Celebrating Cruelty

Blackberry Cell phone

My son is 14. If he had remained in public school, he would be entering 9th grade in the fall. That means, for all intents and purposes, he’s a high-schooler. Even though he’s 5′ 3″ and barely 100 lbs. He started kindergarten a year early, and it shows.

Recently, our tiny hicktown in the Northernest portion of New York State made national news because high school and middle school students were beating the tar out of each other, recording the beatings on their cell phones, and posting the videos on YouTube. It all came out when a victim brought a jack knife to school and was brought up on weapons charges. He was 13.

It’s no surprise to anyone who was a teenager that teens are capable of intense cruelty. This is not to say they are all cruel, not at all. I am well acquainted with a number of teenagers whom I am proud to count as my friends. But I also was the victim of bullying in public school, and peer cruelty lead my son to attempt suicide at the age of ten.

Why are some children so cruel? I suspect it is, in part, human nature. We are born selfish creatures. But we have the capacity for awesome goodness. What makes the difference?

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

I believe the main contributor to a child’s tendency towards good or evil is the parent. A child who is raised tightly, with a parent or parents who are involved in his or her life, with consequences enforced for actions, is much less likely to record themselves assaulting a fellow student and posting it proudly on the internet than one for whom consequences are rare or variable, or who has no one to turn to when in need.

This is especially true in our current “viral video”, 30-seconds-of-fame culture. Those videos were posted to make the perpetrators appear “cool”…and it was successful. They were considered “famous”, for a short time, in the school. Famous, for beating up a classmate. Cool, for hurting an innocent person.

Just as we drank up our Madonna-esque 1980s culture of MTV and Air Jordans, our kids are drinking up the new culture. But this culture is malleable and made up of the users. The users who create the material are the same people who choose what is “viral”. When that media is accessible all hours of the day or night, from the phone in your pocket or the iPad in your pack, the horror of beating a classmate recedes through familiarity. It is no longer a bad thing…it’s desirable. It will get your video shared.

True worth – as opposed to the false fame of a “viral video” – does not come from outside. It comes from within, from the knowledge of who you are a God’s child. To keep that in the front of one’s mind can be difficult with so much pressure to conform. “The World” wants to suck us in, use us up, and spit us out.

To help your teens understand the fleeting gratification of “The World”‘s approval, teach them their true worth. Demonstrate it in your behavior towards them. If they feel they are valued in your eyes, in the eyes of your extended family and your church family, and in the eyes of the Lord, the desire to be valued in the eyes of strangers on the internet will be lessened. You can also reduce the pull of those internet strangers by monitoring and limiting your children’s access to social media. That is not a society that should have a strong pull on children.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:2)


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Build Your Own Bundle Ebook Sale!!


Whether you are just beginning your homeschooling journey, or helping your teens get through high school, or have children at every grade level, you are most likely on the look out for helpful resources that really make a difference in your children’s education and your family’s lives. Well, look no further! The very first Build Your Own Bundle Sale is going on NOW! And there is something for every one little ones and older guys, mom and the whole family, plus there are some terrific bonuses like freebies and coupons and discounts you’ll receive with every purchase. These materials are written by homeschooling parents like you and me, some are from well-known publishers. Why not pop on over and have a look – we have pre-packaged bundles for every age group, or pick and choose (within a category) to create your own unique bundle.


The first ever “Build Your Bundle” – Homeschool Edition sale is here!

For one week only (July 21-28) save up to 92% on bestselling
homeschooling products, including MANY on Cathy Duffy’s Top 100 list!

The bundles are AMAZING, including products such as Learning Language
Arts Through Literature
, A Child’s Geography, Character Concepts,
Picture Smart Bible, Math Mammoth, and more! There are SO
many incredible products to choose from, all bundled up in grades/themes
OR you can “Build Your Own!”

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Our “Build Your Own” bundles offer you the opportunity to select
a certain number of products with a retail price of $19.99 or less for up
to 80% off! We have MANY items to choose from, including Cathy Duffy Top
100 Picks! When you purchase a combination of any 2 “Build Your Own”
bundles, you will get the 3rd one at 50% off!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!
Buy more & save more! Purchase 2 “build your
own” bundles and get the 3rd one 50% off! See
site for details.

You will also find the following pre-assembled bundles with saving up
to 92% off retail:
Tot/Pre-K Bundle, K-3 Bundle, 4-6 Elementary Bundle,
Middle School Bundle, High School Bundle, Charlotte Mason Bundle, & the
Homeschooling/Homemaking Mom Bundle!
Charlotte Mason Style Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $377.35 - On Sale for ONLY $49.00 - One Week Only! Elementary Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $220.35 - On Sale for ONLY $39.00 - One Week Only! Middle School Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $361.77 - On Sale for ONLY $59.00 - One Week Only!
High School Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $381.68 - On Sale for ONLY $69.00 - One Week Only! K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $187.13 - On Sale for ONLY $39.00 - One Week Only! K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $171.37 - On Sale for ONLY $29.00 - One Week Only!
K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $118.19 - On Sale for ONLY $10.00 - One Week Only!  Homeschooling Curriculum - You Choose What to Buy - Save up to 80% - One Week Only!  Homeschooling Resources, Curriculum & More - Save up to 60% - One Week Only!


Don’t miss out on this terrific deal! (this offer disappears at the end of the day July 28)


A Letter of Love, Faith, and Coping

A Letter of Love, Faith & Coping

My son’s girlfriend, Gillian, passed away from cystic fibrosis on February 20, 2014. This was one of the toughest times for my family and I am ready to now share the letter I wrote dear Gillian a month after she passed away:

It matters not how many days have passed since you left this world, it is too new, too raw, and seems we’ve grieved a lifetime already, but it’s still not enough. The absence you left when you passed from this world to the next has sucked all the air from our lungs. It is devastating and confusing.

I misplaced blame and anger wrongly at what happened before you left. I am sorry. I prayed my hardest, but the results came out differently. I accept God’s plan and my faith has been healed. I know you are dancing, free from struggle, and joyful in heaven, but we are all so lost without you. You healed my son and left him broken at the same time. I pray now for everyone left behind to obtain peace within, to live through their feelings and conflicts, no matter how difficult, and to find the gift of joy you left with us all.

When my Grandfather passed years ago, I lost my faith. I walked through the motions trying to find understanding and peace with God. I attended church, taught catechism, and more, but it mattered not. I saw my grandmother so alone and lost, childlike almost, so sad. I lost hope in heaven and belief that there was anything beyond. I internalized that death was final, dust was just dust, and the soul did not move on. You, dear girl, changed that for me. It was completely indirect, you could not have known. You passed your faith to my son, transferred so perfectly, while keeping just as much for yourself during your beautiful relationship. I will be eternally grateful.

It happened on February 18, 2014 when my faith returned as Chris transferred his energy to you, hoping it was enough to heal your earthen body. I could see before you woke, the transfer of power being willed from his hand to you, while holding your hand. I will be forever thankful that against all odds, you woke that day, and you shared your love with all once more. It was a blessing to have those moments with you and witness such unconditional love in the room. We miss you so much and can not begin to heal fully from your physical absence, we cannot even understand where to begin. You have been fully healed, no pain, no struggle, no worry, no nervous cuticle picking, no more needle poking, no surgeries, no endless pills, and no vest.

I pray for Chris’s peace, I ask him to give this pain to God. He keeps running, spirit runs, which worry me, not for his mind or body as I know it does him good, but for his safety. I hope it gave you a chuckle when that coyote was spooked by him in the wee dark hours of morning. This young man has a passion and fire that most his age can not even comprehend, never mind adults. You got him so completely, thank you for that love. He will carry you with him forever and the brokenness he has currently may mend, but he will be forever altered for having met you, loving you, and being loved by you.

A Letter of Love, Faith & Coping


Melissa ReadMelissa is in her first year of homeschooling her teenaged son, while working part-time.  She enjoys the simple life, but her husband is a super techie.  It’s an interesting balance as Melissa strives to learn more homesteading skills, while her husband is playing the latest Xbox game.  Find Melissa’s Facebook page:  Minor in Homeschool.

Planning a Homeschool Graduation

Homeschool Graduation Ceremony  Homeschool Survival

Congratulations! You have brought your child through the ranks and he’s on the verge of graduating. Just the other day you were sitting side by side, sounding out c-a-t and counting little plastic bears together. Here she is ready to receive her high school diploma! Now what? Is a graduation ceremony required? How do I plan one? What if she doesn’t want a ceremony? Will he regret it if he doesn’t have an official photo wearing that gown and mortar board?

These are all great questions. And the wonderful thing is, just like homeschooling in general, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. You have the freedom to do what suits your family best. The homeschooling laws vary a bit from state to state but once your child has met the requirements, you, the instructor/principal/administrator of your homeschool, can decide how and when to give that diploma.

Many families have the opportunity to participate in graduation activities and ceremony with their local homeschool support group. These often include the cap and gown, presentation of diploma, display of achievements, speakers, the whole sha-bang. But what if you are not a part of a larger support group, or there are no other graduates this year? What if your child does not want to participate? What options do you have?Graduation Diploma Homeschool Survival

Here are some out-of-the-box ideas for a graduation celebration. Our family brainstormed this list when our oldest graduated. Much to Mom’s disappointment, no one else in my family is into the ‘pomp and circumstance’ and prefers things low-key and informal. My son and husband both would have been happy with a pat on the back and a “job well done!’ My request was to mark the day in a special way – I wanted a celebration of some type. These are some of the results from the list we created.

  • Backyard BBQ – invite friends and family to share graduates favorite foods, with outside activities like volleyball and baseball. Parents & graduate share a few words and present diploma. This is the option all four of our graduates have chosen so far.

Graduation Baseball  Homeschool Survival

  • Recital or demonstration showcasing graduate’s talents and/or accomplishments
  • Open Mike Roast and Toast – guests arrive for refreshments and presentation of diploma then invite guests to share stories and memories from the life of the graduate.
  • Pool Party!
  • A Family Dream Vacation – Forgo the traditional graduation party and take a trip together
  • Mark this milestone by helping graduate accomplish a lifelong goal – climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, trace his genealogy, go on an archeological dig . . .
  • Create a video interviewing your graduate asking her to share her favorite memories, highlights and struggles from her schooling years. Ask about goals and dreams and where she’d like to be in five years, ten years.

Graduation Homeschool Survival

Up to this point, none of our children have worn a cap and gown when graduating out of our homeschool. They were happy to gather the important people in their lives, choose the menu, enjoy fellowship together. To my knowledge none of them regret it and have fond memories of the way we chose to celebrate the occasion. As the Administrator, Principal and Teachers in our homeschool, my husband and I did present an official diploma (graduation supplies can be purchased at HSLDA.org) and enjoyed having friends and family witness the big event.

What a blessing it is to have the freedom to custom make our children’s education AND their graduation celebration. Let’s make it unique and memorable!

What graduation plans are you making? Will they be traditional or out-of-the-box and unique?


stop and smell the daisies

Linda Sears is a stay-at-home wife, homeschooling mother and doting grandmother. She and her husband have 8 children, a daughter-in-law, 2 sons-in-law and 5 grandchildren, so far. They have been homeschooling for more than 20 years, graduating 4 of their 8 children, with 4 more to go. You’ll find her at Apron Strings & other things where she blogs about life as she knows it, with children in various stages of cutting those apron strings.

Virtual Field Trip to Washington DC


Virtual Field Trip


*affiliate links may be present

We are about to embark on the best field trip ever.  We are taking a field trip to Washington DC for the Teach Them Diligently National Homeschool Convention where I’ll be speaking! If you are attended – you may have seen me at the  A+ Interactive Math booth. I encourage homeschool families that they need not fear math any longer & that you really can teach your child in math. When God calls, He provides – Amen?

In my preparation for this exciting journey, I have gathered resources and information for anyone who would like to visit DC and for those who will not be able to make the field trip in person . . .  interactive links for you to come along – virtually! 

As you work your way through the download doc – you will find pictures and links that will direct you to some of the most famous icons around the Capital. Instead of printing the document – you can use it as an interactive adventure by clicking on the various links.

Our journey begins at the National Archives where you can peruse through documents which have shaped our country over the years.  You’ll find free worksheets where your students can document what they are learning – whether they visit in person on online – with the FREE Artifact Worksheets.

National Archive docs and tour

Find original documents, photographs & information from the US Patents office: Child Labor Laws, articles, proposals and official documents that have shaped our Constitution.  Learn more about due process, and the rights of the accused to be represented by an attorney. Read a hand written notarized letter dated 1962 about due process and the lack of such. Learn about how certain civil rights issues became officially amended in the Constitution and read real letters by the people who made it happen.  Digging through the old documents is another way to make history come alive and helps you understand the people who have shaped our country.

Washington DC landmarks

You can then move on to explore the famous landmarks around Washington DC and the National Mall! You will find links to some 15 different Smithsonian Museums, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and more.

As you read through the document and explore the links, you’ll find videos, pictures, and information you can read together. Take notes, print pictures, and create a special lapbook, or file folder full of information from your virtual journey!

Download Virtual Field Trip HERE


Extracurricular Activities Available to Homeschoolers

Extracurricular Activities Available to Homeschoolers


We are all about fun in this family. We fit in fun whenever we can.   This most often happens with extracurricular activities.  When my son was in public school, we limited him to a maximum of two activities at a time .  Since he is a kid that needs his sleep, sometimes had to say no, depending on the time or day of the week. No more limits, as long as our wallet can afford it, now that we homeschool.


My son has been in Boy Scouts for the past 8 years, which has offered him opportunities for numerous adventures, volunteer work, and socialization. Adventures have included camping, climbing, white water rafting, zip lining, traveling, and hiking, to name a few.  My son’s troop has an honor guard and they serve the community at Memorial re-dedications and Veterans events. We have volunteered giving out water at race events, Christmas meal deliveries to shut-ins, and improvements to cemeteries and parks in the community.  As a member of the Boy Scouts honor society, The Order of the Arrow, my son was able to finally join the Native American inspired dance team last year. The team has performed all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as, at a recent Pow Wow in New Jersey.  Because of the relationships he has established with scouts from other Troops, he was invited on another Troop’s upcoming trip to West Point in May.  This trip would have normally interfered with a public school schedule, but not any more.  Yay!

Honor Guard

Native American

As a family, we love to ski and snowboard in the winter. Homeschooling allows us a flexible schedule, so if the weather is perfect mid-day, we can get in some treks at the nearby mountain anytime 8am to 10pm during the season.

My son recently began swing dancing. He loves the big band jive and all the fancy moves. The crowd is mostly an older mix and he’d like some ladies his own age to mix with, but he has a blast with his best friend all the same. Swing dances are held locally Sunday nights 7 pm to 11 pm, so we could say yes to this opportunity with the flexibility of homeschooling.

The track coach at the area public high school would love for my son to join the team. The great thing with homeschooling is that students where we live can participate in all extracurricular activities and sports at the public high school, too.  Although my son loves to run for recreation, he is not into competition at all.  He is still undecided, but it is awesome to see the opportunities that are available.


Another activity my son enjoys with his friends and my husband is air soft.  I know guns are a touchy subject for many, as well as, hunting people or war. My point here is about activities, opportunities, and finding what your kid enjoys. My son plans to join the military and rather than just attacking zombies in a video game, my son gets to role play, team build, and strategize in a safe environment.

Keep your kids engaged, find out what the enjoy, and live life to the fullest!

What extracurricular activities have you found for your homeschooled kids?


Melissa ReadMelissa is in her first year of homeschooling her teenaged son, while working part-time.  She enjoys the simple life, but her husband is a super techie.  It’s an interesting balance as Melissa strives to learn more homesteading skills, while her husband is playing the latest Xbox game.  Find Melissa’s Facebook page:  Minor in Homeschool.

Interest-Led Learning for High School

Interest-Led Learning for High School via homeschoolsurvival.com

My son is becoming passionate about filmmaking, from script writing to directing to camera-operating. He started with a flip camera, then added a camcorder and a stop-motion animation program with a webcam.  He’ worked all summer one year cutting grass to save money for a “really nice” camera, and everything on his Christmas list is related to that (boom mic, lights, reflectors.) He now spends most of his free time writing scripts — pages and pages of scripts. Because of his passion for the art of filmmaking, I decided to craft an interest-led learning elective course for him for high school fine arts credit.

Stop Motion Animation

My son has already produced both live-action and stop-motion movies to the delight of all of our family members (grandparents make an especially appreciative audience.) Stopmotion Explosion: Animate Anything and Make Movies- Epic Films for $20 or Less has been a great jumping off point into the live action stuff that he really wants to do.
For part of his literature/language arts and elective studies, I have scoured the internet and other avenues to find resources to fit into our curriculum. It hasn’t been easy to find resources appropriate for teens, but I have managed to put together some things that are working so far.

Free Resources

Educational guides and lesson plans for movies such as Because of Winn Dixie, Hoot, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, Narnia, Holes, City of Ember, and more are available as free downloads from Walden Media. We have used these guides along with the novels and the movies as “going beyond the book” studies.
We also found tons of resources for teachers and students at Oscars.org, including screenwriting, animation, visual effects, cinematography, and more. Although I don’t have any filmmaking experience, I’ve been able to piece together enough resources to help my son pursue his interests.

Film Curriculum

I’ve found some filmmaking books and curriculum as well, such as Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts and Movies as Literature curriculum from Design-a-Study. These are the base for our coursework, with all the other above-listed resources as supplements to this course.

The Movies as Literature course is an intensive study of movies as short stories. This program is not just about watching movies. Each movie studied includes 25 discussion questions, including topics for compositions and extended activities with either reading assignments, history research, or other movies related to the one being studied. Movies include both classic and modern selections, including ShaneThe Quiet ManRear WindowThe Maltese FalconE.T., The Philadelphia Story, and several more. For Shane, we read the novel before watching the movie, then the topics studied in this lesson included:

  • Character development vs. stereotypes
  • Film techniques
  • Plot development
  • Character motivation
  • Foreshadowing
  • Setting
  • Mood
  • Symbolism
  • Underlying messages about:  what makes a man, what makes a hero, whether or not the end justifies the means, whether ‘A man who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,’ the positive contributions of God-fearing families to settlements in new territories.

The student workbook isn’t required for the program, but I bought it so that I could make notes in my book and my son could have his own book to follow along in as we discuss the material.  Although this is a high school level course, a child strong in language arts could easily use this for eighth grade.

Enthusiasm for Learning

Above all, I want my kids to be excited about learning. If I can incorporate their interests into our curriculum, a huge plus to homeschooling, they are more enthusiastic and motivated. I love it when they ask me to “do school.”

I’d love to hear what you do for interest-led electives in your homeschool!


Anne CampbellAnne Campbell is the mother to three boys (in every sense of the word!) and a homeschooler for the past eleven years. She is the Managing Editor of Blog at Home Educating Family Association, columnist for Home Educating Family Magazine, and member of the Home Educating Family review team. As a former classroom teacher, she loves to share resources and ideas and encourage other moms and homeschoolers. When they started on their homeschooling  journey, her oldest son was in kindergarten. They decided to take it one day at a time, one year at a time, and now she has a high school student, middle school student, and elementary student, and all still at home. They fly by the seats of their pants most days, spending as much time as possible exploring nature, and seizing learning opportunities whenever they appear. You can visit her at her blog Learning Table. You can also find Anne on Bloglovin’FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram


Tips for Homeschooling All Boys

Why I Love Homeschooling My Boys by Sprouting Tadpoles

We have 5 kids total and 4 of them are boys, ages 13, 11, 5 and 3. My daughter is 17 and this will be her last year of homeschooling. She does her work independently and is pretty much gone all the time, so it’s mostly just me and the boys at home.

Homeschooling my boys means that I must have it together every day. They are very active, curious about how things work and always ready to try something new. If I don’t have a plan of action and things to keep them busy, they will wander off, usually to the video games or outside and then it takes me at least an hour to get them focused again.

I have 2 boys that are extremely active and need to be moving constantly and 2 boys that are quiet and calm. It seems that God hard wired boys to be on the go, moving and thinking, preparing themselves to take on the role of leading their own families someday. As their mother, I feel led to train them to conserve that energy for things that are productive and motivate their natural curiosity.

So, I am going to share with you some tips I have picked up over the years on how to keep a house full of boys interested and focused on things other than video games!.

First and foremost, I teach them to love God – This instills compassion and morals in them that they will hopefully carry into adulthood. We read the Bible together each morning before starting school work, we attend church and are active in our community. My husband also reads the Bible with them at night.

Group Time – We have morning group time every day and I use this time to read the Bible, review our memory work, work on our character studies and just have good, quality fellowship time together.

Group Studies – I try to group many of our subjects and activities together. Doing group studies allows the boys more time together and obviously, makes it easier for me to teach them. We also do some fun, competitive games and I have the older boys read to the little ones occasionally.

Activities – I keep activities and projects ready to grab and go. I have Science Boxes, Activity Boxes, Busy Bags, lots of game boards and file folder games, and of course, we have the Legos, K’nex, blocks, race cars and battle zones, all those things boys love. I use a lot of these activities for down time during the school day.

Projects – To keep my boys entertained during school time, we do a lot of hands on projects. We try to do a history project, science project and some sort of art/nature/music activity each week. I try to make their learning as interactive as possible.  Otherwise, I will lose them several times a day.

The Little Ones – For my little guys, I keep 2 bins of Busy Bags available for them to play with. I also have lots of coloring pages and art supplies for them, along with wooden puzzles, magnetic pieces and printables that I made. I keep these easily accessible so that they can grab something and play quietly while I work with the older kids.

Quiet Time – We have quiet time at 3pm every day. We started this about 3  years ago and it has worked really well for our family. The little guys take naps around 2-3pm so we have our quiet time then. My rules for this are simple. They must stay in their bed the entire hour and they are allowed to read, play quietly, listen to audios or music with headphones or catch up on school work, as long as it is done in their bed. The older boys have come to love this down time. It helps them to unwind after a long day of school work, arguing, baby crying, fighting for my attention…………….etc, etc.

Food – One thing my boys do a lot of is EAT! Especially my 13yo! He eats constantly and it’s not snack foods.  He wants full meals 5 -6 times a day! It amazes me and scares me, because I have 3 more that will go through this stage! So I have found some ways to keep myself from cooking constantly and that is by making meals ahead and freezing them. I make things for breakfast that the boys can grab and go, like breakfast burritos, sausage, egg & cheese English muffinspop tarts, waffles, pancakes and muffins. I also make a lunch bar with tacos, burritos, sandwiches, fried chicken, fruit and veggies. And in addition to this, I keep lots of snacks on hand. Most of my dinners are made ahead and frozen or I make Crockpot meals.

I do love raising my boys. They definitely keep me on my toes! I spend a lot of prayer time asking God to guide me in raising them, to show me the right way to train them up, and to be patient enough to instill compassion and kindness for others. Homeschooling gives me the chance to be a better mother and for me and their father to have a stronger influence in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I just really want to give up and crawl in a hole somewhere. But it passes and after praying, I realize that I wouldn’t trade this life for anything!


www.sproutingtadpoles.comI’m Janeen, a Christian homeschooling mom to 5 blessings from God. I am passionate about history and I love to plan and organize! We have been homeschooling for 6 years and started a new journey this year using Heart of Dakota. You can read more about our busy lives at Sprouting Tadpoles where I write about homeschooling, Heart of Dakota, history, toddlers and much more. You can also connect with me on FacebookPinterest and Twitter.


Organization by Balancing Life



The key to my organization strategy is to create balance in whatever I do: homeschool; employment; house work, etc.  Often I find myself making a bigger mess, before I get to the point where I am at peace with whatever I’m attempting to organize.  Does that happen to you too?  I can’t imagine that I’m the only one.  Is my home spotless?  No.  Is everything just right?  Probably not nearly so.  Am I all right with this?  Absolutely!

Home School Organization

My son is in his High School years, so I find that my method of tracking his progress very straightforward.  I organize his schedule in a Word document, write the daily lessons on his white board, and use an Excel spreadsheet I created for recording graded material.  I split up each quarter by subject. I then have a master Excel spreadsheet that I found a Microsoft Office Template for, called Grade Tracker.  Grade Tracker compiles the data from the subject spreadsheets and figures out grade point average (GPA), credit hours, and assigns letter grades, so we will have a High School Transcript ready for when my son begins applying to Colleges.

For any paper schoolwork completed, I simply sort it by date and subject, use my 3-hole punch, and file the material in a binder by school year.  In this same binder is the copy of the letter I submitted to the School System to home school my son, as well as, the letter of approval the School System sent to me.  Documentation is helpful if ever there is a question on what was done when, so I record everything!

You really can organize your home school on a budget.  I had a friend refer me to Transcript Pro and another friend say, take the reins yourself because you can be so much more creative and really personalize their transcript.  I have the time, I like to save money where I can, so I went for the Do-It-Yourself approach.  The choice is yours as you have to find the right balance for your homeschooling or unschooling style.

Work Organization

In addition to homeschooling my son, I also work part-time for a local credit union on their telecommuting team.  I am not anti-social, I promise!  I am only required to go on-site once a month and I have a fixed schedule that works perfectly with my son’s education.  My husband was kind enough to support me in working part-time hours so I could be more available for my son beginning when he was in public elementary school.  I’m sure many moms do it in reverse, work part-time or not at all outside the home when their children are young and return to full-time jobs after their kids go to school, but for our family the reverse was the perfect balance as I reduced my schedule over time from a 40 hour work week, to a Management position, then 30 hours, and now an average of only 23 hours per week.

Household Organization

This is an area where I make the big mess.  For example, I just tore apart my entire pantry two days ago, just so I had somewhere to store our endless stack of egg crates.  I do not refuse free egg crates.  I am not a hoarder (ha ha)!  We have chickens, they lay eggs, sometimes way more than we can eat, and I’m not paying $0.39 each at the store for something to simply contain eggs neatly until they are used.  Plus if I get the plastic crates, I cut the trays and use them for paint cups!  I love reusing things with good purpose.  We even have a spaghetti jar repurposed into my son’s favorite milk cup.  No crying if or when that glass breaks.

My son’s bedroom was the typical teenage boy’s room disaster until a few months ago.  It had gotten beyond him in knowing how to dig out, so I decided it was time for an intervention.  I had to make the mess way bigger by making piles and moving piles, deciding what was trash, what he was saving, and what was to be donated.  Two months later, it is still nearly as we finished.  We took a minimalistic approach and he gained a lot of space in his fairly small bedroom and we had the talk about “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  He’s too old for the Barney the Dinosaur’s “Clean Up” song now, but I used to love that when he was younger.

I don’t have a schedule for cleaning like all the best organizers do.  If the laundry baskets are full, I do laundry.  If dishes are dirty in the sink, and the piles bug me, I wash dishes (I like to leave this to hubby as I really don’t like doing silverware, but I’ve been good lately).  I don’t vacuum or dust every day, I just don’t find it a priority or maybe I like to see that there is an accumulation before I’m jolted into action.  We play a lot, so putting off some household chores is fine with me.  I actually should have gone grocery shopping today as we are down to two clementines and one banana, but my son wanted a field trip today.  So what did I do?  I took my son and his friend to a nearby Historical Museum for something fun and different.  It was time well spent and the grocery store will be there tomorrow.

Melissa ReadMelissa is in her first year of homeschooling her teenaged son, while working part-time.  She enjoys the simple life, but her husband is a super techie.  It’s an interesting balance as Melissa strives to learn more homesteading skills, while her husband is playing the latest Xbox game.  Find Melissa’s Facebook page:  Minor in Homeschool.

Embracing the Teen Years


First steps, first words, first birthday . . .

We celebrate these milestones and look forward to them from the day our children are born. The teen years seem so far away, but they arrive before we know it.

Many homeschool parents look upon the teen years with dread. They worry about how they’ll teach more difficult subjects, how hard it will be to keep track of grades, and [gulp] Driver’s Ed. Unfortunately, some parents believe that they cannot even continue to homeschool the teen years: What if my teen is weird and unsocialized for life?

I’d like to reassure you that:

1. You can teach more difficult subjects. When my oldest was in kindergarten, I began having the inklings of doubt for his high school years. Algebra and upper level science scared me to death. A funny thing happened, though. As my son grew older, he also grew to become more independent. I don’t have to do the algebra and science; HE does. I am here to help him, and I coach him and facilitate lessons, but the real work is up to him. And, thankfully, there are plenty of wonderful homeschool materials out there that make these subjects not only doable, but interesting and even fun.

Some math curriculum is computer based, with a virtual teacher to lead the student through the lessons (DIVE CDs for Saxon and Teaching Textbooks). Dr. Wile’s Apologia science texts are written to the student, so I really only have to help by gathering materials for experiments and discussing the study guide questions with my son. The reading is up to him.

Spanish is pretty much self-taught using a computer based program as well. And, supplementary CDs are benefitting the entire family as we listen to them in the car and all learn new vocabulary. (Rosetta Stone and Spanish in 10 Minutes a Day).

History is similarly written to the student, so he does the reading, and I follow the prompts in the teacher’s guide for discussions (Sonlight, TruthQuest, Beautiful Feet). We’ve learned that there are tons of “helps” out there if we need them, such as supplementary notebooking materials, study aids, and tutors. (Donna Young’s free science printables, Harmony Arts free notebooking pages, and Khan Academy’s free tutorials).

However, even though my son is working more independently, I am finding that I am actually enjoying learning many things alongside him. I didn’t enjoy some subjects very much when I was in school, but I am discovering that homeschooling is producing a love for learning in me as well as in my kids. Don’t forget to sit down with your teen and learn alongside him! It will benefit you both.

2. You can keep track of grades. The only thing I do differently for middle and high school grading is to switch over to a system for letter grades instead of the Satisfactory/Needs Improvement/Unsatisfactory elementary grading system. There are many free resources to help you figure out how to do this, but don’t over think it too much. Establish a grading scale in the beginning (see your state’s department of education website for requirements in your state), and use the numerical grade on the progress report and report card. Include the letter grade alongside it if you’d like, but the numerical grade is what you will use to calculate GPA and class rankings.

3. Driver’s Ed is scary, but inevitable, so you might as well face your fears. When your teen is ready to drive, start out slow – baby steps! It isn’t easy to sit in the passenger seat, and I am still learning to trust my teen. I asked our insurance company to send us free materials for teen drivers. They sent us a booklet with mini-lessons based on driving scenarios and a DVD with tips and safety measures, along with warnings about driver distractions. There is also a pledge my son signed before getting behind the wheel the first time, promising never to text and drive, etc. (Some driving schools even offer discounts to homeschool families.)

4. Teens are weird anyway. They are goofy and gangly and want to stay up all night and sleep all day. Their rooms are disaster zones, and they eat everything in sight. They can be moody, stubborn, and too silent at times.

But, they are also delightful.

You will discover how fun it is to listen to their opinions on things, to get to know them as emerging adults, and to just hang out with them. Their independence gives you more room to trust them with greater responsibilities, which is an enormous help with household tasks, caring for younger siblings, and running errands.

Just remember that they are still children, and they still need your guidance, your time, and your love and affection. They never get to old for these!


Anne CampbellAnne Campbell is the mother to three boys (in every sense of the word!) and a homeschooler for the past eleven years. She is the Managing Editor of Blog at Home Educating Family Association, columnist for Home Educating Family Magazine, and member of the Home Educating Family review team. As a former classroom teacher, she loves to share resources and ideas and encourage other moms and homeschoolers. When they started on their homeschooling  journey, her oldest son was in kindergarten. They decided to take it one day at a time, one year at a time, and now she has a high school student, middle school student, and elementary student, and all still at home. They fly by the seats of their pants most days, spending as much time as possible exploring nature, and seizing learning opportunities whenever they appear. You can visit her at her blog Learning Table. You can also find Anne on Bloglovin’FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.