Sweet little Abigail

Sweet little Abigail


I have a progressive illness that keeps me from doing as well in homeschool as I’d like to with my children. The medications I must take make me very sleepy, and I am hospitalized at times. We’ve done school around my bed many days but I am worried that my children are falling behind academically and I feel like I’m slowing sinking. I just feel so far behind, and wonder if I’m doing the right thing to keep them home.


My first thought in response to your question (if you are doing the right thing to keep them home) is that only God can answer that question, and it may be different today than in the future. We really have to rely so much on his inspiration to us. It is challenging to deal with what life dishes out to us, and yet, God knows what He is doing. We can only trust Him.

Your love for your children is the most important ingredient for raising a successful person. But there is a point if we are not doing well, when we do them a favor to put them in a situation where they can progress more. Explore options, not just public school. I do not know if you have reached that point. Give to your children the things that only you can give—love, caring concern, a listening ear, moral values, feeling they are special . . . and that is enough. You don’t have to do all the teaching load in order to homeschool. You just have to be the one that makes the decisions about their education, whether it is at home or elsewhere. And that may be possible even if you are not feeling well.

One thing that I may suggest if you continue to homeschool is to use all the help you can afford.  There are marvelous computer programs, online educational games, even online curriculum programs that can sub for you being the teacher. One computer program I have been using is DIVE  along with Saxon Math. It is such an effective tutor and I

Granddaddy helps

have been “retired” now some years as far as teaching my kids math. The computer tutor does such a good job of it, they really don’t need me anymore. They are progressing marvelously on their own with the DIVE program and their Saxon books. If you live near a university or college, you may be able to hire a college student who will tutor your children in any subject you choose.

When I have been in difficult pregnancies, I have taught my children to school each other somewhat, and been amazed at how capable they really are. They can give each other spelling tests, do flashcards with each other, etc. When times are rough, you can move into a supervisory role, rather than the teacher. They can even take turns reading aloud and you can be the recipient, and put in your 2 cents of wisdom or word definition when needed and you can all still enjoy read aloud without you doing the reading.

Get things as automated as possible so they can go on “cruise control” without needing you ever present. Make using their student planners a daily habit. You can write up the whole week’s assignments and gather the needed extra books, videos, or supplies for the week (or assign them to gather them) and then you have them just bring the planner to you at the end of each school day and you can check that they’ve done and corrected their work. It is fun to be involved in all of the reading, school learning, etc. but it is not essential. You can oversee things in short, manageable sessions, and they can work daily on their own. I have worked with my kids through rough times healthwise, and been amazed to come downstairs to the schoolroom at 11 a.m. on a “bad day” for me, only to find them all dressed and working away diligently on their math or English. I’m surprised but when I question them, they say, “Well, this is what we have always done every day. We didn’t think of doing anything else!” Of course, the younger they are, the less likely this is, but over age 10 or 11, I have found them to be “trained” and pretty self-motivated.

imageRather than using your voice and energy, rely on electronics. The kids can learn states and capitals through geography CDs and they can practice math facts on the computer or with other self-correcting “games” such as Wrap-Ups. There are lots of “mom extender” products that I rely on. They can be a blessed assistant when Mom is not feeling capable of doing the teaching. There is a time and a place for these, and it may be now for you.

Don’t underestimate the fact that there are very meaningful lessons to be learned from being close to someone who faces challenges. I felt sorry for my children the year I was pregnant with Louisa, as my pregnancy (at age 42) nearly incapacitated me and my homeschool was far from ideal. But looking back, my children grew in ways I could never stretch them with math facts or geography studies.

May the Lord bless you to have the courage and strength needed!


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The Trouble With Homeschool


Louisa is enthused about the potter’s wheel!

The trouble with homeschool is that there is no start and no finish, no report cards, no deadlines, no “have to.” Of course, that is one of the advantages, but a time of reckoning is a necessary part of any endeavor, including home education. In the working world, employees are given “quarterly reviews” to assess their progress. How are we assuring progress is made in our children’s learning? Maybe we need to do some measuring.

Do you start new ideas for school with a bang and then fizzle out before the project is really done? In my zeal to be flexible, I have been guilty of no follow-through. Perhaps that is because many of our best learning experiences have come about when we got sidetracked. Recently, for my son’s writing assignment, I helped him choose an area of interest on which to do a research paper. The topic he chose was the history and production of magnetic tape (audio tape and video tape). After checking the library and finding nothing, we decided he could probably get information by contacting Memorex company and other tape manufac­turers. He wrote a lot of correspondences and while he was waiting and waiting for replies, the whole project just sort of fizzled out. None of them ever responded and we lost our steam for the research paper, even though it was a great idea and was approached with a lot of enthusiasm.

The cure for losing momentum is setting goals and deadlines with consequences. We have a natural deadline for every day’s work, and that is lunchtime. My children have plenty of time and lots of help from me if they feel stumped or do not understand their work, but they need to be finished before lunchtime, or they have to work after lunch while their brothers and sisters are free. A short check of my child’s assignment page at the end of school time is a good way to help him be accountable and report how he’s doing.

It gives a person a great feeling of accomplishment to return and report. Although I don’t want to make my children dependent on praise, it sure feels good to me to have others notice when I have put out effort to do something well. (Have you ever made a special meal and received no notice of it?) I also talk over whether or not he’s enjoying his school work and what needs changing. A schedule can be a big help. Half of the battle is settling into knowing what to expect. When my children know that every single day they have to write in their school journals, for example, they don’t fight it like they do when I am sporadic in what I require.

Ammon bakes bread!

Ammon bakes bread!

Self-motivation is great in studying an area of interest, but some basics must be done whether you are enthused or not. As a homemaker, if you love flowers and gardening, your own high interest level is sufficient to motivate you to weed, cultivate, plant, water, etc. However, whether you like it or not, at some point you will have to take out the garbage and wash dishes even if you don’t fully enjoy it. For one of my boys, reading is the self-motivated “flower gardening” and math is the annoying “garbage chore”. We approach it this way: you don’t have to love or pursue math, you just have to learn it so that you can function well. Then you will be free to spend as much time as you want reading.

A little planning before the school year begins goes a long way to guarantee success. I like to sit down with each child individually and look over all the possible resources that could be used for this child’s age and interests. For example, for the subject of American Government, my 10th grader and explore together the possibilities—different textbooks, a DVD series, online courses—and set a specific goal. We do this for each subject.

My priority list for my children’s education is:

  • developing a witness of Jesus Christ, and living as good Christians
  • competency in daily life skills (such as cooking a meal, doing laundry, fix-it skills, etc.)
  • reading, writing, and math (the 3 Rs)
  • history, science, music, art, etc.
  • seeking out the talents and skills that will help them make a contribution in life (their career)
  • becoming patriots that are literate in the Constitution and other freedom documents to preserve our freedoms as Americans

After we have chosen the resources we will use in each area, we set goals for the school year. Then as I write up their week’s assignments I can refer back to the year’s goals to make sure we are accomplishing them. From this point, I only have to offer help and check on their work daily. My children mostly steer themselves once the course direction is set.

If you are guilty, as I often am, of no follow-through, homeschool can become quite nebulous. Take the time to set up some expectations and then check that what you and your child agree on is actually done. It makes school a lot more productive and more enjoyable for both of you!


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Magic Words

Sweet Emily

Sweet Emily

“I’m sorry”
“I did wrong”
“Can you forgive me?”

These words seem to be getting pretty scarce these days!

I think the most important words a mother can say to her children is, “Can you forgive me?” We all make mistakes—parents especially—as the job of raising children is challenging indeed! What a peaceful, loving feeling comes into a home when a parent will admit they’ve been insensitive, impatient, or unfair, and humbly ask their children for forgiveness. It always stuns me how quickly and freely a child will excuse them when parents are actually willing to admit they misjudged. It opens children’s eyes to see Mom as a real person struggling to improve, instead of the “always-right-authority”.

I thought “please” was the magic word, but I have traded it in for “I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?” Sincerely try it with your child today. You’ll be amazed!


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Chivalry, It’s Up to Us!

emilymay2007My daughter Emily (17) came home from high school thoroughly disgusted. Emily is a very upbeat, happy spirit and she loves everybody and everything, so it shocked me to see her upset. She only attends 2 classes at our local charter school, and is very studious and diligent in her homeschool assignments. She tells me regularly that she loves homeschooling best, which brings me great delight!

Anyway, Emily was upset. Turns out that she had to go to a Senior Graduation meeting and when she arrived at the building, the boys didn’t think to open her door, but just walked in, in front of her, letting the door slam in her face. As she got to the classroom for the meeting, the seats were all taken—by boys! Many girls stood through the long meeting, and the big, strong football players lounged in the chairs without even a glint of recognition on their faces.

“Where are the mothers?” is always my war-cry! It takes mothers (and fathers) teaching kids to be respectful and mannerly, and if moms are occupied otherwise, the whole generation suffers from a plague of rudeness!

The next time Emily was summoned to a Senior Graduation meeting, the teacher had written on the chalkboard, “Boys: Give Up Your Seats”. She was a rather old-fashioned teacher, and apparently it had bothered her too. But, even with the posted notice, the boys did not all give up their seats. But the big surprise was that there were enough who did that there were empty seats in the classroom. There were also girls standing, who refused to sit down. (What!????)

How can boys possibly learn to be chilvarous if girls will not even allow them? How did this gentlemanly thing go so hay-wire?

Moms, Dads: it is up to us! Let’s teach our boys that someone female will bear their children someday and make a family for them to be loved by, and to come home to, and to work for, and to give their life meaning. Please, let’s teach our girls that boys honor that someday possibility by treating the whole feminine gender with respect and kind consideration, and to shun it is to do themselves (and other women and girls) a disservice.

Rudeness doesn’t have to be the order of the day. It is all in the hands of parents—what we model, what we teach, what we expect.


May I recommend:

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Happy Girl


What does it take to make a happy girl?

Here’s the recipe:

* Knowing she is a daughter of God
* Chances to work hard and serve others
* One-on-one time with Mom
* Challenging enough academic studies
* Time to read uplifting classic books
* A hobby to keep her hands busy
* Friends who share values
* Assurance that she is pretty and pleasing in personality
(. . . to name just a few)

The words “I’m bored” are taboo in my home. I guess it is because Grandma always says, “Only stupid people get bored!” Every moment of a girl’s life should not be occupied and busy. There needs to be time to think and daydream, time to ride her bike and write in her journal. I like to teach my girls at an early age to manage their free time by developing some hobbies to keep themselves content. Something as simple as cross-stitching, playing the piano or sketching can give a girl a project to look forward to. Beware not to over-fill her time with outside-the-home commitments, lessons and classes.

DianeJune2007-2Every girl needs a friend. In a culture that grows girls up way, way too fast, old-fashioned mother-daughter camaraderie is getting rarer and rarer, and yet nothing makes a girl as happy as being best friends with her mom! Take the time when they are young, and that devotion will pay back with smoother teenage years and a lifelong friendship!

Besides mom, a couple of like-minded, value-sharing girlfriends can help make life delightful. A girl doesn’t need a whole class full. I have always been surprised to find that a few friends is enough.

Sweet words are just as important as daily breath, and they live in the memory to keep a girl feeling loved and lovely when the world may shout a negative message. Apply loving praise liberally!

Isn’t it fun raising girls? Remember, love is spelled “T-I-M-E” to your daughter!


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I am overwhelmed, feeling like I am doing, doing all day long for my kids and fall into bed at night exhausted, with little accomplished. We seem to get farther and farther behind on homeschool. How do I get out of this hole?


I so understand. All moms who homeschool with a lot of children have felt what you are describing, I believe! But, one woman doesn’t have the energy to do it all. Although it is a gradual process, you can work towards directing your children’s energy to move the family forward.

God has modeled the best pattern for the growth of his children—never doing for us what we can do for ourselves. And so it should be with our parenting, including our homeschooling.

Stop right now and jot down a list of what you are doing for your children that they could do for themselves. Are you getting them up in the morning rather than training them to use an alarm? Are you explaining and re-explaining lesson instructions that they could read themselves and figure out if they just concentrated? Are you typing their papers rather than teaching them to type? Are you correcting math papers that could be self-corrected? Are you outlining the day or week’s work on a planner page or are they coming to you for every little thing? Are they getting out their books and supplies and putting them away each day or are you left to clear up the “homeschool mess” so you can get lunch on the table?

alarm-clock-590383_1280Start with the most basic thing: getting oneself up in the morning. Alarm clocks are cheap for the independence they bring! When a child feels autonomous in getting himself up in the morning, his whole attitude is affected. Nothing feels worse to me than being hopelessly behind. Getting up late (or worse, being dragged out of bed by someone else) is a bad way to start every day. Even a five-year-old can learn to set his alarm every night when he says his prayers and hops into bed. The independence he feels when he gets himself up for scripture study or homeschool is amazing!

Take an attitude during school time of “you can do it!”. Of course, you are the teacher and are there to teach them, but it only weakens a child to do for him anything he is capable of doing for himself. And usually our children amaze us at their capability! Louisa was consistently writing rather sloppily in her school journal, and had “trained” me to think that was the best she could do. One day I asked my older children to help me address envelopes. Louisa wanted to help, but I didn’t want sloppy writing on them. “Let me just try it, Mom,” she begged. So I let her address one, and I was amazed! When she put her mind to it, her writing was at least as good as the older children!

When things were particularly out of control in my homeschool, I found that instituting a “rotation plan” worked well. I had each child choose a spot. If you have desks, that is their “spot”. If not, each child chooses a spot to sit and do their work. The further away these spots are from each other, the better this works. Then, I required the children to stay in their spot and do their silent work (math, reading, journal writing, handwriting, etc.) while I rotated from child to child. I set up the little ones (who didn’t want to be held) with puzzles or other toys within view and checked in with them every time I rotated to another child. If a child got stumped on a problem, instead of whining, “Mom, help!” (which can be deafening when 7 children all call for mom at the same time), they were instructed to quietly go on to the next problem, just circling that one and when I rotated to them, we would take care of it. Rotating through the children every few minutes made it possible to get through a few hours of homeschool work with everyone quietly working, impossible as it seems! If a child called out to me while I was on rotation with another child, I would remind them to be quiet and go on to the next thing and soon it would be their turn. Eventually, the older children dropped out of needing me so very much. They had learned to work on their own, with just a few check-ins with me at the beginning and end of the quiet work period.

babydutySometimes we get caught up so much in the mode of being parent that we forget that our children are “in training” to become a parent/teacher themselves and need experience learning this role as well. They can help you! Any child who can read can listen to a younger child read. Every child can correct his own math paper, or a sibling’s. Children can give spelling tests to each other, with Mom just checking the final test (as children are prone to miss their own mistakes). Family read aloud can be rotated between children that read well—polishing their skills while giving Mom’s voice a break. When I had many preschoolers, I would list “baby duty” on my 8 year and up children’s school schedules. They would take the youngest ones into another part of the house or outside in the yard and teach them. The “baby duty” box had puzzles, picture books to read aloud, playdough, educational games for little ones, etc. For 20 minutes, they entertained and educated the little ones, giving me a much needed time slot to work with a beginning reader, and giving them a pleasant time with little ones. Even if they just swung them and walked around the yard looking at bugs, it was a mutually beneficial experience. Children who homeschool should not be spending much time babysitting, but a 20 min. baby duty is just right!

2girlsswimmingI tell my children when they are about 11 or 12 years old that they have come over to the “adult side of the family” and we need them on that team desperately (as we were so outnumbered with little ones for a long many years). Once on the “adult side”, they are supposed to be contributors, solvers of problems, not creators of problems. They are supposed to be peacemakers and help the little ones get along, and take on the adult position of helping out rather than creating more work. If you have a family of 2 parents and 5 children, just getting two older children over to the “adult side” can put a family back into balance, where there are more “helpers” than “little ones”.

So, breathe deep . . . things are going to get easier!


May I recommend:

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Mad Teenagers

lifeoflouisaI just listened to yet another mom describe her “mad teenagers”. This is a problem that seems all-too frequent amongst homeschooling families. And it is not necessary.

A family starts off excitedly homeschooling their little ones, and things go pretty well. Life is fun day-by-day being together. The kids are excited and learning. Mom is delighted with their progress. Read-aloud, field trips, library trips, hands-on science experiments, and more blend together to make a very satisfying lifestyle and educational experience. It seems her children will turn out the best ever! She teaches them about God, about honesty, about manners. They are smarter and more mature and respectful than their peers. Everything is going well.

Fast forward 10 years and it can be quite a different story. Teenagers now, those once-happy-little-ones may be sullen, angry, resistant, unmotivated.

What happened?

Basically, a young child’s needs are easily met within the family circle. But as that child grows year by year, those needs change. And if Mom the Teacher doesn’t flex and grow to provide for the teen’s needs, frustration and anger can result. This can be especially challenging because mom is probably still having babies, and the little ones are still responding joyfully to her “method”.

For a growing pre-teen, the family circle is becoming a bit cramped. And, because growing-up is new to them, they often can’t really express the growing unrest and resistance they feel. Once you’ve raised a few kids, you come to watch for this malady around 11 years old, give or take. It seems to correspond with self-awareness. Right before you eyes, your child changes from a carefree youth who doesn’t care if his socks match, to a self-conscious adolescent who looks in the mirror too much. If you jump right on it when you see the symptoms, and provide for his needs, life goes on happily. If you continue homeschooling-as-usual, then anger and resistant or sullen behavior can surface, a symptom of those unmet needs.

So what is the cure? Open the circle. Help your teens by striving to provide:


*Association with members of the opposite sex

*Venturing out in the world beyond home

*Relating to adults (outside family relations)

*More challenging schoolwork

*More responsibility in areas that truly contribute (being treated like an adult)


My teenagers, goofing off

So, how does one put that prescription into practice? Well, a good homeschooling support group can meet lots of those needs all in one swoop. Getting together with other homeschool families that have teens, and rotating the moms as teachers is one of the best ways to give your teens the friends they crave and truly need, as well as other adults to learn from and relate to. It also gives them time out of the family circle, more challenging schoolwork, someone besides Mom to be accountable to, and something to look forward to (and dress for!) When you put your efforts toward building such a group, you will find that your children have opportunity to make friends with those who share your values.

Whenever I hear about homeschooling families that have decided that taking online courses or distance learning would be good for their teens, I shudder. Isolation is the worst prescription for a teen, and that’s what more time on the computer or studying alone brings. It is exactly what will make things worse!

prom2009-13I spend a lot of my time trying to provide the social environment to meet my kids needs. We put on an Annual Homeschool Prom . Within my support group, we have a weekly teen activity, plus our Friday Fun Classes (rotating mom teachers). We have an annual camp-out. Having good like-minded friends and a satisfying social life is important indeed.

In the absence of a good teen group, taking a few classes at a private, charter or public school can fill that need. One drawback is that kids that have been socially deprived may be over-eager and fall in with bad friends, as they are the easiest to win acceptance from. It is worth the effort to seek out a school setting that has the best kids for your teen to go to classes with. Another drawback is that you have mentored your child to this point with solid values which generally include loving to learn, valuing intelligence, not wasting time, not cheating, not focusing on artificial measures of worth (grades, clothes, beauty, brawn) and more. These values will be challenged in a school environment. But going to school part-time is definitely a way to banish restlessness and discontent.

campout4Belonging to a team (whether a ball team, a scouting troop, a dance company, a choir or an orchestra) is a growing experience for teens. They have to be dependable to their peers, and that is the stuff that helps fulfill and define a teen’s sense of “who am I?” Having a job is another way to be part of a team, plus you get paid!

Treating these growing-into-adults kids like adults is excellent therapy. Put them in charge of dinner one night per week, or in charge of grocery shopping or baking the family’s bread, or keeping track of the library books so they don’t get overdue fines, balancing the family checkbook and paying bills, fixing the computer, or any other responsibility that truly contributes in an adult-like way. Give them the job and don’t bail them out on it. Your teen will learn, you will be off-loaded, plus you’ll come to rely on their contribution to the family, and they will feel indispensable in a healthy way.

When we think of homeschooling, we may think “academic”, but raising a whole person requires focusing on their changing needs. Give teens what they need and they will be happy (well, as happy as possible while going through puberty!)

Best success!



May I recommend:

Chivalry, It’s Up to Us!

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Communal Comparison

EmilyinaspensIt has been so long since I was in junior high and high school that I guess I forgot what P.E. was like. Our family attended an evening performance of the symphony in a local public high school auditorium. Afterwards, a trip to the restroom gave me some surprising insights. Since my children have never attended public school physical education, they had never seen the girl’s locker room before, particularly the communal shower. Julianna (14 years at the time) was shocked!

“What is that?” she wondered. “It looks like they expect the girls to all take a shower together!”

“Yep, that’s it,” I told her.

“No, not really, Mom!”

Her surprise and dismay at the arrangement started me thinking. There is no other time in a person’s life that one is expected to disregard normal modesty and walk around undressed in front of strangers (or even friends). Physical familiarity is reserved for those with whom we have eternal relationships (parent/child, husband/ wife). Unfortunately, having this experience during the very self-conscious teen years makes it even more detrimental.

I have often wondered why teenagers seem so caught up with their physical inadequacies. “My nose is too big, my bustline is too small, my face has too many pimples. . . .”—this sort of comment is all too common. I think it is less common among homeschooled children. Maybe it is natural at an age of intense physical change, but I can’t help but think it is aggravated tremendously by the communal comparison of the daily naked shower parade.

My mind went back to my school days. I can’t remember details, but I do remember looking at other girls’ bodies and making comparisons. I always felt like I was on the losing end (whether that was reality or not). I looked at the girls who were well-developed and physically more mature than I was and I felt childish. I looked at the girls who were thin, and I felt fat. I looked at the pretty girls and I felt ugly. I looked at the girls who were not well shaped, or had birthmarks and felt sorry for them. I think every girl in the locker room was really on the losing end, comparing herself to others strictly by the fickle and ever-changing standards of physical beauty, of which no one can take any direct responsibility anyway.

I recall dashing into the shower after P.E. with a undersized towel for protection, whirling around once, and rushing to get dressed before I could “be seen.” Nobody took showers, not really. No one stood there and washed their body with soap, and enjoyed a shower, although the “towel check” required a wet towel to prove you did. (There are other ways to get a towel wet.) There were confident girls that didn’t seem in a rush to get dressed, but no one washed up. So what is the shower famdec2006-12requirement for? Growing up with it, I didn’t question it, but now I do.

After seeing the locker room facilities, Julianna was certain she’d never want to take the dance class or the other P.E. classes that had looked fun on the school electives listing. She was appalled to even imagine that undressing daily in front of others would be required of her. I found her innocent perspective refreshing. She has never been self-conscious in the least, in spite of the fact that she is very tall for her age (5’9” and wears a large shoe size). She is self-assured and graceful. I pondered if her freedom from self-consciousness would have remained had she been thrust into a daily comparison from age 12 through 18 years.

Something to think about.


May I recommend:

Mad Teenagers

Secret Keeper

God’s Will for my Body

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