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Category Archives: Homeschooling

7 Ways to Get Great Stories into Your Kids

It all started when we decided to take the plunge and get rid of our T.V.

Yes, I know, crazy. But, at the time, I felt so convicted that if I kept it, I might somehow be depriving my children of becoming the next Beethoven! You know, what if instead of being bored and discovering some hidden talent, they were in front of a screen?! Anyway, we have our T.V. back now because it got a little weird when we’d invite the neighbor kids over for a special movie night and we’d bring out the iPad.

I kid you not. You should have seen their little confused faces. Not my finest moment.

All to say, I don’t regret the time we spent not having a T.V., because it was during that time that we developed a love for reading and listening to audio books and adventures. I began to watch as my children used their imaginations to act out the stories they were hearing. I’ve seen their vocabulary grow. I watch as they read aloud with great fervor, using different voices and inflection and accents. And most recently, two of my children have joined theatre and will be auditioning for a part in a musical in a week! They’ve been practicing practically all their lives!

And what a joy it has been reading and listening along with them, introducing myself to great stories I had never been exposed to growing up (Anne of Green Gables anyone? Yea, never had read it!). I am delighting in and learning right along with my kiddos!

Which brings me to today’s post. For those of you who could use some good ideas for getting good stories into your children’s brains, I offer you this:

7 Ways to Get Great Stories into Your Kids


1. Grocery Trips to Road Trips – I’m telling you, this is THE secret

The number one way I get great stories into my kids is listening to audio books and adventures in the car.

We listen everywhere we go! Grocery trips, on the way to their Academy, to my son’s reading tutor, road trips, EVERYWHERE, and we have logged hundreds of hours getting stories into our brains this way. Anne of Green Gables, Wonder, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, To Kill a Mockingbird…the list goes on and on. Right now we are HOOKED on Family Audio Adventures (history plus great stories? Yes please! See the end of the post for deets on getting a discount!).


Road trip? Who needs movies when there are great audio books and audio adventures to listen to?! We pick stories the whole family can get into!



The van basket…messy but effective!

2. Don’t Hide The Good Stuff

Putting books on display around your house is a sure way to get your kids to pick it up, plop down on the couch, and engage.

Every week or so I change out the books we put on display, books I want my children to pick up and check out. I can’t remember a time they didn’t take the bait! 😉




3. Tea and Treats Leads to Keats (you know, the poet)

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” –Keats (Read the whole poem here.)

Next to keeping audio books and adventures in the car is our reading and tea time.

This is the time of day when we all gather to hear a story, either me reading it or us all listening to an audio book. We head to the living room or the table where they are allowed to do something quiet while they listen. They also get tea and a treat, which is the real trick. I know I can put almost anything in my kids heads if they first have something yummy to eat! Poetry? No problem! Classic literature? Done! I’m telling you, if you want to get great stories into your kids, just feed them something while you’re doing it!



4. The Magic of the Book Basket

Struggle with getting your kids to read more than “candy” books? I’ve been there!

My oldest, avid reader that she is, was always picking books at the library that were of the Geronimo Stilton sort. Fun, but in a candy-appetite sort of way. Sure, she was reading, and I always encourage reading, but Sally pointed out to me that just like our diets, what we feed our minds daily is important in being healthy. If my girl always reads “candy books”, her mind would be engaged, but not necessarily strong. Plus, what we consume frequently we tend to have an appetite for. I want my children to crave good, delightful, meaningful stories. I also want her to learn about history and interesting people and science and so much more through “living books” and the wide world around us. Which brings me to the book basket…

Specifically, it looks like this:

A basket by the bed filled with a biography, a history (can be historical fiction), a science/nature, a classic literature, and a fun book.

Bada bing bada boom!


We go to the library, my kids pick the books based on the book basket rotation (that takes away the struggle), and I know they are going to learn! Simple, easy, THANK YOU SALLY CLARKSON for this idea!

5. Don’t Be Above Paying Your Kids…Or Giving Them an Awesome Experience

Some of you are wondering, “But how do you get your children to read the five books?”

Rewards of course! 😉 My children get to pick a special experience if they read a certain number of books (although I haven’t been above paying my kids a few bucks here and there to read something I really want them to read). Last year (and this year) my daughter chose Hershey park with her dad as her reward! My son chose a night out with me in a hotel. Yes, these are expensive items, but they have to read quite a bit to earn the reward, and it’s a once a year thing. They keep track by keeping a poster in their room and they put a sticker on it for each book they read. It has been a great success!



My son went with me to a T.V. interview where we got put up in a hotel. Since he had read his books, he got to go with me as his reward. We stayed in the hotel and ate pizza in bed while watching a movie! So fun!

6. Read (or listen) Before They Watch

My oldest two really want to watch The Lord of the Rings. They know that they don’t get to watch until they have read (or listened) to the books. I know, harsh, eh? They are tough books to read (I tried reading the Hobbit to them and gave up because it was so difficult! We got it on audio book instead)! But I have found that it motivates them to read and get into the story before seeing it visually. We now do this with almost every book-to-screen story they want to see.

7. Make Stories Come Alive and Your Children Will Get a Great Education (Plus, an AMAZING deal)

When we listen to exciting stories that come alive through wonderful acting, music, and sound effects, we are transported into the story where we can almost taste it. We love these kinds of stories.

I have found that when I want my children to really grasp a concept or an event or a philosophy, listening to living stories makes in impression into my children’s minds and hearts. A good story, a thrilling story, opens my children wide for learning, and because of this, right now we are all enthralled with the historical adventures from Family Audio Adventures.



These top-notch audio adventures are filled with stories about courage, conviction and character, and they are all wrapped in a Christian worldview.

We just finished up With Lee in Virginia which led to several conversations about the Civil War, State’s rights, slavery, and the complicated hearts of those who love God in the midst of complicated choices. I am relishing in these conversations.

Just this morning we began listening to the audio adventure about William Wallace (In Freedom’s Cause) and let me tell you, aside from the fact that my son is already talking in a Scottish accent, we are all fascinated by the history and legend and want to know more. These stories are pushing all of us to dig into history and learn.

And of course as soon as we finish one adventure, my kids want to hear another one, and I have a feeling we’ll be listening to these over and over again. Which is a good thing!

“Studies show that “listening and learning” with audio actually improves how a child’s brain works. It’s true. With audio learning, the left hemisphere of the brain gets stimulated in a way that no other learning method can stimulate. This is an education breakthrough!

And, once the left hemisphere is activated, research from Carnegie Mellon shows dramatic increases in verbal memory and fluency. Other studies show profound increases in the ability to use imagination. Lastly, researchers also discovered that even the ability to focus gets improved with audio learning.”

If you want to invest in good stories, hero stories, that enlighten and delight, I highly recommend Family Audio Adventures.

Story has a way of forming us, particularly hero stories.

Get a Discount on the Adventures We’re Hooked On!

To get 67% off of the four introductory adventures, The Dragon and the Raven, With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, and Under Drake’s Flag (so far, Under Drake’s Flag is my kids favorite), go HERE and use code: MAE1

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But here’s the kicker, this discount is only available to the first 27 people who order.

UPDATE: There are only 7 left for this deal!

And you first 27 that order, your order will be doubled AND you will receive these bonuses:





100 Percent Money Back Guarantee!

To learn more about Family Audio Adventures, head HERE.

To go ahead and use your discount code to get the 4 audio adventures (MAE1), head HERE.

Just think of all the delicious stories you can eat up by just putting a little creativity into your day!

Love and happy listening,


So very grateful to Family Audio Adventures for sponsoring this post.

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For the Overwhelming Days When Your Heart and Your Brain are Divided


Today has been what I will call a “heart-brain divide” day. It’s one of those days where my heart wants to clean and bake and homeschool well and be an awesome mom, but my brain wants to work and be creative and not have to think about being responsible for my kiddos. Oh man, I cringe just writing how I’m feeling, but it’s true and honest and it is what it is. I love my kiddos and I have absolute peace about homeschooling, but the truth is, it’s hard. It’s a worth it, good kind of hard, but you know, there isn’t much time left over for me to give my brain the space it wants (needs?) to do its creative thing. And I’m okay with this, with my choice, most days. But some days, like today, it’s a struggle. So here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m going to give myself a pep talk and you all are invited in to listen in. Here we go.

How to Handle The Heart-Brain Divide Days

Make Sure To Fill Your Soul

I called my husband up and shared with him ALL the feelings. He told me that this is how God made me and that it’s important for me to make space for creative pursuits or I will shrivel up and be miserable. I have fought him on this: “No, I’m good, I just want to clean my house and be with the kiddos and bake stuff.” And he’s all, “I know you. You’ll see. You need to be doing creative things.” He knows me so well. And thank God he cares for me enough to help me make take the time to create and work.

All to say, CHIN UP! Listen to your man. He wants you to take care of the kiddos and the home AND fill your soul. Be wise. Fill up. You’ll be a better mom…a better person…if you take the time to create.

These Days Will Pass

These days of heart-brain divide, they will pass. They are a rhythm. Tomorrow I will wake up and get on with it. I’ll get on with taking care of my people, my home, and myself. One step at a time, slow and steady. Grace will cover this day, my faults, my junk, and all the rest. And what’s more, these days of raising and teaching my kiddos will pass as well, and it will go faster than I want it to go. So I’ll remember that and remember that this is a season and giving myself to the season is good and beautiful and I’ll never regret it.

Fill the soul, but remember the season.

We Are Loved Anyway

Thank God He does not love us based on our bad days. Or our good days, for that matter. I am loved, I am enough, I am going to make it.

He knows all of my failures and He loves me anyway.

Yes and amen.

Love and happy hearts and brains,

Sarah Mae


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One of the Secrets to Nurturing a Strong Mind in Your Child


I have been let in on a great secret.

Maybe it’s not a secret, but it was unknown to me until I actually tried it. My Ella, avid reader that she is, was always picking books at the library that were of the Geronimo Stilton sort. Fun, but in a candy-appetite sort of way. Sure, she was reading, and I always encourage reading, but Sally pointed out to me that just like our diets, what we feed our minds daily is important in being healthy. If my girl always reads “candy books”, her mind would be engaged, but not necessarily strong. Plus, what we consume frequently we tend to have an appetite for. I want my children to crave the good things. I also want her to learn about history and interesting people and science and so much more through “living books” and the wide world around us.

All to say, the secret…

It is, the book basket. And specifically, it looks like this: A basket by the bed filled with a biography, a history (can be historical fiction), a science/nature, a classic literature, and a fun book.

There it is, that’s it. That is what my girl has been cycling through the last few months, and it has been the greatest asset in nurturing her mind. Whenever we go to the library (usually every two weeks), she must pick at least five books on those topics. Of course she brings home more books to read, but those are the requirements. And friends, she is not only becoming an excellent reader, I know she is developing a strong mind. Her vocabulary is vast and her knowledge of historical events and people is growing weekly. And all through story and interesting texts.

People often ask me what I use for curriculum. Mostly, the library. We read. We read good, living books on a variety of subjects. We talk about them, and then we look up more information on what we’ve learned if we’ve become curious. We have a few other texts here and there, mainly for math and mapping, but our go-to is the library.

But how, you might ask, do you get your children to read the five books?

Rewards of course! 😉 My children get to pick a special experience if they read a certain number of books. My nine year old has to read 50 chapter books (or, if they are science or biography, they can be 30 pages depending). Her choice of reward? Hershey park with her dad! My son, who has struggled with reading, also has to read 50, but they are of the BOB book variety. His choice? A night out with me in a hotel. Yes, these are expensive items, but they have to read quite a bit to earn the reward. They keep track by keeping a poster in their room and they put a sticker on it for each book they read. It has been a great success! Now listen, I didn’t come up with any of these ideas; I got them from Sally Clarkson. If you’re not following her, you must. She’s lovely and gracious and wise and has done the work in raising her children well. I love her so and you will too.

If you want more ideas, or book recommendations, pick up Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families by Sarah Clarkson (Sally’s daughter). It is wonderful, and is filled with practical advice for encouraging your children to read.

And just for fun, you must run right now and get your hands on the deeply touching book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The kids and I were hooked; we couldn’t put it down. It is an exceptional work by Kate DiCamillo.

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Okay, your turn! What secrets do you have when it comes to encouraging your children to be well-read? Also, what is a current kids book you are loving right now?

Keep on!


P.S. Another way we sneak in “reading” is by listening to audio books in the car. We are currently listening to Anne of Green Gables every time we go somewhere. It’s been a fun way to get more reading into our lives!

There are affiliate links in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

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The Type-B Homeschool Plan – Available to Download Now!

The Type-B Homeschool Plan - 14 Days to Homeschool Ready!

Many of you have asked me if and when I would release an updated Type-B Homeschool Planner. I have decided this year to just release the “plan” version, instead of the full planner.

Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time or resources this year to create a full planner, but I wanted you all to have access to the 14-Step planning guide. So, I have made the guide available in a PDF and you can download for only $2.99!

Download The Type-B Homeschool Plan by clicking the button below!

Add to Cart

Just get yourself a notebook, and you’re all set!

What’s in The Type-B Homeschool Plan?

The Type-B Homeschool Plan is the planner for the rest of us.

It’s the planner for the mom who struggles with details, gets overwhelmed with lesson-planning, and is generally laid back but knows she needs to get her ducks in a row if she’s going to homeschool well.

It is simple, clear, and offers step-by-step planning help.

The Type-B Homeschool Plan is everything that was in the original planner, minus the planning pages. I have added a few things here and there to it, but for the most part it is identical to the planner version (so if you already have it, you don’t need to buy it again).

Here’s to sweat-free homeschool planning!


Love, SM

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Not Sure If You Want to Keep Homeschooling? Burned Out? Read This. (5 Ways to Enjoy Homeschooling)

Not Sure If You Want to Keep Homeschooling? Burned Out? Read This. (5 Ways to Enjoy Homeschooling)

I love homeschooling my kiddos.

But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, I felt fearful, nervous, inadequate, and unsure. I read homeschooling blogs and posts from homeschooling moms who seemed to be so good at schedules and crafts and organization. I began to feel like I had no business homeschooling. I’m not organized, I’m not detailed, and I’m not into crafts or strict schedules.

But I know now that those aren’t the requirements for homeschooling.

I also know now I’m a Type-B mom. And I’m finally okay with that. But before I accepted embraced who I was, I almost quit.

I remember sitting down on a friend’s couch and telling her that I thought I should just put my kids in school. I wasn’t cut out for homeschooling, and I didn’t want my kids to miss out. I felt so torn up about it. What to do?

On the drive home from her house, I called another homeschooling friend who put her daughter in private school for a year and I explained my thoughts and asked her for advice. She asked me this question, “Why did you decide to homeschool?”

Good question. I somehow hadn’t even considered it in such a long time I had forgotten about it. But there it was: Why?

I said to her, “I want to disciple my kids, and teach them according to their bents and strengths. I want to do life with them and help along, preparing them for the world.”

And there it was. The biggest thing was that I wanted to be with them, discipling them, day in and day out. Yes, I want them to have a strong education, but first and foremost I want to teach them how to live.

It was that conversation that reminded me of the beauty of homeschooling, and further more, it made me realize I didn’t have to homeschool according to how anyone else did it. I could tailer our homeschooling to my personality and our unique family dynamics. Recognizing this truth was a game-changer for our family. And now, I am not fearful, and am much better at not comparing myself to other homeschool moms. I am enjoying homeschooling, and I adore watching my kids grow into who God fashioned them to be.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that led to me enjoying homeschooling…

5 Ways to Enjoy Homeschooling

Know Your Why (and Revisit it Often)

Do you have a “why”?

When my friend asked me why I was homeschooling, it brought me to the core of the matter. It made me think about the purpose behind why I am giving myself to this work of educating my children. And you know, once I answered that question, it was a fresh wind to my soul, and felt excited and delighted to homeschool again.

That was two years ago and I still find it such a joy to home educate.

Embrace Who You Are

There is accepting yourself and there is embracing yourself. I say, embrace the beautiful person that God wove you together to be. Sure, you have your quirks, your shortfalls, and there is that pesky sin-nature, but the core of who you are, all that color stuffed inside your soul from the Master Artist, that’s you. And your personalty is God-given and I believe He delights in it, because when you are fully you, He is fully glorified. To deny who you are, or to try and be like someone else, is to deny His handiwork. So maybe you’re not into details, or maybe you rock at them, either way, be you in how you homeschool and you will experience great joy in the process.

Go With What Works for Your Family

Everyone has a different family dynamic. What works for me isn’t going to necessarily work for you. Figure out the unique chemistry of your people and go with it. Do you like to sleep in and get school going late morning over pancakes? Great! Do you like watching the sun rise and hitting the ground running? Great! Strict schedule keeper? Rock it. Flexible, do school throughout the day mom? Cool. We are all different, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to homeschool. Figure out your family puzzle (as Sally says), and get on with it!

Don’t Push Your Kids Before They’re Ready

Each child learns at a different rate. The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to push them before they’re ready. You can watch and observe as they grow and how they learn, and push gently when the time is right. You’ll know. You gain confidence the more you do this homeschooling thing. I used to think I had to understand how my children learned before we even began, and it overwhelmed me! I finally let that go and just did my best, and it became evident when something was or was not working. I didn’t have to force understanding it, it just presented itself.

Here’s the thing, I once read or heard (can’t remember where) this illustration that helped me in teaching my kids: If you look at a class photo, the kids are different heights. You might have an extremely tall child, or a short child, and varying heights in between. That is what it’s like inside a child, it’s just that we can’t see it, and so we tend to treat children as if they’re all in the same place mentally. The reality is, they aren’t. With homeschooling you have the opportunity to know your child and go at their pace.

My daughter is an avid reader, but my son, who is eight, has struggled. He is still only reading BOB books. But he is improving slowly, and I get to be with him to encourage him and not make him feel anything other than what he is, smart. :)

Don’t compare your kids with other kids, and be careful not to push them before they are ready. You’ll know.

How does this make homeschooling more enjoyable? You won’t be fearful, you won’t be pulling your hair out when your child isn’t understanding something, and there won’t be nearly as many tears. Unfortunately, the pressure is on for kids, and they feel it, and it is causing unneeded stress in their little bodies. Let them be who they are. Let them enjoy schooling (okay, they won’t enjoy all of it!). Let them be kids and play and for goodness sake, it’s okay if they don’t know world history by first grade!

I’ll end this section by sharing with you what my mentor shared with me, “If you want your children to be brilliant, read to them tons (and give them good books), have them around adults, and play good music!” 😉

Put Blinders On

Honestly, I have avoided our local homeschool conference for two years because I didn’t want to get neurotic about our educational choices. I know that if I go and look at all the thousands of choices, I will compare, fret, and get overwhelmed. It seems there is always something I could be doing better, and wouldn’t you know XYZ has just the product to help me! And ya’ll, I’m a sucker for it. Avoiding the choices the last two years has been very good for me, and I’ve been happier for it, I’m sure. Irony alert: I got asked to speak at CHAP this year, our local homeschool convention! Ha! So, I will be there, but if you see me, remind me to put my blinders on! 😉

Just as an FYI, I don’t there is anything wrong with looking over curriculum choices at a conference, and I’m sure I’ll do it this year, since I’ll be there. The point is that once you make your decision, be confident in it! Go forward, no comparing, no looking back! And this goes for what you read online as well. If you aren’t encouraged by it, bop away and move on! You are you, you are woven uniquely by God, and you are able to school your babes!

Here’s to the delight of homeschooling!


P.S. Get The Type-B Homeschool Plan (lesson planning for the rest of us) for only $2.99 by clicking HERE!

The Type-B Homeschool Plan - 14 Days to Homeschool Ready!

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