Gearing Up for School



Looks like it’s that time again. In spite of the fact that it is the dead heat of summer, you can’t miss the school supplies sales in the stores and the shut down of the local swimming pool. I wish summer lasted a little longer!

Since all the neighbor children are going back to school, it’s time to think about this year’s homeschool. The first thing I do is make a plan for each child, entitled “Educational Goals.” This is the master plan that I work from all year long. On the left hand side of a paper, I write down the school subjects I feel are important for this child for this coming school year. On the right hand side, I list the resources we’ve chosen to do the job. I list the textbooks but also jot down any experiences, trips, mentors, hands-on projects that come to mind. This “spiritual creation” really helps me focus on what is important for this child to know, and how I am going to help him learn it. I also ask my student about what he wants to learn, what he is interested in and consider his personality and talents when choosing curriculum.  The books/resources you use can either “make or break” your child’s interest in a subject, so I am looking for the very best!

Next, I look at the months of school on a calendar and jot down an overview. For example, for math, my son will practice Math-it at the beginning of every school day and then go on to do one Saxon math lesson. I can divide the table of contents between the school year and know where we will be in a month, 3 months, and by the end of the school year. In real life, my son will progress at his own pace. If it’s too hard or too much, we will do only a half of a lesson. If he already knows several chapters, we skip them. But having an overview gives us a general plan so that we don’t lose our focus and wind up coasting through much of the year without accomplishing our goals. It also helps me look ahead at which resources I will need to buy, and what field trips or projects we will want to do.  It gives me a plan!

We do homeschool in the morning hours and I keep that time free from all interruptions (including phone and doorbell). After noon is the time that we schedule extra activities such as Children’s Drama class, music lessons, jobs, or taking a class at the local high school. I try to stick with this schedule as I find it nearly impossible to do homeschool in the afternoon (I’m too tired!), and if I allow children to come and go on different schedules, nothing seems to get accomplished.

sharingfun_l&m I’ve never met a teenager that wanted to go back to public school for any other reason than social life. Friends are important! Just think of “Social Life” as another subject in homeschool, because it deserves your attention just as much. I plan activities where the children will get social contact right along with our academic plans. Even just getting your children together with other homeschool families one day a week helps fill that need. A co-op school is ideal! A support group with regular activities has always been a vitally important part of our homeschooling.

Once you get your educational goals set and your plan for the first month written out, turn to organizing your school room or area. Even if you only have one shelf to operate out of, each child can have his name on a piece of masking tape stuck to a section of shelf where his books can be placed. When I first started homeschool, I picked up 6 identical small cardboard cookie boxes from the grocery store (free) and labeled each with a name. My children’s planners, textbooks, and a pouch for pens, etc. all fit into the box and they worked from it. Sure beats stacks of school books all over the family room! Nobody had to wander off in search of a book or pencil. Everything was stored in the bin, and handy.

I stock up at the back-to-school sales on paper, spiral notebooks, art supplies, pens, glue, scissors, etc.— buying enough for the entire year, and putting them all together in one place. If you have room, it is handy to gather resources by subject. All our art supplies are on one shelf. I have a shelf for math that holds math games and manipulatives for all ages. Stacking bins or even cardboard boxes will also work. Don’t forget to make a bin or low shelf for the little ones so they can get out puzzles, games and coloring books on their own.

"All Set for School" Curriculum Kits

“All Set for School” Curriculum Kits

This is the time to weed through all the books you’ve accumulated and pass judgment on them. I have come to view any book that has “just one good chapter” as an enemy: it just takes up space, is hard to remember to use, and clutters up my life. With the exception of readers before 1950 (when they were still phonetic), most everything that I ever dragged home from the public school cast-off sales, I have not used. Many of those books are slanted with an agenda, or so out-dated as to not be interesting or true. There are exceptional books being produced for the homeschool market that are wonderful to use. If you are stumped where to start when choosing curriculum, take a look at my “All Set for School” Kits. These were created after years of counseling new homeschoolers on how to get started.

Above all, gearing up for school means recommitting yourself to this infinitely great work of teaching and sharing yourself with your children. I think all of us entertain (perhaps very briefly) the idea of putting our children back in school each fall. It takes work and devotion to teach homeschool! But I so enjoy being with my children and helping them learn! Be assured that no one can do it better than you can, no matter how educated and talented they are, because no one cares about your child’s success as much as you do!


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Building a Child’s Education

teamwork-606818_1280When I plan my homeschool, I think of it as constructing a lovely building. You must first start with a firm, sturdy base, especially if you are building a lofty edifice!  These are the basics of being a fine person: character, virtues and goodness. Training children in the way they should go is an on-going job, but if it goes lacking, not much else matters. We don’t want to create “educated devils”.

Next comes a solid foundation of educational skills, such as reading, writing, math, history and life skills (know-how) that builds year after year. Building  a firm foundation of skills and knowledge prepares for the next level of the structure, which is that learning that will help you to specialize and follow your interests. This prepares your for your life work!

Now, imagine:  A child who has been trained to be honest and good, from the time of his babyhood.  Taught to master basic education and skills, as he grows.  Led to develop his talents in the special path of his interest. He is ready for life! He is ready to give the world his gift!  This is the goal of education.

This can be visualized in the chart below:


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Begin with the End in Mind

lovetosave1Ever feel like you are bumbling around amidst a three-ring circus in your attempts to homeschool? There is nothing like a new baby to restore a teacher/mother’s humility in the face of her own inadequacies! For our homeschool, this chaos repeats itself every few years with the advent of a precious new “student.” I have homeschooled in my robe nursing my baby while I have tried to teach math, correct papers and read stories:
“Mom, can’t you hold the book still? I can’t see the pictures.”
“Sorry, honey, the baby needs to be rocked.”

Guilt inevitably settles in as I imagine the public school superintendent dropping by for a surprise visit: “This is school?!”
Any of this sound familiar?

However, there is something about persevering with the matter of learning every day that convinces me that homeschooling is the right choice, even when it is far from perfection. Maybe it is not so far from perfection as we perceive it to be. What could be the perfect Unit Study if it is not watching your own mother morning-sick, uncomfortable, growing, waiting, and preparing, and seeing your own father helping, praying constantly for the well-being of the mother and child, serving tirelessly, taking on Mother’s workload—all in the anticipation of a new family member’s arrival after a tenuous 9-month journey? Our older children were able to see their baby brother’s delivery, and what awestruck expressions they had on their faces! Even though they were only present for the last few moments of his birth, they got a taste of the sacrifice required, the pain involved and also the joyous miracle of a new life! Then came the meals, letters, flowers, gifts, calls of concern, help of friends and neighbors: what an outpouring of love, and what an impression it made upon my children! “Lots of people care about us!” they said. It caused us all to recommit to helping people when they need us because it made such a wonderful difference to our family.

The time I spent recovering laying in bed listening to my children was quite a revelation! What a time to assess how well I have taught my children to be self-sufficient: to cook a meal, do the laundry, care for the little ones, be patient, etc. Here’s the real report card! If they can’t take care of day-to-day living, it really doesn’t matter very much if they know how to divide fractions, now does it? First things first.

grandbaby_Oct2010Oh, the sweet vulnerability of babies! How dependent these little children are upon us, their parents, to teach them things of importance as they grow to the age of accountability. Seeing my little babe’s helplessness instills a great desire in my heart to carefully consider how I invest my children’s learning hours. Every homeschooler knows the frustration of “there is so much I want to teach them!” and time seems so limited. School year seems to flow into school year, and when I stop and consider what we’ve done, it doesn’t all seem as vital as I hoped it would.

So, with this new baby, I am taking the opportunity to see with new eyes what is really of value and how I can best teach it. I am setting some goals for what I want them to know when they leave my tutelage and just how we will arrive at that envied destination. The motto “Begin with the end in mind” is crucial to homeschool. With every-day crises, it is very easy to just survive instead of living your plan. Yet the years keep on circling around, and the moment is lost if we are not vigilant in aligning our activities with our goals.

Here are the goals that I have prayerfully arrived at:

  • Teach my children to love the Lord and to know Him as their personal Savior, their help in time of need and their model of what to grow to be like.
  • Teach them to love the Constitution and their freedom more than their lives.
  • Teach them that each has a gift to give to mankind and that it is their responsibility to discover their gift, their life’s mission, and to make it their life’s work to give it to the world.
  • Teach them that they can be a far more useful instrument in the Lord’s hands if they are clear-thinking and articulate.
  • Teach them to be self-sufficient and live providently.

It is amazing how little this has to do with square roots and diagramming sentences, although those are necessary and have their proper priority.

After mapping my goals, I search for the best books and teaching tools and try to commit myself to what I will use with each child that year and to exactly what we hope to accomplish. Of course, this is subject to change, as are all the best of plans, but at least it points us in the right direction. Reviewing my goals regularly keeps me on track (and also helps me see how easy it is to get waylaid!).

I know one mother who is going to begin homeschooling “as soon as she gets organized and prepared.” She has been “preparing” for 6 years now! Preparation is really a spiritual matter. You are prepared enough if you can answer “yes” to these questions:

  1. Do I want to do the will of the Lord in educating my children, whatever it may be?
  2. Do I have my child’s best interest at heart?
  3. Am I teachable—willing to be learn, accept, flex, be inspired?
  4. Am I dedicated?

trail-352284_1280It takes time and effort to homeschool. Those hours must come from somewhere, which means less time for Mom to do what she wants.

“When you take the very first step on the road, you also take the last.” Take the time to make sure you are on the right road so when you’ve been retired from homeschooling, you can look back on your years with your children and feel confident that you’ve taught them the things that really matter!


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Daddy’s Thoughts about Homeschooling

dadandbunTranscript of an interview with Rick Hopkins (my husband)

Q. What was it that first got you to consider homeschooling your children?
A. My wife Diane was the first to feel impressed to begin homeschooling. She saw the problems our children were having in school; she investigated, and she didn’t like what she found in the public schools. Several of our children were having trouble with the school environment, their peers, the expectations, the school procedures, etc. At the time I was out of touch with our children’s emotional state. I felt open to change and the desires of my wife. I was involved in working as a design engineer and was very busy in my own life and, like most fathers, did not have contact with the children during the day. I became very supportive of our homeschool from the beginning.

Q. What wrong attitudes or beliefs did you have to give up or work through to do this?
A. I thought that school was the same as it was 20-30 years ago when I went to school. I assumed that the schooling I received was really good for me (I had never even thought about it before). We hadn’t considered that there was another way to meet the needs of our children. Although I always believed we could do anything we were inspired to do, I just had never considered the avenue of “homeschooling” before. We accepted this eagerly after having it confirmed in prayer. We had no idea who else homeschooled, we had no support group, we didn’t know how our church felt about homeschooling—but we knew the Lord approved of this decision for our family.

Q. How do you perceive your role as father these days?
A. I have a great responsibility to teach and train my children and bring them up in the right way. Education is a vital concern in my effort, and I think it should include the following four areas:
1) Gospel centered teaching, based upon scripture.
2) I believe that I need to teach and train them in the U.S. Constitution and American patriotism. I believe that our liberties are being severely eroded.
3) I feel a responsibility to teach basic life skills. My sons need to learn to be good providers and stewards. I do this by working side by side with them as often as possible. The work ethic is paramount; scouting and survival skills are needed to become independent. My daughters similarly learn domestic skills from Mom, as well as helping out in our business. I also want to expose my children to other basic life skills: gardening and working the land, using the computer, raising animals, building and constructing things, cooking, child care, giving service to others, etc.
4) Next is the responsibility to teach them academics. The foremost of these are reading and writing. Basic math skills are next. I believe other subjects are important also—science, language, geography, etc.—and I encourage them explore their interests in each. My object is to spark their interests in the area of their God-given talents and help them prepare for their life’s contribution to society. We make regular visits to the library, take many field-trips, and experience hands-on activities. I take the lead in teaching our scripture study, and I do what I can to help them with life skills. My wife tries to cover the rest in homeschool.

Q. What changes do you see in yourself since you began homeschooling your children?
A. My views on what’s really important in life have drastically changed. I am more sensitive to the heartbeat of the family now. We began homeschooling our children eight years ago. This was born out of a sincere desire to save their souls and come closer as a family. We began our bookstore business ten years ago. I had worked as a Mechanical Engineer previously. This changed my daily work to be more service-oriented. We all work very hard together in this business, which helps family solidarity and our need for each person in our family (we depend on each one for the business success). We are better able, I hope, to teach our values to our children now that our lives are more interwoven.

I feel I have increased testimony in my life now more than ever before. I try to question everything I do to be sure it is consistent with the Lord’s will, and not just accept a habit because that’s the way it’s always been done. Instead I truly want it to be the way God would have it be.

Q. What is your long-range goal for your family? What is your dream? How are you working to bring it about?
A. Here is my dream—to please God and to fulfill my life’s mission. This includes living righteously, helping my family do the same, and being involved directly in service to God. I want to overcome my personal problems and false traditions so that I will continue to repent and change in the direction He wants me to lead. I want my children to see that this is what they too should do (by my example). All of my goals are centered along this dream.


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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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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!


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Homeschooling on the Cheap

Rachel in a puddle!

Rachel in a puddle!


I want to do homeschooling but I am afraid that it is going to cost a lot of money. When I start homeschooling am I going to have to go somewhere and buy expensive books?


I know it can seem like it will take a fortune to homeschool well . . . especially if you look at my store…hee hee! I just keep finding better and more fun learning products, and if you have the money for them, they can really enhance homeschool! But, you can do a wonderful job of educating your children without spending much.

A wise homeschool mom once told me that it only takes “a paper and pencil” to homeschool! I am sure she was right. I would add to that: “a paper and pencil plus a mother’s love”. I think that is the crucial ingredient, and no school teacher, however wonderful he or she may be, can ever replicate that!

Let’s see: paper, pencil, mother’s love . . . I’d add: a library card.

The first few years that I homeschooled, I bought a very few carefully selected resources, and nearly wore my library card out. I found a wagon and took it to the library so I could wheel it around and gather my books. I’m sure I was a sight, dragging my wagon, carrying a baby on one hip, while my a-bit-older children struggled to push a stroller with a wiggly toddler in it.  They could definitely see me coming and going!

I have since graduated to a luggage dolly (my Christmas present!) onto which I strap 3 apple boxes stacked on top of each other. That way I can stroll around the library gathering books and DVDs and have an easy way to get them out to the car. I come armed with a well thought out schedule so I know exactly what topics we will cover in science, history and literature for the next month. I check out books that will serve to reinforce our textbook studies (or even replace them if you do not have money for basic books yet). For example, if “electricity” is your science topic this week, you can find many good picture books, and harder text-type books, that give you a overview of the topic from the simplest explanations to challenging reading. You might even find some simple experiment books and a good DVD to make science exciting.

Not having enough resources is not the problem nowadays. If you have internet access in your home, you will be overwhelmed with all the information, lesson plans, visual aids, etc. that are available online. The problem I have found is there is too much information for me to easily sort through. If you don’t have internet access, libraries often do.

There are some necessary items, it is true, depending on the age of your children, such as math books, a phonics program, writing journals, etc. Ask for those for Christmas and birthdays, if you have grandparents that are willing. I also stock up at the August and September “Back to School” sales, where you can buy a pack of pencils for 10¢ and other amazing bargains. I buy enough paper and supplies to last the whole school year at great prices.

. . . paper, pencil, mother’s love, a library card . . . plus I ‘d add to that, a sense of fun.

Learning is delightful! Being with your kids is fun! This experience is an adventure you won’t want to miss! Don’t let budget concerns bog you down. You can do it on a shoestring. You’ll have a wonderful time together. You will become best friends with each other. You’ll pass on your values and be rewarded with seeing your children accept your morals and standards.

And, Mom, you will be delighted to see that learning is deliciously fun (just in case you missed out on that fact while you were in public school those many long years). I have learned more, become better educated and found more enjoyment in homeschooling than I ever did in school or college, and I was a good student who liked school. Homeschool really teaches you to love learning, to be hungry for learning and growing.

To your success!


May I recommend:

A Library Card and A Willing Heart

Small  girl with the book
Make-it-Yourself Beginning Readers

Love To Learn! Homeschool Handbook

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