An Update on our School Year (Our Schedule, Curriculum, Homeschool, Public School, College, oh my!)

Way back in August when I shared this very delicious Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe, I mentioned a bit about our school year and our family Bible time. Several asked for more information, so here I am, a month and a half later, finally getting around to writing a few details about our schedule and curriculum.

schedule and curriculum

The good news: So far, this year isn’t as difficult as the past three years have been. Thank you, God. Our high school aged sons had some tougher classes during those years that threatened to push both student and mother over the edge of sanity. Everything in comparison seems easier this year, even though it’s still hard work. So here we are, not losing our sanity. Mostly.

This year we have:

Asa ~ age 20, a college junior

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Of course he’s not still homeschooling or even living at home, but I thought you might like an update on him anyway. :) Asa lives on the York College campus across town, so we still get to see him from time to time! He’s in the thick of his Business Communications degree plan, is known as “the video guy” on campus, and is well on his way to making a career of videography and photography. He’s paying his way through school with his camera, by studying hard so he can keep his academic scholarship (he has to maintain a 3.75 gpa or higher, phew!), plus he’s got a soccer and a choir scholarship. Somehow he keeps up with all of this, along with heavy involvement on campus, without ever sleeping. Also, he has an adorable girlfriend. Be still my heart.

Justus ~ age 17.5, a high school senior

Justus Senior6600

He is all but finished with his high school graduation requirements, so he is focusing now on getting more college credits under his belt. (We heart dual credits!) He’s taking World Literature on the York College campus, and Intro To Business at the public high school for college credit.

Big News! Nebraska changed their requirements this year for homeschoolers. In order to participate in extracurricular activities at the public school, homeschoolers only have to take two classes (which is much more doable for our family compared to previous state requirements). So Justus and Elias are taking two classes each at our local high school so that they can play soccer with the team in the spring. So exciting!

Justus is taking piano and voice lessons each week, choir at the public school, and produces music on software at home each week too. Perhaps it goes without saying that he is planning to be a music major in college next year.

Elias ~ age 15.5, a high school sophomore 

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This kid is hitting his high school basics hard this semester so that he can begin dual credits next semester (or next year…we’re still working out some of the specifics). He’s taking Choir and Weight Lifting at the public high school for his two required classes which will make him eligible to play soccer with the team. We chose those because there’s no homework involved, seeing as his homeschool academic plate is very full this year (details below).

Elias takes voice lessons each week and has no idea what he wants to do as a career in the future. It will be fun to watch God reveal that to him in the coming years!

Malachi, age 12.5, a 7th grader

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This guy is so full of ideas I can’t keep up. He’d rather ignore all school work and instead develop his ideas all day (mostly with LEGOs and YouTube, both of which he’d like to turn into businesses). Unfortunately, he has mean parents who still make him do his Pre-Algebra. So, he works hard to get his school work done by lunch, if possible, so that he can go with ALL THE IDEAS all afternoon.

He is on both a city team and a club team for soccer this fall and is busy writing two scripts for a church middle school event in the spring.

All three of our boys who still live at home will play for our homeschool basketball team this winter (Malachi’s first year!). They also all referee soccer for our city rec league, and some for club teams too, which has been great money for them through the years. They all work with Matt here and there doing various handy man or lawn care jobs, which is great for their work ethic, skills training, and savings accounts!

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What does our school year schedule look like?

6:30ish I get up and have quiet time with God before the household gets up. The boys wake up to their alarm clocks so they can be ready and at the table at 8:00.

8:00 Our family enjoys breakfast and Bible time together (I explained more about our family Bible time here).

8:40 Justus and Elias leave for Choir at the public school. Elias has Weight Lifting right after that, so Justus hangs out in the library and does school work during that period.

Meanwhile, Malachi and I read World History together (Sonlight curriculum) at home. Then he heads to a computer to work on Pre-Algebra (Teaching Textbooks) in the hopes that he’ll be done with that computer before Elias gets home. I answer emails and do other small blogging jobs while staying nearby to answer any math questions Malachi has.

10:30 Justus and Elias get home from public school. Justus practices his piano, guitar, and does any college class homework that needs to be done.

Elias starts on Geometry (Teaching Textbooks), then moves on to English, Zoology, and Economics (all guided by Sonlight curriculum suggestions, but adapted by Matt and me to fit his needs/learning style/state requirements). He finishes his day with Spanish (DuoLingo) usually around 2:00. We’re trying to squeeze in some ACT practice right now as well.

Malachi does his English, Science, and Reading (all Sonlight curriculum), then moves on to Spanish (DuoLingo). If he’s diligent, he can be finished with his work by noon.

12:00 Justus heads out to his Intro to Business class at the public school.

1:00 Everyone (and by this, I mean everyone but Asa, of course) is home and we eat lunch together, if possible.

1:45 On Tuesday/Thursday, Justus heads to the York College campus for his World Lit class. Elias and Malachi finish any work they have left. This is the point I can usually get a little bit of uninterrupted blogging work done, maybe, sort of. (Not that it matters, but it is 3:47 right now and I have been interrupted no less than 13 times in the past 30 minutes. Working from home is so relaxing and productive.)

The rest of the day and evening involves soccer games, church activities, or ministry opportunities. Often we don’t eat dinner together until around 8:00 pm during the fall. However, our boys’ homeschool basketball season is about to begin, which will mean that they need to eat and leave by 6:30 on Tues/Thurs evenings.

Our School Year - Homeschool, Public, and College

Through each full day, God always provides for our spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. My dirty kitchen though? Well, I’ll get that clean after all the kids graduate.

If I Had to Raise My Kids All Over Again, I Would Definitely Do This

I’m on year twenty of being a mom. TWENTY! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t know how I got here. One crusty sock and painful lego under my foot at a time, I suppose. What a ride. What a joy. What a lot of life lessons.

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My kids always cooperated when taking pictures.

The regrets over all the mistakes I made and things I wished I could go back and do differently started washing over me during my oldest son’s senior year of high school. It was a painful time, thinking of sending him off after graduation, knowing I could have and should have done a better job. The Enemy was attacking and filling me with lies, making me forget all the good in our lives, keeping me from seeing the amazing person my son had become in spite of, and even because of me.

God’s grace has offered much healing from those days of swimming in regret as He overpowered the enemy lies and showed me His beautiful Truth. I am so thankful to be freed of that bondage!

Sure, I could have done many things differently through these twenty years. But that doesn’t mean I’m a parenting failure. It means I’m a human being. It means I need Jesus. It means my kids need Him too, since what I have to offer falls short of what our Savior offers.

Well with that, I want to reflect back on something I am so thankful we did, something God orchestrated in our family and helped us to do well – even though we had no idea at the time that it was such a thing of beauty.

If I had to raise my kids all over again, I would definitely do this

From the time our kids were little, we made opportunities for our kids to think of and serve others.

It was something we saw happening within another family we respected. They always had their kids with them as they served the community in all different ways. We saw this and we thought, “We want that for our kids.”

I am so thankful for this family’s example of serving with their kids. It would have been easier to leave the kids behind so we could “serve more efficiently.” But what would our kids have learned? That serving was for grown-ups? That helping others wasn’t their problem? That they could learn to do that serving thing later on in life? That they could stay in their own little world and think only of themselves?

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When our second son was three (he’s now heading into his senior year; I can’t even) – I started a fun “school” time with him where I taught him an alphabet letter each week. As he was learning the sound and doing activities to help him retain what he was learning, we started thinking of people we knew whose name started with that letter. Then we’d choose a fun way to show love to that person. For instance:

On Mm Week, we chose an elderly couple from church, Mabrey and Madge Miller (how handy that their first names started with M too!). We made and delivered them Mini Muffins, explaining to them what the boys were learning. Dearest Madge loved what we were doing and cleverly sent the boys a thank you note which read, “Mmmm! Many thanks for the marvelous, magnificent mini muffins you made!”

Do you know what a treasure this is? Others responded with equal joy and fun with our family as we delivered “a jar of jelly beans to John on Jj week, a tiny toy for Tina on Tt week, a flower to Felice on Ff week…and so on.

We worked our way through the alphabet this way with all of our boys when they came “of age” but what’s better is that all of our boys got to participate in the serving activities every single time.

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Here’s our youngest, back when he was four,
delivering an Apple Pie to the Amick family on Aa week!

I look back on those precious times with our family with so much happiness, I can’t put it into words. Our boys learned to think of others and consider what might bring them joy – then they had the experience of delivering a treasure to a surprised recipient. They learned to talk to the elderly, consider the shut-in, and approach kids bigger than them.

It was a parenting move I didn’t even know would turn out to be such a blessing. But Ww is for win and this is a parenting move I thank God He inspired.

A few years after the idea originated in our home, my husband urged me to compile it all and create an actual curriculum to share. It was a huge amount of effort, but I got to re-live all the memories, which made it such a joy to complete. It’s filled with hundreds of ideas of activities to help your child learn letter sounds while learning to serve!

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Many, many families have used this with their kids since it first came out, and this week, I’m highlighting it again for this reason:

 

Teach your kids to serve. Help them see people. Train them to notice other people’s needs.

I will never regret the time our family has spent caring for and serving others together. My kids have not always done this cheerfully; parts of this training have been hard; sometimes it would have been easier to do the task myself. But now I watch my kids spoon-feeding our adult handicapped friend, I see them hugging our disabled lady friend without reservation, I hear them talking sweetly to little ones – and I know this without a doubt:

Teaching my kids to serve at a young age is a parenting move I would cheerfully do all over again.

What’s something you’ve done as a parent that you feel great about?

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

How I Really Feel About My Kids’ High School English Papers

I am the girl who loves to write, has chosen a career that involves hours of writing every week, and finds words to be one of the most fantastic, beautiful joys of life. But helping my kids write research papers, rhetorical analysis papers, and all such dreadful necessary assignments such as these threaten to make me want to rip out handfuls of my hair, tear pages out of innocent textbooks, and break laptops over our fireplace.

I’m not pleased to admit this about myself, but now you know the truth.

How I Really Feel About My Kids High School English Papers

Reading and writing about Hamlet back when I was in high school is what kept me from knowing that I actually love to write. I persevered and I did my time, but now here I am, experiencing this all again, over and over, with all of my high school-aged sons. I’d leave it up to their teachers, but I AM THEIR TEACHER, so here I sit with my ugly mom face where there are no nice words and there is no sunshine.

I take no pride in this. My head is hung in shame. Alas, I have been showing my kids how to respond to assignments we don’t like but have to do anyway with a gross attitude, using words like “stupid, ridiculous, and whodecidedthispoemshouldbeinatextbook.” Lord, deliver me from MLA formatting, documenting resources, and analyzing, comparing, and contrasting poetic themes.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is incredible value in teaching these skills to our students. Our kids need to know how to write well, do research, identify literary themes, format a paper properly – and for the love of my ability to inhale oxygen, everyone should know the correct way to write your, you’re, their, there, and they’re.

I’m simply not a fan of teaching all of this. I signed up for this homeschool gig, I’m in it for the long haul, and 99 out of a 100 times a day I love this life. But sometimes I long to go back to the simpler days of bright math manipulatives, Bob Books, and alphabet matching games.

(Clearly, I’ve erased the poop-snot-distracted-tantrum-defiant moments from my memories and am drawing only from oh they were so little and precious and snuggly and remember all the wonderful books we cuddled up and read together memories. Still, we didn’t have to analyze the deeper meaning of Little Bear after we read it together or compare and contrast it with the underlying theme of Frog and Toad, am I right?)

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Moms of little ones? Don’t listen to one negative thing I’m saying right now. I’m using hyperbole (that’s a high school English term that means “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally”). If you choose to homeschool your kids, even all the way through high school, you can absolutely do it and do it well.

I’ve been happily homeschooling for 15 years, and while I’m always thankful when the challenging writing assignments are transferred to the “finished” file, I don’t regret one minute of the time I’ve had with each of my sons, bonding over Dickenson, cringing over Oedipus, and laughing about embarrassing spelling edits that need to be made (thank you, auto-correct, for these teachable moments). There’s incredible beauty in the relationships created with our sons while we work hard together to end each assignment knowing his finished product is one he can be proud of.

Just like everything – teaching our kids to use the potty, sound out words, sit still during church, obey the first time, multiply fractions, tie shoes, cook a meal, drive a car – there are times we parents simply have to lean in, buckle down, pray for strength, and get it done. We’ll like some of it better than others. We’ll be glad when some of it is over.

But that doesn’t mean that the effort and challenge isn’t worth the reward. Yea, though I walk through the valley of 4-6 page research papers covering subjects I care nothing about, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy coffee and chocolate they comfort me.

Parents: we’ve got this. We can do this. We can even find a smile and some nice words.

Together we praise God for creating summer break, the glorious months we can look back at all the finished research papers, the 137 completed Algebra II lessons, and the fact that Shakespeare actually made sense to us a time or two.

By and by, somewhere between a cold slice of watermelon and a run through the sprinkler, we’ll remember the glorious light bulb moments of the past school year, the accomplishments, and the great discussions – and we’ll realize with joy how much we love learning with our kids. (Truly. These days are invaluable and I wouldn’t trade a minute.)

We’ll find refreshment this summer. We’ll read all the books just for fun! Then we’ll start looking ahead to next year, and not just looking ahead, but looking forward – as in actually looking forward to it all starting up again in the fall! (Clean notebooks! New crayons! Amazing books and adventures to be had!)

Dearest Parents: Wherever you are in your school journey with your kids – whether home, public, private, or charter – I salute you. You care enough to work hard to help your children get the best education possible. You do easy things. You do hard things. You do things you wish you could do over and over again, and you do things you can’t wait to be finished with (I’m looking at you diaper blow-outs and ACT prep).

It’s all part of parenting and educating, training and growing.

May your parenting days be rich, your summer break restful, and your attitude about diagramming sentences better than mine.

What’s your very favorite (and your least favorite) school subject you get to help your kids learn?

P.S. I realized one day recently that I have forgotten how to move decimals whilst dividing numbers that include them. It took everything in me to keep from saying to my 6th grader, “Well, I guess this proves that you’ll never in your life need or use this skill so why don’t you just go build with your Legos instead?” Instead, I said, “We’ll get this figured out!” Then I called my 9th grader in to show us how it’s done because life’s too short to think hard about a skill I haven’t used since I was 12. Pat me on the back for this parenting win.


I heart 99 out of 100 school related things. Hyperbole is my favorite literary device.

Come Get Your “What I Loved About Summer” Printable

Here’s something I’ll assign my youngest during the first week of school. It’s simple, but a good way to get his juices flowing and make him think about all he loved about summertime.

Free Printable Summer Writing Prompt

Want this and many more free printables?

We’ve been creating and collecting all sorts of printable learning activities for all ages. These are free for everyone and will connect you to our fun Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone.

Enter your email address here, then check your inbox for download instructions. Print one, print them all, use them in whatever ways work best for your family!

If you are already subscribed to Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone, you should have received an email yesterday giving you instant access to this freebie. Look in your inbox for the subject: FREE Summer Writing Prompt

Ways Our Family Saves Money on Homeschool Curriculum

Here are two things I’ve learned when it comes to buying homeschool curriculum:

  1. Homeschooling should be looked at as an investment.
  2. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.

In my 14+ years of homeschooling I’ve learned to recognize that just like with healthy eating – it is worth it to invest in the good stuff. Spending money for great curriculum is as worth it as spending money for great food. Ahhh, books and butter. Curriculum and vegetables. It all goes hand in hand, right? Buying high quality is worth the cost.

But there are also many ways to keep your curriculum costs down so that maybe, just maybe, we can enjoy good books and save money too. (Well, of course.)

How to Save Money on Homeschool Curriculum

How to Save Money on Homeschool Curriculum

Here are several ways I’ve saved money through our homeschooling years:

1. Use the Library

This one is too obvious, but still worth a mention. While I have really appreciated owning lots of great literature and having it on our shelves to grab at any time – there are plenty of books we have simply checked out from the library as needed. Cost is free, unless you forget to take the books back on time and have pay late fees. I know nothing about this.

2. Buy Used

Every year, I sit down with a list of books each of our kids will be reading during the school year. If we don’t already own it and I prefer not to have to get it at the library, I check on Amazon and see if I can find a used copy. I have saved so much money doing this.

Occasionally I’ve found needed books at garage sales or I’ve bought curriculum from other homeschool families who are cleaning the closet. (I’ve even been blessed by people handing me their used books for free!) As long as the book isn’t falling apart, buying a used book is just as nice as buying a new book – and you’ll save a few bucks per book too!

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3. Borrow and Share

One of the best ways I’ve found to save on big ticket items (like Teaching Textbooks or Apologia Science books) is to borrow and share with friends. This only works if our kids are in different grade levels and will therefore not be needing the same books or software at the same time. But coordinating with friends (i.e. I’ll buy the 5th grade book and you buy the 6th grade book, then we’ll swap next year) can be a huge money saver.

4. Divide the Dollar Amount by Number of Kids in Your Family

It has helped me “justify” a quality purchase when I do the math – knowing that I will eventually use each item for all four of my kids. Therefore, if I spend $40 on something, I know it really breaks down to just $10 per kid. Make sense?

5. Use and Reuse

With many of our consumable books through the years, I had our oldest kids leave the book blank and write their answers in a 20¢ notebook instead. That way I could save the consumable book to reuse – instead of having to buy it over and over each time another kid needed it. Yay for Malachi. The youngest kid gets to write in his books.

6. Go Digital

I’m learning to love digital books more an more for these reasons:

  • They save bookshelf space
  • I can organize them easily on my computer
  • They save money
  • I can use them over and over as needed for my family

Last year when the Build Your Bundle Homeschool Curriculum Sale was offered, I grabbed several packages to use for my younger two boys. Ah-ma-zing. Throughout this school year I supplemented our regular curriculum with eBooks I had picked up last year for cheap!!

What great ways have you found to save money on books?

If I Love Homeschooling So Much, Why Do I Love Summer Break Better?

I am a homeschool mom and I have some confessions to make.

We just finished our school year, put away all the books and CDs, drop-kicked our science lessons, and had ice cream for breakfast to celebrate. (It’s a yearly tradition the boys don’t let me forget about for some reason.)

boys school shopping 2015

Oh look. Here are the boys at the beginning of this school year – 
so full of hopes and dreams and eager to do Algebra.
In other words, they were bummed that summer break was over.

Last week I made a face at all our reference books as I put them back on the shelf as if to say, “I don’t want to see you for a very long time. I’m sick of you. Gather dust you…you big huge book full of words.” (Do I know how to give out insults or do I know how to give out insults?)

I no longer care if any of the pencils in our house are sharpened. I don’t know where any notebooks are, nor am I concerned with how many blank pages remain in them. No one has to give me a report at lunchtime on how much school work they still need to finish up for the day. Instead of saying, “Whose turn is it to do math at the computer?” I will say, “You guys want me to pull the van out of the driveway so you can shoot hoops?”

These are some of the emotions I feel about our impending summer break:

end of school year 1 (1) end of school year 1 (2) end of school year 1 (3)

But really. I love homeschooling.

It certainly isn’t for everyone, but as for me, I love pretty much everything about homeschooling. It is the rocking-est thing that I get to spend this much time with my kids. We seriously get to do some of the coolest activities, go to the most amazing places, and get to know some of the most incredible people. I love the homeschooling life!!! I even love the actual learning part. 

But when we can put the books away and just be? Oh it is so nice and wonderful.

Also? I love summer better than all the seasons. You all know this about me. I love heat and sunshine and I am so over cold, cloudy winter weather. I’m ready to enjoy being outside, soak up Vitamin D, swim, grill, garden, oh and you know what else?

I’m excited to take my kids to the library.

See, this is where I start to sound silly. (Because the selfies. Those weren’t silly.)

I like going to the library more in the summertime than I do during the school year. When we go during the school year, we usually go with a purpose and we need to hurry back home to study and learn. But when we go to the library during the summer we browse the shelves, linger over “just for fun” books, take our time, and check out all the books that look remotely interesting. There’s just something about the library in the summertime.

So there you have it. This mom loves to homeschool. But I also love summer break so much that I am busting out in dance moves (selfies not included).

Whether you are a homeschool mom or a public/private school mom – what are some of your emotions about summer break? Leave a comment to describe, and by all means do feel free to send me an emotion selfie. (I’m serious. laura @ heavenlyhomemakers.com)

The Day I Gave Up and Decided to Make Lists (It’s Time for Laura to Get Organized)

Everyone thinks I’m organized.

People say to me, “If I was organized like you…” or “I’m sure the reason you get so much done everyday is because you’re so organized…” And I’m like, “Are you for real? Have you seen my closets?? My desk? The cabinet that holds my Pyrex?!”

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I cleaned it once. In 2011.

You guys. I am not great at organizing. My cabinets are a crazy mess. My closet doors won’t close. I don’t know who (if anyone) has a soccer game tomorrow (though we probably have three). When someone asks, “Can you do such-and-such on Tuesday, May 3rd?” I say, “I have no idea. Can you ask me May 2nd?” Thinking beyond today is just about more than my brain can handle.

This hasn’t always been me. Back when I had more time (before I had kids? definitely before I started this blog) I used to write everything down and keep track of my schedule better. Ironically, the busier I have become, the less organized I am.

Shall we all say it together? “Laura, that doesn’t make any sense. Get it together!!!!!

You get it together.

Whoa. My inner sassy teenager just came out.

Speaking of teenagers – mine are all in charge of keeping track of their own schedules. This is partly why I can check out when it comes to every single thing that needs to be done each day. My sons are the ones who have to tell me when they are reffing soccer, when they have a sports practice, when they have a deadline, and when they have to be somewhere for an activity or obligation. They keep track of their own schedules so that I don’t have to be their brain and mine too. I think we can all be thankful for this.

asa soccer 2015

Still though. Not being more organized has gotten me into trouble more than once, and here’s what I’ve decided most recently:

It would probably help my overloaded spaghetti brain situation if I were to get the to-do lists out of my head and down on paper instead. Maybe?

This is so obvious.

I think part of why I’ve shied away from paper organizational systems for so long is because none of them have worked well for me. They seem too boxy – too one-size-fits-all. Since my life doesn’t fit in a box (read: Laura isn’t normal) I’ve not appreciated specific “here’s how to do it” systems.

Ways I actually am organized:

  • I do plan meals pretty well.
  • I always have plenty of food on hand.
  • I have binders for my work related paperwork and keep very good track of income and expenses for tax purposes.
  • I make lists for my kids with their school work requirements. (Once. At the beginning of the school year. Then I adapt it as needed and print it off each week.)
  • I keep thorough transcripts for my high schoolers.

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So sure. I’m organized in some ways – just not in all the ways. But in regard to all the ways I’m not organized – I can’t keep up any more so I’ve decided it’s time to try something new.

I came to this conclusion after a heart-felt discussion with my husband (read: Laura was overwhelmed and teary-eyed again). You know how I’ve told you that this teenager-filled season in my life is busier than ever and how the responsibilities are more intense and I keep trying to figure out what is wrong with me now that I’m not keeping up as well as I used to? Every few days it seems I have to overflow from the overload. I have the most long-suffering husband. How many times can he hear me say the same things over and over?

It was during our most recent Laura is overwhelmed same song second verse conversation that I concluded, “Why do I keep doing this? I love everything God is doing in our family and beyond. We’re in the middle of a lot and this is just what it is right now, isn’t it? From now until we get all the boys through school – I just need to buck up and go with it, don’t I? This is it. This is life right now.”

In other words, “I will be okay again sometime after the spring of 2023.”

I made myself an Organization Binder

Just after my conversation with Matt I thought, “Well, duh. I just got (and skipped over) an entire section of books and printables on Organization in the Homemaking Bundle. What if I actually looked at it?”

So I opened it, prayed over it (for real), and asked God to show me what might help make life more doable right now.” I went into it with an open and even eager mind. Just because organizational systems haven’t worked for me in the past doesn’t mean they can’t work for me now.

As God helped specific resources from these choices rise to the top for me, I printed out each page that I felt would benefit my organizational efforts. Then I put them all into a binder. I mean, if I’m going to get organized, I’d better start by putting all my stuff together in one place, right? Also – I should make it cute. Okay then.

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I colored it myself! 

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Once my binder was put together, I actually started writing stuff down. I made lists. I worked through worksheets. All-the-while, I prayed. I suppose that’s been one of my hang-ups with organizers. I don’t want to be tied down to a to-do list that I’ve created myself. I want to be Spirit led! But how about I ask the Spirit for guidance while I’m making to-do lists? It’s a win-win.

organizer 3

So yay me! I’m writing words on paper in a binder and it is making a difference. Too simple? Of course. I think the most profound changes begin with the most simple ideas. I’ve just been a little too stubborn to relent and do the obvious.

 

So here we are. I love my life and all its crazy craziness. But the truth is that between homeschooling, keeping up with teenagers, working full time hours, feeding the family, keeping up (ha!) with housework, and being involved in ministries – if I don’t become at least a little more organized, I’m going to be in a constant state of overwhelm. Nobody needs to live that way (or live with someone like that). Phew.

Tell me your status with being organized. Are you like me – organized in some ways but not others? Where do you shine? Where do you need a little extra guidance? 

P.S. Notice how I didn’t show you picture proof of how my closet doors don’t close. Be grateful.

Fun With Grammar ~ Valentine’s Day Free Printable Packet (And My Grammar Confession)

Valentine's Day Fun with Grammar
I write for a living. I homeschool my kids. I love and appreciate correct grammar usage and fantastically written sentences. (The frequent misuse of the words bring and take drives me batty. Take it there. Bring it here. This is not difficult.)

But for all my love of a good sentence, I cannot stand most typical Grammar Lessons (or sentences that begin with but).

I get a headache when reading information like this:

A Complex Sentence has one or more Dependent clauses (also called Subordinate clauses).

Does it? Does it really? How nice that I have not one, but two options for which to label the clauses that make up my (what was it again?)…my Complex Sentence. Now let’s talk about what modifies what, identify all the gerunds, and take the time to break it down into a diagram.

Woe is me. I just want to write sentences. Please do not make me pinpoint the predicate nominatives. I am 42. I have learned the definition of predicate nominative at least 24 times, and I still have to look it up every single time one of my kids asks me a question about it when he comes across it in his grammar lesson. This is because I DO NOT CARE. Oh, but a predicate nominative is a word that renames the subject of a sentence. Great. I just learned it for a 25th time. I will forget that information once again in five, four, three…

Well, now you know the truth.

I’m glad some people love all of the specifics of grammar because someone has to write the grammar lesson books and teach it in our schools. Some of you think grammar is fun and I still like you alot (<— even if I did just write that non-word on purpose out of spite).

While those are my feelings – I still teach my kids grammar because I have to. (This book series is the one I dislike the least and currently use with my older kids.) I don’t, however, make them re-write all 17 sentences if they have mastered the concept after 3 sentences; I don’t insist that they take time to memorize all the correct terminology (see predicate nominative predicament above); and if the lesson in their book is truly not relevant, I modify it to make it meaningful.

However, my kids are all still learning and able to write nice sentences. I know this doesn’t make sense without their mother’s solid knowledge of participles, but our oldest really has been getting A’s in his college English courses and has been successfully cranking out countless essays and term papers for professors.

Maybe it goes without saying that our family values creativity and practicality over fact-spitting. We try to keep education relevant if at all possible. Some parts of school a kid just has to get through because it’s required (so do not ask our current sophomore how he feels about Geometry theorems). But when it can be fun – for the love of the accurate use of then and than – let’s make it fun.

Fun with Grammar

Now that you’ve read my feelings on grammar you will know that when I labeled my newest creation Fun with Grammar, this means something. Our 5th grade son recently completed one of his (boring) Grammar textbooks for the year. (He’s still working through Wordly Wise 5.) As a way to fill in some gaps, I began creating some Valentine related grammar activities for him. One page turned into another, and before I knew it I had 12 pages prepared.

Nice kid though he is, Malachi was not excited or supportive of my new project. “You’re making me grammar pages? Why???” However, as soon as I printed them out and handed them over, he worked his way through the first four pages without a complaint. He might have even looked like he was enjoying himself. I believe his exact words tonight were, “Actually, that grammar thing is pretty fun.” Boom. Mission accomplished.

Bonus: I made said 5th grader proof-read this packet for me before I shared it with you. I’m a sly one.

Fun With Grammar - Valentine's Day Free Printable Packet

None of these activities are tedious. They simply ask your child to be creative and have fun with some basic English and Grammar skills.

Does it get any better than this? I typed out a Brownie Recipe, purposely made some mistakes, and asked your child to find the errors and misspelled words. It’ll take your child just a few fun minutes, then he/she can go bake brownies. Friends, there are no predicate nominatives in a pan of brownies!! (At least I don’t think there are. I obviously already forgot the definition.)

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Even more fun is that this packet is free for everyone. Use it in your home. Use it in your school. Enjoy the activities. Be creative. Actually have fun with grammar. And if your kid still hates it, well at least it was free and you got some brownies out of the deal.

Enter your email address below to download your free Fun With Grammar ~ Valentine’s Day Edition Printable Packet.

I’m super excited to share that signing up for this freebie will connect you to our new Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course. You can unsubscribe at any time, your info will never be shared or sold, and being on this list means that you’ll be the first to know of the other fun (yes, FUN!) educational tools we’re putting together! Emails will not be frequent. I’m too busy trying to relearn what a subordinating conjunction is.

A Day in the Life ~ Homeschooling Older Kids and Teenagers

Many have requested that I share what life is like for our family now that our kids are older. What is our homeschool routine? How is it that as the kids got older and more independent, Mom actually got busier? What does a day in our life look like?

Today, I took pictures and notes all day long. I’ve documented our Wednesday as best I can. Why today? I chose today because I finally remembered the post request this morning and decided to started taking pictures (and you thought I was so organized). You’ll notice that most of the pictures don’t include the kids. It’s a teenage thing and I respect it. I now present to you over 20 {mostly} kidless pictures.

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After all, what could be more fun than looking at a picture of our overflowing compost bucket??

First I’ll fill you in on who we are – then I’ll share the specifics of our life today:

Matt and I are self-employed. I’m a writer-blogger (hi!); Matt runs a variety of businesses from snow removal/lawn care to rental property management to handyman/construction. Every work day is different for us based on the current deadlines and to-do lists. We tag-team the needs of the kids and needs of the household.

Our boys are now 18, 15 (almost 16), 14, and 11.

Asa (18) is a college freshman, living on campus at our local Christian college and juggling a very full academic and social life. Justus (15) is a high school sophomore; Elias (14) is an eighth grader; Malachi (11) is a fifth grader. So in summary, we have one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary. (And I question why I can’t keep up.)

Family Christmas Pic

For me, today began as it usually does with a cup of coffee and my Bible. I got up later than I meant to (whatever though, I needed sleep) – so that cut into my quiet time as Matt got the boys moving for the day.

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The boys are typical teenagers, which means the first thing they like to do in the morning is grab their ipods from the living room table to see what they missed while they were sleeping. Sometimes I hate ipods and want to run them over with my car (like when the boys are so zoned into them they don’t hear me telling them to load the dishwasher or that the house is on fire). But this is our culture and this is how they keep up with their people and make plans, so I try to be okay with this (while still setting boundaries). After a few minutes, ipods stayed in the living room as the boys headed to the kitchen to find breakfast.

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Everyone warmed up their own leftover French toast or pancakes and grabbed applesauce and/or blueberries. Matt read to us from the book of Romans as we ate. Today we ate in a hurry because Justus and Malachi had to be at their piano lessons at 9:00.

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Teeth brushed, the two boys packed their piano books along with some school work so that while one boy was having his lesson, the other boy could read or do English. In the meantime, Elias tried to sneak back onto his ipod (as I pictured it being crushed under the van tire) and then got scooted upstairs to do his English lesson. Then, since he was the only boy home, he got on the computer to do his Algebra.

I used the quiet time to start writing this post, then shopped online to order Justus’ birthday presents and made a grocery list off Pricematcherz.com.

Matt took his truck to have the tires worked on, and they finished just in time for him to pick up the boys from piano. Good thing since I was still in my jammies. ;)

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Once home, Justus went straight back to the school computer to work on his music. Malachi and Elias started playing soccer in the living room. (It’s winter. I don’t own knick-knacks. THEY WERE GETTING ALONG. Carry on, boys.)

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What? Don’t you have a soccer goal by your front door?

I sent Elias in to empty half the dishwasher. Malachi played the piano for a while, then I sent him off to do his reading. Elias and Malachi began working on a video project together, while still getting along. Justus was working on Geometry on the computer. I finished tweaking an article to send into our local newspaper (I write a weekly column) and suddenly needed food. It was only 11:00, but I am always hungry for lunch earlier than anyone else. (I eat an earlier breakfast, plus I’m more of a five-meals-a-day kind of eater.)

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I warmed up Taco Soup (working on a recipe for you!) and got out guacamole, carrots, and clementines.

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Around noon, everyone else was hungry too, so they dug in. They chose kiwi instead of clementines. While they ate, I read aloud from our latest missionary book.

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Lunch over, I had to head to Walmart to get ink for my computer so I could get a printed curriculum in the mail. I grabbed some price-match items while I was there, then ran to pick up Malachi’s buddy to hang out for the afternoon. While I was out, Justus completed his Physics and did some English and History reading. Elias read English and Science. Malachi completed his math assignment.

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Once I got home, Justus finished cleaning out the dishwasher, Malachi loaded it with dirty dishes, and the rest of us put groceries away.

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At 1:55 Matt, Elias, Malachi, and his friend headed out the door for an indoor soccer session. On the way, they dropped Justus off at the college campus for the 2:00 MWF Psychology class he’s taking. (You can read here about how we get dual high school and college credits for our kids.) I settled in for exactly 45 minutes of quiet work time before I needed to leave to pick Justus up from his class.

Everyone was back home by 3:15. I spent a silly amount of time on the phone tracking down a package that hadn’t been delivered. The boys found snacks to eat. Elias and Justus did their Spanish lessons on the computer. Malachi hung out with his friend. I closed my office door to write this post. :)

I checked on the boys a while later and found the door to the back room closed up tight. Why?? Usually it’s open a crack, but when it’s closed like this, it usually means “I’m recording so don’t walk in until I’m done or you’ll ruin everything!”

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What are the boys working on in there? Well, Justus and Elias currently have four big music/video projects they are working on with their church friends. Our church is hosting a Youth Rally coming up in February, and videos are a must; plus the boys need to complete some videos for LTC – a leadership event coming up in April. They’ve spent hours the past few weeks (some on their own and some with as many from the youth group who can help out) writing lyrics and scripts, creating beats and tunes, recording voices, videoing the action, and editing their work to put it all together. I can’t tell you how much I love them doing this.

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I snuck into the room later to take a picture of what is our “recording studio”/school-computer room/Matt’s office/guest room. The boys invested in that fancy microphone you see there, and Matt and I got them the mic stand and pop filter for Christmas.

The rest of the afternoon passed with me hiding in my office trying to get some work done. I hollered out at one point for each boy to scrub four potatoes for dinner. I came out of my office around 5:00 and made a big pot of Potato Soup. I had the boys work together on sides of sweet peppers, olives, raspberries, and pickles.

We headed out the door at 6:20 for Wednesday evening Bible study. At 8:15 we were back home, joined by a young couple who is getting married this March. Matt and I visited with them (pre-marital counseling/mentoring) until around 10:15. During that time the boys were sent upstairs to fold and put away the huge laundry pile. Once they finished that, they hung out in the back room and watched netflix until 10:00 when we headed them up to bed.

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Now it is 10:54 and I am wrapping this up and calling it a day. Thursdays usually require a little less running around compared to Wednesdays, though the two middle boys have basketball practice tomorrow night. Never a dull moment.

So how was your day? Have you found your schedule changing as your kids get older?

The Truth About Homeschooling Extroverted (and Introverted) Kids

It’s a good thing none of my kids have friends or like people. Otherwise homeschooling sure would be a drag.

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Yes. We just stay home all day long reading books. In Latin.

The kids like it that way. It’s a good thing, too, since there aren’t any sports, music, or drama opportunities for them.

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Special events like Prom? Nah. Stuff like that would take away from our traditional Saturday evening family folk-singing hour.

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The Truth About Homeschooling Extroverted (and Introverted) Kids

Let’s see. How long have I been doing this homeschool thing with my kids? I believe this would be year number 14. That doesn’t make me an expert, but it does mean that I’ve heard just about every fear parents have about homeschooling, every weird thing people say about socialization, and every question people have about the possibility of actually getting their kids through school in one piece. I’ve had all of the good days and all of the bad days and all of the days that not only make me question why we chose to homeschool but why we chose to have children at all.

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Today let’s talk about whether your kids are introverts or extroverts and how that works with homeschooling.

We have four sons ages 11-18. While they haven’t taken the actual survey to properly pin-point their personality types, and while our third son is so laid back it’s hard to tell if he even has a vert at all, I can tell you that it is very clear to me that our oldest and our youngest are very much extroverts. (When discussing this earlier in the week, our second son informed us that he is both an omnivert and a herbivert – because he likes both meat and vegetables. He is the kid who taught me how to make up words.)

Let’s begin by talking about my extroverted kids – one of whom graduated last year after 13 years of homeschool and just successfully completed his first semester away at college.

Just last week, while talking about college life, our oldest said something about how many people there were on campus to be friends with and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day to spend time with all of the people he would love to spend time with. Of the 475ish students on campus, Asa knows almost all of them and is a part of their friend circle in some way. He loves being with people. He can be in rooms full of people for days, then end the week by saying, “We should have some people over.”

asa at soul quest

And our youngest. He’s 11. While explaining personality differences a few weeks ago, I could barely get the definitions out about introverts (get energy by being alone) and extroverts (get energy by being with people) before he interrupted and said, “Oh, I’m definitely that extra-one. Whatever you call it.” Yeah buddy. I know. Malachi loves his people time. He can hardly stand it when I close my door to work alone because he has so many sentences and necessary pieces of information to share and he can’t stand that I might miss something.

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Justus (almost 16) and Elias (almost 14) sit more on the introverted side of the fence. They can spend hours alone working on music and writing lyrics with headphones on and be perfectly content for days. Funny though. Those two have just as many friends as my extroverted sons.

So point number one:

1. Every kid – introvert, extrovert, can’t-decide-which-vert – every kid needs people.

I am every bit of an introvert (I recharge by being alone), yet I have oodles of friends whom I love and need in my life. All of us are either introverted or extroverted and have many, many people whom we love and need in our lives. The same goes for our kids.

We all need people. We all need relationships. We all need to deny self (whatever that might look like for each of us) in order to serve and love others.

The word “socialization” makes me want to pull out my eyeballs with salad tongs. If the world would stop focusing on getting our kids socialized and simply focus on teaching our kids to love people the way Jesus loves people, that would probably solve…well, most of this world’s junk that needs to be solved. If everyone did the people thing the way God created each of us to do the people thing (introvertedly or extrovertedly) – wouldn’t that just be nifty?

So, no matter our personality type, we all need people. Therefore, I have absolutely concluded that being an extrovert or an introvert doesn’t make one more or less suited to be homeschooled. Which leads me to…

2. Going to a school building with lots of children and teachers does not necessarily meet the extrovert’s needs better than homeschooling.

While I think there are parts of “going to school” my extroverted kids would enjoy, there are other parts that would be very difficult for them. This is in no way a comparison or a “my way is better than your way” post. On the contrary, I am saying that there are different ways to meet an extrovert’s needs and being in a classroom full of kids is only one of those ways.

It’s a (big, fat, salad tong, eyeball) myth that homeschoolers are “home all day” or “never with people.” Goodness, there have been many weeks that I wondered how we could ever actually be home long enough to finish our school work (the kind that involves books and software).

Our family life is naturally full of people. Ironically, the fullness of this is actually because of the fact that we homeschool. I believe our time and social circle might be more limited if we didn’t homeschool. Interesting to think about.

Our church life and ministry focus’ includes several outings each week – all full of people. The older boys go to church camp up to 7 weeks during the summer between weeks of serving as counselor or enjoying time as a camper because they love it so much and want to live there forever. There are monthly youth rallies hosted by churches all over Nebraska where our boys meet up with dozens of their friends to worship, eat nachos, and not sleep for 56 hours straight.

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And then there’s soccer in the spring and fall and basketball all winter. Plus we invite people to our house frequently. There are field trips and homeschool gym days and science days. I’d write more about what we do with people, but as an introvert, this list is starting to make me tired. Which leads me to…

3. Introverted parents need to be aware of their extroverted kids’ needs.

My extroverted kids obviously love the “going” and the “doing” more than I do. What energizes them wears me out (in more ways than one because I’m 42 and there’s only so much coffee). But it is very important that I realize that they need the going and the people just as much as I need the quiet and the alone time.

As mentioned in point number 2, providing people time for my kids hasn’t been incredibly difficult. It happens naturally in our lives because of our choices and priorities, and because of what our boys have latched onto as they’ve discovered their gifts and interests. Thankfully, the older they get, the more they can create the people time for themselves. They can make the phone calls and the arrangements and I can mostly sit back and provide the popcorn.

I want to be as aware of my kids’ needs for people as I need them to be aware of my need to be alone. I feel an actual ache if I haven’t had enough alone time to recharge. I imagine it’s the same for my extroverted kids when they haven’t had enough people time. I try to be aware of this and provide rides as needed and outings or invites as I can.

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But on the flip side…

4. Extroverted kids need to be aware of their introverted parent’s needs.

This has been more of an issue with our youngest extrovert than it ever was with our oldest – likely because Malachi is the youngest and his older brothers have ready-made outings because of youth group and middle school/high school sports. As a fifth grader and our youngest son, Malachi finds himself at home alone with the parents while his brothers are all off doing teenage activities.

This means that I have to stretch myself a little more to accomplish point number 3 (working to meet Malachi’s extroverted needs even when it’s a stretch for me). But it also means that I’ve had to teach Malachi to understand that there are times he needs to go hang out with his Legos and let Mom enjoy some quiet. It’s been good for him to learn some of these big people concepts and understand what energizes him vs. what energizes me. I can now say, “Mom’s gotta have some closed-door quiet time so I can get some work done now.” or “Bud, my introvert is getting ready to explode. Let’s take a break after we finish this game so I can recharge.”

He gets it. It’s actually kind of cool and maybe, just maybe it’ll help him in future relationships.

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5. And the flip side of all of those…

If you are an extroverted parent with an introverted kid, be aware that if you drag them around to lots of outings where there are lots of people, they might melt down when their introverted self gets tired. The exhaustion is a real thing and what might come out as naughtiness, might actually just be weariness from all the people. Plan accordingly. If your introvert needs to sit alone and read a book for a while so they don’t choke someone, well…just pack a book.

6. This isn’t just about homeschooling.

I believe most of this applies to families whose kids go to public or private school too. Each kids’ downtime needs are going to vary based on whether they are introverted or extroverted. Some may come home from school ready to invite the neighborhood over for a party. Others may need to find a quiet hole in the wall to be alone and recharge.

7. I love that God made us all different on purpose.

I’ve shared before that I have, at times, grappled uneasily with God because He made me introverted. Sometimes I feel that life would be so much easier – so much less exhausting – if I was an extrovert by nature. But picture it. What if we were all extroverted? What if we were all introverted? What if we were all go-getters – not one laid back person among us? What if all of us were quiet and reflective? What if all of us were the life of the party?

God has an obvious good system going on here with His creation. Our job is to work with what He’s given us and love and live accordingly. I’ll play my part, you play yours.

Meeting our kids’ needs through all of these differences? Well, sometimes it’s challenging. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for family life and school choices. If you ask and listen, God will make it clear to you what is right for your family. But is it possible to homeschool your extrovert? Absolutely.

Of course, that means they won’t have any friends their own age. You might consider investing in a parrot.

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Tell me about your kids and school experience. Have you noticed which of your kids is more introverted or extroverted?