How one conversation led to peace, rest, and the right curriculum.

Remember when I mentioned my conversation with Sarah McKenzie?

Well, she doesn’t know this yet, but her advice to me personally changed the course of our decision entirely (for the better*). Let me explain…

I went to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) with 4 companies in mind as possible curricula for the next year. I was openly leaning toward Classical Conversations and away from Memoria Press with Tapestry of Grace and Veritas Press nestled in the middle. I didn’t even take the time to research Classical Academic Press because I was under the misconception that they didn’t put together a “whole grade” package. (And remember what I said I needed? Hand holding.)

Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)

So, here’s my process of research and decision.

Veritas Press: First Impression – confusing lesson plans without a clear instructor’s guide (each subject has it’s own lesson plan without a clear agenda and without a checklist). I would have to read separate plans for every subject. Very expensive. For one of my children I calculated an “at least” total of $1,300.

Tapestry of Grace: First Impression – too much work. As much as I appreciate the value of their history and Bible program – the 4 year cycle, the cool map, the whole family integration – I just felt like I would have to do so much more work to pull together all the other subjects to create a whole plan for my children’s year. At this point, I didn’t know what Latin, Language Arts, etc. to use, and by choosing Tapestry I would have to find all of those for myself. And it is also very expensive: $300+ for just the Instructor’s Guide. I would have to find and purchase all of the other resources in addition, along with finding and buying all of the other subjects we want for a whole year.

Classical Conversations: I have already experienced this curriculum, and I wanted badly to like their co-op. But the week of the GHC, I finally felt peace that the co-op would not fit our family. So, I wanted to use this program as just the “spine” for all our subjects. The Foundations Instructor’s Guide (IG) would be our hub for what to learn in all the subjects. We would use the history cards and memory songs, but all the additional resources I would have to find on my own. 

Memoria Press: First Impression – Great packaging. The resources were grouped by grade on one side of their booth and by subject on the other. It was easy to find and become familiar with what would be expected for a year using their products. They use a lot of workbooks (it’s kind of what they are known for) and they put a high emphasis on Latin. Talking with their representatives made me feel confident that we would be able to utilize their tools and teach our children in the classical model with their products. The cost for two students in the same “grade” was just over $700. This includes all subjects, even science and math.

By the second day of the convention, I felt convinced that Memoria Press would have to be the company for us. They offered everything I wanted most: convenience (hand-holding), confidence (full-curriculum IG with checklist), and relatively lower cost.

If left to myself, I would have grabbed the cute basket of goodies labeled with the appropriate grade, headed to the checkout, and breathed a sigh of relief that I would be all set for next year. Even though I wasn’t quite convinced that my kids would love all the workbooks, and even though the read alouds for the year were books we had already read.

Thankfully, I’m not left to myself. My husband was so supportive of my preference and even asked good questions of the representatives while we together looked over their products.

As a caution, he said: “I just want you to pick a company that we can stick with for the long haul. I don’t want to jump from company to company each year. Like Memoria this year, and Veritas the next. Whichever company we pick, I want to stick with them for the duration so that our kids don’t have gaps in their subjects.”

For example, if Memoria teaches biology for 3rd grade and Veritas teaches biology for 4th grade, then switching like this would mean 2 years of the same subject and we would miss other subjects.

I took his caution as a healthy burden. One that was wise and helpful in slowing down my desire to just pick and be done.

But the burden created conflict within me. I wanted to pick Memoria, but I had no peace about committing to use it for the long haul. I kept going back to their booth between sessions. I looked and looked at all their resources while praying. I did the math between Veritas and Memoria, which made me feel even more pressure to pick Memoria. Even so, I still didn’t have peace. I told my husband that maybe we should just wait and not buy our curriculum like we always do.

Used with permission from CAP.

Used with permission from CAP.

Finally, feeling at a loss for what to do with my urge to buy and my burden to wait, I saw Sarah McKenzie at the Classical Academic Press booth (which I still {wrongly} viewed as more of a classical model resource booth and not a “curriculum booth” – they have great curriculum!). I mustered the nerve and went over to talk to her.

I felt silly, but I laid out my situation for her and asked for her opinion.

She wisely gave me her advice to carefully listen and apply my husband’s advice, and she used her own experience of listening to her husband and how much of a blessing it was to her. I know she really listened to me, and even positively commended Memoria Press, citing a friend who uses and loves them. She joked that their packaged baskets are so cute, it just makes you want to go get your grade and take it home all nice and neat.

I had a red flag here, and thought “oh no, I don’t just want their product for the cute baskets!”

I thanked her for her advice, noticed she had more women lining up to speak with her, hugged her and thanked her for sharing herself and her work with all of us. I picked up a Classical Academic Press catalog just for reference and left the booth.

The next morning, I still had no peace. I realized that the red flag was really a stop sign. I did just want a cute basket to take home. 

So, I sat down and prayed. I had my bag with all the catalogs, so I opened up the Classical Academic Press catalog just hoping for some direction.

What I saw surprised meA chart of their products across all grades. A map for a “whole grade” curriculum. (You can view Classical Academic Press’ whole catalog for yourself by clicking here.)

I was hooked. I read every word in the catalog that applied to my children’s ages and grades. I liked everything I saw. I was able to connect the dots between the program and our life. I felt like their program was both full of integrity and academic excellence, yet their approach was gentle and restful. (Scholé, right?)

I was beginning to feel passion for this company, excitement that this could be truly what I was looking for. I started to pray. Then I started to do the math.

It’s true that they don’t have “bundles” for each “grade.” You can’t just drop into their booth, say I want 4th grade, and walk away with your cute basket. So, I used their map and the catalog to piece together what I would need for two students. The total calculated to approximately $400 for everything minus science and math. (They do not offer a science nor math programs.)

I sent a feverishly excited text to my husband proclaiming that I was changing my mind about Memoria, including what I had just found out about Classical Academic Press, and asking him to pray!

There are more pieces to this story: attending Dr. Christopher Perrin’s session (with my husband) titled “Classical Christian Education 101,” talking with (asking questions of) representatives at the Classical Academic Press (CAP) booth, and lots more praying. One of the fun things that felt like a treat to me was that CAP uses Veritas Press’ history program, and I loved this program. I wanted to use it, but I didn’t feel confident to pull that program out of the whole of Veritas. CAP did that work for me.

So, we picked CAP and I was so very blessed in the process. They told me at check out that they were offering a special 20% off discount because of an anniversary they were celebrating as a company, and we were going to get free shipping on anything not available right then.

Ready to see what we bought?

(Pictures, links, and product descriptions used from the Classical Academic Press website with permission. To find CAP products that would best fit your child’s age, go to, at the top there are 2 navigation bars – the purple bar contains their “Products” and you can research their offerings by grade, subject, series, or online course offerings.)


Song School Latin 2: Student workbooks, flashcards, teacher’s manual, and DVD Weekly lessons include songs, chants, new and review vocabulary, an introduction to grammar, and derivatives, all without leaving behind fun illustrations, stories, games, and activities. Song School Latin Book 2 will more than prepare students for their journey on to Latin for Children Primer A. They will surely continue their love of learning Latin with Song School Latin Book 2!

W and R Fable

Writing and Rhetoric: Fable including the MP3 files of the stories being read. The Writing & Rhetoric series method employs fluent reading, careful listening, models for imitation, and progressive steps. It assumes that students learn best by reading excellent, whole-story examples of literature and by growing their skills through imitation. Each exercise is intended to impart a skill (or tool) that can be employed in all kinds of writing and speaking. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex. What’s more, the exercises are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises. This series is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. Fable is the first in a series of twelve books that will train students over six years, starting in grades three or four and up.

Well Ordered Lang Lev 1

Well-Ordered Language Level 1A & 1B student books, teacher’s manual, and MP3 files of the songs & chants. What if the study of grammar could harness a child’s natural curiosity? What if it could be a source of delight to children? The Well-Ordered Language curriculum presents the study of language in a way that appeals to a child’s inborn curiosity and desire to collect, gather, and order.

VP OT History Cards

Veritas Press’ History program for Old Testament: Ancient Egypt with teacher’s manual, flashcards, enhanced CD for homeschool, and the memory song CD. Thirty-two major events chronologically from Creation to the fall of Egypt to Rome.

Gods Great Covenant OT

God’s Great Covenant, Old Testament 1 student workbooks, teacher’s manual, audio files, timeline, and map.  A Bible Course for Children teaches the biblical narrative from Genesis to Ruth, including the book of Job, at a third- to sixth-grade level. The overarching Old Testament themes of the promises and power of God are presented in simple weekly stories. Students will follow along with God’s people, see how He leads them and keeps His promises, and learn how the stories of God’s people begin to point us to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

Reasoning and reading

Beginning Reasoning and Reading student workbooks and teacher’s guide. The Reading & Reasoning workbooks develop basic language and thinking skills that build the foundation for reading comprehension. Exercises reinforce reading as a critical reasoning activity. Many exercises encourage students to come up with their own response in instances in which there is no single correct answer. In other cases, exercises lend themselves to students working collaboratively to see how many different answers satisfy a question.

Student Guide to CE

A Student’s Guide to Classical Education (K-12): this is a guide to which classics are appropriate reading for each grade. (Find it on CAP’s site: Our Products>By Subject>Educational Resources)

For Science and Math: We chose Apologia Astronomy and we stuck with Horizons math workbooks.

So, there you have it. The whole process of choosing curriculum for next year with our 3rd and 4th graders. I hope this encourages you to pray through the process of decision making for your family, to ask for advice (you never know how God will use others to help and guide you), and to trust His leadership when it comes (and to wait if it doesn’t).

I will be continuing to get us all set up for next fall now before our little one arrives (5-7 more weeks!). 

To read more about how I prepare check out these links:

Thank you for reading this lengthy post! I would be more than happy to start a conversation with you regarding what curriculum you are interested in trying for your family. I don't claim to be an expert on your needs, but I would love to listen and pray with you over your decision. Homeschooling is best in community! Also, if you're a Holland Local, let me know if you would be interested in joining a Scholé group. Contact me or leave a comment. Thanks again, and may your homeschool path be full of rest and peace!

For your personal education, I recommend the course I’m currently taking: Make Over Your Evenings by Crystal Paine. (Afflink)

Prepare to be productive like never before!

*I highly recommend Memoria Press – the company and their products. I just know that my children wouldn’t be served best by their products at this time. To learn more about their products for yourself – visit their website!

I’ll be your eyes and ears at the GHC (tell me whom you want interviewed and/reviewed).

It’s time to go to the GHC!















This week I’ll be traveling to the Great Homeschool Convention and gearing up for our biggest investment in our home life. 

I will be listening and learning from the nation’s experts in education, homeschooling, parenting, and family life. 

Check out the list of speakers here.











Can’t go?

I’m planning on writing about at least 3 sessions – and you can have a say on which ones! Let me know who you would like to hear from either in review or interview, and I’ll consider adding them to my list. 

Here’s a sample of some of the sessions:

  • I want to QUIT homeschooling!
  • Nurturing the Writer in Your Child
  • Why Children Must Play to Learn
  • My Child Can Read, So Why Can’t He Spell?
  • Am I Doing Enough? Implementing the Classical Christian Model in the Elementary Years
  • Balancing the Busy – Practical Encouragement for the Weary Woman
  • The Importance of Fathers in Education
  • Blood and Morality: The Tradition of Adventure Writing for Boys
  • Helping Distractible Students Succeed
  • Why Do They Do That? Technology’s Influence Over Your Kids’ Beliefs and Behaviors
  • G.K. Chesterton and the Metaphysics of Amazement

These are just a few of my favorite session titles. There are many MANY more to choose from and many more topics than these – like teaching science, handling money, college preparation testing, teaching gifted students, and much more.

This is going to be the most exciting year yet!

And when I get back, the plan is to decide what we will be doing for next year! If you’re curious what we came home with last year, you can read the list of sessions we attended or purchased by clicking here.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more moment by moment updates on the GHC (and maybe a little behind the scenes).

The Single Most Important Investment

This was our turning point. The exact moment when I went from aimlessly trying my best to research and provide the best education for my children at home, to confidently thriving in navigating our homeschool future. 

I went to the Great Homeschool Convention mainly because my close friend invited me to tag along with a group of other moms that were going. They had room for one more in their  hotel room, and a spot in their carpool. 

My husband gave me $200 for the hotel, food, parking, and gas. We both thought it might be tight but manageable.

What I found at the convention was more than I could have imagined. The parenting tracks, struggling reader sessions, and exhibit hall filled me to an overwhelming overflow of inspiration, encouragement, and tools that carried me home with such a passion for what we were called to do. I shared everything with my husband, and we quickly decided that next year – he should come too. 

I heard from friends that the first year is always the best, and after that you may be disappointed. But that wasn’t the case for us. We went with a lot more money to spend, treating ourselves to many more dinners out, and with the intention of purchasing our next year’s curriculum. (This is how we save money – and sanity – during the back to school rush.)

Again, we were changed, inspired, and motivated to carry home all the tools we had learned. We were richly rewarded for our investment of time and money not only into preparing for our children’s education but also our own. We learned things about homeschool rights, the constitution, parenting philosophy, and dyslexia that we wouldn’t have learned elsewhere.

This is why I always highly recommend that anyone (whether currently or considering) homeschooling attend a homeschool convention – at least once.

Below is a post that I originally published March 30, 2015 and I have updated the dates and links below to reflect 2016 dates and locations. To see the original post click here.

How to Prepare for a Homeschool Convention:

This will be the 4th consecutive year I’m attending the Great Homeschool Convention, and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned on preparing for such a convention.

The first year, the only thing I did to prepare was print out the schedule. The day I was to leave: I packed my bags, happened to grab a blank notebook and pen, and the schedule. I actually brought multiple books with me – I thought I would have time to read!

I did have one preparation in mind for my choice in sessions – to go to as many parenting tracks as I could. And these sessions proved to be very beneficial to me and met my needs as a mom and teacher at this stage in my growth.

The second year, I followed most of the guidelines below, and for my 3rd year I included a few more points in order to streamline my efforts and get the most out of this experience as possible – without being paralyzed by feeling overwhelmed at the amount of options.

Months in advance:
  • Set aside time to make a list of your goals and priorities for your time, marriage, children, and home – research experts, curricula, learning styles, and lifestyle advice that encourages those goals and priorities.
  • Doing this step first will save you from wasting time and money on advice and products that aren’t suited to help you accomplish the work you’ve set out to do.
  • Make a list of all the learning resources that you’re curious about and measure the worth of spending your time finding out more about those versus investing your time growing deeper roots in the philosophies and methods you already use.
Weeks in advance:

How to prepare for a homeschool conference highlight

  1. Start highlighting of all the sessions that are interesting to you, don’t worry about picking 2 or more sessions that are in the same time slot, just make a note of all interesting people, topics, or curricula that you are already interested in.
  2. After highlighting the sessions of most interest to you, take note of the person or company leading the session and ask these questions:
    • Is this session selling a product? If yes, is this a product I’m interested in investing in?
    • What teaching philosophy does this session promote?
    • What are the qualifications of the person leading the session? What is their experience and expertise?
  3. Now go back to each time frame, find any sessions that conflict, and prioritize based on the answers to the questions above along with the information you recorded from the month in advance.
    • Some conventions record the sessions and provide order forms for purchasing the sessions on CD, but this is usually an in person only opportunity. If you miss a session that you know you will want to hear then don’t put off purchasing the CD.
    • If you’re attending the convention as a group or with a friend, be willing to swap notes on the sessions.
Days in advance:
  • Make your final decisions for each time frame – taking into account how many times the presenters you’re interested speak.
  • For example, last year I had a presenter that I definitely wanted to hear, but I felt like all of their topics were interesting. So when a session included that presenter but they were in conflict with another presenter I made the decision based on whether I could go to the same session again at another time slot.
  • Pack an empty book bag to be able to collect interesting information from presenters and/or vendors.
  • Pack a notebook and pen of choice.
Know limits and physical needs:
  • The convention I will be attending has 3 levels with stairs, elevators, and escalators. It’s important to know that this facility is large and difficult to navigate.
  • There is only 30 minutes between session times. Packing my own snacks and having a water bottle is important for my blood sugar needs. There are places within the facility to purchase food and drinks, but the time required to make such a detour is more than 30 minutes.
  • Pack good walking shoes.
Map out the exhibit hall:

How to prepare for a homeschool convention choose

  • Included with registration there should be a map of the exhibit hall, or you may need to go directly to the facility’s website and take a look at the overview there.
  • When planning to learn more about specific companies or resources, it’s important to enter such a large arena with a plan. It’s easy to get distracted by the hundreds of “good” things while on your way to find the best for you.
  • Use the booth numbers in the registration pack to highlight the map and plan to visit in a logical order.

My first year, I tried to go up and down all the aisles – knowing that eventually if I stayed on this course I would see all the booths and have experienced a little bit of everything! But sadly, it took too much time, I got distracted by littler booths that had nothing to do with my overall goal, and I spent more money than I had planned.

How to prepare for a homeschool convention map

To avoid overspending and over-thinking session choices please take my advice and decide in advance what the purpose for the convention is for you. Will you spend time getting hands-on experience with different curriculum choices? Research new teaching methods? Gain tools and insights for parenting? Get educated on the legal side of homeschooling? Choose a record keeping system that’s right for you?

Answer one or all of these questions before looking at the schedule of sessions and speakers to choice from. Then based on what you most want to gain from the investment of your time, energy, and money – make a schedule that best suites you.

You may leave the convention hearing from friends or strangers that they saw “So-and-So” and it may cause a tinge of regret, but I promise that if you go into the convention knowing what answers you are there to find you’ll be better off than if you spent all your time tracking down the big name “So-and-So.”

Here is a list of upcoming homeschool conventions in 2016:

The Great Homeschool Convention

Teach Them Diligently

INCH (Information Network for Christian Homes)

Do you have anything to add to this list? I would love to hear it.

The Freedom to Compare: Part 2

Shauna Niequist Quote Comparison



In 2012, I deactivated my Facebook account. I went off the social media grid for almost a year. It wasn’t because of wrong use or conviction that it’s all evil; my reason was to heal from information overload.

I simply couldn’t keep up with all the friends, new babies, prayer requests for family members, event invitations, etc. etc. I didn’t know how to order my life off-line and my online life was moving too fast. I couldn’t keep up.

When I (very cautiously) came back online, I had a clear sense of the purpose for why I was engaging with the online community. I wanted to be inspired and to share encouragement. My soul tank had been filled while off-line and I finally felt ready to share my life again with others.

I’ll never forget the first time I read a blog post after such a long break, and the old feelings of wow, they sure have it all together, or I wish I could be like them were gone! In its place was a sense of connection and celebration. I was inspired without feeling like I had just lost a competition.

Because that’s how I used to feel after every single time I would compare myself to someone else. I don’t have a strong competitive drive, but that doesn’t mean that I like feeling like a loser.

When I came back online and started feeling more and more inspired by the good things other people were sharing, I realized that the problem with comparison was a really a miss directed problem with affirmation.

I wanted to be affirmed by comparing myself to someone else, and even though affirmation isn’t a bad thing either, entering into competition with the hopes of being the “winner” isn’t the right type of affirmation.

So here’s the deal: I don’t believe you can live life without comparison. I think it’s the motive and action that surround comparison that will make your heart healthy or unhealthy while comparing.

Crystal Paine Quote Comparison

I think it is possible to selectively compare with freedom. But it takes time away from comparisons to understand yourself and to learn to celebrate and connect with others.

Here are the mental hoops I jump through when comparing myself to other homeschool moms:

Listen first. There are a lot of things that homeschool moms share with each other. Curriculum choices, learning styles, routines, schedules, extra curricular activities, etc. It is too easy to line myself up with their list before I’ve fully heard them out. If I begin to compare myself to them without listening to understand them then I have not only disrespected them by turning them into a competitor and not a friend, but I also have missed an opportunity to encourage them. Everyone needs to be listened to by someone who will support and encourage them.

Prize their uniqueness. After hearing them out, there will be things that I think I could never do – but they can do well! This is cause for celebration. It is their unique life that allows them this freedom to do different things than I can do. While there are many things I may be able to learn from them and try to do myself, I will never be able to live life just like they can. Prize them for that.

Ponder their creativity. I’m not very creative. So, I enjoy hearing about how others think outside the box. I’ve tried (and failed) in the past to copy and paste their creative things, and what a disappointment that has been. I now realize that comparing myself to the creative thing they do takes a lot of thought and adaptation. Sometimes it works to try someone else’s creative idea. If it works, celebrate them. Give them credit. It doesn’t make me less affirmed to make much of someone else.

Ask questions to further understand areas that may be replicated in my home. Like I said, no one can truly copy and paste. I have to know my own routine and nature well enough to adapt ideas to best fit my home. I had to learn to humble myself to ask the “dumb questions” in order to better determine if I could make their idea work for me.

Always remember that no one has the perfect life. When another mom, curriculum, child, or schedule sounds wonderful and I’m tempted to wish I could trade places, I have to remember that they have struggles and trials that I’ve never had to face before. I am not equipped to take on another person’s life. To want only the good and ignore the difficult only brings hurt and discouragement.

The freedom to compare is recognizing that I have a lot to learn from other people through connection with them, not competition.

Want to learn more? I’ll be sharing the final installment to this series on Monday when I share my “Day in the Homeschool Life” post (this post will be linked with Click here to read part 1: The Burden of Comparison.

Don't miss another post. Sign up for TheHomeLearner via email and get in on the accountability program coming soon!


Day 22: How I save money during back to school (& an honest word to my readers about this series).

We are almost done with #Back2School in #31Days! I know a lot of you have tuned me out already, I get that. So if you're curious, I'll list the topics for next week at the bottom of this post - that way you can decide which posts you'll want to read and which ones to skip. This series has produced a lot of content! When this series is over my subscribers are going to breathe a sigh of relief that their inboxes aren't being overrun. (I'm going to breathe a sigh of relief!)

How I save money during Back to School:

I have to satisfy your possible curiosity or skepticism right off the bat – this is not a post on coupons or free printables.

(There is another great site for this and if that’s what you’re looking for – then click on the link and type “Back to School” in the search bar at the top right side of the homepage.)

When I was in retail sales, I was told that the Back to School season was higher for revenue than Christmas. And I believe it! The shoes, Crayola, and backpacks alone can put you into the hundreds range per kid, and for a home schooling family we have many other needs than a normal supply list.

B2S Day 22 How I save money

Photo credit; words added

So here’s my secret bite size way of lowering expenses:

I separate curricula purchasing from supply buying :: This is my number 1 (and only) suggestion to everyone who home educates. Back to school is this huge crash of summer and fall, recreation turns to routine, and there are so many choices to make. Commitments, activities, clothes to buy, shoes, etc. all needs to be ordered, selected, and purchased at the same time (or so they say).

I do things a little bit differently.

For the past 3 years, I have looked forward to going to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) for the primary purpose of choosing our curricula for the next year. The one we attend is usually scheduled in April. I have found this to be the best time to decide what to do for the following fall because I’ve spent 7-8 months using our current resources and I have a feeling for what’s working and what isn’t.

At the convention, my heart is ready and my mind is fresh to find what I need for each child to grow to the next level in areas where they are interested and I can barely keep up and in areas where they are struggling and I don’t know how to help.

Choosing our curricula at this time feels peaceful. The whole trip to the GHC is one big gift of grace. Lectures and speakers, continuing my education, and getting to meet the creators behind the curricula has been life changing for me as a woman.

So, if you’re up to your chin in choices right now during the big Back to School rush, and you’d rather crawl in a hole then sit down and research what you should teach this year – may I encourage you to just pick one thing to focus on for now and then come back to the research and decision-making by the middle of September.

Go get your great deals on Crayola and Sharpie now – these things won’t go on sale like this again until August 2016 – and put your mind at ease that not all things need to be purchased all at once.

Even if your mind is screaming that you need to buy things now, and you need to decide.

Just tell yourself a polite no, set a date in your calendar to sit down and review what you need.

Until then just focus on all the other things that matter – the things that don’t cost a thing.

When you do sit down in September, would you consider going to the next Great Homeschool Convention? You may be delighted to know that Ann Voskamp will be a keynote speaker.

And I know from experience that going to this convention does not have to be wildly expensive – I was able to attend my first one for $250 total, including registration, food, gas, and hotel because I went with a group.

Check out the dates for 2016:


An honest note about this series:

If this post, or even this whole series has left you feeling less or behind because of the topics I’ve covered or by the way a blog post has the magic of making everything in my life look nice and settled – all put together – then let me assure you that these posts have not been easy for me.

Sure, it looks easy to read, once I’ve added my pictures and tidied (most) of the grammar. But sometimes my actions have been too far ahead of my words, or worse – behind. This series has forced me, pushed me, and challenged me to finally address the laziness deep inside that tends to get hoarded up until some major change comes and I’m crushed by the weight of all the things that I have to do. All the things that can’t wait any longer, or cannot be delegated out to anyone else. After all, this is my home, these are my people, and I’ve chosen this path.

My goal for this series really wasn’t about my readers. The point of writing all this was to keep myself accountable for the mass of change and work that needed to be done – and my hope was that in each of the posts you would find just one thing  encouraging or inspiring. This has been a whole lot of imperfect progress (I need to listen to Unglued again. Amen?)

So, if you can stay with me for one more week, here’s the list of topics I hope to cover:

Block scheduling, lapbooking, choosing anchors, facing down panic, future planning, creating uniforms (plus a little note about decision fatigue), and possibly a video tour of our schoolroom. But I’m thinking I may make the video available only to my subscribers. They deserve a little special treatment. (If you’re not a subscriber, I highly recommend becoming one now – Click here to read more.)

Back2School Logo

This is Day 22 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 11 – Planning: Curricula

Have you ever spent a lot of time with someone but looking back on that time it feels like you were with them but not engaged with them?

There’s a big difference.

That’s how I felt about being with my children this past year.

In some ways we had an average year with learning. We finished some of our subjects and totally changed course with others.

We clocked a lot of learning time in our calendars.

But in other ways, our year was unique and came with different challenges.

Before beginning anything new, I like to take a full-stop and think everything through, which is why we are committed to attending the Great Homeschool Convention every year. (This is an affiliate link, but I promise with how much I recommend them – they are not sponsoring me. I’m just eager for free.)

Each year, I’m corrected in my thinking as a woman, wife, parent, teacher, writer, friend – all of it. The sessions always seem to untangle the connections and allows me to understand where each of my roles fit.

I’m coming to anticipate a major shift in my thinking and researching of resources and curricula. It’s stretching for me to trust that God will guide us to the right sessions, booths, and materials for teaching and training our children.

It’s been a huge blessing to trust and commit to the way He shows us. We have made the decision for what we will learn in the fall by April – 3 years in a row now. I have really loved being able to go over the materials during the summer at my leisure – then by August each year I feel not only decided but prepared.

Back2School Logo

So far in the #Back2School journey, we’ve covered the why, envisioning the flow, using Pinterest with caution, creating a book nook, staying in the present while preparing for the future, decluttering before you begin, defining a family culture, and discerning the big picture.

Now for a little more nitty gritty on what we’ve decided to try this year.

I wrote about what I thought we were going to use in the takeaway post from the convention, but we (my husband and I) ended up feeling deeply drawn to reading together as a family. At one point in the exhibit hall, my husband said “I just feel like we need to just read lots and lots of good books together.”

Yes. That.

Let’s read lots and lots of books together.

All you need for a good education is a comfortable couch and a library card. – Steve Lambert of Five in a Row

I wasn’t sure about Steve Lambert’s session – Become Your Child’s Favorite Teacher – for the first 15 minutes. I mean, he was interesting and very funny – his jokes made me laugh out loud and when I repeated one to my husband later, I laughed until I cried.  But I was looking for an “aha!” moment and it never came.

What I did walk away with was a conviction. He emphasized again and again the importance of reading aloud to your children. For me, reading aloud is the easiest thing to put off for later. It’s easier to say, “Go work on a page in your math book” than it is to stop what I’m doing to sit and read together.

By the end of the convention, I knew Steve Lambert had been the most inspiring and helpful speaker for me – and before the convention Five in a Row wasn’t even on my list of curricula to look at.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 3

Long story short, we went with Five in a Row Volume 4 for ages 7-8, which isn’t a well known volume. It comes with the Five in a Row Christian Character and Bible Study content, cookbook, and laminated story disks for a map.

We are really excited to see how unit studies will enhance our home, especially in the 4-corners of our home school puzzle.

The books in the unit study are primarily picture books and at first my 8-year old was apprehensive – and I was too to be perfectly honest. I have leaned on the side of hurrying my eldest to strive for the next levels, the harder challenges, and the deeper materials. So to see “easy” content feels beneath her. But as I was taught in the session “You CAN do unit studies” by Steve Lambert, anyone at any age can do a unit study at their level from great children’s literature. (I wrote an example of how he applied Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel for 4 different age levels in this post.)

Five in a Row unit studies cover all the major subjects: social studies, geography, language arts, art, math, and science – plus Bible and home economics!

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 4

We are really looking forward to the relationship building on the foundation of books, the reading – all of us will take turns reading through these stories, the real discussions that will take place as we dig into these rich stories, and the rest from the busyness of trying to build an education from textbooks and worksheets.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 2

In addition to the unit studies, we chose to add a separate history curriculum. Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books was also speaking at the convention and I was able to attend two of her sessions. My husband is deeply interested in history and the books included in this Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades are excellent. For us, it wasn’t a decision from wanting to do more packaged curricula but rather a decision to surround our children with more quality books to choose from in our library.

Many of the books in this package are hard to find on their own. We felt like it was a worthy investment.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 1

We plan to try using lapbooks to enhance the units of Five in a Row. We bought Heidi St. John’s eBook Lapbooking Made Simple to help encourage the set up and follow through of this method of learning.

What is a lapbook?

It isn’t a curriculum. It is a method. It’s like taking a large Science Fair poster board and shrinking it to fit in the child’s lap. You use manila file folders – open it flat, then fold both sides to the middle spine – and that’s it. You now have your lapbook ready for pasting any number of things into the folder on the topic of choice.

So that’s it. This next year is going to be another adventure for all of us in learning together. I plan on sprinkling posts about how things are going with these resources this year – more for accountability on my part to keep going than for your benefit – but I do hope seeing a snapshot of our planning helps inspire you to engage in your learning journey along with us. Let me know if you would like that in the comments or ask anything you’d like about what I’ve shared in this post!

This is part 3 in the Curricula: What We Use series. Click the link to read Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten or Part 2: 1st and 2nd grades.

And it is also Day 11 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.



Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Curricula: What We Use, Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten

Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1There are times when I am overwhelmed by fear because of the pressure I put on myself to make sure that our lifestyle choice – to homeschool – is always successful. I try to hyper manage all the details of our outward expression of home to comfort myself that my children are learning, thriving, and growing in the right direction.

Until I try something for myself or see it in person, I think I have a fear of failure that I won’t be doing the best or the most I can for my children. I know that’s an elephant I bring into the room when I ask what someone else is using with their kids.

One huge point of growth for me each year is in the process of choosing a curriculum. It takes so much faith to put off the desire to have something “packaged and perfect” that guarantees my child’s success in order to put on prayer and faith that God will lead me every single day in teaching and training the persons He’s gifted to me for this season of motherhood.

So I grow in baby steps.

This year I wanted to know more about educational theories and the “why” behind the “what.” There are so many philosophies out there that it can feel burdensome to try to find the best one for your family.

Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 3

Let me be quick to say 2 things before I even share what resources we used for preschool and kindergarten:

First, even if you never purchase an official curriculum – God will provide all you need to teach your children at every age.

Second, if a curriculum feels too expensive or too strict – then it probably is. Don’t get caught in the trap that you need to have an impressive curriculum to prove you’re doing the right thing for your family.

And I want to be clear that I’m not sharing what we’ve done as a prescription, but rather for review and as a history of our family’s growth in owning this homeschool lifestyle. I started out wanted all the impressive packages and gold-stars; I didn’t even know I was operating from the Traditional theory. I’ve had to change a lot of my behavior to align with our philosophy and I hope you will too.

Curricula we used for preschool and kindergarten:

  • Ages: 2-5 – We did the PreS and the PreK of Sonlight, a literature-based curriculum that is known for having some of the best reading lists.
    • For the PreS I just bought the Instructor’s Guide (IG) and picked up the rest of the books as we went along. We bought some and we borrowed some. The Harper Collin’s Treasure of Picture Book Classics was our family’s favorite.
      Since we knew early on that we were going to homeschool, this curriculum was a great way to build our children’s literature library. On my own, I didn’t know the best books to read at these ages. I really enjoyed the IG for the PreS package because it was filled with fun, easy activities to do with young children.
    • For the PreK we purchased the whole package new. We didn’t like the schedule for the reading portions in the IG (really choppy and too many books going on at once). So around October I scrapped the IG and just read through the books on our own. The down side of that was that we didn’t get through all of the books because we lost interest or just forgot. Also, we missed out on the overlapping effect of having the subjects line up across multiple categories of stories. Overall, we had polar feeling about this package – some books were amazing (Robert Wells books, all the History & Geography books, and Uncle Wiggily’s Story book) and some were duds (A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, and Stories from Around the World). For us, we felt like the dud books taught a underlining principle that we didn’t agree with. Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 2
  • Supplements: because I struggled to feel like I was “doing enough” just reading to my children I spent a lot of time and money on printing and following 1+1+1=1 resources. We purchased the PowerPoint and set up the whole system for the Raising Rock Stars Preschool – complete with poster board for changing weekly units. (Side note: I now see that my feeling like a constant failure was due to simply trying to do all the “good” things and not being content to just stick to the best. Burden lifted.)
  • Ages: 4-6 – We moved over to My Father’s World for Kindergarten.
    • My oldest thought this curriculum was boring and monotonous, but that’s mainly because at this point she was completely sick of worksheets (again, here’s where I saw I was operating out of the Traditional theory). The style of this package is unit studies that focus on an animal or something in creation (sun, moon, water) and a character quality that can be seen in that animal or created thing that points to God. The student worksheets in this package are good and it is not meant to be a worksheet driven curriculum. They are included in order to round out the materials and to create a notebook for memory.  My daughter (at age 6) reproduced the whole sequence of units just for fun, drawing the picture and writing the character sentence. I think she did enjoy it. My son (5yrs at the time) loved the worksheets and looked forward to each day’s work. Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 4

In the spring of 2014, I was really thinking we were going to do Sonlight’s Core B for “1st grade” for both kids and supplement material for my daughter (7yrs) to be classified as “2nd grade.”

But while we (my husband and I) were at The Great Homeschool Convention we didn’t like the Sonlight science when we saw it in person. They use mainly “Usborne” books – which are beautiful and informational – and we own many books by Usborne already, but they do not hold to a “young earth” philosophy. And we felt like that was a deal breaker for us. I didn’t want to have to “unteach” what the book said about dinosaurs living billions of years ago.

SO we prayed a lot and trusted God’s leading – and He was so good to us! We are loving this year’s resources – and we had to piece it together ourselves (something I thought I would never be able to do)…To Be Continued

Further reading and resources:



Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.