An Elective Summer

I hate to stop homeschooling for the summer. Not many of my friends feel the same way, but for me it takes so much momentum to begin again that I’d rather not stop at all. Homeschooling keeps the children in an excellent pattern of waking for scripture study, doing chores, and then getting on with their schoolwork every morning. There is still lots of time in the afternoon to swim, play with friends, and do all the summery things children look forward to.

Besides that, children lose so very much in skills over the summer. All you have to do to prove it to yourself is open a math book. Nearly 1/3 of the entire book is catch-up for what was lost over the summer vacation. I began my little Emily at age 5 in Saxon 1, the first grade book. She sailed along fine and arrived at the end of her book in February when we began Saxon Math 2.  But, I did feel it was wasting my money when nearly half of the Saxon 2 workbook (part 1) was review. We did bits and pieces of the lessons but Emily pronounced them all “too easy!” Math is not her forte so she probably represents most children. What we were faced with is the public school’s need to bring children back up to date that have done no math all summer long. Skills such as math and reading are easily lost if they are not practiced!

This summer my teenage boys are working, so I only have four children at home all day long. We decided to have an “elective” summer. Since this school year was pretty bare maintenance at my house due to pregnancy/birth of my seventh child, we didn’t do much in the way of “fun stuff”. I asked my children what they were interested in learning. Since three of the four children are girls, they chose: sewing, cooking, crafts (photo albums, art projects, stenciling, tole painting, etc.), piano and gardening. We named Monday: Sewing Day. Tuesday is Cooking Day, and so on. The children look forward to each day with great enthusiasm. I find it tricky to get anything done when I have a new baby but knowing that all I have to accomplish is this one thing makes it possible. The house isn’t staying very tidy, but we are spending some great time together learning. On our first Sewing Day, even my little 4 year old Ammon was able to cut out the pattern pieces for his shorts and sewed them up on the sewing machine with my help. I was amazed at what he was capable of doing!  The children were so excited to learn a new skill and have worn their projects proudly and often.

bagels2For Cooking Day, we are learning basic skills such as making bread, tortillas, soups, etc. We also use cooking day to mass produce meals for the freezer to free us up from having to cook dinner on evenings when we’d rather enjoy being outside. A team of children working side by side with mother’s direction can produce 10 casseroles assembly line fashion rather quickly—and it’s fun! Daddy likes to come home from work on Cooking Day because there is always something fresh baked—cookies, cinnamon rolls, or bread. We try new recipes and experiment with favorite recipes to see if we can make them healthier without ruining the taste, a tricky endeavor! Cooking gives children confidence as well as kitchen skills. The other day I was nursing the baby at lunch time and my big children were not home, so Emily (6 years) made lunch all by herself and it was good. She made her choice: vegetable sandwiches, washing and slicing all the fixings herself. Good job!

Each of my children is keeping their own photo albums and we enjoy sitting around the table gluing photos into our books and writing comments and dates by them. We decorate our pages with stickers and fancy writing. It is a fun way to keep memories alive and the children feel proud of their books. This is a good choice of project, because if you don’t get your children to keep up their books, you will find yourself swamped with unlabeled, unidentifiable photos in a few years—I know from experience!

One day was a little rocky because the baby was fussy and needed most of my time and attention, but we did manage to have some short piano lessons. Emily and Ammon learned where middle C is on the piano, and memorized a simple little tune. Julianna got a longer lesson and some songs to practice. Not exactly what Mozart would have done, but at least we are getting started on some long overdue desired topics in homeschool.

thumbnailYou can make each elective topic into a notebook, collecting information as you go along pursuing your interest. Or, use a binder with five dividers—one for each topic. Our sewing notebook contains the children’s measurements, numbers of patterns that worked well with notes of how they had to be adjusted, sale flyers, and pictures from ads of outfits to inspire future sewing projects. We also keep a large zip lock bag containing a square piece of fabric from each project that they sewed so that they will be able to piece a quilt from all their projects someday. I did this when I was a teenager and still enjoy that quilt and the memories of sewing projects, clothes I’ve made.  Over the years, our cooking notebook eventually developed into the Hopkins’ Healthy Home Cooking book that we sell! My son Nathan has collected so much information in his Spanish notebook that it is the size of a dictionary (well, almost!).

Besides these electives, I require my young children to do a math worksheet daily and practice their phonics flashcards or read to me from their readers. Julianna (12), practices typing or piano daily, as well as doing part of a math lesson. These skills have to be kept up. But these things can be easily done in 1/2 hour to an hour and then the fun can begin.

Nathan in his helicopter ( . . . in his dreams!)

Nathan in his helicopter ( . . . in his dreams!)

My teenage boys love juggling, Spanish, fixing engines, and computer animation. My girls enjoy cooking, making up dances and skits, sewing, gardening, and drawing. These are just a few of the things they are interested in learning more about and study with great motivation.

If you want to have an “elective “ summer, start a brainstorm list with your children. Then chose the five things they want to do the most, one for each day of the week. You can pick another five after a month if you want to. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Raising rabbits or chickens
Photo albums
Herb study
First aid
Spanish (or any foreign language)
Playing a musical instrument
Scouting skills
Tropical fish
Knot tying
Singing harmony parts

Have fun!



May I recommend:

Feed Creativity!

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The Art of Quilting

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What to Do with a Restless Little Boy?

I find it a rather interesting fact that 80% of all homeschooled children are boys. That makes a definite statement about the inability of most little boys to sit in desks and endure the regimentation of public school. Little boys are wiggles and adventure. Sitting in a desk for hours on end sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to an energetic little man.

What can be done with those particular little boys that can’t seem to do well in homeschool either? It seems that in the past 14 years of homeschooling my children, I have rotated in and out of having a restless little boy many of those years. It gets very tempting to consider public school, especially when I have a baby. Public school seems like a good solution until you really study it out.

Advantages of Sending Your Restless Boy to Public School:
1. He would be out of your hair for several hours a day, meaning you could get something done (such as homeschooling your more compliant children, cleaning house, nursing the baby, etc.)
2. The school schedule would discipline him to being on time and preparing his homework ahead of time.
3. The teacher would teach him to obey and follow directions.
4. He would have other children to play with and tousle with, teaching him how to act and get along while diverting some of his boundless energy.
5. He would learn academics, which would be more than seems to be getting through in homeschool.

Let’s Consider Each So-Called “Advantage”
1. He would be out of your hair for several hours a day, meaning you could get something done (such as homeschooling your more compliant children, cleaning house, nursing the baby, etc.)
Mothers are to be about the vital business of teaching and nurturing the precious children that God has entrusted to them. You love him more than any other person on this earth loves him, and you care about his daily doings. No teacher could rouse the same amount of interest or concern for his success. Just because he is out of your hair doesn’t mean that he is no longer totally your responsibility. Often the problems school creates only stress and strain your relationship further, putting more pressure on you. Your son can easily sense why he was put in school. Instead of feeling loved and wanted, he will feel that he is a problem too great for you to handle. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes lots of time and devotion, but it pays big dividends. Never give up!

Besides, maintaining your homeschool plus keeping up with the needs, demands, and homework of public school is extra exhausting.

2. The school schedule would discipline him to being on time and preparing his homework ahead of time.
Fat chance. If you haven’t been able to teach and guide your son to be on time and prepare ahead of time, the problem will only get worse with going to school. In homeschool you can be patient and lead him along. If he attends public school, it will be a mad dash to get out the door and a scramble to complete homework every school day for the rest of the school year. Talk to mothers who have their children in public school and ask specifically about the morning get-off-to-school stuff. I think you will hear that it is a crazy race to get out the door and that family prayer, a nutritious breakfast, hugs and kisses and other important beginnings to the day are often shrugged off in the hurry of it all. As far as homework goes, I spent several years helping my sons get their homework done after school before we discovered homeschooling, so I have a bit of experience. I firmly believe that it is much easier to teach them a concept in homeschool than it is to try to plow through their homework with them, explaining information (with no idea of how the teacher presented it in class) at the time of day when parents are most exhausted.

3. The teacher would teach him to obey and follow directions.
It is not the school’s job to train up your child. Besides, even if the school could accomplish it, you wouldn’t like the job they did it. Their values may be different from your way of life. The job of training children is best done at home, at an early age. If your little guy is still struggling with obedience, you are the best teacher and home is the best setting. Whatever problems he has at home will just be magnified at school. He will be labeled a troublemaker or a difficult child. The fear of a new situation may make him behave for a few days, but then he will begin to struggle with the same behavior that caused problems in homeschool. Home is the place to learn obedience from a tireless, consistent, loving mother. (God grant us the strength!)

4. He would have other children to play with and tussle with, teaching him how to act and get teamwork-649498_1280along while diverting some of his boundless energy.
Although I think it is important to have other children to play with and interact with, don’t count on public school for enriching your child’s social life. For one thing, you can control the type of friends your son associates with while he does homeschool. But in public school, often children who are restless fit right in with children who have lower standards and less self-discipline. You won’t like the language, play or dress codes that your son will quickly pick up in school. Although it seems like it would drain his energy to roughhouse with other boys, generally it only makes them wilder. Constructive play such as rigorous sports or building a tree house can divert that restlessness. When my boys were young, they dug long tunnels and built teepees and forts. They dragged themselves in from their work/play exhausted. Boys thrive on heavy chore jobs such as carrying wood or hoeing the garden, masculine jobs that need a boy’s muscles and strength to complete. Hobbies such as tying knots, whittling or woodworking can also keep him busy and happy. These are productive ways to channel your son’s energy.

When my sons needed social life, I looked for an older boy who was strong in the gospel for my boys to look up to, someone who could teach them new skills. When my son Daniel was younger he learned to operate a CB radio, connect to the Internet and compose music on the computer from older boys who appreciated having an interested listener and learner. Mark learned to raise chickens and grow a garden from men in our church who enjoyed sharing their wisdom. True socialization comes from following in the footsteps of someone older and wiser who models just how to behave.

5. He would learn academics, which would be more than seems to be getting through in homeschool.
There are more important things to learn than academics, such as the fact that Jesus loves you and died for you, that you need to treat your baby brother gently, to speak respectfully to your parents, to brush and take care of your teeth and health in general, to be patient and attentive to the sick and aged, to remember to feed your pets and be kind to animals, to shovel your elderly neighbor’s sidewalk without pay, and other crucial basics to a happy life.

liquid-415425_1280In addition, consider how public school will teach your son academics. If much of the work will be listening to lectures or doing worksheets while sitting quietly in a desk, your child is likely destined to be a failure. Restlessness in homeschool can be accommodated by hands-on learning, frequent exercise breaks, and alternate ways of gaining knowledge such as watching a video, playing a math game, tutoring little ones or doing a science experiment rather than just reading and filling in worksheets.

Food and Discipline

peanut-butter-684021__180There are a few other things to consider when dealing with a restless little boy. Food allergies can wreck havoc with a child’s ability to sit still and pay attention. Although I feel cautious about “blaming” food for such trouble, I do think it is worth observing. My 6-year-old son Ammon (who is currently the restless little boy in our homeschool) would pay attention and write his letters fastidiously neatly on certain days. Other days, his letters and numbers would be sloppy and backwards. After several weeks of watching, I decided that he was eating peanut butter and whole wheat bread for breakfast on the mornings that school went poorly. Removing whole wheat (difficult to do!) and peanut butter from his diet resulted in a more peaceful homeschool for Ammon, although it didn’t solve the problem entirely.

Lack of discipline and hyperactivity look very similar in behavior. I often think strictness and consistency on the part of the parents of restless boys might be more effective than medicine in many cases. Boys particularly seem to push limits and struggle with learning self-control. Without proper discipline, most little boys are a whirlwind. If you think lack of self-discipline is causing the problem with your little boy, help him learn little by little to control himself. I like reading my children a story from Little House in the Big Woods (pg. 87, chapter entitled “Sundays”) about what self-control little pioneer children were expected to have, to the point of not even laughing on Sunday. Talking about exactly what is expected behavior in home school helps too. For example, when my little guy sits upside down on the couch (meaning head down and feet up) during school, I tell him that had he gone to public school when I was a child, my teacher Mr. Bowen would have hit him with a hickory stick for that trick. Today’s school teacher may have sent him to the principle or held him in from recess. I am not excessively strict on how they sit or what they say during homeschool, but I do feel you must keep order and children must learn not to burst out with whatever pops into their head to say. Judging on some children’s actions that I observe at church, perhaps I expect better behavior than the public schools do.

Remember that your mischievous little boy is first and foremost God’s child, and God loves and values him greatly. Pray for help! If you don’t know what to do next, He knows. Lay claim to His promise: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:17–18). “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” If we pray with full energy of heart, He will grant us pure love for our restless little boy. God will change our irritation and annoyance to understanding and charity. He will plant in our mind a strategy, ideas to help this child grow and become that man that He designed him to be. Remember you are the key figure in this plan. Mother forms and shapes the child more than any other influence. Your approval and love is crucial. It is true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.


May I recommend:

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A Moment for Memorization

louisapiesMy little Julianna, at the age of 9, came home from Sunday School excited about the fact that they were going to be expected to memorize lots of Bible verses that year and that the teacher had a reward in store for whoever could do it. She also expressed disbelief that, except for another homeschooled girl in her class, the other children were mortified at the prospect of having to memorize so much. “I guess homeschoolers just like to memorize things,” she surmised.

Many homeschool families make memorization a daily affair and reap great benefits from doing so. I recently met a homeschool mother of 11 outstanding children, and I was amazed at how much memory work her children did. From the time they can sputter out a few words, this incredible mother has them learning and reciting little poems and scriptures.

I was pretty impressed, so I attempted to teach my children to memorize things also. Every week in my homeschool, we work on a memory verse taken from our assigned scripture reading. I search out the best verse, hopefully one that describes an eternal law and its accompanying blessing. I dictate this passage of scripture to them, and they write it and then correct their work as an English lesson. They keep this in a section of their notebooks where they can refer to it for memorization. I also write this verse on an index card and stick it to the bathroom mirror where it is seen often. My children work daily on memorizing it, with the goal of passing off their verse by Friday. As you can imagine, children can accumulate quite a bundle of Bible verses in their memories, which I know will make them better people.

I love to hear children recite excellent poetry. I think it exercises their brains and gives them worthy things to think about. One of my favorite poems is “I Love You, Mother,” and I have only to start the first few lines when we are having a problem getting chores done and everyone knows exactly how I am feeling and can finish the poem themselves. It gives us a common bond of emotion and experience.

swing-407428_1280I Love You, Mother

“I love you, Mother,” said little John.
Then forgetting his work, his cap went on
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving her the water and wood to bring.

“I love you, Mother”, said rosy Nell,
“I love you more than tongue can tell.”
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
’Til her mother rejoiced when she went to play.

“I love you, Mother”, said little Fan.
“Today I’ll help you all I can.
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep.”
So she rocked the baby ’til it fell asleep.

Then stepping softly, she fetched the broom
And swept the floor and tidied the room.
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as a child could be.

“I love you, Mother,” again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

An excellent way to get your children to learn a lengthy poem without much effort on your part is to make a recording. You can read the poem into the recorder or you can have a child do this. Then listen while you run an errand, and the children will learn it easily with enough repetition. Some of my favorite poems that would be good for this purpose are:
“The Spider and the Fly” (a great lesson on temptation and vanity!)
“Paul Revere’s Ride”
“Hiawatha” (parts of it)
There are so many others that I love. These are just a few common ones to get you started.

Another good way to get make memorization easy is to use recordings that have educational songs. My children learned their multiplication facts this way, as well as the capitals of the United States. It is tough to forget anything set to song. I still can’t flip through the New Testament, looking for a verse, without singing to myself, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John . . .” taught to me 30 years ago at church!

Memorizing freedom documents and quotes is a way to understand the Constitution and our country’s principles of liberty. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”  is an inspiring, short work perfect for memorizing. I also have my children memorize the preamble to the Constitution and quotes of the patriots.

A friend of mine hosts a Poetry Festival each year, inviting grandparents, relatives and church teachers to a performance where their children recite poetry from memory. The children dress up to act the part and enjoy a chance to be in the spotlight. This is a great idea and gives the children a good reason to learn something challenging.

One leader recommended the use of hymns to dispel bad thoughts and temptations. He advised people to memorize the words to a hymn so it could be sung when there was a need for help. That is what is so useful about memorization: many a time the words to a song or poem have come into my mind when I needed some wisdom in making a decision or needed an enlightened perspective. Consider the truth so beautifully portrayed in this poem:

robins-nest-494009_1280Not In Vain

by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Try memorization in your home school. It is amazing how capable children are of remembering things with a little practice. It gives them a wonderful feeling of achievement and satisfaction. They are going to memorize things anyway (such as jingles, TV commercials, lyrics to songs, etc.), so take the opportunity to instill your values into their receptive minds through memorization of inspiring Bible verses, poetry, etc. They’ll reap the benefits for years to come!


May I recommend:

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For the New Homeschooler

boys-286245_1280Congratulations on wanting to homeschool!

I want to tell you that YOU CAN DO THIS! Homeschooling is a joyful lifestyle that you will love! Don’t get stressed, just come with me step-by-step and I’ll help you get started.

1. First, if you haven’t already, pray. Your child belongs to God—He knows his children best and He wants them to have the very best education. He wants them to have friends that will help them reach their potential and stay firm in the faith. He will help you in making decisions on methods and resources that will interest your student. You need his strength and guidance.

2. Don’t stress over teaching supplies. Colonial Americans educated their children marvelously well with one reader and a slate. You don’t have to be rich to homeschool. Get a library card, paper and pencil, and you will have a good beginning. When you want more, I would be glad to share my recommendations with you.

3. Legal stuff: there are many good websites that detail the legal requirements of your state. Type your state’s name and the words “homeschool laws” into a search engine to find out what your state requires. Generally, you are required to file an affidavit with your school district, telling them of your plan to homeschool, and assuring them that you will spend so many hours and days of instruction. We do not want to copy the long hours of the public school, and when you begin homeschooling, you will realize that structured schooling (math, language arts, etc.) takes just 1-3 hours per day, depending on your child’s age. But, learning goes on all day long as your child reads, cooks with you, experiments, does hands-on projects, discovers the world of nature, and practices the piano, for example. You can feel satisfied that you will easily fulfill the state requirement for learning hours.

4. Read! A well read man is a truly educated man. Make reading aloud to your family a daily event that everyone looks forward to. Start with a children’s classic that has wide appeal to everyone (Little House on the Prairie series, Trumpet of the Swan, Mr. Popper’s Penquins, etc.) and you will ignite a love of reading that will serve your children very well in their path to being truly educated.

5. Get information. Browse this website: I think you’ll find answers to some of the questions that may be on your mind.

6. Friends are so important to making homeschooling successful! Join email lists, support groups, park days, and any other homeschool activity you can find.

My philosophy of homeschool is that it is FUN! Being together with your children and being together learning—I can’t think of much more fun than that. Use hands-on projects, experiments, field trips, educational videos, etc. to keep it fun. Teach them the same subject at the same time (history, science, art, etc.) so you can all be on the same topic for discussions, which eases Mom’s job and makes homeschooling a delightful family project.

I’m rooting for you! Best success!


May I recommend:

Advice to the New Homeschooling Mom

Homeschooling: You Can Do It!

Love to Learn! Homeschool Handbook


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An Educational Approach


Emily, Louisa, Ammon think art is a lot of fun!


How does one come up with their own educational approach? Shouldn’t that be in place before you even attempt to homeschool?

When homeschooling mothers ask me these questions, I always suggest that they just jump in and do something—don’t try to decide on an approach or a curricula at first. When you make the decision to move to a new area, you don’t have to buy the house the day you arrive. You can rent or stay in a motel for awhile and check things out and you will make a better decision that way. You don’t have to make decisions on what type of stroller, crib and college education before the baby is born and you see what the actual need is.

The same goes for homeschooling. Just start a daily time together doing whatever comes to your mind. You may want to pledge allegiance to the flag, sing a song, read a story aloud to them (or, better yet, a few stories), chart the weather, play a math game, or take a nature walk. You could do some art, some science experiences. Mostly, enjoy being together. As you get a little routine going, you will be able to study out what works best with your children, what they enjoy, what they don’t like, and your educational approach will be in the making!

“First we have a relationship, and then we have an educational method” is one of my favorite homeschool quotes. Work on that relationship by becoming the teacher in their eyes (plus foremost, their beloved mother). Make a chart and stick it on the wall so that they can see you are in charge and are going to dependably make this wonderful thing happen. I am just going to invent one quickly here for young children, but you do it anyway you like:

“Our Happy Homeschool”

-9:00 Begin (come dressed, chores done)
-Pledge, Song, Prayer
-Exercise (jumping jacks, windmills, run twice around the house)
-Chart the weather
-Phonics (games preferably)
-Subject of the day (Mon: Science, Tues: History, Wed: Art, etc.)
-Walk or play outside (30 min)
-Math (hands on is best, teach the concepts with toys, beans, whatever you have on hand)
-Story time
12:00 Cooking (kids help make lunch)

As you consistently stick with your schedule, you can begin to explore curriculum options based on how your children are responding. For example, perhaps your child finds a lizard outside and shows a lot of interest. Try using library books and finding books on different kinds of lizards, or the anatomy of lizards. Get a documentary or science movie at the library on lizards. Go to a museum or pet shop and see lizards. Explore the topic thoroughly. As you do, you will find what approach works best for your kids (and works for you as a teacher and mother). You will be able to decide how to teach science most effectively. Will the children enjoy the foundation gained through using a textbook? Will they do better on library books with a theme each week? Would keeping a nature sketchbook that they draw in be exciting to them? Is there a hands-on science program that will work for you? This is how you grow into your educational approach.

Some kids love workbooks and keep things neat and orderly. Others must be doing, moving, handling something to really learn it. I have had children who just wanted to be left alone with their math book and emerged later with nice, neat papers and few mistakes. I have a daughter right now who is so deadened by a math textbook that I have found the best approach with her is for me to take the math book and read over the concept myself and then sit at the kitchen table with her and use whatever is on hand (crayons, paper clips, buttons, etc.) to show her how the concept works and have her handle and do it herself before ever writing down a number. Then, when we do transfer the concept to numbers, I write just one problem in big numbers with markers on a whole piece of paper. After a few of these single problem pages, she grasps it and retains it! This is her learning style and it works very well for her. It did take us quite awhile to arrive at it. But now that we know what works for her, math is interesting, like a puzzle solved. She retains the info, she can do the rest of the problems herself, and we avoid the tears that used to accompany learning math.

So, when it comes to planning the new school year, please don’t pour any concrete yet. Set up your schedule with an ever willing-to-adjust attitude. It takes being flexible and observant to meet our kids needs and make learning a wonderful experience. And as you yield to their learning styles, you will come up with your own unique educational approach!


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Gifted Child


I homeschooled my son in kindergarten and then had to put him in public school for 1st grade. They of course tested him and he is “gifted”. I am blessed to be able to homeschool him again next year. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on what I can try with him? The school’s idea was more work—which would totally backfire with him. I know we can probably go at a faster pace but any other thoughts? Also what do you think about sticking to the 2nd grade curriculum (of what’s he’s suppose to know vs. what he’s interested in?)  For example, he wants to learn about the United States geography. Is it wrong to just focus on U.S. geography and not on cultures, government, world history etc.?


What a blessing to be able to homeschool a gifted child! You and he will have a wonderful time together!

The idea of “more work” sounds like a prison sentence for being gifted. I would set his basic core work, same as for any other child, such as math, English, etc. that can be done in a hour or so. Then I would give him lots of freedom to pursue his own educational interests! If he wants to learn about USA geography, I would provide every means for him to just run with that subject. Go to the library and load up, go to the internet, get videos; buy atlases, maps, games; find mentors that he can talk with—do whatever would do the job to satiate his interest. Let him at it and encourage him in every way. Give him a chance to present his findings to Dad or to the family, or to teach other kids.

After he has delved into geography, he may satisfy his curiosity and move into another area of interest, or he may go deeper in geography and find one aspect of it that really intrigues him. As his mother/teacher, your job is to facilitate learning and encourage him follow his wholesome interests. You can use his interest in geography as a springboard for other subjects. I think a nicely drawn map would more than qualify for art class. A paper written about some aspect of geography that he likes (such as longitude and latitude, or highest and lowest elevations of the USA) would be an excellent way to learn to write better, provided you coach him when you edit his writing. Delight and interest are motivators that we all seek to help our children do their schoolwork, so if your son already has an interest, he is already motivated and you are fortunate!

My advice: don’t worry a bit about making him learn the 2nd grade curriculum. If he is doing his basic 3 R’s each day so he keeps up on math and reading/writing skills—his own interests will educate him far beyond what a 2nd grader needs to know. Over a few years of homeschooling, he will exceed any requirements. I have found this with my own non-gifted children. If they love to learn, and you encourage their interests, the sky is the limit.



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Eating All the Time


I have four little ones, ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months. The older ones want to eat all the time! I’m sympathetic because, with pregnancy and nursing, I’m hungry often, too. But it’s too much to clean up 5-6 times a day after so many snacks. Being home all day makes easy access to the refrigerator…how should I discipline ourselves regarding meals and snack times to make life easier?!


I think every mother can relate to kids with constant hunger and the continual prep and clean-up that snacking can require. I gave up on the idea of an “open kitchen” (meaning everyone can eat anything anytime). We are much happier with meals on a schedule. I require my kids to ask before they get a snack or access the fridge. That way I can prevent the 5:30 pm fill-up and then refusing to eat at 6:00 pm dinner. When my kids ask, generally, the answer is “yes” for anything healthy like fruit, veggies, nuts, whole grain bread, cottage cheese, cheese, etc. as long as it is at least an hour before dinner and they clean up. If it is close to dinner, then I encourage them to eat veggies–which don’t fill you up so much. The answer is generally “no” to junk food. When we eat junk (if they bring home candy from their baseball practice or we have ice cream or something) I encourage them to eat it at the end of a meal, when it won’t affect their blood sugar or create cavities as likely (because we brush after dinner).

I make sure breakfast is substantial. When I am cleaning up breakfast, I try to put a bowl of fresh veggies such as celery, baby carrots, olives, cucumber slices, jicama pieces, cherry tomatoes; or a bowl of grapes and almonds on the dining room table, covered with plastic wrap loosely. Then by-passers can grab a few bites. I am amazed to see all the food gone when we come in to make lunch.

I don’t like to interrupt school time for a sit-down snack around the table. I just can’t seem to manage gathering children back in to the school frame of mind again. I figure they can go from 9 to noon without perishing. If anyone gets too hungry, I have a bag of almonds in my school area and I will pass them a handful to munch on—a good protein source that will help them think well, plus get to lunch time. At my house, if kids eat a hearty snack midway through school, nobody is very thrilled about eating lunch and then they are all starving at 2 pm. I like them to come to meals with an appetite because broccoli and beans and other healthy foods sure look a lot tastier when you are hungry! And the constant clean-up, and just the plain distraction and amount of time eating takes from school discourages me from doing a snack time, except for a toddler.

One suggestion: avoid dried fruit for a snack! I learned this lesson the hard way (as usual). We had dried apples from our orchard in the autumn and all winter long I gave my children dried apple rings for snack time. By the time spring came, every child had several cavities! The dentist told me that even caramel is not stickier than dried fruit and it really promotes tooth decay terribly well.

Ideas from Experienced Homeschoolers about Snacksfruit-696169_1280

  • I have a shelf in the pantry that they can reach that is always stocked with healthy snacks. Raisins, crackers, and such. But the rule is, if Mommy has to clean up the mess, the snacks go away. After a time or two opening up the pantry to an empty shelf they began to remember the put their wrappers and things in the trash. As they got older, I included wiping up the counters and sweeping crumbs on the cleanup list. I also insist that the snacks stay in the kitchen (no wandering the house with it).
  • I keep anytime access snacks around. Things like sliced carrots and cucumbers, in the fridge. Apples, bananas and oranges are on the counter. And homemade popsicles (juice and yogurt pops) in the freezer. Everyone is expected to clean up as they go—at least to get any dirty utensils or dishes to the sink. (My youngest is 5.) I tidy the kitchen after meals and before bedtime. We rarely get through a day without at least a morning and afternoon snack besides breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • I find that if I have fed them something filling, I do not have the problem of snacking all day. Hot cereal for breakfast then a fruit for snack in 2 hours. Filling lunch is whole wheat bread, peanut butter and jam, and milk for lunch. I also do not stop them from eating—who knows if it is growth spurt or a craving to fulfill (as long as it is healthy food in between. Then they have a slice or two of whole wheat bread for snacks and dinner around 5 or 6. I then make sure they have something like a fruit and yogurt smoothie or more bread for a before bed snack. Again, I feel like if the choices are healthy and filling they are not eating as often. It is usually when it is junky snacks (Goldfish, ritz cracker included) that they need to eat more and more.
  • On the mornings that I make a good breakfast (with a nice amount of protein), the kids forget about snack time. On those cold cereal mornings we are all hungry earlier. I schedule snack time into our day and plan on crackers and peanut butter, apples, etc. to fill tiny tummies that empty sooner. I find it works well. I have one daughter who is a grazer. She eats bits of food all day long, but not enough at one sitting to keep her full very long. She also gets very grumpy if I tell her that snack time is in ___ minutes. She doesn’t think that she can last that long! Protein meals make a huge difference for her. Also, she loves oatmeal and will eat three bowls every time I serve it (as opposed to picking at her food other times), so finding something that she will really gobble up has helped. I make boatloads of oatmeal and keep the leftovers just for her to microwave.
  • On Saturday evening I make a menu for the coming week including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and morning, afternoon and evening snacks. That way I know what they are eating and there is not whining about being hungry or arguing about what to have. I have been doing this for about a month and it is soooooooooooo nice!
  • My children want to eat or snack every two hours (they are 5 and 3). I have no problem with that so I keep easy to handle snacks around. My youngest is a grazer also. So I keep a bowl on the table with snacks in it (crackers or raisins, etc.) and she can run by and grab some whenever she needs it. I also have a rule that food can only be eaten by the table or in the kitchen, so I don’t have cracker crumbs around the house.
  • pretzel-526858_1280We have a routine…breakfast at 7:30, snacks at 10:00, lunch at noon, snacks at 3:00 and dinner at 6:00. As long as I stay on the routine, things go okay. Snacks are quick and easy with no clean up. Cheese string and pretzels, crackers, handful of cereal, raisins, apple slices.
  • I actually schedule mealtime and snack time into our day. You eat at those times or you wait till the next time. That way kids are hungry and eat properly. If I allowed kids to graze all day even on good food, they became very picky and complaining at meal time. If they were allowed to get a little hungry, then they ate what was put before them and commented how good it was. Meals are at 8, 12, 5 . . . snacks are 10, 3, and 7 . . . so no one has to go more than a couple hours without food.
  • Scheduling snack time has been a lifesaver in our family. and posting the “menu” for the day also reduces whining. Having the kids drink plenty of water also helps reduce snack-begging!


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A Small Price

Soccer player Louisa (8)

Soccer player Louisa (8)

It’s that time of year again! Local stores are advertising 10 cent notebooks, 59 cent pencil boxes, and extra low prices on school supplies. It’s time to take my homeschooled children school shopping and buy them everything they want.

That might sound a bit unnecessary, and extravagant. After all, we already have pencils at home. But, there is nothing like a new pencil box chock full of new supplies—crayons, gluestick, pens, pencils, scissors, pencil sharpener, and more—to give children something fun to look forward to as far as school goes. My kids spent some time choosing the color of their pencil box (apparently a big, important decision), and what to put in it from the store’s extra good sales. When we checkout, perhaps I’ve spent $5 per child, but I consider that an enormous bargain for the amount of enthusiasm it generates! A small price, actually.

One mother had a young daughter than pleaded to go to public school. Homeschool had been happy for her the preceding year, but this little girl could not think of much else as summer ended, and the disappointed mother felt she might have to enroll her daughter. After some wise counsel from an older homeschooling friend, the mother engaged her daughter in a conversation in an effort to find out why she didn’t like homeschooling. As it turned out, the daughter wanted a school lunch-box like her neighbor friends had. This was important to her, and in her young mind, it seemed the a school lunch-box was a privilege of public schooled children. Relieved, the mother took her daughter shopping and let her pick out her favorite lunch-box. She also let her daughter choose little juices, little raisin boxes, and other lunch-box foods. They planned to go on a picnic for lunch on the first day of homeschool. That small investment was all it took to make a very content daughter that was happy to homeschool.

Is it time to go school shopping with your kids?


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