Category Archives: Homeschooling
You asked, I’m answering: What does your homeschool day look like?
Well, I’ll tell you, but first know that my day and your day can be wildly different and they can both be right for our families. There is no formula, just grace, a lot of Jesus, and faithfulness. Okay, here we go…
I kid you not, this is it:
Wake up at some point Lord willing before 8:30am.
Eat breakfast based on what mom is in the mood to do or not do, so either cereal or ALL THE THINGS. I love breakfast.
Sidenote: I usually give the kids some free time in the morning so I can drink my coffee and read my Bible.
Sidenote 2: Chores (we call them jobs) are sprinkled into the day.
Instagram Story at Instagram.com/sarahmaewrites
On our good days, I read the Bible out loud, some of the modern version of Pilgrim’s Progress, go over spiritual truths and a scripture we are learning. All of this while I’m in my comfy chair drinking coffee and they are on the floor drinking tea or eating breakfast.
My oldest (11) gets to it – she has Bible time (right now our church is going through something called Eat This Book where kids read through parts of the NT as a challenge), math (Math-U-See), English (Rod & Staff), history (Story of the World), handwriting (cursive), reading, spelling (Institute for Excellence in Writing – audio course), and then whatever else I feel like giving her (politics during the election, etc.). She’s also taking a creative writing class this winter. (Near Lancaster, PA? Join the writing class HERE).
My middlest, my boy (9) has reading, spelling (words from his reading books which are Ginn readers which are WONDERFUL if your child has reading difficulty), math, handwriting, and history (he listens to Story of the World). And whatever else I decide to do based on what’s going on in the world.
My youngest (7) has reading, spelling (we use worksheets from k12reader.com for now – they are free), math, and handwriting. And whatever else I decide to do based on what’s going on in the world. For example, all my kids have learned all the presidents of the U.S. I buy the Classical Conversations CD’s and just use them for when I want to teach them something through song. 🙂 We are not in CC and have no plans to be (NOT my personality at all).
We just sit around the living room or dining room and work on these subjects until we are done. My oldest usually works on her own unless she needs help, my youngest loves to cuddle in my lap while she works. My son just wants to get it done as soon as possible so he can rip stick or shoot me with his nerf gun.
We are usually done by 12pm, with the exception of my oldest who has the most work and sometimes goes past 12. After 12, all is up for grabs. Sometimes we do errands, sometimes they pursue creative endeavors (my oldest is really into movie making right now so she is all over that), and sometimes we watch a show or have a read-aloud (we usually do tea time and read-alouds around 2pm on a good day). School kids get home around 3 and then my kiddos play with them (SOCIALIZATION FOR THE WIN, AMIRIGHT?!).
There it is. BADA BING BADA BOOM.
If you want to peek into our day, follow me on Instagram where I use Stories (the short videos on mobile).
What do your days look like?
P.S. On Mondays my kids go to an academy for the performing arts. They love it and I get 4 hours to myself. Winning.
P.P.S. My oldest is joining a creative writing class this Feb and there are SPOTS OPEN. It is taught by the fantastic Shawn Smucker (children’s book author and ghost writer) and you can register HERE (there only a few spots, so if you’re in Lancaster, PA, GET ON IT).
There is an affiliate link in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.
I feel like I am in the golden age of parenting.
My kids are 7, 9, and 11 and they are not only a delight to be around, but they are so moldable and teachable and willing to listen and learn and yet still cuddle. They haven’t reached an age where they are pulling away from me (I hope this never happens), and yet they aren’t so little I can’t hold their attention for more than a few minutes. I am loving parenting right now.
I love watching their personalities come out and how they interact with the world.
I love that I get to be on the front lines with them as we navigate their fears, strengths, weaknesses, and all the tangles of life.
There are hard, crazy days for sure, but overall, right now, we are in a sweet spot. And I’m going to take advantage of that with all I’ve got.
I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility and joy in teaching my children about truth and grace and the God who gave His life so that we may be free and holy and new.
Here are some ways I’m filling the treasure chests of their soul with goodness and beauty and truth:
Get the Word In
I don’t make my children read the Bible, although I do encourage them to do it. What I do do however is have a morning time with them in the living room where we go over spiritual truths and then I read from the Bible.
Currently we are using The-Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New, but not as a quick read. On a white board I write out the spiritual truth from the page we’re on and we memorize it. We don’t go on until we all have it memorized. We began in September and we only have these four done:
God always was and always will be.
God is three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
God created everything out of nothing at all.
God is all-powerful.
We also work on a simple Scripture to memorize and we don’t move on until everyone has it. IMPORTANT SIDE-NOTE: If you’re anything like me, you might get discouraged reading about Scripture memory and your kids. I read blogs where moms have their kids memorize whole Psalms or portions of Scripture and then I feel like a failure as a mom and a teacher. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. Do what works for your family. If short, simple Scriptures are what you do right now, than do that. We are memorizing one-sentence Scriptures at this point and it is good.
And then I read to them right from the Bible. This morning we read and talked about John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…he world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”
I’m also doing this wonderful devotional with my oldest daughter.
Read Classic Christian Allegories
We are currently reading the modern-language version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. We began first though with reading a children’s version called, The Dangerous Journey, which is beautiful and interesting and my son in particular loved it (and still does). Now that we’re reading the “grown-up” version, my kids open The Dangerous Journey book up to follow along with the pictures (which are fantastic and not all cartoonish).
We have read Hinds’ Feet on High Places (the children’s version), we’re currently listening to A Wrinkle in Time (which the second half of is blowing my mind and also reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ The Hideous Strength), and when they get to be teens they will have to read C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy (which is profound and fantastic beyond words).
SIDE-NOTE: I never heard of or read any of these books growing up, so don’t be discouraged if you haven’t either and are feeling like you don’t know where to begin. I was not raised a Christian and I am learning right along with my kids, which has been a wonder. If you feel lost over resources or what to read or where to begin, begin with the resources I’m mentioning. Just start with one thing.
Tell the Story of Our Lives
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
The story of our lives is a testimony to our God.
I will never forget when Jesus changed my life.
I was at a Christian retreat my Freshman year of college and a speaker asked this question: “What would you do if Jesus walked into the room right now?”
Sitting there as 19 year old confused girl and baby believer, I thought “I would hide.”
If Jesus came into the room, I would hide. I would go and bend down behind one of the worn couches and make sure He couldn’t see me. Because He wouldn’t want to see me. He, being holy and good, and me being filthy and having done awful things. I was not clean. I was dirty. A holy God shouldn’t see a dirty girl.
I shared my thoughts with the small group I had been put in, thinking they were obvious and made sense, and someone from the group spoke life to me:
“You wouldn’t have to hide,” she said. “Jesus knows everything you’ve done and everything you’re going to do and He loves you anyway. If He were to come into this room, He would embrace you and put His hands on your face and call you ‘daughter’.”
That night changed everything.
All of us who know Him have cried out to Him and He turned to us…He saw us and listened and inclined to us because He loves us so. And when we bend a knee to Him, He lifts us out of our pits, out of our sin and muck and He gives us a rock to stand on – Jesus Christ. We get steady on a firm foundation. And then He puts a new song in our mouth; one of praise and not lament. We say, “This is what the Lord has done! He is so good and so kind and I am no longer alone. I belong. I am loved. I am His daughter. He makes me new!” And people see and they hear and their hearts get tender and put their trust in Him.
This is the story, the human story, of how God changes the world through changing one person. This is how a flame catches until there is a fire ablaze for Him.
And that fire touches the very people God has put in our care: our children.
My kids hear the stories of what God has done in our lives. We tell of Him and where we were and what He’s done. We talk about our muck and our sin and how Jesus alone takes our sin to the cross so that we are now holy and righteous before Him.
The truth is that there is sin in all of us. It’s a part of our human DNA, and we can’t get it out or make it better, but He makes a way. We can’t bleed it out, so He bled for us that we would be new and have new DNA, holy DNA.
We tell our children that everyone of us will die, and then face the judgement of our holy, good, gentle, just, tender God, and we will give an account because we have all sinned. But if we know Him, if we have believed in Him and received Him as our everything and given our lives to Him in full trust, than we become His children and He gives us life to the full. We will never be condemned and instead He will change us from the inside out with gentleness and care if we are humble and submit to His molding. What a good God we have!
So tell them. Tell your children the stories of what God has done. And when you’re in the middle of a story, in the middle of a storm, tell them to hang because God won’t leave or forsake His children, not ever.
Give Meaningful (but still fun) Entertainment
I cannot tell you how grateful I am for creators like Phil Vischer and the whole team at JellyTelly.
They have managed to get truth and theological concepts into kids through fun characters and stories, and my kids love them! They are funny and clever and so enjoyable. And the library is stacked with not just fun shows, but resources that help me teach my kids Biblical concepts. Just take a look at some of the options:
My kids love 3-2-1 Penguins, The Last Chance Detectives, Hermie and Wormie (OH MY WORD THE MEMORIES OF WHEN THEY WERE LITTLES!), Clive and Ian, Davey and Goliath, Hillsong Kids, and The Sugar Creek Gang, and we are still exploring! I personally love the series, “Why Do We Call It Christmas?” Mature theological truth about all things Christmas. I promise YOU will learn right along with your children.
“JellyTelly is a partner for parents in our media-drenched culture. It provides safe screen time for kids, but more than that – it allows kids to enter a media world where God is real and His Word is true. It can be a powerful tool for parents and kids to spend time together watching and learning, and then talking about Jesus and their faith.” -Phil Vischer
I choose only a few paid subscriptions to be a part of, and JellyTelly is one of them. Because for only $4.99 a month I have access to tons of wonderful, helpful, entertaining resources and movies and shows for my kids that I don’t have to worry about. Also, the five-minute devos are awesome. I can teach my kids what a prophet is, how God is redeemer and protector, what we can learn from Adam, and more in just 5 minutes.
To get a week free (try it out, you’ll be glad you did), or to go ahead and subscribe for only $4.99, just head HERE!
My dear friend and mentor Sally Clarkson always says, “If you don’t have biblical conviction, you will go the way of the culture.” As Christians, as lovers and followers of Jesus (who is God), we hold fast to our faith no matter what comes down the pike. We believe because we have been changed, because His Word is true and good and He is true and good. And this we pass onto our children, this faith that we pray they take on for themselves.
I will do everything I can to fill my children with the truth. I can’t save them, but I can lead them and teach them. And I will. I will use His Word and His tracing of my life and the stories and good books and good entertainment while I can. I encourage you to keep on doing the same. As I’m sure you are.
Keep on out there. You are doing good, faithful work.
Love, Sarah Mae
With much thanks to the wonderful folks at JellyTelly for sponsoring this post. You all are impacting lives for His Kingdom and I am grateful.
There are affiliate posts in this post. See my disclosure policy here.
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
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.
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,
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.
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?
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.