Thursday, October 31, 2013


Can you believe that it's November already? CRAZY! God's really been teaching me something this last week or so.

Procrastination = bad!

It keeps happening. I'm going to write that blog post tomorrow. We'll do that history project tomorrow. We'll clean out the garage tomorrow. Know what happens?

Tomorrow never comes.

Cliche, I know, but it's true. I missed posting the last two weeks, partially due to the fact that I was sick. But also because I kept procrastinating. I'd make plans to write at a later time, but when that time came: "Mommy, I need you," "Honey, I need to run to the store," "Where's my (insert appropriate response)?" Throw in the extreme fatigue and breathing issues I was having--I'd stare at my computer screen, unsure how to prioritize. And then I close the laptop, put everything away, let out a huge sigh and wonder how in the world I will ever get anything done.

Because I do know how to prioritize. God first, family second, everything else below that. And in order to take care of the family, I have to take care of myself.

However, there is also a fine line between valid excuses and true procrastination. Although my excuses make sense, there were times when I wasn't feeling so horrible, when the kids were quietly watching cartoons or coloring, and Ray was at work--and yet, I was so overwhelmed by what needed to be done that I did nothing.

That's not good.

How do we overcome the mountains we perceive as insurmountable? 

Prayer is a biggie. God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but He will give us enough that we need to lean on Him. 

Another gift is that many BIG tasks can be broken down into little tasks and prioritized. This way we can feel good as we tick off each of the littler tasks. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Enlisting family can help with the extra little stuff. When stuff starts piling up, let go of the need to do it all by ourselves, and delegate, delegate, delegate.

Avoid procrastinating in the first place! When you stay on top of it all and have things organized, when something comes up, it's much easier to avoid falling behind, or at least so far behind that you just want to stay under the covers.

Take it from me: procrastination = bad. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When They Fail

Last week, I posted about my realization that I need to challenge my girls more and let them fail occasionally.  However, I know how hard it can be to watch your children struggle and/or fail.  So, today, I would like to share some tips I have found for supporting your children when they fail (or are afraid of failing).

1. Pray!!!!!
Prayer should always be your first response to problems (and joys) in your life.  Pray for your child and pray with your child that God will give him the strength to handle the situation.

2. Give your child a hug and reassure him/her with words.
Make sure that your child knows that you love her and will always love her, even when she fails.

3. Allow your child to share his/her feelings about the situation.
Let your child know that it is ok to feel bad about not being able to complete the task.  Encourage him to share feelings verbally or through writing/drawing.

4. Share stories with your child about times you have struggled or failed.
Children need to know that others struggle too and that failure is a part of growing.  They will feel much better about their failures if they know that you sometimes fail too.  You might also want to share with your children how you felt about the failure and how you overcame it.

5. Help your child create a plan for achieving his/her goal.
Sometimes, our children fail at something that we know they can accomplish.  In these cases, they may just need help figuring out a plan for success.  These times are a perfect opportunity to sit down with your child, discuss goal setting, and help her set goals.  Just be sure that your child has dealt with her emotions before attempting this.

Good luck as you help your child work through his/her failures.  As hard as it is for you and for them, remember the benefits that come from failure!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5) and is expecting #3 soon.  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homeschooling Can Be Cheap

Today, we are so excited to welcome a guest post from Christa, who blogs at !

One of the comments that scared me when I was considering homeschooling was, “It’s not always cheap…” That’s not really something that a stay at home mom who just had her third child wants to hear. 

After registering with an umbrella school, buying curriculum, supplies, and everything else that you think that you need to homeschool, I can see why people shy away from it.  Since I was a public school teacher for 8 years I set out to prove that I could homeschool my soon to be Kindergartener for next to nothing and have a great time doing it.  Using creative solutions can get you on the path to saving big bucks when it comes to homeschooling.   Here are some tips for those wanting to homeschool on the cheap:

1.     Register directly with your school board.  
It doesn’t cost a cent to register and you may have more freedom with your curriculum.  

2.     Get to know a teacher or someone who does.  
Teachers throw out books, curriculum, and resources every spring and most are more than happy to pass it on rather than throw it out.  I have a whole guest bedroom full of curriculum, resources, manipulatives, games, and even dramatic play toys that teachers have passed along to me.

3.     Pinterest and other great sites 
These can be a homeschooler’s best friends.  There are countless FREE material and resources that can provide anything that you need.

4.     Follow a teacher blog or website.  
If you haven’t purchased a curriculum you may be worried that your child isn’t getting all of the skills that they need.  I look for a few top-notch teachers who are keeping their parents and audience informed about the skills that they are teaching.  I have found many of these teachers through my hometown’s magnet school website.  Their newsletters keep me informed of what is being expected of children and has been a tremendous aid in my curriculum planning.

5.     Use your local library.  
I usually have a different theme that I study each week.  Just type the subject into your library’s card catalog and you will have a wealth of books to go along with your lessons.  I couldn’t live without the library!

6.     Plan, plan, and plan!  
Like any money saving strategy it does take some planning on your part.  I set up about 30 min. a day to plan.  I try to do one subject a day to get ready for the next week.  This way I am not spending all my time on the weekend planning.  You also may want to set up a school supply budget for each month because sometimes it is easy to go overboard!

If homeschooling is calling to you and your family, don’t allow the cost to scare you away.  Homeschooling may even add to your family coffer.  I started homeschooling last year and am actually making money this year by opening a cottage school.  I have created a place where local families bring their children 1-2 days a week for lessons.  So that means that I am actually getting paid to homeschool this year!  How cool is that?

Christa Brown is a homeschooling mom and founder of the Little Log Cottage School.  Her blog at  is where she provides information about her lessons, techniques, and tips for homeschooling families and teachers. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Camping Weekend

Up until recently, I hadn't really let the girls get involved in anything outside of church and our homeschool co-op. It isn't that I didn't want them to get out, but was an issue of time, money, or some other obstacle. Finally, though, the girls joined American Heritage Girls. For those who are unfamiliar with this organization, it's an alternative to Girl Scouts. AHG is "dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country." (as quoted from their website)

This weekend is their annual big camp out.

Now, I haven't been camping since I was like 13. On top of that, I don't like the outdoors and it doesn't particularly like me either (I'm allergic to everything. Seriously. I need a bubble.). What a joy that I have a wonderful hubby who is happy to take the girls for me!

So, today I'm busy getting them ready for the big camp out. But what do I know about it? I had to ask several embarrassing questions last night at our weekly meeting. Thankfully, they leaders were well versed in camping (they should be, apparently they've been involved in boy scouts for years).

The girls are practically bouncing off the walls. They are so excited. Of course, half the excitement is all the new "stuff" they got out of the deal. New long johns (it's supposed to be in the low 30s at night), flashlights, a tent, and some other misc. necessities.

I'm glad they are getting this opportunity, though. It's not likely one hubby and I might have done otherwise. Over the weekend, they'll learn about camp, fire, and knife safety; do some crafts and cooking; tour the water treatment facility; and just have fun!

Have you taken your kids camping? Do they belong to any groups that may go?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Did I Underestimate Her?

Charlotte celebrated her third birthday a few weeks ago.  One of the gifts she received was a 48 piece Minnie Mouse floor puzzle.  When I saw it, I almost laughed.  I told my husband that it would be a long time before Charlotte was ready for that puzzle.  She had been working on 12-15 piece puzzles. Occasionally, she put together a 24-piece puzzle.  But, 48 pieces is twice that much.  I was sure that Charlotte was not ready for such a big challenge.

However, Charlotte REALLY wanted to try putting together the puzzle and I could not dissuade her from trying.  So, I pulled it out of the closet and let her try.  I sat next to her while she worked, thinking that she was going to need a LOT of help from me.  But, to my surprise, I was wrong.  Charlotte worked diligently for about an hour and a half and this was the result:

Yes, she put the entire 48-piece puzzle together all by herself!  And, she has done it several times since.  I am so proud of her.  

But, I am also a little disappointed in myself and my teaching.  I keep thinking that I have been working so hard to ensure her success and have forgotten the importance of challenging her.  

Charlotte has such an inquiring mind and she is so eager to learn.  She LOVES a challenge and is very persistent at her work when I give her something difficult to complete.  

Back when I was a teacher, I learned that most young children have those qualities, at least until they are trained that failure is not ok.  Then, they stop liking challenges because they are afraid of failure.  I don't want that to happen to my children.  I want them to always love learning and seek out new challenges that will help them grow as people.  So, I am working hard to not underestimate my children's skills.  I am making a conscious effort to challenge them both daily and providing them a safe environment and support when they fail.  

It breaks my heart a little when they don't succeed, but I am quickly seeing that it bothers me more than it bothers them.  And, every day, it is obvious to me that they are looking forward to the challenges ahead of them.  And, that makes me smile!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5) and is expecting #3 soon.  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Round-Up of Autumn Ideas from Our Contributors

At Growing Your Homeschool, we are so blessed to have some fabulous bloggers with fantastic ideas for teaching our children.  Today, I have a round-up of autumn-themed, Halloween, and Thanksgiving teaching ideas that our bloggers have posted on their personal blogs.  Go check them out!




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's Bittersweet

Abigail (kindergarten) has recently started reading.  Her progress has been very rapid and, every day, I am impressed by how quickly she is learning to read.  And, I am SO excited for her!  

However, these past few weeks, a bit of sadness has invaded my joy.  I keep thinking about the fact that Abigail will soon be able to read bigger books on her own.

Before I know it, she is not going to need me to read to her.  She will be able to read whatever she wants without any help.

Our times of cuddling on the couch and reading a book together will soon be over.  

Sometime in the next few years, she is going to ask me to stop reading bedtime stories to her.

She is growing up and it makes me sad!  I suppose that I will have this feeling countless times as a parent.  But for now, I am so thankful that I get to watch her learn every day and am trying hard to cherish the moments now because I know they won't last long!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5) and is expecting #3 soon.  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When YOU are too Sick to Teach

It's that time of year again. Allergies, colds, and flus, oh my! This past week, we've all taken turns fighting off a lovely cold and stomach bug. Just as the kids were getting better, of course, I came down with it. Due to their illness last week, we're already a couple of days behind in our Sonlight curriculum, but now that I'm sick? We're going to end up a whole week behind! Time to panic.

Or not.

We all know that one of the perks of homeschooling is that we get to work at our own pace. The other is that we can take advantage of other learning opportunities! So what if we're sick? So what if they're sick? We may not be able to sit at the table and pour over projects and books, but that's okay.

What can we do if WE are not able to teach?

* Netflix/DVDs--While I'm definitely not an advocate of letting the TV babysit your kids on a daily basis, every once in awhile it isn't going to hurt them. And with DVDs and programs like Netflix, you have control over what they watch. There are plenty of educational cartoons, documentaries, etc. And I'll bet we can find a show that relates to something we're studying.

*Books--Whether they snuggle with you or find their own little corner, books open other worlds. Fiction, non-fiction, picture books--they all have potential for learning. Keep a fresh stash from the library, add to your own library regularly, maybe even keep a few "new" ones back for special occasions like this.

*Games--Board games, card games, video games, etc. Each has their own educational benefits (or CAN have their own benefits). Some require adult supervision, some don't. Some can be played with other siblings, some are solitary. We can invest in games and have our own arsenal to dive into when need be.

*Let them be the teacher--If you're well enough to sit up on the couch (or lay on the couch even), let them tell you about what they've been learning. They say mastery comes when they can teach someone else. Let them explain their math problems, talk about their science experiments, etc. You may not be moving forward, but it does reinforce previous teaching. 

*Call on family--The other day, I literally could not get out of bed, couldn't stay awake, but my husband had to go to work. We are blessed to (finally) be near family, so hubby called up my mother-in-law and asked her to take the kids. Now, I know they didn't really do anything "educational" that day, but I know that the kids got out and had a good time with their grandmother. I also know that in the past they have done educational things like visiting parks, baking/cooking together, etc. 

*Learn through play--With any child, but especially with young children, they learn as much through play as they do from regulated school work. So don't be afraid to turn them loose outside or in their playroom/bedroom to just enjoy a day off. 

So, don't panic if illness steals a few days. Remember that half the joy of the home school journey is to train well-rounded children. Curriculum isn't the end all, be all of training and learning. Diversity definitely has its place.

What do you do when you're too sick to teach?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do I Have to Stick to the Curriculum?

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is a new homeschooler.  Due to being new at homeschooling and not having a teaching background, she has chosen to use a boxed curriculum this year (which I think was a fantastic choice for her and for many people, so please don't think that I am criticizing curriculums).  

My friend expressed to me her concern that getting her daughter to do the reading work included in the curriculum was a huge challenge every day.  Each day, her daughter asks her if she can read some early readers they have on the shelf instead.  My friend had been saying "no" because she believed she must follow the curriculum, but she wanted advice on what to do.  

My response was to ask her what her reading goals are for her daughter.  As I expected, her goals are for her daughter to become a proficient reader and to enjoy reading.  So, my response was "who cares what she is reading as long as she is reading?  If the early readers on your shelf are more interesting to her than the curriculum reading passages, have her read those instead (or do a combination of both)."

In my house, I have 4 sets of early readers and a Dick and Jane bound collection.  Before the school year started, I had carefully chosen which books we were going to read and in what order.  I had even made worksheets and writing prompts to go with each story.  However, Abigail (kindergarten) quickly changed those plans when she begged for me to purchase some early readers she saw at the local book store and wanted to read Dick and Jane (which I had not planned for).  Now, I give her options for her main readings each week.  I choose two or three little books or Dick and Jane stories that are at her reading level and let her choose which one she prefers.  Reading is often her favorite part of our school day and she has is making very fast progress in her reading skills.

While having a curriculum is wonderful, we, as the teachers of our children, should not feel bound by them.  We have the freedom to change the curriculum, add to it, delete parts, or completely change the curriculums we are using.  Our curriculums should be a guide for our teaching, but not our teaching bibles!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5).  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Return of Ralene

Greetings fellow homeschooling mamas!

I have returned. If you have been with GYH since the beginning, you'll already know that I was one of the founding members. I had to take my leave about 18 months ago when life got pretty hectic. So, let me catch you up.

Last I was on here, my family and I were living in Hawaii, my husband was in the military, and we were embarking on our Kindergarten year of homeschool.

Life now . . .

My husband had some medical issues and was discharged over a year ago. Acclimating to civilian life has not been easy. We moved back to the states, settling in Kentucky, close to family.

I am still writing fiction, but I also started my own freelance editing business at the beginning of this year. You can find out more about that on my website. I have a few spots available if you're looking! *wink* The extra money allowed me to pay for some classes and to attend a couple of writing conferences in the last year.

And of course, there's homeschool. This year, the girls are in second grade. In the past, I've kind of picked out different curriculum for each subject. With the new business and the adapting to civilian life, though, we decided to go with Sonlight curriculum this year. So far, we are loving it!

For those who don't know, Sonlight is a Christian, literacy-based curriculum, which draws a lot from the Charlotte Mason style of learning. The girls love the books, and we have such fun discussions.

I did choose to keep some of our old choices because the girls were doing so well, So, we continued with Math-U-See, All About Spelling/Readnig, and We Choose Virtues.

We also finally joined a homeschool co-op. It's fairly new, having just started last spring, but it's a great group of local families. I'm even teaching a Creative Writing course to middle and high school students.

I'm sure you're curious about the kids:

Alley Cat is a 7-year-old artist. She would do nothing but draw and write stories all day if we'd let her. She loves the color purple, unicorns, cats, and her favorite subject is history. I think. She's in second grade. We just recently started speech therapy at home with her. We're not quite sure where her speech development delays come from, but it's to the point where she needs the extra help. Since we were unable to afford a professional, I've bought the Super Star Speech, which was written by a speech pathologist for homeschool families. She needs nothing more than for someone to sit with her and draw/color to be happy.

Squealer is a 6-year-old spitfire. She's all giggles and drama. She has such a heart for caring for others--she loves helping me with chores and taking care of her younger brother. While she likes to draw as well, she'd rather sing and dance around. She loves reading, and is reading well above her age. She's in second grade this year, along with her older sister, and keeps up just fine. Our biggest issue with her is reminding her that she is not the mommy. Her favorite color is pink, and she loves dogs and Hello Kitty. I'm not sure she has a favorite subject, but like I said, she loves to read!

Growler is only 3, but he thinks he rules the house. We're working on that. lol ... He's a lot of fun, though. He likes to sit in on school sometimes and "help" teach. He's known his letter since he was 2 and can already count to 20. I've thought about trying to do more pre-school stuff with him, but really can't get him to sit down for longer than 5 minutes. So, I'm content to just let him learn as he goes. Right now, we're working on listening the first time and potty training. His favorite color is green, and he loves video games (thanks, Daddy), especially Mario.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Miss My Kids!

Yesterday, I was reading a friend's blog.  She shared her personal goals for this month and one of them is to spend more time with her family.  She made the point that homeschooling is not the same as spending "quality family time".  I agree!  Sometimes, after a busy week, the thought that goes through my head is "I miss my kids!"  Since I homeschool and spend all day with them, that might seem strange.  But teaching them and shuttling them from one activity to another is not quality time!  

Today, I have decided to share a few ideas for how we ensure quality family time in the midst of our busy lives.

1. Put it on your calendar.
I schedule at least one "date" with each of my girls each week.  Some of our dates are big outings and others are small.  Sometimes, we go out for lunch or ice cream.  We might also do a special cooking or art project together at home.  The important thing is not what you do, just that you have special 1:1 time together.  My husband also schedules "dates" with the girls and those "dates" are often the highlight of his week (and theirs).  

2. Incorporate your children into your daily household work.
While it will take MUCH longer to have "help" cooking dinner or doing laundry, your daily chores often provide a great time for spending time with your children.  I cannot count the laughs and giggles that I have had with my girls while we baked a cake together (and spilled flour all over the flour) or attempted to fold a fitted sheet together.  

3. Refocus your priorities.  
Sometimes, we overextend ourselves and take on too many commitments.  The end result is often that our family suffers.  When I begin missing my children and feeling that I don't get quality time with them, I often have to take a close look at my calendar and think about where my time is going.  While it is good for me to be involved in church, volunteer activities, etc., some of these things might not be the most important uses of my time during this season of my life.  I recently read in my bible study that "all things good are not from God."  Just because it is a good activity that serves God's overall purpose, does not automatically mean that God intends for you to do it.

4. Ask for help.
There are times when are lives are so busy with unavoidable commitments that we truly can't add anything else to our schedule.  When this happens, we need to ask for help from spouses, friends, family, fellow Christians, etc.  It is okay to ask for help!

5. Pray.
I don't have all the answers and neither do you.  But, the great news is that God does.  Get down on your knees and pray.  God will help you find the solution!

What other suggestions do you have for ensuring quality time with your family?

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5).  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.
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