Because People Will Confront You

While at Barnes and Noble

Standing in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble, my phone chirped, alerting me to a Facebook notification.

My children were completely engaged in reading twaddle of all sorts or playing with the elaborate train table, so I touched the screen on my phone and it took me to a post that I had published notifying me of a new comment.

I struggle with the home-schooling concept. There is a reason that most people don’t fix their own cars. There is a reason why most people don’t treat their own diseases. There are professionals who study the theory and application of the relevant principles in various disciplines. They become experts in their field.

I couldn’t read anything more in that moment. My knees were shaking and I felt a little sick that I had attracted such attention to myself personally because of writing about unschooling.

We don’t unschool, but I felt obligated to defend not only it, but also the whole notion of home education.

They become experts in their field…

I think the reality that home school parents are not all experts in the field of education is a common anxiety for all of us. The fear is preyed upon by people in the field of education as seen in the comment I received.

But what’s interesting to me is that even highly respected educators who have been trained, certified, and tried-by-the-fires of classroom management have felt the same anxiety when it came time for them to take their child home for school.

Home education is not a matter of expertise and readiness. It is a matter of conviction, commitment, and choice.

It’s a matter of becoming an expert in studying your own child.

Even the trained experts in the field of education feel unqualified to teach their own children:

I was terrified, which was ridiculous. After all, I was a state-certified teacher. I’d taught public school for six years… The most discouraging thing I encountered was the lack of support from family and neighbors. When I started home schooling, I worried a lot…But as I look back none of the worries materialized. (Jessie Wise from A Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise; pages 3 and 628)

There are usually misconceptions driving people who confront home education.

The most common is that an education can be given. A true education is one that is sought after by the learner.  In our society, many people are steeped in the lie that the best education happens in an environment manufactured by the experts. (Which, as it turns out, is one big sociology experiment that ends up changing its methods every 5-10 years or so, but that’s a subject for a different post.)

I cannot take out of my brain what I have learned and hand it to you and expect it to have the same impact. That’s why the real influential teachers that any of us have had the privilege to learn under were the ones who inspired us and gave us an example of confidence and respect for learning.

Knowing this, I understood that I could not give the author of the comment an education on the value of home education. Instead, while my heart was pounding, I wrote my response. Not one I could copy and paste from a handy home education manual, but rather from my experience, conviction, and from a spirit of unity.

“I will do my best to reply to each of the issues you raised:

1. It takes a professional to educate a child.

I completely agree. I would go so far as to say that there needs to be a higher standard for professionalism in parenting as well. I do not take my role as primary educator of my children lightly. It is my primary profession, and I take my job very seriously. I’m investing my life into this work, and the sacrifice to do so is very costly. I hope you can see from my writing that I am endeavoring to continue my education. This is not a mandatory requirement for me, but it is because I have learned to love learning. My number one goal in parenting my children is to always lead them by example. Inspiration has a great effect on the human spirit….”

I went on to detail many more points to answer his comment, but the value wasn’t in what I said – it was in being ready to say it.

Often, confrontation comes without warning.

Whether the individual questioning your choice to home educate is coming from a place of good-will or not, the most important stance you can have toward home education is simply to know what your stance is.

Clearly know:

And I recommend that you know these points well enough to express them to your spouse, a friend, or another home educating parent.

Chances are you won’t have warning before someone (well meaning or not) confronts your decision to keep your child home for their education. This simple confrontation will feel like a personal attack.

Be ready.

Maybe you’ve had a great first few weeks of schooling at home and so you’re all smiles and berries – happy to move into fall with field trips to apple orchards with your safe and supportive home school group.

I hope this is the case!

During times of joy and celebration, our guard is down and an attack from the outside can be hugely damaging because of the simple fact that it took you by surprise and the fall from the heights can seem more painful than already being low and going lower.

Or maybe your first few weeks of teaching your own offspring has lead to more battles than books and the voice inside your head is saying that maybe you made the wrong choice. Did you hear the wrong call? Are you living outside the plan for your life?

These doubts, feelings of failure, and the battles of everyday life in a season like this can be paralyzing. It feels best to hide the failures than to expose them to ridicule. Each day is a struggle already without someone knowing and judging you for it.

You are not alone.

In times like these, you do not need an attack from the outside. But confrontations always come in one form or another. Search for support now.

Do you have your response ready?

If you found this post helpful, especially the quotes from the Facebook comments – then you should Like The Home Learner on Facebook. After you “Like” the page, be sure to hover over the Like box and click Get Notifications so you don’t miss out on the comments in the future. Everyone loves a good debate.

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.

Day 24: Facing down my panic (the story of the desks). #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 24 Facing Down Panic 1

I started to officially home school 3 years ago. My daughter was 5 years old and my son was 3 years old. I had planned to start kindergarten and preschool with them respectively. I thought I was doing what was expected of me. I had no idea what their learning styles were and for that matter – I didn’t think twice about my teaching style.

I had one focus:  Do every-thing-right.

“Right” was a growing vacuum taking into it every good thing that could possibly be done, and it also meant matching the ideal picture in my head of what a home education looks like.

So, at the beginning of the last week in August 3 years ago, I began to panic. I had tried to read all the Instructor’s Guides to the curricula we purchased – desperate to follow all the rules, check all the boxes, and thereby educate my children.

I wanted my gold star.

But one thing was wrong with the ideal picture I was trying to create for our learning environment – we didn’t have desks. I knew there was no chance of having a schoolroom in our house at the time, so I decided to adjust our living room to section off a quarter of it for a learning center.

I searched Craig’s List for desks, bookcases, and anything I felt would give me the security I was lacking.

All this searching masked my fear. I felt like because I was doing something right, I could ensure the outcome would be what I wanted. I put all my hopes in looking right. I thought that if I had the right desks, the right books, and the “start date” (because every one who knows that we home school would ask, “so when are you going to start?”) then I could ensure that I would get the affirmation that I craved.

Doing, working, searching, gathering never brings security. But that’s what I was hoping for – I wanted to get my security from the outside in.

At the end of each day, nothing was enough. I was still scared that I wouldn’t have the right stuff. I was scared that I would teach the curricula out of order. I was scared that I would confuse my children and mess them up. I was scared of my own laziness and defective parenting.

I was scared because I knew I was the primary one responsible for the education of my children, but it felt like I was the one with the least control.

And 3 years ago when I began to panic on the inside, I channeled all that energy into controlling our environment.

I bought 2 desks from 2 different people. 1 on Sunday, and 1 on Labor Day. I had my mind set that we would start “school” on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. I knew we needed school supplies too. But even though I really had no idea what we needed, I went to Walmart anyway.

Because nothing feels better than spending money carelessly when my soul feels insecure and out of control. Yeah, right.

When we finally arrived home, to carry into the house all of the items that would make me feel secure. My physical proof that we were in fact a home educating family, my husband said that he couldn’t bring the desks into the house right then.

He didn’t know that he was basically stomping all over my emotional craziness, and I kind of freaked out at the potential that all my planning, controlling, and setting up was being thwarted.

I had a full blown meltdown.

In my mind, everything was going to be ready by Monday evening, so that I could wake up Tuesday morning to the bliss of starting our first day of school.

Instead I was having to deal with a change in my plan. The pain of failure threatened to crush me, and I was having to face all my fears coming true.

All my effort, priorities, philosophies, and desires for what was best for my children hinged upon this plan and it wasn’t going to happen.

I rested all my security on having desks in place and plans in motion by Tuesday morning.

After crying and begging my husband to drop everything he had planned for the day to help me, we got everything set up by Monday evening.

But instead of relief, I still felt panic.

Because no matter how many books, desks, pencils, papers, notebooks, crayons, or charts on the wall – none of it could give me a sense of security that this was going to work out for our good. I rested all my hope that I would receive the affirmation I craved on the amount of work I could do to look the part, but I never prepared for the daily work of doing the part.

I wanted to earn the prize for Best Home School Mom on the first day of school, instead of committing myself to looking forward to the prize of finishing strong on the last day of school.

The panic was lying to me.

It said that I could have relief the easy way – on the outside – when I needed to go through some really hard stuff on the inside before I would ever truly face down my panic.

B2S Day 24 Facing Down Panic 3

So, let me fast forward 3 years, and there has been a slight shift in my focus – lots of imperfect progress gained from recognizing more and more the lies that panic feeds my mind and heart. I have had to learn slowly through so much failure that this home school life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Motherhood is a marathon.

I’m learning to prize the long view, to take the scenic route, and to slow and steady myself especially when I feel pressured to plan, control, and design my own success.

And I’ve learned that I’m not allowed to go shopping when I start to feel panic. I’ve banned myself from Target.

3 more important lessons that help me prize peace even when I feel pressured to panic are:

  1. Remember to see my children as growing, changing, and developing – when I panic I subtly believe that I can in fact control them, when peace trusts that my job is only to guide and train them.
  2. Lean into greater levels of self-discipline. Panic says that I can rush, force, and procrastinate to get the same result as patiently tending to the roots. Self-discipline has taught me that progress is hard fought in a daily battle and the fruit from this work is good, organic, and eternal – a sharp contrast to the manufactured fruit of the rush of emotion I get from swiping my debit card to surround myself with the stuff of learning.
  3. My children can sniff out panic from a mile away, and they will fight against it with everything they have. This is not a sign that I should press into the panic further (even though I have, and it hasn’t ever ended well for me or them). I take this as a sign that I am prayerless. Filled with prayer = filled with peace with or without all the right stuff.

So my kids, at ages 3- and 5-years old refused to play a part in my panic, and they refused to sit in their desks. Their refusal made me feel even more the weight of all my failure, but it was a gift because it made me let go of the lie that said I could have complete control of their education.

B2S Day 24 Facing Down Panic 2

Since then, we’ve all grown. Now, they happily sit in their desks, learning and growing in their interests every day – because I finally let go and allowed them to use their desks on their own time and in their own way.

And at the beginning of this August, when I felt a small pang of panic that I had only 2 desks, but 3 children I chose peace instead. And wouldn’t you know, just like how God always provides, a dear friend of mine (a fellow home schooling mom with 3 kids graduated and 2 more on their way) wrote me and offered us a desk – free of charge and full of blessing.

So, today’s challenge for the #Back2School in #31Days series is to record and remember all the ways that learning is in the daily, the small, and the patient. An education isn’t kept in a room, or a book, or in having all the right stuff – education is a lifestyle; it’s a living.

This is Day 24 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Don’t miss out!

Tomorrow is the ONE-DAY-SALE of Crystal Paine’s #MakeOverYourMornings course. Check it out today, and get a free sneak peek at the material. Or better yet, buy it for a friend and go through it together! The sale is so good, you won’t want to miss out. If you’re still not sure, read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

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.

Day 15 – Bullet Journal, Home School Planner #Back2School in #31Days

B2S Day 15 Home School Plans 1

Back to school can feel like January, but heavier for me as a home school mom.

Resolutions to try harder to teach more, train better, and treasure this time with my kids. Because, after all, it is my choice to be with them 24/7.  And everyone says they will grow and be gone before we can blink.

As a home school mom, preparing for the new school year is rough.

I have to not only prepare for the future and add in all the interests, skills, and resources that are necessary for each child in my home, but I also have to repair what was broken in the last year. The unfinished projects, the failure to manage my time, and the lack of plans simply because I didn’t make it a priority to stop the rush.

This year, I have distilled the failures that I believe had the greatest negative impact on our home and life, and that’s what this whole series has been intended to help me fix.

I know now that I need to study my patterns in order to fix or break them.

There’s no such thing as a magical curricula, planner, or eCourse for doing the life change for me.

So, as I address my need for planning this home school year, I know I need to set up a plan for how to plan. (Wow. That sounds redundant and complicated, but I think it’s going to work. Stay with me.)

I want to be able to Bullet Journal my life and home school plans. I appreciate the fact that I have almost everything important in my life contained in one spot. (Yesterday’s post was all about how I’ve set up my Bullet Journal – you should check it out. There are even videos.)

It’s tempting to think that a nice new home school planner, designed with me in mind, would revolutionize my world of home education – but I think I’ve been down this road before and it ended with less money in the bank and a fancy planner only partially filled out.

But before I give the impression that I don’t make myself finish things or that I give up easily, or worse – that I don’t have hope that I can stick with a system – hear me when I say that I just don’t think these fancy planners play nice in my brain.

They are linear and orderly. When I think and plan, it’s a mess. I’m writing down when to start making dinner right next to the notes I’m writing for the card I need to mail to a friend.

The Bullet Journal lets me do this on-the-same-page, which is freeing and beautiful in a messy, unique sort of way.

So before I start this home school year, I want to set up a plan for how I will plan in the Bullet Journal and when I will do it.

Accountability folks. It’s all about doing what’s right, not just knowing what’s right. 

8 things I need to do in order to incorporate my home school plans into my Bullet Journal:

1. Write out each subject with 1 major goal and method to accomplish it

The reason I want to take the time to include this is to have accurate records for state. (See Day 12 for a detailed break down of the requirements for my state.) I do not believe that every subject needs to be taught equally or every day for that matter, but to be intentional up front and make myself write this out will serve as a foundation for the year.

2. Outline major events in each month on your family calendar, including any time sensitive field trips or vacations

Don’t write subject plans farther in advance than one quarter at a time. It’s tempting to me to repeat a mistake from last year. I wrote in the sections of our history and science for every month in the planner I used last year. As soon as the first 3 weeks of school passed, I knew we would never finish the whole science text by May and I felt defeated in my planning. Like I would have to go through the whole schedule and cross out and rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.

Family events are different. Planning around a trip to see grandparents is important to have written in advance.

B2S Day 15 Home School Plans 2

3. Read to understand the Instructor’s Guide (IG) Intro

Often, the creator of the guide has tips and practical ways to best use the resource. Read to understand. I appreciate the helpfulness of others, but I don’t like making more work for myself. So, I try to think through the heart of what they recommend and then apply it to how I work best. Don’t get caught up in the “rule” of what is recommended or the helpfulness is lost.

Also, IGs usually include recommended resources and supplies. If there are things I can wait to purchase later, start a list in the Bullet Journal and add it to the Index: Supplies needed for X-subject by the end of the 1st quarter.

A lot of times, when I’ve started reading the IG’s it is a day or maybe a week before I want to start teaching the material – only to find out that I should have already bought a bunch of things or read another resource which leaves me feeling behind and discouraged.

Mentally prepare to feel partially unprepared, and continue preparing anyway.

4. Write a key

Write out a code or notation of some kind that makes sense and use it. Store this in the front or back of the Bullet Journal.

Things like recording memories matter just as much as recording the mastery of multiplication facts. Seeing myself and my child as a whole person is better than having everything categorized and separated into compartments. This is why I want to write down the interesting questions Graham asks in the car as just as important as what lesson he’s working on in math that week – chances are there is a connection yet to be seen between the two.

5. Use the key to thread topics.

With schoolwork, lessons, and things in progress and things complete – there needs to be a quick way to see and use old plans. I like using Washi tape on the edges of the page to quickly see plans on the same topic, but also threading makes it possible to take this even further.

Combining threading and the key – FIAR = Five in a Row and EAH = Early American History.

Next to the page number at the bottom of the page, I can write past and future pages on the same topic or using the same key to better weave together a continuous flow of plans, ideas and progress across multiple weeks.

Have you ever felt like you started a great project or conversation with your kids over a book or subject only to forget it because it wasn’t written down? I think threading can help by not only recording these projects but also by building upon them through review and connection.

6. Record to remember, not to impress

I’m not a scrapbooker just like I’m not a baker. I just can’t control my hands that well. I make mistakes, cross things out and spill. The fear of failure has no place in my Bullet Journal because the goal is to just keep writing, not to make something worthy of display in the home school mom hall of fame (which doesn’t exist anywhere expect my mind).

7. Plan in layers

Don’t begin everything all at once. One thing Sarah McKenzie said in the podcast with Tsh Oxenreider that struck me (about the use of notebooking for her kids) was:

“When I plan the night before, I don’t over plan their day because I’m planning from the perspective of what was just done. When I plan in the morning, I tend to overfill their schedule in the hopes that we will do it all.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll preach it to myself again: Do one thing well and then add one more thing. Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.

8. Make a plan for when to plan

For me, it’s more important when I plan than how I plan. I have the ability to do a daily routine, or even a weekly one without ever setting any thoughts or schedules down on paper. This nearly always ends with me frustrated for forgetting chores, appointments, or other fringe items that should have been accomplished – and would have been easy to do in one setting if only I had made a point to remember them.

I think this is the usual hook for wanting to buy something new – the desire to use something new and write things down is huge when I’ve paid money and bought the promise that my life will be better with a product.

The problem is that I can’t buy a new me.

I need a plan for when I will plan no matter if I’m using something fancy or just a Post-It note to contain my intentions.

B2S Day 15 Home School Plans 3

My big question:

What will this look like for real? On the page, in the journal.


I’m not sure, and I have to be okay with failure up front. Change isn’t the bad guy. It’s rebellion and choosing to do nothing that’s the bad guy. If this doesn’t work – I’m just going to change it or scrap it. There’s no shame in learning by trying when it comes to planning.

I know a planner is good for me when it helps me remember what I’ve written and doesn’t distract me or pull me to think in a different way. This is why I love the simplicity of the Bullet Journal. There is space to write what I need to remember to save it for future use, but the priority is staying in the present – just write in today. I don’t feel pulled to write ahead, dream ahead, or plan ahead. I feel capable of stewarding today.

Just today.

Further reading on home school planning:

This is Day 15 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

My favorite eCourse is going on sale again soon! Check it out now for more information: Click here for details.

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.