Category Archives: Organization and Scheduling

Practical Homeschooling for Real World Families by Mary Ostyn

I’m a big fan of Mary Ostyn, mom-of-many, blogger, and author of The Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family (plus a few other titles, but that’s the only one I’ve read cover-to-cover).  When I saw that she was publishing an e-book entitled Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families, which turns out to be a collection of her homeschooling  wisdom learned over these past twenty-some years of homeschooling, I knew I wanted to read it.  Everyone can enjoy a good shot in the arm at times, right?  And what homeschooling mother doesn’t need that in February?  :-)  I started reading it after it was released on Monday, and I finished it early this morning.  What I found wasn’t anything new, really, but what I also found was just what I needed:  a bit of encouragement that no, I’m not insane to attempt this, and yes, things really will turn out all right.  I’m going to make a confession right now.  Ready?  I’m pretty driven when it comes to homeschooling.  I was a high-achieving high school student.  I wear my nerd badge proudly.  :-)  Combine that with the fact that I homeschool my children, and you have the recipe for a potential nervous breakdown.  Really.  In a providential confluence of events, I shared a devotional at CBS leaders council on Monday that had to with recognizing idols in our own lives.  It was mildly painful for me to admit to myself that homeschooling can be that to me.  Mary Ostyn helped me see that it’s possible to give your children a good education without making homeschooling your very reason for existing.  (Is it too self-revelatory for me to admit that the one thing that I gleaned from this ebook that set my mind at ease the most is this:  Mary takes a somewhat laid-back approach with her children’s educations, and her two eldest sons were both recognized as National Merit Finalists?  Remember that confession?  Yep–driven, high achieving student here.  :-)  )  Again, there’s nothing really new in this book, especially if you’ve been at this for a while.  However, it’s totally worth the $5 or so that it costs for anyone looking for a bit of encouragement, and it would be especially worth it to new homeschoolers.

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Homeschool day in the life, January 2015 edition


I attempted to record our activities this past Friday, January 16, to provide a little snapshot into our homeschooling life.  This is our sixth year to homeschool, which means that our girls have never attended a traditional school.  At ages 10 1/2 and 9, they’re the only “official” students, though we all know that the lines between “school” and home are very blurry and yes, we’re learning all the time.  :-)  The 4 1/2 year old and 21 month old provide plenty of entertainment and distractions.  We’re pretty busy with out-of-the-house activities this year, so I chose to document one of stay-at-home days, a Friday.  I try to make Fridays a little bit different, too, keeping a “Fun Friday” mentality while still having structured learning times.  Sometimes that works better than at others.



6:15-7:15–Breakfast and planning time for me.  I went to bed on Thursday night unprepared (which happens about half the time), so I had to get my act together early in the morning.  Breakfast for me is almost always oatmeal, to which I add about a tablespoon of natural peanut butter and some other sweet add in.  Sometimes it’s a tablespoon of jelly or some raisins; lately it has been homemade granola.




7:15-8:45–I got the girls up and moving and then I took a shower. The girls have their own to-do list for the mornings, which includes breakfast, some chores, piano practice, and Bible study.   I made some attempt at a quiet devotional time, though if memory serves me correctly, it didn’t pan out like I wished.  The rest of this time was a flurry of taking care of the boys and their needs, including giving them a bath.


Happy boys!

Happy boys!

8:45-9:15–Art and breakfast for the boys.  Most Fun Fridays I make an attempt at doing some sort of art activity.  One girls loves these activities and the other is very frustrated by them, while the four year old is just so glad to be included that it really doesn’t matter what the art project is.  On this day we attempted glue resist snowman paintings from The Artful Parent, but I didn’t think enough ahead to realize that we probably wouldn’t be able to complete this activity in one day since it would take a while for the glue to dry.  Ah, well, it’s all about the process, and there will be something else to look forward to another day.  :-)

DSC_01489:20-9:55–Circle time.  I didn’t read aloud at this time, but we managed to do everything else.  I think the DLM kept himself busy with some cardboard and a Sharpie (!!) during this time.  Benny was extremely fussy, so I finally resorted to giving him some “quiet reading time” in his baby bed.  When he’s out of sorts, this usually does the trick.




9:55-11:00–Game time.  Most Fun Fridays find us playing a math game or two instead of working on our regular curricula.  Sometimes it’s a RightStart Math game, and sometimes I play with each girl individually.
Knowing this day was already full, I opted instead to play Sumoku with both girls.  
I also played Gobblet Gobblers with the DLM at the same time, which might explain why I came out the loser more times than I came out the winner in both games.  ;-)

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11:00-11:30–Poetry Tea Time, another staple of our Fun Fridays.  Today it was hot chocolate AND tea, depending on the consumer’s preference.  :-)  (Last week was REALLY cold here in Alabama!)  I mostly shared from the Longfellow book, while Louise chose poems from Rutherford B., Who Was He? and Lulu mostly picked poems from Tour America.   I read Little Monster’s Bedtime Book, a funny poetry book from MY childhood , at the DLM’s request.

The selections--

The selections–



11:30-12:45–This was a time of concentrated bookwork for both girls.  Louise did a writing lesson and a language lesson (Writing with Ease and First Language Lessons 3).  Lulu did a writing lesson (Writing with Skill 1) and a language lesson (Rod & Staff 5).  Louise also got started on reading a bit more in her history biography, Wilderness Wife.  Meanwhile, the DLM and I put together a U.S. map puzzle over and over.  (I offered to do a reading lesson with him then, but he chose the puzzle instead.  I try to follow his lead!)  We had a lot of help! ;-)

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12:45-1:30–Lunch and read aloud.

1:30-2:30–Rest time for everyone.  Benny went down for a nap.  I went to my room to rest and read (and I even took about a ten minute nap!)  The girls read more of their history biographies.  (Lulu’s was Daniel Boone by James Daugherty, a pick that even I, who is known to thumb my nose at political correctness, am beginning to doubt after reading this review.)  The DLM played with Picasso Tiles.



Those small cubicles are storm shelters, y'all.  Yes, we have a lot of severe weather.  :-)

Those small cubicles are storm shelters, y’all. Yes, we have a lot of severe weather. :-)

2:30-4:00ish–The girls and I listened to a chapter in The Story of US via OneClick Digital (which might just be my favorite resource this year!).  Next week it’s on to the American Revolution for us!  The DLM’s activity during this time was to make a book for his daddy.  The girls also added a couple of people and events to their Books of Centuries.  Then Lulu typed her writing paragraph.  Louise also enjoyed a nonfiction pick from my stack of Cybils nonfiction finalists.


Lulu almost always has a project going on, especially during read-alouds or audiobooks.  Today she did a little Duck Tape creating.

Lulu almost always has a project going on, especially during read-alouds or audiobooks. Today she did a little Duck Tape creating.


4:00–We all headed out for a walk.  Steady Eddie, the kids, and our rambunctious puppy headed in one direction, I in another.  I wanted some time to finish listening to Huck Finn.  (Did I already mention that I’m loving OneClick Digital?)

This day was a pretty good balance of thinking, listening, and doing; together and apart.  I confess that I constantly critique our homeschool and am wont to see the weaknesses rather than the strengths.  Looking back over it alll, though, I can see that this was a good day.   :-)

I’ve shared a number of these posts over the years:

I’ll be linking this post up at Simple Homeschool next month.

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Circle Time: 4th Six Weeks

  • We’ll work on memorizing “The Duel” by Eugene Field.  It’s a humorous piece, and I thought we could use that given what else we’re working on. :-)
  • We’ll continue with the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.  We didn’t work on this at all during the Christmas season, so we’ll probably have to backtrack a bit.  We mostly know what’s printed in green, but again–practice!  I’m trying to think of interesting ways to review this, especially since it’s SO long.  Suggestions are welcome. :-)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  • We’ll continue on with Romans 8 KJV.  We more or less learned the first six verses during the second six weeks, so we’ll continue on with the next six or so.  I expect backtracking will once again be necessary.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

    • Our new hymn is “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
    • We’ll pick up with the “Explorers to 1815″ timeline song.  The girls know up through the first ten cards.  We’ll shoot for the next ten this six weeks, and that will bring us up through the Declaration of Independence.
    • As far as our reading aloud goes, I’d love to get back to reading a Proverb a day.  Consistently reading the Bible (and not just reciting what we’ve memorized) is something that has fallen by the wayside during the chaos busy-ness that is our school day.  I’m re-committing to doing it in 2015.
    • I’m still something of a free spirit when it comes to our read-alouds.  ;-)  For our daytime read-aloud, I will be reading something that relates to the time period of the French and Indian War or the American Revolution.  The jury’s still out on which title we’ll start with (and it will possibly be decided by what I can actually lay my hands on in this book-overridden house of ours :-) ), but these are what I’m considering:

Do you have a favorite book about this time period?  I’d love to hear about it!

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Circle Time: 2nd Six Weeks Term

DSC_0081Memory work for second six weeks:

Bible:  Romans 8.  My goal is for us to eventually memorize the entire chapter, but this term my realistic goal is the first six verses:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

We review a passage of scripture approximately twice a week.  I also try to remember to work on the memory verses for CBS when we have them.

Poem:  We will learn the last few stanzas of “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and after that we’ll probably start work on a Christmas poem which is to be determined.

Declaration of Independence, intro.:  We trudge on.  :-)  Actually, I’m learning that taking it slow and easy with this one is the way to go.  As of the this past week (which is–eek!–three weeks into this new six week), we’re down to the phrase “long train of abuses,” which is pretty good, I think.  I think there is such value in memorizing large swaths of material!

History timeline:  we’re memorizing the “Explorers to 1815″ song from Veritas Press.  We’re taking it in chunks.  To date we’re working on the first ten cards or events, which gets us up through the American colonial period.

We’re reviewing our hymns this term, and we review poems approximately two days a week.

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Menu Plan Monday

ThanksgivingThis coming week is going to be a busy one, so I attempted this weekend to do a bunch of cooking in anticipation of the busy-ness.  Here’s the menu:

Monday–oven tacos with the fixings, canned black beans (I love these!)–ETA:  share this with my family as we celebrate my nephew’s sixteenth birthday!

Tuesday–supper with Nana; moms’ night out at Panera for me

Wednesday–breakfast for supper–pancakes, eggs, and bacon–unless I’m too tired to cook; then we’ll eat out.  I discovered that pancake recipe last week, and these pancakes met with rave reviews.  It’s a keeper!

Thursday–knockoff Panera broccoli cheese soup or knockoff Wendy’s chili.  I made both of these this past weekend, so they’ll be leftover.  All of this is really iffy because this week is my nephew’s sixteenth birthday (!!!), and his family and friends will be celebrating with dinner out that night.  It’s further complicated by the fact that I’ll be preparing for a medical test on Friday, so I won’t be eating at all.  :-(

Friday–leftovers, eat out, or take out–depending on how I feel, I’m sure :-)

Yummy broccoli cheese soup

Yummy broccoli cheese soup

I don’t really make a plan for our other meals, but I did want to share a couple of things we do each week.  On Mondays we’re busy right up until lunchtime, so we usually have baked potatoes from the crockpot for lunch.  We just pop them into the crockpot early Monday morning, and they’re ready in time for lunch.  I can’t tell you how much it helps me to have that done each Monday; lunchtime is one of the several times during the day when things can get pretty hairy around here, and I find having lunch ready (and girls who are plenty big enough to fix the potatoes themselves!) a moral victory at a low ebb in the day.  :-)

I eat oatmeal (the old fashioned kind) almost every day of the week.  I eat it with natural peanut butter and and jelly stirred in.  Sometimes, though, for a  change, I’ll bake up a pan of oatmeal.  One of my IRL friends shared Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures blog on FB, and I’ve been baking her oatmeal ever since.  My favorite is the peanut butter and jelly oatmeal.  Really, this stuff is good enough to be a dessert.  I eat it for a bedtime snack, too, so it’s good at any hour.

What’s cookin’ at your house this week?

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