Big Mistake You Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year-Pt 2

In Big Mistake Part 2, you will hear the story of our homeschool family’s transformation from our big mistake of allowing isolation (shared in part 1) to embracing new friends in a supportive community.

Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year - Part 2 by Donna Marie @
Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year – Part 2 by Donna Marie @



Toxic Relationship Pruning

Before we started homeschooling, I was very close to a community for most of my life. As a married mother of three, my children also became close with the same folks. Over the years, I began to grow and mature in ways that they were not. They also explicitly verbally let me know they had no interest in that type of growth. So, I made a very tough and painful choice.

My choice was to keep moving forward, instead of staying locked into old patterns by stagnant relationships. This tough choice had a lot of consequences that were good. However, the painful consequence was an isolation that I had not seen in my life in many years. It took me years to adjust to that separation, AND I have no regrets.

I do not regret it because I recognize the profound transformation this major life shift created in my life. I can now see the progress that came from that pain. It was a vitally important pruning by my Master Gardener, Father God. Avoiding that pain would have been a big mistake to hinder God from maturing me more.

Co-Op and Curriculum Changes PLUS Relocation

When we first started homeschooling in 2007, for several years we stayed connected with an active homeschool co-op group locally. I also became an active volunteer with the parent boosters organization in our virtual charter school. However, our seasons with both were over by 2012. So, when we returned to traditional homeschooling, we found ourselves with no supportive community for the first time in years.

And then, on top of those other shifts, we relocated. The relocation was the final straw that caused us to be more isolated from other people more than ever. The great benefit of relocating is that having to start over helps open your heart up to new things. This was a great new start for us to take some risks we probably would not have taken in our old community.


The pain of isolation which I felt for years really helped me to grow spiritually. It forced me to spend more time focusing on prayer and Bible study and less time talking to other people. I depended on Father God more instead of on other people for support. As I enjoyed more dedicated time with Him, I also asked him to send me the right new friends for myself and for my children.

Online and Phone Friends

After opening my heart to His Help, Father God started sending friends locally, and also online and by phone.

He sent me an awesome homeschool mom friend who is hundreds of miles away from where I live. She and I have committed to hold each other accountable. So, for the last 8 months, we have talked and prayed by phone for an hour or more at least twice each month.

He also blessed me with the CHM online community. I found them during my online search for encouraging homeschool resources. And I am delighted to now also be a member of the awesome writing team here, too. (Yeah!)

I share our story to show that God can and will send you real friends in the most unexpected ways. You simply have to recognize and embrace them as they come. Rest in God’s choices for you instead of trying to choose them in your own wisdom and strength.

Most times, you choose friends based on certain relationship patterns established during your youth. Sometimes the way you choose is not healthy, especially if you come from a dysfunctional family. However, if you release control in this area and open your heart, God will surprise you with great relationships.

Local Friends

The good news about our move is that we have finally gotten settled into our new home and community. So now we have been finding supportive community all around us. This has happened as we open our hearts, try new things and take risks.

We made a decision to start plugging in with some local programs that are not just for homeschoolers. The community leaders who are running these programs are very open and non-judgmental about educational choice. They are educational reform advocates and educational entrepreneurs who totally get us as a homeschooling choice family.

In the CHM community, we get you. How can I and the CHM community become part of your journey to building relationships? Read on to find out.

Poll - Building Community For Your Homeschool
Poll – Building Community For Your Homeschool


If you did not answer the poll in part 1 of this article series, make sure you take a look and join in on the conversation there. Participating in discussions like this can help you to build your supportive community online. It may even lead to you finding out important information about local opportunities that you were previously unaware of.

Click here to take a look at that first article, the poll and community discussion.


Two steps to see transformation in this area are:

  1. Ask Father God to help you recognize His answers. He can and will send you new friends.
  2. Choose to accept and embrace them no matter what they look like or where they are located.

God loves you and your family. He will bless your journey to get out and/or stay out of isolation for building a healthier and happier homeschool.


In part 3, I will share “Seven Benefits of Staying Community-Connected” to help those who answered No on the poll.

3 Ways to Maintain Beginning-of-Year Stamina Throughout the Homeschool Year

3 Ways to Maintain Beginning-of-Year Stamina throughout the Homeschool Year


Let’s face it. That beginning-of-year excitement doesn’t last very long. Despite all of our best intentions, despite the new books and materials, several weeks into it and we begin to lose our momentum.

That’s because it’s human nature.

Remez Sasson, founder of, cites overwhelm and stress as two common reasons for lack of motivation. Homeschoolers can easily fall into these two categories.

However, there are concrete things you can do to keep that pendulum swinging.

This post isn’t about what healthy food to eat, how to exercise, nor what to pray. Hopefully, you are doing all of those things already as they certainly do help with motivation levels. Instead, this post shares three strategies to encourage you to maintain staying power in your homeschool.

3 Ways to Maintain Beginning-of Year Stamina throughout the Homeschool Year

1- Plan in chunks. If you think of homeschool in terms of an entire year, it’s too overwhelming to manage. Instead, break the year into quarters (3-month periods) and then into months. Smaller chunks make it more feasible and more motivating for parents as you work toward the greater goals of the full year. On your calendar, block in time to plan 3-month increments, and also a set time when you’ll sit to plan for the month. When those items are scheduled, you’ll know they’re coming, and you’ll be more likely to follow-through.

2- Schedule quarterly assessments. Even if you’ll have an external evaluator, be sure to block in assessment weeks on your calendar that you’ll do yourself. I like to block in a week. That doesn’t mean I give exams on that week. It’s just a reminder for me to assess what we’ve been working on and what developmental level my little guy is at based on the skills we exercised during that quarter.

There are several benefits to blocking in those assessment weeks:

  • It permits you to be in the moment with your child on a daily basis, rather than continuously testing and evaluating. Because you know there is a designated week at the end of three months to assess progress, you can focus on teaching, guiding, and exploring instead. Record observations on a daily/ weekly basis, but don’t provide judgement until that assessment week.
  • When assessment week comes around, you can interpret observations and adjust your goals based on your child’s body of work, in addition to your observations from that quarter.

Charting progress helps you stay focused to keep going because you’ll have strides you’ll want to celebrate!

stamina in homeschooling stay the course

3- Schedule homeschooling breaks. Everyone needs a break. Block them into your yearly calendar. Be sure to have several days in a row each quarter. If you can, make it a week. Don’t feel like you are wasting time. Remember that homeschoolers have more hours than public-schoolers, so, you can afford it! A mental break refreshes parents and children alike. Besides, a solid, scheduled-in break allows you to be more productive both before and after the break. According to Rebecca Berreca, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “dividing yourself from routine, you learn new habits.”

Here’s to longevity in your homeschool year!

What do you do maintain endurance throughout the homeschool year?

If you would like help with planning the homeschool year, I have a new planning eWorkshop specifically for parents of children with special needs. You’ll learn how to break the year into quarters while planning for an entire year. You can find out more here (+ instantly download the first module FREE).

Higher Hopes

Higher Hopes

I bet my 2013 new year’s resolutions didn’t look like yours. I’ve always been a little fluffy, so instead of focusing on the weight room, I trained my sights on our classroom. Since the “new year” I had in mind was our new school year, I kicked off the semester promising things like

  • opening with circle time every day by 8:00 a.m., bright eyed and bushy tailed.
  • working through every item in my teacher’s planner.
  • arriving at co op, appointments, and lessons early.
  • grading in red ink.
  • reading only the classics.
  • taking one field trip a month.
  • practicing what I “teach” (using correct grammar ain’t easy).
  • convening class outside more often, being more “Charlotte Mason.”

It was easy enough to jot down my plans, even with M&M on my hip and my eyes crossed from sleep deprivation. But like all resolutions and promises, these were mere words, whether I wrote them in indelible red ink or with my favorite yellow Papermate pencil. For just like Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’S counsel—that will stand.”

Nope, my plans didn’t stand, or sit, or even crouch low to the ground. They were pulverized. By the year’s end my planner was covered in red X’s, its pages splattered by all my spilled blood, sweat, and tears. Before we’d tucked into any holiday turkey I’d resorted to

  • leaving my planner opened to the right day so that if I wasn’t awake the little people could get started without me.
  • relying on Sesame Street—and not circle time—to teach the alphabet and counting and the difference between “far” and “near.”
  • finding creative ways (e.g., crying, pleading) to get my little people to read one more line, do one more math problem, or wash one more dish.
  • including shopping at Costco as a field trip.
  • considering the works of Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, and Jeff Kinney as classics.
  • struggling to explain abstract math concepts with a straight face, knowing they’d never use them.
  • accepting I wouldn’t arrive on time, let alone early, and being satisfied to just get anywhere at all.
  • enjoying the occasional recess even if we didn’t picnic during history, trying to be more “Mommy” and less “General Patton.”

Okay, fast forward to the present day, to the official start of the 2014-2015 school year for many (we tend to work year-round, completing the old stuff and beginning the new simultaneously). I still try to capture our life in my black, faux leather-bound planner, though it’s hard to fully describe our seeming pell-mell, headlong, shotgun approach to anything called “schoolwork.” My seventh-born straw didn’t break this camel, but M&M’s arrival did teach me that it doesn’t matter what I’ve planned or promised or resolved to do. God will order my steps and laugh at my vain attempts to have my own way. (Psalm 2:4)

It all boils down to discipline.

No, not the knee-jerk “Go to your room!” and “I’m going to tell your Daddy” type of discipline. That’s just an external reaction to a cause; with might and right on my side I give the direction and the little people respond accordingly. And no, not the eat-fewer-sweets, walk-three-days-a-week kind. Losing a few pounds before visiting Mama provides its own motivation and gratification. Believe it or not, it’s not even the umpff that got me through childbirth seven times. Then, I didn’t really have a choice; my body took over, told me to shut up, suffer, and push.

The discipline I’m talking about is the pray-before-my-feet-hit-the-floor kind. The read-my-Bible-daily-no-matter-how-busy-I-think-I-am and ask-God-then-commit type of resolve. While it was easy to ask God’s help when I was in a jam, it was the seek-God-first daily bread that I struggled to sink my teeth into.

Don’t we all choke on that at times? It’s why I hear my friends complaining, “I don’t know how I’m going to get this all done!” This meaning the cleaning and the teaching and the loving and the hand-holding and the hand-wringing and the nose blowing and the Facebooking and the blogging and…and…and. AND we’re passing these habits down to our children because we’re not focused on the one main objective, first and foremost. How can we expect them to turn off their cell phones and tune in to God’s voice if we’re focused first on grammar and not on God? Economics isn’t the only thing that trickles down; so does a life of faithful discipline.

Disciplining myself to put God first doesn’t really involve my teacher planner. It’s a heart thing, so it’s not when I do it; it more about how and why I do everything. I’m learning “Commit [my] way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) Yes, I still have to potty train a toddler, take thrill rides with a teenage driver, and live in a house filled to the brim with high-octane estrogen. But loving God enough to study Him more diligently than English literature helps me teach and lead when I

  • remind the Crusader, “Have you done your Bible study?” even if he’s hunched over his college applications.
  • lovingly dust off crying children and force them back on their feet, bicycle, or Wordly Wise vocabulary book.
  • make way for Holy Spirit intercession instead of refereeing, jumping into, and monitoring every argument among my little people.
  • remember that it’s not whether it’s the first part of the school day or the last coherent thought before bedtime; it’s whether I give Him my all in it all.

And I can only hope that after all, maybe I will lose a few pounds.

Big Mistake You Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year-Pt 1

Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year - Part 1 by Donna Marie @
Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year – Part 1 by Donna Marie @

Becoming isolated in your journey as a Christ-focused Homeschool Family is a big mistake. However, you can understand and avoid it for a healthier and happier year.

Isolation, intentional or not, is a big mistake that has a negative and unhealthy impact on you and on your children. Let’s take a look at how it happens.

____________SEE POLL QUESTION AT THE END____________

Will You Answer The Quick Poll Before You Go?



For many of you, even though isolation is a big mistake, it is not intentional. It may occur after relocation, as it did with us. It can also happen when there is a major shift in your life, like unplugging from toxic relationships.

For others, you may be perfectly intentional about staying unplugged. This could be because you already have a habit of being a loner. It could also be due to past bad experiences that make you much more cautious.


Father God has used the Holy Bible to tell you the story of his relationships. Throughout His Good Book from Genesis to Revelations, the Lord makes it very clear how important relationships are to Him. And, through Jesus, He teaches you to love Him AND other people. His teachings can help you understand what love looks like when you apply it to real life.

Here is what Jesus instructed very clearly and simply in His Holy Written Word:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

~ Matthew 22:36-40 KJV

The two most important commandments that Christ Jesus gave you under the New Covenant of Grace are about relationship. His emphasis has always been right there on relationships. He made it clear to the Pharisees who persecuted Him that he did not care about divisive legal and moral debates. He demonstrated that he cared most about relationships. He taught that you also need to care most about relationships.


One big mistake you and many other parents may often make is being totally unaware of how your relationships and relationship skills impact your children. Awareness is your first step. Next you can make the effort to learn more about this topic.

As you grow and mature in the Lord, building healthier relationships is something that you may learn by default. It is taught heavily in church and in Christian media, as it should be. I strongly urge you to also learn more in this area on purpose, instead of waiting for the next sermon or tv show on this topic.

In the Holy Bible, relationships are especially emphasized in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. These scriptures discuss unity of the body of Christ and godly love. Use these scriptures and others to help you pray, study and seek the Lord for his mighty help with relationships. As you keep learning and growing, it will also help your children learn and mature.


In our family and homeschool, we return to those scriptures on a regular basis. This also helps us get along better as a family every day. God’s Word helps our family and home to stay peaceful most of the time – except for just having naturally loud children!

Our home has not always been as peaceful and happy as it is now. My husband and I made the decision to allow God to transform our parenting and our home with His Love and Grace. He has done that and more, by His Holy Spirit. We are thankful and trusting God’s promise to keep our family and homeschool in peace.


If you are feeling isolated, know that God has promised that His Holy Spirit is your comfort and friend. He promised to never leave or forsake you. He cares about you. He cares about your relationships, too. Trust Him to help you avoid this big mistake of isolation. Your family will be healthier and happier in all of your relationships more than ever before.

Will you share about your own journey by answering our quick poll in the comments?


Please share your poll answer in the comments.

____________POLL QUESTION____________

Do you have a community that your family stays plugged in with regularly?


☆A Yes, We Stay Plugged In.

If you said yes in the poll, wonderful! Now, if you haven’t already been inviting others, then take the time to invite other homeschoolers who may be in your area to join your group / community and encourage them with your own story of hope about the value you have gotten out of staying community-connected.

☆B No, But Searching For Ways To Plug In.

If you answered no but would like to find a local group, please share your story and what region or city you are in so that other CHM community members can invite you, if they are nearby. 

☆C No, And Not Searching

If you answered no and want to share why you are not connecting or don’t want to connect, please feel free to share your story in the comments, also.

Lets build community right here and support each other in the comments area below.


In part 2 of this series, I will share the story of our family’s journey through isolation. Many of you may be able to relate to the shifts and transitions that we have gone through over the years.


Getting Ready to Homeschool a Child with Special Needs (without a Teaching Degree): Tips for First-Year Homeschoolers

Getting Ready to Homeschool a Child with Special Needs without a Teaching DegreeFor whatever reason, you’ve decided that you’re going to homeschool. You are both excited and nervous, but you know this is the best option for your child at this time. Yet, you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. You’re not a teacher by profession. You never worked in a daycare. You never even attended summer camp to know enough about working with children — much less about teaching a child with special needs.

Where do you start? What do you need? Who should you contact?

This article will show you that you don’t need a degree in education to know how to be your child’s teacher, even if he has special needs.

How to get started homeschooling a child with special needs:

1- Paperwork. You will need to gather all of the most recent reports on your child. The best piece is the evaluation drawn up by a psychologist. If you have a service plan or an IEP in place from your child’s rehabilitation center or from your child’s previous school, then have these handy as well. From these reports, you can devise educational goals for your child.

2- Supplies. If your child has physical limitations, he may require adapted school supplies that you won’t easily find at your local office supply store. Look online for shops that sell equipment for children with special needs. They often have a section of the catalog dedicated to materials to help develop fine motor skills. Some items, however, you will be able to find at any supply store. You just need to be creative about how you use them.

Some supplies you should have on your list:

  • adapted scissors and cutters (ex.: left-handed scissors, stable tabletop scissors, scrapbook punches, scrapbook circle cutters, etc.)
  • a variety of glue bottles or glue sticks (ex.: twist top glue bottles, all-purpose glue with a fine tip, two-sided tape, colored stick glue, etc.) You can find examples of cut and paste supplies here.
  • a variety of drawing tools (magnetic drawing board and corresponding pen, chalk, rectangular-shaped crayons, markers, etc.) Find details about drawing tools here.
  • a variety of painting tools (recycled items such as egg cartons, but also scrapers, paint brushes of various widths, a painting board, etc.) Find more painting tips here.
  • flannel board and flannel pieces
  • playdough or clay
  • technology (especially if your child uses AAC or a tablet for communication)
  • a large-buttoned calculator
  • Velcro (dots and strips – you will use these often!)
  • laminating machine (a super investment!)

3- Furniture or Equipment. Your child with special needs may require special seating or worktops to be comfortable enough to work on activities. When looking for furniture, keep in mind where you will place it in your home but also where you can sit or stand so that you, too, can comfortably work with your child. If you plan to work across from your child at a desk for instance, avoid a desk with a backboard. Find more about adapted furniture and equipment here.

4- Space. Where will you homeschool your child? In the living room? In the dining room? Anywhere around the house? It’s important to think about spaces in your home that will work best for your child. If your child is highly distracted, avoid a place where the rest of the family might be listening to music or watching television. Also, think about noises such as electrical buzzing from your nearby computer or the refrigerator in the kitchen. Sometimes, slight noises and bright lights can be a huge distraction for a child with sensory sensitivities.

5- People. Will your child continue with therapy throughout the year? Do you need additional professionals to help you with homeschooling your child?

Some professionals to think about hiring/ consulting are:

  • a music therapist or a music teacher if your child wants to take on an instrument
  • art therapist or art teacher
  • dance/ movement teacher
  • drama specialist (can also teach puppetry and storytelling)
  • photographer, woodworker, craftsman (any specialist with skills your child shows an interest in learning)
  • an OT (at your local rehabilitation center)
  • a PT (also at your local rehab center)
  • speech and language pathologist
  • and ASL specialist
  • a tutor (for a subject you are unsure about teaching)
  • an educational consultant (to help you plan an individualized educational program for your child)

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on specialists. Sometimes, your local homeschool co-op will be able to offer music or art lessons in a group setting. Also, there are college students often looking to volunteer. Check your local post-secondary schools for ideas.

6- Additional Resources. Homeschooling was not meant to be done in isolation, even if your child has special needs that require special attention. Do a little research in your area, but call ahead to be sure that their facility is adapted if your child uses special equipment (this includes having a proper place to change your child, should the need arise).

Look for activities happening in your community in places such as:

  • your local YMCA
  • your homeschool co-op
  • community youth or sports center
  • local library
  • the rehabilitation center your child attends
  • a nature center
  • learning center
  • local farm

The first year of homeschooling may be daunting at first, but know that you don’t have to have it all figured out in August. Take it one day at a time and you will see your confidence grow as you get to know your child in this academic relationship.

Have a success school year!

What questions/ concerns might you have regarding homeschooling a child with special needs? What is causing you some hesitation in getting started?