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 six 6B382F4F-9D36-41CE-AF8B-5267D1884F03and one three-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 first 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 7 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!

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

A Beautiful Redemption

Today as we were riding in the van, Felicity suddenly piped up with, “I don’t like this sinful world, Mommy. If Adam and Eve just hadn’t sinned, everything would be okay.”

I half smiled to myself, ready to agree and thinking that just about everyone must have  had that thought at one time or another, but Violet spoke up before I could.

“But if they had never sinned, we wouldn’t have the beautiful Easter story.”

Think about that for a moment. If they had never sinned, we wouldn’t have the beautiful Easter story. 

I, too, wish that Adam and Eve had chosen to trust God and follow Him in obedience, that their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren all the way down to the present would have chosen to trust and obey. I wish that there were no sorrows, no pain, no sin to tangle with in my own heart or to help my children root out of theirs. But they didn’t.

And yet God did not cast us aside. In the very same breath, He handed out the consequences of the first man and woman’s tragic choice and then promised a glorious redemption. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Romans 5:8

Trust is the best choice. Holiness was the plan. We look around and see the unintentional echoes of this ancient truth reflected in the constant pressure to pursue perfection in every part of our lives. To make only the right and best choices in our marriage, in our jobs, in our parenting, in our homeschooling, in our relationships with others, in our pursuit of ministry, and so on. But the reality is that on our own, we can’t even reach the shirttail of holiness to hold on to. And even after being washed by the blood of the Lamb, mercifully and undeservedly dressed in His righteousness, we still wrestle against our flesh. Hopefully, we are growing in our understanding and our trust, but we will never be perfect this side of eternity.

We lose patience with our children, speak in anger to a co-worker, react in fear to a situation where we should have stood strong and steady. There are real consequences for these things. Words spoken can never be taken back, money foolishly spent can never be saved, actions can’t be undone and choices can’t be unmade.

We wish we were perfect in all our ways. But we’re not. Yet still God does not cast us aside or despise us for our failures. The truth is that there’s a beautiful reality of consequences + God’s merciful redemption. And when we have a grasp on that, we can walk in the wisdom and freedom of one who understands the gravity of her choices but does not bear the impossible weight of perfection.

When you’re ready to torment yourself with all the ways you’ve failed in the day to day difficulties that come with homeschooling, remember that God’s grace is more than sufficient to redeem any shortcomings this year. Look to Him. That beautiful Easter story of redemption is still being played out every day.

– Katie

Homeschooling Like A Principal

One of the first responses I often get when I mention that I homeschool is “Well, I couldn’t do that, because I could never teach my child _______ (fill in the blank).” I understand exactly why they say that, as my husband and I both agree that neither of us is strong in biology or chemistry and we both know that I’m not teaching math past algebra. However, this fact has never concerned us – and wouldn’t even concern us if we had a child wanting to go into the medical field. Here are three reasons why I’m not worried about teaching my kids all the subjects I’m not strong in.

Reason 1: I Don’t Have to Teach Alone

 Why? Well, because homeschooling doesn’t mean that I’m my children’s only teacher for all subjects – it just means that I get to pick all of their teachers for each of their subjects. Now, I’m not saying that as a homeschooler my goal is to leave all my children’s education up to the tutors I choose – legally, you do have to teach the majority of subjects to your child in most states. However, I do have the ability to purchase video curricula, online classes, or even real life classes for my kids to learn certain subjects. I live within 20 minutes of two different sets of high school science and lab classes that are part of inexpensive homeschool co-ops. I can name three different total video or computer software-based curricula off the top of my head as well as an online school – and I know Google would probably show dozens more. I’ve also heard firsthand of a handful of tutors that are proficient at math or science within an easy drive.

My kids currently learn math from a video curriculum (that I watch with them) and have learned reading and writing from a well laid out step by step program that I literally just open and follow the directions to each day. I can easily get a curriculum that lays out every step of the way for every one of their subjects if I want to, and as it gets harder for me I have other options like videos, online school, co-ops, or tutors.

Reason 2: I Can Still Focus on Their Interests

 Part of my reason for homeschooling is actually so that my kids can focus on their interests in school as well as find out what they are good at for their future jobs. So I have a girl that adores art and crafts, one son that is all about math and engineering, and another son that loves sports and puzzles. I’ll tell you right now that I am not the least bit good at ANY of those things. Since my kids are in elementary school and we live in a great homeschooling area this still is not hard to do at all – in fact, we have free and cheap resources that aren’t even affiliated with homeschooling that focus on my children’s interests. Lowes and Home Depot often have free classes to build stuff, there’s a kids art studio and community center with art classes, there’s a good amount of sports teams that aren’t associated with the school system, and so many other things that my kids can do. And I don’t even live near a big city!

This semester, my daughter is taking art, music, and nature study classes. My oldest son is going to take extra math, PE, hands on science, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and games and strategy classes. My youngest one gets to do art, music and PE classes. I’m not teaching any of these fun extra classes focused on their interests, but they still get to take them with friends and with awesome teachers who love those subjects!

Reason 3: Someday My Child Will Teach Himself

 I was homeschooled and also saw many of my cousins being homeschooled firsthand and I know for a fact that my machinist husband, university math teacher cousin, computer programmer cousin, and engineer cousin didn’t learn all their math from their parents. Granted, three of them went to college and took a lot of higher math there but all four of them worked through math books on their own through the bulk of high school. I saw three of them pouring over Saxon Math on their own and I’m told my husband actually was given the answers and then taught his mom how to do the algebra lesson.

Like a homeschooling friend mentioned to me once, “The end goal of homeschooling is to teach our kids how to teach themselves anything they want to know.” Even in early elementary school I can work towards this goal by letting my kids do more and more independent work while they still know I am there to help if needed. I can also focus on the way my kids learn by turning on a video or audio book for my son, helping my daughter find some way to create things with her hands, and letting my youngest son build his puzzle of numbers.

With the other tutors and curricula that are around me, the extracurricular choices I have, and the independent spirit I can nourish in my children I have no worries that I can’t teach science, math, art, or anything else because the resources are there if you just use them.

– Charity

Encouraging Compassion in My Children

     Recently, one of my daughters, Felicity, got a splinter in her foot. It didn’t hurt too much, but the skin around it was red and irritated. She asked me to get it out for her, and I asked one of her sisters to bring me my tweezers.

     Felicity heard the word “tweezers” and began crying. I hadn’t even touched her foot yet, but fat tears rolled down her cheeks from the very thought of the pain she would soon endure.

     As soon as she started to cry, my third daughter Merideth began crying too. I asked her what was wrong and she responded, “I just hate to see my sister hurt, Mommy!” Violet returned to the bedroom, tweezers in hand, and Merideth ran from the room, wailing.

     Felicity was already crying on the floor in front of me and jerking her foot away, so I decided to deal first with the splinter and check on Merideth later. The room wasn’t very bright, and I asked Violet to hold a flashlight for me so I could more easily grab the little sliver of wood that was causing so much trouble. But when I looked up at her face to see her response, her eyes were already tearing up and she backed away, shaking her head. “I just can’t be here when Felicity is hurting, Mommy! I’m sorry, but I just can’t stay in here!” And she ran down the hall after her sobbing sister.

     I looked down at the sniffling daughter whose foot was in my hand, then over at my son Benjamin, just three years old, kneeling beside his sister and looking on with interest. “Could you hold this light for me, buddy?” He nodded solemnly and held it up high for me. Of course, the scream-inducing extraction took only seconds, and I held up the hated splinter triumphantly for Felicity to see. She gulped a few times, took a couple of shuddering breaths, and told me, “It really didn’t hurt at all! Not even as much as a shot!”

     One problem down, two to go. I praised Benjamin for being a brave helper and went to the other end of the house to tend to the crying sisters. Violet had managed to compose herself and determined that as long as Felicity was okay again, she was fine too. She skipped happily away, but Merideth remained burrowed beneath the blankets on my bed, crying her eyes out. I tugged the quilt back gently and pulled her onto my lap.

     “She’s okay now, Mere-bear. I got it out and she said it didn’t even hurt like she thought it would! You can calm down, honey. She’s okay.” It took longer than I care to admit (and a phone call to her daddy), but my hysterical daughter finally calmed down and was able to stop crying. My heart broke for her, and for the extent to which she’d fallen apart at seeing only the smallest amount of discomfort. I don’t know if the girls are more sensitive toward each other’s feelings because they’re triplets and have spent nearly every moment of their lives together, or if this is a completely normal response for a six-year-old, but either way I didn’t want Merideth to be paralyzed by fear.

     I took her tear-streaked cheeks in my hands and smiled into her troubled blue eyes. “Merideth, I am so proud of you, honey. That sadness you’re feeling because your sister was hurt? That pain over seeing her so upset? That’s called compassion, Merideth, and it’s a wonderful thing.”

     Her eyes opened wide. “Jesus had compassion,” she whispered.

     “That’s right, honey; Jesus had compassion.”

     “Addy had compassion too. She cried when she had to leave baby Esther behind. She left her doll for her.”

    “That’s right, Mere. Addy had compassion too. But you know what? Having compassion for others is wonderful and right and exactly what God wants, but when you feel this way, you have two choices: you can choose to be scared by all those big feelings and run away from the pain, or you can choose to be brave and try to help the people who are in pain. Do you understand that?”

     She nodded quietly, her face thoughtful.

     “Merideth, think about Jesus. You were right when you said He had compassion. Do you remember some of those stories? When Jesus had compassion on the people, did He run away from them?”

     “No.”

     “No, the Bible says that He had compassion on them, and He healed their sick. He had compassion on them, and He fed them. He had compassion on them, and He sent out His disciples to minister to them. Compassion is a great place to start, but that’s not where it ends. Always let your compassion remind you to be courageous and to help. It’s hard and it hurts to be with people when they’re hurting, but it’s wonderful too.”

     Her face had cleared while I was talking, and she smiled at me as she nodded slowly. “I know I can be brave like Jesus and Addy, Mommy.”

     “Yes, you can! You can be brave; God gives us the courage we need when we ask Him for it, honey. Remember that I am SO PROUD OF YOU. I love your heart, Merideth, and I’m so glad to see it caring for others.”

     She gave me a shy smile and a bear hug, then went to check on Felicity.

     I groaned when I stood up from my knees (did I mention it was past bedtime?) but I was glad to have seen my little girl learn something so important amid all the noise of the evening. I don’t know what God has planned for her life, but I know that it is good, and I’m grateful for the task of helping to shape her heart while she’s young.

I want my children to be compassionate and to think of others more than themselves. A splinter is such a very small thing, but I’m glad the Lord could use it anyway.

– Katie

Year Round Homeschooling

“Schoooooool’s out for summer!” …. Well kind of, but not really. For my family, we are what you consider year-round schoolers. I’ve had a lot of people ask about what our summer schedule is like, so I want to take a minute to share. First, I want to talk a little bit about why we do “summer school.” My oldest is a creature of habit. This could possibly be explained by his ASD diagnosis, but here lately I just like to think that’s how he’s wired in general and forget the little details. When we first started school it was like pulling teeth getting him to cooperate and do “table time.” With some compromise on both of our parts, we finally hit our stride in about October. Then December hit. We made it through our first semester!! I turned in our grades to our umbrella school and happily closed our books. We enjoyed a few blissful weeks of free play and play dates. The 2nd week of January it was time to get back to work and it was like starting at square one! I decided from then on, we would school year-round. Now that isn’t to say I don’t make summers special. We celebrated the “end of 1st grade” with our co-op group, and my son knows it’s summer and our schedule is different, but we still have “school time” and here’s what it looks like…

Summer 2018 Plans

-The 3 “R’s”
All summer we will start our day with morning work, which consists of Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic. For reading we continue our All About Reading (currently on level 2), writing is our PALS (Primary Arts of Language) curriculum, and math is Rightstart (hoping to finish level A before the end of the summer, PRAISE THE LORD!! ) I like to continue these because my son is technically behind his peers in some of these subjects, so the extra practice helps us catch up some. Also, these aren’t his favorite, so continuing them through the summer helps us not have that starting and stopping drama.

-Sports
We spend a LOT of time in the summer outside, and as a result we are practicing a lot of sports/physical education. We are wrapping up coach pitch baseball season, right in the middle of basketball clinic, and about to test for our green belt in Taekwondo. That doesn’t even include all the swimming! Lightening up on our science and social studies during the summer gives us the time to focus on these super important skills.

-Enrichment
One thing I wanted to work on most this summer was my son/s diet. He is the pickiest of picky eaters, and quite dramatic on top of that, so meal times can be quite the experience. So this summer we are cooking through a kid’s cookbook! We are using the Usborne Start to Cook. He makes a shopping list each week, reads the recipes, and makes them 100% on his own. Through cooking we are tackling several subjects in addition to getting him a little more comfortable around food!

On top of all this, he also has 20 minutes of independent reading time, piano practice, and a list of daily chores  that have to take place before he can have any screen time.

With all that being said, we still have lots of down time built in. What is usually 4 hours of structured learning in the school year is cut down to probably 1.5 hours in the summer, depending on how long our recipe takes.  It/s amazing how something as simple as opening books for an hour a day throughout the summer helps with our transitions. Now when my son is older and can understand better the concept of school breaks we might build in some more breaks, but for now we will keep on going!

Happy Summer, Everyone!!!

– Valerie

Finding My Tribe – Perspectives of a First Generation Homeschooler

15941230_10103909128861605_3809756327423390882_nI was traditionally educated my whole life. I went through public school, to college, and on to law school with success. Homeschooling was not something I was even aware of until 5th grade, when the local homeschooled kids came in to do state testing with us. Homeschooling was not originally a consideration for my family for many reasons.

When my boys came along, I initially didn’t even think about school, but with my oldest having special needs, my focus was quickly shifted that direction. By age two, I was in discussions with our local school system about what I planned to do with him and his education, because in our state, kids with special needs are allowed to enter the school system at age three to get the extra help and services they might need.

Homeschooling had crossed my mind, but wasn’t something I had fully taken hold of, and in fact, I didn’t fully accept that I was going to homeschool my kids until just months before I actually started to do so. Homeschooling scared me. I knew nothing to very little about it. I wasn’t sure I could do enough or be enough for my kids. I struggled so much with self-doubt that I talked myself out of homeschooling at least a dozen times. I thought of a million reasons why I shouldn’t homeschool.

Then came a voice of reason, a God-send, if you will. I met a lady at my church whose kids befriended mine, and low and behold, she homeschooled. She herself was also homeschooled. I looked up to her as a homeschool guru (and she is!) and took the opportunity of our newfound friendship to inundate her with my questions. For probably a year I would throw my questions at her, my self-doubts, and my lack of experience, and for a year, she had an answer for every question I asked.

When I finally bit the bullet so to speak and made the decision to homeschool, there was an instant feeling of relief… and panic. All my self-doubt was still there, yet maybe quieter. Just making the decision itself was a huge step, but figuring out what my next move would be was just as intimidating.

Enter Honeybee Christian Co-op. My homeschool guru friend had invited to me check out her co-op, and by all the bragging she did, I figured I had to at least take a look. The fact that it was special needs inclusive made me a bit giddy, to be honest.

I came to some initial interest meetings, met some of the moms, and realized that I had stumbled upon something special.  Really though, I think it was less stumbling and more a directed path. Our school year began and within weeks I began to see my children growing socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. I could also see myself growing. That voice of self-doubt began to shrink more and more. On days that I was down or stressed, I would reach out to other co-op mamas and they threw encouragement and support at me like confetti.

Within the first few months, I knew I had found my tribe. The kids were all so sweet and kind to my special needs oldest son. Early in the school year, I witnessed them trying to figure out who was going to help him to class one day. They all wanted to help! The moms were all amazing teachers, as well. My boys were getting amazing, quality lessons on top of time to socialize and make friends. Not only were the moms all amazing teachers, they are all amazing friends. I can’t even remember how many times in the last year that they have reminded me that I am enough for my kids. Our monthly “Mom’s Night Out” is always something I look forward to because, while the guacamole is great, the people I share it with are even better! Finding our tribe really was the best possible thing that happened to our family this school year.

We recently wrapped up our very first year of homeschooling and I must say, it was a huge success. Even more so than I expected. Homeschooling a child with significant disabilities and challenges seemed daunting, but knowing that I had the moms at Honeybee Christian Co-op standing behind me was the key that unlocked our door to success.  We could not have done it without the support and love that was showered on us through our co-op. Feeling encouraged, supported, and uplifted gave us momentum on the good days. Having someone to fall back on made the hard days bearable.

Coming from a public school experience and bringing my kids into a homeschool experience has been a huge shift for me. It has pushed me past my comfort zone in all the best ways. So, to any moms out there who are ready to begin homeschooling, my biggest piece of advice for you is this: Find your tribe. It will make all the difference!

– Lacey

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