Homeschool 101 Blog Hop: Planning

5 Days of Homeschool 101Welcome to Day 2 of the Homeschool 101 Blog Hop! Today we are talking about planning. Are you a planner? I am, by nature. I make lists for everything, groceries, holidays, vacations etc. Homeschooling is no different. For me, having a written plan is a key to success. I admire those who don’t feel the need to plan and just keep everything in their heads, but I can’t do it. And I know a lot of people use online planning too, which is great, but for me, there is just something about pencil and paper planning that works. So, this is how I plan for our homeschool.

The first key is finding a planner that works for you. Apologia and The Old Schoolhouse magazine both have awesome planners that I love. First you need to ask yourself, what are you looking for in a planner? I need one that has monthly calendars where I can keep track of doctor’s appointments, homeschool groups, church activities etc. I also like one that has some kind of pages where I can sketch out our year. In addition, I like to have pages where I can set goals for the year, write down which curriculum we’re going to use, and keep track of a weekly schedule and additional space for menu planning is a bonus. You might not need all of that, you might just want somewhere to keep track of appointments and assignments, and that’s fine. The point is, ask yourself what is most important to you as far as planning for your schooling, and find a planner that meets those needs.


I have a friend who makes her own planner using free printable pages she found online. This allows you to really customize your planner to meet your needs. She is a scrapbooker too (I tried, and failed, at scrapbooking) so it’s really pretty too. If you can’t find a planner that meets your needs, consider setting up one of your own. There are tons of free printables online. Donna is a great place to start.

The most important factor in planning for me, is making time for it. Let’s face it, life is so busy. But I find that when I don’t take time to plan for our school, things often dissolve into chaos, and it drives me crazy. Generally, I take a few days before the start of school to sit down and make a general sketch for our year. I try to do this when no one else is home so I won’t be interrupted, but if that doesn’t work, I will head to the library for a couple of hours with my planner and a pencil. Now, keep in mind, I am just talking about a sketch. Obviously, I have no way of knowing what’s going to come up during the year (and we all know things come up!) but I at least like to set a calendar with our holidays and school vacations. I also use this time to come up with some general goals for the year, both academic and personal, as well as record my plans for curriculum.



From there, I generally make it a point to plan each week either on a Friday after school, or a Sunday afternoon. My kids have their own planners where I write down their assignments for the week. Again, I know a lot of people who use online planners or just sticky notes with a daily schedule, but this is the system that works for me. On Fridays, we review the work for the week, I grade (yes, my boy’s planners have room for grades) and then I plan for the next week. Now, if it was one of those weeks where things got kind of crazy and we didn’t finish everything we had planned, it’s no big deal, we simply move the stuff we didn’t finish to the next week. That’s one of the reasons I always write my plans in pencil! While I know there is no way to plan for everything, and homeschooling is by nature, flexible, it makes me feel better to have some kind of written plan for our school year. How do you plan? Let me know in the comments. Find out what other crew members had to say about how they plan by clicking here, and make sure to come back tomorrow for posts about Home Management!





Homeschool 101 Blog Hop: Curriculum

5 Days of Homeschool 101Welcome to the first day of the Schoolhouse Review Crew Back to School Blog hop! I hope you will join all of us this week as we share tips, ideas, and things we’ve learned about homeschooling. Today we are discussing one of my favorite topics, curriculum.

Ah curriculum, it can be a source of great joy or a lot of stress for your homeschool. Over the years, I have had a ton of curriculum ups and downs, but I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on how to find the right stuff. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about curriculum on my journey:

  1. You probably need less curriculum than you think you do: My first few year of homeschooling I made the mistake of spending hours searching for the best deals on so many things I really didn’t need. Seriously, if there were a curriculum-holics anonymous out there, I could be the president! There was just so much fun stuff out there and I wanted to do it ALL. My mistake was thinking I could. My kids and I both just ended up overwhelmed and frustrated. Now I have learned to keep things simple. Instead of spending hours online looking at curriculum (which makes it easy to get carried away), I start by setting my goals for the year, then I search for specific curriculum that will help me meet those goals. This prevents me from getting off track and getting a ton of unnecessary stuff. It also makes our homeschool days run much better.


2. You Don’t Need to Keep Everything You Buy: For a long time I lived under the delusion that I simply could not part with any curriculum I ever got. A lot of stuff was useful for multiple ages, and I told myself I would reuse it with my younger kid, or maybe get to it the next year. But here’s the thing, what I ended up with was piles of curriculum everywhere (much to my husband’s chagrin..he said it was like living in a bookstore), and most of the time, by the time my youngest was old enough to use it, it either didn’t work for him or I decided to go in a different direction. Now I am very selective about what I keep from year to year. I try to resell a lot of my stuff, and then donate what I can’t to our homeschool group library. I put the money I earn towards the next year’s stuff. While I still find it difficult to let go of some things, I tell myself that if necessary, I can always find it again, perhaps used, if I need it.


3. Every Curriculum Will Not Work for Every Child: It is not uncommon for homeschool families to pass curriculum down from one child to the next, which is a great option. It saves you money and makes planning easy. However, one thing I have learned about my children is that they do not learn in the same way. Just because one curriculum was wonderful for my older son does not mean it will work the same way with my youngest. And you can’t force it, at least not without a lot of frustration. Again, I have my curriculum favorites, and I hate not being able to use them, but I have come to realize that it’s more important to find something that works for my child, even if that means passing up an old favorite to try something completely new.

4. Curriculum is a guide, not the heart and soul of your homeschool: At first, I have to admit, I was a slave to the curriculum. Checking off boxes, sticking to the schedule, making sure to get everything done, no matter how worn out we were or how glazed over my kids eyes were. Thankfully, I’ve learned to relax over the years. I understand that curriculum is a tool and I should use it as such. Now I base our days on what we need to accomplish to meet our weekly goals. I also know that its okay to take a break if we’re having a rough day. We can always catch up the next week.

5. It’s perfectly okay to not finish an entire curriculum in one year: To be honest, this is something I should have already known. As a middle-school teacher, I can tell you for a fact that public school students do not finish their entire curriculum in any class every year. Teachers plan based on standards/goals/etc. and focus on the most important things to teach. But for some reason, I felt like as a homeschool mom I needed to do better. I would push and push, and make myself completely anxious over not getting to the end of the book. You know what? I just graduated my oldest, and he was enrolled in classes at our local community college the last two years of high school, and he was just fine. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to get everything done. Relax, focus on the parts you feel are most important, and don’t worry too much about the rest. By the time you’re graduating their kids, they will have what they need.

6. Different seasons require different approaches: Normally I love to use literature-based, hands-on curriculum. It’s a lot of fun and gets my kids interested in what we’re doing. However, there have been years when life has just been, messy. In those instances, I’ve had to turn to online or textbook-based stuff, just because I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to devote to projects and stuff. At first, this really bothered me. I felt like I wasn’t giving my kids enough, and that they would miss out on things. This usually just added to the stress I was already feeling due to our situation. But here’s the thing I learned about that, homeschool is about real life. And real life is messy. If you are in a busy, or particularly stressful, season, don’t feel bad about turning the teaching over to someone else. Find an online or computer curriculum that works, and go with it. You can get back to the other stuff when life calms down.

There are so many things I’ve learned on this journey as a homeschool mom and I’m looking forward to sharing more of them during this week’s blog hop. Tomorrow we will be talking about planning. Make sure you stop by, and see what my fellow crew members had to share about curriculum here:




Crew Round Up: Summer Recipes

I love summertime, and not just the slower-paced days and outdoor fun, I also love summer cooking! This week’s Crew Round Up is all about summer cooking, and these are some of my favorite things to make this time of year.


Salads: What’s easier and more delicious than a summer salad for dinner? And you can’t forget side salads to bring to those cookouts! These are some of my family’s favorite salad recipes for summer:

  1. Bean Salad: this is a quick and easy side dish suitable for any party, or serve it as a side for burgers!

2. Avocado Tomato salad: If avocados are on sale at the store I buy them and make this for lunch!

3. Mexican Chicken Salad: this is honestly one of my favorite dinners to make when we go on vacation. I use a rotisserie chicken from the deli, so it requires no real cooking. Plus it makes a lot and the dressing is delicious.

4. Caesar Pockets: Make these and pack them in the cooler for lunch on the go, or serve them with some chips as a light dinner.

Grilling: what seems more like summer than cooking on the grill? Now, I made a lot of these steaks in my skillet, but you could easily adapt the recipes and grill them outdoors or on an indoor grill pan!

  1. Citrus Steak: the orange marmalade in this marinade gives the steak a yummy, tangy flavor!

2. Crunchy Onion Steak: My hubby loved the crunchy topping for this steak!

3. Tuscan Steak with Beans: Simple and tasty!

Crock Pot: When it’s just too hot to heat up the oven (which it often is in Florida!) I turn to my crock pot for dinner!

  1. Pineapple Pork: a sweet and tangy twist on barbecue!


2. Sofrito Chicken: so easy and good, with plenty for leftovers!

3. Pork Tacos: A great meal for a crowd!

4. Cheesy Tortellini: In the mood for some pasta? Try this!

How do you like to cook in the summertime? Let me know in the comments! Make sure to check out more summer recipes from the crew here: (goes live 6/10/16)

Summer Inspiration




Crew Blog Hop : Tips on Getting Ready for High School


It’s the last day of the 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents Blog Hop! I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Today, I want to share some things I’ve learned about homeschooling high school. My oldest son is about to graduate, and I can’t believe we are at the end of our official homeschool journey! While I am so very proud of him and all that he has accomplished, it is a bittersweet moment, as I am sad about watching him move on, and I will miss having him home with me every day. However, getting him ready to start his own life has always been the goal, and I am excited for his future. These are a few of the things I would advise anyone getting ready to start high school to do:

1. Get Familiar with Your State Graduation Requirements:  If your child is college bound, it will benefit you both to become familiar with your state graduation requirements. In most cases, homeschoolers are not bound to follow any state curriculum, however, state graduation requirements are written to generally line up with college expectations. For Florida, the Department of Education website has graduation requirements spelled out by year. When my son was in 9th grade, I found the expectations for his year of graduation and printed them out, then used these as a guide to plan his curriculum, making sure he had the same amount of general credits in English, Math, etc. for his transcript.

2. Find Some Method For Keeping Track of Your Classes: If you haven’t had some method for keeping track of regular grades and classes up until this point, you really should find one. It will make it much easier to create a high school transcript later on. You can use your computer to make your own system, print out a record form and keep notes by hand, or use an online system such as Homeschool Skedtrack or Homeschool Minder to help you stay on track. These are not the only options by far, there are tons of them out there. The point is, find one that is simple and easy for you to use and stay on top of it. Choose one day a week where you devote one hour to going in and entering information. TRUST ME, if you get too far behind you will feel overwhelmed and not do it, leading to a snowball effect. Also, make sure you back up your info somewhere. I had a computer totally crash on my son’s junior year and I lost a LOT of stuff. It was a disaster.

3. Keep an Eye Out for Dual-Enrollement : If you have a motivated student, watch for dual-enrollment opportunities. I am fortunate to live in a county where this program is offered free for all students. My son started taking dual-enrollment classes at the local community college as a sophomore, and he will graduate with quite a few credits (at least one full year of college). Now, here’s the thing, I never pushed him to do this, it was totally up to him, and I made him start with just ONE class because I wanted him to understand how much work it was. I don’t believe in making kids take on more than they are ready for. If he had decided not to do dual-enrollment, that would have been fine too, and every child is different. I have a feeling his younger brother may not be so into it, and that’s okay. But if your child WANTS to take it on, and you have access to it, go for it. It’s a great way to earn some credits and take care of some of those classes you don’t necessarily want to be in charge of.

4. Get Your Child Involved in Directing Their Learning: At this stage, my son was largely responsible for his at-home work. We went over his plan for the week on Monday, and he turned his work in on Friday and we went over everything and made sure it got done. I was always available for questions, but most of his work (we used MFW) was set up as more self-directed. I read the notes at the beginning of the week, and went over the things I needed to with him, but he was taking responsibility for himself at this point, which was good preparation for college.

5. Plan for Testing: Decide which tests your child needs to take. This largely depends on which path they decide to pursue. Some colleges put more preference on the ACT vs. the SAT while others are leaning towards their own tests now. At the end of their sophomore year, start thinking about where you child might want to go to school and look into what their options are. Schedule their first test for early in the junior year so they have plenty of time to retake it if they need to. Also, be aware, the tests are costly! So plan for that too.

6. Make Time for Fun! : You are nearing the end of your homeschool journey, and if it’s anything like mine, it’s been full of crazy, fun times. High school was stressful for me, but take some time to enjoy it, because your child really is growing up now. Earlier this year my son and I took a week to go up North and visit some colleges. Just me and him. It was really nice to have some time alone with my almost grown up boy. Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I swear I could still see that little kid that used to grab my hand and beg me to carry him when his legs got tired. Sometimes I still miss those days!

It’s been a lot of fun sharing with you this week. Be sure to check out the posts from other crew members today here:

Annette @ A Net In Time
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Cassandra @ A Glimpse of Normal
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
Crystal @ Crystal Starr
DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood
Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for Staying on Top of Things

Wow, it’s already Day 4 of our 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents Blog Hop! Today I’m going to share some tips for how I stay on top of things at my house. Now, one thing you need to know is that I am by far, NOT a very organized person by nature. I want to be organized, I long to be organized, but it’s really not in my nature. However, I am a planner, and I think this is what helps me keep from getting completely lost and overwhelmed with all the stuff that has to be done on a regular basis!

1. Get a Planner:  Seriously, I have a planner for me and my kids. I love the Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia and the Hey Mama! Planner from The Old Schoolhouse for moms. There is plenty of space for you to record your schedule, notes, Bible verses, and everything else you need. Plus they offer all kinds of helpful charts and references. If you prefer to print and create your own planner, you can also find plenty of places to do that online as well, I just love having a physical planner (but I also prefer to read physical books!). For me, having a written plan is essential to staying on track. I also have planners for each of my boys where I actually write out their lesson plans for the week. Now, I write these in pencil, because as you know, stuff doesn’t always go according to plan, and if something doesn’t get done, that’s fine, we just move it to the next week, but I like the fact that on Monday, they can grab their planners and get stared while I’m making breakfast.

2. Prioritize your Commitments:  One of the big mistakes I made as new homeschooler was to overcommit to everything. I wanted to make sure my kids didn’t miss out on anything, but in the process, I stressed us way out by overbooking our schedule. Well, I have pared things way down at this point. We belong to one co-op, which is really flexible. From there, my kids pick and choose what they want to be involved in. Since they are both about high school level, I feel they can make those choices. My oldest works, and my youngest is really involved in serving at our church. If they want to take on something else they can, and if they want to just hang out after school and go fishing, that’s fine too. Each week, I make a list of the stuff we HAVE to do, and I make sure that stuff gets done, but I do not overbook anymore.

3. Menu Plan:  This is a huge part of making things easier for me, period. I plan our menu in two week stretches before I go grocery shopping. Basically, I start with Facebook. Our local grocery stores post their sales adds on certain days, and I make sure to check those adds, then I plan the menu based on what’s on sale. It saves us money, and it helps me, because I don’t have to stress about what I’m going to make for dinner every day. On days when we have co-op or something else going on and I know we’re going to be busy, I plan a crock pot meal, so it’s ready when we get home, which saves me a lot of time too.

4. Assign age-appropriate chores to your kids. Part of homeschooling is preparing your kids for real life. Part of real life is knowing how to take care of themselves. My husband and I firmly believe that as our boys grow older they need to learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry, because they are not going to live with us forever. As the homeschool mom, you are not supposed to do everything by yourself, and you are not hurting your kids by asking them to do some work. You are actually preparing them for life outside of your home. And that’s really important.

5. Take Advantage of Apps:  My hubby and kids are all pretty busy. I kind of act as a secretary for everybody, which I don’t mind. However, coordinating schedules can be difficult, especially when people do not let me know what their schedules are. Fortunately, I found the Google Calendar app, which has made all of our lives much easier. What I love about this is, everyone can access this app on their phone, and they set it up through their Gmail. Basically, I had to request access to their calendar, and once they granted me access, I was able to see EVERYTHING they added on the calendar on my phone. So now, when my hubby schedules an overtime or meeting, or my oldest adds his work schedule or class schedule from college, it automatically updates on my phone! This makes it so much easier for me to coordinate everything for our family, and they don’t even have to think about it, they just update their calendars on their phone like they normally would!!

6. Make Time for Downtime:  Everyone needs downtime. You, your kids, your hubby. Whether it’s watching a favorite show, reading a book, hanging with friends or by the pool or whatever, you need to give yourself, and your family members, some time to just relax. Don’t feel guilty for spending an hour watching Netflix, or indulging in a bath at the end of the day. If each of you doesn’t get a little time to chill out, chances are you are going to get stressed, and that stress will manifest itself in some ugly way down the road. Let your kids have some time to just be alone and entertain themselves, and make sure you take some time to do something you enjoy too!

Thanks for visiting me today! Be sure to check out my friends posts too! And stop by tomorrow for the last day of the Blog Hop!

Dawn @ Double O Farms
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Debbie @ Debbie’s Homeschool Corner
Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook
Diana @ Busy Homeschool Days
Diana @ Homeschool Review
Elyse @ Oiralinde: Eternal Song
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Jen @ Chestnut Grove Academy

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for What to Do When Things Go Wrong

So, as we all know, homeschooling involves everyday real life, and real life is messy. In a previous blog hop, I gave a real honest look at what a not-so-good day in our homeschool looks like, but today, as part of our Crew Blog Hop with the theme 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents, I want to give some general tips for how to handle those days or seasons in life when things just don’t go the way you plan. Here’s how I handle it.

1. Take a Breath: The first thing you need to do is step back and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that this too will pass. Then assess how emergent your situation is, with as clear a head as possible. When I first started homeschooling it used to drive me absolutely CRAZY to deviate from my set plan, which led to a lot of internal stress and conflict. As the years went by, I learned to let go, and things got easier. I realized that life happens and I needed to learn to roll with it. Ask yourself if you are in the middle of something that has to be dealt with right now, or if your crisis is something you can handle later. If it must be dealt with immediately, then move on to the next steps.

2. Begin with Prayer:  I have learned that is much better for me if I bring these things to God in prayer right away. I start by asking Him to give me strength and patience to deal with my current situation, then I ask Him to show me what is important in His eyes for me to accomplish that day, or that season, for homeschool and for life in general. Then I try hard to commit to following His lead and let go of my own controlling nature (which is much easier said than done!)

3. Take a Break if Necessary:  In the midst of a major family crisis, remember that it is perfectly okay to take a complete break if you need to. Your kids will not be harmed by it. In fact, they will probably learn some valuable life skills from watching you deal with your situation and pitching in to help. For example, a few years ago, my husband went through a major medical crisis with his heart. For a short term, we had to take a break from school while we went out of area to get second opinions, procedures etc. I was racked with anxiety over my hubby’s condition and guilt over my kid’s lack of schooling, but you know what? My son, who is a graduating senior this year, has his eyes set on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, and a big part of the reason is the experience we went through when his dad was sick! So even though we weren’t “schooling” what we were going through was still having a huge impact!

4. Cut Back to the Basics:  If your situation allows you to school somewhat, consider cutting back to just the basics. Focus on reading, math, spelling, and writing for a while. Let your kids read books for history and science. It won’t hurt them long term if you take a break from those subjects if you really need too. If it makes you feel really bad and you have older children, assign them a research project and let them do the work on their own.

5. Look into Online Learning : If your situation involves you being tied up working or caring for a sick loved one, consider looking into an online learning program for your kids. Websites like Time4Learning, IXL, and other programs offer instruction, grading, and more, allowing your kids to log-on, do their lessons, and all you have to do is check up on them later! We also like other options such as Teaching Textbooks which offer computer-based learning with similar options. Basically, look for anything that will simplify things for you at this time.

6. Cut Yourself Some Slack:  Like I said, I was great at giving myself a guilt trip whenever moments of crisis would arise. I felt like I was somehow failing my kids by not being able to give them “school” every single day. However, I have now learned that my kids have learned as much about real life as they have about math, science, reading etc. and I think those lessons are just as important. Kids need to know what to do when they face a crisis, because things like this will come up in their own lives. By going through these experiences, they are learning life skills they could never pick up from a book, and I think there is a benefit to that!

Thanks for joining me today. Be sure to check out what my other crew members had to share here:

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jennifer @ Faithful Homestead
Joelle @ homeschooling for His Glory
Joesette @ Learning Curve
Kari @ Random Acts of Boyhood
Katie @ Katie’s Daily Life
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Kylie @ Our Worldwide Classroom

See you guys tomorrow when I share tips for making life easier!

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for How to Homeschool on the Cheap

Welcome to Day 2 of the Crew Blog Hop, 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents! Today I am going to share some of the tips I’ve learned for saving money in your homeschool budget! If you’re anything like me, you probably plan an awesome homeschool year based on what you think you can have, but then stuff comes up, and suddenly, your budget gets slashed! Not to worry, there are tons of ways to homeschool without spending a lot. These are some of the tricks I’ve learned!

1. Utilize Your Library:   Do you have your eye on one of those literature-based curriculums that is just chock-full of books? Don’t lose hope if the price tag is outside your budget. Download the book list and find out how many of those books you can check out at your library. In most cases, you only need each book (other than the spines) for just a few weeks. Consider simply purchasing the guide and the spines and check the rest of the books out. Even if your library doesn’t have every single book, chances are you can find a good substitute. Remember, the key to homeschooling is flexibility, so adjust and make it work for you so you can have that dream curriculum!

2. Make Big Purchases for those Items that will Last:  In general, I don’t mind spending a little more on a textbook or other item if I know I can use it for both of my kids. In fact, my oldest has a running joke that he has never been allowed to write in anything ever!! While that isn’t exactly true, I have kept our more costly items clean, so I can pass them onto his brother. If you are pretty sure you can reuse an item for more than one child, then it’s an investment, and that makes it worth it!

3. Connect with Other Homeschoolers:  Do you know other homeschool moms with kids just a grade ahead of or behind your kids? Maybe they have some curriculum you could use and vice versa! For the last couple of years a friend and I have swapped curriculum for a couple of our kids and it has worked out great! She has one son just ahead of my oldest, so she loaned us high school math and science, and her youngest is behind both of mine so I loaned her some stuff for him. Naturally, you only want to do this with someone you trust, so you know they’ll take care of your stuff, and you have to return theirs in pristine condition, but if you are both responsible, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

4. Shop Used Whenever Possible: Even if you don’t belong to any local homeschool groups, look around to see if any in your area have yearly book sales. I have at least two that I hit up every year. Also, search online if you have a particular curriculum you want. Homeschool Classifieds is a good place to start. Also, a lot of online homeschool forums and curriculum forums offer a resale board, so check those out too. Another place to look, which a lot of people don’t think of, is eBay! Search for the curriculum you’re looking for by name and see what comes up! Of course, you always want to be cautious. I look for sellers with a high rating and positive feedback. Use PayPal for any transactions as they have built-in protections, and feel free to ask as many questions as you want!

5. Take Advantage of Online Learning:  A simple search of the Web can find a number of websites devoted to any kind of subject you can imagine. Some are free, some cost a little, some cost more. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box. If you find an online learning site that fits your budget, go for it! You can always supplement with library books and hands-on activities. If you sign up for the newsletter at Clickschooling you will get a daily email with a FREE web-based curriculum idea! I can’t tell you how many of their links I have used over the years!

6. Start with the Main Subjects: In those years when we’ve been extremely tight, we simply started our school with the basics, reading, math, writing, spelling. Then we took a unit-study approach to science/history/etc. with me kind of making up activities based on my kids interests and library books. We did a lot of nature journaling and experiments based on stuff I found online and in books I checked out, and you know what? It worked just fine and we had a lot of fun! If you are on a tight budget, focus on getting your main subjects covered. CLE is a fantastic no-fuss, no-frills  curriculum that is also low-cost that I have used many times for my boys. It gave me peace of mind knowing their needs were being met, and didn’t break our budget. And we had plenty of free time for whatever free field trips/outside time/exploring I could find.

7. Get Creative: My final point is simply, get outside the box. Homeschoolers by nature tend to be free-thinkers. Look for a local homeschool group where you might be able to join up and get some classes for your kids that can save you money. Hit up Groupon for some low-cost field trips, then head to the library to do some research beforehand. Check out Unit Studies for science or history, Hands of a Child and Homeschool Legacy both offer great low-cost studies on a variety of topics!

The main point is, don’t let a lack of funds get you down! Homeschooling really can be done very well on a shoestring budget. Remember, it’s more about the time you are putting into your kids than anything else.

Thanks for visiting, and make sure to join me tomorrow when I share some tips for what to do when things don’t go as planned. For now, check out what my other crew members had to share on the Hop today here:

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Latonya @ Joy in the Ordinary
Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
Megan @ My Full Heart
Melanie (Wren) @ finchnwren
Melissa @ Mom’s Plans

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for Choosing Curriculum


It’s our first Crew Blog Hop of the year and our topic is “5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents”. For my first day, I decided to tackle a subject that was of the utmost importance to me when I started homeschooling: choosing curriculum. Even before I officially started homeschooling, I spent countless hours (I’m afraid to even say how many) researching curriculum. It became one of my biggest obsessions. There are SO many options out there that it can be almost overwhelming and making decisions about what to use can seem almost paralyzing. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve learned a few things. I am by NO means an expert, but this is some of the advice I would give to myself as a new homeschool mom back then!


1. Start Small: Look, one of the biggest mistakes I made as a new homeschool mom was that I wanted to do EVERY single cool thing I saw. And one lesson I learned was that you can take on too much. If I could go back, I would probably start with one main big curriculum (say a literature based history or something) and then go basic for everything else, until I got into some kind of routine.

2. Combine as much as possible: When my boys were younger (before high school) I combined them for science and history, using products from Apologia, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace and Winter Promise. I cannot tell you how much easier that made my life. I could work individually with them for specific subjects like math, reading and spelling since they were three grades apart, but we could study some things together, which resulted in less planning and more family learning!

3. Spend Time Researching: Read reviews. For Real. The TOS Homeschool Crew offers a ton of reviews on countless numbers of curriculum, but you can pretty much search for any curriculum by name and turn up reviews on it! Pay attention to how the writer says they used the curriculum. What worked and what didn’t? Try to find users who have kids in the general same age as your kids, because that can give you a better idea of how it might work for you.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Workbooks/Textbooks: Look, I feel like a lot of homeschoolers feel some need to use whole books or lapbooks or something like that for everything. If it makes you feel comfortable, there is nothing wrong with using workbooks or textbooks. In fact, for subjects like spelling, math and reading, I kind of like the traditional approach. And, they can be very cost effective.

5. Check Out Online/Computer-Based Learning: Maybe you have a child that is naturally a techie. In that case, computer based learning may work best for them. Be sure to research these options. Companies like Alpha Omega offer programs like Monarch that are all computer based, and other companies, like Stinky Kid Math offer specific subjects you can supplement.

6. Don’t Make Comparisons : The biggest challenge with homeschooling is our natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. Keep in mind that your homeschool is specific to you and your kids. Try hard to resist the need to compare yourself and your kids to that mom in your homeschool group. This was really hard for me at first, but I began to realize that I didn’t do anything good for my kids by trying to make our school look like somebody else’s model. I had to let us be us. Choose your curriculum based on what you think will work best for you and your family. Period.

7. Allow your kids interests to dictate some things. There was a year we studied forensics for science because my kids were totally into it. We had so much fun. I also tied that study into a study of the human body using the Apologia Elementary Human Body curriculum. We did experiments on cells, fingerprints, blood typing, fibers, etc. To this day, my kids still talk about it. When your kids are in elementary and middle school, allow some of their interests to dictate your paths. Explore the things they want to explore. Trust me, it will make learning easier for all of you.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Step Out of the Box. Sometimes you see a curriculum you think your kids would love but you’re just afraid to try it because it’s just so…different from what you’ve done. I can tell you, some of the things we loved best were the risks we took. And, worst case scenario, even if you hate it, there’s a good chance you can resell it or pass it on to someone else!


So, those are my tips for what to consider when choosing curriculum. If you have any to add, let me know in the comments! See what other crew members had to share by checking out these links and join me again tomorrow when I share some tips for how to save money on curriculum!

Melissa @ Grace Christian School
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through the Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Rebekah @ There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Renita @ Krazy Kuehner Days
Sarah @ Renaissance Mama
Sasha @ Such a Time as This
Tawnee @ Adventures in Homeschooling
Tiffany @ The Crafty Home
Tina @ Desperate Homeschoolers

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Top Ten Posts of 2015

2015 seemed to fly by. My friend and I were talking the other day, and I guess it’s true when our parents told us the years do go quicker as you get older. So, I’ve spent some time looking over my blog stats and I’m doing some review posts. This week I’m going to share my most viewed posts of 2015 overall, and next week I will share my top ten recipe posts. So, these are my most-viewed posts of 2015:


My review of Christianity Cove got the most views of the year.

2.  My recipe for Irish Toffee Bars was my second most viewed post of the year.

3. Favorite Curriculum Choices

Post number three came from one of our crew round ups. Our Top Curriculum Choices was my third most popular post of the year.

4. Living Frugally

My post on Free and Frugal homeschooling from another round up was number four.


This review of Time4Learning made it to number five.

6.  My crock pot recipe for Sofrito Chicken was my number six post.

7. The second crock pot recipe on the list, Creamy Herb Chicken was post number seven.

8. This recipe for my Gooey Baked Grilled Cheese sandwiches was number eight.

9. Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
My review of Middlebury Interactive Languages was number nine.

10. Analytical Grammar Review
Finally, my review of Analytical Grammar was post number ten. We still love this program by the way, my youngest is having great success with it still.

So, those were my most-viewed posts of the year. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2016. Make sure to stop by next week to see my list of most-viewed recipes!

2016: A Year Of Changes Ahead

2016 is upon us, and this year brings quite a few changes to my life. For starters, my oldest son will turn 18 and graduate high school this May. For me, this is quite a bittersweet experience, because while I am certainly proud of the young man he has become, letting go of my boy is proving to be quite the challenge. His brother will officially begin high school in the fall, so my years as a homeschool mom are waning, and after so many years of being busy with school and having my time spent with my children I am left to wonder, what happens next? I can’t imagine my days without my kids. I have been preparing them for this moment since the beginning, and I am so excited to see them start their future, but it makes me a little sad at the same time…

However, before then my son and I are going on a trip up to Washington D.C. to look at some schools. He has worked really hard and is paying for the trip himself. He is still a little unsure of what exact career path he wants to take, but he has narrowed it down to medicine or something in law. While he will do his undergraduate work here in Florida since we have done the Prepaid college program since our boys were little, he really likes the idea of going to DC for his graduate work. As a young man, he is dying to get out of our small town and experience life in the big city, a feeling I understand as I too grew up in a small town and I had quite the wanderlust in my younger days. It is just him and I going on this trip together, and it reminds me of the college road trip my mom and I took to New York when I was in high school. I am really looking forward to spending a week alone with him. We will of course get to do some fun things up there too and stay with family in the area.

I also have a lot to do for him between now and the end of the year. There are transcripts to take care of, graduation to prep for (my state has a big homeschool graduation ceremony every year), applications to fill out. It’s overwhelming just thinking about it!

My hubby and I are also involved with some friends of ours in opening a business and boy is that stressful too. However, we believe it will be worth the reward in the end, and so we move ahead in the hopes that by the end of 2016, we will be running a successful and profitable operation.

So, it looks like I will be making quite a few adjustments in 2016. Some will be easier than others, but change is a good thing, right? And no matter what, you can’t stop the world from turning, so I’m just going to put a smile on my face and take it one day at a time.

Finishing Strong

Well, here we go. As we prepare to begin school this year we are also preparing to start my son’s senior year of high school, and my last year of homeschooling him. Part of me finds this so hard to believe. My first baby. The boy who made me a mom. The one who made me want to homeschool. The one I have fought with, laughed with…the one who challenged me to work harder to be a better person, forced me to dig deeper inside myself every day, and constantly questioned everything. He stands before me now as almost a man, and while I am so very proud of him, I am also feeling very conflicted. I am wistful for those days when his hands were so small they fit in mine. When he could crawl into my lap for a nap or a story…for when mama was the center of the world.

My heart knows this is how it is supposed to be. We spend these years pouring ourselves into our children to prepare them for life beyond our homes. And a part of me is so excited for the plans I know the Lord has for my child. I know He loves my son even more than I do (although that is still hard for me to imagine) and that my son has a path all his own to follow…but this letting go part…yeah, that’s going to be hard for me. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the fact that I have been able to be the one in charge. I admit, I kind of have that type-A personality, and relinquishing control is not really my thing, so this is going to be a big challenge for me. And with my younger son following closely behind, I am faced with a fear-inducing question…What do I do with myself when I don’t have children to homeschool anymore??

So I sit here with my papers, and I try to work out what credits we have left to fill. And I think about transcripts (my son has already earned 15 college credits through dual-enrollment), and my mind wanders to how much “together” time I can cram into this year. As a senior, my son is pretty independent in his learning. Mostly, I just supervise. I look forward to our late-night conversations about our school (since he is working many of our conversations occur late at night), but really, I look forward to any time we have together. And I pray, I pray a lot. I pray that God will guide me in the time I have left to steer my son in the direction He wants him to follow. I pray that God will give me strength to recognize those moments when I need to let go and give my boy independence. I pray that God will give my son wisdom as I give him the power to make his own decisions and take over responsibility for his own life. I pray for God’s blessings over his life, I pray for his safety…I pray a lot. And I have a feeling that as the year goes on, the time I spend in prayer is only going to grow.

I love this boy with all of my heart and soul. And as much as I wish I could plan out the rest of his life and tie it up in a neat little bow, I know I can’t. I am fast getting to the point where I have to let go, and trust that God has got this. I know that his father and I have taught him well. I know that in homeschooling him we have laid a firm foundation for his future. I know that God has got his hand on his life and I trust in His plan for his future. I want this year to be fun for both of us, and mostly, I want to feel like we both finished this race strong.

Real Life Homeschool : Reality Check

I hope you have enjoyed a peek into what homeschool is like for our family during this Real Life Homeschool blog hop. So, what are the most important things I would say about “real life” homeschool? Well for starters, I would acknowledge that often, things DO NOT go as planned. And I would say that is perfectly okay.

As adults, we know that real life is often very messy. You have financial crisis, sudden illness, unexpected problems, and other issues that have a way of popping up. So why should homeschooling be any different? Which is one of the reasons homeschooling is so good! It is real. Your kids get to see how you work through problems in life as they arise, and often, they get to work through them with you.

Kids learn how to prioritize when emergencies do come up, which is a lesson that will benefit them as adults. They learn how to accept the fact that sometimes, even the best-laid plans run amuck, and that you still have to keep going. See, as a homeschool mom, I don’t want to just teach my kids academics, I want to prepare them for life in the real world. I want my boys to grow up to be the kind of adults who can handle it when they get a wrench thrown in their plans, the kind who don’t wither under the pressure of some kind of crisis or disaster.

So, even though interruptions and setbacks can be frustrating, I like to look at them as learning and character training opportunities. And that is what I think Real Life homeschool is all about!

I hope you enjoyed the 5 Day Blog Hop as much as I did. I have had such a good time reading posts from my fellow crew members. To see what my friends had to share today, click here:

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!
Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Start with these 10 blogs:
Indy Homeschool
The Open Window-An Autism Blog
Creative Madness Mama
Hopkins Homeschool
Tots and Me…Growing Up Together
Our Journey
Crystal Starr
A Little This … A Little That
For the Display of His Splendor

Real Life Homeschool: Schooling on the Go

We are at day 4 of a our 5 Day Blog Hop, and today, I want to share how we do school on those busy, on-the-go days. You know, the days you have dentist appointments, have to run to the library, have homeschool co-op, have to hit the grocery store, or just run a bunch of general errands. One of the benefits of homeschooling is, of course, the flexibility. However, I have found that if you don’t have some kind of a plan for these kinds of days, then often, nothing gets done. So, this is how we school in the car!

My backseat is pretty comfy.

So, the first thing we do on a busy day is pack our backpack with everything portable. Our math book and notebook, the chapter book we are reading, grammar, and spelling. I used to try to cart around our history and science books too, but I quickly realized that the load was much heavier than was realistic and honestly, on a busy day like that, it probably won’t get done anyway, so I limit our carschooling days to our essential subjects.

While we are in the car, I try to provide instructional entertainment with an audio drama or book on tape. Heirloom Audio Productions offers some excellent ones, like Under Drake’s Flag and In Freedom’s Cause. These are nice because we can listen to them and then spend time discussing them using the study guides. We also like to pass the time listening to classical music CDs like the ones from Maestro Classics. I feel like this is a way to bring some value to the times we spend in the car.

If I know ahead of time we are going to be running around, I can plan around it, which is great. I limit our subjects, set up the backpack ahead of time, and the day goes relatively smoothly. For instance, once every two weeks we do a big grocery shopping trip. So, on those days, I plan for only a few subjects, and figure the life skills my kids are learning at the grocery store take care of the rest. On co-op days we also go light on school, usually only doing reading, spelling and math.

But what about those days when stuff just comes up out of the blue? Well, on those days I tell myself to pick and choose what is most important and postpone everything else. Believe it or not, I find my cell phone and computer to be handy tools on those days. There are actually a lot of educational games and applications that at least give my kids a chance to practice math and reading skills when we are out and about. I also try to make a stop at the library if we can. We might grab lunch and hit the playground too, so my boys can run around and burn off some energy. And dinner on these busy days (which I try to squeeze in in between guitar lessons and football practices)? Well, let’s just say the pizza man is quite familiar with my house! LOL

At any rate, carschooling is a reality for many homeschoolers. Unlike most parents who run errands and take care of things while their kids are at school, our kids are always with us, so it is inevitable that we have to make adjustments. How do you do school on those days when you have to run around? Let me know in the comments. To see what my fellow crew members had to share today, click here:

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!


Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Start with these 10 blogs:
Life at Rossmont
A Stable Beginning
Happy Little Homemaker
Joyful Hearts and Faces
Day by Day in Our World
Mama’s Coffee Shop
Delightful Learning
Double O Farms
Tales of a Homeschool Family
Home Sweet Life
A Rup Life

Real Life Homeschool: A Not-So-Good Day

So as  you know, this week the Homeschool Review Crew is doing a 5 Day Blog Hop and our topic is Real Life Homeschool. Yesterday, I told you about what a really good day in our homeschool looks like. As much as I would like to say that all of our days are like that, if I did, I would be lying. More often than not, our regular days resemble something more like this:

I hit the snooze button one (okay, 3) too many times and I don’t roll out of bed until 7:30 (when my kids were younger I never could have done this, but now that they are older, they like to sleep). Instead of having an hour of Bible quiet time and coffee, I squeeze in a devotional that I receive in my email ( I love the daily devotionals from Proverbs 31 ministries). I pray out loud in the shower, then get my kids up and check my email while they have some Pop Tarts (breakfast of champions. LOL).

At this point I want to draw attention to the fact that my quiet time is the first thing to go in this scenario. I know this is a bad idea, and I always regret it later on, but it’s one of the easiest things to cut out. I wish I could say that I always make that a priority, because I do understand how important it is, but the purpose is to be real here, and that is my reality.

Anyway, my hurried pace always seems to agitate my kids too and it is not uncommon for a squabble to start up. Also, it never fails that on a day like today, some other crisis seems to pop up. The dog throws up all over the floor, the sink backs up and I have to spend hours on the phone first with the landlord, then coordinating with the plumber. Or, some work assignment comes up that absolutely HAS to be finished by noon. It’s like things start to bulldoze and after a while I’m just along for the ride.

So, as it seems my attention is going to be elsewhere, at least for the morning, I resort to plan B. Instead of doing a math lesson with my youngest, I have him log onto a website like IXL (moments like this I am so grateful to be on the crew review team) and have him do some work on there. I mean, it’s good for him to get some extra practice on some concepts right? (that’s what I tell myself)

After that, as I get my oldest to shop-vac the gunky water out of the sink, I have the young boy read. Read what? To be honest, whatever strikes his fancy, which is usually comics. Look, reading is reading, and as long as his nose is in a book and not focused on the TV, I figure that’s a win.

After a lunch that probably consisted of microwave corn dogs and chicken strips (yes, I know, frozen pre-packaged foods are bad bad bad, but there are days the microwave is my best friend). I hope to settle down for at least a read aloud. But then the phone rings and it is my mother in law and I have to answer because my father in law is ill and is frequently in the hospital. So, I turn to Netflix for a little history (I love Netflix). Documentaries count as learning don’t they? Especially if I have my kids write a narration of what they learned!

And since I am now relaying the info my mother in law told me to my hubby and we are trying to decide if we need to make the three-hour trek to their home, I send my boys outside for a little recess but also give them an assignment. Take their Dangerous Book for Boys outside and stage one of the battles from history. This is an assignment they take to with gusto. Seriously, they do this just for fun.

As I take in the mess that is my house (dishes from breakfast are still in the sink and army men are everywhere) I sigh and ponder going to the gym. But then I figure all the pacing back and forth I did when I was on the phone probably covered my workout for the day. Instead, I turn my attention to dinner. Since I was too scatterbrained to pull any meat out of the freezer this morning, it looks like we’re having leftovers (I did mention earlier that I love my microwave right?)

At the end of the day I convince the kids to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher while I restart the load of laundry in the washer that smells musty because I forgot to switch the clothes to the dryer and fall onto the couch. My youngest grabs a book and I read to him, then we turn on the TV and veg out. My dogs want a walk, but my oldest takes them in yard to chase the tennis ball instead. I promise myself that tomorrow will be better and I absolutely will get up as soon as the alarm goes off but, well, you know how that goes.

So, that’s a more typical, kind of crazy and slightly disorganized real life homeschool day at our house. Do you ever have days like that? Let me know in the comments. Tomorrow, I am going to tell you what one of our “carschooling” days is like. Check out what my fellow crew members had to share today here.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!
Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Real Life Homeschool: What is it?

It’s time for another Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Hop and I am really excited about our topic! For the entire week, me and my fellow crew members will be blogging about what real life homeschool looks like in our homes! I am so looking forward to seeing how my friends school on good days and bad days!


So, what is real life homeschool? Well, to me, that means letting you in on what homeschool is like in our house when things are great and when things are messy. Let’s face it, this life is not always easy. When I started homeschooling I had this “ideal” image in my head of what my day would be like. Up with the sun for quiet time, a healthy breakfast cooked for my family, a day of fun, learning, and laughter, and a yummy dinner and clean house afterwards. Oh, and enriching field trips, lots of reading aloud, science experiments, family time etc. etc. etc. Yep, I was going to do it all!!

Except, then I started to actually homeschool and I realized, I can’t do it all. As much as I WANT to be supermom,  I do not actually have super human powers. This reality was hard for me to accept at first. Days did not always go as planned, and I got frustrated. I even questioned what I was thinking when I decided to homeschool in the first place. But then, as I got to know other homeschoolers and spent more and more time in prayer, I began to realize that it’s actually okay to fall short sometimes because everybody does.

Sure, we have some great days when things so smoothly and it looks just like I thought it would in my  head. But, more often than not, our homeschool is a reflection of our real life. And real life is, messy (or at least mine is). There are unexpected setbacks, illnesses, family emergencies, and financial crisis. There are days when the sink backs up, the car breaks down, and the AC goes out. There are days we have to stop regular homeschool to deal with curveballs life has thrown us. But here’s the thing, through all of this my kids are learning some very valuable lessons. Stuff like how to be flexible (which I admit isn’t my strong suit), how to deal with problems, how to keep going when things get tough, and most importantly, how to rely on the Lord for everything.

So, for the next four days I am going to give you a real glimpse into our homeschool week. I want to give you an example of what a good day looks at my house, and also a bad day, and everything in between. I hope that maybe you will see something you relate to in my day. I hope that if you are worried because your homeschool dream doesn’t meet your reality you will realize you are not alone. And I really hope that I don’t look like a total flop as a homeschool mom!! So, join me tomorrow when I peel back the proverbial curtain and show you a good day at my house. See you then!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!


Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Check out these ten blogs:

Every Bed of Roses
Ben and Me
Footprints in the Butter
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Counting Our Blessings
Homeschooling for His Glory
Ozark Ramblings
Chestnut Grove Academy
Only Passionate Curiosity
Farm Fresh Adventures