Mom Monday Week 13 – Pretty, Stinky Flowers

Posted on

Depending on the weather, I take a walk in the morning. Our neighborhood is 10 minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – a perfect place to homeschool.

Mom Monday Series on Homeschool Ways

I did not learn the concept of a nature walk until two years ago when I was researching homeschooling and fell in love with the Charlotte Mason approach. Nature walks are my time to be by myself, with God and His creation. I ask for clarity on certain issues. He delivers.

Three pine cones, small, medium and large

Pine cones in different stages of development remind me of the growth process we all go through

The other day, I found some treasures that reminded me of a few lessons about life in general and homeschooling in particular.  Continue reading »

First, I found three pine cones, each a different size, each perfect in its stage. Perfection does not mean the end of growth. It simply means organic matter, in its different stages of development, contains everything it needs to function well and continue to grow to the next level.

Children are that way. Perfect at every stage, they have all they need to continue their process of growing, learning and maturing. Are we faithful, like God, who sends sunshine and rain on His creation, to oversee our children’s development?

Small white flowers which smell awfully

Beautiful, stinky flowers from a neighborhood tree

Secondly, I spotted a twig covered in small, white flowers. It had fallen from a tree. I brought it home and my children put it in a small container with water. While having breakfast, my daughter kept saying something smelled bad. I could not smell anything, but children are always right.

I decided to smell the twig. Wrong move. These horribly smelling trees may look glorious in spring, but their flowers reek. Appearances can be deceiving. Let’s make sure that our homeschools look good and smell good, too. Literally and symbolically.


And the Winner of “The 12-Week Year” Book Is…

Posted on

Very excited to announce the winner of “The 12-Week Year” book: her name is Geanina and she lives in Georgia. How cool is that?

Geanina from Georgia, a homeschooling mom of two teenage boys, with a third on the way. Congratulations are in order… twice!

One autographed copy of this New York Times bestseller coming your way, Geanina! Thank you for being a faithful subscriber to Homeschool Ways blog and newsletter.


French Friday, 4 Calendar Vocabulary Games

Posted on

If you need a bit more fun in your homeschool, use the French calendar vocabulary flash cards I made a few weeks ago with the following four games:

1. Attach the French days of the week vocabulary cards to your calendar display. Cover the days of the week in English with your French cards. If the English words are bigger than the French cards, you can glue the French flash cards onto bigger paper, like construction paper.

Attach the cards with push pins or clothes pins onto your calendar board. Ask your students to recite the days of the week in French first. Then, reveal the English words.

French Days of the Week Calendar Games

2. If you have eight or more students, have seven students carry a day of the week flash card and another child arrange them in order. Take turns. If you have less than eight, you can have your students carry two cards each, in order.

Another variation: the students can arrange the flash cards in sequential order on the table. For kinesthetic learners, put the cards on the floor, on a hopscotch rug or on a hopscotch outline you made with pencils or popsicle sticks.

If the weather permits it, play the game outside, on a hopscotch drawn with chalk in your driveway. They can say the name of each day as they reach the respective square.

3. Have your students make up a song with the days of the week to the tune of an English song they know well. Try “Twinkle, Twinkle” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

4. To rehearse the names slowly, show them how to break the word into syllables, e.g. “mar-di.” Clapping the beats of the syllables is a great way to experience the pronunciation in slow repetition – essential for memorization.

Hope these games bring a bit more variety and fun to your homeschool learning. A bientôt!

For more French Friday posts, click here.


SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

Posted on

SchoolhouseTeachers.com is the best thing for homeschool since sliced bread. The yearly membership option is the way to go if you want to save money – yours for only $139 for the entire family. There are so many courses to go through. You don’t want to be limited by time as you would be if you invested in this educational opportunity only one month at a time.

If you want a co-op experience, by all means take your children to a brick-and-mortar co-op in your area. We tried it and loved it, but we had to give it up after one semester because of the drive (50 minutes one way).

My children were five and two at the time. We chose only three courses per child because it would have been too much to stay there the whole day, for five courses each. It was tough to wake them up early once a week, too. Over time, the ride wore them down. I got worn out, too.

So, needless to say, I am pretty excited about SchoolhouseTeachers.com, where I can access more than 50 courses for the same amount of money, no alarm clock and no commute. Online learning rocks.

 photo ST-Logo-v21_zpscd8f2982.jpg

These courses are for all school ages, from preschoolers to highschoolers, and there is plenty in there just for mom – like convention recordings (I listened to one by Heidi St. John), planners (right there I saved at least $40 on a planner for me and one for my son who is in kindergarten) and e-books (149 of them by the end of the year).

 photo schoolhouseextras_zps3a20c85f.jpg

Since my son does math on a first grade level and reads on a third grade level, while his official grade is kindergarten, it’s nice to have a buffet of courses on different levels. This allows for a customized education – one of the main advantages of homeschooling.

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I receive a free membership for a year and let me just say this: my homeschool experience has already improved in only ten days of taking advantage of this online learning source.

We accessed preschool activities and crafts from the pre-K/elementary tab by clicking on Homegrown Preschool and Schoolhouse Preschool. I’ll be really honest and tell you that after reading through some of these activities I felt discouraged because making cinnamon-scented ornaments, glittery peppermint playdough or minty green goop seems overwhelming to me.

I would rather cuddle up with my children with a stack of books. I read to them for an hour straight and we only pause for water breaks. But then, I know they really enjoy crafts, so where is the balance?

Luckily for me, the preschool section contains lots of crafts and activities that fit my position on the arts-and-crafts spectrum, like Stained Glass Canvass or Painting Sunflowers.

As I looked through the Elementary Student Planner, I found a cute song in the geography section about the seven continents. I was not planning to teach my children the continents this year. But guess what? They know them because we sang this song a couple of times, in front of a world map, for the past few days.

Then, there’s the Charlotte Mason section – 16 weeks worth of how-to articles and free resources to implement a Charlotte Mason education in your home. I so look forward to systematically going through it starting on January 1.

I have already skimmed through it and found a great blog post from Ambleside Online about establishing the routine of tea time. Slowing down at 3:30 pm to brew herbal tea and smear jam on scones goes against most of the grains in my body, except the one that says, “Take time to enjoy your children.”

I have a strong tendency toward Classical Education, which is why I am happy to see there are courses in Classical History and Classical Archaeology. However, I love the Charlotte Mason approach, too and was looking to create a moment in the day when I do not interact with my children while keeping in mind specific goals. I think I just found it, through tea time.

Sure, we open A Year in Art and look at two or three paintings, according to their interest. And yes, we open the atlas so they know where Louveciennes or Delft are – locations mentioned in the paintings.

But other than that, we sit there and put something sweet and warm in our tummies and talk. I let them open the conversation and bring up whatever topic they want to talk about. I have already found out some things about my children of which I was not aware. And that’s the main reason I homeschool my children – to enjoy them, to get to know them, and to give them the best of me – however much or little it represents.

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer


Thanksgiving Unit Study, PreK-K

Posted on

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you will leave me a comment below about the things you are most thankful for. Among other things, I am thankful for the United States of America – this greatest experiment in the history of human civilization. Without this country, we would not know what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean. In our homeschool, we took three days to study about Thanksgiving.

First, we did some crafts, coloring pages, math unit studies and other activities from this list:

Children doing Thanksgiving crafts at the table

My children doing crafts at the table

Girl cuts a turkey craft for Thanksgiving

My daughter enjoyed the crafts, which gives me energy to bring craft time back more often

Boy cuts a Thanksgiving turkey craft

My son cut lots of feathers, and even helped his sister a bit

Little girl with Thanksgiving turkey crafts

Brother did not have the patience to sit through a photo shoot with the paper roll turkeys, but he made one of these

  • Cute Turkey Buttoning and Matching Color Activity (Preschool) – This will have to wait until next week when I can get supplies. I was going to buy them the day before Thanksgiving, but we got snowed in.
Girl playing with snow

My daughter taking advantage of a snow day

Enjoying our first snow day of the year

My son enjoying our first snow day

  • Even Cuter Turkey Buttoning and Color Matching Activity (Preschool)
  • Cardboard Turkey – This website inspired me to make my own turkey craft. Homeschooling moms are allowed to make their own crafts, aren’t they?
Turkey Craft I made just because I felt inspired. But then, I realized it inspired the kids to see their mom cut and paint.

Turkey Craft I made just because I felt inspired. But then, I realized it inspired the kids to see their mom cut and paint.

Boy making Thanksgiving Craft

This particular Thanksgiving craft personalized the holiday when we wrote what they were thankful for on every feather of the turkey

Small girl cutting paper with pink scissors

More than anything, my daughter loved cutting paper in small bits

Little girl with Thanksgiving turkey craft

She is thankful for Jesus, good food, birthday cakes, her brother, snow and the Titanic

Boy with Thanksgiving turkey craft

Thankful for snow, sun, sister, parents, God’s power, and evergreens

We learned/sang some Thanksgiving songs:

Then, we read these books:

            • Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving
            • Turkey Trouble
            • One Tough Turkey
            • Happy Thanksgiving, Biscuit (still to get)

Finally, the children watched some videos:

  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – 25 minutes. It’s such a classic piece of Americana. They liked the silly parts and how Snoopy set the table. Later that day, when daddy came home, they set a Thanksgiving table with their toy kitchen set, complete with a tablecloth (daddy’s coat) and referenced how Snoopy tied the corners of the tablecloth. One of the characters uses bad language once and I had to explain to the kids we don’t talk that way. Also, that they will meet people who talk that way and we should love them as Jesus does and pray for them and respect them.
  • Plimoth Plantation and Scholastic Virtual Field Trip – 5 minutes of skipping around the video, to see different characters present their lives. It’s a longer documentary, for upper elementary grades, too boring for my kids. The Google Earth presentation of the Mayflower itinerary fascinated them and reminded them of the Titanic’s attempt at crossing the Atlantic. I would have never put the two together. It seems our Titanic visit and its wall map showing the intended itinerary over the ocean is still fresh in their minds.
  • Mayflower movie trailer – 1 minute.
Little girl sweeps the floor

She made most of the mess and was willing to clean it up.

Teaching a Thanksgiving unit study inspires me because I know from experience what it is like to move countries. While growing up in Communist Romania, I used to listen to The Voice of America – a forbidden activity. Their broadcast about Thanksgiving has stayed with me ever since. Who would have thought I would end up in the USA, homeschooling my American children and teaching them about Thanksgiving?


4 Steps to Homeschool Success

Posted on

In life, flexibility is the mother of all things good. In homeschooling, it is do-or-die. Want the dictionary definition for “do-or-die?” Here it is: requiring supreme effort to avoid the dire consequences of failure. As a recovering perfectionist and schedule-oriented person, I feel flexibility does take a supreme effort on my part. But I want to avoid the dire consequences of failure. So, I get flexible.

One of the greatest books a homeschooling newbie can read is Things We Wish We’d Known by Bill and Diana Waring. I am reading it right now. Fifty veteran homeschoolers share lessons from their own mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to learn from other people’s mistakes. What I get from most stories so far is that flexibility equals homeschool success.

Take this example… This homeschooling family was traveling through South Dakota on a cross-country road trip adventure. The children did not finish their workbook assignments, so the parents did not allow them to see Mount Rushmore. They continued on their not-so-merry way and showed the children who the boss was. Astonished? Yeah, me too.

Mount Rushmore Flexibility Equals Homeschool Success

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

I would have used that instance to teach grace, i.e. unmerited favor, and remind them of the great gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. I would say something like, “Grace is a gift from God and we do not deserve it. You children did not finish your workbooks, but we will show you grace and take you to see Mount Rushmore anyway. Grace is what God gives to us through His Son, because He loves us. And we love you. So we show you grace… We will see Mount Rushmore and then you finish your assignment.”

As our first official homeschooling week was drawing to a close, I realized I was already making adjustments to the plans I had so carefully laid out, based on our circumstances (my sister and her family left after spending the summer with us) and my students’ responses (the emotional letdown of saying goodbye took a toll on them; plus, they found it hard to get on a schedule after unschooling for a month).

To help me flex my weak flexibility muscle, I came up with 4 steps:

1. Teach according to the lesson plans you made. You have to start somewhere. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Make a plan and work it, even if you feel it is incomplete because you do not have the time or the expertise to take everything into consideration. As a homeschooling mom in my first year of teaching, I definitely fall in this category.

2. Tinker according to the events of the day. Many things happen in a household that interrupt homeschooling. Some are as banal as a UPS delivery. Others are life-changing like a pregnancy or a death. Take a deep breath (or many) and wait for the moment to re-start where you got interrrupted. Or how about this example? DS says, “I am tired” after reading six three-letter words to me (mud, cud, run, sun, rub, tub). Is he tired or lazy? That’s for me to determine based on what I know about his life in the past 24 hours.

3. Tweak based on the responses of your students. Some nights, my children just don’t sleep well. Or they are just being kids. Or something. They do not cooperate during the morning devotional. No matter what consequences I dangle in front of them, they will not listen. I go to my room to pray and ask for wisdom. They know I do that because I tell them. When I come back, they ask me, “What did Jesus tell you?” and I can see it in their eyes. They have come to their senses. They are ready to obey before I even tell them what the plan is. I learned this technique from one of the best books on parenting I have ever read, Kay Kuzma’s Easy Obedience.

4. Troll back to your lesson plans. Were you too ambitious or too lax? Adjust based on what you learned in the previous steps. Change is the only constant.

So tell me, is flexibility an issue for you? How have you had to adapt and change your plans in your homeschool? Please leave me a comment below.