Setting Up Your Home For Homeschooling

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When you decide to start homeschooling your children, it is a huge moment – one which is bound to change the course of your own life as much as your kids’. One of the first things you will need to think about is how well set up your home is for homeschooling.

Most homes need some work before you can say that the are ready for homeschooling, even if you are the most radical unschooler. What do you really need to do in the home to prepare it for many years of homeschooling?

Study Word



Finding A Dedicated Space

Although you could work from room to room, it is likely to be much more effective to simply find a space you can work in and go from there. If you have a specified space for homeschooling, your children will get in the studying zone more easily. Continue reading »

If you work around the house, conversely, it is more likely that you will see your child being distracted and not working hard. So the first thing to do is to find a dedicated space in your home for homeschooling.

A basement or an attic is perfect, but any spare room will do. Having this space will be essential for the success of the homeschooling mission.


Getting Supplies

One way your home needs to be prepared is by stocking it up with relevant supplies. This means that you need to go out of your way to find plenty of writing paper, computer paper, books and school supplies – and all of that can cost money. However, with the right approach and by buying in bulk, you will be able to keep the cost down quite a bit.

You should aim to get enough supplies for beyond the first year, so that you don’t need to worry about it for a while. In that way, you will have a backlog so you can dip into it when necessary – like with any other school.

Blur books




Of course, with all those extra supplies you will also want have plenty of storage for it all. You might want to install something in the homeschooling room, or somewhere close by, so that you can have it all easily to hand. I personally never seem to have enough storage room, but then I remember to be content in whatever state I am.

Again, it is best to approach this from the beginning. If you don’t, you might find yourself overrun with supplies and having nowhere to keep them later on – other than a box on the floor. It is best to be able to keep the space neat and tidy.

Laptop and workbook




Something that you will absolutely need to think about is how to stop your child from being distracted. Homes tend to be a place of pure distraction for most children. Having a dedicated space can help with this, but even so it can be hard to keep your child focused.

It is important that you also keep regular school hours, so that your child gets used to the routine of it. You should make sure not to deviate from this too much. The more that you allow the rules to be stretched, the less seriously your child will take the whole project.



Of course, the home will also need to provide water and snacks, for breaks, and also some kind of entertainment. Your child needs breaks. Having the home set up to accommodate that fact will make it all that much easier to do.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 38

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Chapter 38 covered American tragedies: “The Trail of Tears” and “Nat Turner’s Revolt.” We have read about the Trail of Tears from other sources before and the children were familiar with the story. They still shuddered to think what that was like for the Native Americans.

"Girl, daughter" in American Indian Sign Language

“Girl, daughter” in American Indian Sign Language

My daughter was upset with Andrew Jackson for passing the Indian Removal Act. I reminded them that, incidentally, Andrew Jackson was one of the three presidents Tennessee has contributed to this nation. Continue reading »

For our craft, I really did not want to make an Indian hunting purse. What would we do with it? Put it in our overflowing craft bins? Throw it away? After all that work? Besides, sewing is not something in which I delight. Last but not least, I do not want to do their crafts for them.

"To drink" in Native American sign language

“To drink” in Native American sign language

So, we ended up learning about the Native American sign language. The Activity Book provides a page full of signals the American Indians used to communicate. I asked the children to pose for me with one signal. They chose “girl, daughter” and “to drink” respectively.

About Nat Turner’s revolt: I told them I watched a TV show called “Strange Inheritance” and it was about Nat Turner’s Bible. Apparently, a courthouse in Virginia cleaned their attic boxes and found the Bible that belonged to Nat Turner. They knew it was his because his trial took place there and other reasons.

They sent it to the family that used to own him – the surviving members, that is. The family were happy to turn the Bible over to the Smithsonian instead of selling it for a seven figure to private collectors. I think that’s admirable.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 37

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Chapter 37 took us back to Africa, troubled Africa, with two stories: “The Zulu Kingdom” and “The Boers and the British.” The kids colored the page with Shaka, the Zulu king. We also did the map.

Close combat African spear

Close combat African spear

For our craft, we worked on the small spear. We found it very difficult to staple the tip to the paper towel roll, but we made it work. Since I did not want to rush to the store to get silver spray paint, or make a mess painting the tips silver and waiting for them to dry, I decided to use sparkly, silver card stock I happened to have. Continue reading »

How to transfer the provided black tips onto the silver card stock? Well, we traced the black onto butcher paper. It’s not the most transparent paper you can fine, but it works. The originals provided were black enough, you could see them through the butcher paper.

Then, we put the butcher paper over the silver card stock and traced over the pencil marks, pressing really hard. It actually left indentations into the card stock. At this point, we could trace over the indentations with a pencil, or we could just hold it to the light at a certain angle and cut it with a pair of scissors. We ended up doing the latter, to save time.

The fun part was the raffia. It took a bit to get it twined nicely around the tube. You can see in the picture. By the time we were done with three inches of wrapped raffia, we did not feel like unrolling it just to make it all pretty. As I said before, we are more about learning things than about perfecting crafts to put on Pinterest. Oh, and the raffia was made in Romania – as an added bonus for those who care.

It was interesting to explain about the Boers. They were from Holland, or the Netherlands, but they are called Dutch. We have been through this before, but it is finally sinking in – all the names we have in English for Holland.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 36

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Chapter 36 in Story of the World volume 3 covers the end of the slave trade. We were very happy the abolitionists succeeded in their worthy endeavor. We discussed greed and how the desire for more money makes people do horrible things.

Abolitionist Poster

Abolitionist Poster

For our craft, we made an abolitionist poster – a very basic one. Large construction paper instead of poster board. Where would I put a poster board? We already have too little wall space because we have so many windows. Besides, I could not even fit a poster board in their craft bins (which are rather large, mind you). Continue reading »

So I opted for a large construction paper in red – a color which demands attention. I made a copy of the poem provided and taped it in the middle. We looked up four Bible verses which condemn slavery and the kidnapping of people.

Abolitionist poster

Each child added their own anti-slavery image on each side of the poem.

One verse was from the Old Testament and three from the New Testament: Exodus 21:16, Galatians 3:28, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and Luke 4:18. Of course, there are so many more verses which condemn slavery. It is a disgrace that Christians used to use the Bible to condone this abominable practice.

When they get a bit older, I will have them read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It will give them an immersion into that universe and the people in it. It is a sad chapter in world history, but research shows there are more slaves in the world today than back in the 19th century. How awful!

Human trafficking is a tough conversation to have with small children, so I am reserving that one for the next time we go through the curriculum.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 35

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Chapter 35 covers Mexican independence in two stories: the cry of Dolores and the Republic of Mexico. We stayed in history only. Lots of things are going on right now around our border with Mexico, but I did not want to get the kids too involved in it. I am so sick and tired of all the illegal alien situation in the US and the liberal media’s handling of the topic.

Paper flowers in the colors of the Mexican flag

Paper flowers in the colors of the Mexican flag

As an immigrant myself, I did not have the option to cross a border by foot and get into the US. I had to get a proper visa, after a tough interview at the US Embassy in my country, buy an expensive plane ticket, and then wait my turn in the documentation line when it came to adjust my status from non-immigrant to immigrant. That’s the legal way to become a US permanent resident. Anyway.

Mexico is a great country with an exciting language, which we learn a bit here and there. Our neighbor to the south has a lovely culture and we need to study their history and how they came to be independent. We have great friends from Mexico, too. That’s all that matters. Continue reading »

The kids are getting the picture of all the turmoil in history lessons. When they hear about yet another revolt or battle or execution, they groan and roll their eyes.

The crafts were pretty cool: paper flowers to represent the colors of the Mexican flag and huevos rancheros. I made it vegan, with scrambled tofu instead of sunny side up eggs. The recipe for hot chocolate included chili pepper. We did not think that would taste good, so no chili in our hot chocolate.

Huevos rancheros and hot chocolate - a Mexican breakfast

Huevos rancheros and hot chocolate – a Mexican breakfast

For some reason, we go through waves. Some weeks they love to color the coloring page provided in the Activity Books. We are going through such a time right now. While I read the stories out loud, they color with a passion.

The comprehension and review questions can really help remind us of key pointers in the lesson, so I ask them. When it comes to the narration exercises, even Susan Wise Bauer points out that some chapters have more details than others and, as a result, may not be that easy to summarize.

Preparing huevos rancheros

Preparing huevos rancheros

So yes, I have skipped narration in some chapters because I do not want to overdo it. We get plenty of practice with narration in our writing curriculum (Writing with Ease) and in general, as the kids narrate back to me the books they read or some parts they really enjoyed from a movie or a book.

Bonjour! Let’s Learn French

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Even if you cannot speak French, you could pick up Bonjour! Let’s Learn French (not an affiliate link) and stimulate your children’s neurons for a few good months. This relatively short book can function as your French curriculum for at least six weeks.

Bonjour! Let's Learn French

A new resource to learn French, for ages 6-10.

How is that possible? You have the free audio version online at A native speaker of French pronounces all the French words and sentences in the book, so you don’t have to. A native speaker of English pronounces all the English words in the book, so you don’t have to. Continue reading »

On the same page, you will find a whole unit study on French culture and food, as well as games to practice your new vocabulary. French for parents is another feature on the website, where practical advice is given for – you guessed it – parents.

The other thing I really like on are the activity sheets. One of them in particular lets us set up a schedule for repeating one French phrase per day. At the end of the day, you record how many times you used that particular expression.

I have been waiting for this book for about two years. If you remember, I reviewed its sister, Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish, a similar book for Spanish. The author of both books, Judy Martialay, a retired foreign language teacher from New York, has come through for us with a volume for French this time.

Inside Bonjour! Let's Learn French

Inside Bonjour! Let’s Learn French

In Bonjour! Let’s Learn French, children meet Pete the Pilot, who takes them to France. During this imaginary trip, they learn some useful French phrases. Another character in the book is Louis l’escargot (the snail). The game on the website involves Louis and his love of croissants. It’s a lot of fun!

The book is a mixture of English and French and the chapters change format, so nobody gets bored of a particular routine. You know how most foreign language textbooks follow the same format for every lesson? First the new words, then the text, reading comprehension questions, and a bit of grammar. Next lesson, same drill. After about three weeks of this, no wonder so many people give up on learning another language.

That’s why I like Bonjour! Let’s Learn French. Every chapter switches things around. At some point, you learn about life in France and impressionist art, for example. You also learn how to make an impressionist-style picture with oil pastels.

Your effort as a homeschool teacher is minimal. Purchase the book, open the book, click Play on the audio version of the book online. Sit back and relax. You do have to ensure your children repeat the French expressions during the pauses on the recording.

Repetition is key. So come back to this book regularly and you should find it easier to pronounce and understand every time. Just like with anything else, learning a language can get exciting at times and boring at times. As long as you persevere, you are setting yourself up for success.

I received a free copy of this material in exchange for providing an honest review on my blog.

Family Activities For All Ages

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Making time for family activities isn’t always easy to do. If it isn’t prior commitments and the general pressures of modern life holding you back, it’s the sheer fact of having to find family activities which everyone will enjoy.

Driving toward mountains

Great Smoky Mountains in the distance are always a great family destination.

When your children’s ages cover a wide range, it is even harder to find something that everyone will be willing to give a go. If you can manage it though, your family time will benefit greatly as a result. The following family activities are guaranteed to raise smiles all round. Continue reading »

The United States is home to a diverse range of scenery. There are scenes of outstanding natural beauty all across the nation. No matter where in the US you live, it is all but guaranteed that you will have access to some kind of worthwhile scenery. Hiking is a great family activity. Not only is it the perfect opportunity for some family bonding, it will also help you all to get some exercise and keep fit.

Another great thing about hiking is that you can combine it with a variety of other activities. For example, bring a camera out with you and encourage your kids to try their hand at photography. This will get them to think about their surroundings and to interact more with their environment.

Bowling is one of those timeless activities that still possesses the same charm today as 50 years ago. Advances in technology, as well as changing consumer expectations, have meant that many once popular pastimes have fallen by the wayside. Bowling has proven resilient to these pressures.

In fact, for many people, it is this retro feel that they like the most about bowling. Kids of all ages, and even adults, can enjoy a round of bowling.

Many bowling alleys still have an attached laser tag area. Talk about some real retro fun!

Escape Room
Escape rooms are a new craze which has been sweeping to world. We saw them in Stockholm and my sister tells me they have them in Romania. Even in Sevier County, where I live, I spotted at least one in Pigeon Forge or Sevierville.

Participants in an escape room have to solve a series of puzzles in order to, well, escape from a room. These escape rooms are often themed, although some are set up purely as puzzles to be solved. Check out this Indianapolis Escape Room for an example.

Escape rooms make a nice change of pace from the usual activities you might do with your family. They are highly interactive and encourage creative and critical thinking, if you are not claustrophobic.

This makes the escape room experience a valuable one for children of all ages. You should check ahead as different escape rooms will have different age restrictions.

It isn’t easy finding activities which are suitable for the entire family, especially when there is a wide range of ages involved. The above activities are some of the most universally enjoyable and should appeal to everyone, regardless of their age.

Exciting Ways Parents Can Get Their Kids Interested In Music

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Are you one of those parents who goes to bed at night hoping your child will be the next generation’s top musician? Would you like to, at the very least, ensure your children appreciate the magic and wonder of music from a young age? Read on, then.

Music is a fantastic thing, and it can help support and inspire young people throughout their lives. Even if your children do not become professional musicians, research shows music makes children smarter, which means you should really think about incorporating music lessons in your homeschool. Continue reading »


Keep some instruments at home

Children are inquisitive creatures. They struggle to leave items alone if they see them around the house. So, maybe you should go out and purchase some affordable musical instruments? A ukulele or violin is not going to break the bank, and there are plenty of sites like where you can get some inspiration and encourage your loved ones to learn some of their favorite tracks.

I have a friend whose son took piano lessons for years and years. He was pretty good, or so said his teacher, but the boy himself just could not get into it. Instead, one day, he decided to pick up a ukulele. He said its sound made him happy. Whatever works.

The same goes for people who want their kids to learn to play the guitar or something similar. Leave some instruments around and see what happens!


Pay for professional lessons

If you’re committed to making sure your child ends up with an appreciation of music, then you might think about contacting an instructor and paying for some professional lessons. Do a Google search for music teachers in your area, or ask around your group of homeschooling moms.

We are also in the age of social media, and so you should have no trouble when it comes to identifying the best music teachers in your area using social networks like Facebook. Lessons can get expensive, but they could set your child off on the right path.


Take your kids to gigs and concerts

Any parent who wants to instill a love of music in their child will have to take them to see live performances at some point. Sites like are excellent places to look for the latest listings. Make sure you consider their likes and interests when you purchase the tickets.

Another idea would be to go see some masterworks – classic music in different genres. Recognizable tunes will keep their interest during long concerts. Play these pieces for them before you go. YouTube or Pandora and other sites should have pretty much anything toward which you are leaning.

Whatever you decide to do during the coming months, ensure that you work hard to encourage your loved ones to form an interest in music. Who knows? Maybe they’ll pick up that ukulele and struggle to put it down? Perhaps this will be the beginning of a new musical hobby that will last for the rest of their lives?

You can then start pushing your little one towards some public performances if they like that idea. Music touches people in many ways and your homeschooler can be a giver to others through music.

Annual Standardized Test

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Every year in March, we take the kids to Berean Christian School in Knoxville for the Terra Nova 3 nationally standardized test. In Tennessee, one must be registered with an umbrella school. We chose Berean for several reasons, but mainly because we trust the two coordinators.

Berean Christian Church Chapel

Inside Berean Christian School, just before testing

Ed and Lisa Lee are a husband and wife team who homeschooled their children in the 80s and 90s, when it was not cool to homeschool. They were called to this ministry of coordinating the Berean Homeschool Umbrella program and have been doing so for many years now. Continue reading »

Lisa coordinates the K-8 program and Ed covers the high school years. Berean will issue not just transcripts for us, but also a high school diploma that does not have the word homeschool in it. Instead, the high school years are called ISP, i.e. Independent Study Program.

The Lees are wonderful Christian people who love children and homeschooling. They are a pleasure to speak with and they help out with not just administration, but also planning and educational counseling, if needed.

About 800 homeschoolers are registered under Berean’s umbrella program and the Lees do not want to take any more. They want to make sure they have enough time to know everybody by name and to understand every family’s particular homeschool, so they can serve them better.

Tennessee Theater Row F - the view we had for Carmina Burana

Tennessee Theater Row F – the view we had for Carmina Burana

By the way, Berean is only one of six Christian academies in Knoxville which operate a homeschool umbrella program. They all have hundreds and hundreds of homeschoolers.

When we had to test, the Berean campus buzzed for four days. When the day school goes on spring break, the homeschoolers show up for testing. There are two sessions, Mon-Tues and Wed-Th. In each session, you can choose to test in the morning or in the afternoon. So, really, there are four choices.

We receive the dates one year in advance, so we can solicit a particular session if we know we will have a conflict. Sometimes we can even switch at the last minute, as others need to switch as well.

The beautiful Tenneessee Theater

The beautiful Tenneessee Theater

My children enjoy testing. They get a bit nervous, of course, but I tell them, “Show what you know. There will be no consequences for a lower percentile. This test helps you learn how to take tests and it helps me know if we are covering the right materials.”

We celebrate by doing something fun afterwards and then our spring break begins. This year, we went to see Carmina Burana at the Tennessee Theater. OK. I loved it more than they did, but that’s to be expected.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 34

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Chapter 34 took us to South America in order to meet a certain Simon Bolivar. The craft was edible and easy to make: arroz con leche. We used to make a lot of “rice with milk” when I was growing up in Romania, so it was a familiar dish to me.

Arroz con leche

Arroz con leche

The difference was the orange juice and the cinnamon. I have to say, I did not expect the orange juice to give it a nice flavor. It just did not seem right. Continue reading »

Once I tried it though, I was really impressed. The rice is starchy and the milk has protein, so, in a way, it is a bit of a heavy dish. But the orange juice gives it a lift, a tropical nuance that makes it very pleasant.

If you can, try to make this dish for this chapter. Depending on your rice, you might have to cook it longer. I have the kind of rice that needs a good 45 minutes to cook. In conclusion, this was a rice pudding with a South American flavor. Very, very nice.

Ingredients for arroz con leche

Ingredients for arroz con leche

The kids noticed that greed seems to be a running theme through history. Even liberators like Simon Bolivar end up giving in to their humanity and seek a throne for life. Is it any wonder that it is hard to work toward term limits in our American Congress?

We had a conversation about our fallen human nature. We may say now that we are not interested in power, but when the opportunity is given to us, there’s no telling where our greed might take us.