Yardwork done

A Week of Answers – Am I Called to Home School?

This week we are studying from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this series and learn lots from it. This second letter is from a fairly new homeschooling mom with deep-core issues. Enjoy!

Homeschooled children in the kitchen

Homeschooled children in the kitchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Katharine,

I guess I’m the only one out here who doesn’t get it. When I go to support group meetings, I always hear moms talking about how God told them to home school, or something, and we didn’t do it that way. In my case, I just decided to try it last year, to see what all the excitement was about. So far, I’ve liked it, and here we are. Outside of relaxing a little, (who wouldn’t?) my two kids (ages seven and nine) don’t seem much different. Am I maybe not “called” to home school like these other mothers? Couldn’t God really want my kids to toughen up some, by being in the schools? Does home school really prepare all kids for every type of career?  –Mackenzie

Dear Mackenzie,

No. God does not want your children to toughen up in public.

Let’s talk about that first, because He may have been leading you more than you realize.

English: Oak Tree

Oak Tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adults are like oak trees. A beautiful, tall, old oak tree is tough. If you run into one with your lawn mower, the tree wins. Right?

How does it get that way?

Simple: Oak trees get huge and tough by not being mowed over when they are young and tender.

Children are young and tender.

Children, in general, however, can be very cruel.

So can life.

It can feel a lot like a lawnmower.

For this reason, God put children into families, with parents to protect them, comfort them, and strengthen them. They actually obtain their toughness this way, in the home. They have to be taught how to be tough, and it is therefore the parents’ job to teach this toughening. How can you protect, comfort, and teach your children toughness when you are not with them!

Do you think their teachers will wrap them in their arms, cry with them and remind them that God sees and cares and can help them be tough? I think not; it is against the law, in the teachers’ imaginations.

That is why children relax, as yours did—and mine did—when they finally come home.

The curriculum:

Unless your children are very above normal in obedience and kindness, they will create opportunities for you to help them learn how to be oak trees.

Surely they swipe toys, neglect chores, sass, or maybe even resort to violence with each other, just as all kids are prone to do. Even the most well-behaved children got that way by being TAUGHT—NOT to steal, NOT to be lazy, NOT to rebel, and NOT to bonk brother on the head.

And those who miss this teaching grow up to steal, be lazy, rebel, and use violence. Hmm.

What else?

There is another type of toughness that has little to do with sin, though. This type will go out on a cold, rainy, November morning, and vote. It will volunteer for storm clean-up. It will take up the Bible-study leader’s slack if he has the flu.

This type does not occur on the playground, much.

In fact, this self-denying toughness is missing throughout this world. You can give your children the advantage of this type of toughness, though, which is the real preparation that everyone needs for every type of career out there.

It is great preparation even just for college.

Home schooled children succeed in college, more than children from any type of collective educational situations. Did you know?

And more…

Your other question, about your calling, is harder. I cannot answer for your friends’ feelings or their communications from God.

Let’s just say that God has commanded us to teach our children all the time–when we sit, walk, lie down, and get up. (Deuteronomy 11:10) Sounds as if we need them at home, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds to me as if God assumed we would have them at home and does not always issue a special call for it.

Also, His command or assumption that we write and read (Habakkuk 2:2) makes it very important that we give our children the tools for those activities, and it just does not always happen in the collective schools.

The risk of our children falling away from all the good things is too enormous. We should keep them where they will not be mowed down, and where they will be watered, nourished, and trained to grow straight and tall.

Given time, they will toughen just fine.

And they will not grow up to be lawnmowers.



A Week of Answers – My Son Is not Reading

Brothers sharing bookThis week we will study from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this and learn lots from it. The first letter is from a woman who was so scared, she set up a new email account so she could be anonymous. I’ll call her “Jane”.

Dear Katharine,

My oldest son is smart but is still not reading and we have home schooled him for three years, now, making him eight. I am so scared. I have used phonics, daily, and he seems to like it, but he often just doesn’t get it. What am I doing wrong? Have I ruined him? I cannot even bear to think what the schools will say if I send him back there, but I truly do not know what to do, and cannot let him grow up not reading. He reads so slowly and so incorrectly, that it just kills me to listen to it. I hardly dare confess this to anyone, even anonymously like this. HELP! –Jane

Dear Jane,

No you have not ruined him. You probably are teaching correctly, especially since you are using an accepted curriculum, are consistent, and you say he does enjoy it and does actually read, however poorly.

Some children just are slower, for one reason or another, independent of their setting.

Before I answer your questions, I would like to tell you what the schools would have done with your child, okay?

How it would have gone:

First, they would have put him in a reading group with all slow, low-skilled readers, so the “bright” children would not have had to bear the frustration that you are expressing. The results would have been that he would not have been around good reading, ever.

Also they would have instituted some sort of classroom reading competition, in which your son either would not have been expected to compete, or else just would never have had a chance. He and his reading-group friends would have been grouped together for other activities, too, just for convenience’s sake. (You know, the redbirds, the bluebirds, the robins, and the wrens, with the bird species becoming less flashy as the reading skills become less flashy.)Many in his group would have expressed feelings of inferiority about themselves and their group.

Eventually he might have been placed outside the classroom for a few hours a week, to receive special education. This may or may not have been conducted by a learning specialist of any kind–possibly by a substitute teacher or a volunteer–and may not necessarily have been very educational. After all this isolation, he and all his classmates would have begun to get the picture.

Are you beginning to get the picture?

What to do?!

Children who are slow to learn to read, possibly above all others, need to have the chance to exit the collective educational systems. Your son needs individual attention, and believe me, that is impossible in a public setting. If the teacher were able to give him what he needed, she might be of the sweet type who would want to do so, but she simply cannot, because she is in charge of twenty or so individuals who all have needs.

One thing I would suggest, that you are not doing wrong, but maybe have not known to do (and that your son never would receive in a public setting) is that you work on his vision.

  1. Have his eyes professionally examined.
  2. Eliminate fluorescent lighting, at least in his work room. This goes for all “screen lighting”, too, as comes from a computer or TV.
  3. Let him use a white bookmark to underline his reading.
  4. Obtain for your son colored cellophane page covers from a teacher supply store, to see if a different color helps.
  5. Make sure he is receiving excellent nutrition and low amounts of all sugars; no junk food whatsoever, and plenty of outdoor exercise
  6. Nix television and electronic games.

All these little changes possibly can add up to big improvements.

Also, you need to be aware that many children are not ready to learn reading until they are ten, and some after they are nearly grown. (President Andrew Johnson‘s wife taught him to read.) If this is the case with your son, he certainly does not need to be in a collective educational system. He may be the next Edison or Einstein, who both had trouble with traditional schoolwork, and both skipped “school”, learning at home.

You have done your son an immense favor by helping him to escape the isolation and embarrassment that are inherent to those in his situation. Do not stop. Just be patient until he begins to catch on more. Read to him a lot, and let him watch you point at the copy while you read. Especially read his other subjects to him, so he can learn them. Play word games with him, such as hangman or Jr. Scrabble, and get him a simple word-search book. Find an easy story that he likes a lot and read it together, daily. Help him memorize many passages from the Bible, plus some from historical documents, such as the Constitution. Please, also continue with the phonics; there are phonics courses for every age, to adult.

Help him discover and push him into his area of high skill, which may not be a “school” subject, but something more like Edison or Einstein did.

Perhaps it would help you to hear this: One of my older son’s best homeschool friends does not read or spell very well, is beginning a college major in computers, and loves to play word games, of all things. He does well, holding down a job, refereeing soccer, driving, and everything else a young man hopes to do. The important thing, though to his mother, and to you, is that he is a well-rounded gentleman with many moral friends, is of great accountability, is trusted with important adult-level responsibilities, and is not on drugs. He will be fine.

Home schooling did this.

Do not give up. Do not fear. Do not despair. Do not faint.

In due season, you will reap!

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It’s School Time.

English: Motivations regarded most important f...

Motivations regarded most important for homeschooling among parents in 2007. Source: 1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007 Issue Brief from Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. December 2008. NCES 2009–030 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

School is almost upon us for the year. That means it is high time to look at your school choices.

Especially if you are unhappy with your collective school, you need to think about slipping out of that situation and readying yourself and your children for schooling at home. 

I hope you’ve spent quality time thinking about your children and their future. I hope you’ve inspected a bit of curriculum and even used my curriculum guide, which begins here.


You have hardly a month for organizing your life around a new normal.

You need to start now.

Your curriculum company and your children will be grateful if you do not wait until the week before school begins (as too many other people do) to place your order, expecting it to arrive timely. Timely arrival follows timely ordering. Like, hurry…


With that in mind, I’d like to direct you to the homeschooling posts on this site, created just for you, for inspiring, motivating, guiding, and helping you make the transition.

Oh, and if you just need a booster and wish someone would give the beginning lectures to you all over again, hey, help yourself to these! You are welcome!

Why we don’t want them there in the first place:

My Sweetest Homeschool Memories; 5 pages!

To help you with inspiration and incentive:

Traditional Education

From Infancy to the Four-Year-Old, begins here and continues for 3 more pages.

To guide your choices and other decisions:

What Homeschooling is Like; 2 pages.

Do NOT Try Homeschooling (a trick title, but you’ll like this); 3 pages.

Is There Life After Homeschool? Yes!

To help figure out what curriculum you need:

A 5-Page Curriculum Guide by an Unbiased Person (me) (I love them ALL! and I am not to be sold.)

Okay. There is a LOT more on this site. Just use my search engine to search “homeschool” and you will find all sorts of help.

Have fun!

And don’t forget: Home’s Cool!

Help Me Save the U.S. Taxpayers $20,000,000,000

English: One Billion Dollar Artwork

One Billion Dollars

That’s twenty billion.


And that’s per year.

Every year.

We can do this and even more, one family at a time.

You, yourself, can save the U.S.$130,000 over the next 12 or so years.

All by yourself.


By homeschooling just one child.

A cool $20,000,000,000 (TWENTY BILLION) is what homeschoolers are already saving all U.S. taxpayers.

Per year.

You should join us.


photo credit: Wikipedia

How to Sweat the Big Stuff

College. We all have to pay for it somehow!Just read a darling story about a guy who was, like me, a writer, but, who, not like me, had one published book under his belt and another on the way. He wrote of his old publisher doing something really unethical on the new book, and of having to insist it be recalled while he apologized to a certain famous person.

The famous person wrote him back with words of forgiveness.

His point was that it was wrong to have worried about this blunder, to have recalled the book, and to have written the apology.

I disagree.

While it is, truly, wrong to worry, it also is truly wrong to allow people to walk all over you and to let the mistakes you have allowed to damage others.

A Little Sweat Is Right and Good

The recall was right. The apology was right. The forgiveness was an act of mercy, which I do applaud, but the assessment of the whole ordeal was wrong.

It is right to attempt to undo a wrong. It is right to apologize. It is right to let those who would use you and put you in a bad light know you will not sit down for it.

I don’t know where this author went with the final outcome. I mean, did he use the same publisher, again? I don’t know. Did his relationship with the famous person grow and bloom or wither and die? I don’t know.

But I do know that, aside from the worry, he did the right thing.

And I might have worried a bit, too. Or at least prayed.

Which brings us to college debt forgiveness.

I am thinking I’ve lately read a wonderful solution to this lovely problem.

Folks may be thinking: what problem? There’s a problem? All these kids are getting out from under the huge burdens they were carrying from college. That’s a problem?


It’s a problem to any parent who watches a CORRECTLY brought up kid paying down debt, working and going hungry during their college years, in order to make a debt-free life for himself.

It’s a problem when a parent’s coffers are dwindling from having kids in college, while taxes go up to pay for other kids’ college debt and half of them are not even in college.

Yes, it’s too expensive. They knew that going in.

Yes, debt is a heavy burden. They needed to learn that before they got out.

Yes, I think forgiveness is primo.

I just think it’s not about debt, it’s not about the price of college, and it’s not really about forgiveness.

Not about Debt?

You see, there will still be debt. Yep, it’s been passed around to us, who paid our own down, already. We’re all now in debt because today’s youth is stupid. YOU, dear reader, are in debt now, instead of them. Fine solution, I’d say.

Not about the High Cost?

The price of college is not going anywhere, and especially not going anywhere lower. If there is debt forgiveness legislated into our possibilities, then why lower the cost, hmm? Also, one huge factor many refuse to address in this equation is the fact that many families of high school grads did count the cost when they enrolled their children in a college, and then after they were locked in, the cost was raised. A contract was entered, a verbal agreement to a certain price, and then the rug was pulled. That can be so crippling.

Last, but not least, it’s not about forgiveness.

What is forgiveness?

  1. I can start by saying what it is not. It is not saying, “Oh, it’s okay.” It is not okay with me, at all. My money is going to pay for someone else’s flagrancy, with no assurance it will not be repeated soon. I was not even asked and given the opportunity to forgive. I was only notified I’d be the one paying for someone else’s “feelings” of forgiveness. How can that be forgiveness?
  2. Forgiveness is not “excuses”, either. Sure kids are financially ignorant. Sure they need cash to buy their new music, etc., so why save any to spend on school. Sure (Oh, MY!) they didn’t know they’d have to pay it back. Sure they … name your excuse. They couldn’t help it. Sure. I believe that. That is not forgiveness. Is not even a CALL for forgiveness. It’s just a statement of several tiring facts. Facts of life that no one knows are not forgiveness, not a sign of it, even. They’re just a long list of what’s wrong, here.
  3. Forgiveness is not trusting. Hoo, boy, don’t get me started. If trusting is forgiveness, then I’m the one that is being forgiven because we’re all trusting I’ll pay for the crazy. If I will, then I’m the crazy one, I think. But since forgiveness does not include trusting, I TRUST we’ll NOT trust these kids to try again, to accrue more debt again, for them to trust we’ll pay again?

I’d love to help you pay your debts, really I would, but I think they’d rather I be in debt, myself instead. Sorry.

Are you just now beginning a school in your home?

And: Are you shocked at what you’ve discovered?

Not so very long ago, (about thirty years, or so) we began homeschooling in the middle of the school year.

It can be tough.

Or it can be total joy.

Or it can be both.

I’m here to encourage you: You can do this. You can make it a beautiful combination of toughness and joy.

How it is with your child's new school!

How it is with your child’s new school!

I can show you how.

What follows are links to a five-part series of actual steps you can take to maximize your experience, and your student’s experience, as you wander through this new land called “Homeschool”.

1. The first step is already done: Bringing your child home is the first step.

For better or worse (It’s better, I promise!) you are now the 100% proud owner of a somewhat used child. Here’s how to spruce up your new acquisition and enjoy a great start-up and lots of remaining miles!

2. You will have a long time to get your whole school right, but you have only now to get now right. 

When you have a couple of weeks behind you, start taking a closer look and planning for the entire journey. No sense in running out of gas or getting lost. It’s time for detailing and getting a map.

3. Yes, “perks” are very important in a home school. Actually, they are important to everyone…

The wax job that makes for smoother sliding through the environment. What to, and not to pack for the journey and how to squeeze it all in.

4. Yes, he needs you; that is why God made parents.

Changing the oil; getting the junk out of the radiator, and a decent set of tires can make all the difference in the world! You’ll go further and be more sure of arriving at all!

5. The home-schooled student truly does have every advantage.

Those who get the most out of any trip are those who invest their entire beings into it. Is it time for you to make a major investment of your whole heart?


Beginning In the Middle

Beginning in the Middle

Beginning in the Middle

As an old song goes, the very beginning is a “very good place to start”.

Once my husband and I saw the need to educate our children at home, though, we began in the middle. We were not wise enough to see the need at the very beginning of that school year. Soon after that, we became too desperate to wait for another beginning.

We were what I like to call “middlers”.

After counseling several moms who have made this choice, I would like to share a good way to succeed at it. First, let’s look at the dilemma—how we felt (and how I have found that most people feel) in this predicament:

Scared. God says, “Fear not,” but we fear anyway. When you begin in the middle, you have greater temptation to fear. Often you have not deliberated, planned, and shopped for an entire summer. You fear that you are panicking, rejecting the status quo. Rather than simply not showing up, as most new home schoolers do, you must face irate professionals who think you are stealing their children, or worse, their money. This can be scary.

Uninformed. Some worldly systems neglect to tell you many significant things. You perhaps do not know what your child has studied and more importantly, how well he actually did. You may not understand achievement tests. Sometimes it is to the teacher’s advantage to keep parents at a distance. Other times, it just happens. How can you know what has been happening when you were not there? They taught, but did your child learn?

Without vision. All you know is that the current arrangement is not satisfactory and that you must devise a new strategy. You simply do not know what it is, yet. Perhaps you feel the Lord will lead, but perhaps He is waiting for you to take that first step…. How can you know?

Wounded. Usually, the decision to begin in the middle springs from hurtful happenings. Your child was failing, the teacher was angry, the other students were cruel, or whatever. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that such enormous circumstances have not touched you personally. What is more crucial, do not think they have not touched your child. Such situations can hurt a lot, and they can hurt a long time.

Distracted. It may feel like a thousand voices are shouting at you, now. Your families, your “teachers”, your neighbors, and maybe even your friends are telling you something, and usually it is not something helpful. Total strangers will feel compelled to voice an opinion. You may so tire of it, that even favorable opinion can irritate. It can be difficult to concentrate with so many voices sounding at once.

Strapped. You promised you would do whatever it takes to help your child, and if you were working outside the home then, you face reduced income and a slight increase in expenses (curriculum) now. If your salary caused you to inflate previous spending, you are wondering where the money will come from. To remain constant in your commitment, you have to think about expenses.

Unsure. You cannot fathom how anyone can stand in front of a child, especially his own, and say the words to make learning happen. You do not know where to start, what to write on the blackboard, when to have recess, how to shoot a basket—it can seem ridiculous, if you list it all. You do not even know how much of this you need to know.

Is this you? Cheer up; there is an easy way to solve these problems and to begin with an impressive steadiness. I always counsel someone in your position to do the same thing, because it works better than anything else can. In fact, your position is the easiest to recommend for, because there really is only one way that works well.

What makes sense is to use curriculum that is ideal for beginning in the middle. You must look for a curriculum that consists totally of workbooks prepared to be consumed at the rate of one per subject per every three weeks, or so. Very importantly, this curriculum must have a placement test. Several curriculum companies provide what I am suggesting, what home educators call “consumable curriculum”. (The child writes in the text, consuming it.) You will learn to choose your curriculum for yourself, someday, but you will be thankful if you begin with this.

Let me explain how well consumable curriculum can serve you.

First, you will gain courage when you look at the materials consumable curriculum provides. The three-week increments make it seem more attainable. You will realize that there is little for you to do, few ways to fail. Your children will relax with this material, for the same reason, and will approve your decision.

Since you have little familiarity with your child’s education, the placement test is your friend. A few sample questions are geared to the scope and sequence of the curriculum in the subjects of math and reading. After administering this test, you will have the joy of handing your child exactly the materials he needs for success in your new school. If he needs catch-up work, begin with one or two workbooks for problem areas. Then you are free to proceed where he is ready to work. If he is substantially behind in one subject, you can place him where he can achieve learning, and work extra in that area. If he is ahead, you can place him where he can finally feel a challenge. You both will love the smooth transition and instant success.

Vision will come immediately. It will be with great relief that you let the course work be your lesson plan. You will see more success than you dreamed you could generate, and it will be its own reward. You will see school through different eyes once you have tasted the joys of watching your child learn. As I said, shop around later, this summer, after that first half-year sample. For now, this will be all the vision you will need.

Because of past stress, you will not need the burden of determining your child’s needs and how to provide them. Perhaps you will feel a need to spend your weekends writing your own curriculum, someday. If so, this is your ticket to that day, and you both will benefit from resting wounded hearts along the way. For now, though, you both will need a time to coast, a time of getting to know each other. Learning must happen, but it does, with consumable curriculum. Consumable types just happen to be easiest for the mom. Children are relieved at the simple format, too.

These curriculum companies also provide encouragement, send you inspiring newsletters without cost, and provide toll-free numbers. You will have access to new voices, voices that help, encourage, and direct. These professional educators strive to serve the home school mom. Their attitude is that the only time a question is dumb is when it is unspoken. They love to help and they believe in home schooling, or they would take other jobs.

Yes, it costs just a bit more overall, to order consumable curriculum piecemeal. Still, a half-year of this type should cost far less than a full year of any other. (You cannot buy halves of hardbound texts.) I do not need to tell you that a half-year of consumable type costs much less than the wrong level of any other.

If you live in a big town, you probably can access consumable curriculum companies at a Christian bookstore. In very large cities, you may be able to locate a store entirely devoted to home schools. In these cases, you may go to the store every three weeks, and purchase only what you need next, saving even more.

If you are still unsure, consider this: If your child is reading, he can teach himself with this type of curriculum. This does not mean that you may leave him home alone, or that it is good to ignore him. What you will find, however, is that when you skip the lecture and the blackboard, your student finishes faster. The material is arranged so that the child reads a little and then answers questions. Only when he cannot understand, should you explain. The child is free to learn without suffering unending lecture, you are free to do a little housework, real learning happens, and you hardly had to do a thing. Are you surer, now?

O.k., let’s talk about the down side. You knew this was coming. I want to be fair and make certain you know what to expect.

The only problem I ever had with consumable curriculum, after trying two major providers, was the cost. The embarrassing thing about this is that it is so easy to make it reusable—have your children write the answers on another paper, instead of writing in the booklets. I feel silly never to have thought of it. Still, with six children, I did not feel we could afford to buy all their books all over each year. That may be a big consideration for you, too, but an easy one to overcome.

Some home school moms suspect all that filling-in-the-blank will lead to students not knowing how to write essays. If so, I do not know of it. My oldest received all his home education from consumable curriculum, and proceeded to “CLEP” English I. It did not seem to have hurt him. If I were worried about it, though, I would assign some extra essay work, a simple solution, again.

The only other hindrance that I can imagine with consumable curriculum is if your child does not read well. This is a two-fold problem involving both placement and performance, but do not fault the curriculum; it would be a problem whatever curriculum you choose.

The placement tests might not be entirely accurate with the slow-to-read child. I would administer the test, nevertheless, because it is not expensive and would give me better understanding of my child’s learning. Then I would use the results to help me examine the texts, as I selected the material I wanted to try. Consumable curriculum is so wonderful for this project, in that it allows you to buy very little, as a trial.

In the case of the slow or non-reader, leaving the child to read and answer questions himself will not work. To solve this problem, I would help the child read the material, to improve his reading level. Failing that I would read it to him, making sure that he paid attention and grasped the material. For an older child, I might read it onto a tape, to give him some control over his situation. I might use all three techniques. It would not be easy, but didn’t you bring him home because it was too hard for others?

You can do it, dear Middler, no matter how scared, uninformed, confused, wounded, distracted, strapped, and unsure you are. All you need is the curriculum designed with you in mind. I did it, and so have others just like you and me.

Go ahead and start in the middle to make a new beginning.