, how much is that each? And what is a 9×13 pan?

-11 year old. If I want to plant a garden from seed, when do I have to start seeds inside to make sure they are ready to plant outside by the 3rd week of May?

-15 year old. If I want to ride my bike to the nearest ice cream shop, how far is that? Whats the shortest, yet safest route to travel by bike? How long will that take? Can I get there and back before I have to leave for soccer practice?

-Everyone. The spotted lantern flies are invading our yard. Why?

Home provides a plethora of opportunities to experience real, living things, and natural problems.

As I observe the difficult decisions parents are being forced to make because of COVID-19 regarding their children’s education, I sympathize with parents and schools who are struggling with this dilemma. Parents are not happy with their kids sitting in classrooms wearing masks all day, but don’t know how to manage with them at home either. On forums and Facebook groups, parents are flocking to the homeschool community with questions. The most common question I see is about cyber schooling. I am not against distance learning. In our home, our kids use a self-paced history program that they do weekly at our convenience and their own pace. Online learning can have advantages, and for some people, it is their best option and that is OK. These are tough decisions and we are all doing the best we can for our kids. It makes me sad, however, to think of so many kids learning this way for long hours of the day because it is a poor match for a child’s developmental needs, especially young children. It’s disappointing that parents have so much confidence in the school system and so little confidence in their own ability to give their kids something better than 8 hours in a classroom with a mask or 4-6 hours in front of a screen. Teachers LOVE their kids, teachers are HARD WORKERS, but teaching virtually is probably the most inefficient way they have ever had to do their job. Ask any teacher, smaller classes and more one-on-one attention is best for students, but often not an option EVEN when schools are fully up and running. I have yet to meet one person who liked cyber schooling or stuck with it for any period of time much longer than a year. It is the worst of both worlds. It is demanding about the times you have to be online (multiplied by the number of children you have) and it completely limits everything. you. do. It has zero of the benefits of homeschooling. It is MORE work, not less. In my opinion, you could pick up any math book on Amazon and sit with your child for half an hour, working on it together, talking through it and it would be better than virtual math for long hours of the day.

When kids are stifled by their environment, they will grow to despise learning. And when they hate learning, it doesn’t really matter what we teach them anymore, it will not sink in. I suggest that the opposite is also true. When a child loves to learn, it’s not terribly crucial if they are “missing” something. Their appetite will drive them to find a way to satisfy that curiosity. They will fill in missing pieces because of their urge to know. When I was in high school, it seems we never made it to modern history because we ran out of time at the end of the year. As an adult, I became inquisitive about the time periods I didn’t know as much about and filled in that empty space on my own by reading.

Let me ask a question. Have you ever met a homeschooled child who impressed you? No, I’m not talking about THAT family. There will always be THAT family or THAT child. No, I mean have you ever met just an ordinary kid who impressed you and then you found out he or she was homeschooled? His mom must be a teacher….or have oodles of patience….or have the right personality- a supermom for sure! I’d like to suggest that kids like these are a reflection, not just of their moms (and/or dads) who homeschool them, but of homeschooling itself. They are a reflection of a child set free. A child fed a rich diet of beauty and given time to reflect on it. They are the outcome of a childhood of one-on-one time with a person who is invested in them for life. Have you ever considered that maybe these kids have ordinary parents? That being in a home environment can be a wonderful place to learn?

Standing beside the Zinnia she planted from seed.

The thought of teaching your own child is intimidating. It was for me when I started and I had teaching experience! I had been in a classroom, but teaching my own child, well, I just didn’t want to screw him up! Many parents feel unqualified to teach their own kids. Parents with degrees, professions, owning their own businesses, yet they feel incompetent to learn alongside their kids. Unqualified. They are afraid they will miss something. Even when up against the harsh reality of their child wearing a mask in school for a whole day, the idea of bringing them home to learn is not entertained. What if I don’t do it right? What if I miss something? Doesn’t it take a professional to spark wonder in a child? What, realistically, do you do with them all day? They have an appetite to know and experience, but how do you feed that? Isn’t learning to read still hard and some parts of school not fun? Where do I start?

These are questions for many more posts. But, for now, the children are hungry. Give them something REAL. As Susan Schaeffer Macaulay writes in another place, “Life is just too interesting for boredom!”

Meet Christy

Meet my friend Christy! Christy and Dan live in Maine. They have two children, Emily and Ethan. They have been homeschooling for seven years.

Join me as I talk with Christy about her experiences homeschooling her kids. Like many of us, Christy and Dan were not initially planning to homeschool. She shares how that change came about for them and what a typical day looks like in their home.

Hi, I’m Christy.  I’ve been married for 12 years to my husband, Daniel.  Our kids are Emily (9) and Ethan (5).  We live in Maine, about 30 minutes northwest of the capital city of Augusta.  We have been homeschooling for 7 years now.  My husband is a small business owner, which keeps him pretty busy.  I worked outside  the home as a home health nurse until we started a family.  I now stay at home and homeschool our two children.

What attracted you to homeschooling?

           It’s kind of funny, actually, because I never thought I would be a homeschooling mom.  When I was growing up, the only family I knew that homeschooled was, I thought, a little weird.  Before I was pregnant with our daughter, I remember my husband asking me if I would ever consider homeschooling.  (My husband attended a public school and I attended a private Christian school growing up.)  I told him that I didn’t think I could ever do THAT.  I said that God would really have to change my heart because I thought that I could never spend that much time with my kids; that I would be happy for a chance to send them off to school every day, and get to do things I enjoyed.  After my daughter was born, God DID change my heart.  I began dreaming of all the things I could teach her and how much I didn’t want to be apart from her- ever.  She was a very bright little thing and I was amazed at how quickly she learned.  Just for fun, I started reviewing alphabet flashcards, the names and sounds, with her when she was 2 and she learned them!  She was reading short words at 3, ironically before she was out of diapers.  Come to think of it, my son was reading before he was out of diapers too, so I guess they were just a little late in that department.  😊  Anyway, I felt that she was very ready to start kindergarten a few months before she turned 4.  She had a very active mind and I think she would have driven me a little crazy if I hadn’t started some kind of formal education with her.  I don’t think a school would have accepted her at such a young age, but since we decided to homeschool, l got to do what I thought was best for her. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Well, my goal every morning is that we all have breakfast and my daughter is ready for the day by 8.  She starts her seatwork- things that she can do on her own (penmanship, writing out her spelling and vocab words, and reviewing her Bible verses and poetry) and I start a load of laundry and dishes , exercise, then jump in the shower. After I’m ready for the day, I do the oral teaching time with her- either Grammar or Math, depending on the day.  I will also take time to do any grading.  Typically, I’ll have my younger son work on his chores during this time.  After lunch, we do a rest/book time.  This was a really great idea that I got from Sheri, who writes this blog.  Since I am somewhat of an introvert, I find it helps me so much to have this alone time.  I read my Bible and have a little time left over to do something I enjoy, while the kids quietly read a book or do a puzzle in their bedrooms.  It gives me a fresh perspective on the day and my relationship with the kids, no matter how crazy the morning was or what conflicts there were.  I am truly glad to see them again when they are done with their rest time, and they are glad to see each other again.  I then start school with my son while my daughter begins her chores.  Sometimes, I will either give my daughter some free time if there is a gap between getting her chores done and me being through working with Ethan.  I find that he lacks confidence in his work if he does it with his sister at the table, so I try to keep her occupied elsewhere until I am done with him.  Since he just finished kindergarten, it has been easy to do it that way these past two years.  I will have to tweak our system a little as he gets older and the length of his school day increases.  We finish up our school day with Emily doing either Science or History, depending on the day.  While I cook dinner they will usually either watch a video or play a video game or something like that.

Each week, we take a half a day to either do either a Walmart grocery shopping trip or a play date with my sisters and their kids that aren’t yet in school.  On the weeks that I meet with my sisters, I usually do a Hannaford-to-go pick-up on the way home from my sister’s house to save some time.  I also will bring schoolwork for my daughter to do in the car on the trips we take each week.  Oral reading is ideal, because it exposes my son to what his big sister is doing and keeps him occupied.  Another thing I do that is helpful to us, is that I have my daughter do 2 Grammar and History days each week and 2 Math and Science days each week.  The 5th day is usually our errand or appointment day and we just fit in what school we can. 

Is there a specific area you love/ specialize in/ stands out about your family’s way of doing school?

            One of the reasons I became a nurse was because I enjoy learning about health and the anatomy and physiology of the human body.  I really enjoy getting to teach these subjects to my kids and not just in a formal setting.  Bringing things up throughout the day as they come to mind or in answering questions like, “Why can’t you buy pop tarts for us every morning?”.

Another area I am interested in is “homesteading” (for lack of a better word)- doing as much as we can for ourselves.  We don’t live totally by this mentality; We don’t live off the grid.  Also, because of our location on a lake, the land use ordinances for our town don’t allow us to keep livestock.  However, we are able to do things like hunting, fishing, barbering, baking bread, homeschooling, canning, foraging, cooking, sewing, gardening, etc.

What would your experienced self tell your newbie self?

            I think I would tell my newbie self that it’s okay not to do EVERYTHING in the curriculum. Try to see the bigger picture.  Just because there are 10 long division problems, doesn’t mean she HAS to do all of them if she understands how to do them.  I’ve learned that it is less exasperating for us both to allow her to skip the second half if she can get the first half of the problems correct. 

Another thing I would suggest is to know yourself and choose a method of homeschooling that fits your personality.  When I first started, I asked for curriculum advice from an experienced “free-spirited” homeschooling mom.  She suggested that to save money, I could just buy the child’s curriculum kit and skip the parent kit.  Thankfully, I knew myself enough to know that I needed the parent kit, which had a detailed teaching plan.  I didn’t know the best way to teach the material, since I hadn’t had much experience with teaching.  Even after teaching for a while now, I still buy the parent kit because I am more comfortable teaching that way.

Do your kids have opportunities for team sports?

            Our kids have played several sports through the “rec” department of our town (tee ball, softball and basketball).  My daughter has also done a summer basketball day camp as well as a drama day camp.  I know frequently there are opportunities for parents to get involved with their kid’s teams as well, which is great.  My husband has been able to be Emily’s basketball coach for several years, and assist with Ethan’s team.

How does your philosophy of education play out in your day to day life with your kids?

            If I had to put it into words, I would say that it is just living life alongside your kids and involving them in what you’re doing.  If something out of the ordinary happens in my day, I try to pause and call the kids to come and I share it with them.  At our house, we have a TON of wildlife all around us.  This helps us with learning Zoology.  If I see the osprey or the eagle fishing, I’ll call the kids over to watch out the window with me and learn their habits.  (Skip this next part if you have a weak stomach 😊)  The other day, I noticed a spider web between two posts on our front porch and the spider was sitting in the middle, waiting for breakfast.  A little while later, as I was sorting the raspberries I had just picked out of our garden, I came across a small insect eating a berry.  Instead of squashing it, I called the kids over and threw the insect onto the web.  The kids were fascinated watching how the spider gets his meal.  It can be something as simple as what to do if you burn your toast- don’t throw it away, just scrape off the charred spot.  

            My son has a big interest in learning how things work and in being a helper.  I try to make it a point to involve him in any hands on projects. Yesterday, I had him squash the raspberries for our jam recipe. Last week, we grabbed a stepladder and his tool box and changed the burnt out light bulbs on the back deck.  

What has been your biggest challenge?

            My biggest challenge has been overcoming my perfectionistic tendencies and I am still in the process of learning to be okay with a messier house during the winter homeschooling months.  I am a big fan of chores.  I grew up in a family of 7, and my mother was not a huge advocate of chores. I honestly don’t know how she got all of her work done, mostly on her own.  My husband and I implemented chores when our kids were pretty small and it took a lot of extra time to teach them how to do it at first.  However, one they got the hang of it, they have been such a huge help to me.  Also, they are learning things they will need to know later in life.

“I may not be the best mom, but I am the best mom for my kids”.

-a saying I heard once that has been an encouragement to me on many occasions!

Unique things for our family

            Some things I just learned as I went along.  For instance, to save money, I didn’t buy preschool curriculum.  I started with Kindergarten material and, depending on the child, worked through it at their pace.  Another thing was that since my kids are 4 years apart in age, the curriculum was revised during those years.  To avoid having to buy a completely new parent kit for both of my kids, I just buy double the workbooks when I order my daughter’s curriculum.  This way, I don’t get stuck with outdated books in-between kids.  Also, to help get the kids community focused, we visit a local nursing home once a month. 

I am also always on the lookout for educational materials, not necessarily textbooks.  These are things like a bird field guide, a book on rocks and minerals, binoculars, a microscope I had as a kid, a magnifying glass…things to help fuel their curiosity for learning about the world around them.  

We have chosen to hold our school session at the dining room table.  I find it is helpful for me to be able to squeeze housework in “between the cracks”, like dictating a spelling word test while I am filling the dishwasher.  I also have fun educational activities available for them to use in case they can’t go further in a subject and I am on the phone or something.  It is just workbooks or flashcards that I have accumulated over the years that I keep in separate bins near their schoolwork storage area.

Christy’s Favorite Resources

Favorite resources

1. Maine State History Museum.  They hold special free events there like Bug Mania and Earth Science Day, which the kids absolutely love. 

2. Another place we love to visit is the Waterville Opera House.  We pay a few dollars per person to attend plays for kids like “Treasure Island” and “Hansel and Gretel”.  

3. We also love our local library, because it is a great free resource.  My kids love to read and the library has saved us a good deal of money on books.  They also loan out audiobooks, movies and even a State Park Pass.  

4. Something I grew up listening to that I feel is a big help in the character building department is Patch the Pirate.  The kids love to listen to the stories and songs and they are entertaining even for adults.  

5. Friends and Family have also been a big help to us.  My dad was a teacher and principal and Dan comes from a family of teachers and coaches and they all have been very supportive and a huge resource to ask questions of and bounce ideas off of. 

6. We have also been given a lot of supplemental educational material as well.  The kid’s favorite thing we were given was the Liberty’s Kids series.  It is an animated series that teaches about the American Revolution.

7. Last year we started La Clase Divertida (“the fun class”).   It is a fun way for kids to learn Spanish and includes crafts, some Spanish cooking and puppets. It is a video series we bought separate from the Abeka curriculum that we use for the rest of the subjects. 

We visited Christy and Dan on Vacation

Celebrating Our Birthdays!

Pictures of Christy and me from childhood.
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