Contributing Member Introductions

Hello, and welcome to the Honeybee Christian Co-op blog! Here we will post about co-op, our faith, homeschooling, parenting, and just whatever is on our hearts. We can’t wait to share all the fun and craziness that comes with homeschooling our crew! Here is a quick introduction of our contributing members!

Hello! My name ispulk49 Valerie,  and I am a catholic homeschooling mom of 2. I have an energetic 5-year-old boy and a sweet little 6-month-old girl. Giving birth within a week of starting our first official year of homeschooling has made things interesting, but we are so very blessed. In my “free”/me time I enjoy sewing, crafting, reading, watching Netflix, and all things Harry Potter. I’ve been married to my husband, Stephen, for 7 years now. As a family, we enjoy spending time outdoors, going to concerts, and just getting together with family and friends. My son has high functioning autism, so you will occasionally see me post about ASD or special needs topics. Our homeschooling style is very eclectic. We pull from Charlotte Mason, Reggio, Montessori, and Unit Study methods. The biggest thing I have taken away from our first year official year of schooling is that my son will learn things when he is ready, and trying to rush him will only cause both of us frustration.  I look forward to sharing our journey with you!

I’m Charity and I’m mom of 3 kids. They range from 1st grade down to 3 years old so I’m
charityconstantly balancing teaching different grades, keeping up with the house, and getting as much social time as we all love! I have been married for over 8 years and my husband and I were both homeschooled so to us the easiest choice at this point is to homeschool – but we know that any year that could change for any of our three kids. We moved here from out of state 2 years ago and from the beginning, Honeybee Christian Co-op has been our most profound circle of friends. I have learned so much from seeing the different teaching styles of other moms and having this close group of friends for my husband, kids and I to bounce ideas off of, encourage, and pray for. I live for playdates and love visiting playgrounds, libraries, or hosting random playdates at my house. I studied Marketing in college and sometimes do some small marketing jobs from home but most of my time is spent in keeping up with my kids and hanging out with friends at playdates.

Hi! I’m Melissa, wife, and Mama to 3, almost 4, littles. Ages 5,3,2 and one coming in June! Needless to say, our arms are full, but our hearts even more so! I had 0 intentions of homeschooling our kmelissaiddos, but the Lord has used countless ways to open my eyes and more importantly my heart to educating our children. I would say when it comes to homeschool style we are an eclectic family because Mama can’t seem to settle on any one idea or style. Ha! We love to learn through play and exploring the world around us. We love trying new things and meeting new people from all walks of life. I spend most of my time with my little family, but also enjoy studying God’s word, being an active member of my church’s women’s group, spending time with friends, all things crafty and supplementing our family budget with my small photography business. I’m looking forward to sharing about our experiences in homeschooling and hope they will help to encourage others, because if the Lord can equip me to do this, He can equip anyone!!!

Hello! I’m Katie, and I have four sweet little munchkins: triplet daughters who are seven 6B382F4F-9D36-41CE-AF8B-5267D1884F03and one four-year-old son. I was homeschooled through high school graduation; my husband Jonathan was homeschooled for several years, as well. We passionately believe that home education is not simply something you can fall back on when running from other options; rather, home education offers so much to families, it is a choice to run toward! We love homeschooling for far too many reasons to list in a short paragraph, but I look forward to sharing some of those reasons with you in my posts! Our own homeschool, with three children finishing second grade and another entering preschool, is an eclectic blend of several styles, but overall, we lean toward the Charlotte Mason method. Our family is very social and we greatly enjoy getting together with friends. I love being with my family and most of my interests flow out of that. I am passionate about quality children’s literature!! I also enjoy reading, writing, hiking with my little family, and encouraging others with the truth of God’s Word. I’m excited about being part of this blog and I hope you are encouraged by it!

30264629_10103714902822104_4075783883545640960_oKaitlin is a homeschooling mama and part-time speech therapist and autism researcher. She and her husband Ted, the fisheries biologist, have four children ages 8 and under. Neither of them were homeschooled or had any experience with homeschoolers growing up, but knew early on in their dating relationship that it was the plan God had for their family. Homeschooling in these early years consists of morning prayers and Bible readings, nature hikes and outdoor adventures, lots of family read alouds, and occasionally a math or phonics lesson. She loves Charlotte Mason, audiobooks, and firmly believes that Cindy Rollins is correct and “reading aloud and narration cover a multitude of sins.”

Hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little better!

On Being Thankful

Less than a week before Thanksgiving last year, my husband drove me to the emergency room, where we quickly learned that I was miscarrying our longed-for fifth baby. We hadn’t told anyone yet that we were expecting, enjoying the secret for ourselves and wanting to wait and surprise our children and extended families on Christmas morning. Instead I was in agonizing pain for more than a week as I miscarried at home, my heart shattered and my faith rocked to the core. How could I trust Someone who would let this happen? My body had incredibly carried a set of triplets followed by a nine plus pound baby without a hitch; how could it be that this baby wasn’t safe in my womb? Why didn’t God protect him or her? Why did He create that precious life, only to stop knitting it together and allow it to die without ever being born?

That Thanksgiving as I lost my child down the shower drain and wept until I had no tears left to cry, I struggled to find a reason to be thankful. Yes, I had a loving husband and four wonderful children, but what guarantee did I have that I wouldn’t lose them as well? For months afterward, I wrestled with the Almighty. I experienced anxiety and depression like I’ve never known before or since. I felt that I had lost more than a baby; I had lost my trust in my Father. Fear wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed until I couldn’t escape.

In a beautiful display of God’s infinite mercy and love, I had just finished reading Katie Davis Majors’ Daring to Hope when the miscarriage began. Katie writes about the overwhelming struggles she and loved ones around her have experienced and the heart-wrenching search for faith and hope in the midst of it all. Suddenly I was in that place too, lying in the living room night after night, crying out to God, not even having the words to express the turmoil I was in, knowing only that I was desperate for assurance of His goodness and His care. I realized then that if I didn’t have the God I had always known and loved, I had nothing.


On the first day of the month I introduce a new hymn to my children and we read about its origin together. In keeping with the thankful theme of November, this month’s hymn is “Now Thank We All Our God,” written by a Lutheran pastor in Saxony. Martin Rinkart was just beginning his ministry when the Thirty Years’ War started in Germany. His hometown was completely overrun by innumerable refugees and the Swedish army. The people trapped within the city gates were starving, sick, and dying. The faithful pastors were run ragged trying to tend to everyone, and they began to die too. Eventually the only pastor remaining in the city was Martin Rinkart. And while he served the people under circumstances most of us cannot even imagine, his wife also passed away. Yet these are the words he penned in the midst of all he was suffering:

Now thank we all our God,

With heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done,

In whom this world rejoices;

Who, from our mothers’ arms,

Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, 

And still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God

Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace,

And guide us when perplexed, 

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God

The Father now be given,

The Son, and Him who reigns

With them in highest heaven,

The one eternal God, 

Whom earth and heav’n adore;

For thus it was, is now, 

And shall be evermore.

How could someone who experienced such great loss endure with a thankful heart? It makes no sense to our human minds to not only thank God when times are good but to praise Him in the midst of sorrow. Thankfulness, for Martin, did not flow from the security of his circumstances or the abundance of blessings he could reach out and touch. It flowed from the security of knowing that God is who He says He is, and from the abundance of blessings that cannot be altered, no matter our situation.


Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were imprisoned at the concentration camp Ravensbruck during the second world war. When they arrived after their long, miserable journey to the huge barracks crammed with rickety, stinking bunks, they quickly found that even in sleep they would have no rest, as the barracks was crawling with nasty, biting fleas. Wasn’t it enough that they’d been betrayed by those they risked their lives to serve? That their family had been torn apart, tortured, humiliated, and killed? That the sisters were exiled to a place whose very name inspired fear and dread in the hearts of those who heard it? Were they not even to be allowed to sleep at the end of their horrifying days?

Betsie, ever mindful of an eternal outlook, urged Corrie to be thankful in all things – even to the point of specifically thanking God for the fleas. Reluctantly, Corrie agreed to do so. As the weeks went on, the faithful sisters were astonished that their whispered Bible study times in the evenings, translated from one language to another by the multilingual prisoners, wasn’t found out. They added a second Bible study time to their daily routine, scores of women joining them to hear the precious words of life, and still they weren’t discovered. Finally, they overheard some guards speaking to each other about their barracks and realized that they owed their incredible ministry opportunities to the presence of those insufferable fleas. The guards didn’t want to chance becoming infested, and so stayed on the perimeter of the building rather than come inside.

Corrie and Betsie could give heartfelt thanks not in spite of the hated fleas, but because of them.


After months of despair and anxiety, during which I questioned all I had ever known to be true about our God, I finally released all semblance of control and whispered, “As You will, Lord. I and all I have are Yours.” I had wrestled with God, had spared Him no questions, no anger, no fear, and I had come to the conclusion that He is, indeed, faithful. That He weeps with those who weep. That He is near to the brokenhearted. That He comforts those who mourn, and He raises up those bowed low. That He is who He says He is, and we can trust Him to be good always. To be for us always. To take everything that is terrible and wrong in our lives and to somehow bring forth beauty from the ashes. And that is why Katie Davis Majors could find peace and continue to hope. It’s why Martin Rinkart could sing. It’s why Corrie and Betsie could rejoice in the fleas biting them. It’s why I am thankful this year, and every day, even in the midst of circumstances I cannot understand.

Right now my arms should be holding a sweet-smelling baby, but they aren’t. The same can be said for several of my friends, some of whom lost their darling children during childbirth or as infants or toddlers. Among the people I hold dear is a friend who, barring a miracle, is dying. Several who are struggling in their marriages, some facing major issues in their work lives, others battling debilitating depression. I know more than one parent whose children are suffering from health problems and families where greed and selfishness and arrogance have destroyed relationships. Even so, we can rest assured that God is good, that He has good for us, that He is worthy of our praise. And so we thank Him, not because our imperfect world satisfies us, but because He does.

I hope you are able to join me this year in open-hearted thanks to the One who loves us more than we could ever hope to understand. And if you’re in a time of suffering, take all your worries and cares to Him. He does not hide from those who seek Him, and He will bear your burdens.

– Katie

On Becoming

One day last week I spent a couple of hours lounging on the back deck of a friend’s house, sipping ice water from a mason jar and watching our children play all over her back yard. Over the course of the afternoon we chatted about many things, the majority of our conversation related to raising children. We talked about different movements in the homeschooling community, about our own experiences growing up, about our desires for our children in their relationships with one another. It was the kind of mom talk I really enjoy, open-hearted and filled with a longing to know and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in our roles as mothers. Yet even as we spoke with conviction and passion, we knew that we often fall short in the day-to-day stuff that our kids see. At one point, my friend said, “Sometimes I think about sending them to school for just one year so I can get myself worked out, then bring them back home when these areas of my own life have been dealt with.”

Oh, how I can relate to that! How many times have my own plans for self improvement been thwarted by the seemingly endless cares and concerns of all the people who depend on me? But the truth is that none of us will ever arrive at the end of our growth. We are always still becoming who the Lord would have us be. And as mothers who spend nearly every hour with our children, that stretching and changing happens in front of the all-seeing minds and hearts that are our responsibility and privilege to train, no matter how much easier it seems it would be to hide away for a while and come back to them once we’re “done.”


When you walk into my house, the first thing to greet you is a large sign on the wall that says, “Come and see.” My husband and I made the sign not long after buying this house, wanting to express our deep desire that all who enter our home find Jesus here. Not due to anything good in us, but because of the One who knows us intimately, yet chooses to love us and draw us close to Himself anyway.

I love that phrase. Jesus used it in the first chapter of John, when two of John the Baptist’s disciples heard Him speak and wanted to know where He was staying. They wanted to know where to find Him again. He responded with an invitation to join Him there, saying “Come and see.” And they followed.

The very next day Jesus called Philip to follow Him, and when He did, Philip found Nathaniel and told him that he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel scoffed at anything of value coming from Nazareth, but Philip didn’t try to convince him. He issued the same invitation, “Come and see.” Meet Him yourself. Watch. Listen. You’ll know Him, I promise.

That is our desire for everyone who enters our home, and certainly for our own children. Watch, little ones. Listen. He is here. He is at work.


Last week, after the afternoon of listening to and sharing with my friend, my family and I got to attend a super fun backyard “housewarming concert” put on by the founder and director of UTR Media, who just happened to be moving to our town. One of the incredibly talented musicians who shared his gifts with us that night was Matthew Clark, who sang, among other things, his song “Kumalo.” (You can listen to it here.) I loved the song from the first moment I heard it, and my children and I have been singing it ever since.

Kumalo, Kumalo, I am not a good man,

Not a good man;

What can I say?

Only that the Lord has shown me grace,

Only that the Lord has shown me grace.

Reach your hands out, hands out,

Even though you know where they’ve been.

The Lord has made them gloves now, gloves now;

They are hiding Jesus’ hands,

So reach out His hands in your hands.

*Chorus*

Let them see you, see you,

In every place you fear to be seen.

They will find His mercy, mercy,

And say, “Surely if the Lord can save you,

He can set me free from all my sin.”

*Chorus*

‘Cause I am the older son,

Angry at my brother’s welcome.

And I am the younger son,

Happy to be wallowing in filth again.

And I still fight to believe

That the truest thing

Is that I’m rising with the Son from the river

When the Father calls, “Beloved, I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful image! God uses even our shortcomings to display His great mercy and grace to those around us. Is that not encouraging?


Sometimes it does seem like it would be simpler to get away from our children just long enough to “fix” all of our faults so we can raise them perfectly. But even if we could do so, that robs them of the privilege to walk with us as we grow and become more like Jesus. The testimony to His goodness and forgiveness and grace that we live before our children every day means so much more than anything else we could ever teach them. When we fail, may they see our humility. When we are weak, may they see His strength. As we grow, may they look with wonder upon the Potter ever molding us more and more into His own image.

I want my life to be an open invitation for my children to come and see all that God has done and is doing in me day by day. It’s messy, learning to live with each other, but sometimes in the midst of that mess I can see glimpses of something truly glorious and holy. Those are the moments I want my kids to hold on to. I know I can trust our loving Father with my imperfect mothering. In His hands it becomes something incredibly precious, far beyond what I could imagine.

– Katie

On Schoolhouse Road

When I was growing up my absolute favorite place to go was to the library. And my favorite library was a remnant of 70’s architecture with inexplicable angles outside and uncomfortable chairs inside. It was nestled among a multitude of giant pine trees at the top of a hill so steep it was an act of faith just to drive in and out of the parking lot. But in spite of the awful architecture and questionable location, someone on the original planning committee must have had an imagination, because that wonderful, old, ridiculous-looking library was the only building to be found on a little road named Storybook Lane. My childish fancy took boundless delight in the very thought of a library living on Storybook Lane. For although the carpet was worn and the vertical pine paneling terribly dated, that library seemed to me to be a living place, inhabited by people both real and imagined who I loved to visit, taking me to places in my mind and heart that I would never actually step foot in.

When I was a teenager, the city finally decided to build a new, modern library with glass-walled study rooms, a separate wing for the children’s department, communal computers, comfortable reading nooks in every corner, and refreshingly updated bathrooms. And while the building was so new it echoed and so clean it squeaked and so level we no longer prayed while turning into the parking lot, it was now found disappointingly on Old Brandon Road, and somehow in all the professional landscaping and shining tile floors it was no longer the living, breathing friend I had loved for so long. There’s a lot that can be said for history, for the binding of one generation to another, for the quirky corners and uninspired aesthetics that give a place character and help to mold it into a being with whom we may have a relationship.


The unending yard work  we began on our property last summer took a brief hiatus during the winter months of rain and mud, but it’s back in full swing now that spring has kept its promise to return. One side of our property line has been horribly overgrown, nearly jungle-like for ten to twelve feet inside the double line of great trees that separates our little piece of land from the neighbors’. My family and I have spent many, many hours clearing out and burning all the brush and thorny vines growing in abundance down that line. We’re making wonderful progress and look forward to repairing and replacing parts of the old fence soon, but we decided to check with our nearest neighbor first to verify property lines so we can determine exactly what is ours to finish cleaning up.

We learned that long ago that space between the double line of trees was called the old Schoolhouse Road, because it was the route rural children took to get to the local school. Jonathan and I were intrigued and did some investigating. It turns out that this generations-old path still runs straight through our neighborhood as well as the neighborhood across the main road from ours. The path ends not far from our house, where the forest was long ago cleared and turned into farmland. And on the other side of the neighborhood beyond us, the path was turned into a regular road. My mind whirled as I heard Steve’s information. Right here, in our own backyard, was a beautiful piece of history. I looked down that double line of trees and could almost see little groups of farm children, lunch pails in hand and strapped books hanging over their shoulders, trudging along on their way to school. It was enough to set my history-loving heart aflutter.

I plan to pursue this new information with the local historical society to see what else I can learn about our area, but even the little bit of knowledge I now have adds great character and meaning to our home. In this place with its slightly slanted kitchen countertop, unmatched wood floors, and somewhat wonky walls (courtesy of a previous owner who was a rather inept DIYer), I work diligently to raise lifelong learners. How perfect to live off of Schoolhouse Road! Every day I teach my children and some days I also teach their friends. We read and we talk and we experiment and we play and all the time we are learning and growing and becoming the people we are going to be. It’s a beautiful, messy, gloriously hard labor of love that I wouldn’t trade for all the world.

Once upon a time, not far from where I am sitting now, there was a rural schoolhouse where farm children pursued their education. Based on the few descriptions we’ve heard so far, it was probably a small school with few teachers and students, but perhaps those teachers cared deeply for the children in their charge and bore well the sweet burden of opening their eyes to the world around them. I find it inspiring to sit in the shade of our trees and dream as I look down that long-neglected path. I’m transported once again to a time and place I’ll never get to experience and I can easily imagine the giggling children, the patient teachers, and the wonder of young minds unfolding.

Sadly, our homeschool doesn’t reside on Storybook Lane. But we are bound on one side by our own towering pine trees and on another side by the old Schoolhouse Road, and the magic that brings to our home inspires me to keep pressing forward. Over time, we’ll replace the dying trees along the old path with young ones ready to take their place alongside history, just as we’re raising this next generation to stand tall and strong and straight as they grow.

I already loved our home and all its quirks simply because it’s ours. But I love it more now for the presence of Schoolhouse Road and the beauty that adds to our days.

 

– Katie

New Year, New Routine!

Happy new year!!

I’m the kind of person who likes routines. Lists checked off in an orderly fashion, charts made up of neat lines and clear fonts, new planners with all the possibilities of the fresh, clean year spread among their pages – these are the things that make me excited. I’m not generally a huge fan of change.

Of course, my husband is a huge fan of change. In his personal life, he is spontaneous, not much of a planner, and completely unimpressed at the sight of a year’s calendar precisely filled in and color coded. Marriage to him for almost ten years has certainly taught me to enjoy the unexpected.

We also have four small children. The oldest three are triplets- there’s a curve ball I didn’t see coming! We’ve homeschooled from the beginning, and our daughters are now halfway through second grade, with a little brother following along in preschool. I still appreciate routines and having a flow to our days, but I’ve learned that different seasons of our homeschool will require different kinds of routines. And the last few weeks of our fall semester convinced me that it was time to make some adjustments.

img_3682

Reading in a box. Why not?

In spite of having a “classroom” of kids with three children all the same age, our school days don’t ever look like that of a typical class. Homeschooling multiples deserves a post (or series of posts!) all on its own, but to keep to the point, I’ll just say that there are some subjects we do together and some that they do with me individually. I needed to figure out a way to ensure that each of my four children had focused time alone with me each day, and also that my son, who will be four in a few days, wasn’t left to his own (often destructive) devices when the girls and I were busy doing some of our joint work. I also don’t like telling him to be quiet or sit still for long periods of time. He’s still a little guy. He needs lots of loud, jumping, running, crashing free play every day.

(I should note that my second graders don’t do a lot of independent work. I don’t have stacks of papers they can fill out on their own while I work with someone else. They have independent reading every day, followed by a short narration, but that’s about it.)

After a lot of thought, this is what I settled on:

We kept our early morning routine of waking up and taking care of our chores, feeding pets, and practicing instruments before breakfast. After cleaning up, we head into the living room for morning time together, as usual. But that’s where the new routine comes in.

After morning time, the girls each grab their current independent reading book andimg_3636 disappear to various quiet corners of the house to read while Benjamin and I color, count blocks as we build, sing the alphabet song, and rhyme with our school puppet Petey the Puppy. Spending this one-on-one time with him first thing fills up his love tank and is the exact opposite of telling him to “be quiet,” “sit still,” or “take that (loud toy) somewhere else.”

After he and I reach the end of our time together, I call the girls to the table so we can do our Bible lesson and critical thinking puzzle together. We’re able to reconnect, and Benjamin is in and out those few minutes, as involved as he wants to be.

Next follows an hour and a half where the girls cycle through a half hour each of time doing individual work with me. This includes math, spelling, and reading aloud. The other two hang out with their brother, free to play games, read books to him, build puzzles, ride bikes- whatever they want to do together. The girls each end up with a break from thinking about schoolwork, and Benjamin has playmates focused on spending time with him.

By the time the last child has had alone time with me, little man has been pretty well satisfied and is content to play by himself, often right there in the school room with us. The girls and I cover copywork, discuss grammar, and practice cursive, then enjoy one of our weekly enrichment studies (artist, composer, or poet) before lunch.

We’re all together at lunch and alternate science and history, ending the meal with either an experiment or an addition to our timeline. Benjamin is very involved and loves being a part of this time!!

After lunch, we end our day with another of our weekly studies: either Spanish (two days a week), ASL, or nature study. Benjamin does these with us as well.

img_3673We’re left with a short while to tidy up and play before it’s time to tuck little brother into bed for his nap. And while he’s asleep, the girls enjoy an hour of sewing or reading or playing quietly. If it’s a pretty day, they play outside. And I get an hour to breathe deeply, hear myself think, and recharge for the rest of the day.

There are several things I love about this new routine. First, I noticed that neither I nor any of my children was getting burned out by the end of our school day. Everyone was still eager and attentive, and there was plenty of energy to make it through all we had planned to do. I also noticed that because Benjamin was getting plenty of time with me and his sisters, during the short periods of time when we needed him to be quiet, he had no trouble complying. It’s good for him to learn to be respectful of others’ needs and to practice some quiet play on his own, but I think it’s important that his free time far exceeds the amount of time he’s required to be more contained. An unexpected bonus to this new routine is how much of my own daily work I am able to accomplish during the day. I have an hour and a half when I’m right there available to one child at a time, but the girls don’t need me hovering over their shoulders at every moment. For example, during their math practice, except for explaining new concepts or helping with an occasional tough spot, they can complete their fifteen minutes of problems on their own. And with the utility room opening off the school room, I can keep laundry going, sweep the floors, tidy bookshelves, confirm appointments on my calendar, and correct the previous day’s work while the girls work nearby, always available to them but able to keep the household running at the same time.

We’re still early in the final semester of this school year, but I feel pretty confident that this new routine will remain a good fit for us until the wild freedom of summer arrives. After that, who knows?

Do you have a daily routine? How do you handle juggling homeschooling and homemaking?

– Katie

Living an Interruptible Life

100_1681.JPGThe first time I ever thought about the idea of an interruptible life was when a woman I barely knew, a dentist from our Sunday school class in a new state, gave up her free evening to come to my house and rock my sick babies. My triplet daughters were just five months old, sick for the first time, and my husband was in the middle of major exams in pharmacy school. I had three infants crying and vomiting and staining their clothes with diarrhea, desperate to be comforted, but I couldn’t comfort them all, care for them all, and continue cleaning up the frequent messes alone. I’d already tried to do that for more than two days and I was exhausted. The acquaintance from church had once told me to feel free to call her if I ever needed anything, and my poor babies’ tears finally convinced me to do so. I threw out my pride and asked if she would please come over to just sit in the rocking chair and cuddle my sick little ones. She immediately said yes, and before long my miserable girls were all being held and comforted. Two soon fell asleep and were laid down, and she continued to rock the third baby (whose misery was compounded by colic) while I scrubbed carpet and threw a load of laundry in the washer and prepared bottles for the next round.

I sat on the step leading into our living room then and just breathed deeply as I watched her, this woman who was giving up precious free time with her own daughter so she could bless me. Suddenly Leviticus 23:22 came to mind: “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'” This kind woman, mostly a stranger to me, had chosen to leave the edges of her time available to give away freely, and I was gleaning great blessings because of it.

I have never forgotten that night. For several years, in pharmacy school out of state with three, then four babies to provide for, there was little left at the corners of our family’s “fields.” Little time, money, energy. And yet I longed to offer what I could, and what I had to offer was my home. A new acquaintance, married to an alcoholic and mother of four small children, could come to our house for a slight reprieve to drink tea while her children played with mine. A friend going through great personal hardships could come over to cuddle babies (sweet smelling babies are good for the soul, and we had plenty to go around). A stay-at-home mother who needed to go to a doctor’s appointment knew she could bring her children to my house to be cared for while she was gone. All of these were small bits of offerings, but they were all I had to give, so I gave them freely and cheerfully.

Our children grew and we began to homeschool, and I discovered, to my great delight, that this flexible lifestyle allows us to continue to live an interruptible life, open to the many opportunities God sends us to bless others. We can adjust our plans easily to allow us to focus on the people around us. When we aren’t tied down to a strict schedule, we are free to open our home to those who need a place to rest, free to pack up and visit those who are sick or struggling, free to be available mentally, emotionally, and physically when God clearly sets people in front of us who need Him.

Educating our children at home may offer us the gift of freedom, but it’s all too easy to enslave ourselves to other pursuits, losing those precious “edges” so that once again we’re left with nothing to give. Sports, music, dance, theater, co-ops and tutorials- there are so many good things that we can be tempted to pursue, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves reaping all the way to the very “corners of our fields,” viewing anyone who intrudes upon those pursuits as an interruption to our lives. I find myself evaluating and prioritizing the extras in my family’s life often, trying to make sure that they are not robbing us of being able to give to others.

No doubt you’ve heard it said that “Children are not an interruption to our work; they are our most important work.” I’m thrilled to also teach my children that people in need are not an interruption to our lives; they are the reason that God blesses us with His spiritual gifts.

Our days include reading and writing and math and art and music and field trips and loads of other fun things, but I hope that none of it ever overshadows the pouring out of love onto the people God brings to us who so desperately need Him. Our life is His, and so whoever He chooses to bring into it could never truly be an interruption. Some days can be hard, but I’m grateful that homeschooling allows us this great freedom to love others with not only the edges, but the entirety of our days.

– Katie

Sweet Summer Days – All Year Long

IMG_1765My family moved at the beginning of the summer. We didn’t go far, but we traded a tiny house on a postage stamp lot for a larger one on an acre and a half outside of the city. We love it here. But the house and land had been sadly neglected for quite some time, so my husband and I spent a large part of the summer sweating in the sunshine, cutting down and burning what was dead and overgrown to allow the beauty to shine through. And right there beside us every step of the way were our four little children, hauling branches to the burn pile, pulling weeds, raking leaves, and more. We worked hard together, all of us fully invested in uncovering the loveliness of nature that surrounds us. Through it all, my children were learning a myriad of fascinating facts like how to identify a bob white by its call, how to tell the difference between poisonous vines and harmless Virginia creeper, how to tend a fire outside, and how to tell which way a creek flows even when its bed is dry as a bone.

One day near the end of July, I paused in my efforts to wipe my brow and watch my husband and little ones for a moment. I couldn’t help seeing the similarities between our summer break and the summer breaks of long ago, when children worked hard with their farmer parents to keep the family’s livelihood afloat. Laboring side by side with us, our daughters and son were also learning to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and the perseverance needed to see a tough task through to its end. I was proud of their eagerness to help and hoped it would continue.

Homeschooling allows this side-by-side learning to continue unhindered once school days begin again. Families aren’t suddenly separated from one another, with parents and children each going their own way only to meet back up when they’re all mentally tired and worn out from a long day. They can continue working together, focusing on academics as well as the life skills that are so important for children to learn from their youth. They’re in the thick of daily life with their parents, working right there next to them and learning about hard work, perseverance, and respect from their most valuable teachers: Mom and Dad. In our family, Dad goes to work each day, but we can call him on occasion if we need to, send him pictures of what we’re doing, and even meet him for lunch sometimes. We aren’t cut off from him, and certainly the children aren’t cut off from me or from each other!

Recently, I was part of a conversation with several other homeschooling mamas discussing how to determine our priorities for our children’s educations. What do we want to emphasize during different stages of our families’ lives and how does that affect the way we teach them? Do we feel defeated when things like nursing the baby or reading picture books to the toddler “get in the way” of our academic goals, or do we appreciate the blessing in being able to teach our children how to prefer others above themselves, how to choose to be unselfish and thoughtful and helpful? Homeschooling allows us the wonderful freedom to pursue both academics and family life. We don’t have to put our family on hold in order to enjoy learning.

There is beauty and great value in family togetherness that is more than worth the effort and sacrifices necessary to make it happen. That’s just one of the reasons why we homeschool, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

– Katie

Books, books, and more books!

40255929_10204741450371921_8177308442399080448_n“When I was nine years old, my family moved from Brandon, Mississippi, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a little more than one year. In spite of my exposure to some truly fascinating people and some of the most amazing experiences I’d ever know, my world shrank a bit to the gated and walled confines of our apartment complex. My closest relationships (referring to proximity) were with my sister and parents, the two elderly women who lived above us, the one elderly woman who lived below us, the grizzled custodian, and the little girl my age who lived two buildings in front of us. Thanks to the language barrier, my already over-indulged imagination sought freedom and expression through reading. Over the course of that year, I became very close to my family, was introduced to the fun of homeschooling, learned passable Spanish, grew to appreciate living in a major city, traveled throughout neighboring Chile, and made scores of lifelong friends – both real as well as those dwelling only in the ever-expanding realm of my invented worlds. When we returned to the States, I carried those friends with me and became the little girl traipsing back and forth from the library each week with a stack of books so high I could barely see over it. In order to gauge the quality of my reading material, my very wise mother read or reviewed every single book I read until I was about fifteen years old. Because every book I read during those years passed first through her careful hands, I developed a taste for rich language, great storytelling, and lasting literature. I consider that one of the greatest gifts my mother gave me.” – borrowed from my little book review blog here.

When I think back over what I learned from my own school days, I must admit that most of what I’ve retained was not first introduced to me through textbooks, but through the many wonderful living books that I read. So when I was researching curriculum options for my children, the Charlotte Mason method stood out in capital letters in my mind. Everything I learned about it, I loved. Habit training- isn’t that what all parents strive for? Living books- YES!!! That’s how I had always learned best! Treating education as a way of life rather than a list of things to get done- this was my husband’s and my desire for our kids long before we began formal lessons.  You’ll quickly see that we are by no means CM purists. (We may end up there one day, though.) But we have chosen from among her many wonderful methods those aspects that fit our family and our long term goals the best. My daughters are in second grade now, and every year since pre-k we’ve inched further along the path laid out by Ms. Mason so long ago.

For our 2018-2019 school year, this is what we use:

IMG_2293Morning Time

We start each school day with morning time. We all gather around the piano to sing hymns, then pile onto the couch to pray, review Bible verses, recite poetry, and read from this list of books:

Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson- a wonderful collection of missionary stories by a husband and wife writing team. One of my daughters has a passion for missionaries and a deep desire to grow up to be one herself, which led me to add this book to our daily routine. But we’ve all been blessed by its stories.

Stories from the Holy Writ by Helen Waddell- a beautiful treasury of Bible stories perfectly suited for reading aloud and narrating. We read from this weekly, so it’s taking some time to complete, but it’s lovely.

Everyday Graces by Karen Santorum- this collection of short stories and poems helps to keep good habits continually before us. We read this one weekly as well.

Life of Fred: Butterflies by Stanley F. Schmidt- admittedly, this is not exactly lovely in the sense that our other books are, but it is fun and a great way to build on the idea of math in daily life. We read one chapter each week.

We read one new poem each morning. I love poetry, and my children have all learned to love it as well. Right now we’re reading through Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard.

Lastly, on the first day of each month we read that month’s pages in The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen. This is especially a big hit for my three year old son, who of course is right there with us.

Critical Thinking

Mind Benders, level 2- The girls LOVE all things riddles and puzzles, so we do one of these each day after morning time to stretch their mental muscles and prepare for the day.

Bible

There are many ways we have fallen short as parents, but I’m grateful to say that ourimage1
children have been immersed in God’s Word since infancy. Jonathan and I have read through at least a half dozen children’s Bible story books with our kids several times. Last year we decided we wanted to begin giving our daughters a framework for how those stories fit together, so I started using Picture Smart Bible: Old Testament with them in first grade. It has been a wonderful resource, which I pair with What the Bible Is All About: for young explorers by Frances Blankenbaker. We’re over halfway through with the Old Testament now, and will move on to the New Testament equivalent once we’ve finished this.

IMG_2292Read Aloud Practice

When I was a child, my family often read from the Bible together around the supper table, or in the living room before going to bed. My father insisted on our reading the holy Scriptures beautifully, with due reverence and powerful inflection. At the time, I thought he was a bit fussy. What did it matter how something was read, so long as it was read correctly? I eventually realized that reading correctly involves a lot more than merely getting the words right, and I’m very grateful for his training. I want my children to read confidently in a group setting, to have the ability to follow along and pick up the reading when it’s their turn, and to use their voices to convey the meaning behind the words. So every day we take just a very few minutes to focus on these skills. I went to a local used bookstore a couple of times and picked up a lot of simple readers for five cents each. I have at least three copies of each one, and sometimes four copies (so I can join in some weeks). The girls can focus on their posture, their voices, and following along with a group without worrying about difficult words to sound out or getting bogged down in a very long book to work through. I imagine that by later this year or for sure by next year, we’ll move on to longer books for practice, but for now these inexpensive readers are perfect.

Math

I grew up using the rigorous A Beka math, and I was perfectly prepared for higher level math in college. I had fully intended to use the same program with my children until I realized early on that one of my daughters needs to be able to see and touch problems to grasp the concepts. I went back to my research and landed on Math-U-See. We’re more than halfway through the third level at this point and still going strong. I do math individually with each of my girls every day, so they’re never at exactly the same place, but this frees them from any competition with each other and allows them to progress at their own pace.

Composer Study

Like many of our morning time resources, this subject is pure pleasure and beauty. Right now we simply listen to Mozart every day (often while doing our independent reading), and I have a picture book biography that we’ll read about him, which helps us to connect a real person to the lovely music we enjoy. About once a week or so I’ll hand each of the children some scarves and encourage them to dance along however they feel while they listen, or we’ll draw however we feel the music might look if we could see it as well as hear it. It’s simple but powerful. They’re recognizing his work now in movies, when we’re out shopping, etc.

Independent Reading

My girls took off with reading early on. I noticed halfway through kindergarten that our38878083_10204682495858095_8668970958138114048_n phonics lessons were no longer actually teaching them anything, just frustrating them instead. So I passed on our phonics curriculum and began assigning books for them to read to me daily. We continued that trend through first grade, and now they still read mom-assigned books for fifteen minutes each day, but to themselves, returning to me for a short narration. My daughters will read whether I assign it or not, but this way I can choose books for them that they may not choose for themselves, and I often choose books that share the time period we’re studying in history, or the material we’re covering in science, or the people we’re learning about as we study artists and composers and missionaries. Sometimes I will offer them the choice of three or four books, and they get to have some say in what they’re reading. Felicity just finished The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, Violet is reading Sacagawea from the Childhood of Famous Americans series, and Merideth is enjoying All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor.

Language Arts

We have a nice long list of books to read aloud this year. Their daddy is currently reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle to them all in the evenings, and I’m reading Little House on the Prairie to them during the day. Right now these are followed simply by oral narration.

38831508_10204682496778118_7914455494696108032_nI really love All About Spelling! My girls are voracious readers, but somehow, one of them is an extremely bad speller. She can read the word, define it, and keep it in her ridiculously large daily vocabulary, but she just can’t seem to spell it! All About Spelling, done individually with each child as often as you like, is a great way for children to learn the rules of how to spell words in English instead of memorizing an arbitrary list of them. Like our math, this is a go-at-your-own-pace curriculum, meaning that my three daughters are in three different steps at any given time; one of them is even in a completely different level than the others!

Cursive

The same daughter who has trouble spelling also has a little trouble writing. In my search to find a way to help her, I learned that cursive can often help children who struggle with printing. We’ve added Simply Charlotte Mason’s easy Print to Cursive Proverbs to our routine and we love it! I prefer it hands down to the curriculum I grew up using and to the several other options I checked into before finding Print to Cursive. And guess what? My daughter’s chicken scratch print turns into careful, lovely cursive every time she practices. She is so excited, and I’m so pleased.

Picture Study

This is our first time doing picture study, and so far it’s loads of fun! We’re using Simply Charlotte Mason’s Millet study and greatly enjoying it!

Science

We’re using Answers in Genesis’ God’s Design for Science. We use the third edition rather38840289_10204682496658115_3618116965962350592_n than the new fourth edition, as I prefer the beginner’s section of the older books. This year we’re studying the Heaven and Earth set. We add in fun library books from time to time, do at least one simple experiment each week, and the girls are taking an outer space class in our weekly co-op.

Nature Study38828220_10204682495778093_4254744643805118464_n

Exploring Nature with Children is a wonderful resource that helps us get outside purposefully year round. We journal about once a week. This is new for us, but we’re getting better as we go along. We’re also trying to get in a nature hike with friends once or twice a month. In addition to this, the girls are in a nature study class each week at co-op, and we have a pretty good supply of nature-focused living books we enjoy reading.

History

image2I found TruthQuest a couple of years ago and fell in love. It’s an outline of history filled with lists of great living books for every grade. We’re currently in American History for Young Students II. We read a lot of wonderful books together, practice oral narration, occasionally practice written narrations and illustrations, and enter important events and people into our timeline book (we use this one that I found for cheap secondhand, with three more lines added to represent Bible/Church history, Science/Technology history, and Arts history). The girls are also taking part in a TN history class at our weekly co-op.

American Sign Language

Once a week, we watch another video from Signing Time. My background includes training as an ASL interpreter and I’ve always loved the language. All of my kids enjoy this, but especially one of the girls. We review the signs as we go along, often using them throughout the day, and add in new signs with each new video. I’m working on finding a deaf chat that we can join a couple of times a semester in order to get more practice, but I haven’t found anything local thus far.

Spanish

My missionary wannabe is determined to learn French and Spanish. I can’t help much with French at this point, but my time spent living and traveling throughout South America helps some with the Spanish. We’re LOVING Flip Flop Spanish, and I highly recommend it! Easy, short lessons but everyone’s learning! We have some good friends who are originally from Mexico and we plan to get together with them on occasion to practice what we’re learning.

Art

I’ve had exactly zero art training in my life, but it’s important to me that my children are able to explore this means of expression. We were introduced to Artistic Pursuits about a year ago and we thoroughly enjoy it! It’s something we pull out once a week and have a lot of fun with!

38862686_10204682499018174_7188347499000627200_n

Preschool

Little brother wants to do school too! He’ll be turning four this year, which is rather young for formal lessons, but he joins in for morning time and all our reading aloud, does science experiments with us, and art with us, and has his own nature journal. I’ve got a used All About Reading Pre-reading set that we use from time to time, as he’s quite impatient about learning to read. We also keep some puzzles and little activities for him to play with during our school time, calling it his “school.” He loves being a part of everything, and he’s so proud to have his own work to do too!

If you made it this far, I’m shocked! Seeing it written out like that makes it seem like an awful lot, but we enjoy it all and my kids truly do love to learn. They’re curious and interested and our lessons are short and gentle. Keep in mind that we do NOT do all these subjects every day. At most, some subjects are done four days a week, as we spend one whole day at co-op. Some are twice weekly and others just once a week.

– Katie

My Curriculum: An Eclectic Mix of My Favorite Things

My homeschool style is pretty eclectic; I pick different curriculums for each subject and just stick with the ones that seem to work for my kids. I like to open my curriculum for core subjects each day and have it all laid out for me – then I add in extra studies that are based on the special interests of my kids. For me, this method gives me peace of mind that my children’s core subjects are covered and gives us extra time to focus on the fun things that my children love to learn!

Language Arts:

I have three kids in school this year, a preschooler (he’s 4), first grader, and third grader. When it comes to language arts they are all at different levels so here’s what I do for each child:

Preschool: I long ago decided that any school before kindergarten is optional so every morning I ask my youngest if he wants to do a letter page, math puzzle, or counting together. I bought my youngest a set of Preschool worksheets from “Sing, Spell, Read and Write” that you can purchase here. I got this kit for my firstborn and have only had to supplement it with new worksheets for the younger two kids. We do language arts together 2-3 days a week and he does some letter recognition the other two days at his preschool co-op classes.

First Grade: My middle child is right in the middle of her Sing, Spell, Read and Write curriculum and enjoys the writing, songs, games, and story books. She has been using Sing, Spell, Read and write in some form since she was about 2 years old (when her older brother started preschool and she wanted to as well). You can purchase the elementary set here – https://www.rainbowresource.com/product/sku/SSRWCK.  Like the preschool set, I got the whole box originally for my oldest child and then just had to purchase workbooks for the younger kids.  It is very expensive to purchase but will last me through K-2nd grade for all three of my kids!

Third Grade: When my 3rd grader finished his Sing, Spell, Read and Write curriculum he asked me to try something different. I wasn’t sure what I wanted him to use and it was the middle of the school year, so I just started using Easy Peasy (after all, it’s free). I ended up liking it so much that I bought the workbook from Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/EP-Language-Arts-3-Printables/dp/1545261172/?tag=hebrews110-20. My oldest has never loved language arts but has always loved computer games. By following the language arts program at https://allinonehomeschool.com/, my son gets the added incentive to do his bookwork with a good attitude so he can do the free spelling, keyboarding, and vocabulary games once his work is done. I like the pace of this curriculum and what they cover so far, so we are planning to stick with it until we feel we need something different.

Math:

All of my children are at different levels in math, but I use Math-U-See for my 1st grader 20180720_105854and 3rd grader. You can purchase Math-U-See at https://www.mathusee.com/.  So far I have found the DVD tutorials and building blocks second hand for pretty cheap and only had to purchase new workbooks books for my kids. My youngest is in preschool and still working on number recognition and simple adding so I focus on counting and number puzzles for him. I have a box of math adding puzzles, counting blocks, magnetic numbers, and card games that I have used for each of my kids when they are preschool aged for math. We just pull out our “math box” each day and he decides what he wants to do that day from the box with me.

Science:

We actually do science as a family so that I don’t need to teach it to each of my children separately.  This year we are using Apologia’s Astronomy curriculum and we love it!  I bought the MP3 to listen to in the car since we do a good amount of driving, the textbook (for pictures and fun experiments), and two workbooks – one for each of my kids in elementary school. My preschooler has even joined us for most of it so I am making him planets to cut out each session and glue in his “Space book”. I highly recommend looking at their science curriculum at https://www.apologia.com/ if you need a good science program that has lots of fun hands-on experiments and crafts to help your kids learn. I do this science curriculum twice a week (the way it’s set up to be done) and my kids also have science classes with our home school co-ops as well.

History:

Technically, we use Story of the World for our history curriculum. Now that we are getting to the late 1800’s I frequently pause in our curriculum to do a stronger focus on American history. So we read a lot of biographies of famous people, watch youtube clips on them, do various crafts, and track them in our timeline book. We do history as a family twice a week as well. You can find Story of the World here – https://welltrainedmind.com/landing/story-of-the-world/. I purchase the audio CD to listen to it in the car and have used their workbook in the past but do most of my own stuff now that we are more focused on American history.

Extra-Curricular:

I do some extra lessons on Bible, Spanish, Classical Musicians, Poets, and Artists as well with my kids each week. For Bible we use the “Action Bible” and “Cat and Dog Theology”  and also use the Simply Charlotte Mason Bible Memory system you can find here https://simplycharlottemason.com/blog/beautiful-scripture-memory-box/. For Spanish we are studying Spanish phrases in our “Use Spanish At Home” book and reading Spanish/English books as well as using individual workbooks from Sams Club. We also take a day each week to study an artist, musician, or poet and do some research together on what that person was like and what they composed/wrote/created.

Homeschool Co-op Classes:

I was homeschooled as a child and one of my favorite parts of being homeschooled was doing fun classes with other homeschoolers. For that reason, my kids have been in a home school co-op since my oldest was in preschool. Co-ops are a great place for us to network with others and a great opportunity for my kids to study what they are interested in from someone that loves that subject.

Here are the classes they are taking:

Preschool: Little Guy doesn’t have much choice since he’s just in preschool, but twice a week he has a morning of preschool classes that include basic math, literature, crafts, and even cooking.

First Grade: Princess is taking PE, Nature Study, Astronomy, TN History, Food and Nutrition, Art, and Music.

Third Grade: Buddy is taking PE, Nature Study, Astronomy, TN History, STEM, Hands on Science, Games and Strategies, and Life of Fred Math.

They are super excited about their co-op classes this year!

Our curriculum is a little strange and pulls ideas from Charlotte Mason, the Classical Method, and more traditional curriculum resources, but it works for us. There are so many resources out there that if I went searching for something else when our resources already work so well for us I’d just get lost in a sea of the unknown. So we are happy with our curriculum and hope to not change it – for at least this school year. 😉

– Charity

Put A Bookmark In It!

39085230_2130310117294212_5481813729370701824_nWhat do a receipt, a friendship bracelet, a prayer card, and a scrap of paper all have in common? They’re all saving me from “lesson planning induced anxiety,” that’s what!

Allow me to back up a little.

Last year, while homeschooling my daughter for first grade, we moved from our home in Florida to a rental home in Tennessee. Then we bought a house and moved AGAIN just a few months later. My husband started a new job. I kept my job but moved to working remotely without the help of childcare. We joined a new co-op. We all got the flu at the same time. All of this while juggling a first grader, a preschooler, and a toddler.

Oh yeah, and right smack in the middle of all of that we had a baby and I was hit with a terrifying bout of postpartum depression.

To say it was stressful would be a supreme understatement. Not much went according to plan and the lesson plans were boxed up and never unpacked. But the beauty of homeschooling is that it can take place wherever “home” happens to be for the moment. While I’m looking forward to educating my second grader and kindergartner in the same house for the entire school year, I still need to keep it s i m p l e. When I sat down to plan our upcoming year, I went straight to the Ambelside Online Emergency Learning Plan which was designed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina for families who needed to continue their children’s education during times of crisis. And with all due respect to actual hurricane victims, my family and I are still operating in survival mode for the time being. Their bare bones plan allowed me to hone in on the absolute best and most important aspects of the classical education we are striving to provide for our family.

Instead of spending my limited time and energy on planning out lessons, making checklists, and penciling in page numbers in my calendar (all things homeschool moms have a reputation for enjoying and/or overdoing), I spent my time and energy finding the best materials I could get my hands on. All of that effort that could go to planning out lessons, instead went to choosing books. And instead of following a list or a calendar that dictates what lesson we are “supposed” to be on, I just stick a bookmark in it.

That’s right. Just stick a bookmark in it! The answer to your lesson planning woes can be found in between your couch cushions and at the bottom of your purse!

No need to plan everything out. When is the last time anything you did went according to plan anyway? What works for our family is to simply have the books I’ve chosen easily available, pick them up, read them aloud as often as possible, and then stick a bookmark in them to return to next time.

Because we follow the principals and methods of Charlotte Mason, our daily lessons don’t require much preparation or planning. Things such as:

  • Narration as our main form of assimilating the ideas that have been read. (Because as Charlotte says, “If we can’t tell, we don’t know.”)
  • Short, varied lessons to train the habit of focused attention.
  • “Living” books that are rich in ideas (rather than dry facts) and are well written by authors who have a passion for the subject.
  • Copying beautifully written passages as our main form of handwriting and spelling.
  • Nature study and nature journaling as our primary form of science exploration.

With those principals in mind, I set to work selecting the best materials the world has to offer. This will look different in every family, even those families who provide their children with a classical education in the tradition of Charlotte Mason. But for the sake of any curious minds out there, here is what I’ve selected for our family for the 2018-2019 school year.

History (K and 2nd)39098008_1836495476437186_3840823724773212160_n

A Child’s First Book of American History, Earl Schenck Miers

I read a chapter at a time and both of my school aged children narrate. For this subject only, I record their narrations and then transcribe them in a notebook for them to then illustrate.

The collection of historical fiction books on various Native American tribes by Sonia Bleeker.

Read aloud and narrate.

Geography (K and 2nd)

Home Geography for Primary Grade, C.C. Long

Read aloud and narrate.

Paddle to the Sea, Holling C. Holling

Read aloud, narrate, do mapwork together. My husband will be leading this one while I’m away for work in the evening.

Handwriting (K and 2nd)

Beautiful Handwriting, Penny Gardner

 Reading/Phonics

All About Reading

Level 1 for Kindergarten and Level 2 for 2nd grade. But we leave out most of the games to keep the lessons short.

 Math

Singapore

I loved going through the Kindergarten books with my daughter and am enjoying them again now with my son. I’ve taken a break from the next level with my 2nd grader to master her math facts first. We use XtraMathfor this.

Poetry

We have a pretty extensive poetry collection that we pull from at any given time. Our favorite way to enjoy poetry is afternoon “poetry tea/snack time.” At this stage, we just delight in poetry together. No formal lesson for us yet.

Natural History

The Burgess Bird Book for Children, Thorton Burgess

Read aloud while coloring the bird for that chapter and narrate.

 Bible

The Child’s Story Bible, Catherine Vos

Read aloud and narrate. No need to plan out the books and chapters, just stick a bookmark in it! I really love the way this is written and it makes for excellent narrations.

The Story of the Bible

We listen to the audio in the car and it always sparks some great conversations.

Catechism

Faith and Life, Ignatius Press

Read aloud and narrate. (are you seeing a trend?) This is also what our Sunday school uses.

Our kindergartener also receives Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our church on Sundays.

Religious History

We regularly read about the lives of the saints through picture and chapter books. We also enjoy listening to Glory Stories by Holy Heroes in the car almost every time we drive for more than five minutes.

 Music

We begin our homeschool day gathered around our prayer table singing a hymn. We use a list of hymns I’ve collected that are frequently sung at our church.

We also listen to and sing lots of folk songs on Spotify.

Art

Picture Study Portfolios, Simply Charlotte Mason

We did Monet last year but I haven’t decided which one to do this year. Help me choose!

 Literature

Last, but most definitely not least. Quality literature is the hallmark of our family’s education and our absolute favorite way to learn together. We will certainly not get to all of these books this year, but here is the wonderful list we have to choose from:

  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Lang’s Blue Fairy Book
  • Shakespeare (for children) (Lamb, Nesbit, or Garfield)
  • Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
  • Robin Hood
  • Understood Betsy
  • Heidi
  • Beatrix Potter
  • Tanglewood Tales, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
  • Five Children and It
  • Doctor Doolittle
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Water Babies
  • King of the Wind
  • The Wheel on the School

It may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that most of those subjects are only tackled weekly and we keep lessons very short. We also do almost every subject “morning basket style” so the baby and the preschooler are also soaking up these riches and the second grader and kindergartener are combined for most lessons.

If you managed to get through all of that you’re either a literature loving homeschooling mama or you’re my kids’ grandmother. And if you skipped down to the end, just remember to spend your energy putting your children in contact with the greatest minds our world has to offer through quality books, skip the stress and hassle of “lesson plans,” and put a bookmark in it!

– Kaitlin

2018-2019 Curriculum round up

CURRICULUM!!!!!

Home school curriculum. It may in fact be my kryptonite. The bright colors, the smell of new books, the crisp new pages… it all calls to me! Ha! While picking new curriculum can be one of many enjoyable aspects of homeschooling, it can also be a bit overwhelming.  You can cater to your child and meet your child’s needs with a curriculum that YOU get to choose, but with so many options out there, sometimes it’s a shot in the dark. You have your all-in-one curriculum, your mastery programs, the extremely laid-back programs, the free, the expensive, the ones with manipulatives and and games, the ones that aren’t all about the frills, and the list could go on and on.

With all of the awesome options out there, what do I find extremely useful?? User reviews and actually previewing the content. So over the next few weeks, several of the mamas in our group are going to break down what curricula they’re using this year in their homes. I hope these posts are helpful for you now or in the future to help navigate the fascinating world that is home school curriculum.

So this is where I start us off. Just a little background from last year of my family’s curriculum experience.  I chose to forego purchasing curriculum for every subject. I thought it was a great idea to simply piece together things I found online to teach my oldest child’s kindergarten year. For one reason, I was trying to save money and secondly, I really didn’t feel the need to have a huge curriculum set for kindergarten. So I went to a used book store, got some used items that I thought we could use, picked some things up here and there, and formed what I THOUGHT would be sufficient for our year. That didn’t go so well for us. While it went okay for the first few weeks, I could tell my little guy was bored to tears and school was not something he was enjoying. After seeking the wisdom from a new, but wise friend, I scrapped what we were doing and took an entirely different route. Now even though  I didn’t use a box curriculum last year, I definitely learned that our family needs some better guidelines. A spine, as some would call it.

So fast forward to March, which means it was time for Teach Them Diligently! I was able to listen to seasoned homeschool parents who gave me some great insight as well as actually getting to put my hands on some curriculum! The first night in the exhibit hall, I was like a dog after a bone. I had my hands, or more like my arms, full of curriculum. I was ready to drop a small fortune and I had not even covered 95% of the hall. I reined in the impulsive buyer urge and decided to press pause on any big purchases until Saturday and I am SO glad that I did.

Over the course of 3 days, I listened to these great speakers, prayed over my decisions, and was going to leave without any major decisions made. Well, praise the Lord, on my last pass I decided to stop at the Master Books booth. One which I had skipped multiple times because it wasn’t anything I had really heard of. When I stopped, I had history in mind. What was I going to do for history? I was greeted with an extremely helpful gentleman who probably didn’t realize it at the time, but would start me on a path to completely change my curriculum plan and lead me to where I am now: EXTREMELY excited about this year!

So all of that boring chatter leads me to share with you our curriculum choices for the 2018-2019 school year! For each subject I am attaching a link to the curriculum where you can find a preview to almost everything listed. I love this feature, because like I said, I like reviews as well as seeing it for myself.

Here is a quick rundown of how Master Books is set up.  Master Books is a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum, but definitely not staunchly CM.  Each subject book is compiled of 5 short and easy lessons each week that build upon each other. Before each lesson, there is a story of some sort that connects to the subject matter, which I think is their way of trying to incorporate the literature-based approach.  Master Books recommends 30 minutes per subject, but so far, we have never needed that much time to finish the work that was provided. If I still have some child engagement and think we can go over things a few more times, then we will do that. One thing I really love about Master Books is that it is extremely budget friendly without skimping on materials. It is a consumable-based curriculum, so you can’t pass it on from year to year, but the cost is very comparable to most workbooks that you would have to purchase for multiple children. One thing I really love is that you can build a bundle and save $$$ on their site! They also have a preview to every subject I’ll be talking about except for our Bible curriculum. One of the biggest draws for me to Master Books is that it points everything back to God, and how every part of our life is connected to our Creator and how He has a plan just for us! Finding something that was Christ-centered without boring us (unfortunately, that can be the case sometimes) has been a HUGE pro for our family!

Here is a quick list of the Master Books curriculum (and one or two other items) that we’ll be using this year! I’ve linked them below so you can check them out! Once every component of our curriculum has arrived I am going to post a video here so I can share some other awesome aspects without you having to read a book in the process!

Language Arts – Language Lessons for a Living Education (My 1st grader) – master books

Foundation Phonics (my preschooler) – master books

MathMath Lessons for a Living Education– master books

Social Studies –   My Story– master books

Bible – Answers Bible Curriculum for kids

Writing –   Writing Strands – Level 1 This is a bit of a “it’s a great price, let’s try it out.”

Science – 106 Days of Creation Studies from Simply Charlotte Mason

Nature StudyExploring Nature with Children by Raising Little Shoots

History  – We will be using a few different resources for our history, primarily Amblesideonline.org book lists with some of Beautiful Feet’s book lists. We won’t be doing much other than read-alouds and narration this year as we start introducing American History.

I will also be using the preschool Rod and Staff set with my preschoolers. It is fantastic to help teach independence and help our little ones learn to follow directions!

Within all of these items there is LOTS of copy work, which will serve as our handwriting practice.

Our Language Arts curriculum incorporates composer and artist studies, but we will possibly be adding to that from time to time.

We will also be studying hymns this year by using our church hymnal and selecting some of our favorites like Be Thou My Vision, Come Thou Fount, In the Garden, It is Well with My Soul, and the list goes on. Many of these hymns have wonderful stories behind the inspiration of how they came to be.

Typing that out, it seems like a lot! We won’t do every subject every day, but I’m excited to start and have a broad course of study this year!

What curriculum is your family using this year? Do you have old favorites? Or are you trying something new? We’d love to hear your feedback!

– Melissa