Sunday, December 28, 2014

Getting Back into Gear

It is always difficult to get back into the swing of things but just like at the beginning of the school year there are some things you can do to help everyone adjust smoothly without resorting to tears all around.  Generally, you have more uninterrupted school time during this time so it's important that we are working hard.

1.  Bedtimes - Make sure bedtimes are being enforced.  It is hard to get up in the morning if no one went to bed on time.  That includes Mom.

2.  Chore Lists - Make sure everyone has an updated chore list.  This is a great time to update, re-arrange or allow kids to trade chores.

3.  Schedule- Re- look at your schedule that you, hopefully, made at the beginning of the year and make any needed adjustments.  Make sure you go over any changes with your kids and post the schedule.  Keep an eye on the level of commitments you are making.  For some reason, I always think that I am fairly free and then May hits and I am swamped.  Check your end of your school year commitments before making new ones now.

4.  Crockpot - The Crockpot is your friend.  Utilize it. 
Overnight Oatmeal in it for breakfast.  I then use the leftovers to make bread.  Leftover Oatmeal Bread. has some great crockpot recipes.  Here's a fun crockpot mac n cheese. Crockpot Mac N Cheese

There are great one dish Dutch Oven recipes on Allrecipes as well.  If you don't have a Dutch Oven, beg for one for your next birthday, Christmas, Anniversary, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day etc.  I LOVE my Le Creuset.  Expensive, I know but totally worth it.  I love Arroz Con Pollo and this is a great recipe, although I cook it all together in one pot to save time and I think it tastes better.  Stews and Soups are also great in the Dutch Oven.  Start them on the stove and then out them on the oven to cook at 275 or 300 for a couple of hours.  No muss, no fuss.

Don't forget to double or triple your recipes and then freeze the leftovers for meals.  I usually have several meals in the freezer for crazy days.  This includes muffins, rolls, bread and cookies.  If you are already cooking make extra to freeze.

5.  Plan Fun Stuff!  It is important to make sure you doing a fun activity every couple of days.  Don't let the drudge get you down.  Make snow ice cream or have a fun hot chocolate bar.  Make a craft. Plan a family movie/pizza night.  Plan a do nothing day for a Saturday and do nothing but play and lay around.  Have a game night and invite a bunch of friends.

6.  Start looking towards next year.  I know, you are still doing this year but convention season is almost here and you will be better off if you start thinking about next year's plans now.

7.  Plan a Vacation or a Stay-Cation.  I ALWAYS do better if I have something to look forward to.  We generally don't do Spring Break so I have a summer vacation in the works and it helps me have something to look forward to.

8.  Date Night.  Have a date with your husband.  When was your last one?  More than a week or two?  That's a problem.  Trade with a friend, enlist the grandparents, pay the neighbor down the street - do what you need to do and make it happen!  It will help everyone!

9.  Take a focused look at your kids attitudes.  After the holidays, I always find we have let attitudes slip and have to get them back in check.  Are they whining and complaining?  Are they obeying the first time?  Are they helping?  Pick one thing to work on each week and soon everybody will be back to normal.

10.  Remember that being a Mom is fun.  Homeschooling is fun, too.  If you need too, take a look over your list of why you homeschool.  Take time to see the joy in the little moments.  Your time is fleeting with your little ones.  Ask me how I know. I am facing my oldest graduating in just over 2 years and my twins in 6 years.  Take time to enjoy the process.  Take time to gloat in the little victories.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Breaking the Pattern

There are times in parenting that I wonder about the feasibility of a certain child still being around by the time they are 18.  Sometimes I wonder if I will survive.  We can have weeks of great behavior and then, bam!, we are in a horrible pattern and every day is painful and horrific.  Nothing they say or I say or do is right.  At times like these, homeschooling seems like more of a liability as there is no way we can get away from each other and have a little distance.  Everything becomes a challenge, school, chores, meals - everything.  What's a Mom to do other than join a traveling circus?

When I hit one of these patches with my kids, there are a couple of things I have learned to do to break the pattern.

1. Pick your battle!  Keep the most important thing the most important thing.  Pick the battle that you are going to go down on and then let everything else go.  I generally pick first time obedience or respect, in deed and tone, to be the battles I am willing to go down on.  The fact that they are wearing holey jeans to church or that they left their piano bag in the car or haven't done their hair today, may not be the most important thing  and I may need to let it go so that we can focus on the bigger battle.  Let your child know what your main expectation for them is, and then clearly outline positive consequences for meeting these expectations are, as well as what discipline will be used when they fail to meet these expectations.  Make them clear so that there is no question about what will be done, then be consistent on both positive and negative consequences.

2.  Remind them that you love them, unconditionally!  Say it, say it, and say it again.  Know their love language and show them in no uncertain terms that your love never wavers no matter what conflict you are in.  Little notes telling them of your love, a special treat or just a long snuggle on the couch depending on your child's love language are effective ways of showing your love.

3.  Say something positive!  When I was a teenager, my Stepmom made a concerted effort to say something positive each and every day no matter how big the conflict was and trust me, they were plenty huge.  She might only say, "I like the outfit you picked today, you look beautiful" as I left to go to school but it made a huge difference.  Don't let your child leave the house or go to bed without something positive along with an, "I love you no matter what!".

4.  Spend more time with your child, not less. I have often found that by spending more time with the child I am in conflict with, the battle fizzles out pretty quickly.  I may take this child with me to the grocery store, out to lunch or just hang out in their room.  After the tension has let up, which may take three or four outings, I can then ask them what is really going on and I may find out that someone is teasing them at church or they are embarrassed to ask a question or they reveal they are really struggling with something in their faith. Then we can really get to the heart of the matter and start fixing things.  To get to this point though, I really need to give them a quantity of my undivided time before I get to quality time.  Sometimes I realize that they just need me to be available and as my kids get older, this becomes so much more important.  I find that hang out time in their rooms before bed has become really important to do once or twice a week.  It's amazing what confidences they give me in hang out time in their room.

5. Be honest.  At times, I have had to say that their behavior is hurting my feelings or that I am really not feeling well so I may not react in the best way right now.  This kind of honesty usually softens all of our hearts and the tension level drops.

6.  Be willing to say sorry.  There have been times that I haven't handled a situation well and I need to say, "I am sorry for yelling, please forgive me" or "I am taking this personally, and I shouldn't, I am sorry."  When I take respinsibility for my part in the conflict, they are more willing to take responsibility for theirs.

We all have times of conflict but a family is the best place to learn how to deal with them.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid

Have you ever read the story of the Israelites crossing the River Jordan?  It says in Joshua 3:14 that it was harvest season and the river was overflowing its banks.  Having recently seen rivers overflowing their banks, I know what a scary and destructive force that is.  The Bible tells us that the Levite Priests were to cross first, carrying the Ark of the Covenant.  Can you imagine the fear that they faced?  

When I am faced with something that I find daunting, I imagine those Priests.  I imagine them plugging their noses and taking a giant leap of faith into the rushing, swirling waters praying that God will catch them as they fall.  Not when they fall, but as they fall.  I then imagine myself taking a deep breath, plugging my nose and taking a giant step into whatever swirling vortex God has called me.  I am taking that step not because of the fear but in spite of it.  I refuse to live my life in a perpetual state of fear.  Not because I am not afraid but in spite of it.  In Joshua 1, God tells Joshua and His people to be strong and courageous nine different times.  Nine times, God says to be strong and courageous, as a matter of fact, verse 9 calls it a command.  God commands us to be strong and courageous. Verse 7 tells us to be strong and courageous and carefully obey His instructions and we will be successful in what we do.  If we are are strong and courageous and carefully and faithfully obey His instructions we will be successful.

I find that in parenting and in homeschooling we often make decisions based on fear.  “I am afraid that those kids will be a negative influence”, “I am afraid of Common Core”. “I am afraid my kid will never make it in a secular college”, “ I am afraid my children will be disrespectful and disobedient”, “I am afraid my child is behind”, “ I am afraid I can never teach my child to read, to write, to do math.”  I am afraid that because we are letting our fears control us, we are making decisions that are reactionary and are not based on obeying God’s instructions.  Just like the Levite Priests, we need to make decisions not because of our fears but in spite of them.

Am I saying that we shouldn't be concerned about Common Core?  Absolutely not, but I am saying that we stop having knee jerk reactions to a curriculum that may be working for us and because they are somewhat aligned we throw it out.  That is a reaction based on fear not in spite of fear.  We do our research, pray about it and make our decisions on what is the best curricula for our children, despite labels.

Am I saying that we leave our kids in situations that are not good for them or that leave them vulnerable?  Certainly not, but we need to carefully and prayerfully consider our options.  I don't think we should ever homeschool because we are afraid of the Public School.  Homeschooling is hard and if we are only doing it because we are afraid of the options, it is not going to go well.  We need to be  making decisions out of our obedience.  My husband and I homeschool because we believe this is what God has asked us to.  We do it because we love the benefits of homeschooling, not because we are afraid of the options.  We are not to live in a spirit of fear, we are to be strong and courageous.

Am I saying that we need not be concerned if our kids are disrespectful and disobedient?  Anyone who knows me even a little will know that I feel strongly about teaching our children to be respectful and obedient.  In parenting, like everything else, I think we need to think clearly without living in fear.  We need to have a plan for discipline in place before we are in conflict.  We are going to be in conflict at times with our kids, they are going to do things that we would rather they not do.  Sometimes, it is going to be hurtful and damaging but instead of living in fear, we need to pray and put discipline in place so that when those times come, we have a plan.  When my kids were little, we had posted if, then charts.  If you lie, then this punishment will come into play.  Now that they are teenagers, we have clear rules in place and no one is surprised when discipline happens.   We also have positive reinforcements in place so that we can reward the good decisions our kids make.    

God wants us to be fearless in our obedience to Him.  If He calls us to homeschool then we need to carefully obey and step fearlessly into the river.  If we are parents of strong willed kids, we pray a lot, research and read, set up a plan and step in.  I think if we approach our decisions and our life choosing to be courageous, not because we are not afraid but despite it. We will make better decisions and be more prepared to handle things when they go south.  We should not make decisions based on fear, we should make decisions despite our fears.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Looking Back

Tonight, I am sitting here contemplating the fact that tomorrow is Connor's last first day of school in our homeschool.  Tomorrow, Connor starts his Senior year in High School.  I couldn't be more proud of the young man he has become.  He is articulate, kind, scary smart, loving, dryly funny, wise and a well grounded Godly young man.  Looking back, I am so grateful for the 12 years that I have had the privilege of not only being his Mom, but his teacher.  I can also see what we have done really right and the things we have done that, in hindsight, we could have done better.

Things that we could have done better in our homeschooling journey -

1.  Too much book/workbook academics and not enough learning through play.  I learned this lesson later with Connor so the twins had a much more fun and enjoyable beginning.  I had to learn that more isn't better, it is just more.  I think we can teach through play in those young years and it teaches  much more effectively than a formal curriculum in those early years.

2.  Don't compare.  Shakespeare says, " Comparisons are odious" and I think it is true.  I can't compare kid against kid or my homeschool against someone else's.

3.  Slowly ramp up academics in late elementary.  Poor Connor had a REALLY hard transition to middle school because I moved from elementary to middle school in one giant leap.  A more gradual transition into independence and starting to ramp up academics in 5th and 6th grade has been far more successful for the twins.  We did the same for high school for the twins.  Even though they are going into 8th grade, they are taking several high school courses to more gradually ramp up.

4. Grades do not define my children.  Scores on Standardized tests do not and should not define who my children are.  A low test score does not mean that they are not intelligent.  It does not show who they are and what they are worth. I learned this the hard way with Caileigh, and spent several years showing her that I could see her for who she is and not for how she did in school.  Caileigh really began to shine academically in Middle School and I had to learn not let her scores define her worth or my job as her teacher in her earlier year.

5.  It is not about me.  Oh, how I have struggled with this one.  What my children achieve or do not achieve is not about me.  Their personal style is not a reflection of me.  Their bad choices are not about me.  Once I could stop making it about me and taking it as a personal insult, I became a much more effective teacher and a better Mom.  I stay so much calmer and our home is far more peaceful once God broke my pride in this.

What we have done right -

1.  Insist that our children be friends.  In our home, if you are not kind to your siblings then you will lose the privilege of being with friends.  If we could not be loving to our family, then how could we be loving to others?  We practice kindness, service, courtesy in our home, first.  If you cannot practice those traits at home, then you lose the privilege in practicing them elsewhere.  Having a family learning model in school also helped immensely in this.  When you are all studying the same things in Bible and at least History, you create a commonality that allows your children to have things to play and chat about.

2. Insist that we do our school work with excellence and diligence. Not with perfection, but with excellence.  Sloppiness is not okay.  If we did something wrong, that's fine, but we keep doing it until we get it right.  We do not move on until we have gotten the concept.  If we got a math problem wrong, we correct it and then move on.  We also persevere until we get it right.  We don't give up, we don't give in, we don't fall apart.  We stop and look at it another way.  We research the problem, do whatever we need to do until we have figured it out.

3.  We have fun.  I learned this late but when I understood how powerful this way, I thoroughly embraced it.  Can we learn the same thing with a board game instead of a workbook? Don't just read about the food they ate, make it.  Make it fun and interesting and they will want to learn more.  Get Dad involved in this.  Scott is far better at this than I am, so I buy the game and he plays it.  Getting Dad involved in doing Science or building the castle or doing the feast makes it so much more fun and memorable.

4.  Give them time to develop their passions and then do whatever you can to support it.  I am the ultimate overachiever but one of the things we did do, was allow our children time.  Unscheduled free time while severely limiting screen time helped them develop interests and passions.  Have a kid interested in gardening?  Get them books, buy a small greenhouse, let them build a working aquaponics.  Don't let them be afraid of failure and just try.  That's how Connor got to speak in Barcelona, and again at MIT this summer.  We scheduled time for him to find his passion and then we helped him to relentlessly pursue it.  We have begun to buy fun physics books for Collin and Caileigh spends much of her time working outside with her garden and aquaponics system.

5.  Make God an integrated part of our home and school.  I have loved our curriculum which integrates Bible into all of our studies.  My kids learned to read by reading their own beginner  Bible.  The first coherent sentences they wrote were summaries of Bible stories.  They learned the names of Jesus and did science based on those names.  The more they understood the science the more they understood why Jesus was named that.  They learned that the Bible was history as well as the Word of God. Bible isn't a subject but woven through out day and life.

Categories: ing

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Days 2014

I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain. ~John Keats

We had friends stay with us for a week and a half and we had a blast.  Camping in the backyard was great and the best part was that Scott and I could sleep in our own bed.

If you haven't discovered, "Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction", go to Amazon and buy it now.  It is best for 7 or 8 and up.  I make a list of all the things they need and put it in a basket, which the kids named The Awesome Box.  Great fun but messy - do the build in the backyard!

Soccer or Futbol is the only sport I enjoy watching, which might be because I played it for many years.  We spent a lovely summer night at the Rapids game.  Connor is helping Caileigh smile as a on camera smile is so rare these days.

The pool!  We love going to the pool in our neighborhood.  It is only two blocks from our house which makes it easy to go for a swim.

Family Night!  Almost every Sunday, we spend time with our adopted family.  We had a lovely time up in Lyons celebrating Father's Day.
More pool time, this time with Sophia.
Unfortunately, our beloved Subaru Tribeca died and we had to get a new car.  Although we weren't excited about the prospect of having a car payment again, we like our new to us, 2012 Honda Pilot.  It sits 8 and best of all, has enough leg room for our 6'2 son.
We loves Estes Park and were so glad to see that it is recovering from the floods of last fall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Right!

If it’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Right
Homeschooling is difficult.  It is a constant balance of doing the have to and the want to, it is balancing being the Mom and the teacher.  It means we balance several full-time jobs that all require our constant attention and still strive to have a well-ordered, happy home that our hard-working husbands can come home to each night.  It is a constant balancing act of plates that could all drop on our heads at any moment.  I live this constant high wire act every day and I understand the strain but I want to add two more plates to the act.  The balance of character training and that of academic excellence.

Often we hear that we must choose our priority in homeschooling, whether we are going to strive for character development in our children or that of academic excellence.  I think this is a faulty premise.  Character training and academic excellence are not mutually exclusive.  They are not an either/or proposition, they can be different sides of the same coin - a great homeschool environment.

One of the goals in our homeschool has been to train and prepare our children for whatever God has for them.  In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  He has plans for our children and whether they are to be a wife and a mom or a Pastor or a Professor of Mathematics, I want them as prepared as possible to walk the path that God has set them on.  To do that, I believe that we need to focus on character development, spiritual disciplines and academic excellence.

Perhaps we are simply not asking the right question.  Perhaps the question isn't whether we should focus on character or academics.  Perhaps we need to simplify the choice by focusing on excellence.  The philosopher Aristotle said this, " We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit."  Perhaps this is what we need to focus on, striving for  excellence in whatever we do and making it a habit. If we are training our children in character, with patience and diligence, we refuse to accept unkindness or dishonesty.  If we are teaching our children, we refuse to accept a paper that is less than their best.  We need to calmly, lovingly and consistently ask for our child's best whether we are dealing with sibling rivalry, their bed not made or a math paper that is not done correctly.

Excellence should not be confused perfection.  I love what the actor Micheal J Fox says, "I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business."  We are not asking our children or indeed ourselves to be perfect, we are asking for diligence and the perseverance to strive to do better.  We are not asking a child to get the answer the right the very first time but to promise them that we will keep going until they have it mastered.  We need to promise our children that they are not alone in this process but that we will be there to stand beside them encouraging and mentoring them.

At the beginning of each year, my husband and I set goals for our children in three areas, spiritual, personal and academic.  We recognize that our children need all three areas to be properly prepared to do what God has for them.  They need to know and love God, they need to be able to get to a class on time with all of their books and be able to to have the education they need to succeed.  We want to stand beside them and say, "You have some wonderful gifts that God has given you.  Let's work on your strengths to make them stronger and strengthen these areas of weakness".  Let us not limit our children by failing to recognize that we need to ask for excellence in whatever they do, whatever they say and how they act.


Saturday, May 03, 2014

Great Summer Fun!

This is an older post but still has some of my favorite summer ideas.

Here are a few new ones as well-

Jim Weiss CD's - We love these CD's.  They are great for quiet time during the summer as well as for car rides.

Khan Academy - I hate losing valuable math skills during the summer so a Khan Academy is a fun way to keep up math skills in the summer.

Scratch - I think every kid needs to understand what programming is and the basics if it.  Scratch is a great, fun, free way to teach programming skills.  This is the program that started Connor on his love for all things Comp Sci.

We are off having a great summer but just wanted to share some of my favorite summer finds. These are all suggestions for 7+ (ish)

 Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction

 This book has thus far been one of my favorite things for the kids. They have built crossbows out of pens and pencils, "hand guns" with tic tac "bullets", trubuchets out of spoons and so much more.

 Read Alouds

 We finished "The Hobbit" and are moving to "The Fellowship of the Rings". Scott likes to play the movie soundtrack while I read. Remember that even teenagers like read alouds and it is a great way to spend quality time together. 

 Adventures in Odyssey 

 We are listening to #55 and it tells the story of Sergeant York. If you haven't read the book, watched the movie at the very least listen to the AIO series. My favorite line, "I'm agin everything the Bible's agin.". I love that line. It's a great reminder that by being obedient to God we can do amazing things.

 Some Summer School

 Editor in Chief by the Critical Thinking Co. These have been great for my kids to practice editing and using all those skills, punctuation, capitalization and spelling. Life of Fred and / or Mathtacular Great, fun math programs! Gotta run to our next fun summer activity, hope you are having a fabulous summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Plan Your Work and then Work Your Plan

"Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan. " -  Margaret Thatcher
Every self help guru will tell you that you need to set goals, have a plan and work steadily toward your goals.  Homeschooling is no different.  In fact, what could be more important that training and educating our children?  With something so important we should have a plan and work towards it daily.
Before we started homeschooling we were challenged to have goals for our home and our children and they have helped us stay the course.

Goal planning

“Know where you're going or you'll end up somewhere else.” - Yogi Berra
I'm sure all of us have a saying or two that our parents used on us as kids. You know the one that you can never get out of your head, that if you say it, it immediately brings you back to your childhood. One of the things that I heard often as a child and as a teen was, “Know where you're going or you'll end up somewhere else.” I heard this all the time and in so many different situations. I heard it when I left my homework until the last moment or when I forgot to write down my science fair needs on the grocery list and my Mom had to make a special two hour trip. I heard it when I started driving and I needed to merge into the turn lane. “Know where you're going or you'll end up somewhere else.” was a refrain that was quickly burned into my brain.

Now, as a parent, those words still haunt me with their truth. It's now become so much more important that we have a plan, that we are intentional and that we use the time and resources God has given us with our children for a purpose. Proverbs 22:6 says, “ Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” One of the definitions of training in Websters is , “the act, process, or method of one that trains.” Usually, when one trains there is an end goal in mind and the trainer has a process or methodology for that training. When we are training our kids we should have an end goal in mind and a way to get there. as a homeschooling parent, the lines between educating and parenting are blurred and are often confusing so it is imperative to know what your goals are and stick to them.

"I know the plans I have for you," declares the lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Having a plan gives a focus for Both Parents and Kids

A focus, or a main puropse, helps us to know what we need to work on. It helps us to be intentional. It helps us to communicate to our children what is important to us and then to be deliberate in teaching and training them to our children.

Having a plan gives us the ability to pick and tailor our curriculum. I find this to be really helpful in helping us narrow down our choices. I bring my goals with us to the convention every year. I ask vendors. “ Will your curriculum help us to achieve these goals?” If the answer is yes, we'll look further, if not we move on. It also helps us not be swayed by every new thing on the market.

It can help us judge activities based on our goals. My wonderful husband is much better at this than I am. I get excited by the thought of something new and different. I am sure I can fit everything in. I don't need to sleep. He'll ask me if this activity helps us meets our goals and more often than not, they don't, so we refrain from adding it to our schedule which keeps us from being overbooked and me from losing my mind.

"But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand." Isaiah 32:8

Through out this chapter, I want you to start to create some goals.  This is an all play.  I find it much more helpful if I immediately write things down as then I have a beginning and I can refine later.  I would like you to take a moment and pray before you start this process.  God knows what He needs our goals to be and He can guide you through this.  "Commit to the lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." Proverbs 16:3  Proverbs clearly tells us that God wants us to have plans and as a matter of fact, He will also establish those plans.

Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." He is more than happy to give you the wisdom you need to really think though this process, see your family clearly and give you the wisdom to discern  your children's needs.

Family Purpose

Your Family Purpose should be for the long term. This purpose is for long term whether you are pre-kids, you have a house filled with kids or your kids have grown and you are now and empty nester.  This is a life time goal, it defines what you want to be known for.

Here's some questions you can ask your family and talk about together as family to help define this..
a. What does God want for us as a family?
b. What do we want to be known for?

Write an overall purpose statement for your family, making sure it reflects the morals and values of your family.
Start with “Our purpose as a family is....” Make your statement as precise and simple as possible.
Example : “Our purpose as a family is to bring glory to God through the love and choices we make as individuals and corporately as a family.”
Take a moment or two for you to jot down some basic ideas that can be refined later.


Objectives are more detailed than the family purpose statements and speak to the phase of life that you are currently in. For most of that would be the child rearing stage. This is a big picture of how we want our kids to be raised and what we (in a perfect world) would like them to become.  This will take some thinking as we need to imagine our kids graduated, or married and on their own.  We need to imagine what and who we would evision them to be.  I am not talking about careers but the character of our children and what you envision them to stand for.
State in a phrase or sentence an objective in fulfilling your purpose statement. Begin your statement with “to...” and complete your statement in such a way that you would see your purpose statement fulfilled.

Example : “To raise our children to be Godly young men and women filled with integrity and joy, who will be leaders for Christ in their homes, churches and country.”

Some questions to ask yourself are:
a. When my children are going to college what do I want them to be known by?
b. What characteristics are most important for my kids to have when they are grown?
c. Ultimately what kind of people do I want my children to be?
Take a few minutes to answer these questions. You can refine these later but for right now, write down what first comes to your mind.


Goals are the “how to” to get to our Objective and ultimately our Family Purpose. These can change weekly, monthly or yearly depending on need.

Goals for our Home School Journey

My husband and I started fighting, I mean discussing passionately, our children's educational options while we were still engaged. We believe in having pointless discussions long before they are necessary.  You should hear us about college options.  Anyway, I had been homeschooled and Scott had been Private Schooled.  Neither of us wanted our kids to be Public Schooled so that atleast narrowed our choices.  Once we had Connor though, the discussions became far more frequent and neither of us were backing down so when Connor was 2, I peruaded Scott to come with me to a convention.   He was bowled over by the curriculum options and by the Science equipment but wasn't completely convinced.  After the convention, we decided to write down our goals for Connor's education which would allow us to make a better decision.  In hind's sight, it was a good thing that we did the work sooooo early as we had twins the next year and lengthy discussions and debates gave way to midnight feedings by both of us and a serious lack of sleep.  God is so smart.

 We have three overriding goals that we made before our children even started school. These can encompass what you want your children taught, how you want them taught and what you want them to know when they leave our home.  We made a list of our highest priorities and refined  them to three.

As an example, our goals are:
Bible integrated curriculum.  We didn't want the Bible to merely be a subject in the day.  Both Scott and I felt that this was lacking in our education.  We wanted to talk about God in History, in English,  in Science.  We wanted our kids to see how God is involved through out History, how He invites us to join Him and then we wanted them to put it into practice.  He is the Creator and is intimately involved and we want our kids to know that.

We want to teach our kids how to love to learn.  We want them to enjoy the process.  This really was Scott's heart.  He wanted to make sure that the kids became life long learners and that the best way of teaching that was to make it fun and engaging.  To be excited about learning ourselves and to pass that on through to the kids.  To make it hands on and real.  we consider this one of our saftey nets.  We know our kids will have some gaps, but if we teach them that learning is enjoyable then they will continue to learn their entire lives.

Academically rigorous.  We want our kids prepared for whatever God has for them whether that be a phd in linguistics to translate the Bible or a stay at home Mom. This is really important to both of us but it is where my heart lands.  I want our kids to change the world, to affect the next generation, to be God's hands and to go go when and where He calls them.  To do that, I believe that they need to be well educated.  I don't know what God has planned for them but I want them to be able to confidently able to say "yes" to God because they have a firm academic platform under them.  I believe that we can have kids who are Godly and well educated and that is my end goal.

 These goals have steered us through our choice of where to educate our children as well as what to choose to educate them with. We don't go to a convention or buy curriculum without these firmly in hand.  If a curriculum doesnt meet atleast 2 out of the 3 then we dont buy it.

Carefully consider individual goals for each family member. In the summer before each school year starts my husband and I start thinking about these goals and then make goals in three areas, spiritual, personal and academic and have three goals per area. Before you start thinking that I have this formal process and my husband I go away and have a weekend away to set these, we don't.  Sure, it would be great, but life happens at the speed of light around here and it usually happens far less formally.  It might happen as we are driving home from dropping the kids off at Bible Bowl or piano or karate or whatever and I say , " So, honey, it's that time again."
"What time?" he asks.
"Time to set new goals for the kids.", I reply.
"Really?  I thought we just did that?"
"Nope, that was last year.  It's time again."
"Okay, let me think about it and I will get back to you.", He reluctantly says.  "I could have sworn we just talked about it.  Are they picking up their rooms without being told yet?"
"Not by a long shot." I complain.
"Let's put that in the list."  he states.
"Okay, but that's been on the list since they were 3."
"Well, hopefully, this year they will finally get it."
"Can I put you picking up your socks on the list too?" I ask ever so sweetly.
" I thought we were talking about the kids"

We might brainstorm for a day or two and then we will formalize them and type them up.
Example : Here are examples of a past goal list for our oldest son.
Spiritual – self control over his emotions and tongue Gal 5:22-23
Personal – maintain responsibility over belongings (coats, piano bags, sports equipment) Eph 6:1-2
Academic – have multiplication and division tables memorized through 12

Carefully consider these goals and make sure they meet these criteria:
1.Are they biblical?
2.Do I have a verse or moral reason why to support these?
3.Do they fit out purpose as a family?
4.Do they bring glory to God or glory to us?
5. Are they achievable? We don't want to exasperate our children. (Col. 3:21)

Rewards for Goal
At the beginning of the school year my husband and I set new goals for the kids and then on the first day of school we show them to our kids and allow them to pick one goal per area to work on. I have them write them down and post them in an area where they can been seen regularly. Through out the year we periodically pick new goals to work on as the previous ones are accomplished. When a new goal is accomplished the kids may pick a reward. This may be an ice cream date with Mom or Dad or a trip to the toy store for a new toy (within reason, of course) or to the bookstore to pick a new book out. The reward doesn't have to be large but it is important to make sure you reward your kids for accomplishing their goals. It will make them want to continue and keep reaching those goals. It makes it fun and exciting to reach our goals.  I know when I complete my goals, I like to get a reward.  When my husband accomplishes his goals at work, then he is rewarded.  Making the goals manageable and attainable and then rewarding our children will help them the rest of their lives in being deliberate. What a gift that will be to our children, to know how to write goals, and to achieve them.  "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act." Prov. 3:27


You Can Do This, We Can Help pt 1

Do you remember when you had your first baby?  The first moment you had with that sweet, little person? I had a long, hard labour with my oldest, over 36 hours of labour and hadn't slept in 48 hours and neither had anyone else in my general vicinity.  After Connor's birth and he had been bathed and fed and the 500 pictures taken with both sets of new grandparents, everyone left to go take showers and get food and sleep.  Finally, I was left with my little man.  I placed him on the bed and looked at him eye to eye and introduced myself, "Hi, I'm your Mom and I am going to try my very best not to mess up your life.  I love you with every fiber of my being and I promise to place your needs before mine."  Some may laugh and ask if I really made that little speech, but I really did.  I needed to verbalize my commitment.

When my twins were born, I merely promised them that somehow we were all going to survive this and prayerfully, thrive.  Thriving seemed like a reach with two newborns and a three year old but I was going to put all my efforts into making it happen.

When we brought home our children, each time seemed like a Herculean effort.  With Connor, everything was so new.  How did we know that the fresh salad and broccoli I was eating would cause terrible tummy aches in our newest little member?  When was he actually going to sleep the entire night?  We put a schedule into place, read all the books, talked to older, wiser people and made it work.  With the twins, we took a deep breath, read all the twin books, brought in a friend who had twins a year earlier and made it work, albeit with very little sleep.  With all of them we did survive and indeed, thrive.  I hold my memories of that time close to my heart and with much love.

When we start thinking about Homeschooling we often get a similar level of fear and nervousness.  Are we going to totally mess up our children?  Can we really teach them to read, to do long division, to diagram sentences?  Can we do this without losing our mind, killing our children, and still make dinner?  Is it just hubris to think we can do this better than the experts?  What will everyone say?  Are our in-laws or parents going to completely freak out?  Will our kids become unsocialized, social misfits?

That level of fear and questioning reminds me of the fear I felt when I brought my first child home from the hospital.  "Are you seriously going to let me go out if here with a child?  Do you really think I am capable of this?  What will I do if they cry or get sick or...".  With our twins, it was more of a, " Please don't make me go home!  There are not near enough adults at our house to deal with all of these children."

Homeschooling is much the same.  It's gonna possibly be the hardest, most draining, challenging, most rewarding and blessed thing you have done since bringing home your first baby.  I have found that now, 12 years into Homeschooling, I wouldn't give up even one moment of it.  I have put my heart, soul, blood, sweat and many a tear into three of the most amazing people I have ever met, and it has been well worth it.
So just like the little pamphlet that they gave me at the hospital on, "How to Take Care of Your Baby" here's your, "How to Homeschool and Thrive".  It won't be nearly enough information, just like that pamphlet from the hospital, but hopefully, it will give you some help along the path.

(Keep it Simple Sweetheart)
The temptation the first time you homeschool is to buy everything and more that first year.  One of your friends says that Sonlight teaches your children to love to read and someone else says that My Father's World has better Bible so it makes total sense to buy both and try to combine them.  You can't decide whether a spiral math or a mastery based math is better so let's do a little of both.  You've heard that homeschoolers are unsocialized so one of the first things you do is sign up for a Co-op two days a week as well as piano, soccer and choir.

I am here to tell you a little secret, homeschooling is less about the curriculum you choose than the way you put it into practice.  The best homeschool curriculum is the curriculum you get done.  Your child is going to have gaps in their education, they just are.  You cannot teach them every possible thing but you can teach them how to love to learn.  You can teach them how to find information, how to be diligent in their work and to persevere until they do understand and to keep searching until they find out the answer to that problem.  More curricula is never going to give you a child like that but you can.  You can encourage your child to ask questions and if you don't know the answer to say, " I don't know.  Let's go find out together" and then do it.  Not knowing something isn't a failure, it's just a stage of the process.  If we don't know something, then we just need to find out that information and not to stop until we do know.

We often feel that choosing our curriculum is the biggest factor in having a successful homeschool.  I would agree that it is important but it is no where near the most important decision.  We need to think of our curricula as the vehicle that gets us to where we need to go.  Our destination is our homeschool goals, we are the drivers (in high school our children may be the drivers) and our curriculum is merely the car we use to get there.  It may be luxurious with all the bells and whistles or it may be a Pinto which a badly needs a paint job. You can still get where you are going with either vehicle, the ride may feel differently but ultimately it is up to the driver as to whether we are going to make it to our destination.  We should never let the vehicle determine where we are going, we are the driver and it is merely a tool we use.

For your first year or two, you need to just keep it simple.  Figure out your goals, make a list of your "have - to's" and work on those.  I always recommend starting the year slowly.  I start at the beginning of August and add a subject or two a week and by week 5 or 6 we have added everything in.  I also recommend buying just the absolutes and start on those and only add in things as they are needed.  Do not start the year with an overflowing schedule, start slowly and make it successful.  Having everyone hate school (including you) at the beginning of the year isn't going to do anyone any good.  When you brought that first baby home you didn't over schedule.  You made things as simple as possible, beginning to homeschool is going to be similar.  I will also tell you that the first 6 - 8 weeks in a school year are hard.  It takes everyone awhile to get in a groove.  Don't change too many things in those first weeks, just start slowly and keep it simple.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Knit On Scratch On!

Connor and his friend, K, have created a working knitted piano.  The two of them are so much fun to watch as they brainstorm.  It looks like they are just talking and all of a sudden they start laughing and putting ideas together, next thing you know, they are asking you to buy expensive wire and a Makey Makey.  Two days later, they have asked a local company to sponsor them and they have several hundred dollars of equipment donated.  

They submitted their project and are presenting it at the Scratch Conference at MIT in August.  Check it out at Knit On Scratch On

If you have not discovered Scratch, you should get your child on this ASAP.  It is a pretty amazing program that teaches kids the beginning of programming. All three of my kids love it and Connor has helped to design several of the new modules that work with robots.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More on High School Planning

Just a couple of thoughts as I am working through listing all the things that need to be done for Connor as he enters his Senior year.

Tests that need to be taken:

Fall of 9th or 10th - PSAT
 You must sign up through a local school by August or early Sept.  Go to for info.

Fall of 11th - PSAT which makes them eligible for the National Merit Scholarships and preps them for SATs and ACTs.

Spring of 11th - ACT, SAT, and AP and SAT Subject Tests

The SAT may be taken up to 3 times and the ACT multiple times as well but you need to start taking then as a a Junior in order to give your student enough time to take them multiple times.  Early Admissions to colleges usually end in December so give your student enough time to take them in the Spring of the Junior year and Fall of their Senior year.

AP - Advanced Placement Tests can be taken even if they haven't taken an outside AP class as long as they know the info.  For instance, Connor is taking the AP Comp Sci at the end of the year by working through a AP Comp Sci prep book bought through Amazon.  Test Prep books are vital for APs, SATs, ACTs and SAT a Subject Tests.

SAT Subject Tests - these are generally taken by students who are going into Ivy League level schools.  Certain schools (like MIT) ask for them as part if admissions.  Connor is taking a SAT Math2 Subject Test and a Physics test.  Read admissions pages to colleges carefully.

CLEP exams can be taken at any time if the student has mastered the info.

To find out about APs, SATs, SAT Subject Test and CLEPs, go to

To find out about ACTs go to act

Start looking at colleges early.  Their websites are a fount of info.  A friend of mine and I, looked into or talked to 25 different colleges when our kids were in 7th and 8th to make sure we were on track and it was very helpful.  I probably spend 2 hours a week looking at college websites

The motherlode of Info from the Well Trained Mind Forums (my favorite place to find out info from a Moms who really know their stuff).

Well Trained Mind

Categories: parenting, homeschooling

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Planning for High School

I am a second generation homeschooler.  My very brave parents pulled me out of the Public School while I was in the 10th grade and I graduated in a homeschool setting.  Back then, homeschooling was practically unheard of and barely legal.  I now have a son who is just finishing his 11th grade year and twins who are finishing their 7th grade year.  I have seen both sides of homeschooling during high school. First, as a student and now as a parent educator and I am here to tell you that you will survive.  As both as the student and now the parent, I can tell that you that it can be successful, enjoyable and properly prepare your student for the next stage in life and whatever God has for them.

II  Why Homeschool During High School?

The temptation is to homeschool during the younger years and then put them into a more traditional school setting during high school because high school can seem so daunting.  It matters now because I need to have a transcript and each class needs to be credit worthy.  I know when my oldest was in 7th grade I went to the convention and went to every class on preparing for high school.  It was funny because I started noticing that there was a small herd of us that seemed to be going to all the same classes.  Finally, I asked the person next to me what grades their child was in and the whole room of us realized that we were all parents of students that were going into 7th or 8th grade and we were petrified of making a mistake when it counted.  Now 5 years later, I can tell you that it was a good idea to prepare then but I didn't need to have so much fear.  My son is thriving in his homeschool environment.  There are some definite benefits to homeschooling during high school.

In high school you finally reap the benefits of all those other years of homeschooling.  I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my kids and the high school years are when you start to see the benefits.

Better Academics - Just as in the younger years, in high school we can tailor a child's education.  We can meet them where they are and that will show in their test scores.  They are also more likely to attend college.  Statiscally, 76% of homeschool students had taken college courses verses 46% of the same age group of 18 - 24 years olds.

In 1999 Stanford University accepted 27% of homeschooled applicants which was twice the acceptance rate of publicly and privately schooled students.

MIT states on their webpage that, " they have a long history of admitting homeschooled students and these students are successful and vibrant members of our community."

Studies show that in in testing, homeschooled students score significant higher than either their public or private schooled peers.

Biblically Strong - The ability to mentor and disciple our children.  After high school graduation, homeschooled students are statistically shown to internalize the values and beliefs of their parents.

The Ability to help your child find and develop their passions." How to be a High School Superstar" and "Do Hard Things and Start Here".  Changed our homeschool and allowed Connor to follow his passions.

III Structuring High School

Work from high school graduation backwards.
Spend some time with your teen dreaming and talking about their dreams and plans for life after high school.  We need to be realistic but we also need to make sure we are planning for whatever plans God has planned for our kids.  For instance, a good friend of mine has a brother who struggled severely with dyslexia but her parents never gave up on him and although he was public schooled they continually worked with him and now he has a PHD in Molecular Biology.  They never gave up on him and worked with him so that he could follow his dreams.

Start planning by finding out what your child needs to get into college.  Yes, I think you should plan on your child going to college.  Far better to be over prepared than under prepared.

So, for instance, if my child is going to be a STEM major, they need 4 years years of math and preferably, Calculus. Working backwards looks like this:

Stem Majors need 4 years, preferably Calculus.
12th - Calculus
11th- Trig and Pre- Calc
10th- Geometry
9th - Alg 2
8th - Alg 1
7th - Pre- Algebra

By working from what they need in College, you can easily figure out what courses they need in high school.

Carnegie Credit
Per its original definition, the Carnegie Unit is 120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor over the course of a year at the secondary (American high school) level. Strictly speaking, this breaks down into a single one-hour meeting, on each of five days per week for a total of 24 weeks per year. However, knowing that classes usually meet for 50 minutes yields a value of 30 weeks per year. A semester (one-half of a full year) earns 1/2 a Carnegie Unit.[1]

To graduate most students need between 20 - 22 credits

To have a General College Prep High school students need 24- 28 credit

For a Rigorous College Prep High School students should have 26 - 30 credits

***For a good breakdown on this you can goto the HSLDA website to print out their brochure on Homeschooling Through High School

Now that we are 3/4 of the way through high school with Connor, I can say with all certainty that it was one of our best decisions.  He has learned and grown so much and we have been able to be there to mentor and disciple him while learning alongside him.  He has done and accomplished so much more than we ever dreamed or planned.  God has used him in awesome ways while he was still protected from things he wasn't ready for.  We are excited to see what God has for him next.  We are also excited to homeschool the twins through high school.  I am already deep in planning for them.

All of this to say, don't give up now.  You can do all things through Christ, including homeschool high school.  It will be hard but oh so worth it!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Family!

It was a beautiful day and we were in Boulder and we decided to take some impromptu family pictures.

I think they turned out beautifully!  The last time we were here was three years ago and man have the kids changed and grown!

Monday, January 06, 2014

The 'Meanest' Moms = The Nicest Kids

When my kids were little, I was the Mom that said 'no', often.  As a matter of fact, even my kids's friends still talk about not messing with Miss Dawn.  It wasn't that I yelled or threatened or was unkind but it was because I expected my kids and those kids around them to be obedient, kind, respectful and have a higher standard for them.

I was the Mom that said no to an inappropriate movie even if everyone else was watching it.

I was the Mom who said no to the extra treat.

I was the Mom who didn't allow the phrase, "but Mom..." to be spoken.

I was the Mom who insisted on a strict bedtime.

I was the Mom who gave my kids apple cider vinegar if they used inappropriate words.

I was the Mom who took away privileges if my kids misbehaved.

I was the Mom who pre-read every book before my kids were allowed to read it.  I said no to books, often, or you can read it when you are older.

I was the Mom who left an entire basket of groceries in the cool room at the supermarket to take a "I want a piece of candy" tantrum laden child home - more than once.

I was the Mom that insisted that they do work over if they didn't do it right the first time, school work and chores.

I was the Mom who made a 10 year earn enough money to buy his first iPod.

I was and still am that Mom.  The strictest Mom around.

 I have a theory about the 'mean' Mom, the strict one.  The strictest Moms have the nicest kids.  The Moms that I most look up to were the strictest Moms and they have the greatest kids.  Now, those kids are grown up and have become such great, Godly men and women.  They are getting married and having kids and saying, "No" to their adorable little ones.  I think there is a direct correlation.

I am so glad I was a 'mean' Mom because I am watching my kids turn into wonderful young people.