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If it’s not apparent by all the fall/Thanksgiving posts on my blog (like this free packet, this printable calendar, and this act of kindness kit), I REALLY LOVE THE FALL SEASON. One of my favorite aspects of fall is obviously the weather. Living in central Alabama means that we deal with insufferable heat and humidity most of the year. We are very much a “2-season” state. Our fall and spring generally area about 2 weeks long, but OH how glorious they are!
Since our fall season is so short, we like to take full advantage and spend as many hours out of doors as possible. Even on 10 acres, my little ones can somehow manage to grow bored with the scenery. I find that a sure-fire way to keep them engaged with exploring nature is to start out by directing, guiding, or employing them in some way. Then, once their creative and observational skills are all fired up, they’re happy to engage with nature and explore on their own for hours at a time.
As my blog has grown, I’ve had the opportunity to do a few reviews. I’ve learned that it’s important to me that I really LOVE anything that I review. I don’t want to hand out a negative review, but I’m also going to be 100% honest. I’m thankful my caution has paid off, and I’ve received a product for my honest review that I can say I HONESTLY love.
Beautiful Feet Books is known for it’s simple, easy-to-implement, open-and-go curriculum guides combined with exceptional literature. When the books are this perfect, you don’t have to add much to it, especially in the grammar stage.
I chose to use Beautiful Feet Books Geography Through Literature program with both my 6th and 9th grader girls. My oldest daughter already has much geography included in her Tapestry of Grace core curriculum, but I thought it would be wonderful to have an additional “fun” thing to do with her as well. So, aside from our “Lunch Basket” (what we call morning basket), this is the only thing we do all together.
Hooked on Phonics may be a program that you’ve never really considered before as a homeschool mom. It’s not something that sprang to my mind as I researched various phonics programs for my children. I think I didn’t realize that it is a FULL, solid program, with MANY levels that is just as complete and thorough as any phonics program I’ve seen.
I shared all of my thoughts on Hooked on Phonics over at HomeschoolGiveaways.com, including my honest criticisms as well. I would love for you to head there and check out that review if you haven’t already!
Who doesn’t love smores? Even with gluten, dairy, and corn allergies in our home, we’ve managed to still enjoy them. They’re a fall staple in our home, and we enjoy them immensely. A few years ago, I was thinking about s’mores and had a brainstorm for a random act of kindness. What if we chose several friends whom we love and packed s’more baskets up just for their families?
We decided to do just that! They were extremely popular. We got found out pretty quickly (despite our excellent ninja-skills), but we continued to do them each year. This year will be our 4th year and we are so excited to get them packed up and ding-dong-ditch them next week!
I am so so so excited that you have found Thanks-GIVING For Your Whole Family! The fall months and the holiday season have always been near and dear to my heart. I love the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings- cool crisp air, pumpkin pie scented candles, marshmallow-loaded hot cocoa, a crackling fire, and all of my loved ones close at hand.
Obviously, this means I also love Thanksgiving. I get to spend time with family, and there’s always a good football game. In celebration of Thanksgiving and anticipation of Christmas, it’s generally my goal that November would be filled with acts of service that demonstrate our gratitude and worship.
A couple of years ago, I developed a schedule of thanksgiving celebration in which our family focuses much more on genuinely giving than just saying how thankful we are (which, there’s definitely nothing wrong with that!). I am convinced that it creates the perfect space in our hearts to enter into worship in December.
Sometimes you just need a few visuals to help your students get the full picture. This year, we are using a living books science curriculum from Beautiful Feet (read a review here) for my 6th grader, while my older daughter is utilizing Sabbath Mood for her 9th grade Biology 1. Both programs are beautiful, thorough and engaging. But around here, we love a great display for visual reference as well as notebooking pages.
Notebooking pages are so simple. Honestly, it’s kind of silly. Why do those engage better? I have no clue. But they DO. When my girls have a topic-specific notebook page, they just get more “into” it. Maybe it feels more official than plain old notebook paper?
Our entire educational endeavors surround two things in our home- nature and books. We spend our days either outside or with little ones in a lap, perusing our latest library haul. Fall is a fantastic time to make a sweet connection between those two loves. What better than a stack of books that speak to the changing of the seasons- from miserably hot to crisp and cool. Fall brings a much needed change here, after a long, humid summer and begins to usher in the excitement of the holiday seasons.
I have two things to share today. First, the book recommendations. Some are favorites in our home and others were highly recommended by Life, Abundantly readers on Facebook.
Down below the book recommendations though, you’ll find a DELIGHTFUL FREE download that includes 11 pages of super sweet, really adorably worksheets created for the K3-1st Grade crowd.
I am so excited to get to share about the Beautiful Feet Books' HISTORY OF SCIENCE program! If you're like me, you never really entertained the notion of a science program from the perspective of history. When I first ran across it, I thought that it might not be very hands-on (meaning all books, no experiments) or that it wouldn't be "thorough enough" since it's not specific to one area of science--like biology, chemistry, botany.
Oh my, how I was wrong! I received this curriculum to use with my 6th grader for my honest review. She is a very hands-on kinesthetic learner, who- despite being dyslexic- learns best through real, living stories. When she is involved in a story line, she will remember every single detail of that person's life. Living books are hands-down the best way to get lasting knowledge and true education into her heart and mind forever. You do NOT have to avoid living books for a dyslexic student!
Homeschooling high school was always something that I looked ahead to with both excitement and fear. When my children were in elementary grades, I felt confident teaching according to a classical model, but as they grew into the middle and high school years, I felt intimidated by the challenging literature and history and by my own lack of knowledge in these areas.
I was excited to learn alongside my kids, but also afraid that I would not be qualified to teach upper level courses. I knew I would need a curriculum that could guide me as I redeemed my own education.
A dear friend had been telling me for a few years how much her family loved Tapestry of Grace, and I could see the results in her son. He was able to carry on deep discussions about topics in history, literature, philosophy, and government with such thoughtfulness and a depth of understanding that I wanted for my children and myself. I had looked at so many other classical courses for high school, but I kept feeling called back to Tapestry of Grace.
I llooooooveeeee organization. I will also quickly admit that I’m not the best at “maintaining” said organization, but I am a PRO at setting it up. I have learned, over the years, with a lot of failure, that simple works best. I’ve also learned that no organizational systems matters a lick if you don’t have the self-discipline to utilize the system. Being a self-proclaimed scatterbrain AND perfectionist, wrapped all into one, creates a very interesting dichotomy that I’m confident my family total loves (not at all).
As we approached this school year, I had a vision in mind for bringing the spreadsheet system I’ve used for years into a real life, adjustable, very visible, attractive wall system. (If you’re curious about how I use a spreadsheet and generally plan our days, check out this detailed post and free spreadsheet.) I am probably the most “out of sight, out of mind” person you’ve ever met. It frustrates me immensely, but I also just accommodate this insufficiency with various tools, like my phone alarm and calendar.
Over the past eight years of homeschooling, we have used a variety of resources for memory work. We spent five years as part a of classical, memory work focused co-op- first as participants in Classical Conversations, then in a classical co-op, which Erin founded. During those years, my oldest two children memorized amazing amounts of information about history, science, Latin, math, geography, English grammar, and world history. Now that they are in middle school and high school, I can see how all the seeds that were planted during the grammar years are producing much fruit.
As my children got older and my younger two joined us at the homeschool table, I felt that being involved in a co-op was not the best use of our time. Dedicating a full day to a co-op made it hard to complete all their other school work in the remaining four days. Despite making the difficult decision to leave our co-op, I didn’t want to leave memory work out of our curriculum. I wanted to ensure that my two younger children would have the same foundation in memory work their older siblings received.
My Instagram feed is filled with gorgeous nature tables, muddy rainboots, and wild and free children. This speaks to my heart in an unimaginable way. While I may often get too busy to truly spend the hours out of doors that I would like... and sometimes the complaints about the heat just wear me down (we live near Satan's armpit), I know deep in my soul that being surrounded and immersed in God's creation is as close as we can get to touching him on this earth.
When I first began reading Charlotte Mason's own personal work (and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT, start here), I was slightly put off. I almost felt as if she worshipped nature. But I knew I had to be missing something important, so I pressed further in. Through prayer, I realized that Charlotte was passionate about nature because she was passionate about the Creator of nature. She knew that being immersed in Creation was a sneak peak into eternity and into the heart of our Father in Heaven. Our task as mothers is to simply help our children become thoroughly acquainted with Creation, capable of truly SEEING it with clear observation.
My sweet little boys keep life very interesting, especially as I try to homeschool a high school freshman and 6th grader with dyslexia. It's basically my mission in life to keep my boys engaged in fruitful activity throughout the day in order that I might have small chunks of silence to engage with my girls in as much of their schoolwork as possible.
I want to share a few ideas and several "go-to" items that I keep handy at all times, as well as my process for both planning and engaging my boys each day. It's not perfect, but it works well enough that we march through our homeschool day with some learning accomplished and with (arguably) half my sanity left!
Here are my current FAVORITE things for keeping my boys (currently 3 and 20 months) busy while I work in our home and teach their older sisters:
I have a tenacious 3 year old who wants to do a LOT of school. He loves to learn and do things just like the big kids. I love to encourage his desire to learn, so I created a "morning binder" for him after being inspired by Yoga Pants and Pearls when I ran across her on Pinterest. You can check out her take on morning binder here.
I initially downloaded her cute little printable but my OCD jumped in and reminded me that it didn't match the rest of the materials that I had created to complement The Gentle + Classical Preschool (<--- Click that for a FREE Preschool Curriculum)... So I had to make my own, while also using a few resources I'd already created to assemble a full Morning Binder for my little one. So here's what's in our Preschool Morning Binder (also, it's not a binder but I'll chat about that too).
5 Steps to an excellent, beautiful Preschool Morning Binder:
As the "morning basket" trend has grown, I've seen a LOT of information abounding related to it. I've also witnessed a great deal of confusion and overwhelm by Mamas who are new to homeschool or new to the idea of morning basket.
In an effort to help clear the muddy waters and be an encouragement, I created a resource to reflect what I have found to work in our homeschool and what I've seen others echo as well. I love how Mystie Winckler from SimplyConvivial.com discusses their use and organization of morning time binders on her IGTV (on Instagram). She was definitely an inspiration behind this post and creating this resource for all of us to use.
Who doesn't love copywork... especially math copywork, right? Well, besides your kids! While we get a fair amount of pushback from our students, the struggle is worth the outcome. In what other way can you practice slow memorization while also absorbing the fundamentals of English grammar and punctuation AND practice handwriting all at once? In my mind, math should be no different. While memorization of math terms is only one small portion in math instruction, it is an important portion nonetheless.
I personally usually take to the internet, mainly Pinterest, searching high and low for copywork pages that fit what we are studying each year in each subject. Truly, the hardest to come by have been copywork pages for math. AND if I did find them, it was rare to find them for the particular term I was looking for. I wanted a workbook of the vast majority of the terms my students would run across in elementary school without having to go look high and low or create my own every single time we found a new term.
If you're reading this, you are probably in the midst of teaching one of your little ones to read OR you have that endeavor looming ahead of you in the near future... amiright? The singular biggest fear of every single homeschool mom I've ever spoken to is failing to teach her child to read well... and especially failing to teach them "on time".
In most of our minds, we envision that our homeschooled child would be reading well in advance of their public school counterparts (or at least at the same time). Simultaneously, in our little hearts, one reason we homeschool is to give our children the time and space to grow and develop on their own timeline. Sometimes these desires and expectations clash and can create monster homeschool mom anxiety. I know many mamas who have quit homeschooling (or never even began) because they were overwhelmed at the idea of failing in this important task.
I want to share some actual evidence with you today that helped put me at ease when my own homeschool student just wasn't progressing like I felt she "should."
Even the best homeschool mom faces days or weeks where she questions if she should quit or not- sometimes after a year and sometimes after 5. Other times, we can also recognize that we've not taken the time to really reflect on our WHY for educating at home or cast a true vision for our homeschool. Those are both INCREDIBLY important.
In this video, I discuss why this matters, along with ending with some general "points of refreshment" that I use to encourage myself during challenging seasons. It could be called "A List of What I Have Learned." I hope you enjoy!
I have a daughter with dyslexia. For my sweet girl, one of the most confounding aspects of her learning disability is a poor working memory and the amount of effort (and incredible repetition) needed in order to move information from "temporary storage" into her permanent, long-term memory. During the elementary years, it can take a dyslexic students YEARS of practicing parts of speech, place value, multiplication tables, writing dates and months before they TRULY master it and put it into their long-term memory.
I'm going to *guess* that you've probably received a few emails and have seen a few social media posts about the Build Your Bundle Sale? Honestly, in years past... I thought it was obnoxious. I'd even purchased a bundle here and there, but I tend to ignore "the thing" everyone is talking about. I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. But the truth of the matter was I never really looked into it either- I totally blew it off.
Over this past year, my attitude has evolved. I've become a huge fan of digital curriculum for two reason: space and MONEY. Digital curriculum is almost ALWAYS less expensive, while not lacking anything in quality, AND I don't have to have a bookshelf for it. Win. Win.
The numbers are impressive, so what about content? How much value is truly in each or these bundles... Or is there just filler?
Is it time to get in gear for next year (or maybe just survive the end of this one)? Regardless of where you are right now, a well-constructed planner is always much-needed. So you can snag it now and save it for when the next school year is on your mind, or put it to use ASAP! Just like I mentioned in the FREE Planner Bundle for Mom, I had something in mind that I wanted dearly, but just could not find it.
I created this planner out of a desire to have ONE place to track all of the following in 5 pages (and I went all out! You get two versions... normal printable AND editable PDF all in one zip file!):
I'm a "fixer." I'm always tinkering, never satisfied, always searching for a "better" way. It can be both a blessing and a curse. I try to share my tinkerings here so that the blessing aspect of being nit-picky can outweigh how irritating this part of my personality is (my poor husband!).
When I was looking for a planner at the beginning of my school year, I wanted something that covered EVERYTHING. I don't want one planner for school, another for home and appointments, another for my blog, and another for church/ministry obligations. I need it all in one place, and as much as I heavily rely on my phone to remind me of stuff, I still want a physical print-out to help me manage my time.
I was looking for something that would work for someone who homeschools, runs a home, meal plans, AND either works from home or is involved heavily in ministry (which is about 90% of the homeschool moms I know!).
I'm a highly eclectic homeschooler, with some very clear Charlotte Mason and Classical tendencies... but I'm also so eclectic that I don't even tend to homeschool the same "way" each year, all year long. I ran across this notion of "tidal homeschool" a while ago via Pam Barnhill's podcast and her interview with Melissa Wiley. Once I heard Melissa describe their "ebb and flow" of learning throughout their year, I knew that what had been a natural tendency for us was not a mere lack of "diligence" on my part.
I'm an INFJ (sometimes ENFJ), and as such, I am highly intuitive. Certain seasons of life, seasons of the year, and life events change how and why (and where) we homeschool. I have always made those adjustments to fit the circumstances naturally- but also fought guilt over not always (well, ever) finishing the "whole curriculum."
In part 5, we wind up this series ask the big question that brought you here:
SHOULD I quit homeschooling?
I'm going to be brave. I'm going to say the thing that is "forbidden" in the homeschool community. There's one option we've yet to address in this series, so I want to say it here:
You can stop homeschooling.
Here we are! We are almost finished! This has been a long series, but rightfully so. The idea of drastically altering how you approach education for your children is no small matter. We are now on the final "question" of this series, question 3. There are worksheets (FREE) in the Practical Joy Resource library to add significant depth to this exploration. You definitely, definitely want those. Grab the workbook from the Resource Library here.
Question 3: Should I just take a break from homeschooling? Will that fix whatever the problem is?
I want to explore a few different aspects of this question, but I want to assert up front that there is not a right or wrong answer. As has been the case in every portion of this series, what's right for YOU and your family, your season, your child, will not be the right answer for everyone else. This is a journey of finding YOUR place in homeschooling and being certain that it truly is best for everyone involved.
Do you have a student who needs consistent review over the same skills in order to truly master them? How about a student who is just learning to read and you need a good source of sight words to pull from for instruction and game play? I did, too!
My daughter, who was diagnosed with "profound dyslexia" and "probable dyscalculia," needs to continuously cycle through the same information, even as we add additional skills. Why? Because with dyslexia and many other learning disabilities, if you don't use it, you lose it! I was tired of reteaching EVERY skill we had ever learned before I could get to the actual new content- and obviously, so was she!
Have you ever noticed that it seems that many homeschoolers don't necessarily choose home education for themselves? It seems to choose them? So sometimes we come into it a bit overwhelmed, making decisions as we go, sometimes making one mistake after another.... (raising hand!)
Sometimes it ends up being more than we signed up for. We may even consider quitting. Or maybe we aren't that far into questioning our choices, but we also know there has to be a better way.
- Maybe you started homeschooling out of necessity, and you jumped in hurriedly?
- Maybe you just dove in hoping for the best, but you weren't sure what to expect?
- Maybe you thought you had it figured out, but life circumstances, learning disabilities, personality conflicts... something... came in and derailed your plans?
- Maybe things aren't going so badly, but you also don't feel like you're thriving like it seems others are?
- Maybe you're kind of new and feeling overwhelmed, unsure of how to make decisions when there are just SO MANY options and opinions out there?
Wow! Have you looked lately for books for your little ones and been completely overwhelmed? There are SO many- and how can we know they are good books that are of high literary quality and don't counter with our beliefs and family culture until we've bought them? My sweet friend Hayley and I wanted to combine forces and share a powerful list of 107 books that we feel like every child should have read to them (or read) before age 7.
Many lists like this include a majority of chapter books or books for children with longer attention span. We have many of those, but rest assured that this collection also includes shorter picture books with gorgeous, engaging illustrations and fewer words per page.
Our littles ones can stay soooooo busy... right underfoot... all day long. Or even worse, when they disappear for a moment and get super quiet! Oh no! Rarely does that end up a good thing (sharpie vs the wall, anyone?)
Through parenting four kiddos, I've found that the best way to keep a toddler busy without pulling your hair out is to integrate them INTO your day. Sometimes, we tend to default to building our day, our schedule, our home environment around the child. This bring everything down to their level. Sometimes, it has the unintended consequence of bringing US (and our behavior) down to their level too. EEEK!
Every day I fail. Every day I say the wrong thing, behave selfishly, act pridefully, think only of myself, drop a few four letter words, and get sinfully angry. Some days I do all of those things, and other days, I manage to squeak by with just a few, but regardless- I am a hefty sinner. As Paul says in Romans 7:15: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
Man. He gets me.
It is the overwhelming awareness of my own desperate need for a savior that digs the importance of the celebration of Easter deep into my soul. As Mamas, it's our job to begin at the earliest age possible digging the truth about Christ and our desperate need for him down deep into their souls.
I wanted to provide some tools to do just that.