Tag Archives: home schooling

For the Love of Audio Books

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one is with another who shares the same books.”Katherine Mansfield
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I love the way listening to audio books brings all my kids together.
Yesterday they spent the entire afternoon in the boys’ room listening to The Last Battle, a book they’ve read and listened to several times before. But we like to listen to our favorite books again and again. It just makes us love them more.
They were all in there together, drawing, building Legos, or just laying on the bed and soaking up the beautiful language and storytelling of one of CS Lewis’ masterpieces.
We don’t use earphones or earbuds when we listen to books, at home or in the car, because I love the way listening to a story together builds our relationships with one another.

The moment we put those ear buds in, we are shutting ourselves off from everyone around us. I work very hard to cultivate relationships within my family and so this “shutting off from one another” is the exact opposite of what I want to see happening.
Instead, I love to hear my kids laughing over a story together, or discussing the book as they listen to it together. We aren’t all separated from each other–we’re enjoying time together. I love the way, everyone is drawn into a room when an audio book is turned on. We’re pulled together by the magic of a good story.
We have beautiful conversations about whatever book we are listening to. Everyone chimes in, and we all relate to the book in different to ways, but we’re experiencing it together,  which creates such special bonds. We talk in the language of the books we’ve read. I often hear my kids say things like this, “you know that part in The Hobbit…” Or, “it’s like in Caddie Woodlawn when…”
The books we read together become shared experiences and create cherished memories just as family vacations and adventures do. In fact, the books we’ve read together are some of our favorite adventures.
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I have always felt that putting something in, or over, our ears separated us from one another and I’ve never liked that. Even at 11 or 12 when I got my first Walkman, I didn’t like listening to it in the car because I was missing out on the conversation my parents were having. I hated sitting next to my mom while she drove, my headphones on, and not talking to her. It felt almost rude to me. But even more, l knew I wasn’t experiencing life with her. There would be no conversations about the simple things we saw as we drove, or the deeper conversations that might happen as we sat next to each other.
There wouldn’t be singing along together to the Sam Cook cassette playing in our hunk of junk Dodge Dart while my mom drove my brother and I to math tutoring. There’d be no laughing over silly stories together There wouldn’t be learning how to sit together in silence, each having our own thoughts, yet fully comfortable together in the quiet.

Building relationships is certainly easier when we are fully engaged with one another.
I suppose all those things played a part in my decision to keep our book time free from ear buds and headphones. It’s not that those things are bad in and of themselves. Or even that using them is bad. It’s just that for us, the experience of being together without them is better.
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So how does this life style decision play out in our family, practically speaking?
Truthfully there is no grumbling about listening to books together because it’s something they’ve always done. This is our way of life and they don’t seem to mind it at all. The only problem that occurs occasionally is that someone is being too loud and interrupting the book. Then that person is asked to be quiet or leave the room. And the problem is solved.

We get most of our books from our subscription to Audible. This does have a monthly fee, but I consider it an essential part of our kids’ education and to our family life, so it is 100% worth the money. I get two credits to use a month and very rarely use more than those credits That means I do not spend anything beyond my monthly subscription fee. Sometimes we can purchase a whole series for one credit, like all the Ramona Quimby books. Or we purchase lots of long books, so we really make those credits count.
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Our Audible books can be played on any computer or phone, so the kids can listen to them just about anywhere.
They often have the computer set up in the living room and gather there to listen to books.
They can also listen in their rooms on the laptop or on our family iPod.
We borrow books on cd from the library often and those get played on Lilly’s Hello Kitty “boom box” or on the computer.
No one has to stay in a room and listen to a book if they’d rather be doing something else.
Sometimes one kid is inside listening to a book while the others are playing outside or in another room drawing. But it just seems that once a book is turned on, they all just gravitate to where it is playing.
My kids have a hard time resisting stories.

We also listen to books in the car all the time.
My kids don’t mind long drives because they get to listen to books. In fact, short drives are far more troubling to them because they want to listen to the book longer.

Everyone takes turn choosing the books we listen to. Or we choose one together.
Occasionally there might be a groan when Davy picks “Tales of Brer Rabbit” agin. But mostly they are happy with each other’s book selections.
They just love listening to books so much that they are happy for every new book that is chosen.Or a beloved old book revisited.
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Beyond the relational ways listening to books together has helped our family, it has also had an impact in other ways:
1.  We’ve grown our reading skills because of listening to challenging books from a very young age. My younger kids are always listening to books high above their reading level. But because of the constant exposure to these books, their comprehension skills and vocabulary are through the roof.  We also listen to all our books unabridged. It has never proven to be a problem for them–even with the most challenging books. They are building skills to become great readers.
2.  Everyone is exposed to a variety of genres, and authors they might otherwise not choose. Each of us has our favorite books of course, but since we are listening to books together, we are kept from choosing the same types of books over and over again. My kids are open to reading just about anything, because they’ve experienced so many different types of great books.
3.  We’ve learned the art of listening and paying attention. Listening to books that are challenging has taught all my kids the skill of being a good listener. They have to pay attention in order to understand what is going on in a story that may have lots of characters, an involved plot, advanced vocabulary, or complex sentence structure.
4. We’ve learned the importance of asking questions. Many of the books we listen to are higher level books. That means the younger kids will often stop and ask questions about what is going on, who a certain character is, or even say something like, “wait, what just happened?” If they were reading or listening alone, there would be no one to ask questions of, and I think the temptation would be to just stay lost. But because we’re listening together, asking questions is a normal part of the reading experience.
5.  We’ve learned the skill of summarizing, translating, re-telling , and explaining. As we listen to books together, and questions are asked, those questions must be answered. That means my kids are learning how to explain things to one another, and how to summarize what someone just missed or didn’t understand. Best of all, they are doing it in a natural, real life way.
6.  My kids are learning the joy and pleasure that comes from talking about books. The exchange of ideas and thoughts that come to us as we read (listen to ) a book together is a valuable skill that will translate to so many other parts of their life. It’s teaching them to be critical thinkers who can then discuss their thoughts. That’s a very practical part of this journey that I appreciate. But as I said before, they are also learning the joy and pleasure of discussing books. That to me is of great value as well. In fact, it may be my favorite part of this whole journey. Because there are few things I love to do more than talk about a book with my favorite little readers.

Now to get you started, here is a list of some of our favorite audio books.
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For the younger crowd:
*The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection narrated by Stockard Channing
*Charlotte’s Web narrated by EB White
*A Bear Called Paddington narrated by Michael Bond
*Mr. Popper’s Penguins narrated by Nick Sullivan
*The Courage of Sarah Noble narrated by Barbra Caruso
*The Peter Rabbit Collection narrated by Peter Batchelor

Books for older kids (but even my youngest has enjoyed listening to):
*The Yearling narrated by Tom Stechschulte
*The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy narrated by Rob Inglis
*The Princess and the Goblin narrated by Ian Whitcomb
*Johnny Tremain narrated by Grace Conlin
*Littel Women narrated by Kate Reading
*Caddie Woodlawn narrated by Roslyn Alexander
*The Borrowers series narrated by Rowena Cooper
*Father and I Were Ranchers (and the following books in this series) narrated by Ralph Moody
*Danny Champion of the World narrated by Peter Serafinowicz
*The Wind and the Willows narrated by Michael Hordern
*The Merry Adventures of Robinhood narrated by David Thorn
*The Chronicles of Narinia narrated by various narrators

These books are all available on Audible.
But you might be able to find them at your local library or on the site LibriVox, which offers many books to download for free.
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I hope this glimpse into the way we experience books as a family will encourage you to listen to more books together. You don’t have to totally ditch those earbuds.But I promise the benefits that come when you share a book together as a family will make you want to tune into one another more, and tune out less.
Remember, you don’t have to go on fancy vacations, or grand adventures to create memories with your family. Making memories can be as simple as popping a bowl of popcorn and settling down with a fabulous audio book. You’ll laugh together, wonder together, and if you’re like my family, cry together. Best of all, listening to a book takes some time, so you’ll get to revisit that together time again and again until the book is done.
Its magic!
Don’t underestimate the power of books to bring people together.
For the love of (audio) books,

*For more on my love of books, be sure to follow me on Instagram. You can find me @maandpamodern, right here.

Ma and Pa Modern Adventures: waterfalls, frogs, and salamanders, oh my!

We love waterfall hikes.
In fact, they rank among our most favorite kinds of hikes.
Southern California is notoriously dry, and has been even more than usual for the past few years.
However, there are still some wonderful waterfalls to be found if you look hard enough.
And given the extra rain we got this winter, the waterfalls are flowing better than they have been for the past couple of years.
This spring has been wonderful for us in finding lots of full creeks to splash in.
And yesterday we found a full waterfall.
It was glorious!

We hiked the Millard Canyon trail to the falls.
The trail has been closed for a number of years due to a fire.
It is recently re-opened and still uncrowded and beautiful.
No trash or graffiti like on some of our other favorite hikes in this area.
We are hopeful it stays that way.

The trail up to the falls was lush and green, and full of rocks to scramble over.
At some parts the creek splashed along beside the trail and sparkled in the sun.
It was pretty perfect.


Also along the trail were these beautiful white flowers, actually a weed, called Mexican Devils.
It is considered an invasive weed and can take over native plants.
It can also cause respiratory illness in horses.
Its really pretty, but after seeing how much of it there was along the trail, it is easy to see how it could choke out native plants.

We also found many, many frogs at the waterfalls.
And let me tell you, it was quite a thrill!
We found this guy, the California Tree Frog.

These frogs are nocturnal and take shelter in rock crevices near water during the day.
This was the first time we had seen these frogs and when the kids saw a number of them hanging out inside some cracks in the rocks around the waterfall, they were so thrilled.
I encouraged the kids to handle them gently, while they looked closely at them for observation, and then to let them go.
It was so much fun to meet a new kind of frog!
FYI: all reptiles and amphibians carry salmonella in their digestive tracts.
I learned that the hard way when I got salmonella after touching a baby turtle.
Not fun!
I always make the kids wash with hand sanitizer after catching any of these little creatures.
Of course, this was the one day I was out of hand sanitizer.
Thank goodness for my other mama friends coming to my rescue.

There are high, rock walls around the canyon and waterfall.
The big boys, of course wanted to explore those, and so we did a little bouldering.
We got pretty high up one of the steep canyon walls before I looked down and thought maybe we should stop climbing.
Even though all of us really wanted to go on.
But those rocks were slippery, and went crashing down the hill when our feet knocked them loose.
I didn’t want to knock out any kids at the bottom of the cliff.
Nor did I want to see one of the boys go rolling down the hill.


So we found a less rocky place and slid down the dirt hill on our feet.
Those boys are growing more adventurous by the week!
Its a lot of fun.
But also……a little nerve-wracking!
I may need to invest in safety gear for them and their climbing!

I also spent a lot of time chasing these little guys.
They ran up and down the trail like mountain goats.
I’m not kidding!
I think they are going to be even more comfortable chasing and finding adventure than the big boys, because they’re getting an earlier start.
I love that they get to have these days of fun and exploring with their best buddies.

After the 1.5 mile back to and from the falls, our awesome group of mamas and kids felt like we really hadn’t hiked much.
So we decided to explore another trail.
It was quiet and peaceful and green and followed along the same sparkly, dancing stream.
Oh it was just heavenly!
The big thrill was when a couple of the little girls found a couple of salamanders swimming in the water.
We were all so excited!
The big, brave Daddy that was with us for the day picked them up and let the girls hold them.
I felt brave too and held one too.
It was smooth and soft and a little slimy feeling from being wet.
It had a bright orange stomach.
And after the pair were returned to the water, Davy and I watched them begin to wrestle.
Turns out salamanders return to the pools they were born in to “wrestle” or mate.
They swim together under the water, twisting and turning and getting busy!
It was pretty cool to watch.
This spring has been really great to us for seeing lots of mating and eggs, and brand new babies everywhere we go.
Nature is a great teacher.

But I guess I needed to learn a little bit more about nature.
Because we learned that the salamanders we so excitedly held yesterday are actually poisonous.
They were California Newts, and the most toxic of all salamanders.
I had no idea.
Neither did the other mamas in our group.

James, however, knew and told me when we got in the car that salamanders are poisonous and we shouldn’t have held them.
He learned it from the wilderness survival guides he likes to read.
My friend Karen, whose daughter was also holding the newt, texted me and said, “are you having any symptoms? These salamanders are toxic!”
Thankfully we were all fine and learned a nature lesson we won’t forget.

Form now on I’ll always remember not to pick up salamanders, that I must always check that I have hand sanitizer in my bag, and that I need to read a wilderness survival handbook STAT!
Time to earn my nature mama cred.
And to be like my Boy Scout son, and BE PREPARED.

We sure do love our adventures!
This is learning at its very best.
“The world is our classroom.”

Poetry 101: Why Teaching Poetry Matters

///This is the first post in a series about teaching poetry.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing reasons why we need to teach poetry to our kids, offering lesson ideas to help you accomplish that, explaining how to discuss a poem, as well as giving you plenty of resources that will help in your journey of making poetry a part of your everyday learning.  I look forward to your comments and questions, and I hope very much these articles will be useful to you.
Now let’s get started!///

Why Teaching Poetry Matters

Poetry is the best words in the best order.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.”
Rita Dove
The crown of literature is poetry.”
W. Somerset Maugham
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.”
W. H. Auden
“A thousand thoughts that burn, come to us on the wings of verse.”
Charlotte Mason

I have always had an affection for poetry.
I had favorite poetry books that I loved reading when I was a little girl.
I have them still, and they are treasures to me.
The poems I read were of the simple sort, never very long or complex.
But as I grew older, I wanted to read more challenging poems, like Anne Shirley and her friends, reciting “The Lady of Shalott.”
I tried to read those poems, but it was always a struggle since I lacked the tools for reading them with any kind of pleasure or understanding.


You see, my early years of school were seriously lacking in poetry.
I don’t recall reading or learning about poetry in my earliest elementary days.
And when I began being home schooled, my mom hadn’t read, or even been exposed to much poetry herself, and therefore felt the difficulty in teaching it to me.
Beyond those simple poems I read as a little girl, I really didn’t read poetry again until college, when I began to study literature and writing.
That was when I truly fell head over heals in love with it.
Thanks to a few professors who shared their passion for poetry with me, my understanding grew, and therefore so did my love.

My experience is a pretty common one for most people.
Except for the part about falling in love with poetry.
For most people, that doesn’t happen.
After all, how many of us have said or heard it said, “I just don’t understand poetry,”
Or, “I stopped liking poetry in high school.”
There seems to be a great gap between the innate love of poetry that every small child has, and the aversion many adults feel towards it.
Why does this happen?
And how can we prevent it from happening to our kids?


To begin with, we must start reading poetry to our kids when they are young, and we can’t ever stop.
Poetry exposure can’t just be some Mother Goose and Shel Silverstein when they are young, and then a long dry spell until high school or college.
At which point, we hand them a book full of poems by TS Elliot, Keats, and Emily Dickinson and expect them to dive right in.
That’s like teaching a kindergartener to do simple addition, doing no math for 10 years, and then handing them an algebra book and telling them to get busy.
Not only will they be lost, but they won’t find any enjoyment in the work either.
We can’t expect our kids to love something when we aren’t giving them anything to fall in love with.
Loving poetry requires constant exposure.
“The only way to grow poetry is to make it a habit.” (J. Patrick Lewis)

One of the best ways to make poetry more accessible is to start reading it to your children when they are young.
Little children are naturally drawn to poetry.
They like the rhythmic, musical quality of poetry.
They like the way rhymes make things easy to memorize.
Above all, they will develop warm associations with poetry while it is read to them from your lap.
That is a sweet, sweet gift to give them.

At the beginning, it is so important to help your children simply enjoy poetry.
“Unless a poem says something to a child, tells him a story, titillates his ego, strikes up a happy recollection, bumps his funny bone—in other words, delights him—he will not be attracted to poetry regardless of the language it uses.” (Patrick Groff)
Read them fun poetry, silly poetry, even nonsense poetry.
Poetry doesn’t have to be serious to be “real”.
Laughing together over a silly poem is a surefire way to get your kids to enjoy reading poetry.
Read them poetry that tells a story.
You’d be surprised at the way your children can follow along with a long ballad.
After all, a ballad is simply a story told in verse form, and they know how to follow a story.
Read your children poetry about things they know.
Read about the seasons, and birds, and the sky.
Poetry helps our children notice and love the natural world around them because it is so often celebrated in poetry.
Read them poems about love and friendship, and families and pets.
Poetry helps children access their emotions in a positive way, when they read poems that praise and honor these relationships.
Read them poems that are illustrated.
The pictures add greatly to the understanding of a poem, but even more to the enjoyment of it.
Memorize poems with your children.
One of the very best ways to enjoy poetry is to read it again and again until it is committed to memory.
Then that poem becomes a friend.
One we call upon in times of happiness or sorrow, or simply because the way the words sound together gives us pleasure.
By making poetry reading a joy rather than a chore, we are laying in our children the foundation for a life long affection for poetry.


As they grow older, continue reading poetry as often as possible.
Poetry shouldn’t be a unit study or even a once a week thing “when we have time”.
Poems should be read and enjoyed together every day!
“If we wish children to believe poetry is important, the worst way to teach it is to develop a two-week poetry block, teach it, and then forget it—because that’s what children will do with it. The best way is to incorporate meaningful poetry throughout the day.” (Jim Trelease)
This doesn’t mean you have to create incredible poetry lessons for your children every day.
Its as simple as having a few good poetry anthologies on hand and reading one poem a day from them over breakfast, at dinner, or before bedtime.
Or it can be part of the school day, maybe first thing in the morning, after devotions, when your kids are in a thoughtful mood.
We read a poem or two at the start of most school days.
After our prayer, hymn, and devotional time, I read a poem aloud to all the kids.
We generally talk about it for a few minutes, because discussing a poem is part of what we enjoy about poetry.
That is all there is to it.
It is very simple, yet I often feel at the close of our poetry time that we have had one of the best lessons I could have given them.
Poetry makes us think.
And we should spend time thinking every day, shouldn’t we?


Once they reach school age, don’t drop poetry for other, “more important” subjects.
I think most of us recognize the artistic merit of poetry.
But beyond that, poetry is often viewed as an extra, or even as fluff.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth!
And for every parent or teacher that wonders what the practical advantages of learning poetry are, I can assure you they are many.
To begin with, reading poetry is one of the best ways to help your children become better readers of all kinds of literature, and also to become better writers.
Here’s why:
Poetry requires a different kind of reading than simple prose.
Poetry demands more of the reader because everything isn’t explained for him.
Poetry often expresses big ideas in a condensed space.
Therefore, poetry asks the reader to think, and often, to think hard.
If you want to help your children develop reading skills, read them poetry.

Poetry also is extraordinarily visual.
Its like a painting made of words.
Therefore, as your children listen to and read poetry, they are being fed beautiful, visual, language.
This encourages them to see those images in their mind, and to use their imagination to do it.
That is a critical reading skill.
It is also a skill that is increasingly lost in a digital age where everything is about the image being put in front of you, no imagination required.
This exposure to descriptive, visual language will also help your children with their writing.
By hearing lines like this: “For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim”  to describe a fish swimming through water, your kids can’t help but to incorporate this elevated, beautifully descriptive language into their own writing.
It won’t happen immediately, but that constant exposure to rich language will come out in their writing over time.


Also, more and more exposure to great poetry will aid your children in understanding other pieces of literature.
This won’t really happen until your child is older and reading more advanced poems, short stories, and novels, but it will be of great help to him then.
Writers like to make these things called literary allusions.
That is when they refer to another, well known piece of literature in the middle of their own piece of writing.
A working knowledge of famous poetry is helpful in understanding these literary allusions and therefore better understanding the piece of literature itself.

So, you see, there are practical reasons why we should teach poetry to our kids.
But I beg you not to allow yourself to become too distracted by these things.
Because interacting with poetry only for the purpose of taking tests, writing papers, answering comprehension questions, and having some kind of measurable data to prove learning has taken place misses the very heartbeat of poetry.
Remember, we want to help our children build a relationship with poetry.
We want them to learn from it because they love it, not just because they’ve been told to read it or write about it.
There are so many things wonderful things reading poetry gives our children and many of them can’t be assessed.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
“Teaching poetry is one important way to help children become human beings who are fully awake to the world.”
Megan McNamer


This resource list includes some of my favorite poetry books to add to your collection, a few poetry videos and cds, links to articles about teaching poetry, and helpful websites for teaching poetry.
There will be resources included with each article.

Books for the littlest ones:
First Poems of Childhood Illustrated by Tasha Tudor
A Merry-Mouse Book of Favorite Poems illustrated by Priscilla Hillman
The Big Golden Book of Poetry Illustrated by Gertrude Elliot
Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky

Books for those a little older:
Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems (this is a fabulous anthology)
The Tyger Illustrated by Neil Waldman (Makes reading William Blake’s famous poem even more interesting)
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard (great to read with The Tyger)
Now We are Six by AA Milne (the author of Winnie the Pooh!)
A Flower Fairy Treasury by Cicely Mary Barker (beautiful poems and illustrations)
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (if you can track down a copy illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, (its the one pictured) then snatch it up instantly!  They are two of my most favorite children’s illustrators of all time.)
A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy (a great collection of poems organized by theme)
Childcraft Sorytelling and Other Poems (if you find any Chiildcraft books from the 40s, 50s or 60’s, snatch them up! They are just wonderful treasures)
Carver A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson (a beautiful biography of George Washington Carver told entirely in verse)
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (a beautiful story of a young girl surviving the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. Its also written entirely in verse.)

Funny and nonsense poetry
Poems by Lewis Carrol
Poems by Edward Lear
Poetry books by Shel Silverstein
Feg by Robin Hirsch (great book for an older kid who likes to read, and likes words and word games)

Books about poets:
The Poetry For Young People Series  (There are many different poets in the series and the books include the most loved poems by the poet as well)

Poems set to music:
Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant
A Child’s Garden of Songs by Ted Jacobs

Poetry videos:
Child;s Garden of Poetry produced by HBO and the Poetry Foundation

Helpful poetry websites:
The Poetry Foundation (check out “Children’s Poetry” in the Resources section. There is so much good stuff there!
Poetry Out Loud 
(An organization dedicated to bringing back the art of poetry recitation. There are some fabulous poetry recitations for you and your children to listen to, as well as quick descriptions as to what kind of poem it is, or sometimes brief words about the poet. I spent a whole afternoon listening to these!
Go to “Poems and Performance” and then “Listen to Poetry”
Some of the best pieces were: The Power of Poetry, The Lake Isle of Innisfree,We Wear the Mask, Pied Beauty, Conveying emotion, with excerpts from Hamlet, David Mason on knowing poems by heart,Hope is the thing with feathers, To My Dear and Loving Husband,

Articles about teaching poetry:

Again! Again! by Sonia Levitin (This one is fabulous! All abot poetry brining us joy)
Home Appreciation by Susan Thomsen (Poetry and home schoolers! This is a great article.)
Nurseries of Verse by Patrick Lewis
Open the Door –How to excite young people about poetry (This is a free, downlaodable book from the Poetry Foundation, full of essays about poetry. I highly recommend reading the first essay by Jim Trelease.)



Inspiring Your Reluctant Nature Journaler

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It’s time for another Home Schooling 101 post!
This time I am tackling how to inspire your reluctant nature journaler.
If you are in a hurry, you can skip straight down to the how-to section near the end of the post.
You’ll find it under this heading:
“So what does it look like to offer freedom to your child as he nature journals?”
But I really hope you’ll take some time now, or later, to read through the rest of this article and really think about the WHY before you jump right to the HOW.
Its important to understand why we are doing things the way we do, and why we might need to change.
These are some of the things I’m discussing in this piece.
Please let me know what you think.

If you have spent any time reading about, learning about, or practicing a Charlotte Mason style education, then you’ve heard of nature journaling.
I mean, nature journaling is practically the holy grail of a Charlotte Mason education.
Nature journals, those beautifully sketched and painted pictures of bugs and wildflowers, acorns, and song birds–they’re what we all want our kids to create.
Nature journals are a Charlotte Mason educating mama’s street cred.
Or trail cred, as the case may be.

But what if you have a child who isn’t excited about nature journaling?
What about those unhappy moans every time you bring out that spiral bound notebook of 90 pound weight watercolor paper, the fine tip paint brushes, and the field guides for reference?
What if your child is a reluctant nature journaler?
What of your Charlotte Mason trail cred then?
Can you even be a Charlotte Mason home schooler with a reluctant nature journaler?
Or, can you not be a Charlotte Mason home schooler and still nature journal?

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Yes mamas, you can.
Yes. You. Can!
I know, because I was a reluctant nature journaler myself.
And I get a fair amount of guff about it from some of my fellow Charlotte Mason mamas who love nature journaling and excel at it. (you know who you are)
So I write this post with a understanding for where your reluctant nature journaler is at.
And sympathy for his frustration with nature journaling.
And also with a bit of pointed playfulness.
Because I think sometimes we mamas/schoolteachers need to relax a little bit.
We need to remember that learning should be a thing of joy, not a chore or tear filled session of frustration.
We can’t get so caught up in the way things are supposed to be, that we lose sight of why we are doing them in the first place.

If you’ve read some of my pieces on home schooling, you know I am big on finding your why.
Often times we are so ready to get started, to see results, and to prove to ourselves that our kids are learning something, that we miss a very important first step.
Before we worry about how our kids should be nature journaling, and how their nature journals should look, we need to be clear on why we want them to nature journal.
Why does nature journaling matter?

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And in order to answer that question, we first have to talk about nature study.
Because before nature journaling can happen, our children must engage in nature study.
Nature study is a truly unique and wonderful way to study the natural sciences.
It is one of the best ways I have found to make the subjects of biology, botany, physical geography, geology, entomology, and so many other “ologies” come alive, for both me and my kids.
Nature study is the close observation of many different subjects in nature.
It is the research and identification of the thing observed.
It is getting to know nature on an intimate level.
These are the reasons nature journaling matters.
And once nature study has happened, then nature journaling is the natural next step for continuing with the learning.
Lets delve into this WHY a little further and read what Charlotte Mason, our nature study guru, has to say about why nature study and nature journaling matter:
(taken from Volume One of the Charlotte Mason series found here)

Adults should realize that the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit. All people are supposed to be observers of nature and there’s no excuse for living in a world so full of amazing plants and animals and not be interested in them.”

“Besides appreciating the world, observing nature develops other mental powers–ability to focus, to tell things apart, to patiently seek answers. These things are useful in every facet of life.

“The ability to group things together by type and find differences is one of the higher orders of intellect, and every opportunity to use it first-hand should be encouraged. Learning classifications from a book takes no mental power, except maybe rote memory. If the skill of rote memory is deemed necessary, then the child might just as well memorize some phrases in a foreign language to satisfy that requirement!”

“Children can learn an unlimited amount of things that they’ll never forget before even beginning school. A child is ten times better off if he knows where to find the prettiest birch trees, or the four best ash trees in his neighborhood, than a boy who doesn’t even know the difference between an elm and an oak. He is not only likely to be more successful, but happier, too, because the beauty of nature affects our feelings. Dr. Carpenter said that, when our minds have contact with nature, our sense of sublime beauty and order is touched”

“A passion for natural objects can be like a wellspring of refreshment to a dry heart.”

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Wow! That is some good stuff right there.
Let me summarize the important reasons Charlotte Mason says children should engage in nature study and journaling:
*Nature study creates a sense of wonder and interest in the natural world.
*Nature study builds the skills of observation, focus, patience, and higher order thinking skills, such        as classification.
*Nature study connects children with beauty, therefore making them happier.
*Nature study requires time spent in nature, which brings refreshment to a child’s heart and soul.

I’ll add my own reasons for having my children take part in nature study:
*Nature study allows for meaningful interaction between my children and nature.
*Nature study creates meaningful connections between my children and nature.
*Nature study encourages further learning.
*Nature study brings them excitement, peace, and joy.
*Nature study makes learning science fun.

I encourage you to think through your own reasons for having your children engage in nature study.
Spend some time making a list, and really think about your WHY.
For me, knowing all the good that comes of nature study, there is simply no excuse for not incorporating it into my children’s’ education.
And, once we’ve engaged in nature study, to have them engage in nature journaling.
It is the natural next step.

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But that brings us back to my original question, what of the reluctant nature journaler?
I am going to guess that your reluctant nature journaler isn’t reluctant to study nature, just to record those studies.
So you have already won half your battle.
If you are out in nature and observe a coyote or a gopher snake, your reluctant nature journaler probably won’t turn his head in disinterest.
And I bet, once home, he’ll sit and listen as you read to him some interesting tidbits about the life of the coyote and the gopher snake.
Now you are already well on your way to helping him begin nature journaling.
You may just have to change the way you let him do it.
You might have to let go of the how and instead embrace your why.

Here is what Charlotte Mason has to say about your child’s nature journal; (emphasis is mine)
“The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected. These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc.” (Volume 3 pg 236)
Please observe that the notebooks are theirs.
That they should feel pride and JOY in them.
Nature journaling should not be drudgery.
It should be interesting, and engaging — a time of happy study.

My children have loved nature journaling since I first introduced it to them.
But they have always loved drawing and making art, and have done so since they were 3 and 4 years old.
Therefore, getting them to draw in their nature journals was never a problem.
Through the process of nature journalling I do offer advice and instruction, “study all the colors and shadows on this rock. It’s not just brown. And look at its shape. Its not a perfect circle, is it?”
And I am almost always the one to suggest they nature journal.
But once they get going, they do enjoy sketching and drawing what they’ve seen out in nature.

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“So why”, you are asking, “do you consider yourself equipped to write about a reluctant nature journaler?”
“What is your experience with this struggle?”
My experience?
I’m a reluctant nature journaler myself.
I don’t enjoy drawing.
I don’t enjoy painting.
I feel stress and anxiety when I attempt it.
I do not feel peace, and certainly not joy.
And I know plenty of kids who feel the same way.
That’s why I wanted to write this piece.
I hate to think of you and your kiddos battling through nature journaling when it really doesn’t ahve to be that way.
When nature journaling becomes a battle, all that wonderful learning that has taken place through nature study gets lost.
And it is simply because your child is struggling to record his learning in the way you think he’s supposed to.
Let’s change that!

So what does that look like?
Yes, it is finally time to think about the HOW!
Well, almost time.

First, let me share how I came to understand that nature journaling could take many different forms and still be completely viable.
It was a real light bulb moment for me, and I hope it will be for you too.
Not very long ago I was talking about my own nature journaling inadequacies, making fun of myself, but still wishing deep down inside that I was a “real” nature journaler.
My wise friend, Jen, disagreed with me.
She said the pictures I take of the things we study in nature, and then the writing I do about those things are my nature journal.
They aren’t kept in a book–they’re on Instagram.
They aren’t beautiful paintings or drawings–they’re pictures I took with my iphone,
They words aren’t hand lettered on a page–but they are excitedly researched and lovingly crafted into stories.
They aren’t the way Charlotte Mason describes nature journals at all!
But they’re still nature journals.
They look different.
But they’re still the real thing.

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I felt so validated.
(yes, even a 39 year old mom needs that sometimes)
What a gift my Jen-girl gave me.
And what an understanding it opened for me for all the other reluctant nature journalers out there.
Kids, and mamas, too.

This revelation changed the way I thought about nature journaling.
As home schoolers, we have the wonderful freedom to change our children’s education so that it fits them best.
What a gift that is!
We must not forget to offer our children freedom in learning in our quest to do things only in the way which we think they should be done.

So what does it look like to offer freedom to your child as he nature journals?
*It means you study your child and find out where he struggles.
And then you:
*might put away the pens, the colored pencils and the paint brushes.
*might give her a camera while she is on the trail, and instructions to take photos of the things that capture her interest.
*might print out some of those photos and let her study them.
*might talk about what she sees in the photo, or simply saw out on in nature, just as you would if she were preparing to draw or paint them.
*might look at colors, shapes, and the environment that the item grew in.

*your child can collect items found along the trail and preserve them in her nature journal.
*wild flowers and leaves can be pressed between the pages of a heavy book and then glued or taped in her journal.
*lizard skins and butterfly wings can be kept in places of honor on her dresser to to be looked at and admired for many days to come, and then carefully placed in a ziplock bag and stapled in her nature journal.
There are so many different ways to fill a nature journal!

Once the photographing, collecting, and observing have been done, then the research can happen.
I find that my kids and I always want to know more about the things we see and bring home from our hikes.
We want to know the names of things, and how they grow and what they eat, and what their songs sound like.
So we:
*listen to bird songs online
*we read books, field guides, and look at countless pictures on line to determine exactly which yellow breasted bird we saw in that tree
*we closely study the leaves and petals of wild flowers to identify and name them.
*we collect acorns and leaves and use them to help us learn about the many varieties of trees..
*I look for information in the books on our shelves that describe the various plants, birds, and animals we’ve seen and read those pieces aloud to my kids.
The research is an extension of the nature study and a valuable part of our nature journaling.

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But perhaps your child isn’t thrilled with research.
Ask yourself why?
Are you giving him a stack of books and setting him to work all on his own?
Have you ever tried distinguishing one yellow breasted bird from another?
Its tedious!
Perhaps your child needs you to sit down next to him.
Perhaps he needs you to research with him.
You have the freedom to do that!

We always do our research together.
We share our discoveries and that makes the learning more exciting.
My kids, even my older ones, would not thrive if I set them before a stack of books and field guides and said, “now identify all the things we saw on our hike yesterday.”
We are working toward that goal, but in the meantime, they still need my help.
They need my encouragement.
And my goal right now is that they would enjoy the process of researching, rather than just get it done.

The last piece of our nature journaling for us is the writing.
And while my kids do love making art in their journals, they haven’t always loved the writing.
Sometimes there have been tears or great frustration.
So I have made adjustments along the way to get them to the place where they are writing in their journals and it isn’t a tear filled experience along the way.

Here’s what that looked like:
*at first, they just labeled the things they saw.
*all additional research was discussed orally and was not written in their journals.
*later, they narrated one or two sentences about the things we researched, I wrote it down, and they copied what I wrote.
*next, they had to write their own sentences, and if they needed help, I was right there.
*finally, some of my kids could compose their own paragraphs, synthesizing the information we’ve learned together, and putting it down in their journals.
But it took us a while to get there.
And if that had been my expectation in the beginning, or even later when I was sure they were ready, there would have been tears and resistance.
There would have been reluctance.
And that is never our goal.

You see, the point of nature journals is not to teach our kids to be great artists.
Or great writers.
Nature journals are about getting our kids to enjoy nature.
Nature journals should be the natural outpouring of the excitement they felt doing nature study.
Their nature journals should be a place where they remember exciting hikes, and discoveries, special trips and new learnings.
Nature journals, whatever they look like, should be a treasure that your child can look back on and enjoy for years to come.
And if you allow your reluctant nature journaler the freedom to find his own way to nature journal, then that will happen.
And you will have given him a great gift.
I so hope you’ll try.
And I’m wishing you all the best on your journey,

A few of my favorite books to use for research during nature journaling:
The Burgess Bird book by Thornton Burgess
The Burgess Sea Shore book by Thornton Burgess
The Burgess Animal book by Thornton Burgess
Pagoo by Holling Clancy Holling
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling Clancy Holling
Sea Bird by Holling Clancy Holling
John Muir’s Book of Animals by John Muir
Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman
Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman
Animalium by Jenny Broom
Golden Nature Guides
How and Why Wonder books
Any of the vast collection of vintage books I’ve collected on all things nature.

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Home Schooling 101: The Early Years

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“Do you have any suggestions for our kinder year?”
“What books should we be reading?”
“How much math should we be doing?”
“What should our days look like?”
“Is that all there is in Year 0?”
“What curriculum should I order?”
“What are we supposed to do all day?”
“Where do I begin?”

I get these kind of questions from new home schooling mamas often.
They’re excited to start homeschooling.
It looks amazing!
Especially when they’ve been following all those beautiful home schooling feeds on Instagram.
It looks so romantic and idyllic.
It looks so magical and creative.
It looks like everything that childhood and education should be.

But as inspiring as those images are, any one new to home schooling could easily come away from them feeling a little, or a lot, lost.
Because, what those lovely images don’t provide are the nitty gritty details of what to do with your 5 year old everyday.
Outside of nature walks, tea parties, and reading books, that is.

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So I thought I’d do my best to provide some helpful details and encouragement for those of you just starting out.
I don’t claim to be an expert on schooling any kids (even my own).
And the ideas I share are shaped by my belief that the early years of education should be heavy on play and making learning fun, and light on academics.
And they should, in fact, include plenty of nature walks, tea parties, and reading books.
But if you are ok with all that, let’s get started!

Now I know you’d like me to give you a list of activities to do with your child, and a list of books to read. And maybe post a sample schedule or two.
You think that’s all you need to get going on this journey.
But I’m not starting there.
Sorry. (not sorry)

Instead, I’d like you to sit back for a minute and stop worrying about curriculum and schedules and activities.
Instead, think about why you are home schooling.
Not how you will you home school.
But why.
If you haven’t done it already, spend some time now developing your philosophy of education.
(I talk about that here.)

Next think about these early years.
What is the purpose of education in the early years?
What are the most valuable things for a child to gain at the start of their education?
And what goals do you have for your child as they begin their school career?

For me, the answer is less about learning to read by age 6, knowing their colors, and being able to do simple addition and subtraction.
My goal is something less concrete.
But it is something that will set the stage for the rest of their educational career.
For the rest of their life, in fact.
It is something like this:


You see, I want to start my children off by falling in love with learning.
I want to light the fire in their minds and hearts.
I want them to give them a yearning for learning.

So for me, the early years are all about making learning beautiful, exciting, rich, and even fun.
Yes, fun.
I’m not sure why, but there is this idea that school shouldn’t be fun.
Or at least not too fun.
Because school should be work.
And work is not fun.

But I think we are doing a great disservice to our children when we embrace that idea.
Because learning can, and should be fun.
It should be a joy!
This quote by Plato says it so beautifully, “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent.”

So, yes, the early years of learning should be full of fun.
They should be rich with play.
Play time is not wasted time.
Play time is when children learn.
“We have decades of research in child development and neuroscience that tell us that young children learn actively — they have to move, use their senses, get their hands on things, interact with other kids and teachers, create, invent.”
This quote, from author and child development expert, Nancy Carlsson-Paarticle, supports what I know to be true based on memories of my own early education, of watching my own children learn, and the simple, yet profound intuition found in my own heart.
I am my children’s mother, and I know how they learn best.

In America, play time is becoming less and less a part of the academic day.
It used to be that kindergarten was largely about play time.
Now, even some pre-schools are limiting play time for their 3 and 4 year old students.
This is a tragedy for young learners.
“Play is the primary engine of human growth; it’s universal – as much as walking and talking. Play is the way children build ideas and how they make sense of their experience and feel safe. Just look at all the math concepts at work in the intricate buildings of kindergartners. Or watch a 4-year-old put on a cape and pretend to be a superhero after witnessing some scary event. But play is disappearing from classrooms. Even though we know play is learning for young kids, we are seeing it shoved aside to make room for academic instruction and “rigor.”” (Nancy Carlsson–Paarticle0

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I’ve spent a good amount of time researching the value of play in early education and am greatly inspired by the schools in the Denmark and Finland.
Formal academics there don’t begin until age 7.
In Finland, the early childhood education program actually writes “joy” and “play” into the curriculum as a learning concepts. (Taught By Finland)
They subscribe to an old Finnish saying, “those things you learn without joy you will forget easily.”
This is the kind of motto I want to embrace as I teach my own children.

Yet, how often have I struggled with feeling that my children were behind their peers academically.
And of course I then felt I was doing a poor job educating them.
I must constantly remind myself that there are a host of things my children are doing well, and even excelling at.
I must remember that giving them a joyful attitude toward learning, especially in the early years, is as worthy a goal as is achieving academic excellence.

The reality is that because I place such a high value on play in the early years of schooling, things at my house are going to look quite a bit different than at the traditional elementary school in my neighborhood.
I have to be ok with that.
I have to be ok with late reading, and messy handwriting, and children who are not up to grade level in all subjects.
I love this quote by Karen Andreola, “Let us be faithful teachers. No matter what the pace, children need to know they can accomplish the tasks set before them. Meeting grade level requirements in the early years is not as important as steadfast effort.”

Of course I do require my children do their school work.
But I also allow them more time with a concept or subject if they need it.
I allow playing with Legos while I read aloud to them from a book.
I consider a nature walk our science class for the day.
I must remember my end goal of education is to create life long learners.
And that happens when children are taught to love learning in the early years.


As you enter these early years of educating your child, remember its about so much more than your daily schedule or learning those ABCs.
Its about instilling a love for learning, and making that happen with play time and good books and time spent exploring out of doors.
Now is your chance to give them the world!

And thats enough educational philosophy talk, right?
Here’s that list you’ve been waiting for!
These are simple suggestions that you can start using tomorrow if you’d like.
I’d create a loose schedule or rhythm for your days and week, and think about what things you’d like most to incorporate into your days.
Start slow and start small.
They are little, they don’t need a packed schedule.
Remember to let them have fun and to let them play.
Make school time joyful!

To start your day:
I like to begin with the Bible, singing a hymn and poetry.

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Some of our favorites for Bible time are:
‘Read Aloud Bible Stories’ by Ella K. Lindvall for your youngest ones
“The Jesus Storybook Bible’ for your littles to adults
“Leading Little Ones to God’ by Marian Schooland for devotion time with the younger elementary set.

For hymn singing, we sing the same hymn for a whole month, and then pick a new one.
You can find them on the internet, or find a hymnal at a used bookstore or Christian book store.

Some of my favorite poetry resources are:
“A Light In the Attic” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein for poems that will make you giggle
“When We Were Very Young” and “Now We Are Six” by A.A. Milne for more poems that will make you giggle
“A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson is a must for your library.
Ambleside online has a marvelous collection of poems arranged by month I printed them all out and we read them all year long, over and over. Find them here

You can add poetry memorization and scripture memorization to this part of the day
Just remember to keep the whole thing pretty short.
Little ones don’t need long lessons.

Creating a literary culture in your home:
It is incredibly important that you give your children a love for books from the very start.
Read every single day, all day, and make reading fun.

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Have a plethora of good picture books for them to read to themselves before they can read words.
You can find those at used books sales, library book stores, garage sales.
Find an excellent book list of picture books here.

Don’t be afraid to read longer books to them, even when they are young, but provide ways to help them focus while they listen.
Let them draw, play with legos or blocks quietly, or make it tea time and let them eat snacks and sip tea.
Just a few of our favorite longer, read aloud, books are: “The Little House on the Prairie” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the “Ramona” books by Beverly Cleary, “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkien, “The Chronicles of Narnia” series by CS Lewis, “Caddie Woodlawn” by Carol Ryrie Brink, “A Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George, “Charlotte’s Web” by EB White and “A Cricket In Times Square” by George Seldon.
More wonderful titles of read aloud books for the early years can be found here and here.
(look under “Free Reading”

Take them to story time at the library.
Check out heaps of books at the library each week–make it a special day.
Just remember to return them!
Visit libraries with beautiful children’s sections and soak in the loveliness devoted to books.

Visit book stores and spend time reading new books.

Listen to audio books often.
When you are too tired to read aloud without falling asleep, or need to make dinner let them listen to audio books.
Listen to audio books in the car.
You’ll be amazed at their capacity to listen to challenging books this way.
Good narrators are the key to holding your child’s attention for longer, more complicated stories.
You can find some quality, free audio books on Librivox here (just make sure you preview the narrator and choose books with only one narrator instead of multiple narrators )
Or invest in an Audible membership.
It has been an invaluable resource for our family.

Learning Activities:
There are so many activities you can do every day with your child that have nothing to do with work sheets or sit down lessons.
And yet, they will be learning so much.


Here are a few of our favorites in the kitchen:
Baking (and sharing baked goods with neighbors and friends)
Making home made play dough
Reading cookbooks for inspiration and trying new recipes
Learning to unload the dishwasher
Learning to wash dishes by hand
Learning to set the table
Making grocery lists
Sprouting beans, potatoes and avocado seeds

Favorite activities around the home:
Playing with blocks–building towers and roads and cities
Playing with Legos
Sculpting with Clay
Cutting and glueing
Stringing beads, noodles, or cereal
Creating a nature notebook to record the discoveries we make while out in nature
Draw maps of the house and neighborhood
Making dioramas
Making forts
Playing dress up
Playing store, family, restaurant, post office, farmers market–the options are endless
Writing letters to family and friends
Singing–we learn the days of the week, the months of the year, our phone number and address, and many bible verses by singing them. Music is a great tool for memorization
Learning to care for the home–dusting, washing windows, cleaning baseboards and door frames, sweeping, and washing floors. Young kids love chores!

Favorite activities outside the home:
Building forts
Hammering and nailing
Drawing with chalk (full disclosure–my kids love chalk, I don’t. So messy, so…chalk dusty)
Riding bikes, scooters, skateboards, and skates–physical activity and developing coordination is so important
Climbing trees
Nature walks –now is the time to train your children to hike. Start slow and build up their endurance as they grow stronger. You’ll be giving them a life long gift!
Field trips–go on at least one a week. Make it a priority to make the world your classroom
Visiting nature centers, the beach, wetlands, wilderness parks, mountain trails, desert trails and anywhere else where they can run, climb, and see birds, plants, trees and animals.
Visiting museums of all sorts
Collecting rocks, sticks, bugs, wild flowers, and anything else they find out in nature
Use their grocery list to shop at the store
Try new foods at the farmers market
Find different kinds of architecture around your town and visit it
Draw in nature, at the art museum, or at a cafe
Plant a garden or just some seeds in a pot
And I’m sure there are so many more things you can do with your kids in the first years of school.
But I hope this is a good place to start!

One last thing.
Please remember that one of the best things about home schooling is that education can be tailored to fit each child.
That means if you have a child who is ready to read early, you teach him!
And if he just wants you to read aloud to him because he isn’t ready to do it himself, you read aloud to him!
There are kids who love worksheets and you should let them do some.
Others would rather die than fill our worksheets.
So have them practice writing in ways that isn’t so painful for them–draw in the sand, or steam up the mirror in the bathroom and write their name.
In the end it is up to you to know your child and what lights that fire of learning in his heart.
Be the match and get that fire going!
Cheers to the early years!

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Home Schooling 101: Creating A Book Club For Kids

The Beginnings
When I was a little girl, I longed for a book club of my own.
I had read about them in books.
My mom wasn’t a part of one, and out of all the other ladies and girls in my circle, there was only one I knew who was part of of book club.
She and I had talked about it at one of my brother’s baseball games.
She spoke of it with such pleasure, of making special food, and of vacuuming and cleaning her seldom used living room specially for the occasion.
Most importantly, she told me about how much fun it was to talk about books with her friends.
Her words went straight to my heart.
This was just what I longed for!

And so I went into action and began to create my own book club.
I sent out invitations to a bunch of my girlfriends.
I suggested the book. (I only wish I could remember which one we read!)
On the big day I cleaned my room and made cookies.
And later that afternoon, my friends were dropped off by their mamas for our first book club.

We crowded into my tiny room, squished ourselves together on my bed,  just a bunch of giggly 4th and 5th grade girls.
I tried so hard to lead a book discussion.
But it wasn’t at all like I dreamt it would be.
Before too long most of the girls wanted to go outside to play.
I was slightly heartbroken.
But I vowed to press on.
They just needed time to learn what to do at book club.

By the next meeting there was mutiny afoot.
One of the girls and I got into a disagreement because she said I was too bossy and was trying to make them talk about the book too much.
“But its a BOOK club!” I cried. “And its MY book club! We’re supposed to talk about the book.  And you are supposed to do what I want at MY club!”
It was our last meeting.
And this time I truly was heart broken.
Clearly I needed some help in creating a book club for my friends.
Or maybe they just weren’t ready for a book club.
Maybe I was just ahead of my time.

Knowing the tale of my childhood book club woes, you can understand why I couldn’t wait to start a book club for my own kids.
I planned to be a part of the process so it wouldn’t be a flop like my first book club was.
I wanted to give them the book club experience I had imagined for myself.
I wanted to introduce them to the joy of talking about books with their friends.


Because in the years between that failed book club, led by a bossy, 11 year old girl who was desperately in love with books, I had the good fortune to be a part of the kind of book discussions my 11 year old self dreamt of.
I had sat in literature classes where we talked about books for hours.
I had become part of book clubs with my friends, with coffee and good food, and genuine interested discussion.
I had moments in my English classes where more than 2 of the students cared about the book we were reading.
Where most of the kids in my class were involved in the conversation, interested, and excited about reading a book.
I had tasted the glory of book talks.
And I was ready to share it.

Thankfully I am a part of a home school group filled with moms whose hearts beat the same way mine does.
A few years ago, we decided to start a book club for our kids.

My kids and I missed the first two meetings.
But the first meeting we went to kind of blew me away.
We met on the beach in the middle of summer.
At lunch time we spread out a potluck lunch on a surf board, called the kids in from the water, and after they had loaded up plates, they settled down to talk about the book.
I was floored by the way every kid wanted to talk about the book.
They had so much to say!
Even the littlest ones did not want to be left out of the discussion.
Instead of a short, shallow, ‘pulling teeth” kind of discussion, it was rich, lively, fun, and went on for a long time.
Watching it all unfold made me happy and weepy and so excited about the years of rich literary discussions that lay ahead of us!


The Nuts and Bolts — How we organize our book club
Our book club has grown and blossomed rather organically.
But there were a few ideas we started with that have proved to very helpful in running our book club.
1. One family is the host for each book club.
That means that family chooses the book, picks the location for the discussion, plans the activities, and sends out an email asking each family to bring food to share, and other supplies for the day. We all pitch in to help, but she is the “event director”.
2. One mom facilitates the book discussion.
The same mom whose family is the book club host leads the book discussion.  That means she comes prepared with discussion questions and topics and helps guide the kids through the discussion time. Kids ages 3 or 4-11 participate in the discussion time, so a grownup facilitator helps a lot.
The idea is that by modeling how to have a book discussion, the kids will one day be ready to hold book discussions on their own.
3. We read classic literature.
This does not mean we are subjecting our kids to Beowulf or Canterbury Tales in the original Old English. But it does mean we are not choosing whatever is on the best seller list for that year. We generally use the free reading lists from Ambleside Online. (see some here, here and here.)
4. We have food at book club.
Books and snacks just go hand in hand. And book club is a celebration. And celebrations have special treats. So this was pretty much a no brainer. All the families bring food to share so the burden is NOT all on the host family.
5. We read 4 books a year.
In an effort not to keep ourselves sane, and to allow ourselves enough time to truly enjoy each book, we decided to read books on a seasonal schedule. That means we read one book for fall, winter, spring and summer. This is not to say that some families (ahem, mine) are not rushing to finish the book at the last minute.  But since you have 3 months to finish a book, you don’t have to cram it all in at the last minute.
6. Every family reads the books differently.
There is no set way to approach the reading. In some families each kids read the book on their own. In other families the book is read together as a family bed time read, or as part of school work. Other families might listen to the book on audio during drive time.  There are lots of ways to approach it, and no one way is better than the other.
In our family, we read the book together, because I don’t want to miss out on any of the books with my kids!


The Fun Extras: 
As time has gone on, our book club has bloomed beautifully. Here are some of the extras that make book club days even more fun.
1. We try to align food and activities to the book. 
This doesn’t always work, but often it does.  For example, when we read My Side of the Mountain, the kids brought tools and supplies to build a wilderness fort, just like Sam Gribley did in the book. And when we read Swiss Family Robinson, we planned a botanical scavenger hunt for the kids, where they looked for plants from the book in the botanical gardens where we held the meeting.
And when we read Alice in Wonderland, you can bet there were tea and scones.
2. We wear costumes.
Again, this is not always the case. But if  anyone has a costume that fits the time period or characters in the book, then costumes are very welcome!
3. We meet at special locations.
Living in California, we have the luxury of almost year round good weather. That means we can meet at outdoor locations. If we can, we try to make those locations connect to the book in some way. We’ve met at the beach, in a botanical garden, in a secret garden, in a wilderness park, and once we took the metro to China Town. Plus lots of other fun spots. Come winter, we might be forced indoors, but knowing our group of creative mamas, I’m sure it will still be just as magical.
4. We’re all in!
Its true, book club days are a bit of extra work. If you aren’t up for planning costumes, games, and lugging tables and buckets of tools across a park, you don’t have to. Book club could easily be a circle of kids on the floor, a plate of cookies, and a handful of rich discussion questions.
This is just the way our group functions. We view these days as a special treat and go out of our way to make them that way.


Giving kids a love of literature is a gift.
Giving kids a place to talk about the books they love and the tools to do it makes the gift even better.
I hope you’ll make book clubs a part of your children’s childhood.
How happy I’d be to know Kid Book Clubs were happening all over the world!
When you are contemplating the extra work and wondering if it is worth it, be encouraged by this beautiful quote from Gladys Hunt: “Reading enlarges my vision of the world; it helps me understand someone who is different from me. It makes me bigger on the inside. We tend to see the world from our own perspective; it is good to see it from the eyes of others. Good literature helps me understand who I am in relation to what others experience. Far from being an escape from reality, good literature is a window into reality. I read to feel life.”

For the love of books,

Home Schooling 101: Creating a Learning Culture In Your Home

I’ve decided to start a series here called Home Schooling 101.
My goal with this series is to share my thoughts and ideas in response to the many questions I get about home schooling.
I’ll also be doing a Charlotte Mason 101 series, so don’t get worried that I’ve forgotten about that one.
I haven’t.
I just have so much to say about both of them, that it makes sense to me to break them down into multiple posts.

Please know that I do not consider myself some kind of home schooling expert.
After all, I have only been home schooling my kids for 6 years.
However, since I was home schooled myself, and then taught in a public high school, I do have a unique perspective to offer.
And the longer I home school, the more reading and research I find myself doing about it.
Because I am passionate about home schooling.
I’m interested in it.
I care about it.
I’m excited about it!
And I truly want success for other families on this journey.
With these posts i hope to share my passion and excitement for this amazing kind of education with you.

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As I thought about how to start this series, I kept coming back to things people ask me often.
One of the most common questions I get is “what does your school day look like?”, and “how do you organize your school day?”
This seems like a great place to start when you are a new home schooler, or wanting to make some changes in the way you do things.
But I’d like to encourage you to look beyond simply setting up a schedule, creating a routine, or finding your rhythm.

Because I bet you already have a routine or rhythm happening in your home.
You and your kiddos wake up at roughly the same time every day.
You eat a similar breakfast, and lunch every day, and probably snacks too.
Your kids nap, or have quiet time, and like to play the same games and read the same books day after day..
You have created a daily routine in your home, and perhaps you weren’t even aware of it.

Now maybe you want to change the routine and rhythms yo’ve fallen into and create ones that serve your family better.
That is a beautiful goal.
I think most, if not all of us, could find new, better ways to manage our days.

However, I think it is wise to separate the routine of your home from the culture of your home.
Especially in terms of education and learning.
Your routines or rhythms are the order in which you do things,
But your culture is much bigger than that.
Your culture is your values and beliefs, your customs, and your ways of doing things.
Your culture determines why you do the things you do, and then, how you do them.

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So when think of yourself as an educator, and your home as your classroom or school, you need to ask yourself, “what is the learning culture in our home?”
What educational concepts and beliefs do we value?
And then you can ask yourself “do our school habits and customs reflect those values?”
And finally, you can look at your school days and routines and ask, “how can we arrange our school days so that they reflect the learning culture we want in our home?”
Do you see how creating your rhythm and routine can flow naturally from the learning culture you create?

Let me give you an example.
In our home, we start almost every school day with Bible/devotional time, hymn singing, and poetry.
Those things are all of great value to me and I want the things they represent to be a continual part of our learning culture.
I started this routine with my children when we began school, and they were 5, 3 and 1.
This has become one of our school customs–it is a part of our classroom culture.
No one is embarrassed to sing hymns together as we sit around the dining room table.
Even when we sing off key and acapella.
No one is uncomfortable listening to poetry and talking about it.
Because that is what we have always done.
Because I established it as part of our learning culture, it quickly became something we all look forward to and enjoy as the start of our school days.

But if I had never started school that way before, and then suddenly did, it might feel strange and awkward at first.
That’s OK!
If you are embarking on creating new customs or changing the learning culture in your home, that change is hard.
Change takes time.
And you need to give plenty of grace while things are new.

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If you don’t feel ready to change the learning culture in your home because you haven’t thought about it before, take some time to do so.
A great place to start is to pray for wisdom.
Then talk to your spouse and see what he values.
You may be surprised to find there are things he thinks important that you don’t. (I was!)
You could read up on some of your favorite educational philosophies. (I’m currently reading “Consider This” by Karen Glass and it is rocking my world) .
I also like to meditate upon quotes like this one, and think how they can be best reflected in the learning culture of our home. “We wish to place before the child open doors to many avenues of instruction, and delight, in each of which he should find quickening thoughts.” Charlotte Mason
But if that sounds overwhelming, you can start by simply thinking about the things you value in your children’s education.

Here are just a few of the key educational/learning values I’ve used to shape our school culture:
equipping my kids to become life long learners
cultivating an appetite for discovery, adventure, and exploration
encouraging my children to work until something is done to its best, instead of to a grade
learning subjects like history, science and geography through narrative literature
taking learning outside the classroom and into the world as often as possible
to learn by experience and not just from books
studying and experiencing nature to grow our connection and love to and for the Creator
exposing my kids to much beauty (art, poetry, music, and nature) in order to cultivate a life long love for those things and a desire to make their world more beautiful
having fun!

As I said, these are just a few of the things I value and have attempted to make a part of the learning culture in our home.
But they have all impacted how I teach my kids, the way I schedule our days (lots of field trips!) the curriculum we use, how we learn science, and even having things like an afternoon tea time and studying art history.
Creating your learning culture truly impacts the way you teach your children.
Of course, your list will look different than mine.
And some of it will change over time as you learn and grow and as your children do too.
The important thing is to mindfully think about the learning culture of your home and then to take steps to create the culture you long for.

I know I use this quote so often, but it truly is a guiding principle in my home education journey as well as a pillar of our learning culture.

Friends, we have an amazing opportunity to create a learning environment in which our kids will grow and learn and thrive. So before you figure out your daily schedule, figure out what kind of learners you want them to be, and what kind of learning you want them to be doing.  Creating a learning culture that is unique to your family and children is such gift.  Make the most of it!

Home Schooling 101: Creating Your Own Adventure Club


My love of adventure started when I was a little girl because my dad had the amazing ability to turn everything into an adventure.
If we had a few rainy days, we were on storm watch.
And he’d drive us around to see what creeks were overflowing.
He’d wake us up in the middle of the night to watch lightening storms.
If we were cleaning out the garage and doing a heap of yard work, and then making a trip to the dump, he’d make up a song about it and we’d sing it loud and happily the whole way there.
He made going to the dump an adventure!
My dad is one of the most enthusiastic people I know.
Kids follow him around like the pied piper because he exudes joy and fun.
He loves life and he loves people.
Long ago he made a decision about how he wanted to live life–by making the most out of all of it.
He sees life as one big adventure.

Growing up that way, I couldn’t help but want to make my life an adventure too.
And once I had kids, and began home schooling them, I decided that I wanted them to learn through adventures as well.
This idea has so shaped the way I teach my kids that I dedicate one day of our school week, every week, to adventuring.
We adventure with our home school group, but over time, we have begun to call ourselves the Adventure Club.
Occasionally I wonder if we are doing the right thing.
I mean, is it really OK to go on a field trip EVERY SINGLE WEEK?
But then I remember all that my kids learn while we are out in the wide world, and I stop doubting what my heart tells me is right.
Everything we are learning at home, sitting around the dining room table, or laying on the living room floor, comes to life in a new way when we are out adventuring.
Science, history, math, literature–every single subject gets covered.
Often in ways I could never plan for.
It just happens because we are learning wherever we go.
The world is our classroom!

Maybe you are longing to adventure with your kids.
Perhaps you are ready to start an adventure club of your own.
I’d love to help you get started by sharing some of the things I’ve learned in the last 6 years of adventuring with my kids.

The first place to start, of course, is to Find A Group.
Adventuring is more fun with friends. Even if you can’t find a whole group of adventurers to join, I bet you can find one other mom.
The trick is, you have to find someone who likes the same kind of adventures as you do.
Not every mom is up for long drives, long hikes, or letting their kids get muddy, and catch bugs.
And If you are, then you need to find a like minded mom.
And once you do, hold fast to one another, and get ready to adventure!

Once you’ve found your adventure buddy, or buddies, you need to Plan Your Adventures.
Here is where the fun starts!
Our group meets at the beginning of each semester to plan.
We usually plan for 3 nature outings a month and one cultural adventure.
When we started, our kids were all 5 and under, and none of us knew how much we were capable of.
So we visited nature centers, parks, arboretums, and trails that were stroller friendly.
But in short order, we found our way and began branching out–hiking further, and visiting places where we had to climb over rocks, ford streams, and climb up and down steep hills.
Even when 8 months pregnant.
(this was Lilly’s first 4 mile hike, she was 2 and a half. We waded across streams on slippery rocks and logs, and climbed a long, very steep hill at the end of the hike. I couldn’t carry her, because I could hardly climb the hill myself.  We were both exhausted by the time we reached the top. But we did it.  And that feeling was pretty great.)

Now most of us still have toddlers and pre-schoolers, but because those kids have been doing this since they were infants, we have different expectations for them.
They just have to come along!
The more you adventure, the more your confidence in your own ability and in your kids’ ability grows.
You’ll be amazed at the things you’re all are able to do.
So now, in addition to nature centers and parks, we also visit wilderness parks, mountain trails, tide pools, creeks, woods–basically any place we can hike and explore, and learn freely.

Our cultural days take us to museums of course, but there are also so many other places to visit.
In California, we have the missions, so those are on our list as places of historical interest.
When our group was studying weather for one of our nature study topics, we visited UCLA for a class on meteorology.
We’ve toured a lighthouse, a cheese shop, took the metro to downtown LA to visit China town, and toured historic mansions in Beverly Hills.
We’ve gone to plays and puppet shows, and visited the county fair.
Most of our trips are free or inexpensive.
There are so many field trips available to home schoolers now.
Many museums have free days for the general public, and some have days just for home schoolers.
The only limit to your adventures is your imagination!

So now that you’ve planned your trips, now you need to Pack Well.
One of the most common questions I get about our adventures is, “I don’t know what to pack.”
It’s a valid question, and it takes time to figure it all out.
For starters, you need a good backpack.
This was the first year that I haven’t had to carry a baby on my back, or front, so my back pack is different than the one I used while I was toting babies.
I use a Jansport, from their Heritage series.
I tried out a lot of packs to find one that is comfortable, and big enough for all the stuff I bring.
Inside my pack I always have a first aid kit.
I pack a sheet for sitting on because it’s lighter than a blanket.
For lunches, I have streamlined to fit the things that need to be kept cold into this one small cooler bag.
I bring things like string cheese, yogurt tubes, salami, and hummus in our cooler bag.
I don’t make sandwiches because they take up a lot of room and they get soggy.
Instead, I get a baguette and strap it to the top of my pack.
When it is lunch time, I tear off a hunk of baguette, stuff some cheese or meat in there, and hand it to my kids.
It’s the easiest lunch ever and my kids think its a great treat!
Each of my kids carries his own back pack with a water bottle and snacks.
I carry my own water and and an extra bottle because you never, ever want to run out of water on the trail.
It makes for a miserable hike.
And I always pack a treat of some kind, a lolly pop, gum, a fruit roll, or something that I can use to get tired kids to get down that last stretch of the trail.
Trust me, these little treats can be your saving grace.
My kids all pack different things for hikes.
My boys fill their back packs with things like knives, ropes, hammers and nails.
And they actually use those things!
My daughter brings stuffed animals, and all sorts of other random stuff that I don’t understand the point of having on a hike.
But since she carries it, she can bring what she wants.
They all carry their nature journals, a pen, and colored pencils, so they can draw if they want.
I carry thin, waterproof field guides for identifying plants and birds as we hike.

When we visit museums, we obviously leave much of this home.
I’ll still carry my back pack with snacks, water and lunch, and the kids will carry their art history, or nature notebooks for sketching.
Packing for your adventures is an art form.
And it helps tremendously to pack the night before.
It will help your mornings go so much more smoothly.
And you might not even yell at your kids before you get out the door!
Oh wait, I know that never happens to you guys.

The last thing you need for your adventures is the expectation that you will be challenged.
You need to be ready to Expect the Unexpected.
Whether you are visiting an art museum or hiking in a wilderness park, one thing you should expect on your adventures is that something you haven’t planned for is going to happen.
Your kid might try to touch a priceless piece of art and the guards will give you very dirty looks.
Talk to kids about museum etiquette before you go.
Or they might giggle and act all silly and embarrassed when you walk into a museum wing with nudes.
Plan ahead and avoid those wings, or talk to them about nudes in art before hand.
When we are hiking, I try to research the hikes as much as I can before we visit.
I look to see if they are stroller friendly, if there will be stream crossings, and if there is shade.
That way I know what shoes to wear, whether or not we need to wear sun hats, and if babies need to be carried rather than strolled.
My kids always wear layers, but I check the weather anyway, to be prepared for rain, or hot temperatures and pack extra water.
You might encounter snakes, and your kids, and you, need to know how to react to a snake.
Or what to do if they disturb a bee hive–that has happened to us.
Can your kids pee in the bushes?
Can you?
How about pooping behind a tree?
Cause I can guarantee it is going to happen.
And you need to be ready for it.
Always carry wipes and plastic bags.
Otherwise, you’ll be using socks to wipe someone’s booty.
Trust me, I speak from experience.

The thing to remember is that you are adventuring with kiddos, it won’t always be fabulous.
This quote from The Hobbit is such a perfect description of adventures:

The wildest adventures may make you crazy at the time, but they are going to make the best stories later.

My dream is that I’ll be out adventuring and learning with my kids until they are off to college.
And then that they will continue to learn this way long into their adulthood, just as I am doing now.
I may not be able to take my kids on trips around the world, but I can still make their world as big and grand and beautiful as possible.
I can help them see the magic God has created for them to enjoy is everywhere.
I hope you feel like you can too.

In the end, I come back to this beautiful quote, by one of my educational heros, Charlotte Mason.
It encapsulates so well what I want to offer my kids in all of their education.
Adventures included.

Home Schooling 101: Strategies for Successful Home Schooling

I want to start by getting something out in the open.

You might be laughing when you read this, but I think it is actually a really important truth about home schooling.
Because at one point or another, we’ve all felt like we’ve lost our mind. Right?
The thing is, home schooling is a journey of the heart.
You have chosen to home school because you believe it is best for your kids.
You are following your heart.
But we all know it isn’t easy.
Home schooling can sometimes be lonely, and scary, and disheartening.
Occasionally home schooling just makes you crazy.
Because you are with your kids All.The.Time.
There are going to be days when you you’ll want to hide in the bathroom, praying that you don’t cuss in front of the kids, or fall on the floor in a heap sobbing.
The truth is, home schooling is hard work.

But it is good work.
And friends, on those hard days, I want you to remember this: home schooling is your calling.
It is no accident that you are a home schooler.
God has placed the desire to home school in your heart.
And even when you feel ill-equipped, uninspired, and full of doubts, He will help you fulfill this task He has called you to do.


I want to tell you a story about my mom.
My mom was one of the early home schoolers.
She was one of the pioneers.
She didn’t have a teaching credential, or even a college degree.
She had a high school diploma and a whole lot of doubts about home schooling her kids.
But she jumped in anyway, because God put the call to home school in her and my dad’s heart.

Home schooling looked quite a bit different at that time.
For example, there were very few options for curriculum.
And in our town there was one, small, home schooling group to join.
There wasn’t a lot of information about different ways to home school, and if there was, it was hard to find.
So my mom did the best she could with what she had.
The style of education she gave me and my brother wasn’t my favorite, especially at the beginning.
But we made it work, and mostly, she let me read a whole lot.
And that was my favorite.
By 8th grade I was writing my own lesson plans and thriving under the freedom that home school allowed me.

But those first years were really hard.
Despite the assurance that they were doing the thing they had been called to do, the commitment to home school added stress to an already difficult situation.
My dad’s business was failing.
My older brother and sister were getting in all kinds of trouble–some of it serious.
My little brother and I missed our friends at the private school we’d been attending.
And a lot of our family and friends didn’t understand, or even support, home schooling.
But with my dad’s encouragement, my mom pressed on.

I never really thought about it then, but I’m sure there were plenty of times when she was scared and lonely.
I’m sure it was hard.
Now that I’m the one home schooling, I realize how brave she was.
In the eyes of the world, my mom could not have been less qualified to teach her kids.
But she followed her heart and she did her best.
That is really all any of us can do.

It’s true that home schooling is more mainstream now that it was when my mom started.
But we are still educating our kids differently than most people.
We are on a unique path.
And now that you’ve decided on this path, you need to be able to explain why.
Why are you home schooling your kids?
Because there are going to be hard days.
There might even be hard weeks, or hard years.
One of your kids is going to struggle with reading.  Or math.
Your family isn’t going to support you.
You’ll have friendships that will change because you home school and they don’t.
And in the midst of those hard times, you need to be able to remember exactly why you are on this journey.
You need to know why you decided to be a pioneer instead of choosing the more comfortable, well traveled path.

My mom chose home schooling because she was unsatisfied with the education my older brother and sister received and she wanted something better for my younger brother and I.
I chose to home school  because I loved the home school experience I had and wanted to share it with my kids.
And secondly, I chose home schooling because I wanted to be an integral part of their learning experience–I wanted to be the one learning with them every day, not someone else.  In a way, I am too jealous to share their learning years with anyone else. I love to be with them.
I want to offer them the very best education I can, and I truly believe it is an education that can be found at home with me.

This quote by Charlotte Mason really sums up the hopes I have for my kids as I home school them.


So now I want you to think, “why am I doing this?”
What are the reasons your heart has led you to this place?
Come up with your answers.
And write them down.
Then, on those hard days that are bound to come, you can look at those reasons and be encouraged that you are doing what you are meThis is the first step I took in my own home schooling journey. Before I even had kids, before I was married, before I was dating, I knew why I wanted to home school my kids. It was my foundation.

In the 6 plus years that I’ve been home schooling,
I’ve watched a lot of my friends start home schooling and stop.
I’m not judging them–home schooling is not an easy thing to stick with .
But since it is my hope and plan to home school my kids all the way through high school, I need to be practical and proactive about how to make that happen.

I know the why, but that is just the first step.
We can’t just bumble along and hope everything will turn out great.
Instead, we need to arm ourselves with the tools to achieve the success we’re after.

Here are 3 things that have served me well as I’ve walked this windy home school road. And I hope that, whether you are a beginning home schooler or a seasoned veteran, they will help you too.
1. Develop your philosophy of education.
You need to choose to teach in a style and methodology that you love. If you love it, then you’ll be excited about it. And that excitement will translate to your kids as you teach them. Don’t just go with what your friends are doing or what seems easiest or safest.  Do some research and listen for the thing that speaks to your heart. And then follow that. You need to be passionate about this. Otherwise it will be a real struggle for you, and therefore your kids. Teach in the way that excites you!

2.  Become part of a group.
By its very nature, home schooling is isolating. You are home alone with your kids day in and day out. You need to social outlet.
You need to talk with friends, share ideas, commiserate when its hard, and learn alongside them.
This group is different than your regular group of friends.
It needs to be women who are on the same home schooling journey that you are.
Not that you must abandon other friendships.
But you are going to need people in your life who understand exactly what you are going through.
You should see your group more than once a month.
Ideally, you should see them every week.
It will save your sanity. Trust me.

I prayed hard for the Lord to bring a supportive group into my life.
At first I knew no one who was home schoing. But in time, He brought those people. And He brought them in abundance! I was faithful to follow the call and He was faithful to answer my prayers.

3.  Time for you.

You need to regularly schedule time for yourself. This is a hard one for us moms. We don’t want to admit we need a break. We think we can do it all. But we can’t.  We need time to recharge.
And once we’ve found the thing that fills us up best, we need to not feel guilty about making it a part of our lives.
You will be better able to serve your family if you allow yourself some time away from them

You need to be a mom who isn’t bitter about her time with her kids. You need to want to be with them. And you need to want to be with your husband, rather than saying something like,” if one more person touches me today I’ll scream,”  when he reaches for your hand.
He doesn’t want an always frazzled wife. You need his support.
So take time for you, and you have more to give to all of them.

I’m sure none of this information is new or groundbreaking. But these things have all been helpful to me so far. And I truly hope they will help you as well.
Because in the end, we need to remember that the struggles will come.
But with our end goal in mind, and with supportive friends to help us, we can keep climbing the mountain and not give up.


Much love and support to my fellow home schooling mamas.
Remember, I believe in you, and I am for you!
And far more importantly, God is for you.