Write Your Plan: Homeschool Planning Tip #5

HPT 5 Write Your Plan

Feeling the pressure to get ready for the first day of school?

Last year, I wanted to force myself to use my time wisely in preparing for a new school year. So I made my daily work public by writing everyday for the month of August. (You can see the whole list of topics here.)

Depending on your family’s needs, this may be crunch time for getting your homeschool ready for the new year. Whether you’ve procrastinated and have nothing ready or you’ve steadily gathered your resources and feel ready, you’ll make some sort of plan (even if it’s just in your head).

But the bigger challenge we all face is creating a plan that can be put into action (you know, not the “ideal” plan but a “real” plan). 

Here’s how:*

#1 Start by mapping your family’s year. This step is defined for you in this post.

#2 Be the student. Read all the Instructor’s Guides, Introductions, and anything else included for the teacher in each of your resources. Pace yourself; don’t attempt this all at once! I disagree with experts who say that you can schedule a Saturday and crunch this all out. I prefer to read one subject at a time. I mull over the information and I don’t move on until I really feel like I understand it. My main goal for this step is to really grasp the main point of the resource. I want to be able to express this goal in my own words.

Ideal. All my resources tidy and in order while reviewing them.

Ideal. All my resources tidy and in order while reviewing them.

#3 Make it your own! Once you grasp the author’s goal for the resource, then you can define your own measure of success in utilizing it. I ask myself this question: “What will it take for us to master this subject?” In most teaching resources, they include a scope and sequence but it may not be titled as such. It might be the “introduction” (scope) and “sample schedule” (sequence).

#4 Pencil in a plan that fits your family. Don’t over stress the details nor throw your schedule to the wind.

Real. This is what it actually looked like while I read and reviewed my resources.

Real. This is what it actually looked like while I read and reviewed my resources.

Here’s what I do:

Read the introductions and sample schedules

Count the number of chapters and divide the material by the number of weeks needed to account for school (remember to review your state’s requirements for what you need to account for)

Plan for the first term and stop there (Resist the temptation to fill in your blank calendar.) Writing only what I hope to accomplish within the first 4-6 weeks allows me to gain perspective on how we actually handle our resources without the pressure to keep the pace. After the first term, I can then adjust our pace based on the first term without having to rewrite our whole year plan.

Write a sample week including all the subjects (Look for a post – coming soon – “A Busy Mom’s Guide to Weekly Homeschool Planning“) 

Use my Ultimate Homeschool Planner’s monthly and weekly worksheets:

  • Monthly set’s a bare bones skeleton
  • Weekly set’s a limited focus on only what I need to accomplish

Pray and get to work!

If there’s one last piece of advice I can leave you with, it is to have confidence. You can figure out how to use the tools you have, you will be able to manage all the parts of your homeschool (with patience and practice), and you are the best teacher for your child!

Here’s to the start of an amazing 2016-2017 Homeschool Year!

*These tips assume that you’ve already defined your teaching style and have chosen the resources that work best for you and your child. If you’re feeling stuck because you don’t know your educational philosophy or you don’t feel confident to choose resources then check out these posts:

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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 ClassicalAcademicPress.com, 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!

Intentional Summer: December is coming.

What a dooms day, Debbie-downer title. Right?

I don’t mean to rain snow on anyone’s summer parade, but being helpful is what I do – encouraging change and growth. So, as I write the winter portion of the seasonal planner I’m working on (mentioned here, your continued patience in the publishing of said resource is appreciated) I want to share some of the thoughts with you now – while you can still use them.

As a parent, sometimes December takes me off guard.

Usually, I have established a big “Back to School” ideal. We prioritize, plan, prepare, and purchase everything we need to set up a learning environment that suites our needs.

Kids thrive with a balance of healthy change and routinesLife feels like it could go on like this forever. We have had our fill of summer and September has brought a fresh change.

Fall arrives, the plan goes into motion and I coast. It feels right for a few weeks, but then the texts, emails, church bulletins, and family engagements start filling up the calendar.

October has slowed our pace and by November my kids are sick of the routine, they are in great need of physical exercise, and I am in need of tasting some good fruit from all my effort.

December isn’t a time for tasting fresh fruit (at least not in Michigan and not in the symbolic way either), but winter’s atmosphere can still be sweet.

I have to intentionally create an anchor atmosphere for every season, or my mindset will be carried with the wind.

Two things I need for my intentionality to continue to thrive (and for my sanity):

  1. Planning ahead
  2. Preserving
Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Planning ahead: the rebel in me doesn’t like to see “Back to School” displays in July, but that is when stores start to promote it. Sure, they are motivated by profit, but the reminder is free.

Procrastination hurts intention every-single-time. Don’t be a fool for the lie again – that you can do the work later. This is the lie that says that July is too soon for planning to change the routine. Planning ahead does require work, but a little bit of it today will go a long way when it comes time for the routine to change.

Taking time to consider the winter months today will smooth the transition. You will have already done some of the work which builds momentum.

Planning ahead allows for a different perspective. Sometimes it feels impossible to change a season’s atmosphere. So it’s important to learn from the past seasons and begin to apply the changes you’d like to see.

To do this: look at a calendar for the whole year – and next to each of the winter months, jot a single word that usually summarizes your feelings in that month. Then write one word that summarizes the deeper purpose you commit to prioritize.

For example, my December would look like this:

Feeling: Overwhelmed
Purpose: Family Time

Now, when those months start to approach begin to plan your weeks holding the second word close.

If it’s “family time” then start crossing out blocks of time that will be reserved for family – making those urgent requests for more of your time an easy “no, I already have plans.”

Or if it is, “rest” then you can start listing activities that help you relax and start penciling them into your weeks. Also, begin to take note of things that make you feel overwhelmed – try to eliminate those activities during this month by taking the time to plan to accomplish some of the important tasks now. (Like ordering Christmas cards.)

Trust me, even if you’re thinking – I have small kids, so they would be written on my list of things that are overwhelming and I can’t cross them off my list. I know it’s hard to manage self-care and child-care. But habit training is possible, and you can teach your children to be calm. It is possible for them to honor your need for rest.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Preservation: just as canning fruits means I can enjoy them year round, so living well in every season preserves my spirit.

A misconception of planning ahead is that one is always looking forward and not fully enjoying the present. Not if you can balance it with preservation.

The amount of time it takes to be intentional pails in comparison to the amount of time I’ve wasted on living week-to-week. What I’ve gained from discipline and follow through is a full well of memories that I can draw from when I’m feeling drained.

Preservation is another means of self-control.

If I want to have blueberry smoothies in December, then I can’t gorge on the berries that I pick in July. I have to weigh the joy these berries will give me in December as heavier than the fleeting pleasure of eating one more handful now.

Preservation is also a way of respect. I honor the choices I make today and live fully within them. Not looking back in regret, nor forward in fantasy. I measure my days, make the most of them, and save them as proof of fruit from a life lived with much sowing.

Respect has a way of balancing by setting limits.

Write a letter to your winter-self from your summer-self. No, I’m not into predicting the future – that isn’t the purpose for this. Set aside a list of things you accomplished with the time you were given in the summer. Be honest about the trials you endured – great and small. Give credit to the lessons you faced that are unique to this time of year. Preserve a little bit of the feeling of the summer months to compare and contrast the atmospheres.

Then when winter comes, make a second list of things that anchor you to this season.

No season is “perfect,” but every season has purpose. With these suggestions, I hope you can see what atmosphere you are able to create within each month and enjoy the benefits of living with satisfaction in every season.

Some resources for further reading:

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My take away: the brains and the books.

Attending the GHC* has always helped me get back in touch with my heart.

Why am I here?

Why do I want to teach my kids?

What are we even doing this for?

It’s a concrete time where I can really address what I’m doing and who I’m becoming. The first day or two of sessions can be ugly, revealing, and breaking – but as I’ve experienced each year – God speaks gently and directly to my heart. And I take a lot of notes.

My take away from the GHC

I try to go with one main relationship goal, one main educational goal, and one main resource to seek out in the exhibit hall.

This year my goals were: learn better communication skills, research learning styles and determine if a classical education would be right for my kids, and check out My Father’s World 3rd grade.

Here is the list of sessions:

  • Building a Legacy: Pursuing the Homeschool Path by Sarita Holzmann of Sonlight.com
    • From my notes: God has chosen me to raise the specific children He has given me. He will equip me for the task. The important things in life come with resistance.
  • Homeschooling is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller of the National Center for Biblical Parenting
    • From my notes: When faced with an ongoing problem behavior in a child, take the time to consider what the solution (often a good character quality the child lacks) and in dealing with the child work from the solution backwards. Don’t push from the problem toward the solution. A person who operates with a focus on character thinks differently than a problem focused person.
  • Created to Be by Kathy Koch, PhD of Celebrate Kids (CD)
  • “Help, I’m Drowning in Curriculum Choices! How Do I Choose the Right One?” by Tina Hollenbeck of Celebrate Kids (CD)
  • Ignite a Love for Learning: Teach Students the Way They are Designed by Shawna Howell of Classical Conversations (CD)
  • Becoming Your Child’s Favorite Teacher by Steve Lambert of Five in a Row
    • From my notes: I wrote a whole post on this one. One thought not in that post is: Homeschooling isn’t a “new” thing. Sure it’s gaining popularity, but giving a tutorial education has always been around. It is the most natural and personal way to teach and learn. Don’t turn homeschooling into a “classroom” style education.
  • The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters by Michael Gurian of The Gurian Institute (Rob went to this one and we bought the CD)

My take away from the GHC 4

  • Classic Literature for Little Folks by Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books
    • From my notes: 2 things in life will change you: the people you meet and the books you read. Good books will develop a moral imagination which leads to empathy and compassion. C.S. Lewis said “[when you read you can] see with another’s eyes” and through the process of reading “[I come outside myself] to become more myself.”
  • Understanding the Constitution: Three Things Your Children Must Learn to Save Their Freedoms in the Future by Attorney David Gibbs, III of The National Center for Life and Liberty (Rob attended this one and we also bought the book)
  • The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight by Heidi St. John of The Busy Mom
    • From my notes: To stop wasting time I must realize that I don’t need “time management, [I need] me management.” Also learn to discern the voice of conviction versus the voice of condemnation. That’s the only way I will operate out of my priorities with freedom.
  • Helping Perfectionistic Kids by Kathy Koch, PhD of Celebrate Kids (CD)
  • Classical Education, Unit Study, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling? What Approach Should I Use? By Cathy Duffy
    • From my notes: Most homeschooling is eclectic, combining multiple styles. Know yourself as a teacher and start from a point where you can be accountable. (Much more to come on this session in the series Educational Theories Defined.)
  • The Wonder of Boys: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Our Sons by Michael Gurian of The Gurian Institute
    • From my notes: (His sessions were highly scientific and focused on interpreting research of the differences in the brain between men and women.) Hormones increase during stressful situations. In women, it’s the hormone oxytocin. When oxytocin goes up, it creates a need for words and feelings – “tend and befriend.” In men, it’s the hormone testosterone. When testosterone goes up, it creates a need to “fight or flight.” When men are in a stressful situation, they may respond to their hormonal inclinations by distancing from the situation in order to calm their response down. It may take them up to 24 hours to attach words to their feelings, and forced eye contact can increase the stimulation of their “fight or flight” reflex.
  • Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World by Kathy Koch, PhD of Celebrate Kids (CD)
  • Strong Roots, Strong Marriage by Heidi St. John of The Busy Mom
    • From my notes: Heidi’s main call to action was to cultivate a “Fearless Marriage.” She quoted Ephesians 6 often in her points to draw our attention to the need to recognize that we were born on a battle field. We live in a constant state of spiritual war. She showed a clip from Oprah interviewing the Bells, Rob and Kristen. In that clip, Kristen read from their latest book which promotes homosexual marriage. Rob Bell’s argument for accepting homosexuality in the church was that because loneliness lies in the bones of every human being we as a culture should celebrate anyone who finds a cure for their loneliness. Besides, the church needs to stop “quoting letters from 2,000 years ago” for their reasons not to support this. Heidi St. John’s response to this was “you can’t fight a spiritual battle with emotional arguments.” Loneliness does not justify what God’s word calls sin. Not only as a marriage do we need to be strong, but we must also be strong as individuals in our faith, for our God, and for our children.
  • The Case for Christian Education by Lee Strobel (CD)
  • You CAN Do Unit Study by Steve Lambert of Five in a Row
    • From my notes: A unit study can be taught to the widest range of ages and customized to educate the widest range of subjects. Take Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel as an example. In just the first few sentences he drew out enough information from the story to set a 4-, 7-, 10-, and 17-year old on an engaging mission to understand personification. The 4-year old was assigned an oral report to personify their bike and create a story about it, and the older children were assigned the same thing but required to write their reports with standards created to fit their abilities. So why unit studies? “It’s holistic. You start anywhere and end up everywhere. Compared to the traditional model of education: texts allow you to know what your children will learn, books allow you to know who your children are.”
  • Learning Styles: Choosing and Using Curriculum to Fit Each Child by Cathy Duffy (CD)
  • Charlotte Mason Meets Plato: Restoring the Joy of Education in Your Home by Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books
    • From my notes: “Knowledge obtained on compulsion has no hold on the mind.” Mason said, “the only real education is self-education.” Not that we are to be self-absorbed or only focused on ourselves, but rather the one who is able to learn on their own and one who loves to do so. Self-educated giants for our example are: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, and Phyllis Wheatley.

 Here’s the list of resources we purchased:

As He’s done every year, God taught me more than I could have expected about His heart for my kids, His heart for me, how I should change my patterns in parenting, and how we should move forward. If you noticed, my goal for researching My Father’s World for 3rd grade did not result in the purchase of that curriculum. Not because it isn’t a good resource. But after praying and trusting that the Lord would lead us, we chose Five in a Row and Beautiful Feet Books instead. Unit studies and lots of read alouds, creativity and interest-led learning. It’s going to stretch me greatly, but I’m confident that this tutorial model of education will serve my children well.

I can’t wait to dive into these resources! The kids can’t wait either! 🙂

My take away from the GHC 2


The purpose of this post is to inspire, not recommend any one resource as universally useful. I hope my learning journey inspires you to take the next step in your unique learning journey. All links in this post marked with an "*" are affiliate links. All other links are for reference only. Thanks again for reading!

Educational Theories Defined: Series Intro

Educational Theories Defined Series Intro

I made the rookie mistakes.

We decided to homeschool our children when we were pregnant with our first child. When she was approaching preschool age, the questions began.

Will she be going to preschool this fall?

No, we are going to homeschool.

The conversation left me feeling insecure. I knew the why, but I didn’t know the how.

I was not relaxed about the whole process. I bought way too many workbooks – out of compulsion and fear, and because – really? – Target was selling them for a dollar. I gave into the fear that I didn’t know how I was going to actually teach my child. Buying gobs of colorful workbooks and lining them up on our shelves felt like the responsible, confidence boosting thing to do.

Rookie mistakes.

Those workbooks only mocked me because my daughter has never enjoyed them.

Instead of looking into educational theories or questioning my methods, I jumped into a box curriculum. (Do not read that box curricula are bad. They can be wonderful!)

I bought cute little desks. I wanted to sit down with my kids and teach them at the same time. I wanted order and timing. Defined roles of teacher and student.

Rookie mistakes again.

I could not box in my daughter. The more I tried to define learning and make her want it, the more she wanted her freedom and the more we disconnected.

So we stopped, took a break, and found out that she couldn’t see.

Literally, she needed glasses.

2013 was a major learning year for me. I remembered that before I can homeschool my children – I must first homeschool myself.

It was the first year I went to a homeschool convention. I went because I just wanted to feel like I wasn’t as isolated in this whole homeschool thing as I was feeling. I went to gain tools in parenting and for teaching reading. I went to learn and to stop being afraid of being a rookie.

I came away with a whole new appreciation for learning. I had so much to correct in my own behavior, but I was hopeful that all the changes could be made.

One of the biggest changes I knew I needed to make was in my educational theory. Without even realizing it, I was trying to impose a traditional view of school onto my children because that was all I knew. Sit in desks, listen to me teach, perform, and receive a grade.

Rookie mistakes.

Slowly, I branched out. Learning little by little everything I could about other methods and philosophies on teaching and learning styles. Thankfully, I have some very great friends who also homeschool and they have exposed me to other theories in a relatively painless way.

I realize now that my focus in the beginning on the what and the why wasn’t enough. I needed to learn the how in order to truly connect with the natural gifts and talents of my children.

Because the goal isn’t just to get through a grade or even a book, it’s for my children to develop and enjoy the fullness of life.

So this series is dedicated to defining the how’s behind many of the different educational theories.

I aim to answer 5 questions within each theory and they are:

  1. Who originated the theory?
  2. What problem is solved or what need is met?
  3. Who has adapted it?
  4. What companies function from this theory?
  5. Who are the critics?

List of theories:

I will also include a whole list of teaching resources for different methods and organizational strategies to aid you in suiting your personality style to your homeschool style.

I’m here to help.

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Jotham’s Journey: Advent Devotional Review

Jotham's Journey Review Home Learner

Sharing resources and books with other homeschoolers can sometimes feel a little like an underground organization where research and experience are king. Trading knowledge is as good as gold.

Or maybe it’s like a bee hive. If you’ve ever been to the Great Homeschool Convention (I love their name by the way, as if to say “We’re the GREAT one! Beat that other conventions!) then you know what I mean. Women and men buzzing around, at least a hundred fire code violations in each major branch of the venue, all on pursuit of that nugget or nectar that best meets their family’s needs.

One golden flower that I found recently is Jotham’s Journey. Sonlight has been promoting it for years, and every November it is included their recommendations for the Christmas season.

Would it be right for our family’s Advent celebration?

I did not buy it for 3 years. I just kept it in the back of my mind while we did Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree (which used to be free, but now you need to own The Greatest Gift to have access to the ornaments) and then 2 years of The Advent Event (amazing for young children who enjoy coloring and hand motions).

So in September while I was buying other resources (this one, buy it asap if you’ve been thinking about it, it’s better than you expect) from Rainbow Resource in September, I figured it was time to pull the trigger. It also felt good to have our Advent devotional planned that far in advance. Bonus.

Now for the review:

  • Amazing spiritual content. Daily references to both Old and New Testaments. Tying together prophecy and fulfillment in Jesus’ birth.
  • Suspenseful and thrilling plot. Great character development, driving scenes with intense image descriptions.
  • Not a picture book. Not suitable for very young, sensitive children. Some descriptions of the action would be too intense.
  • The author has a thorough knowledge of Jewish culture and history which makes the layering of the story on top of the Christmas story function naturally and spiritually.
  • Written to be used with an Advent wreath.
  • Includes a chart which customizes your reading schedule to the calendar – for example, if Christmas day falls on a Tuesday then read the last chapter in 3 parts: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or if it falls on a Thursday then read the last chapter in 5 parts. The last chapter can be broken into 7 parts.

One caution would be that the story contains death and murder. My kids are 7, 5, and 1 years old. The 7 year old is quite sensitive to dramatic material but loves a good story. And Jotham’s Journey is exactly that. There was one point in the story where my husband read aloud an intense scene and gave me the look like are we really going to read this to our children? This coming from the man who edited Balto while reading it to our kids so that they wouldn’t imagine the scene where Balto is stabbed to death. I get it. We do not want to fill their minds with violence – real or imaginary.

Jotham’s Journey brings the Christmas story to vivid light. Capturing the joy and grief of real life then and now. It has pointed questions in the devotional to draw the Christmas light into the reader’s life. Only deep reflection will satisfy the call to prepare Him room.

Let me know if you have read Jotham’s Journey too! Or if you have a different resource you love for Advent.

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