Helping Struggling Spellers (+ Giveaway)

Helping Struggling SpellersWhile it is only one aspect of writing, one of the most common challenges children run into with writing is spelling. When encountering words children cannot spell, they do one of several things: ask for help, look it up, try it out or shutdown. The child who shuts down is likely the child who struggles with spelling even seemingly simple words.

The tips in this post will help you help your struggling speller.

Children learn to spell through:

  • reading
  • writing
  • phonics
  • visual memory
  • direct teaching of spelling rules
  • vocabulary study in context

6 areas that stump spellers:

  1. lack of phonemic awareness (sound-symbol relationship)
  2. not enough exposure to letter patterns (ex: /ough/ or /augh/)
  3. little to no knowledge of word origins
  4. small repertoire of vocabulary words
  5. lack of explicitly taught spelling strategies
  6. fear of taking risks

How to help a struggling speller:

Contrary to what you might have learned as a student yourself, spelling is not learned by memorizing lists of words. Instead, children learn various strategies and apply them to their writing.

Here are some tips to helping your struggling spellers:

  1. Read and write. Since spelling goes hand-in-hand with reading and writing, both of these need to be fostered daily. It’s simple: read daily, write daily.
  2. Model. As with everything else you do, model the spelling strategies you use as you write, for instance, a grocery list, by thinking aloud. Children need to see adults writing and spelling for authentic purposes. They need to understand the importance of correct spelling. They also need to see adults making errors and then using strategies to help them spell words correctly.
  3. Keep it inclusive. Don’t make spelling a separate subject of the homeschool day. Spelling can be explored all day long in all activities and subjects. Point out words as you read recipes, on your drive to grandma’s, at the grocery store, during a science experiment, etc. As your child attempts to write throughout the day, keep track of words he has difficulty with in a little notebook.
  4. Focus on meaningful spelling. After you have a list of words your child regularly struggles with (you have them written in a notebook, as outlined in #3), use those words as spelling lists for your child. The most motivating way for struggling learners to tackle spelling is to spell words that mean something to them. Yes, words like “Superman” or “Nickelodeon” are perfectly accepted, if this is what your child wants to learn to spell.
  5. Teach spelling strategies. Children need to learn and practice strategies for effective spelling. Some strategies include learning mnemonics (memory tricks and rules), using visual memory, looking in a reference book, using spell-check, and even asking an adult.
  6. Encourage risk-taking. Reluctant or struggling spellers often withdraw from taking risks with spelling for fear of making an error. By doing all of the above, you are empowering and motivating your child to take risks with spelling. Be gentle and understanding. You will see strides in no time.
  7. Learn from the spelling errors. Hold yourself back from correcting the spelling errors right off the bat. Instead, analyze the errors your child makes. Is the issue phonic? Are the errors related to a lack of meaning of the words? Does he make reversals? Over time, you will see a pattern that can help you understand exactly what your child is struggling with which will help guide your lessons.

Giveaway: If you’d like specialized help with the concept of spelling for your child, I am giving away one FREE Spelling Planning Session to readers of Christian Homeschool Moms. I can help you identify your child’s spelling struggles and then give you strategies to help him overcome them.

All you need to do is answer this question in the comments below: What does your child struggle with most in spelling?

What to expect from the session:

  • a pre-session welcome package/ questionnaire will be sent to you requiring you to send it back to me at least 48 hours before our session
  • two 30-minute consultations (via Skype)
  • follow-up report sent to you within 8 days with customized details that recaps our discussion and offers additional resources, references, ideas, tips and tricks (and so that you can keep the notes from our session)

The comments will close on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. EST. A winner will be selected by random generator and will be posted by noon the same day. The offer is open to all elementary homeschoolers (with or without children with special needs).

Collaborative Homeschooling: A Chat with Devin Dabney of Connected Homeschooling

collaborative homeschooling

Today on the iHomeschool Studio, one of  the speakers is Devin Dabney who will be sharing about Collaborative Homeschooling.

I also had the opportunity to share with Devin 3 tips on how our family collaborates with other homeschoolers.  You can listen in on Devin’s site, Connected Homeschooling.

Listen in here to my chat with Devin

and don’t forget to join us at iHomeschool Studio to hear Devin speak on Collaborative Homeschooling.


Our Sonlight Core F Week 14 update and Book Haul

So it’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on my Sonlight experience. So far, so good…but we’ve made a few tweaks here and there.

First of all, I’m finding that with Core F (World Cultures) there are so many possibilities for activities, in addition to the books we’re reading, and we can never read them fast enough. That said, SL is one of those programs that’s worth every penny, but you’ve got to be very confident in your own homeschooling endeavors when you embark on the journey because you might just need to do some tweaking.

In our case, we’ve decided to slow down our progress so that we’ll finish up with Core F the middle of next year- maybe.  My goal is to have us finish up one week’s worth of material within two weeks which doubles up our time to spend on the books and not need to rush through anything.  Also, the writing assignments are pretty good and since we’re on a 4 day school schedule it’s just not enough time to focus on each writing assignment weekly.  We’ve skipped quite a few already and I really don’t like skipping.  We need all the writing practice we can get. So, we’re doubling up our weeks in between to give us more time to really focus on getting through our books and writing assignments at a more reasonable pace.

I talk more about it on this video.

A few weeks back I went with a friend to a homeschool sale, and I came back with a boatload of materials- including some Sonlight instructor’s guides!  Can we just say I was pretty excited to run into that gold mine! Here’s a video about it.

If you’re an experienced Sonlight user I’d love to hear more about how you manage different cores and schedule them out.

Do you stick with the  schedule or tweak it?

Making Christmas Memorable for Your Child with Special Needs

Making Christmas Memorable for Your Child with Special Needs 1 Families of children with special needs don’t celebrate the holidays like everyone else.  As much as we’d like to countdown to the wonderful time spent with family, we just can’t enjoy the events in the same way.  Our children require extra attention and extra preparation that can drain us before the holidays even begin.

The usual hustle and bustle of the holidays may easily set-off our children with special needs.  They might find the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays too much to take in at once. They may find crowds (and the loud noises that come with them) overwhelming.  They might also find a change in their daily routine/ sleep schedule difficult to overcome.

Children with motor delays may require additional equipment to be transported from place to place.  And, children with feeding difficulties may even need a special meal to be prepared ahead of time.  All of these seemingly “little things” can easily add up to great stress for parents.

For many years, I felt anxious with the coming of the holidays.  After spending a month anticipating the holidays, I found myself unable to enjoy the celebrations at all.  In fact, it got to a point where I outright dreaded them.  My son felt the tension and I probably spoiled matters for him as a result.

I had lost touch with the meaning of Christmas.

I didn’t feel the spirit.

And, I certainly did not reflect the joy that was expected at this time of year.

I decided two years ago to take control of this festive season.  Bowing out of the holidays is not possible without offending family.  Instead, I now make sure that we celebrate Christmas the entire month of December.  By the time the 24th and 25th roll around, I am so full of the message of Christmas, I am not disappointed if things don’t turn out how I anticipate them.

Making Christmas Memorable for Your Child with Special Needs

If you experience the same apprehension at this time of year, here are some ideas to make homeschooling leading up to Christmas special for your child and family.

1- Bring on the magic.  Beginning on the first of the month, take out the Christmas books, decoration, and music.  By bringing out holiday-themed items, your mood will naturally lift, as will your child’s.

2- Share a story. Read from your collection of Christmas books on a daily basis.  You could either begin or end the day with a Christmas story.  I do both, but I also introduce a book after dinner – just to make it extra special.

3- Focus on holiday words.  In order to prepare your child for the big celebration, target theme words he’ll hear on those days.  You can highlight nouns (gift, Baby Jesus, Christmas tree), verbs (open, tear, eat, sing), and exclamatory words (Ho-Ho-Ho!).

4- Advent calendar.  Advent calendars are wonderful for several reasons.  For one, you can highlight the numbers for 25 days.  Secondly, you help develop anticipation in a visual fashion for your child.  No matter the design of the calendar, ensure to include a daily prayer on a strip of paper hidden somewhere within.

5- Advent candles.  Begin dinner each night by lighting a candle in an advent wreath and saying a little prayer. The flickering light brings peace to the table.  Your child will be instantly drawn to the magic of the season.

Advent candles and advent wreath

6- Sing carols. Have a series of carols ready for reference – either on cards or in books.  I pull out my book of carols and have my son select a page for us to sing based on his preferred image.  He participates by making choices, and I belt out the best version of the carol I can.

7- Drive around to behold the magic of the lights.  Experience some holiday light therapy by driving around different neighborhoods a couple of nights per week.  You can discuss the colors and sights from the warmth of your car.

8- Be grateful and pray. Give thanks for the peaceful days leading up to Christmas and pray for some gentle moments amongst family and friends.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season.

What are your family’s challenges throughout the holidays?  How do you overcome them?

047-Making Your Homeschool Special (& Spicing It Up!)


homeschool podcast about making your homeschool special

This homeschool podcast is all about ways to make homeschooling special for your family.

I know all too often how easy it is to get caught up in the daily hum drum of our homeschool routines, and before we know it, one day turns into the next and the next…and we’ve gotten ourselves stuck in a rut.

I think it does a lot of good to keep things spiced up a bit by changing up our routines from time to time, and making ways to celebrate those special occasions with our kids.

Tips on making your homeschool special

  1. Take fieldtrips with other families.
  2. Get involved (in group activities such as park days or co-ops or other outings with other homeschoolers).
  3. Volunteer your time and meeting needs in your community.
  4. Let your kids be a part of your support groups, women’s studies.
  5. Give your school a name together.
  6. Make school t-shirts.
  7. Talk about your school in an exciting way and make exciting event days.
  8. Make your school environment special- utilizing your spaces and walls for school decorations and keeping your supplies organized.
  9. Make the first day of school special.  For example, have a picture day.
  10. Have a “school shopping” day.
  11. List class rules on display.
  12. Offer a circle time for younger kids.  It makes school special for them.
  13. Make annual progress reports and file them away in a binder along with their picture for keepsakes.
  14. Give “graduation ceremonies” for each year.
  15. Get dad involved in by encouraging him to share his skill sets. Make him a principal or a consultant.

Links I mention

I love to hear from you! If you enjoyed the podcast, please leave me a comment and give any suggestions for new topics!


 Other ways to reach me…

045-Don’t Compare Yourself With Other Homeschooling Moms


On this homeschool podcast, I’m sharing my advice on not comparing ourselves with other homeschooling moms, as well as tips on surviving homeschool conventions and we’re running a time-sensitive giveaway , sponsored by Great Homeschool Conventions.  You can register below for a chance to win!

GHC Registration

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I mention our awesome guest bloggers here at CHM: Chasity Champion, Mary-Kate Warner, Rochelle, and Andrea .

I talk about our 10 Days of Fun Autumn Craft Activities For Young Kids.


  • God made you unique, and just for your kids.  Your kids need you the way you are- not like anyone else.
  • Other moms who might seem to have it all together, really don’t.
  • Don’t make curricula choices based on pure recommendations. What works for another mom might be a disaster for you- and vice versa.  Make sure you feel it’s a good fit for you and your kids.
  • Ask what you need, and God will supply your needs.  He is Provider and He provides wisdom liberally, so if you need help He’s there to supply it for you.

**Also, here’s a quick video bonus plug on the Great Homeschool Conventions event:

Enjoy the podcast by clicking the play button below or subscribing in Itunes! Have a blessed week :-)

Tips for Surviving Homeschool Conventions

homeschool conventions

Next year I’ll be at the the Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, California!  I’m so excited about finally attending a conference after two years of not being able to fit it into our schedule.

(I am partnering with Great Homeschool Conventions who is sponsoring this giveaway.)

A few years ago I attended one of my first homeschool conventions. It was the experience of a lifetime!

But although I felt entirely connected to this movement, left workshops feeling challenged and motivated- I barely survived in the vendor halls.

Before you set foot at a homeschool convention, I’ll give you a few tips to help you make your way through the myriad of choices you’ll need to make.

Tips for Surviving Homeschool Conventions

1.) Don’t leave home until you take inventory.

Until you know exactly which curriculum you’ll need, you may find yourself open to any and all suggestions about what to purchase once you’re at the vendor halls.  Believe me, I know.

I’ve made many instinctual purchases because I didn’t have a plan or hadn’t fully thought through all the curriculum I currently owned at home already.

Taking inventory of what you own will keep you from making duplicate purchases and help you to see how you can repurpose what you already have to fit a need before you purchase more.

2.) Become familiar with the speaker schedule and select your workshops before hand.

It will save you lots of time if you strategically plan which workshops will be most beneficial to you before you leave home.  That way, once you’re at the convention you already know your schedule (where you and your spouse will be, and where your kids will be.)

Planning ahead of time gives your family the peace of mind you need to relax and just have a good time when you get there.

It also prepares your heart and mind to glean as much as you can from the workshops.  You’ll get a whole lot more out of it if you plan to attend workshops that speak to your current homeschooling situation.

Remember, your goal is to leave refreshed, encouraged, and motivated, so pick the speakers and workshops you think will meet that need. ( Many times convention speakers and topic sessions are posted to the website weeks in advance.)

3.)  Make a list of items and curricula that are easiest to purchase at the convention.  

If I can purchase it easily at my local Target or Dollar Store, I don’t make it a priority on my convention checklist. (This includes materials like pencils, erasers, and notebook paper.)

I usually go for the bigger items- curricula- and maybe a few posters and workbooks.

4.) Arrive early.

This goes without saying.  The earlier you can arrive, get your name tags, and get checked in- the easier it will be for your family to transition into this new all-day setting (especially if you have younger kids!)

5.) Get your kids situated.

Hopefully they’ve had a good breakfast and a good night’s sleep the night before. Once at the convention, brief your kids on where they’ll be (if they’re going to a teen track or kids’ event) and encourage them to have a great time.

If they stay with you, make sure they have plenty of activities to stay quiet and busy while you attend workshops. For younger kids, bring a blanket, crayons and coloring books,  books to read, mess-free snacks,or even electronic games (just make sure to bring earbuds!)

If the kiddos aren’t cooperating and you have to leave a workshop early, don’t sweat it.  Most bigger conventions have CD production service companies record each of their workshops which you can buy before you leave the convention.  If you miss a workshop, you can usually grab the CD at the end of the workshop.

Older kids may enjoy reading or gaming, tinkering with smart phones, listening to ipods- or better yet- listening to the workshop speakers. (What better way to teach older kids to participate in workshops than by practicing their listening skills?)

6.) Know the schedule.

Here are some pertinent questions to ask yourself before the event begins:

  • Will there be a used book sale between workshop breaks?
  • If a used books sale is available, will you need to purchase used books first before you view the vendor hall?
  • Where is the vendor hall?
  • What time will vendors be selling curriculum?
  • When will you have breaks between workshops and what will you do to maximize that time? (i.e-browsing curriculum in the vendor hall, picking up your kids for lunch?)

7.) Take a deep breath, and enjoy!

It’s your convention.  Treat it like a retreat.  This is your time to recharge for a new year of homeschooling, so take it all in and allow yourself to receive encouragement for another year of homeschooling your children.

This year I’ll be attending a convention sponsored by Great Homeschool Conventions! This is a great choice.

Would you like the chance to attend a  homeschool convention for free?

GHC Registration

Enter this raffle drawing to receive:

1 Family Registration + 2 passes to the Family Comedy Night + 1 pass to the REAL FAITH for the REAL WORLD Teen Track (your choice of 2014 convention location- if you’re the winner!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

044-Convincing Fathers Who Are Reluctant To Homeschool


reluctant fathers homeschooling

What do you do if you- mom- wants to homeschool, but dad doesn’t agree?

Some common concerns many fathers have about homeschooling might be:

  • fear of family’s isolation, being the odd one out, or not being socialized
  • fear of lack of competence to successfully homeschool
  • unfamiliarity with home education (and especially within your demographic or cultural community)
  • negative advice from others

How to win over fathers:

1.) Listen to the concerns of the father.  

Many dads have reasonable concerns about home education (as listed above) and our goal is to make sure we’ve done what we can to give dads the peace of mind that homeschooling is a viable decision for our families.

2.) Take time to research your topic.   

  • Look for places to find good, legal homeschooling advice (such as HSLDA), and look for the homeschooling websites and support groups for your area
  • Research styles, methods, and philosophies
  • Read homeschooling books, magazines
  • Listen to homeschooling podcasts and conference audios
  • Watch homeschooling videos

In other words, become as familiar as you can about home education so that you come prepared and ready to explain anything you should need to the father.

3.) Seek ways to produce fruit.

The kids’ academic and spiritual growth developing over time is a great reminder to fathers. Some ideas for showing that homeschooling is producing great fruit in your home are:

  •  learning portfolios

  •  in-home music recitals just for dad or other father-like figure

  •  models or art pieces or science and other projects kids have worked on

Remember to take it one day at a time and be patient. It takes time to grow ripened fruit, and it will take time to mold our homeschools.

Hopefully, if you apply some of these strategies, with time reluctant fathers will begin to become less reluctant about homeschooling.

**Special shout-outs to those of you who have left positive messages on Itunes and Speakpipe this month: Starvibe,  Jackaroolane, and Tehut.

** A Great Homeschool Conventions-sponsored giveaway is coming up on my site next week! Winners will receive a free package to the next GHC convention!



 Other ways to reach me…

020-Recycling Your Used Homeschool Books


used homeschool books

Used Homeschool Books- what to do when you no longer need them?

In this homeschool podcast I talk about my “Spring Cleaning” process- and this time it has everything to do with figuring out what to do with my used homeschool books.

(At the beginning of the podcast,  I share some announcements about the SEE The Light contest, which ends tomorrow.    I also am attempting to remember to give my contact info with each show, and provide them in my shownotes as well.  So, I’ll include them at the bottom of this post.)

So here is a brief summary of what to do with your used homeschool books:

Ask your friends.

This may sound like an easy one, but oftentimes we forget that our friends may need something we might actually have looming around in our garage or down in the basement.  Do a quick inventory of what you own and when a friend says, “hmmm…I’ve been wondering about the XYZ curriculum”, you can say “oh, you know what? I have an old copy of that book in my basement.  Why don’t I just let you borrow it and if you it’s something you’ll need go ahead and keep it!”

That’s what friends are for.

Check your local homeschool co-ops and interest groups.

Many homeschool groups that meet weekly or monthly have special days of the year set aside specifically for swapping or selling used curriculum.  Check to see if you can hop aboard and get rid of some of your stuff.  What you don’t need any longer could be a lifesaver for another mom this school year.  Homeschool groups are an easy way to share ideas and swap items.

Check homeschool conventions and used books sales.

I’ve gotten about 80% of my curriculum and homeschool materials at used book sales.  I’ve gotten a smaller percentage brand new at homeschool conventions (my first year homeschooling) until I learned the secrets of shopping for used homeschool books at  used book sales.  Homeschool shoppers want to save money, so check to see if you can set up a booth at a homeschool convention’s used book sale spot, or keep your ears alert to announcements about homeschool book sales coming to your area.  You probably will want to have your books already sorted,  packed, and priced so that when the opportunity should arise that you can squeeze into a book sale as a vendor and set up a quick booth, you’re already set to go.  This probably works best for families who have a LOT of books to sell.  If you only have 2 or 3 items, you may want to consider the following options:

Try selling your used homeschool books online

These are quick ways to get your items listed online for sale for little investment (as opposed to the vendor booth rental idea). has been around for years and it’s been a successful method for me in selling my used homeschool books.  I sold my Classical Conversations and Shurley English curriculum here last summer and made almost 50% back on my original investment.  Other online venues for selling your used homeschool curriculum are:

Host a homeschool garage sale

If you have a garage and some good yard space, you can invite you can pass the word along to your local homeschooling groups about your planned garage sale.  Your used books will certainly be someone else’s treasured “new”, recycled books.  Brew up some coffee drinks or tea and hang out with your friends while you sell your used homeschool books at steep discounts (saving them money, and putting money back into your pocket for new stuff you want to buy).

Consign your used homeschool books.

Do you have a local consignment store or bookstore whose shelves always seem to be empty?  Perhaps you can offer to consign your items, which benefits both of you.  Of course, this might work better if you have a lot of items- but you never know until you ask.

Donate, donate, donate

If all else seems like a load of work, you can always donate your used homeschool books.  Try charities, the YMCA, schools, and even your Friends of the Library organizations.  But more importantly, don’t forget about your homeschooling friends – many of whom need what you have.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast and blog post, please be sure to rate us in Itunes, and subscribe to my blog.  Here’s how to stay tuned:



015-Choosing Homeschool Curriculum


ID-100103839 This episode is all about the basic steps of choosing homeschool curriculum.  And although basic it might seem, it’s so easy to forget amidst all the choices just how simple and uncomplicated the process could actually be.

The tips I suggested in this podcast are to:

  1. Know your educational philosophy.
  2. Know your child’s learning style.
  3. Familiarize yourself with materials and curricula before purchasing.
  4. Start minimally (freebies are great!)

The resources I mentioned in this podcast are,, and

014-Choosing a Homeschool Philosophy


Woman reading

This homeschool podcast is all about choosing your educational philosophy.  I share my story about how our family came to the decision to homeschool and our journey toward selecting a homeschool philosophy.

I end with some tips on determining which methods to use in your homeschool. To recap:

  1. Familiarize yourself with different models.  Figure out what each method represents and ofers, the main ideas and highlighs of each
  2. Determine which method fits your lifestyle in the season of life your in now (as opposed to previously or in the future).  Your methods may change as your children mature.
  3. For younger children, remember that the three r’s and their spiritual awareness are foundational.
  4. For older kids, remember to get the help you need by outsourcing or finding other resources that can help to meet your needs.

© Scantynebula | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos


013-Kickstarting Your Homeschool Plans For The New Year


stockvault-pen-127806 In this homeschool podcast episode I give spiritual and practical tips to jump-starting your homeschool resolutions for a new year of purpose and success.  It’s always crucial to have a plan of action…and with homeschooling, if you want to be successful planning is absolutely essential.

In summary, I encourage you to:

  1. start small
  2. don’t compare
  3. celebrate your success

Don’t forget to write down your plan of action and move forward.  If you plan to succeed, you will!

Happy New Year!

If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe in Itunes and rate the podcast. I love your support :-)

God bless!


Subscribe in Itunes


012-Celebrating The Holidays In Your Homeschool- The Christmas Edition


merrychristmas Well, believe it or not, it’s here…Christmas is tomorrow and my kids are really excited about it. What are some of your traditions in your family?  How do you celebrate?

In this homeschool podcast I share my Christmas project ideas for kids, fill you in on some things my kids and I have been doing at home, encourage you to keep family important, and I’ll share some wonderful Christmas background music to get you in the holiday mood!


Enjoy …and Merry Christmas!


011-Homeschooling on a Budget:Interview with Erin J. of Mahogany Homemaker


Speed Star 1.1420401  00 This week’s homeschool podcast episode is with special guest, Erin J. of Mahogany Homemaker.  She brings to us experience in homeschooling on a budget.  With limited resources and even on a shoestring budget, be encouraged that you can be ultimately in charge of your child’s home education, and with confidence.  Erin gives us some tips and pointers on how to do just that, and she shares a variety of resources that can help us.

We talked about:

  • what inspired her to begin homeschooling her children
  • which special subjects she wanted to teach her children that weren’t necessarily taught in public schools
  • how she pulled together free and low-cost materials to homechool her children
  • the pros and cons of using pre-packaged curriculum versus creating your own

And lastly…here is Erin’s compilation list of free resources you can use to homeschool children successfully:

Total Curriculum

Lesson Pathways

Old Fashioned Education

Head of the Class

Ambleside Online



M.E.P Math( full curriculum)

Living Math




ABC Fast Phonic

Progressive Phonic



Classics For Kids

Sphinx Kids


Record Keeping

Homeschool Sked Track

Donna Young

Highland Heritage Homeschool


Don’t forget to check out Erin’s YouTube channel: Mahogany Homemaker!

Also…if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe in Itunes.

Homeschooling over the Holidays

Hannukah, Advent, Christmas…the holidays are definitely upon us.   (For some of you blessed with December babies, you have birthdays to celebrate in December as well, which can be double the work, but double the fun!)

So what kinds of things does your family do over the holidays?  Do you stop with your academic school work or keep going right up until Christmas?  Do you incorporate some holiday festivities into your school days?

Please share in the comment section, or jump on over to our homeschool facebook page and share your thoughts with the rest of us there.

In our family, we’ve chosen to keep up with our academic studies until the week of Christmas (when we get a whole week off- yay!), but we’re doing a lot holiday festive things in our home too…

We created our own little hannukah gelt with melted chocolate chips and peppermint wrapped in foil.  We didn’t have gold foil, but it turned out just as well.  And we got our dreidel from a local community nativity event a church put on in our area.



And although we didn’t quite have the tall advent candles, we used what we had on hand for own special Advent lighting ceremonies at home.


Our homeschool days are looking more and more relaxed as we get closer to the holidays.  Yes, we still have our academic subjects in the morning, but they’re kind of laced with holiday-ish activities (arts and crafts and fun puzzles, mazes, coloring pages, or word seeks).  Somewhere between my 5th grader’s math, science, and grammar, we fit in some holiday fun.

And let’s not forget the cookies.  A few days cannot pass without one of us looking at each other, asking: “where are the chocolate chip cookies?”  My homemade ones are pretty yummy and fill the entire house with the smells of Christmas, and we just want to wrap up in blankets with hot chocolate and relax.  To me, that’s the best part of homeschooling over the holidays.

In another post, I’ll give some ideas about Advent,  Hannukah, and Christmas  activities you can participate in with your kids.

Christmas on a Shoestring Budget

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about doing Christmas on a budget…and for you moms who are fighting the urge to get out in the malls to do your last shopping (or not!), this article is for you.  And…for me.   *smile*

So, here we go…

Christmas is just around the corner and many of us are gearing up for a holiday season filled with fun, family, and good times. However, good times can be met with reticence when we know what lies ahead: the mad rush of holiday shopping, spending more than we planned, and a mountain of gifts to return after the holidays are over. Nobody wants to end up in that boat. For homeschooling moms, especially, it makes a lot of practical sense to continue along the lines of planning, clipping, and saving – those things we’re already used to doing throughout the year. But somehow, the holiday glitz and glam has a way of pulling us into the trap of pulling out more cash from our purses than we intended. So here are a few tips that can help us all remember to hold our course.

To read the rest of this article, hop on over to The Homeschool Post.


Q&A: How To Get Your Schoolwork Done Without Stress (6th grade suggestions)

I received an insightful question from one of my viewers about how to get her schoolwork done without feeling stressed out.  She’s a 6th grade homeschool student who feels that, at the end of the day, all of her schoolwork is crashing down on her.

Here are some of the tips I shared on this video:

1.) Start your day with a clear conscious.  It’s always a great idea to pray and meditate, clear your thoughts and get your focus where it needs to be.  Yes, even in grade school, you can begin to develop these practices and it’s very healthy for you in the long run.  Eat a great breakfast and drink a glass of water.  Breathe deeply and know that you can tackle the day’s assignments ahead.  This is a great way to avoid homeschool stress.

2.)  Look at your schedule at a weekly glance.  To avoid becoming overwhelmed, try to narrow down your assignment list to one week at a time.  This will give you an idea of how to pace your homeschool schedule throughout the week.

3.) Have daily goals.  Make sure you keep on task with your goals for each day, and only for that day.  Also, tackle the harder assignments first.

4.)   Ask your tutor or parent for assistance when they’re fresh and in the mood for helping.   This means it’s really important to determine a best time to homeschool- one that fits around the needs of your parent/tutor who also has to wear many hats throughout the day.  Prioritize your assignments so that you finish the bigger, more time-consuming ones earlier and first thing, and leave the more transportable ones (like worksheets) for trips to the grocery store.

5.) Try to stick through your schedule/routine without taking too many breaks.  Take a few breaks (maybe 5-10 minutes) each, but don’t stop for too long or you might get distracted.  Stay focused.

How To Fix Your Homeschool Burnout

During my few years of homeschooling, I’ve had those days when getting up to teach just wasn’t my cup of tea. My kids were cranky; I was cranky, and nobody wanted to “do school”.

Yeah, those were the days when school consisted of a stack of textbooks and workbooks piled neatly on the table next to a timer, a pencil, and one eraser. Oh, and I had a school bell.  And (sigh - this is so embarrassing), my daughter wore her school uniform.  At home.

Okay, so I was a little over-the-top.  But at least I was excited about our homeschool, right?  Only problem is that this way of homeschooling didn’t (or couldn’t for that matter) last for long…

(To read my 4 tips, hop on over to HSBA Post to read the rest of this article!)


Five Steps To Homeschooling Without Stress

(You may  re-print this article so long as you keep my bio and web link intact – found at the end of the article.  Thanks!)


1.) Don’t get stuck in a rut.  Although it’s true that kids need routine, sometimes putting a little variety into your school day makes a tremendous difference in your results.  Adding in a few outings (a trip to the library or museum), changing up the pace a bit (watching an educational video in place of your normal workbook routine) , or even doing something spontaneous (getting spiraled into a learning trail doing online research  on something your child has a sudden interest in, or even playing an impromptu board game that helps to instill a particular math skill) can make a huge impact on your enjoyment of home education.  Also, you don’t necessarily have to finish a curriculum you started off using at the beginning of the year if it no longer works.  It’s okay to change  pace and start on a different trail if you feel it will work out better for you.  Kids need routine in addition to variety, and you, mom, need it too.

2.)  Use different resources and tools for learning.  With the mass amount of learning materials available for students today, we can sometimes forget just how important it is to really incorporate these into a learning schedule.  If your kids are learning math, for example, cuisinaire rods are very helpful for a primary student to understand the concrete nature of 10′s, 20′s, and 30′s so that they can later begin to understand the abstract thoughts of mathematics.  In language arts, if your children are learning parts of speech, flash card games can be helpful.  Another example is for bible studies: kids generally love to listen to stories.  So, finding online podcasts geared toward children that help them to read/listen to the bible and understand its relevance in their daily lives is relevant.  One bible podcast my kids enjoy is Daily Audio Bible for Kids.  Some other helps are Keys for Kids and Down Gileads Lane.

3.)  Have general goals for your kids.  Setting broad and realistic goals for your children is a very important aspect of homeschooling success.  Sometimes if you try to hard to follow regimented and strict standards for your kids, you might be disappointed in the results.    If you can simply set your mind toward focusing on a few, important goals for your kids (as opposed to the array of hundreds of standards set by your state for the public school system), you’ll find success in this relaxed approach.  Also, keeping in mind that your children will learn at different rates because they are uniquely wired, helps you to understand their needs in relation to your goals, and you’re more apt to create realistic goals.  It takes away unneeded stress when you don’t try to make you and your children conform to some other entity’s idea of education.    Set your own goals based on your children’s needs at the moment and work toward those goals with patience.

4.) View your whole world as education.  Everything within reach to your children creates the learning environment.  If you provide a rich environment for your children, full of your culture, faith, ideas, and family values, your children will “soak in” the extra pieces of their environment and it will also become part of their overall education.  Choosing your books, DVD’s, toys, music, and computer games wisely will help you to tailor the atmosphere of your home.  Also, realizing that learning extends beyond the boundaries of your walls and the set aside block of time for the core academics, is always helpful.  Once you begin to see your child’s play dates, trips to the park or the museum, and trek to the grocery store as part of their learning experience, you’ll be amazed at how much in your world and community can make up the complete educational package for your kids each year.

5.)  Take a break.  Many public and private school educators have in-service days, in addition to their sick leave.  As a home educator, there is nothing wrong with taking an in-service day to rest up, prepare for another session of school, or to simply recover from the last one! If you want to avoid unnecessary stress and burnout, you’ll need to incorporate some “break” days into your school routine.  Not only does having an occasional break help your kids, but it helps you- the teacher- to relieve some of the stress that the daily routine of working (and homeschooling is work) can bring.  So, schedule a day each semester, or even a full week (or longer- it’s all up to you!) in order to rejuvenate and recuperate.

Also, remember to take it one day at a time.  If things don’t fall into place with your children’s learning experiences as you’d thought they would, just keep in mind: there’s always tomorrow.  No worries, no stress- simply homeschool.


Resources: for more information on homeschooling stress-free, check out my videos- Five Steps To Homeschooling Without Stress, pt. 1 and Five Steps To Homeschooling Without Stress, Pt. 2

Four Foundational Steps To Starting Up Your Homeschool

So you decided that you want to begin homeschooling.

Congratulations! Homeschooling is a big decision to make for your family.

The successful homeschooler will be sure to do research first and cover all your basics before embarking on your terrific journey!


First of all, you might want to check out this video on what homeschooling is all about.  This may answer some of your questions about what homeschooling is, who homeschools, and why they choose to homeschool.

Also, here are a few initial steps to consider when getting organized for a successful homeschool.

1.) Check with your local state homeschool laws. This is a crucial step for getting started with home education on the right path. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association ( has information about each state laws concerning homeschooling.  You can also get a head start over at the National Home Education Network.

Though homeschooling is definitely legal in every state, it is still imperative that you do your research first and find out what the requirements are for homeschooling in your state. Remember, don’t neglect this step! Homeschooling laws are different in each state, so it’s important to find out first hand, and not after the fact, what your state requires.



Watch this video to find out more about the legalities of homeschooling in general.


2.) Follow through on your state’s recommendations for compliance- whether that is to fill out a letter of intent for the public school board or list your planned curriculum. Again, each state has different laws that determine what you should to begin homeschooling. Visit the HSLDA website, and make first steps toward solidifying your family as official  homeschoolers.

312_29078821605_8698_n Listen to Kimberlee Wilkes explain steps to homeschooling on our podcast.

3.) Choose your curriculum. In most states, you can use whichever curriculum you choose. The choice is yours! Decide which types of curriculum would fit your children best- based on their learning styles and your lifestyle choice.

Consider grade level, age level, and the foundational subjects first (the three R‘s- reading, writing, and arithmetic for the younger years, and required courses for credit in higher grades such as biology, math, etc.). Then add any additional courses that your children might enjoy or have a passion or interest in (such as art, music, or dance, for example). You can find plenty of homeschool curriculum online and review them first hand at curriculum fairs or used book sales from other homeschoolers.

Listen in on this podcast about choosing homeschool curriculum based on your philosophy.

4.) Decide on a schedule. Whether it’s year-round school, or nine months out of the year like in traditional school settings, you need to decide how your school schedule will look for the upcoming academic year. Also decide on which classes you will offer and when. If your fifth grader will be taking algebra, science, american history, and geography, for example, you will want to decide on a daily schedule to keep him on task. Some families enjoy an 8-12 noon schedule. Others prefer school in the evenings or weekends. Select the type of schedule that will fit your family’s needs, and begin.

Listen in on my podcast on managing your time in your homeschool.

Homeschooling is a very rewarding journey of watching your children learn and grow. If you follow your initial steps into homeschooling properly, you will have a successful homeschool journey to look forward to.

Check out this article for an overview of more homeschool startup help.