Friday, August 17, 2018

Homeschool Mother's Journal: What Curriculum We are Using This Year

Is it approaching the end of August already?!?!  Seems like just last week we were standing at the beginning of June, looking out to August's Fair week and discussing how school would start shortly after!  As I write this my kiddos are serving their last few days at the fair; one is directing Lego Derby Races and build competitions with the company he works for and the other is painting faces with Christian Youth in Action and sharing about Jesus!

Me?  I was stacking curriculum this morning to make sure I had everything in it's place (snapping a few pictures while I was at it to share here!) and looking over my notes to prep for next Friday's soft-set (more on that next week)

I'm always inspired by articles where parents share what they are using for the school year.  Yet, I'm not consistent with sharing mine.  After a favorable response to my 7 Homeschooling Through High School Encouragements and Tips article last week and some impromptu discussions with local homeschooling parents, I realized talking about our curriculum is especially important in the mysterious and seemingly daunting realm of high school!  So here goes!

Once my kids hit high school, I usually have them take a more active role in choosing classes and, on some occasions, curriculum.  Many years ago, when we were first homeschooling, a family at church had just graduated their youngest on ABeka and offered up their full stash for our taking!  We readily accepted!

Over the years, I have learned not all of the curriculum works well for my kiddos' individual learning needs.  Still, it gets filtered in here and there and as they choose classes for the various negotiables (i.e. Language Arts, Math, Science and Electives) I have learned to say "It's OK" to not use what I have on hand if what I have won't work!  With that said, I shall elaborate...

Brooke has opted to complete ALL possible high school math options before she graduates.  It's a good thing she is my only student left because I don't know if I would have it in me to meet her request otherwise!  This year she will be taking Consumer Math, Geometry and Pre-Calculus. She has already completed Algebra 1 and 2 in Freshman and Sophomore years.  I debated doing Algebra 2 before Geometry and, depending on the website you visit, there are a variety of views and opinions on the matter.  I kind of wish we had done Geometry in 10th grade, I feel it would have laid better ground-work before moving on to Algebra 2.  However, here we are....

I and the state require one semester of some form of Consumer Math for graduation.  If Brooke wasn't taking TWO other high level maths, I would just use the Abeka Consumer Math pictured at right.  However, Abeka is pretty intense so, instead, we are using it supplementally.  I want to start the year with a short unit on time budgeting and see if we are able to filter in some of the other valuable lessons from Abeka later in the year.

For our full 'curriculum' we are using "Buying with Sense", an older book published in the 90s and picked up at a resale early in my homeschooling days.  I actually love this book because it teaches Consumer Math through a story:  Boy has just gotten out of military service and needs a job because he has fallen in love with Girl and they are to be married.  Girl needs job because one income isn't enough to get on their feet and she wants to contribute to setting up house.  It walks through the job hunt process, getting a place to live and  transportation.  After the wedding and move-in they learn how to manage all the other expenses which go into setting up house and daily living.

We will be doing Consumer Math only on Mondays and I believe the story approach to the subject will be a welcome ease in the first day of each school week!

Abeka Geometry is pictured at right.  I bought this one a few years ago for Brenden to use and the text is just so convoluted, we both struggled with it.  I believe Abeka's high school math is best for  families where mom or dad have a good grasp of these higher math concepts because the teacher's guide does not offer any teacher helps what so ever and the text is often vague on instruction. (Abeka DOES offer video teaching options for their curriculum which I hear is really good).  We did find some videos on YouTube to help when Brooke and I did the Abeka Algebras the last two years.  But I wanted something more comprehensive as we plugged forward in meeting her math requests.

Enter LifePac (on left).  We have used their history curriculum after being exposed to it through an awesome score at a book sale.  We loved the packet approach and how well drawn out the directions are.  I also like how, if you can't afford the steep rate of book and teacher key right out of the gate, which many programs require, Lifepac allows you to buy unit-by-unit.  Teacher's key was $18 and each unit, which I estimate to last approximately 3 weeks, is $6.

I am reallllly looking forward to both our LifePac maths.  The layout of the books is beautiful and very easy to follow.  Each unit begins with vocabulary terms to help in comprehension of the subject matter and the Geometry teacher key even has bonus activities to make the course more hands-on.

I am keeping our Abeka book close in case we need some reference material or extension activities.

This is her Pre-calculus.  I searched high and low for a program that wouldn't break the bank.  I was nervous about using LifePac for Pre-Calc since the reviews weren't great.  However, as I prayed through the process and the weeks passed, AlphaOmega released an updated version of the material.  As I virtually browsed the sample pages of the new edition I knew it was the answer to my prayers.

The updated curriculum is much easier to read and use.  Instructions are clear and, I believe, attainable.  If you have seen or used the older edition and hated it, I encourage you to check this one out, it may be much better.  One caution:  DO NOT ORDER FROM Christian Book Distributors for this product's Pre-Calc, they are still stocking the antiquated version.  The website shows the updated cover but that is not what they shipped me.  When I requested a replacement, they still shipped the wrong one!  I ordered direct from AlphaOmega.  Their pricing was the same and came on the exact same day as my CBD order for other materials placed at the same time!

With Earth Science and Biology/Health requirements (per state) out of the way we have cast our gaze towards elective sciences.  We will probably do Chemistry senior year to prepare her for college but this year, she asked for Astronomy!

I pray over all our curriculum, but especially over the sciences if they are not produced by reputable Christian companies.  I don't want to waste time and money on "evolution" and other pseudo-secular science points of view (I make sure my kids know these views, but I don't want curriculum saturated with them and denying Creationism).

Through my prayer process God led me to "The Stargazers Guide to the Night Sky" by Dr. Jason Lisle and published by Answers in Genesis.  This can be a full-year course with the other supplemental material they provide, but Brooke requested we focus more beyond our own celestial neighborhood so I didn't order any additional material (except the videos).

The Stargazer's Guide is full of beutifully vibrant pictures and is set up for all ages from late elementary through high school depending on how you choose to use it.  The back of the book also contains a Stargazers Planisphere! The teacher's guide included detailed lesson plans, worksheets and tests.  I ordered the supplementary DVDs and will filter them in accordingly.

Since we only ordered the main book, and not the full curriculum set, it will not be enough to constitute a full year of study so I drew up an outline with research projects filtered in between units.  I felt it would be insightful to understand some of the grandfathers of modern astronomy as well as the development of the telescope, which we studied some when she was in elementary/middle school but I don't believe she remembers very much.

I have also scheduled in "lab" days for experiments which can help to better grasp some of the concepts the book discusses, hence the "Astronomy Lab" and "Astronomy for Every Kid" books.  I know these materials are written with younger kids in mind, but lets face it; even high school and college science classes make use of elementary experiments to study basic concepts!

My step-dad gifted us his old telescope while we were in Chicago this past spring.  When we approach the chapter on telescopes I will be tasking Brooke with learning how to get ours in working condition and then using it to complete various labs!

I really feel in uncharted waters with this class but we are both looking forward to all the possibilities it holds!

By the way, if you order the Stargazer's Guide through Amazon, you can download the eBook copy for pennies.  We usually do textbook reading together and this is a cost effective way for both of us to have a copy as we plow through!

Grammar Composition 
By high school I allow the kids to choose how they want to fulfill their English requirements each year (our state requires 4 years of it).  Of all the choices Brooke had, this was the one she picked!  She likes the book work and predictability of basic grammar!  I had to write the lesson plans for this Abeka 11th Grade Grammar Composition, since, like Abeka math, none are included.  I combined and cut certain units to make room for an end of year research writing project featured in the Handbook.

Brooke requested NO Abeka spelling/vocabulary, which I did have (as per our gifted curriculum) and I was absolutely ok with that.  It is intense.  However, when I was going through paperwork I saw this:
... and felt a study on "Commonly Confused Words" would be a good edition to her writing curriculum.  One of our goals is to graduate our students with good writing skills. Knowing the words on this list, I felt, would be an asset to that end.  The plan is to cover one set of words each day with a review quiz every Monday.  We will be taking a week off about every 6 weeks and for the few days prior to our mini vacation she will do a full review and have a test on the words learned so far.

Every year I incorporate literature into our regular curriculum.  It could be it's own class with intensive study, but this year it is supplemental and, as with most years I teach, it ties History and Language Arts together.  (I think it is the Living Books Charlotte Mason-y side of me!)

The stack above is not All the books we will be using, just the ones on my shelf (Tolstoy is checked out from the library).  We are doing Geography this year and I wanted literature which covered the regions we will be studying, when we are studying them.

Once each book is complete she will have a few days to put together a reaction paper, a skill I know will be helpful for college.  I have scheduled floating writing days into our Language Arts class so she won't be overwhelmed by too much work.

I know this class is typically taken Freshman/Sophomore year.  She spent those years studying American History and Modern History with her brother at the 11th/12th grade levels!  So this should be a nice step back for her!!

The Base of our studies is an older BJU set.  We are using the full curriculum, however, because of our 4 day school weeks and somewhat nontraditional school year, we won't have time for it all unless we cram.  I don't like cramming, I prefer to have the 'work' be fun and laced with interactive activities.  To complete this curriculum in one school year, we would never leave the book and I knew Brooke would grow weary of that (so would I!!).  So, we will focus on the Eastern Hemisphere this year and then move to the Western Hemisphere for the first few months of next school year, which should tie in well to American Government (state required) and Civics.

I'm really excited about our supplemental material.  I heard about "Operation World" in an article somewhere this summer.  It is a sort of Almanac of world and country statistics with focused prayer points for each area discussed.  I plan to start each unit with a browse through and then we can pick people groups and missionaries to be praying over as we study through each region in our textbook.

We used "Geography Through Art" and "Trail Guide to World Geography" when Ashley was in high school.  We probably won't use the Trail Guide very much since BJU covers quite a bit, however, if you are looking for a curriculum to teach across grades, I highly recommend this one.  It is split up to teach 3 levels at once; elementary, middle school, high school.  It has a research based, living books approach.  Brooke was elementary/middle when we last used it.  We never did get to all the projects in the Art book and, since Brooke loves art, I thought it would be fun to try some of the activities we didn't get to before.

Brooke also loves cooking so "Eat Your Way Around the World" was a necessary add-in to our curriculum!  It is another element of the "Trail Guide" series.  I just finally ordered it this summer and I think it will quickly become our favorite part of Geography studies.  My plan is to have a day in each unit where we do project work and plan a geographically specific meal.  On test day, at the end of each unit, we will have a special country/region wrap-up dinner.  When applicable, I am hoping some of the art activities can be used as decorations at our dinner!  I will also encourage her to invite friends to share the experience.

World History from Abeka is thrown on the stack.  We covered most of this book last year in Modern History, however, we skipped the first few chapters which discuss ancient history and the post-diluvian movement of man.  We will spend a few days going over this material as we transition from world overview to specific cultures in Geograph.  This is also where we will jump into Beowulf as a way to explore ancient literature.  The copy of Beowulf we have by Seamus Heaney is the most comprehensive version I have found.  It has the traditional Old English on one page mirrored by modern English on the facing page with footnotes to provide understanding and insight.  (If you have seen the movie, which I couldnt' stomach, the book is NOTHING like the movie)

Brooke has been taking French all through high school.  The first two years she focused on using Duolingo and trying her knowledge out on French story books and listening to French dubbed in familiar movies.  This year we are going to begin learning how to write French using the Abeka curriculum I have on hand.  The teachers manual for this subject is actually quite helpful, unlike their Math curriculum.

Just for the record... my French vocabulary is VERY limited.  I just started Duolingo myself this summer!  However, I have always wanted to learn French and have taken Spanish in college so I am familiar with the dynamics of learning to write another language (Don't be detoured if you don't... it is still possible to teach a foreign language to your high schooler!!  Brenden took Mandarin and I know ZERO Chinese!  He was total self-taught). I told Brooke we would be taking French together this year and she was very happy with that!

Yes, that bottom book is a Usborne "My First Dictionary" book.  I figure, learning a new language is just like being a child again and trying to understand your own.  Rosetta Stone has proven that picture association with foreign languages actually speeds up and solidifies the learning process.  So, "My First Dictionary...", absolutely!

We will continue using Duolingo supplementally.

I don't know why my pictures turned out so blurry!  Sorry.  This one is a print out of a class I require for all my high school students called "Foundations" .  The state requires a "Life Skills" class... this is similar.  It is found at Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool and is absolutely FREE.  I print off the daily plans so I can make adjustments since I don't require them to do EVERY lesson.  She will keep this print-out pack in her binder.

Again, our odd schedule won't allow for the full curriculum this year so we will break off about 2/3 of the way through and finish it up next fall.  If I had one thing to do different/better with this class: Foundations is best taken Freshman/Sophomore year... hindsight is always 20/20, right?  The reason I would have done it sooner?....

Foundations covers character traits, memory building, study skills, some consumer math, speech/research papers, and a unit on propaganda/advertising.  Some of the concepts covered would be helpful in equipping for all of high school (and, obviously, into Life!).  However, any time it can be fit in is rewarding.  I really like this program for a few reasons:  it is self-paced and it fills in some gaps I might not think to make time to teach on my own.

I require all my kids to do a Bible read-through before I will write their graduation diploma.  They have the 4 years of high school to complete the task.  Reason: if you know what is in God's Good Book you will be less likely fooled!  This doesn't mean they do an in-depth study of the entire Bible or that they become Biblical experts... that takes a lifetime.  But I would like to see them familiar with the material by graduation and confident in self-study.

Full disclosure: both Brenden and Ashley got stuck in Leviticus!!!  I gave leniency because of their learning challenges and because I knew they were dedicated in daily Bible studies (Ashley led one her senior year and Brenden was always actively sharing his!)  So, instead, I had them go through a Bible Overview Class with me (I have a goal to eventually get the 'class' down on paper and share it here!). 

Brooke, however, is determined to meet this requirement.  She wants to start working on it this year in order to have plenty of time to finish before her 2020 graduation.  I had a copy of Abeka's "Genesis, First Things" on hand and really liked the format and information.  I feel it lays a good groundwork for the Bible read-through.  We will be starting this together as a manner of devotional time each morning this fall.  If my estimations are correct, she should be sailing through the Old Testament on her own by late winter.

Driver's Ed
Last but not least, this one-semester doosey.  Brooke is DETERMINED to get her permit ON her 16th birthday in January (In Montana you can do so without driver's ed). It has been almost 10 years since I last full-on taught a kiddo how to drive!  (Man does that statement make me feel old!!)  Since then, I started teaching Ashley how to drive a few years ago but her temporal seizures made us all decide it wasn't in anyone's best interest that she get behind a wheel.  Brenden just turned 18 and JUST got his driver's permit.  Our first hair-raising venture out a few weeks ago made me realize I don't feel equipped to teach my kids driving anymore!!!

I have identified our pitfalls... first one being that he needed more parking lot time before heading out on the open road.  Secondly, we needed "Student Driver" magnets so other drivers on the road can (hopefully) be more patient with us as we try to gauge traffic light stops and merging cars.  I also felt it would be helpful to have a sort of outline to follow for all those taken-for-granted skills I now need to articulate at the appropriate junctures.  Nearly getting t-boned by an anxious driver because I didn't think to point out to my son the appropriate ratio of turn-signal and breaking distance timing was a real eye-opener!!

As I was throwing the magnets in my Amazon cart I decided to look up other affordable videos or material available and stumbled onto, "Teach Your Teenager How to Drive a Car" by Hank Wysocki, a veteran Driver's Ed teacher .  It is set up with consecutive lessons to help parents and kiddos step-by-step through learning to drive.  Upon skimming, the lay-out seems pretty easy to follow with short, concise chapters and review questions at the end of each.

I feel much better and less inclined to panic!  We have also found some instructional videos on YouTube.  The most potentially helpful ones are hosted by a man with a VERY annoying voice ("Hi everybodeeeeee")... we may need to choke that back because his instruction does seem spot-on.

Next Friday we do our "Soft-set" day where I will hand out syllabuses, schedules and touch base on school year expectations.  We will also situate school supplies and thumb through new books.  This will help us to be good and ready for our first full day of school the following Monday!  I plan to throw an article up of this process as well!

What curriculum are you using this year?  I love browsing other homeschool set ups from pre-k through graduation!  I hope and pray you have a most blessed school year ahead!


Follow this in-text link to see some of the great websites I am linking up with today!

By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed leave a comment below, say "hi", or whatever else you might like to say.  Be sure to mention you are an existing newsletter subscriber and I will pop your name in my drawing jar!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unpacking: The Reading List

Do you pray over your reading list?  I don't recall that I ever use to, unless it directly pertained to my Bible study.  However, as the new year dawned and I recognized God calling me to go deeper into understanding His Story for me, I knew in my heart of hearts a very specific reading list played a part. 

I stood in front of the large bookshelf in my oddly sized bedroom.  The whole space once served as an in-house print shop!  The shelf was too large and awkward to relocate when we moved in so, instead, it houses family photo albums, reference material we only use on occasion and my collection of non-fiction Christian works.  I bowed my head and closed my eyes, truly lifting my heart and Seeking guidance.  I felt God had a plan for me with some of these carefully placed books.

After my heart-rendering I looked up and began to scan the various sections I thought held the Keys to the messages God wanted me to unlock.  By the time I was done my arms enveloped a large stack.  I brought them up to my Study, sat them on my work table, thumbed them a bit more and then waited. 

Almost immediately an orange shiny cover grabbed my attention.  It was one of the books my family had lovingly wrapped for me just a few weeks prior and sat gleefully under our glimmering tree.  I can't recall where I heard of the book from but I can tell you what landed it on my wish list: "In_Security"!  I shared some about it in my first post in this series. 

I devoured the book, feeling as though the author had secretly climbed into my life in order to write a field guide just for me!!  I didn't want to move on when the last pages were finished, but I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit, so on I went. 

More books were taken out of my pile and re-shelved as I continued to pray.  Worn copies found at thrift sales and in free piles alongside crisp new ones ordered after I had stumbled across them through articles and, in one instance, a writing workshop I attended.  As my 'keep' pile solidified, reading was snuck into every cranny of time I could muster.  As I read I kept notes, marked pages and journaled.  My life, and God's hand in it seen post-drought, began to unfold.  Hurts were being healed and I was becoming equipped to face battles God knew were coming.

I not only learned how to break the cycle of Insecurity with Anna Light, but I was also reminded how to Love God with all my Mind by Elizabeth George, equipped to avoid the Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley, encouraged to keep on keeping on as a Homeschooling Housewife thanks to Amber Fox, I was finally debriefed post-field work as I soaked up Ellen Rosenberger's advice in Missionaries Are Real People and, best of all, my thirst was finally quenched as God's words through Mark Hall in The Well filled my cup to overflow.

Yes, I know that paragraph was one gigantic run-on sentence, but I believe it made it's point!

Books are powerful.  I am a firm believer that we should choose our reading material carefully and with a Biblical mindset.  Whether we are reading fiction or non-fiction, the mind is a powerful place where words and images should be carefully filtered to.  When the Apostle Paul writes to the Romans, a very lost and licentious society, I believe he provides just one part of a puzzle when he says;

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, 
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

The other part which helps to produce clarity in HOW to transform one's mind is again penned by Paul to the Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, 
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, 
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, 
think about these things.
Philippians 4:8

This is why I often provide books in my give-a-ways here on the blog.  When something has encouraged or inspired me, I'm itching to share it with others so they might breathe in the same fresh air!

So, as I have thought and prayed over what my next drawing would be, it was only natural that the books from my period of renewal and growth this year would be at the top of the list.  As a matter of fact, I had such a hard time narrowing it down, I decided to give you options!  I don't have each package physically put together yet, but I am absolute on what they will contain.  The winner (which I will expound on in a moment!) will get to pick from one of the prize packages below.  

Each package centers around the main themes here on my website; Faith, Home, and Homeschool.  With one extra thrown in for building your bookshelf as you build your faith through reading!

Without further ado, here they are: 

Prize Package #1 - Faith

Prize Package #2 - Home

Prize Package #3 - Homeschool

Prize Package #4 - Bookshelf

Theresa and I at a Chicago area pizzeria when I visited in March this year.
In Package #1, "Peace in His Presence" is a CD written and performed by a long-time school friend of mine whom I have kept in touch with over the years.  She is a very amazing and talented woman.

So, How do you win?

First, subscribe to my newsletter.  You must be a newsletter subscriber to qualify.  The box is in the right hand column and looks like this:

Once you have subscribed I will receive a notification and your name will be entered for a chance to win.  Don't worry, I won't spam and, currently, I only send out one newsletter on the last Thursday of each month.  

If you are already subscribed and you want in on this deal, simply comment on any post on this website (or send an email) letting me know what you like most about the newsletter!

It is really that simple!

A lot of bonus content goes out in the monthly newsletter and during the school year, the newsletter will likely be the biggest source of articles.  I always try to include FREE printables in one or more  areas of interest.  I truly think you will be glad you signed up.

The drawing will be held on September 1st (That's just a few weeks away so don't wait!!).  There will only be ONE winner.  I will contact you at that time and you can select which prize package you would like.

In the mean-time, I pray your reading, both fiction and non-fiction, takes you to wonderful places as God shows you knew and wonderful things about life!


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Keepers at Home: The Importance of Resting Well

Hey ladies, we need to talk.  First of all, yes, the "Keepers at Home" series is back!  And I am re-kicking it off with a very serious topic for all you stay-at-homes (and even the working types out there).  Ready for it?  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!!

Seriously.  There is mounting a din of information out there on this topic but I don't think any of us take it seriously until, as a friend recently put it, we "blow a gasket".  Suddenly all of that pouring out into others leaves us high and dry.  Not just mentally, emotionally, spiritually... but physically too. 

We look at the Proverbs 31 woman and we think we have a lot of catch-up to do.  Or we see the mommy volunteer at church touting baby #x, toddler, pre-schooler and so on, while she looks fabulous holding that perfectly frosted plate of cupcakes.  Or, Mrs. 'So-and-so' whose house is always spotless and husband invariably appears well cared for by her loving hands.  If these women can do it, so can we.  We just want to be all to all.  We think we are Superwomen, even if just in training.

Ladies... STOP.

Even the Proverbs 31 woman rested.  I recently heard a commentator state that her impressive list was actually accomplished over a lifetime (not one day).  I don't know about that, but what I do know is that she paced herself.  The loooong list we give ourselves to maintain is simply not realistic.

Don't get me wrong, I am 110% for being on our game.  For keeping up with all we are given to keep up with and putting our hearts into it.  Absolutely.  IF.

Yes, if.  IF you have the time and schedule.  IF it is the thing(s) God has called you to do.  So many of us get caught up in the river rapids of life, being swept away from next to next to next.  We don't take time to pause, breathe and make sure all the great stuff we are saying "yes" to is what God has on the slate for us right now.  We go...go....go...go and then you know what happens?  We crash.  And believe it or not, in more situations than many women realize, that crash comes as we are sitting in front of our doctor while he explains a pill regiment or surgical procedure or something un-anticipated because we haven't just taxed our time, we have also taxed our bodies.  We want to be Superwomen so bad, we forget the Source of our Power and the need to PAUSE.

But how do you get off the crazy train of life and rest well?  It's the hardest simplest thing actually.

#1 - Put God at the Center
Resting yourself without resting in the Lord could, potentially, produce selfishness.  One phrase I despise in our day and age is "Me Time".  I know the heart behind the statement but it has been hijacked by a me-centric society wanting to justify self-centeredness separate from God.  So first things first: start your day at the feet of the Lord. 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman 
named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, 
who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me 
to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  
but few things are needed—or indeed only one. 
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
- Luke 10:38-42
Pop quiz: who was commended in Jesus presence:  Mary or Martha?  Yes, Mary. Not to discredit Martha's hard work, but what did Mary do that was better?  That's right, she sat at Jesus' feet and listened.  But Martha was distracted. What does Jesus say Martha is "worried and upset" about?  Yup, many things.  Is any of this hitting a nerve yet?  Cause here is the zinger: What does Jesus say is needed?  Yes, "few" things... no, wait, make that ONLY ONE thing.  And what is needed most?  Correct, back to square one: sitting at Jesus' feet!

I absolutely do not feel like this passage says we shouldn't help others when hosting or work hard.  What I believe it is saying is that there is a time to sit at the feet of Jesus and soak up what he is saying to us.  We do this by opening our Bible each day and praying.  Really listening to the message we see in his Word, how to apply it to our lives and praying it over our lives and those around us.  Let us not be distracted from God's teaching.

If we have started our day in this way we have, first of all, sown the seeds of peace in our hearts and, secondly, set our sites on His direction.  This could mean a change or adjustment to plans ahead in the day which God ordains as better...or simply His strength to follow along the list of to-dos.

Also, as you are tempted to deny yourself moments, not just in the morning, but also throughout the day, to rest, remember: there are plenty of examples in the New Testament of Jesus taking a time of rest in the midst of others needing his help.  And here, with Martha, his message is to quiet ourselves, don't get so wrapped up and worried in the daily or momentary 'dos' that we forget to draw our strength and peace and guidance from the One who set that day in motion!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

#2 - Schedule Margins
It's hard to rest if you haven't made the time.  After you have scheduled in your morning Bible and prayer time, the need for rest doesn't stop there....

You know that blue lined notebook paper with the red lined margins on the right and left sides of the page popping up in all the back-to-school sale ads right now? What are those red lines on the paper for?  That's right, margins.  What is the point of margins anyway?  SPACE, room to overflow if you have to.  Room to add quick notes and corrections.  Most of all, it makes the writing on the page easier to read and follow. 

Do you write from the very edge of your paper to the other edge? No, you contain it within those margins.... so why do we live life edge to edge?  Probably cupcake lady.  Probably this idea that everything needs to be just.right. even if we have to work to the edge of the paper to make it so.  But working to the edge of notebook paper looks so messy and, if we are honest, so do our lives when we apply this concept there. 

Leave room for living.  To breathe, to go for a walk, to just sit and listen or read or be read to.  One rule for margins: do NOT plan anything serious in that time... better yet, don't plan anything!

#3 - Plan to relax
Ok, so this runs side-by-side with margins and may seem to be almost counter-intuitive at this point, but read on.  While I don't recommend scheduling in the margins, if you are like me, you fear the unknown of un-scheduled time blocks!  As a matter of fact, my "un-scheduled" moments tend to get absorbed if I am not careful.

I don't schedule things to do inside my margins per-se, but I do have ideas of how I can spend them IF nothing else comes up.  Say my margin is the hour before bedtime.  I DON'T schedule chores or have-tos for that slot.  But I might say, 'I could read a magazine, a book, knit, draw, etc.'  As long as it is something I enjoy and relaxes me it can be done in the margin and it can be sorta-planned.  However, if you find your margins constantly hi-jacked (this is especially so with little kids in tow) by hi-octane non-relaxing tidbits, then PLAN an hour at the coffee shop or in another room while dad tends to kiddos for a bit, etc.

Hard truth:  we live in a day and age where planning or scheduling a time to relax is a necessity because if it is not planned or scheduled, it often times will not happen.

#4 - Accept that You are NOT Superwoman
Though I can bet you come close!  Yet, because we are striving so fast and so hard, hoping to please everyone all at once, we often feel guilty taking time to relax ourselves.  The call of life never sleeps for Superwoman.  But that is just it: there will always be SOMEthing that needs to be done.  Not because we are lazy or inefficient, rather, it is the simple constancy of life.  We do NOT have super-human powers to get to it all.

Do you mow the lawn once a year?  No, of course not.
Do you only do dishes on Tuesdays?  Not on your life.
Here's a harder one: If you go to bed leaving tasks undone or take a break or hour to decompress, will the world end?  Surprisingly no.  It keeps right on spinning.

A string of health problems, starting when I was in my early 20s, have led me to a point in life where doctors think I have Fibromyalsia.  I have great days and weeks full of energy... and I have bad ones.  Even on my good weeks I have become acutely aware of a need to pace myself, ask for help, and be OK with things (big and small) going undone.  It is shocking how life does continue on just fine even (and almost especially) when I schedule chores in nibbles instead of gobbles or break every hour for 15 minutes to relax and sometimes read.  My misconception that I had to get EVERYTHING done, all at once, at a break-neck speed has robbed me of so many hours of peace and instead only issued guilt every time I even considered being kinder to me and my body. 

Ladies, when we take care of ourselves, there is actually more of ourselves capable to take care of others.  I know, it doesn't make sense, but trust me, it is true. 

For me; I do have to say "NO" to certain activities I would love to do.  Every time I am tempted to say "YES" to great but not for me things, I am encouraged to remember how quickly it will wear me down and how temperamental I become when I am overtired and overworked.... with or without the added pain.   Consequently, some of that pain is the result of ignoring doctor's orders after a major surgery and pushing to hard too soon.  I had to get that area of the room tidied, I had to be the one to help with that school project... you get the idea.  And now I have permanent damage.

 Perhaps you are in GREAT health and ready to take on the world.... that's stupendous!  Still, don't take the good run for granted.  Start your day well with the Lord, keep margins at the beginning, middle and end of your day.  Schedule periods of restfulness at the very least, once a week, and at most, hinged on daily margins.  Give yourself permission to take time regularly to re-focus (in prayer) and re-energize (drink some water, have a healthy snack, read a book, etc) and then hit back into the day.

One last analogy came to mind, for anyone who knows anything about sports:  whether it is basketball, football, soccer or *fill in the blank... do even the best players stay in the game from beginning to end, non-stop?  No!  Why?  That's right, they begin to fumble and mess up.  They wear down and need a break.  All these sports have time-outs and half times and/or quarters where the team sits down, breathes and re-gathers.  Without those breaks, the team becomes in-effective and their game-play is shot.

I think we get the idea.  It's no joke.  I care about you all too much to keep these thoughts and experiences to myself.  Sound-off if you are realizing this too.  Comment below if you have some added advice for us Superwomen who want to take on the world!  And come back soon.  In a few weeks I will be posting about schedules in honor of the new school year swinging into action... even if you don't have school aged kiddos, I believe the article will take this concept of  resting well and put some action steps to it.

May you find the best rest at the feet of Jesus and find fuel for your day, throughout your day, with His light along your path.


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Friday, August 10, 2018

7 Homeschooling through High School Encouragements and Tips

Another school year is knocking on the door.  My lesson planning is done, books are all ordered and school supplies are stacking up.  It's hard to believe I'm down to ONE homeschooler after so many years of multiples.  I'm going to miss these days when they are gone.

One heart-ache I have found over the years is when my kids have started high school and found themselves saying "goodbye" to homeschool friends who are suddenly leaving the realm of home education behind to be enrolled in public school for the final 4 years of their studies.  The reason?  Almost every single time it is parents saying, "I don't feel capable of homeschooling my child through high school" and assuming public institutions are their best bet.

The fear of Homeschool High School usually has everything to do with the higher level of learning and perceived 'requirements' parents fear they won't be able to meet.  Whether it is reflecting on that "C" they got in high school Algebra disqualifying them from teaching the same subject to their kiddo or the daunting aspect of Biology and Chemistry with experiments to-boot.  Perhaps it is high school level Writing classes, foreign language, or the multitude of electives a parent can't begin to wrap their mind around.  Well, I have news:

You CAN do this.

In high school I let the problems at home leak into my studies.  I only tried at the things I loved, like writing, history and art.  Everything else received my mediocre attention.  I half-hearted prepared for college (back then, college wasn't as big of a deal as it is now).  I took 3 years of math and science, but I didn't have an aptitude for them and, as mentioned, I didn't work very hard at either.  Biology, Chemistry, Algebra I and II, all garnered a solid "D" (I worked just hard enough to avoid "F"s)  It's the truth!  I even ignored foreign language because they didn't have the one I wanted and I wasn't about to 'try' at anything else.

Later in my adult life,when I finally decided to attend college, I naturally tested low in math.  I had to take 098 Algebra before I could move forward.  I also took Spanish.  You know what I figured out?  When I put my mind to it, I could actually get the stuff!  I walked away with A's!

But maybe you are shaking your head... maybe you are saying, "I did try in high school and I couldn't get it."  Don't worry.  I got you covered!

Maybe you are saying, "I didn't go to college, I can't begin to teach my kids at the high school level."  Or maybe you didn't graduate high school at all.

Please, trust me... You CAN do this!


#1  Prepare to learn with your kids.
Remember those "D"s I confessed to?  Well, when it came time to teach the higher levels of math and science, even after doing well on Algebra 1 in college, I was nervous.  So, I found some decent curriculum and sat down with my students.  We walked through the problems together.  When I was really stuck, I looked up YouTube tutorial videos (there are many) and every single time we were able to figure things out.  Kids are surprisingly patient when mom needs to learn with them!  If anything, it teaches them perseverance and appreciation of your investment on their behalf.  Sometimes they figure it out before you, rewarding them with a boost in confidence! 

#2  Enlist help.
Most regions of the country now offer coops with parents gifted in a multitude of subject areas coming together to share their strengths and help fill the gaps of weaknesses.  Why is a coop different, and dare I say 'better', than public school?  Well, the schedule is much more relaxed, often meeting one to three times a week.  Students spend less time in the 'classroom'.  More individualized help is readily available.  Peers are often like minded and carry the positive values most homeschoolers are praised for.  You need not worry about the latest scandalous trends, social pressure and negative values often running a-muck in public/private school.

Also, don't underestimate the power of a friend or family member skilled in a subject area you feel you are not.  They can help tutor/teach/mentor your student. It could be one of the main subjects or an elective like fly fishing, oil painting, car repair, carpentry and so on.

#3  Make use of good Resources
A few years ago a friend turned me onto All In One Homeschool and I have been in love ever since.  I don't use it for ALL our classes but we have enjoyed some of our extracurriculars through the site.  You could, however, plan your entire curriculum, 1st grade through 12th, via this marvelous site.  Oh, did I mention it is FREE?! 

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has a great site,, which provides amazing resources for parents teaching at all grade levels as well if you go with the "Ultimate" tier.  We used them this past year for Art Appreciation and really enjoyed the well put together lessons.  They do have a nominal monthly fee which you can get down to $9.95 a month by using the coupon code "cow".

Tech classes have you nervous?  Try  They are a little more pricey, however, it is a worthwhile investment if you have it in the budget ($25-35 per month).  The nice thing is that they are professional grade video classes with downloadable practice documents.  All my kids shared one account and have learned everything from basic Microsoft Word to Stop-Motion Video Making and Photoshop!  If it's techy, chances are Lynda has you covered!

Does foreign language make you break into a cold sweat?  Did you learn Spanish in high school and now your young charge wants to take German?  You don't need to compromise and you certainly don't need to worry.  Whether you choose a program such as Rosetta Stone, pricey but proven, or the FREE Duolingo (which we love for it's ease of use and the fact that it also comes as an app on our phones!), there are a multitude of easy to use programs out there for your student.  The nice thing about these; students can pick almost any language they want (as opposed to the limited selection most public/private schools offer).  They can even practice using their new language skills in pre-approved forums!

We use Duolingo and I require them to log a few modules each day of school if they want credit for the class.  Next week I will be sharing our curriculum for the 2018-19 school year and I will be sure to include how I am switching it up for my daughter's French class this coming school year!

#4  Check out state requirements
As with all of homeschool and making sure you meet the state requirements to home educate, we also checked into what public/private high schoolers were required to have for the state to approve graduation (I believe, technically, that is what we are suppose to do anyway!).  Then, using this form from the very resourceful Donna Young, I filled in subject areas with our state's required info.  For example, our state requires 2 years of math, one of which must be Algebra 1, and 4 years of English.  I slotted the generals in their designated area and then, like public school, I let my kids pick the specific track they wanted for each. 

In the spring we meet, like a guidance counselor and student, and discuss their goals and what classes they would like to take to fulfill needed requirements while equipping them for beyond graduation.  I write down what they are thinking while considering resources we will need for the fall.  If they are required to take English, I might ask what course they would like to take to fulfill that component: Composition?  Poetry? Literature?  Last year we combined Modern History and Literature to knock out two classes at once.  They read quality assigned historical fiction and non-fiction pertaining to the periods we were studying.  Then they would write reaction papers and do other projects related to their reading and history studies.

#5 Consider college
First of all, is your student even remotely interested in college?  If so, proceed with this in mind.  I told all my kids to take all the necessary college prep classes (3 years math and science, 2+ years foreign language) so IF they decided to attend college, they were ready to go.  If they did not attend, no biggy, at least they were prepared if they wanted to.  Now, this isn't to say college is a no-go if they don't prep... community college enrollment is much more laxed on prerequisites than university.  So, even if your student doesn't take college prep in high school, they can always start with a transfer degree at a 2-year institution.

Second, and best for those college-bound students... most colleges are now accepting high school students as early as 11th grade in, what is basically called, a dual credit program.  Different areas have various names for the program but here is how it works:  you enroll your high school student in college, taking classes which can fulfill both high school and college requirements at the same time.  Students earn dual credits working towards both degrees.  It is an affordable way to knock out some college credit because the classes are offered to high school students at a discounted rate, often as much as half the usual price per-credit.  I have heard of many high schoolers graduating with both a high school diploma AND associates degree because they were covering both bases at the same time!

#6  Realize others value your homeschooled-through-high school student
For years there was a certain stigma with homeschoolers which overwhelmed many families and exasperated kids as they tried to 'integrate' into society post-graduation.  This stigma is dying out and the few who perpetuate it, quite honestly, are either jealous or extremely naive to the current trend.

Colleges WANT your hoeschooled student often times more than the public/private schooled peer.  They know that homeschoolers tend to be good self starters, more mature learners, well rounded and very serious about their education.  If given the choice between the local high school's valedictorian and your graduate with good grades, college entry boards would likely scratch their heads for a while before they could decide!  In the same thread, homeschoolers often test higher on college entry exams like the ACT and SAT, proving that mom isn't just writing them an "A" because they like 'em!!  These kids really work hard for and earn what they get.... colleges know this.

Employers WANT your homeschooled student.  First off, many homeschool families allow their kiddos to work jobs during hours their peers are typically in school.  Employers love this!  But even if you stick to evening and weekend hours of availability only (like we did), most homeschoolers have a reputation of being hard workers, taking their jobs more seriously, respecting their bosses and being better socially adjusted across the age spectrum than their peers. 

People really aren't asking to see your kiddo's high school transcript at every turn and doubting their learning capacity.  If anything, most people are intrigued, they ask a lot of questions and often recognize your student's knowledge base and communication abilities as being superior to many others their age.

#7  Don't sweat it!
Homeschooling through high school is really no different then elementary or middle school.  I think, those of us parents who went to public/private school, tend to feel like there is some measure of standards we need to live up to.  But there really aren't.  Labs don't have to be done with a highly polished Bunsen Burner, the kitchen stove can suffice.  Dissections do NOT need to be performed at all, videos and diagrams can meet this standard.  No expensive high-power microscope in your classroom?  Don't fret, we don't have one either, though we do have a hand-held magnifier.  I still taught my kids how to handle a microscope and we then logged into YouTube for some demonstrations of peering through into the microscopic world of various organisms. 

If you are a unit study family... keep at it.  Most high schoolers still love that integrated approach.  Maybe you have always been more Charlotte Mason, don't worry, she has a great way to approach high school as well.  Or perhaps you are a textbook family.  No problem.  There are so many curriculum programs out there who also readily provide support for the overwhelmed parent in charge!

In short, watching your child approach the threshold of high school shouldn't fill you with fear or second thoughts.  It is simply the next natural step in a commitment to give your child the best possible outcome for all of life ahead.  There are so many other areas I could speak into here, to tell you, YOU REALLY DO HAVE THIS!!  But for now, I hope these 7 will encourage you to take that bold step forward!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment below or email.  I'm hoping to have more regular high school themed posts throughout this school year, including 'Why we grade schoolwork' and how we navigate our days.  If you are a homeschooling-through-high school family, drop a line below and share some of your most helpful tips for making it work!

I pray the school year ahead is blessed with every measure of peace and goodness you need, right when you need it!


By the way.....

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