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August 22, 2014

Homeschool Inspirational Readings


Need Encouragement? Read a Book!

(Homeschool Inspirational Readings)

Written by Erin Kaufman

This is an inspirational and helpful article–and is one of the many informative articles in’s newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool



Every homeschooler needs a good support system. There is nothing better than being encouraged and instructed by people who have already been down the same road. As homeschooling increases in popularity, it is now becoming easier to find others in your area that can be your support system. But sometimes those groups are either not available, or they are not the right type of group for your homeschooling philosophy.

If the right type of support system is not available to you, one of my favorite resources to find encouragement is a book. There are so many wonderful books geared toward homeschoolers that can provide you with tools, instruction, and a boost in morale without ever leaving your home. Many books are written specifically for a certain homeschooling philosophy, but there are many others that can benefit any type of homeschooler. I would love to share with you a few books that I have enjoyed and would encourage any homeschooler to read.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

It may sound strange to list a parenting book as one of my favorite homeschooling books, but when you think about it, so much of our homeschool time is also parenting time. We don’t turn off the parenting clock as homeschoolers; it is always running. Therefore, I find that encouragement in parenting is crucial to our homeschool running well. Simplicity Parenting is all about keeping our children’s lives free from too much, whether that be too many activities, too many toys, too much schoolwork, or too many decisions. Most of us have felt at times that there is just too much going on in our lives. This needlessly stresses out not only us, but also our children! This book guides you in the steps necessary to take back those carefree days and create a more calm and secure environment in your home.

As a result of reading Simplicity Parenting, we have changed several things about our home and the way we school. Our focus now is on the basics. We get our school done in an efficient amount of time so our children have the opportunity to just play. We recently completed a massive de-clutter of our home, which has helped us all focus and stay on task. I no longer need to take breaks from schooling in order to clean up large amounts of toys. I am no longer distracted by too many books on our bookshelves. We keep what is used and what we need, and the rest is now out the door! Our lives feel calm now, and that is enough to make any homeschooling mom happy!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Although this book lends itself well to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, the concepts presented can encourage any homeschooling mom. The main idea behind this book is that children need a love of learning. If you feel as if you taught them nothing else (which I am sure would never be the case), but they love to learn, then you will have succeeded! Children are much more capable of many things than what we give them credit for, and they deserve to have their minds challenged. They are people, not parrots. For the Children’s Sake describes how we can create an atmosphere of education for our children where every opportunity can be taken to learn something new. This book also discusses how important it is to let children learn through play. Playtime seems to get a bad rap these days, but it should not be that way. Children learn so much when they play and explore the world around them.

This year our homeschool looks more child-focused that it ever did before. I am meeting my children at their level and challenging their minds to grow, instead of pulling them along behind me as we trudge through our schoolwork. Books have become a central part of their education (and mine too!). Each book they read takes them to a place they have never been before and introduces them to so much more than I could tell them about. We travel around to different times and locations through our readings. We read the classics and learn new vocabulary words every day. Play time is now scheduled in our days just like schoolwork is. I am amazed at what they learn just by exploring their world. Their play time provides them a wonderful opportunity to unwind from schoolwork and apply some of their new knowledge.

Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp

If you talk to any homeschooler about what they fear, I would imagine most of them fear leaving gaps in their children’s education. It can be overwhelming when you think of all of the subjects that need to be taught. Home Learning Year by Year walks you through each grade, from preschool through high school, and explains exactly what your child needs to learn. Each subject is listed along with suggestions for possible curriculum and book lists when available. There are also specific standards of what a child in that grade level needs to know.

We live in a state where we must report our intended curriculum for the upcoming school year to our local school district. I am always concerned that I will leave a subject off that is required. With this book, it is so easy to read through the appropriate grade level and find the resources we need to teach the necessary subjects. There are so many books and resources that I never would have found without Home Learning Year by Year. I find myself using this book several times a year to encourage and reassure myself that we are on the correct path and learning what needs to be learned.

These three books are only a small sampling of the many books homeschoolers can turn to for encouragement. Below you will find a list of some others that you may enjoy, depending on your homeschool philosophy. Just remember, you may not have a local homeschool support group, but you can find encouragement through a good book!

*Homeschooling And Loving It! by Rebecca Kochenderfer (a great general primer on homeschooling, with her own family examples mixed in)

*A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola (a great “how-to” if you are interested in Charlotte Mason)

*The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (a guide for classical education – there are three editions and I prefer the first since it provides more detail of how to put things together yourself)

*Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson (a great how-to homeschool resource with some great book lists and help for planning)

*The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (discusses the importance of reading aloud to your children and suggests many books that are great to read aloud)

*The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick (an encouraging tool to show you how to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic in the younger grades)

*Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt (a guide in how to use books and how to choose good books in your home)

*101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy (helps you choose curriculum based on your child’s learning style and includes the author’s top picks)

*Joy in the Journey by Lori Hatcher (a homeschool mom shares encouragement based on her own homeschooling journey)


Written by Erin Kaufman.  You can visit her blog at

August 21, 2014

Homeschooling High School


Homeschooling High School – And Enjoying It!

Written by Trish Madonia

This is just one of the MANY interesting/informative homeschooling articles in’s newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool



Homeschooling high school can seem daunting, but I’m here to tell you that it’s challenging – and fun!

We need to start the conversation about homeschooling high school by discussing the regulations. KNOW your state’s regulations before anything else. I find it helpful to have a basic outline of my state’s requirements for all four years in front of me, and sketch in curriculum I think I want to use, as well as electives I feel are important. I do this in the summer before 9th grade. After that, our challenge as parents lies in following the law without squashing our children’s love of learning! To me that’s a much more difficult challenge than covering those pesky subjects such as algebra and chemistry.

DISCLAIMER- There are as many ways to cover high school as there are families. This is my second time around and my younger son’s high school looks nothing like my older’s! What follows is a) my opinion and b) how our family tackles high school. I hope to help and inspire others who want to take on this challenge, but your journey will and should look different from ours. This is due to the uniqueness of each child and every family.

When my son was young we followed a literature based curriculum. It was such a blessing to us – the learning occurred effortlessly, meaningfully and with joy! Then came high school. I was terrified that I wouldn’t “cover” everything. We started out with separate texts for each subject, working for about an hour per subject each day. It didn’t take long to see that this made no sense for our family. So we went back to using great literature as a spine. I have many great books at the ready and I let my son choose which ones he wanted to read. Back came the enjoyment and excitement to “school”! Now, we look up vocabulary, discuss situations from the reading, and take note of the wonderful wording – the cultural and historical modes of speech. We read about the countries and regions where the stories take place – the geography, the culture, and the history. This I carefully document under the various subjects to eventually include on his transcript. We do use separate texts for science and math but it’s easier to tie those subjects to real life – nature, relationships, wildlife, health; word problems, measurement, evaluation of data and abstract thinking. And in case you’re wondering, we use the internet and our personal library to figure out what we can’t figure out! I’ve discovered that algebra is actually pretty cool. This is the beauty of homeschooling – you can do what works, throw out what doesn’t and try something else. I also love learning alongside my son; not only is it exciting to learn new and interesting things, but you immediately know what your child finds interesting and you can follow his/her lead. That is what makes learning meaningful – not memorizing random facts to pass a test.

So that is how we handle the required subjects. But there is so much more! I feel that the high school years are the time to prepare our teens for life. So we cook together, clean together, talk constantly about situations my son might come up against regarding character, relationships, responsibility, driving, drugs, alcohol – the list goes on and on. We also have the time and freedom to allow our son to follow his passion – music – his likely life’s work. Homeschooling high school gives him the time and flexibility to practice, play musicals, gig until late – everything that goes with a budding career. This was actually one of our initial reasons for homeschooling this son – to allow him the freedom to pursue music and not be tied to the school calendar.

There are also electives to consider. Here’s where homeschoolers can really shine! You can gear your electives to your child’s passions or needs before college. I will have Life Skills as one year’s elective. You can decide what skills you feel are important and put in the required time to teach them. Examples can be banking, automobile maintenance, cooking, cleaning, mending, menu planning, budgeting, first aid…even public speaking. My son is also interested in film so he’ll do a course in filmmaking, as well as music theory and jazz history. He was able to fill a history requirement this year with a course called Discovering Music: 300 Years in Interaction in Western Music, Arts, History and Culture (by Carol Reynolds). I use the internet to look for curriculum that corresponds with my son’s interests.

Finding what will work for your family takes time and research. Does your son or daughter want to go to college? If so, start looking at colleges and their enrollment requirements. 9th grade is NOT too early! If your child wants to learn a trade, find him/her opportunities to get involved while still in high school. They’ll have a time and experiential advantage. I fully intend to take advantage of dual enrollment community college classes as my son nears graduation, and will look for on-line courses if I feel unable to help cover a required subject. I don’t ever think I can teach him everything, but I do know that we can figure it out together. I keep careful records of everything we read and cover, and that will make creating his transcripts easy.

Finally, are you worried about what your teen might be missing by being homeschooled through high school?  I can tell you what they are NOT missing – love, acceptance, respect, socialization, moral leadership and freedom to pursue their passions as they see fit. Education is as much about a child’s heart as it is their head. I feel that this is more than enough reason to take on the challenge of the high school years.


Bio–Trish Madonia lives in Clinton NY with her husband Scott and sons Schuyler and Scottie. Her family has homeschooled for 10 years, and Trish has a passion for helping new homeschoolers gain confidence in this important venture. Aside from homeschooling she loves to spend time with her family, teach private music lessons to children, and ride horses.



August 20, 2014

Homeschooling Different Ages


Homeschooling Different Ages in Different Stages

Written by Jordyn Coffin

This is just one (there are over 15 articles!) of the informative/important articles in’s newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool

It’s four o’clock, dinner is in the oven, the house is fairly clean and all 6 of my children have been successfully schooled for the day. Days like these are the norm now, but that wasn’t always the case.

After my 5th was born I started to feel like I was drowning and that my kids were not getting the education they deserved. In all honesty I was overwhelmed with the fact that there were so many of them to teach now. Each of them at a different level, each of them with different strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. I would sit down with the older kids and not five minutes in a younger kid would need something, or want to show me something, or just want to flail on the floor in a 10 minute tantrum for no reason.

It went on and on like this for months, and I really started to feel hopeless, lost and so very overwhelmed. Clearly I was not equipped for this homeschooling journey, clearly I was not supermom, and clearly I was a big, fat failure.

At the time this was all going on my husband traveled 50% of the time, my family was too far away to help, and I had no friends that homeschooled. I was truly on my own. I could let it overtake me or I could face the problem head on, find a solution and make this work. I chose the latter, I decided to implement some new routines, activities and solutions to this homeschool problem and I’m so glad I didn’t give up! I feel like I stuck with something and am now reaping the rewards. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel and just hand them off to someone else, but ultimately that wasn’t what I wanted for my kids.

So I’m sure you are wondering what life changing, earth shattering tips and tricks I have for y’all. I hate to disappoint, but nothing I do is at all that revolutionary or even very creative, but it does work and it has made all the difference in our lives.

My kids are 15, 12, 10, 7, 5 & 3. One of the biggest things I had to learn was to give up control and to stop being so hard on myself. My kids were going to be fine, I wasn’t going to miss something and even if I did, we could always go back and fix it. As long as they can read, write and do math, the rest would fall into place.

So let me break down a typical day for you, when we are at home (when we are on the road is a whole different article!). We have breakfast, get chores done, and my 15 year old gets her assignments from me for the day and vanishes to her room, only to be seen if Khan Academy or YouTube fail her. My 10 and 12 year olds aren’t quite that independent, they like to do school at the kitchen table so that I can be reached for quick questions or serious help if needed. While they are doing their independent study, I give my three year old something out of the Monday box (we have boxes for every school day of the week, more on that later) and I sit down with my 7 & 5 year old. They are both at the same level academically for the time being, so it makes it really easy to teach them. I read to them, they read to me, we add, subtract, work on patterns, (if I really feel like a hot shot mom I throw in a little algebra and trig), do a few worksheets, and call it a day. If my older ones seem to be sailing through their lessons, the littles and I watch an episode or two of Magic School Bus, Wild Kratz or some other educational show.

It’s now about lunch time so we all break for lunch and clean up. My littles go off and find something to do and it’s my time to go over assignments and offer help where needed with my older kids. It works almost flawlessly– my littles feel like they have had mommy’s attention long enough and are content to go off and play, giving me time to work with the bigs without having to deal with constant interruptions and begging to do school too.

Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always like this. We have days where everybody seems to be struggling and where everyone seems to be needy, and I’m pulled in 6 different directions. But I can handle those days so much better now that they are few and far between.

While I still don’t have it all figured out, here are the tips that have worked for me for the last 5 years while homeschooling children of all different ages:

  1. Have an age appropriate “busy” box for each day of the week for younger children. Having a different box for each day of the week keeps the content new and their interest lasts far longer. Garage sales and the dollar stores are great for filling a busy box!
  2. Have school with your younger kids right after breakfast. This helps them feel like their school time is important too and makes them less likely to interrupt lessons with the older kids.
  3. Have school outside or at the park. On particularly rough days when the younger kids just want to interrupt every five seconds, we call outside school day. Sometimes fresh air makes all the difference in the world for miserable attitudes and the “I’m boooooored” phenomenon.
  4. Don’t fight the digital age. I know that no one wants their children in front of screens 24/7 but there are so many educational benefits to limited computer/tablet time. My younger girls LOVE their learning apps and games and they have saved my sanity while helping my older kids more times than I can count. Reserve the computer and tablet time for when you are working with your older kids.

It is not always easy to homeschool several children that are different ages and levels, but it can be done without losing your sanity, you just have to implement a few strategies and you will be well on your way to homeschool bliss (okay not completely, but it’s a start!).


Written by Jordyn Coffin: I’m a homeschooling mom of 6 and Supermom in training. I am trying to do it all and most days failing miserably. Follow our adventures and misadventures at You can also connect with me at, and


August 19, 2014

Homeschooling with Toddlers in Tow


Homeschooling with Toddlers in Tow!

Written by Katie Dugdale 

This is just one of the informative must-read articles in’s

newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool



One morning while we were doing school, I noticed my toddler had been quiet for an unusual amount of time. I realized I had lost track of her and had no idea what she had been doing. I also realized the door to my bedroom was open. I walked into a dark room and heard a faint strumming of a guitar. We keep the guitars in my husband’s closet. I don’t know how long she had been in there, but when I opened the door, I found my two year old standing in the dark closet dropping picks one by one into the guitar. She also re-tuned it for us and made sure all the strings were working well.

Toddlers and homeschooling are an interesting puzzle to figure out. My toddlers, and I’ve had four of them, have been passionate. By passionate, I mean wiggly, loud and bursting with personality that cannot be ignored. I have been homeschooling for six years in some form or another. Every year we have homeschooled, we have had a toddler or baby in our home. I have had to learn to embrace flexibility and to not hold too tightly to my routine. I remember when my oldest was two and people would tell me how quickly the preschool years would pass. I knew they were right, although at times, I didn’t believe them. As I am hunting down my toddler who has been suspiciously quiet while I am in the middle of doing school with my older children, I have to be careful not to wish away the toddler years. I need to be intentional to embrace every stage and make adjustments to our day as needed.

How do I homeschool with a toddler in the home? I cannot give a formula for success. I cannot give you a strategy that will work every time. What works today will likely not work tomorrow. You’ll need to have several tricks up your sleeve to make it work! I feel like I have tried everything under the sun to keep our toddlers busy while we do school. Sometimes we wait until the toddler’s nap time to do school. Sometimes the toddler watches a video. Sometimes we have a special area set up with markers and crayons so the toddler can do school with us. I have had to experiment to find our rhythm. As the babies and toddlers enter a new stage, that rhythm has to change to keep up with them.

While I do not have a proven strategy, I will share strategies I have up my sleeve, that have helped keep our toddlers occupied and even included during/in our homeschool day –

Include your toddler when possible – If you can include your little one in any way (modifying a lesson, reading to them, letting them do a craft project with you, letting them sit at the table and work on a “worksheet” while his siblings are working on theirs, etc.), they will enjoy the experience—I don’t know a toddler that doesn’t want to do “big kid” things. Plus, your toddler will learn something too (even if it’s to pay attention for seven minutes)!

Busy Bags – Busy bags are a way of organizing little activities for preschoolers and toddlers. These activities usually focus on some type of readiness skill like color matching, fine motor skills such as lacing and tracing, counting and more. I have several busy bag activities. I keep them all in a big tub in our kitchen/school room. I only get a few activities out at a time for our toddler. Each activity is in its own pouch. I use zipper pencil cases with the clear front you can find at stores like Wal-Mart or Target. If you need ideas for busy bags or want to learn more about them, you will find all kinds of great ideas on Pinterest!

Special Toys – I keep a basket of special toys that only comes out during school time. My toddler can sit in the Pack and Play and have some time with these toys. The toys include a Tag Junior (a toy that reads certain board books to the child), Lego Duplo Blocks, Puzzles, and Magnetic Dolls from Melissa and Doug. Rotate toys when you can to keep things fresh/novel.

Play Dough or Water Colors – When we are doing table work, I let my toddler sit with us and have play dough on a special tray with toys or water color paints. These things are minimal when it comes to mess and clean up.

Netflix – I admit, there are times when I just need my toddler to be occupied so I can focus on the needs of an older child. It’s at these times that I might sit her in her Pack and Play and let her watch educational shows such as Leap Frog Letter Factory, Leap Frog Phonics Farm, Signing Time, and a number of other preschool and toddler friendly videos.

Nap Time – If your older children can manage well in the afternoon, there is no reason you cannot take advantage of the quiet to get some school work done. My children are usually tired and have a shortened attention span in the afternoon so this doesn’t always work.

Older Children – I have a nine year old, a seven year old, a four year old and a two year old. The older two finish school at different times and the four year old doesn’t do school every day. I often ask a child who is not involved with school work to play or read books with a younger child. As you can imagine, this benefits both kids.

Any one of the above mentioned strategies can buy you anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour of time. I try to use that time to get our group activities such as calendar time, read alouds, Bible memory and more completed. My older children work independently with workboxes for the majority of their school time. If I can keep my toddler entertained for the beginning of school, I can be available to her as the older ones are working. She needs to know that she is valued and important to me. I try to spend time reading books to her or playing with her.

When I had small babies in the house, I relied heavily on morning nap time to get school done. I tried to make our lessons short and sweet. I made sure the kids and I were ready to get started as soon as that little one went down for a nap. We often had our read aloud time when I was feeding a baby. Listening to audio books together as a family during that time is great, when you do not have free hands.

The time with toddlers and babies will pass. It will pass quickly. I have heard it said over and over that the days are long, but the years are short. I am finding this to be true. So, as I am seeking to occupy my little ones so I can accomplish school with my older ones, I am trying to be intentional to see the joy in all the stages of this journey.

The beauty I have found in homeschooling is realizing I am not recreating a classroom setting in my home. We are home educating. We are doing life together. Babies and toddlers have real needs and provide real distraction and interruptions. My children and I are learning to be flexible and roll with the punches. Sometimes we have to take a step back and realize something isn’t working. We may need to pack it in for the day and head outside. We may need to take a snack break. We might even need to stop what we are doing and have a dance party!


Author Bio:

Katie Dugdale is a child of God, wife to a wonderful man, mama to four little blessings and a crafter on the side. Her life is a series of adventures. She has moved five times in ten years of marriage and has had four children in four different states. She has a heart for homeschooling and loves creating and sharing resources to help others who are on the same journey. You can visit her at You can also find her on Twitter and Pinterest under the user name mama_monkey.

August 18, 2014

Yes, Single Parents can Homeschool


Yes—Single Parents Can Homeschool!

Written by Deborah Dennert

This is just one of the MANY wonderful, informative, and inspiring articles in’s newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool



No one ever said homeschooling was easy. It takes a lot of time, patience and dedication. Most families that homeschool have a two-income household—a balance of parenting, work and homeschooling. But not everyone has this tag-team. Today many single parents successfully homeschool their children. It is definitely a juggling act. A feat that sometimes seems daunting. I often hear ‘I don’t know how you do it’ or ‘do you ever get any sleep.’   How it works for each family is different but not impossible. I’ve been homeschooling for nine years now and divorced for almost ten years. So, since kindergarten I was homeschooling solo. In this adventure I have met many other homeschooling parents, mostly moms.

When do you work?

The hardest balance of being a single parent and homeschooling is work. How does someone have an income and homeschool? I work from home. My family owns a construction company and I answer incoming calls, fax orders and do other tasks Monday thru Saturday. But the phone isn’t always ringing. Between calls is when I get my kids on task, answer questions, go over work and make sure their chores are done. Some other single parent homeschoolers I’ve met work nights and weekends and homeschool during the day, take their children to work with them, work flexible jobs as freelancers or appraisers, or work at home. Some live with extended family and trade babysitting.

How is the school work done?

With young children it is easy to be able to have a set time to sit down and do schoolwork. Older children might be more self-taught and be able to work independently. It is also great to get help from others. Co-op groups, enrichment classes, some parents are able to have their ex-spouse help the children with school work too. What is chaos for others might be a great balance for single parent homeschooling families. A friend that is a mobile dog groomer has brought her son to work with her since he was six-weeks-old. Her son, now a teen, is in the car with her, driving to client’s houses. He has a mobile workstation and laptop to do work while his mom is grooming. Another friend is a nurse and homeschools during the day and works nights and weekends. Yet someone else I have met homeschools around her schedule working at a nail salon. Sometimes enough school work isn’t completed in the day so they get caught up on nights and weekends.

In all this chaos when does the parent have a break?

Getting ‘me’ time is hard. Being a parent and on the go 24/7 makes it where downtime is savored. For some this is the short time it takes to drive from work to home. For others it is late at night or early mornings, while the children are sleeping. I often go hiking while my children are in enrichment classes. It is also great to trade babysitting with friends. One friend can bring the kids to the park one day and in return you watch their children and take the group to a museum.

Planning ahead is vital

It is important to plan ahead. Making sure children are on task so that the amount of schoolwork accomplished each week or each month is enough. If you have an idea of what you want accomplished, divide it by the weeks of the school year and have a loose plan of how much work you want done each day, week and month. If you are using traditional textbooks it is easy to figure out how many chapters in the book and set a goal of how much needs to be completed in order to finish the book by the end of the school year. Building in flexibility is a plus. We try to have our Fridays set aside as a ‘catch-up on everything’ day. This includes chores and housecleaning too. Since both of my children are in sports I also plan ahead with meals, often relying on crock pot recipes to ensure healthy eating.

If I know work is going to be extremely busy for me the next day, then I try to get everything ready the night before, with a check list for each child. I have a template on my computer that I edit and print, so making the checklist is pretty easy. The kids then look at the list to see what they need to do to have all of their work accomplished for the day.

Homeschooling and single parenting balance

In the end this is all a balance of parenting, homeschooling and work.

I love being able to spend time with my children watching them grow and learn. I also make sure I give each of them one-on-one time. We are all very close and it will be a blink of an eye before they are both in college and on their own. I cherish each day and each adventure we have.


Written by Deborah Dennert. Deborah is a single parent.  She works at home, homeschools during the day, and blogs at night.  She loves mountain bike riding, gardening and finding new recipes.  She often blog about parenting, frugal tips and reviews. You can catch her at and at


August 15, 2014

MORE Back to Homeschool


Thinking Outside the Chair

Written by Katrina Thennis

This is just one of the AMAZING articles in’s newest

e-magazine–Back to Homeschool

As a kid, summer was the time to be outside. We rode horses, played outside all day and went swimming. By fall we were tanned and healthy.

Hopefully your summer has been full of exciting adventures and lots of outdoor time and you find yourself rejuvenated in body and soul.

As we head back inside to resume our studies I would like to share with you some ideas for keeping some of that health that summer time activities bring, even while we are constrained to our books or computers for school.

Part of the reason we homeschool is because we think outside the box. When it comes to setting up your learning areas, I’m going to ask you to think outside the chair!

For many reasons, sitting for long periods is not good for us. People, especially children, are intended to move. When we sit for long periods of time it can affect our bodily and mental health.

There are many sources that say that children need to move in order to stay focused and learn.

In a blog post from Minds in Bloom, guest-writer and pediatric occupational therapist, Loren Shlaes explains that “a nerve in the inner ear, called the vestibular nerve, serves to tell the body how upright, aroused, and present to be in, in  direct response to movement. The only way to activate the vestibular nerve so that it can do its job is to move.”

In the blog Timbernook, Angela Hanscom explains: “many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular(balance) system today–due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.

Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”

So what is the solution? One of my favorite sources of information on natural movement and alignment is Some solutions she recommends are:

  1. A standing work/play station.

These can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. You can add a crate or box to your desk or learning area and have your child stand while working. Or you can buy a standing workstation desk. Start with small amounts of time standing and work up to longer periods. And feel free to trade out standing and sitting as desired.

We have a Standing Play Table for our youngest. We store toys underneath and he can play with them on the table. I find that it encourages more play to have his toys available and a great place to set them up!

We also use a standing or sitting computer station. As my daughter gets taller I will need to build up the keyboard and screen but it works well for her at this age. If she wants to, she can sit on the exercise ball.

And I either sit somewhere (see below for lots of fun sitting options) with my laptop or use it at our tall counter.

  1. Walking 4-5 miles/day

Our goal this summer is to work in more walking. Our challenge will be increasing the distance we walk with the 2 and 5 yr old. But I figure if multiple times a day we take a quick walk around the block, pretty soon we will be able to make a trek to the library or science museum without me having to carry anybody! We also like to go hiking a lot and even just running around at an open park is great! We bring the Frisbees when we go or play running games. So start small and see how far you can get.

  1. Stretching muscles

It helps to take frequent breaks to stretch your muscles. You can do some simple yoga moves or try out the stretches from here:

  1. Indoor play equipment

How about monkey bars in the house? I would love to incorporate this idea into our home. It’s great for climbing and hanging, especially in the winter when it’s harder to get to the park. We also have a mini-trampoline that helps us when the weather gets cold and the kids need an outlet for extra energy. And in the summer we utilize the park.

Another idea I like is to do Slacklining, where you walk across a strap attached to two points. I think this would be fun to set up outside and possibly inside if you could figure out how to attach it.

DIY Slackline –

  1. A variety of seating options.

I know a lot of homeschoolers do school on the couch and on beds, so we already have a great start! Other options would be floor cushions, bolsters and a variety of sitting positions on the floor.

(Think outside the chair poster pic) – source for poster (

We currently have beanbag chairs and body pillows. We have them set up next to our bookshelves to accommodate assigned and free-reading. The kids also like to use them when we watch television.

For more ideas on standing play tables, articles on how to incorporate these ideas into your home and more, check out my Pinterest board:




Written by Katrina Thennis,



August 14, 2014

The Educational Value of a Teen Service Trip (and How to Pick the Right Program)

Filed under: Travel — Guest Author @ 4:50 pm

When our 15-year-old son, Nate, departed for his first international trip without his parents, his father and I knew he had many lessons in store for him: with the aid of his team leaders from Adventures Cross Country, he’d learn about the flora and fauna of rural Costa Rica, local politics and the educational system as he taught English to school children and worked on construction projects in small villages, and environmental stewardship in the tropical jungle. We hadn’t anticipated that his educational experience would begin before he even set foot on international soil: his maturity, travel-savvy, and personal management skills were put to the test when his plane to San Jose, Costa Rica was delayed, then cancelled. Turns out, the learning curve is pretty steep when you’re a teen and suddenly find yourself stranded in a major airport overnight.



While stressful at the time, this travel hiccup ended up providing Nate with one of the best lessons of his trip: the need to take charge, while remaining calm and flexible. By the time Nate arrived through customs and met with his Costa Rican team for the next two weeks, he was already in possession of a newfound confidence that’s carried over after his return. Yes, he learned about poisonous jungle critters and cultural differences, how to build a lean-to and teamwork (and even how to surf), but most importantly, he learned to trust himself, adapt, and be a leader.


If you’re considering a teen service trip for your child, there’s a lot to consider, from safety to price to credits earned. Here’s what we looked for (and ultimately found in Adventures Cross Country):

  1. Great communication

There’s a degree of risk when parents prepare to send their child to another country with people they haven’t met. In fact, when put like this, it sounds downright scary. When we started the process with Adventures Cross Country, I was immediately put at ease by the level of professional organization. Each student’s family is assigned an online portal, where all documents, forms, and destination information is stored. (Read more about how to prepare your child for his or her teen service trip.) Phone calls from the home office is regular, and we never felt like Nate was just a number. When Nate’s travel day went array, I was able to communicate immediately with staff members who were swift to action. Put simply, our hands were held the whole time…which is fortunate, as we’d never sent our child on a solo trip before.

rafing lodge

  1. Meaningful service

When kids sign up to make a difference, they want to do just that. Yes, students on Adventures Cross Country trips become eligible for community service hours (useful back at home), but the real learning begins when kids become invested in what they’re doing. We thought Nate’s favorite activities in Costa Rica would be surfing and white water rafting; in fact, he raved about the three days he spent in a rural school room, playing games with kids to help them learn English. This service was made possible by the in-country hosts Adventures Cross Country works with year after year. Find an organization with strong, long-term ties to the countries it visits, because it will be invested not only in the paying students, but in the destination as well.

rafting 1

  1. Experienced team leaders

When kids travel without their parents to international countries where they won’t know anyone, it’s critical that the team leaders who essentially care for them and guide them are up for the task. Nate loved his leaders, Sally and Bolo, and from his tales of fun games, jokes, and activities, I know they skillfully bonded 13 kids in short order. Group dynamics are never easy to control (some students come with friends, some solo), but a quality leader can even the playing field. Look for programs with leaders who keep kids busy (a full itinerary is a good sign) and encourage enthusiasm (and discourage negative talk).

surf camp 1

To find all the above without asking to shadow a trip yourself, do the next best thing: talk to program alumni. (Read about Nate’s day-to-day itinerary in his own words.) Quality teen service programs will connect families with teens and parents who have been through the process. Also ask for a detailed trip itinerary and check a program’s reputation on multiple review sites like TripAdvisor before selecting one.  Ask for program policies, and make sure you’re comfortable with the level of supervision set. Know phone, electronic device, and drug/alcohol policies before you invest, so you can be sure the program is aligned with your family’s values or rules. Lastly, do your research to ensure the destination is currently safe to visit. After you’ve done your due diligence, relax, and enjoy watching your teen blossom while using his or her newfound travel skills!


About the Author

Amy Whitley is a family travel writer, editor, and magazine columnist living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. Amy is the founder of, where she writes travel advice and destination reviews for families with kids ages 0-18.

Back to Homeschool Message Boards


DIY Back to School (Back to Homeschool) Message Boards are fun to make.  Just check out the pics below.

If you’d like a closer look, the how-to instructions are on pages 36-37 in’s Back to Homeschool magazine!

By the way, this article is written by Chris C. Her blog is .


Back to School36 diy2

diy1diy1Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!


August 13, 2014

Back to Homeschool Craft & Snack Ideas


Back to Homeschool Craft & Snack Ideas — this is a really fun article! You can check out the pics below.

If you’d like a closer look, this article can be found on pages 33-34 in’s Back to Homeschool magazine!


Back to School34 Back to School35

August 12, 2014

Time for Homeschool!


Time for Homeschool

Written by Erin Steeley

This is just one of the exceptional articles in’s

newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool


Whether you’re new to homeschooling or an old hand, making the first day, or week of your children’s school year special is important, and a great opportunity to make memories! It can be used to set the tone for the entire school year, and can also be a fun and exciting experience for the whole family. You can use the occasion to commemorate the decision to homeschool, or to just start things off with a bang, if you’re a veteran homeschooler. The goal is to have fun!

I like to involve my children in some of the suggestions for what we do for the beginning of school, as well as the rest of the school year. I ask them to name three things they’d like to do or learn about for the beginning of school, and try to put together unit studies for them using some of their ideas. Nothing too involved; I like to keep it light and fun the first few days. By involving them in the brainstorming, it can be helpful in keeping them focused and more committed to the subject matter. This can be especially important when young children are involved.

Allowing kids to help sort out a daily or weekly schedule is good, too. I like to type ours up, laminate it, and post it in our school space. I have young children, so I also have similar schedules posted in the bathroom and bedroom for morning and bedtime routines, and on the fridge for mealtime routines that the kids can help with. Many parents find that children enjoy the routine more when they at least have the impression that they are somewhat in charge, and the day to day monotony can be lessened. I find this to be true of homeschooling, as well.

Letting them pick out their school supplies is another way to help children embrace the new school year. I like to visit a dollar store and let them pick several things they like. Special pencils, sparkly crayons, and character notebooks are cheap and easy pleasers. Also, it can be a celebration of freedom from the boring supply restrictions of public schools, if you are new to homeschooling.

A fun and educational field trip is always a good idea, and can start your school year off with some excitement. A children’s library, a science museum, or a zoo are some ideas. If your kids are involved in the arts, a day at the ballet, opera, theater, or local art gallery would be good, though younger kids might not be as interested as their more mature counterparts, or have the necessary attention span.

One of my favorite things to do is to take pictures on the first day, and the last day, and several times throughout the year. We then make a journal/portfolio/scrapbook (sometimes all three) that the kids put together as we go along. They love to reflect on the fun times and milestones reached, and hard lessons mastered.

Time capsules are a memorable way to kick off your homeschool days. We used an empty Pringles can. You can put photos of your kids on their first day, and a hand or foot tracing. You can even do a whole body tracing if you make your capsule big enough. You can record your children’s height, and have them write down some of their favorite things, or things they want to learn this school year. At the end of the year, open them, and discuss what has changed since that first day.

Another good craft idea is to have your homeschoolers create decorations for the school space. They can be basic school themed items, such as alphabet, math facts, historical figures, or literary characters to start the school year off, and then add to the display of masterpieces as you cover more material. I like to give them a craft idea from each book we read, and decorate the area as we move through our school year.

Education/school themed snacks and meals are another fun way to celebrate. For instance, if your kiddo has a favorite book, you can incorporate book themed foods and crafts into the first week of school. My kids love The Kissing Hand, so we have made Kissing Hand cookies, and hand crafts with paints.

When our family decided to homeschool our children, we celebrated by having ice cream for dinner. This was a spur of the moment, silly thing, but has evolved into a once a month tradition. It’s nice to use “ice cream dinners” for special occasions, and just to break the monotony of school days when they get a bit tiresome.

A really good idea is to create a name for your homeschool, a theme, or a mission statement. Or all three, if you are so inclined. You can have your kids contribute ideas and help pick the name. You can choose school colors, and your family pets can serve as mascots. I, personally, love the idea of a homeschool mission statement, which can be malleable with every passing year.

Our children’s education and enrichment is our common goal as homeschoolers, and it can be incredibly rewarding, but also very challenging. That’s why it’s vital to start off the homeschool year with fun and eager attitudes, and EVERYONE has to work hard to maintain it through the year, but like anything where our children are concerned, it’s well worth it! And you can make it so much FUN!


Bio–Hello there! My name is Erin, and I am a homemaker, mommy, and new homeschooler. I have two young daughters, ages six and four. They are my sunshine, and they sure keep me on my toes! 

They’re always full of energy and are both incredibly precocious. I keep pretty busy with kids, husband, home, and now a little writing.

I’ve always loved to write, although I haven’t had occasion to do much of it since my first year of college. I often find that it’s my truest and best form of therapy. There is that quote from William Faulkner that says “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it “, and nothing else holds more true for me.

My new blog will be, and you can touch bases with me on Facebook too –

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