Category Archives: Scheduling

Of Sleep and Teenagers



If you homeschool teens, you are probably already aware of some of the advantages that homeschooling offers students: flexibility, working at their own pace, matching courses to their interests. But you may not have thought of this one: sleep. While sleep may not be the first advantage homeschooling parents think of, it is an important one.

Why Teenagers Need to Sleep

National Jewish Health in Colorado studied the sleep patterns of 2612 students, including nearly 500 homeschoolers. They found that the homeschooled students slept an average of ninety minutes more per night. On average, homeschooled students woke up eighteen minutes after their public and private schooled peers were already in class. According to an American Academy of Pediatrics statement, “insufficient sleep [is] an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students.”

Why is this significant? Teenagers need around nine hours of sleep per night, with most needing 9 ¼ hours.

The consequences of lack of sleep are alarming:

  • various illnesses, including an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular issues
  • acne and other skin problems
  • decreased attention span
  • lowered ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems
  • overeating and obesity
  • increased intake of caffeine
  • higher likelihood of using nicotine and alcohol
  • aggressive behavior
  • depression and suicidal thoughts

Public and private schools with early start times contribute to sleep deprivation in teens. Without even considering the time needed for activities and homework, it is difficult for teens to get enough sleep with early start times. Teenagers experience a shift in their circadian rhythm due to a change in their melatonin. Many of them simply can’t fall asleep before 11:00 p.m., which makes both getting enough sleep and a 7:30 a.m. start time incompatible.

So what happens when students start getting more sleep every night? A Minnesota school that began starting their days more than an hour later saw a significant reduction in dropout rates, less depression, and higher student grades. A study of 9000 students in eight schools and three states by Dr. Kyle Wahlstrom found that later start times improved student grades and standardized test scores, and resulted in a 65% to 70% drop in teen car accidents.

As homeschoolers, many of us can adjust our schedules to accommodate the biological change in our teenagers’ sleep needs. In our home, I begin the day by homeschooling my elementary student, who awakens early on his own. This allows my teen extra time to sleep in. By the time she awakens and completes her Bible study, my son is ready to work on his own for a while, and I can spend time one-on-one with my teen.

Getting Enough Sleep

Besides schedule adjustments, here are some other practical ways you can be sure your teen is getting enough sleep:

  • make sleep a priority
  • establish a consistent bedtime and wakeup time, even on weekends
  • make sure that any naps are short and not too close to bedtime
  • keep the bedroom cool, quiet, and dark
  • exercise regularly
  • don’t eat, drink, or exercise right before bed
  • avoid caffeine close to bedtime
  • develop a bedtime routine to “train” the body that it is time to go to sleep
  • try to avoid your TV, computer, and phone for an hour before bedtime


While “early to bed, early to rise” may apply to adults and younger children, making sure our teens get the optimum amount of sleep is more important to find them, “healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Is your teen a night owl or an early riser? How do you accommodate his schedule in your homeschool?


Originally published at


Using Electives as Your Children Grow



Right now I am in the thick of planning our next year of homeschooling, and I am finding myself dealing with so many changes! Next year I will go from teaching an elementary student and a middle school student, to one in middle school and one in high school.

While we have always used electives in our homeschooling, how we use them-and choose them-is evolving.

According to our state, our homeschool core classes need to include language, math, social studies, science, and health. As a Christian homeschool, I consider Bible to be “core” as well. Any classes outside of those I consider “electives.”  When our children were small, I used electives for exposure. While I did take into account their interests and abilities, I wanted my kids exposed to lots of different possibilities. Though I didn’t see that we had a Rembrandt or Mozart on our hands, small children don’t necessarily demonstrate the abilities they may grow into later on. So, we had art, music, cooking, various sports, crafts, poetry, creative writing, keyboarding, and more.

As we are moving into creating a high school curriculum, our use of electives is becoming much more structured.

Our choices are no longer exposure driven. For one thing, we will be listing some of them on my children’s transcripts for high school credit. For another, we need to think about what courses they will need to have in order to be accepted into college, should they choose to go. And as they are beginning to stretch their wings toward independence, we are allowing our children much more choice in the matter.

My daughter has shown talent in music, both in singing and piano playing, so one of her electives will be a half-credit course I am calling “Music Performance.” I plan to include her practice and lesson time, as well as performances and church music team participation in this course. After looking through a list of possibilities, she also chose a keyboarding/word processing class as well. And we added Spanish 1, since foreign language is likely to be a requirement at any of the colleges she might attend. My son, on the other hand, is more interested in things like home repair and construction, mechanics, and baseball.

Are you stuck when thinking of electives that will work for your student, or what to call them?

Below you can find the list of possibilities that I showed my daughter. You’re sure to find an interesting idea among them:

  • Accounting
  • Astronomy
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Art
  • Botany and Gardening
  • Business
  • Computer Programming
  • Consumer Math
  • Cooking and Baking
  • Church History
  • Creative Writing
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • First Aid
  • Foreign Language
  • Home Economics
  • Home Repair
  • Journalism
  • Keyboarding
  • Logic
  • Music Appreciation
  • Music Performance
  • Photography
  • Shakespeare
  • Speech
  • Study Skills
  • Weightlifting
  • Word Processing
  • Worldview

What electives would you add to this list? Share your ideas with me!

Originally published at

2014-2015 in Review


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Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015

Whew! It is hard to believe how fast this school year has flown! We are almost to the end of our year, and I am deep into planning our next school year. I would have to say that this was one of our best years yet. We got a lot accomplished! And it turned out that high school isn’t so bad after all. Smile

Here are some thoughts and comments on the past year and the curricula that we used:

I have worked hard this year at simplifying and organizing. I have a lot I want to do this summer, but I do have to say that it has made our year easier. I have declutter a lot of extra items and gotten much more organized with regular cleaning chores. My Well Planned Day planner bears testament to the fact that I am using it regularly as well.


We used some favorites this past year and then added some new ones into the mix. As my kids get older, I am learning more and more what works for them. That means that I hit the mark with the curriculum choices more often!


Boo had lessons with my mom, read her Bible, listened to teachings, and went to Bible study each week. We are working her into a more adult-style way of using her faith.

Buddy read from his Bible and worked on AWANA memory verses.


Boo used Applications of Grammar this year. I love this curriculum for her because it is thorough, but easy for me to use. She is my traditional-style schooler, so workbooks are a good fit for her. I put together a literature curriculum for her, and she made it through all of the books. She doesn’t love reading, so that was quite a feat for us! I did allow her to listen to a couple of the books on mp3 from Librivox just to shake things up a bit and make it easier. And she also looked up and defined a number of vocabulary words.

Buddy used All About Reading and All About Spelling again this year. I can’t say enough about this series. His reading has improved dramatically since we started using them. It fits right in with his right-brained, artistic mindset. He also did choice independent reading, and I read aloud several books to him.


Boo used Math-U-See and finished up Pre-Algebra and is working her way quickly through Algebra 1. We took some extra time last year to make sure she had a solid foundation before we got into higher-level math, and that time has shown this year.

Buddy is still doing some Math-U-See as well, but we have moved onto Life of Fred for most of his Math work. The quirky stories fit his learning style very well. I am very happy with this choice and ordered the next few books for next year.


Boo completed Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology from Dr. Jay Wile. With the exception of microorganisms, which is necessary but not really our interest, we loved this book. I worked with her on this one most days, and we both learned so much. We had a lot of fun with the experiments, as well.

Buddy worked through two of Apologia’s Zoology books. He will finish the third one next year. He preferred the land animals one, but had fun with them both. His favorite activity was the candy activity that showed how camouflage works!

Social Studies:

Boo studied World Geography using lessons I created using several books. The base for the study was DK’s Geography of the World book. With tons of full-color photos and information, I felt like she got a really good overview of the world. She also completed maps and did some reading from Operation World. I intended for her to do more hands-on activities, such as cooking and art, but we just ran out of time. I do think those activities would have been helpful in learning about the cultures, though.

Buddy also studied geography, with a brief look at each continent, some map activities, and study in geographical terms. I used books from the library, and the online games Stack the States and Stack the Countries to work with him, too.


Boo worked hard for her music performance credit this year. She had a solo in our church program and sang solos and duets for other events. She has had several years of piano lessons. This year she has begun working on accompanying someone singing for praise and worship.

Buddy had piano lessons and a speaking role in our church program. He also had an art lesson each week and is learning to draw.


Both of my kids spend many hours practicing for ball and playing games. Boo spend some time at the YMCA working out, and both kids do Wii Fit. I am hoping to improve on P.E. next year, because Buddy will be old enough to go upstairs at the Y and  use the treadmills and other machines.


Boo used online programs to learn some Spanish and for Keyboarding. I liked the Keyboarding program, but will add some bookwork in for Spanish 2.


We had a great year at co-op. Both of the kids were in a wonderful poetry class and completed books of their own poems. They also had a creative writing class and wrote short stories. It stretched them both and was fun as well. They also learned some Spanish from the Spanish pastor at the church that hosts co-op. Buddy enjoyed a study on pioneer days. Both kids had choir.

All-in-all, this was a good school year. I am happy with what we accomplished, but I have some goals for next year. I am hoping to have both kids work a little more independently so that working with them one at a time will be easier. And I am hoping to have some more hands-on activities for our studies in World History (Boo) and Ancient History (Buddy). For now, though, we are going to enjoy a summer break and some ball games!

Working and Homeschooling


Crestview Heights Academy Working and Homeschooling

For most of my homeschooling career I have worked part time while I homeschooled. When I first started our daughter out in Kindergarten, I was running a home daycare that I continued until she was in second grade. Then I babysat just for a couple of children. I have also taught special interest classes at our local community college and libraries, created my own downloadable activities for sale at Crestview Heights Academy, and currently am the print editor at Home Educating Family.

I would be dishonest if I tried to say that it was easy to work and homeschool. It’s not. Sometimes I feel like I am doing a disservice to one or the other. Sometimes I am stressed out. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up with everything. And often I am missing out on personal things that I enjoyed. Still, I wouldn’t trade either one. I love homeschooling, and even with working part time I am still spending more time with my kids than if they were in traditional school. And I also love the challenge my work gives me and the connections I have with adults through it.

Here are a few things I have learned about working and homeschooling:

I can’t do it without God. Without prayer and time with God, my days are sure to go haywire. Spending time reading my Bible, listening to teachings, and praying is essential.

This is a season. It will not always be this way. One day these kids will be off on their own, and things will go back to “normal.” So, I am going to cherish every second I have.

For the time being, many of my personal interests have been put on hold. I do not sew, cross stich, or crochet like I used to. I am a voracious reader, but with so much of my reading time needed for school and work-related projects, I don’t read nearly as much personally as I used to. And I read a LOT more youth and young adult fiction, because it is faster and easier to read. Even our newspaper piles up, and I skim through several in one sitting.

I need to be organized. I’m still working on this one, to be honest. But I am much more organized than I used to be.

Simplifying makes things easier. I have spent the past few months decluttering and simplifying our home and lives. I still have a long way to go, but it is getting better. I tend to be a pack rat, but more stuff means that I have to organize before I clean, and I just don’t have the time for that.

Keeping a calendar and schedule are important. I can often be heard to say, “Let me check my calendar, and I will get back to you.” I no longer say yes to anything until I check my calendar and think it through. I also try to keep on a schedule. As my children have gotten older, they can do more schoolwork on their own. So I set aside the morning for one-on-one and family school time, and work in the afternoons. Most of my family  is in bed by 9:30 or 10:00, so I spend an hour or so working after everyone is asleep, as well.

While my days are more than busy, they are also full of experiences and learning. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Are We Done Yet?


Crestview Heights Academy Are We Done Yet?

It’s that time of year again for us. We are finishing up books and the end is in sight! Every homeschool family is different. For some of you, your school year may follow the regular school calendar, like ours does. Others school year-round or follow a different schedule. Still, at some point, you get to the place where your year is DONE!

When I plan out our next school year each spring, I always keep in mind the changing seasons. I know to plan a little lighter around the holidays and in the spring, when we have started ball season and I’m on to planning the next year. But, at some point, we are just DONE. All capital letters. And DONE doesn’t always mean the books are completely finished. Believe me, school teachers across America are DONE in the next few weeks, too, whether the books are finished or not.

So, how do you know if your school year is done?

  • If you or your kids are hanging from the chandelier, your school year may be done.
  • If you can’t stomach the idea of correcting one more paper, you may be done.
  • If the warm spring air is calling your name, you may be done.
  • If you have all of your books, workbooks, worksheets, and every activity you planned for the year complete, you are DEFINITLY done…and probably deserve some kind of medal! Smile

Here’s a truth about schooling in the public or private school: most curriculum is designed to review much of what was learned the year before in the first few weeks of the new school year. And much of what is learned is repeated multiple times before a student graduates. It is okay to take a look at your books and decide what doesn’t need to be completed before you end your year. Is there anything that will be reviewed the next year? And, as homeschoolers, there is no reason we can’t just pick up where we left off in a book the next year. I’ve done that several times with our Math curriculum. For other curricula, I contemplate whether we will miss anything if we don’t finish it.

To be clear, please be sure that you are completing everything the state requires of you. I am not recommending that you ignore your responsibility to educate your children. But if you have completed your requirements and are pressing on to finish a book or list of activities simply to get them done, rethink that plan. Is every chapter, every book, every worksheet or activity really necessary? If not, your school year may simply be DONE.

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.

My homeschooling style is very eclectic, with a strong Charlotte Mason influence.

Our base curriculum is My Father’s World. Until this year we did all of our My Father’s World subjects (social studies, science, art, Bible, music, and read-aloud) as a family. This year my daughter has started doing those subjects on her own, while I work with her brother.

For language arts, my daughter uses Jump In for writing, Applications of Grammar, and is finishing up Intermediate Language Lessons. She also has a list of classic books and YWAM biographies that she reads. My son is finishing up Primary Language Lessons this year, uses WriteShop Primary for writing, and Simply Grammar. I also use All About Reading and All About Spellingwith him. We occasionally add Artistic Pursuits, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and a variety of poetry books as well. For math we use Math-U-See, with Life of Fred and Professor B. Math for fun and extra practice.

Our days usually begin with Bible together, though I sometimes work with my early bird son and let my daughter sleep in.

After Bible, my daughter goes off to her own room to work independently, while my son and I work on language, math, and My Father’s World. Late morning or after lunch, I check my daughter’s work and help her with math.

Afternoons are pretty laid-back. My children finish up any work that needs to be done, do their chores, go outside, read, watch TV, play Wii, or have friends over. My son enjoys coloring or doing crafts. They also spend some time practicing piano.

We are blessed to belong to a wonderful homeschool co-op.

We meet Thursday afternoons for twenty-four weeks during the school year for a variety of enrichment classes. This gives my children time to spend with their friends, while also allowing them a chance to learn from other parents. I enjoy getting to visit with other homeschooling moms.

Because PE and music are not my specialties, we seek out other ways for my children to learn these skills. They occasionally have Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, and swimming lessons. They both play competitive baseball/softball, which takes up a great deal of our spring and early summer. They also participate in our homeschool choir, take piano lessons, and have been involved in various children’s drama events.

Homeschooling and activities keep us very busy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Originally published 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.