The Silence of Saturday

I didn’t write anything for Easter.

It’s not that I wasn’t inspired to share about the grace I’ve experienced because of God’s love. It’s not that I don’t want to tell everyone who’ll listen that once I was blind, but now I see. Once I was lost and in despair and now I’m filled with hope. Once I felt worthless and broken and now I have a reason to go on.

It’s not that.

All weekend I read blogs and articles and posts declaring the love of God. Believers around the world shouted out the good news – that we don’t need to be ashamed because God has freed us from our sin. Our sin and guilt can be washed away!

And I could only think of those without shame, who don’t feel guilty. Those who are fundamentally insulted by the idea that they need a savior. Those who see God as cruel and petty and small.

Like the man who wrote this: “If, for whatever cruel twist of fate, the God of the Bible exists, I want no part of him. I, along with what I hope is the vast majority of humanity, am better than him. I know more than he ever taught. I see beyond horizons that he could never reach. I love more genuinely than He. I help more than He. I understand myself better than He ever could. I see planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies just on the edge of humanity’s perception. I can even sometimes catch a small glimpse of our universe, and all the wonder and beauty it holds. Your God is too small for me.”

I know people like this. I love people like this. And why not? The idea that we have done wrong is uncomfortable. And let’s face it, most of us haven’t done anything we consider sinful. Murder, theft, adultery, these aren’t part of who we are. Any wrongs we’ve done can be explained away – I was young, people do things like that all the time, it didn’t hurt anyone.

Why would I choose a faith that includes the idea that I am fundamentally bad and in need of saving?

There are answers to these questions. I know them. I can rebut the bad theology that says God is vengeful and angry. I can show how the Bible, while not a science book, in no way contradicts modern discoveries. I can point to the undeniable complexities of our existence as proof of intelligent design. I can show by scripture and testimony how God loves more genuinely and selflessly, knows more, sees more, is more than any person. I can apologize and preach until I’ve run out of words but when I look into the faces of those who can’t fathom a God who is bigger than their understanding I am crushed by it. I don’t want to fight it. I don’t want to explain. It feels too hard, and I am well aware that anything I say will be met with derision and scorn.

So, no. My heart hurts so deeply, but I don’t see the point of trying to reach them. Besides, I hate conflict and don’t like being sneered at, so no thank you very much.

Then I remember Barabbas.

He’s the guy in the Easter story who seems a little out of place. He’s thrown in as a plot point, a last-ditch effort for Pilate to get out of being responsible for Jesus’ death. Right? He was just this anonymous guy, even his name means simply, “son of the father”. He’s a guy who apparently hated the Romans, not too unusual, and who made some poor life choices. He may have incited rioting against the Roman government; he certainly was a murderer. He was undoubtedly deserving of his punishment, in fact I assert that Pilate chose him as the alternate to Jesus because of this. I think he really believed the Jewish people would choose for Jesus to be released rather than Barabbas because of his reputation and violent past. But they don’t; he gets out of his death sentence, and no doubt he’s thrilled. The chains are removed and he descends into the cheering crowd and we don’t hear any more about him.

Barabbas gets his freedom, Jesus gets the cross. We can all see the parallels – Barabbas is us. But there’s something more. The chains are removed and he descends into the cheering crowd and we don’t hear any more about him. We have no evidence that he turned his life around, or even that he felt any remorse or gratitude for the fact that an innocent man died in his place. None.

God knew this would be the outcome. He knew Barabbas would walk into his freedom and never glance back. But he did it anyway. He loved the guy who walked away. He loves the people who scorn and sneer and don’t believe and mock him and put him down. All the way to the cross, he stumbles and falls and loves. He prays for the guards dragging him up the hill and the crowds shouting at him, and every fragile, self-made person to ever walk the earth, before or after that day.


Saturday is my favorite day of Easter week. Maybe that seems odd; it’s the day nothing happens. Jesus is in the tomb, everybody is either grieving or freaking out, and uncertainty and despair are the mood of the day. But I love that it’s a day of reflection. A day to remember that conquering death was no easy feat; that it cost something very dear. This last Saturday, Barabbas was on my mind. The original, and me, and all the Barabbases that walk through the world certain of their own superiority.

I don’t know how to reach them. I understand intellectual superiority – I’m guilty of it and I’m not that smart. I don’t know how I would reach me if I were on the other side. But I know that if I were, I would want someone to try.

So this year, in the silence of Saturday, during the pause, when everything felt like a universal breath-holding waiting for Sunday, I prayed not for the unreached or those seeking, because we all know that everyone who seeks, finds. I prayed for those who don’t want to be reached. I prayed for wisdom and gentleness and words that aren’t derogatory or superior or offensive. I prayed for everyone I know who can’t see because they don’t want to see. I prayed that all the stupid, hurtful things that have been done to them and around them in the name of Jesus would be made right.

And I prayed for myself, for the courage not to hide in my own corner. It’s so much easier and more comfortable to live in my echo chamber where everyone agrees with me. It’s so much nicer in here.

Unfortunately, nice and comfy are not in the Bible.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:9-12 

 “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20


A Letter to My Daughters on Internet Selfies

Don’t put naked pictures on the internet. The end.

Kidding! Totally not the end. I’ve got a lot to say about this.

We live in a very strange world. It’s so incomprehensibly different than it was when I was your age, and I know I really don’t understand what it’s like to be an adolescent right now. I’m sorry for that. I so often wish I could stop this mad world and turn things back to when you didn’t need to worry that the entire world would get a glimpse of your life through your Instagram feed. Back before people were famous just for being famous; before the competition to be the popular became a lifestyle. Before ordinary people could use filters to make their lives appear to be something they’re not. Before decency and modesty and class went out of style. But I can’t.

And you know what? This messed-up, crazy, broken, brilliant world? I love it so much. I hope you do, too. There is so much good.

But back to being naked online.

Here’s the thing. I’m not going to tell you not to post nude selfies because it’s indecent (although it is) or because I can’t stand exhibitionism (although I can’t). I’m not going to ask you not to do this because it’s classless and base and voyeuristic, although it is all of those things.

I’m asking you not to post nude pictures of yourself on the internet because you live in a world where 90% of the people who know you, don’t really know you. They know the internet personality you have put out there. They know one facet of you.

A diamond is beautiful because it is multi-faceted. It is cut so that it’s many faces catch the light and send it back, sparkling and glowing, into the world. If you have just one of those facets, its beauty is gone. A single facet is like a pane of glass – rather boring but valuable because it lets us see through it. Your one facet that you show to the world on Twitter is like a pane of glass. No one who sees it knows the brilliance of who you are in all your facets. They only see this one window into you.

There’s nothing wrong with that. In life you’ll find that your people come in spheres. A vast number of people will be in the outer sphere, far from your true self, only seeing the piece of you that you show them. A smaller number will know there are more sides to you. They’ll see more of your facets, but not all. A very, very select few will ever know all of you, and I pray desperately that those people will see the glorious beauty of who you are.

When you post a picture of yourself on the internet, you are choosing a facet to give to the world. This is true of every tweet, every Facebook update, every everything you do. The key is to stop and consider – what side of myself am I showing? If this picture (post, whatever) were the only thing someone knew of me, what would they think? Because for many, many people, that picture is the only thing they will know of you.

Will they think you’re funny? Smart? Surrounded by good friends? Really good at decorating your room? Compassionate? Tender? Hard-working? All good things. Some are shallow, but let’s face it – pretty much everything on Instagram is shallow.

On the other hand, will that one picture of you make them think you’re vain? A show off? Shameless? Cruel? Lazy?

If it seems unfair that people will judge you based on a single picture, you’re starting to get my point. You might insist that you aren’t lazy or vain, and that if people only knew you they would understand that – but they won’t. They’ll only know that one piece of you that you present to them.

So post carefully. But also remember that no matter what you post, if you make a mistake and send something into the void that you wish you could take back, I will be here for you. I’ll have your back. We’ll walk that out together, because I see you as the whole, incredible, marvelous, beautiful, wonderful person you are. Every facet.

I love you,



Becoming Disciples

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” 

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NLT

Believe me when I say that I understand busy. I have six children. My oldest goes to a college preparatory middle school, so she has three hours of homework almost every night. Which means I have homework every night. My next four are home-schooled. I don’t think I need to qualify that; suffice to say I do a lot of stuff during the day. And I have an 18 month old, so my house is regularly torn apart by a two-foot tall tyrant.

My husband is a pastor, which means that he only gets one day off per week and we can’t afford to hire help.

For years I envisioned myself becoming a disciple of Jesus. My visions were generally of me, early in the morning, before anyone else was awake, sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee, swaddled in a warm blanket, enjoying the peace and quiet of a clean house, reading my bible and taking notes. Or when everyone was napping or reading, the afternoon sun pouring in through the windows, in a clean, quiet house, with my cup of coffee at the dining room table.

The problem was, I thought the clean, quiet house was the precursor to my time with Jesus. I thought I had to do things in the right order – first get myself organized and calm and then dive in to Jesus. First do the work, then relax with the word. This is backwards! I can have my coffee, thanks to Keurig, but expecting to achieve a Pottery Barn photo shoot in my living room as a predicate to following Christ is ridiculous. I think this comes from a childhood of having ‘work first, play later’ drilled into my brain. What I had forgotten was that studying God’s word is not play. It’s not optional. It’s not the icing. It’s foundational to everything else that will happen in my life.

Expecting to achieve a Pottery Barn photo shoot in my living room as a predicate to following Christ is ridiculous.

The disciples of Jesus’ day didn’t have it all together. They lived on the road, staying with whomever would have them, moving on at a moment’s notice. Jesus would say, “Let’s go across the lake,” or “Today we’re going to Bethlehem,” and off they went. They were dusty and footsore and had no plan for next year, or even next month. (I honestly wonder if this is why His closest disciples were men. All the women I know would go crazy with a lifestyle like that.)

Their chaotic and unpredictable life didn’t stop them from sitting at the feet of Jesus. They drew near to hear His voice in the midst of their busy, crazy lives.

My quiet time may not be Instagram-ready, (you really, really want to click that link) but that’s not the point. The point is time with Jesus. Learning, listening, growing, building toward the future He has for me. Becoming the person He designed me to be. Figuring out what the heck I’m doing by allowing myself to be guided by the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the mess, in the middle of the chaos, in the middle of life. 

So today I’m putting my priorities in order. I’m ignoring the laundry that needs to be folded and the random stuff all over the living room floor and I’m spending some time nourishing myself first. I’m remembering that me and my soul are more important than anything else in this beautiful life. It feels awkward. And a little indulgent, I’m not going to lie. But I’m doing it anyway.

So should you.






Language Arts – Writing for Homeschool

This is a long post. Both the Classical and Charlotte Mason schools of thought spend a lot of time reading and writing, and since I fall somewhere between the two, so do I. It’s an incredibly important skill that will serve your kids no matter what they choose to do. Scientists, doctors, screenwriters, business managers, teachers and plumbers all use writing. So does anyone who posts to Facebook or Twitter. Writing is important. So grab a cup of coffee and a comfy chair, and let’s chat.


Writing is a far more complex skill than most adults realize. We do it with very little effort, so we forget how much work has to be done to learn it, much driving. Remember how much there was to remember when learning to drive? Speed, direction, the vagaries of other drivers. Yet now we do it while talking on the phone and eating tacos.

Writing involves many skills. First, the student must come up with the original material. In his mind, he forms ideas. Then he must create from those ideas coherent sentences; complete sentences with subjects and predicates. He must write those words down, not only using the mechanics of forming letters properly, but also spelling, grammar and punctuation. This is incredibly difficult.

So we break it down. The mechanics of writing (handwriting), the proper use of words and construction of sentences (grammar), the correct spelling of those words (spelling and vocabulary) and the placement of those words and sentences into compelling stories and accurate reports (copy work, dictation and narration). We teach these disciplines simultaneously, but slowly, allowing the child to relate to the knowledge we’re passing on.

True writing instruction should generally wait until a child is reading fluently at a first grade level, but the building blocks of writing instruction begin much earlier. When you read to your child, either from a school book or for fun, have him tell the story back to you. If he struggles, ask questions. Who was in this story? What did they do? What happened next? Can you tell me the story in your own words? This exercise requires the child to take in the information he’s receiving, claim it as his own, and restate it. It can be difficult at first, but gets easier with practice, and it helps to cement information into the child’s mind. It’s called narration.

Aim to have your kindergartner narrate something to you at least 2-3 times per week, working up to twice per day for fourth graders. In the beginning this will all be oral. In first grade, start writing down what your child is telling you, then let him read it back to you. This helps him see the connection between what is in his mind, and the written word. Sometime around first or second grade (when her writing mechanics are in place) you’ll have her copy what you’ve written. Eventually you will transition to your child writing his own narrations, and they’ll be longer and more complex. (For more ideas about how to do narration, check out this site.)

There are pillars that prop up narration, however. Handwriting, grammar, spelling, vocabulary and reading, reading and more reading.


Handwriting is fundamental to writing, obviously. My favorite handwriting resource is Zaner-Bloser. We started with them when my oldest was in first grade, simply because they offer a national handwriting contest, and my kids are seriously into competitions. We liked it and stuck with it.

Handwriting Without Tears is a popular choice among homeschoolers, and includes manipulatives. Fun!

Alternately, you can make your own handwriting pages. Websites like The Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker let you create and print your own.

The key is to go slowly. Ask your child to write just a few letters or lines, but require him to do his very best. Five letters well-written trump five lines that are sloppy. Aim for 10-15 minutes per day. Handwriting practice is usually dropped in my house around 3rd or 4th grade, after learning cursive and when their daily writing is enough practice.


We have used several grammar resources. For first and second grade, I use First Language Lessons. It’s very gentle and has short, scripted daily lessons. (NOTE: First Language Lessons now goes through fourth grade! I have only used the first two levels, but intend to continue with them.) Primary Language Lessons is another popular choice.

My favorite grammar texts for third grade and up are by Rod and Staff. They’re Mennonite, so expect lots of Bible verses and pictures of girls in bonnets. If you can look past that, their program is systematic, easy to follow and very rigorous (think fifty practice problems every day. I only assign about half of the exercises, unless a student is really struggling.) Those Mennonite kids may not know how to text, but they can diagram a sentence like nobody’s business. I generally do 3-4 years of formal grammar with Rod and Staff. If I feel my sixth graders have mastered their skills, I move them on to formal writing. If not, they get an extra year.

One caveat – the books are getting more and more dated as technology changes. Feel free to skip the lessons on how to answer a telephone, how to use a phone book, etc. I still feel it’s good to know how to address an envelope, but as time goes on, this may become less helpful.

The Grammar Island books are hugely popular with homeschoolers looking for living books. Our experience with them was less than stellar, but I’m not sure I gave them enough time.

We also love games to aid learning. Mad Libs are classic and surprisingly good at cementing parts of speech in kids’ minds. I’ve been drooling over You’ve Been Sentenced but haven’t actually bought it. We also love Schoolhouse Rocks’ grammar videos.

Spelling and Vocabulary 

I use the Spelling Workout books from first through sixth grade. They’re easy for kids to use on their own and include word searches, puzzles and short writing assignments to reinforce the spelling. There are mixed review about Spelling Workout – I like them, but if your kids are not natural spellers or get frustrated with crossword puzzles, they may not be for you.

The other spelling program I’ve used was called Sequential Spelling. This is a very good, sequential (clearly) program that builds on words rather than working through one spelling rule at a time. For example, in one lesson you might have appear, appears, appearance, disappear, disappearance, disappearances, etc. rather than lots of words with the ‘ea’ sound (tear, dear, dreary, meat, beak, bead, etc.) I do like the theory behind this, and I think the program works well. I dropped it after a year because we were spending 30-40 minutes per day on spelling, and I would rather spend my time on other things.

There are plenty of online spelling programs, some free, like BigIQKids. Some homeschoolers don’t teach spelling at all apart from correcting errors in their kid’s writing. The idea is that enough reading will train them to see mistakes.

Once my kids reach seventh grade we move from spelling to vocabulary. I like Vocabulary from Classical Roots and use book A in seventh and book B in eighth grade. I’ve also used word lists from this SAT Prep site to build my own vocabulary lists. I’ll give four or five words per week and require that my kids look them up and copy out their origin and meaning, then use each word in two sentences.

Formal Writing

If you choose Rod and Staff as your grammar text, you won’t need to add a writing program. There are exercises throughout the book that are enough writing practice for elementary students.

The most common way that Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers teach writing is through copy work, dictation and narration. We’ve already discussed narration; as your child reaches third grade or so he’ll begin writing his own. You will then go over them and correct any spelling or grammar mistakes, and help him write better sentences. If you feel confident in your own writing skills, this is an easy way to teach early writing and folds in nicely with the rest of your curriculum.

Copy work is just as it sounds; students copy a sentence (or paragraph, for older students) from a book they are reading. Choose sentences that use beautiful language or have complex grammar. Copying good writing helps students develop a sense for what their own writing should look like. First graders can start with four or five words, two or three times per week. Sixth graders should be able to handle full, complex paragraphs once per week.

Dictation is the next step. Rather than giving the student an example to copy from, you will read a sentence out loud to them and ask them to write it down. This reinforces grammar, punctuation and spelling as they’ll need to rely on their own skills to get it right. Ideally you should be able to read several words, or even an entire sentence, and then wait for them to write it. This helps them to learn focus and attention as well, but it takes practice! Dictation is done once or twice per week.

If you don’t want to come up with your own material to copy, narrate and dictate, Writing With Ease is a good choice. There are four levels (for first through fourth grade) and everything you need is provided. They also offer Writing With Skill and a creative writing program for older grades. I love this program!

If you’re looking for an all-in-one program, I recommend Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL). It’s a single workbook that includes spelling, grammar, writing assignments and literature to read and discuss. This program is less rigorous than the others I’ve recommended, but may be perfect if you prefer a gentler approach. There is no diagramming and I have found the spelling lists to be quite a ways below my kids’ abilities. The last time I used these I bumped everyone up a grade level and they had no trouble. This does not, however, mean it is a bad program. Quite the contrary, the literature selections are excellent and the books are fun and easy for kids to use on their own.

That was a lot of information. 

I know. Let me see if I can break it down.

  Handwriting Spelling and Vocabulary Grammar Writing
1st grade Short, daily practice using Zaner-Bloser or printed pages Spelling Workout A or other program OR LLATL Blue Book First Language Lessons 1 or Primary Language Lessons or LLATL Blue Book Writing with Ease 1 or LLATL Blue Book
2nd grade Short, daily practice using Zaner-Bloser or printed pages Spelling Workout B or other program OR LLATL Red Book. First Language Lessons 2 or Primary Language Lessons or LLATL Red Book. Writing with Ease 2 or LLATL Red Book.
3rd grade Copy work – his own narrations and good, short sentences. Also a cursive writing workbook. Spelling Workout C or other program OR LLATL Yellow Book. First Language Lessons 3 or Rod and Staff 3 or LLATL Yellow Book. Rod and Staff 3 or Writing with Ease 3 or LLATL Yellow Book.
4th grade Copy work and dictation – his own narrations and good, short sentences. Can continue with a workbook if needed. Spelling Workout D or other program OR LLATL Orange Book. First Language Lessons 4 or Rod and Staff 4 or LLATL Orange Book. Rod and Staff 4 or Writing with Ease 4 or LLATL Orange Book.
5th grade Copy work and dictation – longer sentences and short paragraphs and written narrations. Spelling Workout E or other program OR LLATL Purple Book. Rod and Staff 5 or LLATL Purple Book. The Creative Writer, book 1 or LLATL Purple Book.
6th grade Copy work and dictation – full paragraphs with complex language and written narrations. Spelling Workout F or other program OR LLATL Tan Book. Rod and Staff 6 or LLATL Tan Book. Writing with Skill 1 or LLATL Tan Book.
7th grade Written narrations and dictation and a formal writing program. Vocabulary from Classical Roots A OR LLATL Green Book. None – focus on formal writing program or LLATL Green Book. The Creative Writer, book 2 or LLATL Green Book.
8th grade Replaced by formal writing instruction. Vocabulary from Classical Roots B OR LLATL Grey Book. None – focus on formal writing program or LLATL Grey Book. Writing with Skill 2 or LLATL Grey Book.

What about high school? 

Well, I haven’t gotten there yet. My rising ninth grader will be attending out public high school, so it isn’t on my radar. I can tell  you that using this sequence, my eighth grader has had no trouble scoring As and Bs in her very rigorous classical charter school, and is prepared to enter Honors English at the high school.

That’s a lot of time spent on writing.

Yes, it is. In the classical method (or at least my interpretation of it), reading and writing are the basis of the curriculum. Everything else – history, science, art – serves as material to use while teaching reading and writing. But don’t worry! It really isn’t oppressive. Oral narrations are enjoyable and don’t take much time, and if my kids are feeling overwhelmed, I’ll let them tell their narrations to me rather than write them down. Even with all this to cover, our actual time spend on spelling, handwriting, grammar and writing is about sixty to ninety minutes per day. Make it more fun by awarding stickers and prizes, or having them read their writing aloud to grandparents or friends.

Writing is fundamental to every other area of education. But it can also be fun!

What have I missed? Any great curricula out there that I didn’t mention?

Brieana’s Day in the Life with a 14, 12, 10, 7, 5 and 1 year old


Simple Homeschool is sponsoring a blog link-up today! Head over there to see what everyone is up to in their daily homeschool lives.

I had a hard time submitting this as my ‘day in the life’ because it wasn’t a typical day. I typically shower before my day starts, we typically start at 8, not 8:30 and we don’t typically watch movies in the middle of the day. But then I realized that none of the other days available would work – we had co-op, a history movie day and doctor’s appointments. I guess the moral is, there are very few typical days. 

My alarm goes off at 4:00, but I set it again for 6:00. Even though I’ve been getting up early lately, today I’m going to sleep in so I can stay up ‘late’ tonight and spend some much-needed time with my husband.

At 6:00, I get up and head downstairs to wake up my 14-year old. She’s attending a classical charter school this year, and needs to leave the house by 7:15 to be at school on time. Then I head to the kitchen to make chocolate chip muffins, which the boys have been asking for.

The 1- and 5-year olds are up by 6:30, peering into the oven to watch the muffins bake. I unload the dishwasher and start packing lunches. By 7:00, breakfast is ready, lunches are packed and my 7-year old is up. I start the younger three on muffins and yogurt and go down to wake up the 10-and 12-year olds. My husband leaves at 7:15 to take our oldest to school and by 7:30 the rest of us are at the breakfast table.

Today we do Bible during breakfast because I’m hoping to sneak in a shower later. It works so well that I think we might start doing it every day. I agree to a pajama day (not typical!) and send everyone to brush teeth while I clean up the kitchen and check email on my phone.

At 8:30 we’re finally ready to begin. I round everyone up and we start by reciting math facts while we do calisthenics. Then we all sit at the table with our math workbooks (CLE for the 5th and 6th graders, Singapore for the 1st grader). My 5-year old colors in his human body coloring book and I read books to the baby. I take her to bed just after nine and return to help my 1st-grader with his math box. I then read to the 5-and 7-year olds from Great Estimations and math is done by 9:30. I let the kids take 15 minutes while I grade the 6th-grader’s test and pull out our language arts supplies.

9:45 – we begin language arts with a prepositions game. We list as many prepositions as we can on the white board and then the kids write (very) short stories using as many as possible. My 1st-grader dictates his story to me and I write it down. We take turns reading them and in general it’s great fun. While I do a reading lesson with the 5-year old, the other three work on grammar (Rod and Staff), spelling (Spelling Workout) and handwriting (the 1st-grader uses Zaner-Bloser, the other two have sentences to copy). The older two also do Latin at this time.

11:00 – The baby is still sleeping (not typical!) so I run up for a shower. I let the kids watch the end of Into the Woods, which they started last night. At 11:30 the baby is up and it’s time for lunch. I leave them to it and eat my lunch while working on this post.

12:15 – Clean up after lunch and all the kids get dressed and go outside. I even take the baby outside, even though it’s 40 degrees out. Then I curl my hair and throw on some makeup while the kids read. Or pretend to read while they play with the baby on the top bunk. (!)

1:00 – Our afternoons are reserved for history and science homework (they take these classes at our co-op on Thursdays) and for our Charlotte Mason hold-overs; composer study, artist study and poetry. We also do logic and read aloud. Today we’re reading out of Apologia’s “Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics” and studying some of the terms for a game they’ll play at class. We’re also reading some of R.L. Stevenson’s poetry and C.S. Lewis’s “The Horse and His Boy”. I found a video about vortexes, so we watch that, too. The baby tears the house apart.

2:45 – I need to leave to pick up my 14-year old. I also need to stop at the library and pick up some things at the store. The 12- and 10-year olds get to stay home to finish school work and chores, the rest of us head out.

4:45 – Home! I do cook, mostly, but tonight we have church so I start the oven for frozen fish and french fries. The kids watch a show while I make curried rice for my history class in the morning (we’re studying ancient India). I also do math homework with my 14-year old and check in with her about the rest of her classes.

5:30 – Husband is home and we eat dinner. I leave him with the mess and the baby (he’s a pretty great guy) and the rest of us leave for church at 6:00. I’ll get home around 8:15 with the 10-, 7- and 5- year olds, and while I get them in bed, my husband will run back to the church to pick up the older two from youth. When he gets back, near nine, I’ll double check with the oldest to make sure she’s ready for school tomorrow and go over the other kids’ work from the day. I also need to make sure I’m packed and ready for my class, and tidy up the house as much as possible. As it turns out, while he was supposed to be getting ready for bed, the 5-year old was playing with play dough on the family room carpet, so I end up fully cleaning and vacuuming that room. Hey, at least it’s done!

By 10:00, everyone is in bed. My husband and I snuggle up to watch a show and talk the presidential race, and I finally turn out the light at 11:00. I may regret it when my alarm goes off in five hours, but I’m glad I spent this time with him.

This year has been especially busy as we transition to having one in school, two doing middle school work, two doing early elementary work AND having a baby. It has been rough, I’m not going to lie, but today went as smoothly as I could have hoped.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to know Everything I know About Homeschooling, or why I get up at an ungodly hour every day.

Or, take a look at what my day looked like a three years ago. (Ironically, that was a pajama day, too.)

What about you? What does your homeschool look like?




Why I Get Up at 4:00 in the Morning

There are a lot of small words in that title, and I’m not sure I capitalized them properly.

Anyway, lest you think I’m some kind of amazing, superwoman, the getting up at 4am thing is very recent. But so far, it’s working pretty well for me.

I have always been a morning person. I feel more energized, my brain feels clearer. It’s much easier to think straight before the crush of the day begins and three people are asking for help with math or food or where their socks are. I can actually get stuff done, and starting my day with a feeling of accomplishment is a huge lift.

My kids are also early risers. Some not by choice; my oldest gets up at 6 for school, but my 7, 5 and 1 year olds are always up before 7, all on their own. Which means if I want time to myself, it has to be before then. And my teenager stays up until 9:30 or 10, so evening alone time is out of the question.

Early morning time is when I can do all the little things I would like to do, that never get done, like exercise and read blogs and write. And surprisingly, even a 4am wake up call doesn’t get me that much time. Here’s what my mornings look like:

4:00 – Alarm goes off

4:10 – Go downstairs and do 15 minutes of yoga

4:30 – Shower, dress, do makeup (and sometimes hair, depends on the day)

5:00 – Make coffee (and breakfast – breakfast is important)

5:15 – Settle in at the computer to catch up on reading or work on the blog, or grab my Bible and do some studying

6:00 – Wake up my oldest

6:15ish – Head upstairs to start breakfast/pack lunches/put away dishes

Between 6:30-7 my younger kids start waking up and coming in for breakfast.

7:00 – Wake up 12 and 10 year olds

And then it’s all chaos until bedtime! That time alone and the accomplishing of things that are good for me (exercise, breakfast, reading and writing) mean that I can really be present with my kids during the day. I can focus on what we’re doing rather than thinking about all the things I’d like to get done, but can’t because all these blessings are asking me for stuff when all I want is a few minutes to myself, darn it!

So it’s good.

What time do you get up?




Language Arts – Reading for Homeschool

Reading, writing, grammar and spelling; the building blocks of a great education. If a child can read fluently, he can learn anything. If he can write fluently, he can communicate anything. If he can learn and communicate, he can do anything.


How do you teach a child to read? One sound at a time. It may seem overwhelming, but kids have been learning to read for centuries! You can do this!

My all-time favorite reading program is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I have used this program to teach nine children how to read (some of them weren’t mine). In 15 minutes per day, over the course of six or seven months,  you can take your non-reading child to a second grade level. It’s painless and even fun! The book begins with a few common sounds (m, s, a) along with rhyming exercises and games to help the child learn the mechanics of reading (sounding things out, reading left to right). The lessons progress quickly to reading words and short sentences, so the child really feels he’s accomplishing something. Each lesson includes a line drawing that relates to the sentence he’s read, and it’s a surprise. He can’t see the picture until he’s read the ‘story’.

You can begin teaching reading as soon as you feel your child is ready; usually between four and six, but don’t wait too long! It’s a rare child who will ask to be taught to read. If you start a young child on reading lessons and find he is very resistant or can’t keep the sounds in his mind from one day to the next, put it aside and try again in a month or so.

Once  you’ve complete 100 Easy Lessons (or a similar program), keep up the habit of reading every day for 15 – 20 minutes. Go to the library and check out the Easy Reader section, letting your child select books she finds interesting. Then go home, curl up on the couch and let her read to you. If she gets stuck on a word, tell her what it is. Remind her of the phonics rule if you know it; if not, just help her with the word. Heap on praise for effort and make it enjoyable. The idea is to establish early that reading is enjoyable.

Libraries utilize a system of numbering their young reader’s books from 1-4. Continue checking out books, slowly moving to more challenging books. Once your child is reading level 4 books fluently, move on to simple chapter books. My current first grader is enthralled with the Magic Tree House books. Some other favorites have been Geronimo Stilton, the Clementine books, Ramona, Amelia Bedelia, Nate the Great, The Boxcar Children and The Magic School Bus books. The American Girl Doll company also has a series of books for early elementary students.

As you child’s fluency level increases, continue feeding him new books at ever higher levels. Your children’s librarian can suggest titles for you, but you may want to specify that you’d prefer classics. Some of today’s popular books for kids are little more than trash. I have several sources for finding good books. Amy Lynn Andrew’s Living Books List is a good, if overwhelming. You’ll want to look carefully at the books she lists – she has both Winnie the Pooh and Last of the Mohicans as intermediate chapter books. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is a fantastic resource. One of my favorite things is to go to the Ambleside Online curriculum page and check their free reading and literature lists for each grade. The specific titles are less important than offering your children a steady stream of beautiful ideas and good books.

How do I know if my child is reading at the right level? How do I know she’s progressing properly? Try not to worry. The key is to make reading a habit, to make it an integral, life-giving part of your day. As long as you see progress, you’re probably doing just fine. If your child enjoys reading and continues to move to more challenging books, you’re doing it right.

If you have real concerns about delays or learning disabilities, see a professional. I know that we want to believe that homeschooling will solve all our issues, from bullying to ADD, but there are circumstances in which a child needs help we can’t give. It doesn’t make you a failure or a bad teacher to your child if she needs extra help. And if it turns out to be nothing, you’ll be more confident going forward.

Along with 15-20 minutes per day of reading instruction and practice, you’ll want to spend at least that much time reading to your kids. Select books from the above resources that are above their reading level – just because they can’t read them alone doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy them. Exposing them to great literature fills their minds with complex language and sentence structure, the pace and structure of plot, the idea of character and setting, and, most important, ideas! Great ideas are communicated through good books.

I read aloud every day to my kids, even though my oldest homeschooler is 12. I love to select great literature from whatever time period we’re studying, but we’ll also read favorites like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or The Hobbit. We all have wonderful memories of curling up together with hot chocolate and reading.

What about reading comprehension? 

Ask. Ask him to tell you about the book he’s reading. Chances are good you’ll be hard pressed to get him to stop, but if he has trouble, ask specific questions to get him started. Who was in the story? What did she do? Where did she go? What happened next? This is called narration, and it’s an invaluable tool in teaching kids to engage with what they’re reading. Narrating requires them to pay attention, remember what they’re hearing or reading, create sentences out of the details they’ve remembered, and express those sentences correctly.

In first grade, you’ll ask your child to tell you about the story, and you’ll write it down for him. Then let him read it back to you, if he’s able. Eventually he’ll be writing his own narrations, using the spelling, grammar and punctuation skills he’ll learn. If you reach a point of burn out with narrating, have him act out a story or draw a picture of it. These activities also engage him in the story.

Twenty to sixty minutes of free reading and twenty minutes of reading aloud, in addition the science, history and geography reading you’ll be doing (we’ll get to that) sounds like a lot – and it is. A classical education is built on books.

What if I don’t like 100 Easy Lessons?

Explode the Code is a series of phonics books that are very popular among homeschoolers.

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading  is another great resource.

I’ve used Hooked on Phonics, but found it to be ineffective and cumbersome. They drill with rhyming words, but once the child learns that all the words on the line rhyme, they’re no longer reading, they’re rhyming. The sticker charts and reward systems seem fun, but end up being a lot of work and I haven’t found that kids need rewards – knowing how to read is a reward in itself. Plus, I prefer chocolate chips to stickers if I’m going to give them something. I do, however, like the games available on their website. Very fun.

Take me back to the main page!