Looking Ahead: Our School in 2013-2014

Where does a mom’s mind travel to after her oldest graduates and, along with litle brother and sister, finishes her final dance recital?  Toward plans for the fall.   After all, as many “last moments” as we have all cried through in these last few weeks, we still have two kids here who need an education!

Our summer trips revolve primarily around getting our oldest to college, although there may be an opportunity to take one or more smaller trips on one or more of the kids’ behalf.   There’s also summer camp.  But eventually, I have some decisions to make about our fall dilemma.

What’s the problem?  Well, for several reasons, both of our younger children are between grades.   Though I am totally comfortable with explaining this within a homeschooling environment, when I am asked by someone else outside of that community what grades the kids are in, it just doesn’t go over so well.

Part of the between-grades scenario is due to where we stopped at the end of this year, although there are other reasons.   As a related digression, one bit of wisdom I heard–though I did not immediately accept–in the earlier days of homeschooling was that a parent cannot focus on every child every year; as I said, initially I thought it foul play that one kid might receive more attention at the expense of others.   I have come to realize, though, that this does not mean that any child is left unattended; it has more to do with setting goals and estabilishing priorities.   As my mother would say to me when she had to do something for my sister, “It’s not always your turn.”   Later in life I recognized that this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t get a turn; it just means my turn wasn’t right now.   This is the mentality I have chosen to adopt in our home.   Having said that, I will readily confess that this was our year to ensure that the oldest finished her senior year positioned as much as possible to step into higher education, so there are other items that took a back seat in educating the younger two, whether deservedly or not.  That season is over.   Time for a change.

The whole idea of fitting in betwen two grades is not as much of a big deal for our younger daughter, but our son will complete high school in 2 years–or maybe 3.   Our plan right now, of which he is well aware, is to allow him an additional  year at home to attend college courses, volunteer and/or work, etc. during that third year.   This would also allow our summer baby an additional year to mature into 18 years (if we sent him away in 2 years, he would be a very young 17) and get ready for the pace of college.   BUT, at that age, there are many additional factors that come into play; one of those is a combination of his feelings about moving on combined with public perception.   Let me share an example.

Yesterday was the annual dance recital.   The kids performed marvelously, but the overall mood was bittersweet for us.   This was our oldest’s last recital, and between the teacher’s tearing up while acknowledging her and the final video shots which featured her and wished her well, we were, at best, melancholy.  I could not help but think of our son in 2 years.   Will he consider himself a graduating senior?   Should we give everyone the elaborate answer about his grade and the gap year plan when asked?   Should we just start telling people now that he’s in 10th grade, and if so, how derailing will that be to his motivation and self-esteem (given that he thinks of himself as having completed this same grade)?   If he wants to dance at the same studio, how do we explain why he is still there?    What will the other dancers think?   Am I crazy to have spent so much time wondering through all of that? 

The scripture that continues to come to mind is to ‘occupy ’til I come’ (Luke 19:13); I have been given no other instructions, so I will worry about names, grades, tags, and what all of it means for us later.   The priority, as far as I am concerned, is to continue to challenge our son and to speak into him as a young African-American male about who he is and whose he is.    So, if the Lord says the same, our son will embark on a similar program as the oldest, entering college this fall under dual enrollment.   At 15, I am sure that his eye- and ear-gate will be exposed to something(s) new, but at least we can continue to minister as needed with him still under much protection from home.   He will become the newest Honors Program participant, taking an English/ Humanities course.   This in and of itself is interesting given that he’s just finishing the 8th grade Rod and Staff English text–part of that between grades thing again.   But his writing is such that I think he can prosper in this course, and besides, he often felft that Rod and Staff was ridiculously repetitive , and that he was ready for more.   Well, son, time to put money where your mouth is.

Outside of that one college course, we will continue with Geometry using Teaching Textbooks, and we will wrap up Biology using the text my MIL gave us.   We will continue our reading time together, wrapping up Medieval History and moving into early American classics.   We will continue Latin (I think), but I am also flirting with adding Spanish or French to his curriculum.   Spanish might be more beneficial to him long-term, but given his intentions to study dance even at the college level (as a minor), he might enjoy French more.   We will probably drop current events studies and apologetics as requirements, just as we did with the oldest.   I think that at this point the kids have a solid appreciation for global news and why it is important in their world.   I will stay with our commonplace book narrations as a complement to our historical reading.   In summary, his courseload would look like this:

  • Geometry: Teaching Textbooks
  • History/ Literature: Great Books Curriculum–Medieval History/ Reformation History (second semester)
  • World Geography: (I modified Globalmania’s curriculum)
  • Latin: Henle by Memoria Press
  • Science: Biology of Life from Glencoe Science / Chemistry (second semester–no idea what text yet)
  • Read-Aloud/ Reading List: (titles to be added over the summer)
    • Canterbury Tales
    • How the Irish Saved Civilization (excerpts)
    • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Michael Morpurgo
    • The Once and Future King by T. S. White
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream–No fear Shakespeare version

Our other summer baby, born in July, is somewhere between 4th and 5th grade, and she will be my focal point on next year.   5th grade should be a time to transition into far more independence than this busy bee is ready for; right now, her sole interest is in finishing quickly–right or wrong, school is in the way of the things that truly interest her.   And her spirit is so very different than our older two.   SO, I will take a step back and figure out how to adapt what I would normally do to her much more kinesthetic and generally active style.   In the meantime, one

decision I have made, especially with only two kids in the house as of August, is to fully utilize her planner.   I buy her one each year, but the planner winds up being more of a tool to help her feel as if she’s just like big sister and big brother; by the end of the first semester, it has dust upon it.   Having a completed listing of school assignments and a better idea of what she’s doing before I sit down to the table with her will keep us both in better working condition.   Right now, there are a number of assignments that have been skipped because Mom got busy, daughter got distracted, and by the time I got back to the table, she was unfocused and I was exhausted.   I can do better, and I believe with some discipline on my part, she will step into what is expected of her in terms of excellence.   We will spend the summer working on multiplication and long division, and then get back to the books in fall.   This would normally be the year that I add in a more formal logic study, but I think I will simply continue with Critical Thinking puzzles.   We will continue with a core curriculum that firmly establishes the basics for her.

  • Math: Horizons
  • Science: Apologia elementary series by Jeannie Fulbright
  • English: Rod and Staff
  • Latina Christina: Memoria Press
  • Current Events
  • History: American History (Blessed Heritage)/ Eastern Hemisphere (Sonlight)

The one thing I will do with her is add in composer studies as we once did with the older two, as well as art studies.   Not sure how I want to cover the latter as this has always been a source of angst for me.

Those are my preliminary thoughts.  I’m also trying to figure out how to keep family read-alouds going as the remaining family splits apart for classes (heavy sigh).   Pray for me, dear friends.

Our First Graduation Party


Well, what can I say?   The event came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, but oh, the flurry of activities that occurred in-between.   Our area is big enough such that we actually have three larger, more  formal graduation ceremonies dedicated to homeschoolers in the area.  Can you imagine what that says about how far homeschooling has become??!!   In the last few weeks the oldest has posed with and without cap and gown, and we have all worked very hard to create lasting memories for the graduation event.   Personally, I was just happy to be able to blow dust from my scrapbooking tools, even if my time ran out on me toward the day of the event.   How do you compile 18 years of memories onto a science fair board?    Here was my honest attempt; unfortunately, you cannot see the books of pictures underneath the cover photos (courtesy of Dinah Zike’s Books of Books, LOL).


Our whole family became consumed with putting everything together so that this would be the celebration for us all that it truly is.   The kids did a marvelous job, though I do not think any of us gained a new-found interest in the detailing that accompanies true culinary skill.    Nevertheless, we did our best to work Henry Ford’s assembly line…

transforming this…

into these (in her new school colors, even!).

001 (2)

Then of course came the event that we waited for.   With tens of friends and family who thought enough of our daughter to dedicate a Saturday to her, we all watched as this high schooler became an “official” graduate (see the chocolate drop, 2nd row, toward the middle right of the photo).


Following the graduation ceremony came an awesome reception.    As I think about it now, I can recall Dawn writing to me, saying, “Make someone take pictures for you.”   Sadly, that’s the ONE thing that did not happen, especially at the reception.    I absolutely hate that, but maybe it was a lesson in pride for me.   I was SO excited about the way all the food turned out–the Asian chicken wings, the cheescake bites with the special decorative toothpicks, the chocolate caps (shown above), etc.    I was so ready to show off all of our hard work.  After writing about being the non-party planner (see here), I was thrilled at the idea of displaying my results.    But, therein lies the problem; had it all gone the way I wanted, I would have presented Belinda’s show, and that would not have accurately captured the spirit that was in the room.   God showed up, and it was unlike any graduation ceremony I have had the pleasure of attending, even though our daughter’s celebration was the catalyst for gathering everyone together.   I loved how the Lord really spoke through people about the power of His hand on a child’s life and about who He has been in our family’s life.   It was ministry, and the overwhelming emotion of the moments was tears–tears of relief, tears of gratitude, tears of joy.


Oh, well, at least we got a shot of her with her cake.   AND, many people thought all the food was catered!!  I suppose that’s compliment enough.  We will do this again in a couple of years, and I repent right now for bragging on my new-found talent and skill.   Blessings, dear friends.

A Party for the Non-Party Planner

May 11th. 

courtesy of karaspartyideas.com

courtesy of karaspartyideas.com

That’s the day of our city-wide homeschool graduation ceremony.   As I put together these last 9-10 weeks of lesson plans, I am constantly reminded of how close that date really is relative to today.   Even more staggering, for lack of a better word, is the fact that our oldest has even less time in actual school days.   Her days at His Way Home School will actually come to a close by the end of April.   (I am anticipating the revolt from my younger two when she is finished versus the 3 or so weeks that they’ll have left).   With that being a fact, I sense time as an increasingly looming presence that constantly tugs at me, reminding me of the many items that I basically have, at this point, about one month to complete.

One of those many items–with several subsets of tasks underneath–is to put together a graduation party.   Can I be honest?   That is sssssssssoooooooo not me.    I’d be happy to invite the family and a few close friends over to pots and paper plates, eat and greet, and call it a day.   In fact, this whole listing of tasks before the “big day” brought back distant memories of my own high school graduation events.   I graduated during the same weekend in which a dear cousin of mine got married.   Translation: a whole lot of family with a whole lot to do.   And true to the nature of a big, Southern family, we fellowshipped and ate together every night, celebrating each event in its turn.   I don’t recall having any regrets about that time.   I’m sure I won’t regret this time, either, but I’m not looking forward to the numbers of people and the general hustle and bustle of sitting through a graduation ceremony–or at least some of it–then running off to prepare for a reception.   The introvert in me just can’t get ready for all the activity, and I feel only one semi-emotion when I think about the day: anxious.    BUT, the oldest asked for a party for her graduation; she’s not asked for a party in almost 10 years, and everyone around us–immediate family and friends–has that gentle, electric buzz about her big day to come, and all the plans of her young adulthood that will take new shape and form as she leaves our home.   So, here we go.

courtesy of deliciousdeliciousdelicious.blogspot.com

courtesy of deliciousdeliciousdelicious.blogspot.com

Enter Pinterest.   My dear friend Kerimae blogged recently about the impact of computers, and how the digital age has taken as much–if not more–than it has given us in our quest for effectiveness and efficiency.   At least, that’s what I got out of her post.  As I shared with her, the computer has cost me a lot.   Work requires that I spend hours on it; home education requires that I engage with computers, and technology in general.   Building a business demands that I use social media networks, i.e., free advertising, to my advantage.    My sacrifice is that I don’t get to do some other fun and necessary items, like spending time out-of-doors weeding, walking, and generally taking in the fresh air.  BUT, one thing a computer has done for me is to expand my knowledge base and comfort level very quickly in areas with which I’m totally unfamiliar and/or hopelessly inadequate.

I will confess that I didn’t really see the point of Pinterest for a long time; I joined because it seemed to be the flow of traffic in terms of social media, and I thought it’d be another way to keep up with friends.   I have an Evernote account that allows me to store and access my favorites from any computer, so what is the point, right?   Yet, with Pinterest being such a visual medium, I thought it might be the perfect place to find party ideas and foods that are simple enough to prepare, and pretty enough to make a visually striking party.   A basic search of ‘graduation party ideas’ did not disappoint.   I spent hours “pinning” pictures to my own boards after finding tons of simple food ideas that I could combine with minimal catering and look as if I actually have some skill in this area.  These pictures are just a few of the  ideas I found, but probably won’t incorporate.   Are you as amazed as I am at the creativity of people??!!

There are still other party-related items that must happen.  Interestingly enough, while I drafted this post, Office Depot sent a discount code for graduation invitations–talk about God’s hand.   Another dear friend who dabbles in professional photography offered to take the oldest’s graduation pictures gratis–another blessing.  I even found party items for her intended college of choice, thanks to Party City.   Also, my Pinterest party idea board has several links to printables and other simple food ideas.    Perhaps the most telling–or embarrassing, dependent upon how you look at it–part of this whole digital revelation is that actually, I was inspired by the youngest, who began searching for themes for her upcoming sleepover–a party that I’ve not “officially” gotten on board with, by the way.   True to her nature, she already has a list of invitees, a schedule, a budget based upon what she found at Party City, and yes, she, too, has perused blogs and Pinterest for party ideas–far before I thought to do so.   Gotta love these grown-ups in miniature bodies.

Now if I can pare our list of invitees down to a realistic number of what the room will hold, and if I can learn to not be so heavy-handed with my food glue, i.e., corn syrup, someone just might think that I had a good time with this whole thing.   😉

8 Tasks for NOW before sending your kid to College LATER

Though my primary audience is homeschoolers, much of this advice is actually applicable for any parent of a middle school or younger high school child, regardless of the current method of education.

At the beginning of this year, it occurred to me to try an idea that had been simmering within the old noggin for a number of years: separate my blog.   Whether you call it niche blogging, branding, or any other rose that would smell as sweet, at the end of the day, I just felt as if my blog didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up.   My natural hair journey–a HOT, hot topic among women right now–had completely overshadowed all of the family, home, and homeschool posts that are really the purpose of this blog.   Nothing wrong with that–inspiration is inspiration, but in tieing the blog to the business site, I felt it might be confusing for those who visit here from that site to then find post after post about what my hair has looked like for the last two or more years.

As I said, when I made the decision, it sounded like a great idea.   It still might be, I’m hoping.   But what I’m finding is that now I’m getting pulled away from both blogs by the other tasks that are consuming my time.   When I sat back and thought about my current lack of time issue, the rest of my life looks pretty much the same.  BUT, there are two factors that have definitely impacted my blogging frequency:  1) my laptop finally gave up the proverbial ghost, which reduced the family to one highly overused laptop and a desktop.  Because much of my writing is done in “off hours,” I just can’t drrrrraaaaaagggg myself out of bed to get on the desktop and then motivate myself to write.  Then there’s the other issue: college preparation for the oldest, and the amount of time these items take in the evenings.   Generally, I don’t plan the time (part of the problem), but instead I hear, “Mom, I’ll need some help with _______ ,” with associated deadline, and there goes the evening.

From the outside looking in, you might immediately think that I should delegate more, or let her grow up and handle these things alone since she’ll have to anyway, blah, blah, blah.   I say that because those were all the thoughts I had when we initially began this process.   Then I found myself wondering why certain tasks were taking her soooooo long to complete, and why she became so frustrated if one new opportunity was added, or why her sleep was cut so short, etc.    During the Christmas holiday, I remember telling my husband , “I’m just going to have to get more involved.”   I said that somewhat resigned to the fact that there was that time management issue, and I was again having to play mom-to-the-rescue when I shouldn’t have to, and will we ever get over this hump?   Ugh.    What I’ve come to realize over the last couple or three months is that there are a few strategic steps that we could have, and should have, begun as early as two years ago, even though I thought we were well ahead of the game.   So did my relatives, who laughed at us about the trips we would make on campuses with our then 3- and 6-year-olds.

The following is not a list of sure-fire ways to get your kid into college; bear in mind that the first graduate of His Way Home School has yet to actually graduate.   Instead, consider this a listing of how to prepare in advance for the tasks that will potentially consume your days during your child’s senior year.   I listed these in no particular order.

1. Make your list of people to consider writing recommendations  NOW  Many scholarship applications require one or more outside references in addition to the information provided on the application.   Moreover, unlike a public school child who can pull from a myriad of teachers and counselors, the list of those who can recommend a homeschooled child for a college and/or college money might be considerably shorter.   The time to think about who is dependable, eloquent, and close enough to your child to write a recommendation is NOT when there are 5 applications due and 12-15 letters needed.    Another factor to consider is who is willing to perhaps be called upon more than once should the need arise.    Make sure that you have the right contact information for each person on the list, and also make sure via a conversation that they are willing and able to place your child in the best possible light.

2. Begin the scholarship hunt early.   There is money available for any child to attend school.    A place of employment could be a source of dollars; a social organization or business can offer funds.   There are funds available for reading and reviewing books!   Yet, the work to find scholarships, to be sure that you meet the requirements, and then to work against deadlines and coordinate those around you to do the same is no small feat.  In our home, we actually put together a spreadsheet based upon due dates, work required for completion, and the level of competition (specific college, local, national, etc.)  There are books available such as The Ultimate Scholarship Book by Gen and Kelly Tanabe, but also consider the following sites (free for signing up such that you get notices when scholarships that match your profile become available):  http://www.zinch.com, http://www.cappex.com, and http://www.fastweb.com .

3. Roll college visits into your vacation plans.   Why forego that camping trip you really want to take in favor of treking through a college campus or two?   Leah Latimer says it best in her Higher Ground: Preparing African-American Children for College (although her words apply to any child):

It’s all about early awareness and advance planning: Researching the road ahead before you reach it.  Knowing what the choices

are well before you have to make them.   Realizing what opportunities lie ahead so you can position your child to take advantage

of them.   Understanding future requirements so so you can start preparing your child at an early age to meet them. (p. 23)

Enough said, right?   If I might add anything from personal experience, each of our older children has had a vision of the college where they just HAD to go.   That vision lasted for years–right up until we actually began making the investment to visit the campuses.    The oldest did not even apply to her “had-to” choice, and our son, who is not far behind her, took his “had-to” choice completely off his list of considerations.   You might not be able to visit every campus that enters your child’s dreams, but if you can narrow the choices down to 3-4, it might be well within your grasp to make a vacation out of a personalized tour.   More importantly, it might save you and your child tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Take advantage of open houses, senior days, and other opportunities for guided tours, even if you do not take a 1-on-1 personal tour.   Don’t just veg out while you walk.   Compile a list of questions for the college tour guide/ representatives.  The questions below are listed in no particular order.

 1. Dorms–is housing guaranteed for all 4 years? If not, is there a guarantee, and if so, for how long? Is there help for finding housing off-campus?
2. How are advisors assigned, and what is the student/ advisor ratio?
3.  How easy is it to change majors? Do you lose all your credits? Also, how many students double-major?
4. Application process–are you assigned specific contacts throughout the process, or are you just a number?
5. What is the timing on decision for acceptance vs. decision for financial aid? (try to find out whether you have to accept before you know how much money you’ll get)
6. Listing of scholarship/ grant opportunities?
7. Do they have a career placement office and what type of help do they offer?
8. Are internships available, and if so, where? What companies?
9.  Library–what hours? (ask the same of the on-campus eating locations?)
10. What type of interaction with the surrounding community?

11.  (to ask of the college-aged tour guide) Why did you choose this college/ university?

5. Talk to your child–honestly and candidly–about money and debt.   I would not presume to tell you what to say.   Perspectives on college costs can range from “you’re not going to _______ school if it cost one dime out of our budget” to “going in debt is how everyone gets through college.”   Either position, and all thoughts in between, have merit.   But given that colleges will talk to your child about paying for college–not you, even though you might be the one who actually writes the check–you need to at minimum have the conversation so that your child’s eyes are wide open regarding the high costs of college and what is the plan to pay for it.

6. Prepare your child for test-taking environments.     Test comfort and preparation can also be a determinant of money.   National Merit scholarships are a function of high PSAT scores, and ACT and SAT scores translate into more dollars.   Dependent upon the state requirements, however, your child may not have taken a standardized test before.   There are study guides available for these tests in your local library, and these same resources are available for purchase.   The College Board site also allows your child access to a daily SAT question.   In any case, you don’t want your child’s first experience with these critical exams to be when the scores will be reported to various colleges.    I should mention, though, that these tests can be taken more than once if the results are not as you want after the first time.   

7. Keep records for yourself of your child’s accomplishments throughout the high school years, and document his/ her work as clearly and succinctly as possible.  In some states, record keeping is standard protocol for homeschooling.   In Texas, however, such is not the case, and which year your child did what can become a blur in the other flurry of activities.   There are several companies that offer affordable record keeping tools, including transcript software.     HSLDA offers free transcript formats.  The various options in formatting gave us the opportunity to craft a transcript that highlighted our children’s strengths and minimized those other areas.

8.  Write those essays.   Our experience has been that, if an application requires an essay, your child will be asked to respond to something along the following lines:

  • what higher education means to me/ why do I want to go to college
  • what have I done/ will I do to help my surrounding community
  • where I want to be in 5 years
  • how will college help me reach my professional and non-professional goals
  • what person has inspired me the most

If you can start your child to at least think about these items, if not write them, they will be so much farther down the proverbial road.   All that becomes necessary at this point is tweaking the essays such that they fit a specific application.

Obviously, the demands of your home may dictate that additional steps are necessary, or there may be areas that, dependent upon your child’s goals, might not be necessary.    Whatever is the mountain ahead of you when it comes to getting your child ready for college, I wish you the very best at climbing it.   Be blessed, dear friends.

Training for Every Season

“Just as the high school student must think past seeing Jane run academically, so he or she must think past Noah’s Ark, past David’s slingshot, and even past the work done on the Cross. What of it? How do I apply all that I have been taught (and presumably learned, the difference of which is another post altogether)? This is the time to see what a child believes, and to step back from the memorization of facts–though memorization is still important–and instead watch and learn. As a student ourselves, we are to trust God that seeds were planted on good soil.”

In this month’s Heart of the Matter Online blog, I talk about raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and how their season of growth and development in Christ parallels the classical approach to other subjects.   You can read more here


A Spirit of Excellence

As I write, we have two days of school left in this semester.    We have truly been on the wind-down, physically, and perhaps even more mentally.   Dad’s home for two weeks, which means the biggest kid in the house walks around frolicking and being a fun-loving distraction to the whole house.    He’s also been the substitute teacher this week, making the day interesting.

Some other things change about our home when Dad’s here, too.   For me, his warmth, combined with the coolness of our would-be winter, makes it harder to get out of bed.   Me getting out of bed later means the kids get out of bed later.    Plus, knowing that we would stop mid-week this week, I intentionally did not schedule as much on the kids’ calendars.   That way, the workload once we do wake up is more than manageable.    Once everyone is finished, they have the day left to themselves.

I’ve made another observation about this time of “less-to-do-and-more-time-to-do-it”: a spirit of laziness can also creep in.   My husband and I were having this discussion as we watched an episode of a sitcom that we had seen all too many times.   If you are not careful, you look around as the sun sets, and nothing has been accomplished.   OR, the work that does get accomplished is done with a Herculean effort to push past mediocrity.    I was also having this discussion–or at least, a related one–with the oldest.

She was given a blank canvas (minus the grid lines for longitude and latitude) and general instructions for drawing most of the Eastern Hemisphere.   What I envisioned in handing her this project was a map full of the types of details that she has uncovered during her studies–continents and major countries, but also symbols, animals, clothing, etc.   With a mother’s/teacher’s instinct, however, I knew that she’d not embraced this course the way that she’d embraced others during the year, so I sensed a tendency to give me the minimum.    I could have waited, but I thought I’d drop a hint and spare myself some disappointment.   So I said  (pleaded, truth be told), “You could turn this into so much more than a memory game of longitude and latitude.   You could add famous landmarks, you could add major bodies of water, …”    So, three days go by, plus a weekend in which she took time to put on the finishing touches, and I got exactly what I asked for–no less, and certainly no more.

This morning, while she completed the next assignment using her map, I made an observation.   “You gave me continents, but no countries.   Do you remember what I wrote about details?”    I told her that I would count off for not having major countries listed, and began to share my expectations for her final exam.   She launched into how she gave me exactly what I asked for, and how she’d added landmarks, and she’d done what I said to do.   I should have written down exactly what I wanted, she said.   Then with mounting frustration, she requested that I list specifics for the final.

The quick response was that I could list specifics, but I also wanted her to think about giving me more than what I asked for.  I wanted her to possess a spirit of excellence.   This was a life lesson about doing more than the minimum.    When you own a business, customers won’t always articulate exactly what they want; you must anticipate the real need, and surpass their expectations.   When you marry someone, they won’t always tell you every single thing that pleases them; you have to out-do them in love, as the scriptures say, which means doing far more than just what is asked of you.    I talked about her exams in her art history course, with an instructor that she knew and liked from art classes as a child.   She worked hard to please this instructor.   She would proudly boast after each exam how she’d written a paragraph about each piece of art–far more than she was asked to do.   Her papers now sit in the Dean’s office as an example to the state boards of the exemplary teaching performed at the college.   That’s what happens when you do more than what is expected; that is the reward of a spirit of  excellence.

Coincidentally enough, just this morning we were reading the 26th chapter of Exodus.   I can remember my very first time reading through this passage–probably as a girl about my youngest’s age–and thinking it was a waste of my time.   So many details for building the tabernacle!!  Why, and why was this included in the Bible??!!   Praise God for growth.  This morning when we talked about the number of details, the youngest remembered what her dad said on yesterday: our God is a god of excellence.   He has specific assignments for us to do, and He gives us details.   And this is what I wanted the oldest to get–that we serve a God of excellence, and less than our best is not acceptable.

So, it could have been that same spirit of laziness that produced a lackluster map; she’s slept later and harder not having to get up for classes and all the extra activities that make up college.   It could have been (and I expect some of it is) a tendency to prioritize her college courses over her high school courses as the dreaded “senioritis” starts to rear its ugly head.    Whatever is the case, I’d bet it won’t happen again.

I have at least one homeschooling friend who will ball up work that she considers mediocre or worse and throw it away.   Harsh?  Maybe, but that only has to happen once to send a message.   How do you make sure your children are completing their best work?

What’s New? From Our Point of View…

It is a beautifully sunny, 74-degree day here in coastal Texas, and with the oldest at college and our son at the dentist, the youngest decided to school outside.   Funny, this was my vision when we first began homeschooling—days outside on a picnic blanket, completing schoolwork and viewing exotic animals.   (You can stop laughing now).   The vision sounded wonderful, and the outdoor school day sounded delightful until it met with my own plans and realities.   I had a fairly simple morning plan to complete a few chores and write a blog entry while the youngest worked beside me at the table.   So, it shames me to say that when she initially approached me about going outside, I sent her out and continued with my plans.   I felt bad, so when she came back inside the first time, I said, “Let me just do ____ and I’ll come out with you.”     I got that pot of vegetarian chili to a point where it could just simmer, started that load of clothes, and then pulled up a chair alongside her in the backyard.   That’s when I realized that even 74 degrees—in full sun—is still just plain hot.    After reading for a spell, we both gave in to what became our heart’s deepest longing–air conditioning.

One of our struggles this year has been sustaining her with a deliberate diet of rich literature versus twaddle, in Charlotte Mason vernacular.   Our youngest, with all the extroversion that missed our older two, wanted to start a book club this past year.   She had almost completed all the planning, complete with convincing Mom that this was a good thing, when our local library announced its plans to have a book club.    I thought this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, and we hurriedly signed up to be a part of their event.   Now I wish that I had stuck with the original plan to have our own club.   The selection of books that the librarians offer—yuck!!!      I would love to simply pull her from the club, but I’m torn by the fact that she likes being a part of the group, she enjoys the time and activities, and—here’s the kicker—she likes the books.  They are much easier reading, for sure, but based upon what I consider to be a “good” book, i.e., a story that engages the mind and pricks the heart, the book club’s selections are way past poor.   The longer I allow this, of course, the more difficult it is to interest the youngest in books that demand more of her.   Consequently, I’ve not pulled her yet from the club, but have been instead picking my teachable moments.   As an example, we are now reading The Whipping Boy, which is actually very easy to read—a short book with short chapters.   Upon reading chapter 1, she immediately stopped to whine empathetically when she realized what was the whipping boy’s  responsibility (to receive the punishment that should have been given to a spoiled brat excuse for a prince).    While she was sharing how badly she felt for the boy, I talked about the power of a good read and recalled that she’d never stopped to empathize with Vordak the Incomprehensible.   She still maintains that Vordak is the best book ever (heavy sigh).

While I ponder what to do about the book club, I am excited about the cursive handwriting curriculum from LightHome Publications I found on Currclick.  Can you say $6??!!   This looks awesome!!  A chance to share the Word of God, to practice cursive handwriting, and to create a lasting keepsake of the Word in Psalms!!  Can’t beat it with a stick!!

After years of, ahem, uncertainty, shall we say, about homeschooling my MIL blessed us with an entire high school biology curriculum—teacher’s guides, transparencies, DVDs, videos,… everything!   I have been thrilled with all the extra project ideas that have come with the text that really cater to how we like to learn.   The publisher of this not-so-dry text has actually partnered with Dinah Zike (foldables guru, author of The Big Book of Books) to include manipulatives to enhance the content!!  Given Dinah Zike’s popularity within the homeschool community, I couldn’t help but think this was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.

Our school this year is a gentle foreshadowing of the next 2-3 years to come as the oldest spends a significant amount of time away from us.   Her classes keep her away on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the extracurricular activities associated with the Honors Program, plus the time to complete her coursework actually occupy her throughout a good portion of her week.   My dh and I were just discussing today that even though she wasn’t the noisiest of our children, her presence, or lack thereof, is definitely felt if not heard.    Her high school courses this year include Algebra II, Physics, and World Geography.    Other than that, I’m the taxi cab driver!

During the summer, Knowledge Quest distributed what I assume was a preview of their Globalmania curriculum, but it was PERFECT (yes, I’m shouting) for what I wanted to do with World Geography.     There is enough of a guide-like feel to this .pdf file without it being too prescriptive.   I played the games that help with map memorization and, in completing them myself to get a feel on what the oldest would do, I determined that my geography needs serious work.  No wonder I almost failed this class in middle school ( LOL)!!  There is also a schedule that, again without being too prescriptive, suggests how to spend time learning a specific continental region.    What I have added (because without the additions the curriculum might be more elementary) is the idea of research of the continents to find out more about the history and culture, and the idea of understanding a major religion in that region and how you might evangelize with respect to what the people believe.    Finally, when I taught World Geography at our local homeschool store, that particular curriculum set a goal for a student to draw a world map from memory by the end of the course.   I so loved the students’ results that I incorporated this same goal for the oldest.   I’m enjoying watching her get started, and her illustrations of how much she is learning.



I am so glad, in spite of the fact that American Lit at the college level has her permanently attached to a Norton’s Anthology, that we made the decision to add in as many living books as we could to complement her studies.    She decided early on that audio books would best help her keep up with everything.    This was easily accomplished with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, but we’ve been reading aloud Homer Hickam’s October Sky together.   The latter book has been a welcomed accompaniment to her Physics studies, and I’m so glad that I didn’t place too much stock into the warning that this coming-of-age story had potentially inappropriate subject matter.  Yes, he’s a love-struck teenage boy who is learning, unsuccessfully, how to be suave with the ladies (picture Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies’ Man”), but what far overshadows those moments is this book’s ability to take you through Coalwood, WV with such imagery until you feel as if you stepped back 40 years and are standing alongside one of the “rocket boys.”    We even resisted the urge to watch the movie.  (Was it just a coincidence that it came on television while we were reading?   Hmmm….)   After Jules Verne, I’m on the hunt for what might our next great geography-related find: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.   If I could just find the audio book for something less than $27…


What’s new with your studies?   I’d love to “hear” about all those cool and creative homeschool  studies.