Dear Homeschooling Friends

Dear Homeschooling Friends:

'Tis the season...for "mid-year" blues! Yes, it's that time of year - especially for many who follow a September-to-May "school year" - when it's very common to feel bad about "being behind." But I want to encourage you that what you may be feeling may not be legitimate.

In Proverbs 16.9, God says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." This means that making plans is a good thing! Planning helps us to be organized and purposeful, and God doesn't condemn it at all.

However, He doesn't ever want us to turn plans into idols we place on a pedestal. Instead, we are to make our plans and do our best by them. But we need to remember to hold them rather loosely, not forgetting that He is the author of time as well as of the path He has intended for us, day by day and month by month. He knew how the last several months would unfold even when you did not. Thus, what we plan in good faith is sometimes (often?) not what He in His sovereignty actually had mapped out for us.

Now, if you've been sitting around for the past several months watching soap operas and eating bonbons, letting your kids do absolutely nothing (which - to be clear - is markedly different from the method known as unschooling!), then, yes, you have legitimate guilt and some repenting and redirecting to work on. We ought not sugar-coat that because, after all, God gives us a big responsibility in educating our kids, and He expects us to be diligent in our calling. I doubt very much that's really where most homeschooling parents are coming from...but even if you really have been lazy and undisciplined lately, don't let the enemy of our souls win! God does not ask perfection of us, and you have not failed as a homeschooler. He does ask us to repent when we realize we've messed up and then to simply get up and move on in Christ without guilt. Of course, that goes for homeschooling as well as anything else.

But, if - as I suspect is true in almost every case of homeschool mom "guilt" - you have been doing the best you can within the context of what has really happened to you and your family over the past few months - and if your heart and mind are still directed toward making diligent progress (no matter how limited some days) - you have nothing from which to repent even if your plans have not all panned out. Nothing! In this case, the feeling you're experiencing is not guilt - true guilt only exists when we have actually sinned. Rather, you're feeling shame...but shame is from the evil one, his trick to get you distracted from your purpose and calling.

And the remedy for shame is to spit in the devil's eye (tell him he has no place in your heart, home, or family!) and make yourself dwell instead on truth. That means choosing to put the facts of the matter (i.e., what really occurred in your life and family the last few months versus what you'd originally planned and the reasons for that) and faith in the Lord - do you really trust Him to properly order your days even when your best-laid plans have gone awry? - ahead of your feelings. Feelings lie; Jesus does not.

Finally, remember that the true authority for Christian homeschoolers is the Lord...not a government bureaucrat and not even a homeschool law. I'm not suggesting we flout the law...but please remember that God's ways are not man's ways. Thus, we may at times - in obedience to the Lord - need to be willing to get "creative" with aspects of man-made homeschool law. When we know we have indeed been diligent before HIM in whatever circumstances we've faced in recent months, we can in good faith work around the details of man-made law if necessary - again, not to flout it but because we must acknowledge that the God of the Universe, who sees all things over time and for eternity - not a homeschool law - is our Master.

Be of good cheer, my friends. God blesses - in His ways - whoever He calls. And there really is no doubt that, biblically speaking, He calls every obedient Christian parent to take the lead in directing the upbringing of his/her own - in every facet of life, not just the spiritual. So you are called by default to keep your children home. Therefore, He will bless your obedience to Him as you persevere in your call to homeschool, even through difficulty and even when it doesn't look like you think it should. 

Photo Credit: Molly


Class Dismissed: A Must-See Movie

Several months ago, I heard about the production of a new movie about homeschooling. I bought a copy when it was first released, but didn't watch it then. I finally made time a few weeks ago, though, and I can report that my immediate reaction was a strong and unequivocal, "Wow!"

Class Dismissed advertises itself as a movie that "challenges its viewers to take a fresh look at what it means to be educated and offers up a radical new way of thinking about the process." And, even though those who have already embraced homeschooling realize it's actually not "a new way of thinking" - after all, parent-led, home-based education is as old as time, while institutionalized, assembly-line style schooling is the real social experiment - the movie certainly challenges the average viewer who considers homeschooling to be "unusual," and it very accurately introduces the wide range of options available beyond the current cultural norm. In fact, the movie is, at root, an unapologetic endorsement of the unmistakeable benefits of private, independent homeschooling.

By shadowing one family making the transition from public/government school to homeschooling for an entire year, the film pulls viewers in immediately, giving a very real "face" to this notion of home education. Along the way, it also demonstrates what research has proven - i.e., that choosing to get off the institutional school treadmill is possible at any phase of a child's life and within a wide variety of family situations.

Another plus is that the movie focuses on the positive - homeschooling as a viable option for everyone - rather than dwelling on the negative. Of course, parents do need information about the very real problems inherent in institutionalized schooling, and thankfully, several such resources - Indoctrination, books by John Taylor Gatto, Common Core: From Farce to Failure, The Children of Caesar, just to name a few - are readily available.

But there was a great need for an alternative to all the appropriate alarm-ringing resources - one that would demonstrate to parents from all walks of life that homeschooling is here, that it's good, and that it's available to all - and Class Dismissed is that resource.

If you're a veteran homeschooler, I urge you to purchase at least one copy of the film in order to support the wonderful work the movie's producers have done; after all, money talks, and if we want such positive endeavors to continue, we need to clearly demonstrate our support. I also suggest that you consider buying multiple copies if your budget allows so you might readily bless families you meet who would like to consider homeschooling and/or so you can offer copies to your local public library and church library. Alternately, you can watch it by renting a copy, and then share the rental information with interested friends and family.

If you're new to homeschooling - or are investigating the possibility - you should consider Class Dismissed to be your primer - i.e., the first and primary introduction to homeschooling that you need. The amount of information available about all aspects homeschooling is vast - in fact, the overabundance of resources can even feel paralyzing - but if you start with Class Dismissed, you'll feel encouraged and excited to begin exploring those options as you take the leap into private, independent home education.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This is not an affiliate post. I have enthusiastically partnered with Class Dismissed through my website, The Homeschool Resource Roadmap - and I'm excited that the producers are promoting The Roadmap on their sister-site - but we don't have an affiliate relationship, and I don't earn any money or other "perks" by promoting the film. I endorse it simply because it's excellent and because I firmly believe that all current and prospective homeschoolers need it.


A Parting of Sweet Sorrow

Anyone who knows anything about how I do home education realizes that I march to the beat of my own drum. I don't subscribe to a particular "method" or rely on any one "style" or resource provider. I use a variety of materials from across the spectrum of options as I see fit, and I use components of each in a way that works for us, not necessarily how an author or publisher might suggest (because they don't know - can't know - my kids and their needs the way I do). In other words, I understand that curriculum is my servant, not my master - and, in fact, I'm getting more "alternative" rather than more "mainstream" as my kids approach adulthood!

We've also implemented our own version of a year-round learning schedule that neither mimics the calendars used by institutional schools nor bears much resemblance to most other homeschoolers' schedules. Basically, I do in all things what works for my particular kids, with the goal of maximizing each one's holistic growth and development as well as their overall, lifelong love of learning.

As a result, we never really "start a new year" - not in the sense that we have a day in September (or any other month) on which we begin all new books in every subject area all at the same time. It's never made sense to me that we must either push or hold ourselves back in order to end everything on some random, artificially-set "last day of the year" so that we can "start new" on the "first day." That works (in a way) if one's goal is to "cover" material in order to check off boxes in a planner and/or to imitate institutional, assembly line-style schools. But if the goal is real learning, it makes much more sense to diligently work at a pace appropriate to each learner and simply start a new book in each area of study whenever the previous one is completed - be that in May, November, or February. In fact, that's what we do as adults - i.e., if we finish reading a book of interest in early April, we don't frantically scour the web for worksheets to fill in time until the end of May and then wait to pick up a new book until September. So why shouldn't kids' learning be continuous and natural as well?

All that said, the girls and I actually are on the cusp of a bit of a change, because on October 1 we will begin a process of gradually transitioning into "high school." Now, in many ways, the shift is really just a slight curve in the road - merely the next logical step and nothing seismic. In fact, they'll actually continue with some of their current material as they are now. But we will be making some changes in scheduling and approach, so it is a real transition.

And we chose October 1 as our "moving day" because I knew a while ago - based on natural progression - that our studies in a couple of key resources (both of which we've used for years) would be wrapping up this month. Thus, making the transition onto the new path in conjunction with saying farewell to these "old friends" makes sense.

Now, though I am "eclectic" in my approach to materials - i.e., I have no allegiance to any one style or publisher, and I use the materials I choose the way I decide they'll work best - I'm not fickle. Thus, when I've found a good fit, I've been happy to stick with it unless or until it ceases to work for us; in fact, I've got long-standing "relationships" with a number of resources we'll continue to use even as we take this curve onto the high school road. But we've recently come to the logical end of our journey with a couple of my all-time favorites, the The Mystery of History and The Amish Pathway Readers.

About four and a half years ago, I chose The Mystery of History (MOH) on the advice of a discerning friend. As I was getting to know my girls' learning styles and needs, I'd been making rather frequent changes with all our materials for a couple of years, so I was leery of making yet another big move. But I knew I had to abandon a resource I'd thought would be my curriculum "for life" because it had become untenable. I just worried that MOH would not fit us well either.

My concerns were unfounded, of course. Our time with the four volumes of MOH - which officially wraps up on September 23 - has been rich and rewarding in so many ways, some of which I described in a review of the program I wrote last year. In fact, I am sure I've personally learned at least as much about world history as the girls, which was the main reason I insisted we continue doing MOH together long after they'd graduated to independent work for everything else; simply put, I wanted to make sure I got the whole MOH story, from beginning to end!

Interestingly, the girls have both chosen - despite having myriad other options - to use MOH as their main spine for world history studies in their high school program. So they'll each be working through the entire series again individually and at a deeper level - and their choice speaks to MOH's strength for all ages. But it's still a parting of sorts, since I won't be along for the ride anymore - not in the same way. And I'll miss it. But I am so very thankful to Linda Hobar - whom I've had the privilege to meet in person two times (so far!) - for following God's lead 12 years ago so that my kids and I - along with so many others - could be so blessed by her knowledge, wisdom, and passion to glorify the Lord in her work.

As poignant as it is to say a farewell-of-sorts to MOH, packing away the last of The Amish Pathway Readers - which the girls finished about a week ago - has been even harder. For one thing, our time with them really is done - until (God willing) we pull them out for the girls' children one day. For another, we've been using these books for even longer than we used MOH. I stumbled upon them at a curriculum fair back in 2007 - intending only to use them as a "temporary filler" - and we've enjoyed them ever since, working our way through all 13 books over the past eight years.

For some reason, I never blogged about the Pathway series; I should have because they have been a tremendous blessing. In fact, it was the simple-but-solid approach employed by the series that God used to heal my older daughter from the damage I'd done by pushing her too early and too hard with a pricey, overly intensive, bells-and-whistles program. As a result, she learned to read very well and found joy in the process. And it was the Pathway readers that also clicked with my younger daughter once she was ready. So, though I've used a Readers' Workshop program of my own design in addition to the Pathway series, I really do owe much of my girls' strong reading abilities and voracious appetite for good literature to these wholesome, pedagogically-sound little books. I'm really going to miss them!

Thankfully, I'm really looking forward to what God has in store for us over the next few years - these "high school" years. So I can look forward with anticipation even as I can't help but look backward with some nostalgia. After all, parting with these resources represents a parting of sorts with my daughters' childhoods. I love my beautiful young ladies, and it is really fun to see how the Lord is unfolding their gifts, talents, and passions as they blossom into adulthood. But, of course, I loved them to pieces when they were little girls as well - when we were in the midst of enjoying these resources together - and as much as I couldn't hold them back from growing up if I wanted to (and part of me does want to!), it's still a parting of sweet sorrow.


In Memory of DAG

Less than two weeks ago, I heard the devastating news that my first pastor, David A. George - who signed many of his notes and memos as DAG - had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Then at an appointment on September 9, the doctors confirmed for David and his beloved family that nothing could be done, medically-speaking; none of the medical professionals involved in David's case had ever seen such an incredibly aggressive tumor. But it seems that news - knowing there would be no point in suffering through painful medical treatments - was what David needed because his anxiety evaporated that day. And then, on the afternoon of September 11, the physical pain he'd been enduring stopped as well, and his wife and children were able to sing and pray over him. Shortly thereafter, he was gone - at Home with his Lord.

David was instrumental in my faith journey. Here's what I wrote on the tribute page that has been set up in his honor:
When I was a messed up, confused, angry 18-year old, two friends invited me to come to a Sunday night service at New Hope Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I agreed because it was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and, even though I was an avowed atheist, I knew even then that abortion was wrong. So I went, as long as my friends could promise me there wouldn't be "too much God-stuff" during the "meeting." 
In the Lord's sovereignty, that evening was a regular Sunday night service at the church with some emphasis on the pro-life issue, of course. But that's not what I remember from that night. No, what I remember is that there was something markedly "different" about the preacher - David George. He spoke with such conviction and clarity - and yet with such love and grace as well - and I knew I'd heard from God through that pastor that night. I remember thinking, "I want what he has." 
Just a few weeks later - after a bit more searching and an event that caused me to realize God was very clearly pursuing me - I gave my life to Jesus Christ and began attending that church. And I can honestly say that, though I've been privileged to sit under some other very good preachers since, David's teaching - which grounded me in the faith - was the most solid, consistent, "meaty" instruction (Hebrews 5.11-14) I have yet received to this day...all delivered in the context of real relationship and genuine care. 
My husband - one of those friends who'd first invited me to the church - and I did our premarital counseling with David just about three years after I came to faith, just before God moved him to plant a new church in northern California. Sadly, we did not have the joy of having him marry us; his fine associate pastor did so in David's stead. However, many years later, we are together and strong and raising our daughters for the Lord...and that would not have happened if David were not there in that pulpit that Sunday night one January long ago. 
Many years later, people from Green Bay still speak of David's legacy in their lives. And it's become evident to me from reading posts on the tribute page that he continued on as God's faithful servant all the days of his life. It's also clear that he continued to be the devoted husband and father I knew him to be. I can imagine him as a doting grandfather to his eight grandkids as well; what blessed children they are for having known him!

The tragedy of a Christ-follower's passage from this life is not that he has died; after all, we know that he has actually simply gone from this life to the next and that he is now reveling in the glory of the Lord he served so well here. And we can also acknowledge our trust in God's perfect timing for everything - even something like this. So our grief is for ourselves - most especially for David's family but also for all who had the privilege of knowing him on this journey - in feeling that he was taken from us too suddenly and too soon.

However, we also know we'll see him again. In fact, what David told his family on Wednesday afternoon is the truth: "It's not the end of the world. We're waiting for the world that is to come. I'm just going there sooner."

David's favorite psalm - so fitting for him -
which some friends also set to music this week in his honor:


Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!


Not-Back-to-School Day Fun

My family and I utilize our own version of a year-round academic schedule. One reason - among many others - is to demonstrate by our example that there is nothing "magical," special, or even necessarily good about the typical institutional school calendar. In fact, what everyone thinks of as "the school year" - the government school norm that is blindly followed by most private schools and even a sizable portion of home-educating families - is really just another example of the Pot Roast Story gone awry, and I've realized there's no reason to cut the ends off my family's lifestyle just because "everyone else" does.

Part of our family calendar involves starting a "new year" on January 1, not in September. Another aspect of the schedule that works for us is using a 6/1 format (i.e., studying for six weeks and then taking off for one). And, finally, we take a longer break in July and another in December but we do academics through June and August. Thus, we've been "back at it" - still making whatever time we wanted for summer fun - since August 3.

So we did our normal bookwork yesterday, and we'll do it again tomorrow. But we didn't do any today.

Instead, we enjoyed our freedom to live outside the system's box by purposely not making today - the first day back for all the government-school kids in my state - our "first day of school"  and by purposely not doing any academic work.

We've taken this quiet stand on the system's first day for several years running. At times, we've simply had a playdate or gone on a small field trip with friends. Other years, I organized a not-back-to-school picnic for anyone in my local association who cared to join us. This year I decided it would be a private affair - for just my girls and me.

We started out with what has become a solid tradition: breakfast at IHOP...arriving only after the morning school bells have rung. Then we went fall/winter (i.e., not-back-to-school) clothes shopping, with the girls choosing a visit to Goodwill in lieu of a "regular" store so they could stretch the budget I'd given them - and each came away with at least 10 items for the price of only one or two things elsewhere. We did visit two regular stores as well, and they had fun being silly before I surprised them by saying I'd buy them each one item of clothing beyond the budget amount. And then after a quick, diversionary jaunt to Hobby Lobby, I surprised them again by heading over to a matinee showing of Inside Out, where we munched on popcorn for lunch and were three of only six people at what amounted to a "private screening." Finally, we surprised my husband by going out to our favorite local place for dinner in celebration of the fact that our evenings are ours (i.e., not subject to homework).

We don't take our homeschooling freedom for granted; we realize it came at a heavy price for those who served as modern pioneers in our state. And it's actually for that reason that we choose to actively demonstrate whenever we can that we are free - i.e., not bound by the constraints of the institutional system. Actively participating in not-back-to-school fun is part of the plan in that regard...and a blessing to our family as well.



No, I Won't "Help" You

Dear Fellow Wisconsin Homeschoolers:

I treasure being an advocate for homeschooling. And I love mentoring new homeschoolers, locally and beyond. I rejoice when parents understand that homeschooling is the best educational option, and I delight in helping folks get started well.

And it is precisely for that reason - i.e., that I want what's truly best for homeschoolers (not what might "feel good" to a few) - that I am unable to "help" you navigate the new "sports provision" that was unethically hidden in the latest state budget and then rammed through against the protestations of literally thousands of Wisconsinites. In fact, I have always - on principle - advocated against any homeschooler choosing to become entangled with government schools in any way. Such involvement on any level elevates an illegitimate institution and - even more importantly - jeopardizes the academic freedom of truly independent homeschoolers. Simply put, there's nothing worth having if the only way to get it is via the government schools.

Thus, I cannot in good conscience facilitate anyone's desire to become enmeshed with the system via school sports. In fact, because the "sports provision" is actually a Trojan Horse meant to ultimately kill the academic freedom of all Wisconsin homeschoolers, me "helping" someone to participate would be like aiding and abetting a person's suicide...while also knowing that he'd planted bombs set to blow up later and kill hundreds or thousands of other people. I cannot be a party to that.

I will always do anything I can to help families become and remain wholly independent of the system; fact is that the testimonials of hundreds and hundreds of Wisconsin families over the years prove that it's entirely possible for children to live rich, fulfilling lives without ever being on any government school roster for anything. No, not even football.

With that in mind, I would ask you to prayerfully consider reasons to simply choose to abstain from this new temptation to become involved with the government schools. The fact is that if no one pulls the pin on the grenade, it can't hurt any of us. Thus, please read this clear explanation of why entanglement is a bad idea; the WPA's accuracy can be trusted (in contrast to appeasement-oriented national organizations that do not understand or respect Wisconsin's homeschool laws and history).

If you understand and agree, please do whatever you can to encourage other Wisconsin homeschoolers to steer clear of the snare. And please let me know how I might help you on your homeschooling journey. If, on the other hand, you happen to think this provision is a valuable "perk," you're on on your own.



On the Radio Again

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Chelene Nightingale and Randy Dees on their Wake Up Mission Radio Show this past Wednesday. I was on for almost an hour - starting shortly after the 60-minute mark of the two-hour broadcast - and had a great time in our broad discussion about homeschooling.

Interested? You can listen here or here:

Check Out News Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The Wake Up Mission on BlogTalkRadio

Photo Credit: Roadsidepictures


The Heart of the Matter

I first wrote this piece in 2013 for the Celebrate Kids email newsletter, and it actually ended up going rather "viral" that year. In re-reading it today, I realized its message is still the heart of the matter in terms of what it means to be a mom. Thus, rather than coming up with something new for the occasion, I simply share this truth again.


A few days before Mother’s Day, my husband asked me what I’d like for a gift. I knew he wanted to show his genuine appreciation and that my daughters would want to demonstrate their feelings in a concrete way, too. As is our tradition, they would each give me a sweet card sharing elements of their love for me and they’d take me out to lunch or dinner. But they wanted to present me with something tangible to mark the occasion as well.

And I felt truly blessed by his desire to bless me. But I didn’t know what to say.

A few things I could use or enjoy quickly came to mind: a new printer, a gift card to a local bookstore, a weekend retreat to catch up on my scrapbooking. But when I began to think about what I truly need as a mom, I realized it’s not something my family can wrap up and top with a bow. In fact, it’s not something they can provide at all.

Simply put, what I need most is an ability to focus each day on the heart of the matter in terms of my calling.

Motherhood is not about finishing the laundry or designing the most well balanced meals. It’s not about the 3,796 diapers a mom changes for each child. It’s not about the carpool or organizing memorable birthday parties. It’s not about volunteering in the classroom or finding the ideal homeschool curriculum. It’s not about enrolling the kids in extracurriculars and supplemental activities. It’s not about planning “perfect” family vacations.

Of course, all those tasks (and many more) fill our time. And each small job has value and purpose, demonstrating our love for our families in concrete ways. But if we focus on the utilitarian doing of motherhood without remembering to be in the moments, we’ll miss the point. We’ll spend our kids’ childhoods exhausted and bitter about all the time “they’re taking from us” and then wallow in regret once they’re grown. I know women like that; I never want to become one.

Instead, what I most need as a mom is a growing desire to be fully present with my kids – mentally and emotionally – moment by moment. I need my heart to be with them while my mind and body work through the necessary to-do lists. I need to notice the details as their faces change from those of girls into young women…to really hear their ideas and questions…to grasp the intricacies of how each is wired…to put down the work in order to hold and comfort them.

That’s not something my family can give me. It is God’s gift to me, ready and waiting. But accepting the gift is a matter of my will – each day and in each moment. That’s hard because life is so full and busy. But I know that’s the heart of the matter.

Photo Credit: Britt-knee


Ten Tidbits: Winter 2015

It's been a long time since I wrote a simple "here's what we've been doing" post, and it's long overdue. As I mentioned when I wrote back in January about needing to re-calibrate my priorities, I want to get back to such simple pleasures. Sadly, I haven't (yet) been successful in regaining the mental and emotional balance I spoke of back then. But that's still my goal...and I do intend to make it happen!

So today I decided I'd take a step in the right direction by sharing some of the activities we've been up to in the last few months - everyday homeschool family things, not advocacy or "politics." Of course, each of these "tidbits" could have been a full post in its own right, but this summary will have to suffice for now:

1. We've seen our former TEACHERS' TOTS FRIENDS about once a month since I closed my daycare doors last June. We really like our new routine now that we're used to it - the girls get themselves going in the mornings while I often (unapologetically) sleep until 7:00, and then we get going with our academics by 8:30. However, when I get a message asking if the little girls can spend some time with us, I have no qualms about completely re-doing our schedule for a day to see them. And I love realizing how God has provided for their family and for us since their mom stepped out in faith to quit her job and I then followed suit by closing my business when He led in that direction.
2. The girls get another "baby fix" about once a month by serving in the NURSERY at church, caring for and playing with the under-two set. Abbie also serves on the GREETING TEAM, taking a turn once a month welcoming people into the church on Sunday morning - a perfect opportunity for our little social butterfly. And Rachel has recently begun serving in the church LIBRARY once a month, which is heaven for our bookworm-girl.
3. Both girls took up KNITTING last summer. Rachel enjoys working on occasional projects, and Abbie has really embraced it! Since we got the girls knitting looms for Christmas, she sometimes knocks out one hat, cowl, or headband a day and has even sold a few. She's also recently taken to knitting purses she designs herself and has even attempted a sweater. Meanwhile, Rachel has plunged into WRITING, working not only on her blog, One Girl's Words with Meaning, but on several other projects, including contributing to the women's newsletter at church and working on the draft of a novel.
4. The girls continue to work on their PIANO skills - in fact, they joined more than a dozen other students at their annual spring recital this afternoon - and both are part of our homeshool association's production of The Sound of Music, which will be performed in mid-May. In addition, Abbie took up VOICE lessons last summer; she had her first vocal recital in February and then tried her hand at a solo-ensemble competition in March, where she sang American Lullaby.
5. We hosted our fourth annual WINTER SLEEPOVER in February, with seven of the girls' friends attending. This year's theme was Cupcake Wars, and we held a cupcake-decorating contest of sorts. But the highlight of the 19-hour event was simply for the girls to be together having silly fun.
6. On a somewhat smaller scale, the girls have been involved for about a year in a "small group" of fellow homeschooled girls they've dubbed Girls4Christ (G4C). They get together - six girls in total when all are present - about once a month, with the moms taking turns planning/hosting. It has been a sweet way to build stronger, deeper relationships that all the moms hope will carry the girls through their high school years.
7. On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff and the girls attended their annual FATHER-DAUGHTER VALENTINE'S DANCE, one of the large-group events that our homeschool group co-sponsors. Amazingly, this was their ninth dance!
8. We've been doing our READERS' WORKSHOP program for about five years now, and we will continue a version of it as we embark on high school-level work in the coming months. But the girls both recently asked if we could discontinue the post-reading book projects as we've been doing them. So each of their recently-completed books marks the last of their projects. That's rather bittersweet for me because it's yet another indication (among many others) of the girls' growing maturity. But I'm aiming to look at transitions rather than at "endings," and I have in mind what I hope will be a new, engaging, age-appropriate post-reading endeavor.
9. Speaking of transitions, the girls recently wrapped up their last "elementary" math book and subsequently launched - just this past week - into PRE-ALGEBRA. Getting to this point makes me thankful all over again for Teaching Textbooks, the curriculum we've used for a little over two years now. TT, as it's affectionately known by its devotees, truly rescued the girls in terms of math after we'd spent way too much time in another program that left them floundering. It's enabled them to learn and master concepts and really progress in a way I wasn't sure was possible not so long ago.
10. Ironically, even though we do a year-round schedule and do not aim to wrap up our various content areas at the same time, we also just finished up our Apologia GENERAL SCIENCE book, the girls' first foray into secondary-level science. We do have the next book in the series - in fact, we have the next three. However, because of our plans for high school, we'll be taking a hiatus from formal science studies until the beginning of October. I've still got a lot to do in terms of getting our Far Above Rubies program organized, but every time I think about it, I get more excited about its potential to maximize the girls' high school experience.
In addition to all this, my husband took a missions trip to Guyana - among other things, he saw live piranha up close! - and I ventured out on "little" excursions to Texas (in February) and Cincinnati (earlier this month), where I was blessed to serve as a featured speaker at two 2015 Great Homeschool Convention events; that's me, below, during one of my seminars in Texas.

But, of course, this is Ten Tidbits, not Eleven Events. So you'll just have to come back to hear about that another time!


Homeschooling Isn't Free...

But, then again, nothing worth doing ever is.

And - contrary to the myth perpetuated by its proponents - neither is public school.


Now that spring is in the air and the end of the "school year" approaches, parents are beginning to consider their options for "next year." And now that the damaging effects of common core have clearly reared their ugly heads, more and more parents who never considered homeschooling are seriously mulling it over. Thus, my homeschooling friends and I are fielding how-to questions almost daily - one of the most common of which is, "How can I homeschool for free?"

I know why they ask.

For some reason, despite years of writing checks to pay for school supplies, back-to-school clothes, registration fees, parking permits, activity fees, hot lunches, lab fees, yearbooks, instrument rental fees, sports equipment, etc. - in fact, in 2013 the average family spent more than $630 on school-related expenses...before walking in for the first day of class and getting socked with the various fees ladled out by the schools themselves -  they're still under the impression that the public/government schools are free. As a result, they unconsciously feel entitled to continued "free education," balking at the notion of having to pay. And, against the clear evidence that they have, indeed, found ways to pay for all the expenses associated with attending government schools, they claim to have "no money" for homeschooling.

To be fair, I know from my work developing The Homeschool Resource Roadmap over the past two years that some homeschool resources are exorbitantly expensive, such that even private school tuition might be cheaper in some cases. And, while I believe those providers have every right to charge what people are willing to pay, I can also understand the sticker-shock if a wannabe homeschooler comes to believe that the pricey programs are her only options. That's not true, of course, but I've (sadly) seen quite a few advertisements for the "Cadillac" options claiming that more reasonably-priced materials are "clunkers." So, if a potential homeschool parent believes that lie, she will understandably think homeschooling is out of her reach.

But the truth - as is often the case - exists between the extremes.

On the one hand, it's hard to give an average because each family is unique. Despite stereotypes, there is no such thing as an "average" homeschool family, and our financial circumstances vary just as much as anything else about us. Some can afford and don't bat an eyelash at the Cadillac resources, even for multiple kids. One needn't spend thousands per child per year, but if that's some families' prerogative, so be it.

Others need to be incredibly frugal in order to manage. So they create their own material and learn to make good use of libraries and (well-vetted) internet sources. And kids in those families do very well when their moms put forth serious effort to compile and organize the low-cost material. In other words, what they lack in funds they make up for in time. But, of course, that is a "cost" as well; it's never a matter of simply being granted a pile of free resources and tossing them in front of the children on a Monday morning.

Realistically, though, most of us are somewhere in the middle, as are most folks considering homeschooling. So if we're honest with ourselves, we do have money with which to homeschool, and it's not even all that hard to find.

In terms of curriculum, most sources suggest that planning for about $500 per child per year is realistic. And based on what I've seen via my database research, I think that's a fair estimate. Of course, some years will cost more...but some will be less. And, as with any endeavor, initial start-up costs may be higher than in subsequent years. But, on the other hand, once one purchases material for an older child, it can often be used again for younger siblings, thereby lowering annual costs going forward. So, overall, I think that average estimate is an honest starting figure.

But where will it come from? Well, remember that if you're homeschooling, you're not paying for all the school fees, which in many cases add up to hundreds of dollars per child per year; this parent, for example, discovered he owed almost $600 in start-up school fees for just one child, and that is not unusual. So add up the cost of all the expenses you'd incur from the school - registration fees, parking permits, activity fees, hot lunches, lab fees, yearbooks, instrument rental fees, sports equipment - and set that money aside for homeschooling instead. And then consider the back-to-school costs you'll no longer have. Yes, homeschooled kids need school supplies and all children need new clothing from time to time as they grow. But you won't need the specialized, expensive supplies the schools often demand, and chances are good that you already have many necessities - pencils, crayons, markers, paper - on hand. And you certainly won't need to purchase six designer outfits and hundred-dollar sneakers in hopes of helping your child to "fit in." In fact, you likely won't need to buy any clothes at all in August; instead, you can purchase items throughout the year to meet your children's actual, physical needs, and use the money formerly set aside for "back-to-school" clothes on curriculum and other basic homeschooling needs.

Of course, homeschoolers incur costs beyond actual curriculum. For example, it's a good idea - for kids and parents alike - to join a homeschool association, most of which require a membership fee. And, whether with members of such a group or as an individual family, there will be field trips and other outings for which to plan. Similarly, opportunities for special classes and community-based sports, music, or drama will present themselves throughout the year. But it's possible to find a low-cost support group (for example, mine only costs $20 per year), and most trips and extras are just a few dollars per person. Thus, all of that can - for those willing to commit - be built into any family budget with just a few tweaks.

And commitment is the key. Honestly, anyone can homeschool, regardless of a family's socio-economic standing or anything else; history and the data bear that out. But it takes commitment. In terms of finances, it doesn't need to cost a mint. But, on the other hand, it's unrealistic and immature to expect it to be free. The fact of the matter is that educational materials cost money. And, as 1 Timothy 5.18 tells us, "the worker is worthy of his wages." So one must either invest time instead of money, as explained above, or be willing to pay for someone else's expertise and time.

However, remember that much of the expense is really just a transfer of cost - choosing to move what one was paying in school-related expenses over to homeschooling - and the rest is simply choosing to make small adjustments to one's budget throughout the course of a year to accommodate ancillary costs. If curriculum (around $500) plus everything else (maybe up to another $500) averages out to about $1,000 per year per child - which is still just one-fifth of the lowest average private school tuition - and you use what was budgeted for back-to-school expenses on the curriculum, can you find what amounts to just $42 a month to cover the rest...for the sake of your child's well-being?

If you want to, you can.


Happy 2nd Birthday to My "Twin Boys"

Several years ago - perhaps when the girls were seven and eight - I had a dream that I'd given birth to twin sons. In the dream, they were young toddlers, and I was trying to juggle their needs with everything else. I remember feeling both exhilarated and exhausted. And when I woke up, I thought, "Wow. What if that really happens?"

In a way, it has.

Two years ago today - late at night on March 8, 2013 - I launched a Facebook group that has since become The Christian Homeschool Oasis (CHO). And since I'd intended to create a space where my friends could gather to wrangle with the unexpected discovery that some well-known homeschool materials had chosen to align with common core, it only made sense that the precursor to The Homeschool Resource Roadmap (HRR) was "born" a few days later - a belated twin, but a twin nonetheless.

I'm not equating social media and websites with children; obviously, the former are expendable, and the latter are gifts from God. And I want to be careful not to overspiritualize. But I've actually had a few other dreams that I could see in hindsight had clearly previewed later real-life events. And, scripturally speaking (Genesis 37, 40, 41; Daniel 2; Matthew 1, 2), we certainly know God sometimes does choose to speak via dreams. So I don't want to discount the possibility either...and it makes for a neat analogy!

In any case, I certainly have spent the last two years doing what I can to juggle CHO's and HRR's needs with everything else in my life, just as in my dream. Sometimes I've been rather successful and sometimes not...just as if they were real babies born into an already bustling household. And just like in this photo, when one is giggling, the other may be screaming.

They both tend to keep me up late into the night, and they've definitely needed lots of hands-on care. They've even caused me to temporarily set some of my favorite activities on a back burner, though now that they're a little older, I've been working those endeavors back into my schedule. Each has had his fair share of temper tantrums, even to the point every now and then of derailing a whole day's plans with my daughters. And each has definitely thrown up on me multiple times!

But they've also brought great joy. CHO is incredibly social; he's always talking...even when I'm so tired I'll collapse if I don't go to bed! And he makes me smile and laugh far more often than not. HRR is more placid, but I know he blesses many people in his quiet way, and I'm thrilled to see how much he's grown.

In fact, they've both become very big boys! CHO currently has well over 5,000 members and gets bigger every day. HRR's Master Lists just hit the 2,400 mark with more added almost every week, and as of today he's had almost 160,000 site hits since he got his new look in February 2014. In fact, though CHO seems to be pretty stable for the time being - I have nine incredibly helpful "nannies" to help me there! - we're bracing for some significant changes with HRR in the coming months. In the end, he'll be far healthier than he is now - he's been a bit "croupy" for a few months now - but the process may just resemble the fits and starts of potty-training!

Obviously, my analogy only goes so far. If CHO and HRR were actual children, they'd be truly melded into the fiber of our family, and their needs would be just as important as those of my husband and daughters. Of course, that's not the case; they are expendable if they ever become too big to handle or cause me to lose sight of my priorities (i.e., caring for the needs of my family). But I'm thankful God has seen fit to bless me with them, and if they don't become too demanding I intend to continue doing my best to help them grow and thrive.