Please don’t… 10 things to avoid as a homeschool mom

This was brewing in my fingertips like a hot cup of coffee today.

There are so many things we homeschoolers try to figure out. We compare, we read voraciously, we study, we ‘stay ahead’, we worry, we ask, we see, we change, we know… But here’s a list of 10 things you just shouldn’t do!

  1. Don’t compare your kids’ progress to your friends’ kids. Compare your kids’ progress to your own wisdom in who God made them, and their capabilities and trajectory. You know them best. Trust your instincts – they are there for a reason.
  2. Don’t try to be like someone else’s family. Be yourself. Embrace who you are as a family unit. Each child God adds to your family, forever changes your family’s quilt, so to speak. Love your quilt and the thread that holds it together. “Life-ing” any other way violates God’s design for you.
  3. Don’t try to fit your kids into the kids you read about in books. No author holds a perfect mirror up to your family. Every writer, writes from his or her own unique experience. As you read, treat those books as a la carte. Take what you like, eat what you like. Politely discard what you don’t like. Not everything that looks good, tastes good!
  4. Don’t get bogged down by curriculum or process. Focus on progress. Curriculum is wonderful, but it’s also a source of stress. Do the things that work for your child. If your child isn’t progressing with one method, or book, switch. Experiment. Ask your child what he or she likes. Observe. Use your better judgment.
  5. Don’t take the quick or easy way out. There are times removing yourself is right. Ask God for that discernment. But for some things -like reading, like math, like chores at home, like teaching discipline and consequences – you just can’t take the easy way out. Your children are watching you. God is watching you. You are watching you. If it’s a core piece of your task (given by God), do it to the best of your ability. In fact, if it’s a core piece of your task, then shave of other things until you can do this well.
  6. Don’t let your kids escape. It’s easier to do things for our kids, like make their beds, do the dishes, even wipe their tushes… in the short term. Don’t do it. As soon as your kids are able, start training them towards independence and sharing in the work that it takes to maintain your home and their lives. And there’s certainly a time for grace, but in general, please let them face the consequence of their actions. They will thank you for this once they are adults, though they gripe and complain now. If you want me to write about kids and chores, let me know.
  7. Don’t be lazy. Making excuses comes naturally. But please don’t be lazy. Find the resources and energy to stay the course. There’s a difference between laziness and rightfully letting things go that don’t belong. Ask God to know the difference. Your kids see the difference. God sees the difference. Most things we are lazy about don’t take much time. And much of life is determined by our small habits. Make it a habit to do the small things that add up. Bless your husband this way too, by the small diligent efforts you make all day, that add up to the monumental woman you are, and the world-changers you are turning out.
  8. Don’t ignore your season. We all have seasons in life, like when we experience a death, a newborn, a job change, a move… please acknowledge and make room for whatever season God has for you. See it, process it, discuss it with your family, and accommodate it. Then take advantage of the times of ‘rain’ so you can better weather times of ‘drought’. God promises us times of hardship, so while we don’t live in fear, we carefully plan our days, right? This is true for your children too, by the way. Your children have seasons in their maturity and development. Please pay attention.
  9. Don’t do too much. Do less, but do it exceptionally well.  And please train your children to do the same. Teach yourself and your children the discipline of mastery. Don’t stay busy. Get focused. Petition God until He answers you about how to spend your time, and in whom to invest, and in what you should put your money. Take care of your physical self. Feed your family quality food. Good stewardship is not about spreading butter everywhere. Instead of peanut butter slapped on white bread, I’d rather have a tiny flaky and decadent raspberry and chocolate stuffed pastry that someone labored over (though I suppose your tastebuds may differ, but you know what I’m saying, right?).
  10. Don’t do things out of order. This is a statement as much about energy management as it is about honoring God. Put God first in all you do – this includes your day. This includes how you start your day for your children. Remember that you set the tone in your home. How much would you rather have a day of peace, than a day of disarray? How much would you rather do the three mission-critical things today, than the 25 non-urgent and less important things today? When you get “this” backwards, you’re far more likely to leave the mission-critical things to (A) slip through the cracks, (B) become an end-of-day monster that keeps you up past your bedtime, or (C) become something you’ve only done with half-hearted effort. One way you can figure out what’s mission-critical is to ‘start with the end in mind’. This takes you figuring out what the end should be. Ask God. Ask your husband. Ask yourself. Ask your children as they become old enough to give you realistic input. If you want me to write a post about prioritizing, I’d be happy to do that, just say the word.

I hope this has blessed you today, and helped you think about what you can let go of in your life while maintaining or gaining some more peace!

XO, Robyn


Reading for littles under 5

We have enjoyed learning how to read, and my son is doing really well, even though it’s the hardest thing we do all week. Once we mastered phonics, which we started after my son learned his letters, we started “Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” (“100”) by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner.

This year, he’s old enough to participate in the “Book It” program from Pizza Hut, which give his extra incentive to do twenty reading lessons a month.

We started this “100” book when my son was 3.5 years old. We just did one lesson a week then. This year, at 4.5, we decided to do one lesson a day. We just finished lesson 75, so I another five weeks we can close another chapter of this story, and move on to first readers. My son can read first readers, so sometimes we do that anyhow, but I really like the systematic introduction of reading in the “100” book.

I thought I’d give you some reading pointers that have helped my son a lot. 

Reading readiness for babblers:

  • Sing your ABC’s everyday – we do this whenever we swing along with a series of other songs
  • Sing a tune that teaches phonics. Leapfrog sells phonics toys that say “a says a, and a says a, every letter has a sound and a says a”. 

Reading readiness for children becoming verbal (they mimic your sounds).

  • Continue singing everyday. It uses a different part of the brain than talking.
  • Use alphabet flashcards and just go through them once a day. As your child is becoming verbal, ask them to repeat the letter name after you.
  • Make letter crafts. You can google letter crafts for every letter and find the cutest letter crafts! They only require construction paper, scissors and glue. Embellish these however you wish (or don’t, haha).
  • Start asking your child to pick out the right letter when you place two or three cards in front of them. I use this technique for everything I’m teaching kids at this stage, because they know far more than they can speak!
  • Use ASL sign language as you sing if you know it. Or learn it. It’s easy.
  • For my 2 year old, we color in a composition book every week, and I write a new letter on the page for him and tell him what letters they are. Then he just scribbles. He’s been asking me to write his name, so I write his name, spelling it out loud as I write. And I write the alphabet for him in upper case letters as I say the name. He watches me write. (Note: This is only at my 2 year old’s request. My firstborn was very different and wouldn’t have sat through this, though he was ready to start reading at 3.5 years old anyway.)

Reading readiness for verbal children (kids who can say simple sentences) who know their phonics.

  • Start reviewing the sounds of each letter. “What sound does A make?” “Do you know what other sounds A makes?”
  • Start putting two letters together for your child and making up nonsense words, like “ba, ma, ta, da”. 
  • Work on rhyming words together like “bat, mat, at, sat, cat”.
  • We played with letter tiles that we moved around to make words. Scrabble letters, bananagrams, and the logic of English tile letters have been useful for this activity. We also have letter die cutters he likes to use, which are useful for developing hand strength.
  • We finger tap syllables out loud at this stage too. That’s a tool I learned from a veteran homeschooled who had a lot of experience working with her boys with special needs. Look her up. I greatly admire her: Randi St. Denis. She’s responsible for starting and running the Southeastern Homeschool Expo – this is still my favorite expo by far. I’ve been to expos in the South, North, and Western parts of the United States now.

Reading readiness for children ready to go with “real” reading (you’ll know your child is ready when they start reading road signs to you, or trying to anyway!):

  • Do reading lessons daily. My son will be 5 this week. We’ve been doing daily reading lessons since he was 4.5 years old, but your child’s age is not the determining factor for reading readiness. I’m just pointing out, that daily practice is appropriate at some point. You’ll find some inertia in your child’s reading ability with daily lessons, which will encourage you both. 
  • Do your lessons at your child’s most alert time. But if math is harder for your child, then reserve this energy for math instead – that’s just my advice to you.
  • Pick books your child wants to read.
  • Get your child excited about reading through your own enthusiasm and encouragement. Your praise is honey to their hearts! This is true at all ages.
  • Acknowledge when things are hard.
  • If your child is out of brain power, put it down immediately and come back later. Keep reading fun, not punishing.
  • Make the crossover brain connection for your child with “finger tracking”. This is where your child tracks the words he is reading as he is reading. This method is also used for adults who are recovering from strokes when they are relearning how to read.
  • When my child reads letters out of order (which he tends to do), I ask him which letter he sees first. This is usually enough to get his mind to pronounce the letters in the correct order, left to right.
  • When he mispronounces the words, I tell him which letter he added or took out. “You said torn, but I don’t see an r there. Pronounce t-o-n.” 
  • When he is reading, I also tell him the English rules that are modifying the sounds of the letters. “There’s an e after a consenant, so the letter o says its own name”. 
  • Teach your child the vowels and consenants.
  • When my child is stuck on words, we build them with letter tiles. This gets him right back on track.
  • We made a “reading guide” that covers up all but one line of text. You can purchase these from educational supply stores, but ours was cheaper and just as effective. I used tacky laminating paper, and card stock.
  • When you’re done with the “100” book, move on to easy readers from the library, and when your child has exhausted these, move up to level 2, and so on.

I hope this has helped you!

​Here is a picture of our reading guide. Just card stock and self-adhering lamination paper. I’m sure you could use a regular laminating machine too.

Here is my son using the guide. We are “car-schooling”, because we are on a weekend adventure, but are getting 20 reading lessons in this month, which means we need to do this today. 

Here’s a little video of my almost-five year old reading lesson 75. How well is he doing?!

Here’s a bonus idea, which you homeschool veterans have done over and over already. We practice skip counting many ways, but one of them is through manipulatives. I printed a space image I found online, and just glued it onto popsicle sticks. I wrote the numbers for the 14’s on the ends, and trimmed the image down to fit. I used a sharp kitchen knife to separate the popsicle sticks after all was dry. At first my son didn’t want to do this puzzle, so I told him he didn’t have to and walked away. (Wink, wink). I came back 5 minutes later and he was almost done. He only wanted help with the sticks that weren’t numbered.

We also hop on numbers on the floor, and flip numbers over so we can’t see them as we learn them. We practiced a lot of our memory work by hanging upside down this week, inside play tunnels, spinning in chairs, spinning on our feet with arms out ‘all willy-nilly,’ in forts, doing flips and summersaults too. This is perfect for my sensory-seeker. Got to keep it moving, right? And my 2 year old hangs and hops and spins right alongside him, which makes this mama’s heart happy!

Sun observations for Cycle 2 Week 8

Since we are studying parts of the sun for week 8 of classical conversations in cycle 2, we found a sun program, and a star program to go enjoy at Fremont Peak.

Amateur astonomers volunteer to set up their scopes, or the observatory’s scopes, and happily share their knowledge with you.
Firstly, look at the spectacular view we are enjoying! For you CCers, this is definitely a scrubland. The clouds are not our friends when observing the heavens, but they sure are pretty!

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.” 

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Who can understand the spreading of the clouds and the thunder that rolls forth from heaven?”

‭‭Job‬ ‭36:29‬ ‭NLT‬

We also found some creepy crawlers that were entertaining. I will load these up to an app so bug-officianados can tell us what we saw.

This little obervation station was modest, but holds a much more powerful refractor than we have at home. Of course, the roof opens and then you can see out. Otherwise, the astronomers set their own scopes out on gravel pads outside.

I love these weekend adventures because it gets Dad involved and able to participate in what we are learning. 

We were able to meet Sal (in the white shirt) who told us how sun spots form, and that they usually occur in tandem with solar flares. From that, and some searching online, learned that there’s what is called a sun spot cycle, because there’s a rhythm that God gave their existence too. How amazing is our Lord!

“If he commands it, the sun won’t rise and the stars won’t shine. He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. He made all the stars—the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles.”

‭‭Job‬ ‭9:7-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Even my 2 year old understood he was looking at the sun. How cute!

There is a special filter on these telescopes that allow us to safely see the sun. Otherwise, you’d burn your eye and go blind. We got some safety lessons too, and I appreciate when my children hear safety tips from other adults. You know – because children “tune you out” sometimes – because they hear you all day, especially when you homeschool!

This red image is a picture of what we saw in the lens of the scope with a filter that allowed us to look for solar flares. We didn’t see any solar flares, but we did see some texture on the sun’s corona (outer layer) that was interesting, however, barely observable.

This yellow image was what you see when you’re looking at a lens with a filter that allows you to look for sun spots. No sun spots were visible today.

We drew a sun diagram in the gravel and named the parts of the sun we are learning. We threw rocks into our sun, trying to hit the various spots of interest too. Here you see the sun’s core, radiative zone, convective zone, sun spots (in the photosphere), and corona.

We made up some hand motions to help us learn the sun’s parts too:

  1. We start by making a small ball with our fists. 
  2. Then we blow “helium and hydrogen” in our hands to make our ball “900 times bigger than the Earth”. 
  3. And we then touch each part of the sun, and pretend it burns us, starting with the core (we poke the center of our imaginary sun and shout “Core! Ouch!”
  4. For the radiative zone we move our fingers in and out like we are patting glue or paint into a ball – our imaginary radiative zone is larger than our imaginary core so our hands are about a soccer ball apart from each other. 
  5. For the convective zone we “wave our hands around a ball”, and our hands are about two soccer balls apart from each other.
  6. For the sun spots we “poke the sun in spots further from the center than the convective zone (in the air) in the photosphere to make sun spots”
  7. For a solar flare, we pretend like a “fire cracker is shooting off the side of our imaginary sun in the photosphere”. 
  8. And we move our hands around the “giant circumference of the sun’s corona” in a huge circle mid-air. You get the picture.

Though you can find many more online, here are some cool pages to show you some more about the sun:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and got some ideas you could try with your kids this year!

In closing, I leave you with this:

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:1-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Tin whistle tips from an old flutist

I refuse to let my son’s tin whistle become disgusting. Enter old flute tricks. Note: I also played bass clarinet and piano. But flutist tips are most relevant here.

  1. Spit cloth & cleaning rod – I highly doubt you want to purchase an actual cleaning rod and fancy spit cloth. Cut an old rag into a thin strip, about an inch thick. Tape 3 wooden skewers together and cut off their pointy ends with some fine kitchen shears – you know, the ones you use to cut through meat and bones. Wrap the end of the taped skewers with about an inch of fabric, like the amount you see here in the picture (below) and jam it all the way into the tin whistle from the base to the tip. Give it a good Harvard swish or two. Let the cloth air dry inbetween playing. Throw the cloth into the washer when it’s funky. If you’re really special you might sew the edge of your cloth. But “I ain’t got no time fo’ that.” Plus, the thicker the edges, the harder it is to jam. And “I ain’t about no struggle”.
  2. Don’t play after eating sugar. Nor with dirty fingers. Duh. Brush your teeth if you must have sugar first. That rule goes for your kids too.
  3. Unless your kid is becoming a woodwind player tape over the bottom half of the holes so it’s easier to get a “real note” out of these little instruments (for younger children).
  4. Slightly curved fingers play better notes than stiff fingers.
  5. Don’t push your lips over the fipple. Back off. You’re smothering her. *that sounds wrong. I’m feeling fiesty tonight.*
  6. Just a little wind is plenty. Less is more. Tell your kids that “less air is more”. This is true in so many other situations too. Ha!
  7. To separate notes, barely tap the mouthpiece with your tongue. There, that’ll do.
  8. Breathe through your diaphragm. Vibrato happens from your diaphragm too. Vibrato will make the notes sound less threatening and more in tune. Start slow and stay slow until you develop control over your diaphragm. *Intonation is probably way too much to ask of a tin whistle. But if you progress your kids through each of these steps above you’ll all thank each other later.*
  9. For the love of all musicians, please say the correct names for the notes. When they have this sharp (#) next to them, say (note name) sharp. Because in B scale, F# and C# are sharp. And this really means something to musicians and musicians-in-training. Otherwise your child will excel in creating dissonance when he or she tries to transfer his or her note-reading skills elsewhere, or play with other musicians. Translation: a sharp (#) is an entire half step above a regular note. On a piano, it’s the “black key” right above the “white key”.
  10. Control and accuracy are far better than speed. Build muscle memory first, then work on speeding up the tempo to a normal pace. 
  11. Work on memorizing music a phrase at a time (ex: try playing “hot cross buns”. Master this phrase once before playing it twice in a row. Get the phrasing correct, holding the third note for two beats. Then work on playing it twice in a row: “Hot cross buns. Hot cross buns.” Get the phrasing right. Then work on “one a penny, two a penny”. Get the phrasing right. Put those together: “Hot cross buns. Hot cross buns. One a penny, two a penny.” Lastly, add the ending to the song: “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.” 
  12. It takes a long time to build breath control. Teach your child to take short efficient breaths between phrases where they naturally fall. They will not get dizzy and faint if they are light in their air flow and taking shorter efficient breaths into their diaphragms instead of deep belly-filling breaths. I hope that description made sense.

Okay, that’ll do. Happy playing! I hope these tips keep you and your little musicians a little happier!

The most beautiful time as a woman 

I’m convinced the most feminine time for a woman is when she feels the least attractive. Allow me to explain.

Many woman I know feel like I do when they are pregnant. Heavy. Swollen. Changing. Dealing with uncomfortable comments from some other people – most people, especially women, are full of grace for this time, because they’ve gone through it – but well-intentioned people can say strange things.

Exhibit A.

*I tell someone I’m expecting our third prize in January and pat my belly* 

A wonderfully kind man says “congratulations, and thank you for saving us the embarrassment of asking or wondering if you’re just fat.”

I laugh and say “yes, that’s how I feel.” 

My husband shakes his head for the man, embarrassed on behalf of the male gender species. He can’t help it.

I’m not angry, not one bit. I understand some people just don’t know what to say. And it’s ironic albeit a little more painful to hear, because it’s exactly how I’m feeling: fat!

I was talking with another gal this weekend who told me her pregnancies were a series of planning driving trips around her tendency to throw up. How difficult!! I get it! There is no way to feel good if that’s how your body responds!

And another who told me about her 19 hour labor which ended in emergency c-section and the aftermath of recovery.

Another who recalled her inability to shed the last 20 pounds gained after children.

And my own experience of needing to heal after delivering babies. I remember having my first child, and a male friend who came to visit right after couldn’t hide his surprise when he saw my belly was still looking as if I were six months pregnant. This is not, afterall, how the magazines and moves show us life happens! In the world of mommy makeovers and c-section tummy tucks, women should look more attractive after childbirth, right?

When the reality is, we are red-eyed from sleepless nights, weepy and puffy from crying alongside our new infants and the wave of unpredictable hormones, smelly from spit-up and blow-out diapers, and sore in all the areas one might otherwise take for granted that make the most basic of human functions a challenge. 

But this is when a woman really truly shines. Her body was broken in the moments and months she was giving life. Eve’s sin made pregnancy and childbirth painful. It is a sacrifice in so many ways. And in the aftermath of the birth, her broken body pushes on to nurture that tiny human, robbing Mom of nutrients her own body otherwise would appreciate using to restore all that child-growing stole. 

She nurses the baby. She changes diapers. She sacrifices sleep to provide comfort and more nutrition. And it’s her privilege to do it. 

And then child-rearing is an experience of learning to let go. As the physical grip loosens, a mother’s spiritual grip and dependence on God must tighten. So she focuses more and more on the transforming power of God, out of her own benefit, but much to benefit her own children. She is desperately focused on trying to exemplify and point those tiny souls towards Christ, so they know on whom they can rely. Because moms know we don’t live forever. Our days are numbered, and one days these souls who broke our bodies will have to fend for themselves.

A woman is most beautiful and feminine in her brokenness.

Young Peacemakers for the Early Years

I’m so excited we got the Young Peacemakers book for my rising 5 year old. We got it so we could use a common language and framework for conflict resolution, and teach him more about how to correctly express himself without getting in trouble for needing to tell us what he needs. He does a fairly decent job of self-control for a little guy with a hot fuse at his age, but hey, we call need help with self-control and self-expression, don’t we?

It’s recommended for 3rd through 7th graders, but if you want to make this book accessible to your younger kids too, here’s how I did it.

Tools you need to do this how I did it:

This book is split into 3 main sections: understanding, responding and preventing conflict. I’m not covering them in order with my son. Following the classical model, and going top down, this is the order I’m using:

  • Chapter 1: We will define conflict and see on a high level how we can respond to conflict
  • Chapter 6: We will look at what the Bible says about honoring God
  • Chapter 8: We’ll look at the freedom we find in forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: The Five A’s for resolving conflict

Then, we will back into the rest:

  • Chapter 3: Choices have consequences
  • Chapter 4: Making choices the wise way
  • Chapter 10: Think before you speak
  • Chapter 11: The communication pie
  • Chapter 2: What causes conflict
  • Chapter 9: Altering choices
  • Chapter 12: Making a respectful appeal

Of course, you may decide to use a different order – this is just what makes sense to me for our family.

Due to the age of my older son, who will be 5 soon, we are learning through games and interactive tools. I have leveraged the book’s tools to make my own ‘manipulatives’.

I’ll share pictures of what I created in the order that I’ll be using them. And I’m sure you can figure how to use the book’s images in tandem with the pie charts and brass brads to create your own at home.

For chapter 1, I laminated the slippery slope after adding a little color to more visibly show my son the danger vs safe responses to conflict. This is hanging on our wall at home for reference now.

I also made print outs of the images we found on pages 23-27 that further defines each type of response. We will use these cards to play games, put them in order of the slippery slope, and to test our memory of what the terms mean. We will act out these types of responses, examine the responses of people we read about in books and ponder how the books would end if the characters had responded differently to each other, and certainly use the suggested activities and Bible stories in the Peacemaker book as well.

The images below share the same colors I used in the slippery slope above, and are laminated on card stock as well. The backs of the cards have their matching descriptions from the book. I just used a glue stick to glue them onto a rectangular shaped piece of card stock to center the images and words.

It’s obvious the lesson lengths are much longer than a 5 year old can take in at one sitting. We will do the whole lesson, but in 3-4 sessions, playing our games in-between lessons. We will also add the corresponding memory verse to our memory work for the weeks we are doing each chapter.

In chapter 6, the book discusses honoring God through conflict by trusting Him, serving others, and growing to be more like Christ. I made a pie chart for my son to play with while we discuss how we wish to respond to conflict. I’m doing this chapter second because we lead with desired behavior in our home whenever we can. Here are some example questions you can use with your kids at home too:

  • Wow, that was awesome obedience! You obeyed me ‘all the way, right away and with a cheerful heart!’
  • I’m sure proud of you because you really pleased God when you [insert victory]
  • I can tell your heart is growing more like Christ’s because you [insert victory]
  • You really demonstrated a new attitude when you [insert difference]. You used to [insert old habit], and now more and more I see you showing more [insert fruit of the Spirit]. I can tell you’re working hard. Praise God!]
  • Let’s look at what happened together. God allowed this [insert experience] to happen. Then He used it to [insert lesson]. And you showed maturity when you [insert response].
  • Is that doing good?
  • How is that serving your friend?
  • How can you bless your friend? your father? your sibling? me?
  • How can you imitate God? What does the Bible say about [insert struggle].
  • Does that [insert behavior] honor God? How can you do that better?

On pages 47, the book outlines main root desires that cause conflict, and the two kinds of choices people can make as a result of our desires. The pie chart below is just so we can review again where conflict comes from and the kinds of choices we can make in response to them. We will discuss at what point we go wrong in our decision-making. We will revisit this again when we talk about chapter 2, but I’m ‘spiraling’ back on purpose to this tool below.

In chapter 8 we look at how to forgive. We will memorize this simple poem below: good thought, hurt you not, gossip never, friends forever.” And my son can color this page if he wants with wipe off markers. Chapter 8 really does a deep dive into the falsehoods of forgiveness, and how it looks different in God’s economy: what it really looks like to fully forgive someone, when to forgive, and the why’s and how’s of forgiveness. This is a chief lesson of life. I wanted to hit this lesson sooner rather than later.

In chapter 7, we will use a spin dial to work our way around how to really forgive someone else properly, and make sure we’re addressing the three principles of forgiveness: repentance, confession and forgiveness which underlie the steps outlined below. We will use this tool again and again until we’ve got it down.

And now we are ready to back into the rest of the meat in more depth.

We already understand choices have consequences in our home, but we will visit this again in chapter 3. I didn’t make a tool for this chapter, but we will really review the concepts on page 54: the lists of consequences for wise vs poor choices. Then we will discuss how to make wise choices in chapter 4. This chapter reinforces chapter 3 quite nicely.

From chapter 10, we will learn how to think before we speak. This is my favorite lesson from the book! When we’re over the heated emotional part of conflict, we’ll go back to work our way through this dial below. As you know with young children, you have to ‘bring the temperature down’ before you can have any real conversations about what happened and how they are feeling. We separate and calm down before we examine and talk about how situations could be handled with more gentleness, wisdom, and kindness in the future.

In chapter 11 we will focus on how we are communicating. We struggle with attitudes in our home, so this chapter on self-expression is paramount. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of the inside of the ‘pie’ for you for this one. But the pie is divided into 4 main sections: respectful words, respectful tone of voice, respectful body language, and respectful listening. In each pie slice, I’ve written some examples of each of the main sections. In respectful words, it says things like gentle answers, one message. In respectful tone of voice, it says things like pleasant tone, normal volume. In respectful body language, I wrote things like good eye contact, friendly or compassionate expression, standing or sitting up straight. In respectful listening it says “I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean”, “Could you explain what you mean by that?”, “It’s hard to hear that, but I see”, and “I understand but disagree.”

We will finally go back to chapter 2 to look at what causes our conflicts.

In chapter 9 we can discuss how to make different choices, and we’ll add this to our layers of learning when we’re responding to problems. We’ll brainstorm how we could have avoided that particular conflict in the future, and problem-solve together to prevent more occurrences like the one at hand.

And finally in chapter 12 we will learn how we make a respectful appeal. We’ll learn what an appeal is, and how and when to make one. We can practice by making mock situations, or if we come across a real instance when it’s appropriate, then we will be well equipped.

This book has a lot of depth for a 5 year old, and even for a 9 year old. We will most likely revisit this book every 2-3 years or so for reminders, and for the next child of mine up and coming to this age. I’m glad we now have a framework for conflict to use in our home.

What we did prior to this was similar, but had a little less structure because it was more appropriate for a younger child. Now that we’re getting into higher cognition and awareness, we’re addressing the heart issues more and more, and training my older son how to ask God to examine his, and request changes from other people.

Classical education calls for defining grammar first, then application and finally self-expression. That approach may help you see why we focus on definitions and memorization so much. To ensure mastery of this topic, before we move from lesson to lesson, I’ll make sure my son can tell me the various steps, lists, or attributes from each major category we’re studying. We memorize through games, stories, pneumonic devices, song, and movement. (Believe me, his power for memorization is stronger than mine. I’m studying the skill of memorization right now through two books, just so I can keep up with him!) Then, when we’re applying the terms to real situations we will have agreed on a basis for the conversation, a method of assessment and some pathways to resolution.

I hope you’ve found this helpful!

Verses for homeschool encouragement

I put together verses for homeschool encouragement last year for my son. We say these in the morning, along with some I picked out related to our specific discipline and character needs. Thought you might find them useful. My son started saying these after me at 4 years old! And now my two year old gets to hear them recited out loud too!

My husband also assigns them life verses while they are baking in their baby rooms (my womb, haha). They hear these often too! 

We are also learning Ephesians 6 this year. So far we know verses 1-8!

I encourage you to do this for your family!

To keep this fun and interesting, we do this as a game. Here are some tips for memorization. 

  1. For each verse said, earn a solo cup to add to a tower, and at the end knock it down with a ball (like bowling). Earn more than one cup at a time by finishing the verse yourself. Another version: do this outside and squirt the tower down with a water gun.
  2. Say verses will doing exercises.
  3. Say verses with silly voices.
  4. Make up hand motions for memorization.
  5. When verses have lists (like in Phil 4:8 or Col 3:12-14) use your fingers to keep track of the attributes you’re listing.
  6. Find a song that recites the verse.