Author Archives: yannimama

Defeating the Middle School Video Game Zombie


Do you have Video Game Zombies at your house? Here is a post I wrote for Home Educating Family:

I bet all of us have seen them: tweens and teens hunched over a video game remote, eyes glazed over, barely grunting in answer to any question. Now, before you get the idea that this is a diatribe against video games in general, let me assure you it is not. I enjoy video games. In fact, one of my favorite memories as a child is the Christmas we received our Nintendo. Instead, I am going to discuss how we balance video game use and keep our middle schooler from becoming one of those video game zombies


Check out the rest of this post at…

A Warning for Parents Homeschooling Boys




Did I get your attention?

Just in case you have the kind of boy (or girl) that loves to study things like insects (as I do), I thought I would give you some fair warning.

You see, we have been studying insects in Science, using Apologia’s Zoology series.  It suggested that we bring in some dead insects to look at…and my science-loving boy jumped right on that.  His first acquisition, dredged from the aquatic depths of his pool?

This: (public domain image)


Well, not this exact one… But it looked somewhat like it.  And since it was dead and all, I let him keep it in a bowl in our kitchen to study.  And we went to bed…and woke up…and went to co-op…and came home…

Buddy went in to look at his science experiment…and came running out of the kitchen screaming: “MOM! It’s alive! Get it out!”

And, lo and behold, the wasp was squirming around in the bowl.  I managed to set the bowl out on our deck just before the undead insect was able to fly off.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t read the part of the lesson on the “Lazarus effect” yet.

This is what we learned yesterday: Insects that are completely drenched may not, in fact, be completely dead. Turns out they may be only MOSTLY dead. See, mostly dead is still slightly alive…


You’ve been fairly warned!

Classes and Curriculum Choices 2014-2015


This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission. Thank you!


Boo: My beautiful girl is a freshman this year, so we are moving to a more traditional schooling model for her. She will spend a good share of her day in independent study, with me being more a coach than a traditional teacher.

Bible: Boo’s grandmother will be teaching her Bible class this year. I am so excited! My mom is a “Lois”-a steady woman in the faith who is passing on an inheritance to her children and grandchildren. Boo will learn a lot from her, and it takes one important class off my plate, too!

English: I am putting together our own literature curriculum for ninth grade, which will include learning about literary elements and genre, as well as reading some novels and plays. Boo will also do some vocabulary study and work through Books 2 and 3 in Applications of Grammar. She will also use Writer’s INC. to help her write a variety of essays for her literature studies.


Math: Boo needs to finish up Pre-Algebra and then she will start Algebra 1. She will continue to use Math-U-See, our favorite Math program.


Science: Biology is up this year. We will be using Apologia Biology 2nd Edition. Boo will study this at home with me, but we will be working with another homeschooling family to do labs together. We can share the expense as well as the dissection fun!


Social Studies: I put together a pretty comprehensive World Geography curriculum, which will include studying the countries, memorizing capitals, map skills, culture studies, and discussion of world religions. At the end of the year she will write a report on the country of her choice.


Foreign Language: Boo will be studying Spanish this year, using an online program called Duolingo. She will also have the chance to converse with a native language speaker at co-op.


Keyboarding: We will be using Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing to continue Boo’s Keyboarding skills.


Music Performance: Besides choir at co-op and piano lessons, Boo will spend some time learning about the sound board at church, singing in church, and using vocal performance cds.


Health and PE: Boo will have to spend 45 minutes four times a week in physical activity, and I have printed some articles on a variety of health topics that I will have her write a brief summary about.


Buddy: My busy, funny boy is a fifth grader this year, so we are beginning to transition into some independent work. I still get to spend lots of time with him, though, as he needs more than just “coaching” in some areas.

Bible: Buddy will be doing AWANA again this year, so we will use the memory work and Bible studies from his TNT book. I will also be reading aloud to him from books written by a number of ministers.


English: We will be continuing All About Reading and All About Spelling this year. He will also be learning some grammar using Simply Grammar, and we will do some creative writing and nonfiction writing as well.


Math: Buddy will continue using Math-U-See, but we will also be using the Life of Fred Elementary series to help fire up his creative, right-sided brain!



Science: We will be using Apologia’s Zoology series for Science.


Social Studies: Buddy will do a basic World Geography study this year, learning about each continent and studying two to five countries from each continent (except Australia and Antarctica) in more depth.


Art: Our art this year will be based on the countries we study.


Music: We will listen to music from around the world, including the national anthem of each country we study. Buddy will also continue to take piano lessons.


Health and PE: We will read library books on health topics and continue to keep as active as possible, including baseball, swimming, walking, basketball, and more.

Cooking Class: Buddy is very interested in cooking. While he spends time with me in the kitchen as I cook, I decided to be more direct in teaching him cooking skills this year. Once a week I will pick a skill or recipe to teach him, and we will work on it together.

Favorite Organization Links



We are in the final countdown to starting a new school year. I am working on putting together geography and literature curriculum for Boo and getting the last of my assignments recorded. Next week we will do some cleaning and organizing in preparation for beginning on the 25th. With so many different supplies and books needed each year, I am always looking for tips on staying organized. Here are some of my favorite organization links:


My Organization Systems

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

5 Days of Homeschooling Organization

Pieces of Us

Small Space Organizing

Home Educating Family

Home Schoolroom

Mommy Minded

Crafty Homeschool Mama

Free Organization Printables


Happy Organizing!!!!


My Top Resources for Teaching Math


This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission. Thank you!

I love math, and I love teaching math. Smile I also enjoy math materials and manipulatives. Math can be lots of fun! Here are my favorite resources for teaching math, and making it enjoyable:

Math-U-See. This mastery-based math program uses manipulatives through high school to make math easier to understand. Students are taught to understand the why behind math, as well as the how. We’ve used it since my daughter was in Kindergarten, and she will be doing algebra with Math-U-See this fall.


Life of Fred. While Math-U-See is my favorite full curriculum, I have added the Life of Fred books to my son’s math curriculum. Life of Fred is very different and may take some getting used to. I also recommend starting with the lowest book if your child is in elementary school, even if he or she already understands the concepts. Life of Fred uses a right-brain friendly approach that speaks to my sons creative learning style.

Pattern Blocks. My favorite math manipulative, pattern blocks can be used for all kinds of early learning math activities. Patterning, addition, subtraction, one to one comparisons, geometry, spatial reasoning… They are also a lot of fun! While plastic and foam versions are available, there isn’t anything quite like the feel of the good quality wooden pattern blocks.

Base Ten Blocks. A physical, 3-D representation of base ten, from ones to thousands. These manipulatives are very helpful for explaining the concept of large numbers to younger students.

Games for Math. This book is an outstanding resource. It has a number of easy-t0-create, low cost games for use with children working in grades K-3.

Times Tales. Another great right-brain math item, but it would be helpful for any student learning the multiplication tables.

Right-Brain Multiplication Flash Cards. These cards use pictures to help the student remember their multiplication facts.

Touch Math. While I haven’t used this exact program with my children, I am familiar with it from teaching in the public school. They now have a homeschool version as well. It works great with kinesthetic learners and helps children make a transition from manipulatives to holding the problems in their head. Even the homeschool version is a bit costly, but they do have several resources online that you can look at before purchasing, and if your child is struggling with math, this program might be a valuable help.

Math Their Way. Another program I was introduced to when teaching Kindergarten, there is a sample copy of the book online. I love this gentle, manipulatives-based introduction to mathematics for young people.

So, there you have it, my favorite math products. While I could list many more manipulatives, I’ll save those for a future post of their own. Check some of these products out and see how math can be fun for you, too!

A Peek Into My Homeschool: Eclecticism for Two


The way homeschooling works in our home has changed often over the years. When we began, my husband worked a crazy rotating shift, and I ran a home daycare, so one week rarely looked like the next.

These days, with a fourteen-year-old eighth grader and a ten-year-old fourth grader, our homeschooling schedule is more regular, though I wouldn’t exactly call it routine. My husband works all day Monday through Thursday, as well as some Fridays. Because Daddy is sometimes home on Fridays, I try to get the bulk of our work done by Thursday. Some weeks we don’t work at all on Friday and make it up over the weekend or the next week.

Read the rest at

A Homeschooling Primer


So, you’re thinking about homeschooling. Maybe you have a tiny one, not yet in preschool, and you just know that this is what God is calling you to do. Maybe your friends homeschool. Maybe your child is registered to start Kindergarten at the local public school, but you have a niggling feeling that that isn’t what is right for him or her. Maybe you have a teenager, and something is going really wrong at school. You have to pull her NOW, and you just don’t know what to do.

Regardless of the reason, if you are just thinking about homeschooling, here is the nitty-gritty basics of what you need to know NOW to get started.

What to Do First

So, you have decided to homeschool. What do you need to do first? Unfortunately, the legal aspect needs to be taken care of immediately. Each state has its own idea of what this looks like, and it varies from low to high regulation, depending on where you live. Before you let that discourage you, let me assure that many, many people do this each year, so it is completely possible. But, unless you live in a state like Idaho, you will likely have to jump through some hoops in order to homeschool. In our state, we need to file several papers, including a proposed monthly hour count and a list of curriculum. If you aren’t sure what the requirements are for your state, you can check them out at HEDUA.

Be sure that you follow the letter of the law concerning your homeschooling paperwork. Do not pull a child out of school until you have completed whatever procedures are required, or you may be subject to truancy laws.

Find a Friend, Homeschooling Group, or Co-op

If you can find a veteran homeschooler in your community, it will help you immensely. For one thing, if you haven’t been at home full time before you may find it very lonely. Having another adult to talk to can be a real blessing. For another, she will understand the laws for your state and can help you navigate them (and if you live in a high regulation state you will especially appreciate this!). Most veterans are happy to lend a helping hand to a newbie, since they were there once themselves. If you don’t know any homeschoolers, try your local library. They often know families in the area that homeschool and can help you get in touch. If your area has a homeschooling group or co-op, get in contact with the leader. If you can’t find a local group, try searching for a state-wide group online. They will probably be aware of any smaller groups in your area.

After You File the Paperwork

Now that you have your paperwork filed, what should you do next? It’s time to decide what you are going to teach. If you are homeschooling a Kindergartener, this is pretty simple. Most of your child’s day should be spent exploring and learning in a very organic, natural way. Play dough, nature study, cooking lessons, listening to audio books, singing, listening to music, coloring, drawing, playing pretend. Lessons for a Kindergartener that require sitting and concentration should be short and include breaks in between. There are literally hundreds of homeschool sites online for early learning with free ideas and printables. If you want some regular curriculum as well, a basic language and math curriculum are really all you need.

If you are pulling an older child, your situation will probably be quite different. It depends on what caused you to pull your child, among other things. Leaving school, for whatever reason, will likely be emotional for your child. And, if you are pulling a child out of a bad situation, even more so. Allow both you and your child some grace in the early days. While you do need to teach-you have made a commitment to do so-you can still allow your child some time to ‘deschool.’ Others with more experience have written about this, but in short, take some time to read aloud, go on field trips, spend time outdoors, go on long walks, and TALK. Then, gradually add in school subjects. If you are pulling mid-year, you might consider continuing whichever courses your child was completing in school. But this is not absolutely necessary, so do what is easiest and best for your family.

Your state may have curriculum requirements as well. Ours requires language, math, social studies, science, and health. Start with those and Bible, if you intend to teach it, first. If your state doesn’t have subject requirements, start with Bible, then “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” and then move on to social studies and science. The extras can be filled in later. You can choose ready-made curriculum for the core subjects. We’ll discuss that in a minute. But, you can also use free resources online. There is a ready-made course of study for each grade at World Book Encyclopedia that is helpful for creating your own curriculum.

Finding Resources

There is so much homeschool curriculum out there that it can be overwhelming. As a beginner, know that no curriculum is perfect. If you find yourself emergency homeschooling in the middle of the year, keep it simple. One tendency of beginning homeschoolers is to think that they have to do it all, teach it all, and not miss anything. As a former classroom teacher, let me assure you that even the best public school teachers skip things, miss things, or run out of time to finish a book before the end of the year.

Ask homeschooling friends (or online groups) what curriculum they use. Get their input, but don’t choose it just because it is what your friend uses. Choose what you think will be best for you and your child. Also, know that most homeschoolers make choices in curriculum at some time-often more than once-in their homeschooling career that they are not happy with. It is perfectly acceptable to realize that something isn’t working for you, ditch it, and find something else.

Here are some of my favorite resources for purchasing curriculum:

Getting Ready to Teach

Now that you have your paperwork taken care of, decided what you are going to teach, and purchased curriculum, it’s time to prepare to teach. Spend some time looking through your curriculum. Then, set up a basic weekly schedule. Be flexible. It may take awhile to figure out what works best for you.

Set up a teaching area. For some families, that means a schoolroom. For others, it means a cupboard. For our family, we have a closet and a dresser that contain the majority of our “active” school supplies (we have bookshelves and boxes in the basement, and tubs in the attic for supplies we are not currently using). We mostly school at our kitchen table and in our living room, with the kids doing independent work in their bedrooms. If you are just beginning, start simple and allow yourself room to grow. You do not need a full-fledged classroom with a chalkboard and school desks. I repeat, you do not need a chalkboard and school desks. Start simple. A table or regular room desk will work just fine. If your child is like mine, you will spend most of your time sitting on the couch or floor anyway!

Once You’ve Gotten Started

After you have your homeschooling under way, it is helpful to learn more about homeschooling. There are many resources on this blog to help you, including my list of top homeschool how-to books.

A Final Note

If you are thinking of homeschooling, especially if you are considering pulling an older child, I’m guessing that you might feel overwhelmed right now. Take a deep breath. I want to encourage you that YOU CAN DO THIS! Just take it one step at a time and don’t worry about trying to make it look like what you think everyone else is doing. You will soon be the homeschooling veteran offering help to those who come after you.




Educating the Wholehearted Child


This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission. Thank you!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson was my number one Homeschool How-to resource. I read it every summer, and have upgraded my copy each time a new edition has come out. I am currently on the third edition. If you have either of the first two editions and enjoy them, the third edition is a hefty upgrade and I ‘wholeheartedly’ endorse it. Smile

I’ve read several helpful homeschool books, so why is Educating the Wholehearted Child my favorite? Two reasons pop into my mind immediately. First of all, it is so practical. And, secondly, the advice within brings a sense of peace and calm. Many a homeschooling book has brought a sense of pressure, condemnation, and not doing enough, however unintentional. But Educating the Wholehearted Child makes me feel like homeschooling is a doable venture. And I appreciate that.


Educating the Wholehearted Child is written from a Christian perspective. One of my favorite parts of the book is their model for learning, called the wholehearted learning model. Shown as a picture of a house, the base is biblical, discipleship studies, upon which the rest of learning is built. Disciplined, Discussion, and Discovery studies make up the bulk of the house and include basic skills, literature, fine arts, history, and science. Discretionary studies form the roof, and include electives.

The first part of Educating the Wholehearted Child gives an introduction to homeschooling, including Scripture supporting it and comparisons with regular education models. In the sections on learning and methods, schools of homeschooling are explained, such as the Charlotte Mason and unit study methods. The wholehearted learning model is presented in detail, including learning objectives, suggestion methods, and materials for each type of study. Helpful sidebars and “in our home” sections offer practical advice and show that the authors are not just giving the reader theory, but has actually practiced the principles in their own home.

The final section provides resources on making homeschooling work for your family. It includes several articles written from one homeschooling dad to another. The rest discusses planning, keeping the home under control while homeschooling, and keeping mom from getting burnt out. The appendix lists helpful books and includes forms that can be used for planning purposes and for managing the home.

If you are just beginning your homeschooling journey, this is the one book I would recommend you read before you start. And if you have been homeschooling awhile, you can still glean excellent advice from Educating the Wholehearted Child. I am just about ready to read it again-for the 8th time-as I head into another year of homeschooling. I know by the time I am done that I will be pepped up, recommitted to our education choice, and ready to go!

7 Bad Reasons to Homeschool


While I am very much a homeschooling advocate, and I think that many more people should consider it than do—though homeschool is growing at a rapid rate—I also do not believe that it is for everyone. And, if certain reasons are your primary motivation for homeschooling, it is probably not for you. So, here you go, my top seven bad reasons for homeschooling:

7. Because it’s too much work to (get your kids up in the morning, make them do their homework, be on time, etc.) If any of your reasons begin with “because it is too much work” they are probably not a good reason to homeschool. Homeschooling IS work. If you are going to do it effectively, it will likely take just about every spare moment you have. It will not save you work. Now, if you are just intending to keep your kids home and not teach them, that MIGHT save you work—but you wouldn’t really be homeschooling, either.

6. Because your friend Alice does it. Did your mother ever ask you, “If Charles jumped off a bridge would you do it, too?” The same principle applies here. If God is calling you AND Alice to homeschool, that’s great. But don’t just do it because Alice is. Alice may have a completely different calling on her life. On the flip side, many a person has been inspired to consider homeschooling by seeing her friend doing it—and that’s okay! Just be sure to count the cost before you jump in headlong.

5. Because you want to keep your kids away from other kids. Kids still need friendships with other kids their age—as well as a variety of ages. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you are more aware of who your child is spending time with and can help them choose good friends. But not NO friends.

4. Because you want your children to be smarter than everyone else’s. Homeschooling can provide an outstanding, tailor-made education for your child. But it does NOT guarantee that your child will be a genius.

3. Because homeschooled kids are perfect and always obey and get along with their siblings and mind their manners and say “yes, Ma’am and no, Sir.” Excuse me while I wipe my drink off the computer screen. Smile Homeschooling parents deal with discipline problems just like any parent, and spending so much time with our kids—and our kids with their siblings—obedience problems can actually be compounded. Homeschooling does, however, give you more time to work on these issues. And carefully choosing companions can help, as well.

2. Because your child is your whole world and you can’t stand to be away from him. No child should be put in this position. If this is true, you are going to have a hard time on the day your last child leaves the nest. Homeschooling is not the answer to any of your own personal problems.

1. Because you are afraid. Homeschooling needs to be done in faith. We can’t possibly completely protect our child from everything. If you feel God is calling you to homeschool to have a positive influence on your child, that is one thing. But if you are AFRAID of what might happen if your child goes to school, you are homeschooling for the wrong reason.

Why We Homeschool


While we get many different questions about homeschooling, probably one of the hardest to answer is the “why” question, because there are so many different answers. There isn’t just one pat, easy answer. So, I sometimes tailor my answer to the audience. And sometimes I give a fuller explanation. But sometimes, it’s easier to just begin with:

Why Did We Start?

When it came time for Boo to go to school, she would have attended the school that I went to as a child—the school I taught in for six years. I had colleagues there that I loved. Our decision to homeschool had nothing to do with concerns about the education she would receive. But they had begun all day kindergarten the last year that I had taught, and Boo had some issues with separation anxiety when she was young. And I was running a home daycare, so she would have had to ride the bus. So, I would have put my baby on the bus at 7:00 and gotten her home at 4:30. I just didn’t think that would be good for her.

So, we decided to homeschool. I figured that she was only five. If it turned out that homeschooling wasn’t for us, she could go to public school as an older, more mature Kindergartener the next year. But it turned out that we were hooked, and homeschooling gradually became more of a way of life and less of an educational choice.


Other Reasons We Homeschool

While all day Kindergarten was the reason we really began homeschooling, we continue on for a varied number of reasons. The most important one being that we feel it is what God has called  us to do, but there are many other reasons as well:

  • I enjoy the extra time that it gives us to be with our children. When they were younger, my husband worked a rotating shift that would have made spending time with our daughter very difficult if she had been in school. Even now, with a much more regular schedule, homeschooling means we can work around his holidays and days off so the kids spend more time with their dad. And being home with them all day means that I spend a lot more time with them, too!
  • We believe it is important for our children to have friends of various ages. Homeschooling has allowed us to be proactive in helping our kids find good friendships that will edify them.
  • I love learning right along with our children, and knowing what they are learning. Children with parents who are active in their education tend to do better in school. How much more active can you be than providing the education yourself?
  • My son’s learning style and activity level probably would not have lent itself to being successful in the classroom. He learned to read bouncing around on an exercise ball, and movement is an important part of our day. Having taught primary kids, I saw many boys who just didn’t do well with needing to sit.
  • We can intertwine biblical studies throughout their education. While we do have “Bible” class, history, literature, reading, science—even math are presented from a biblical perspective.
  • Homeschooling has given us more time. While we haven’t managed to completely avoid the modern-day rat race, we have been able to give our children the gift of more time—more time for play, more time for family—and more time for sleep.

These are just some of the reasons that we continue to homeschool. There are many more benefits as well. While we have sacrificed time, energy, and money in order to do so, it has been a sacrifice well worth it, in my opinion.

So, what about you. If your family homeschools, are these some of the reasons or do you have others? If you are thinking about homeschooling, have these ideas given you some food for thought?