Jul 302018

Disclosure –  I received a free copy of Christmas Around the World Unit Study in order to write this review. I was compensated for this post, but I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

It’s late July. What’s on your mind?

A. It’s hot.

B. I can’t believe that summer is almost over.

C. I really need to figure out school plans for this year.

D. We ought to do a Christmas Around the World unit study this year.

I’m betting the answer is probably not D. However, I know that Christmas always sneaks up on me. We have done a few fun Christmas activities over the years including Borax Snowflakes. But every year I think we should try to do a study focusing on Christmas during the holiday season. But I tend to think of that when it’s too late, and I’m already scrambling to buy gifts, bake cookies, and decorate.

But what if I did start thinking of that now? What if there was a resource that planned a Christmas Unit study for me?

Thankfully there is, and I was sent a copy to review. It’s Christmas Around the World Unit Study by Katie Horner.

Christmas Around the World Unit StudyChristmas Around the World is a a 6-week Geography Based Unit Study for grades K-6. It covers Christmas traditions in 29 different countries plus 1 lesson on Christmas Carols in a total of 196 reproducible pages.

There are 2 informational pages for each country. The first page provides text with information about the celebration of Christmas in the country. The second page includes a list of recommended resources for additional study. There are lists of books and websites that provide ideas to focus on history, home economics, geography, art, music, or math.

Following the informational pages, there are 4 additional pages for each country. For each country there is a coloring page and country information sheet. The other 2 pages include a variety of different activities such as word searches, writing prompts, matching games, and comparison of traditions in different countries.

The book is designed as a 6-week unit study with one country studied each day. Choosing that option, you could start in mid-November and study all the countries before Christmas. But there are many other ways you could use this resource.

  • Add it to your geography studies throughout the year
  • Divide the countries and have each student present what they learned at a co-op or other group
  • Study more than one country per day
  • Divide the countries by continents and study traditions from different regions spanning multiple years

I think I can cross one thing off my Christmas to-do list! You can too. You can purchase a copy of Christmas Around the World Unit Study for $26.97.

Now back to thinking about how hot it is.





Jul 062017

This post was written 8 years ago, but I find that it still rings true.


Could there be such a thing as too much planning? Who hasn’t heard the quote –

He who fails to plan, plans to fail.

I love to plan. I plan to plan. Planning is one of my favorite activities. But yesterday I started thinking about all my planning in a different light.

On Tuesday I gave my older children (11 and 9) a fun and creative history project. I assigned them to make a model of a Roman villa. I’m not talking about anything fancy. We have a great assortment of cardboard from our recent gas grill purchase, so I thought they could use that. We looked at a few drawings of a Roman villa, then I brought them downstairs and showed them the cardboard. I pointed out the piece that would make a good base, and then the assortment of boxes that could be used for different rooms in the villa.

Then I let them get to work. They started laying out boxes and thinking about their project. My daughter started thinking about how to decorate the inside of the completed villa and how to use Playmobil pieces as “accessories”. Then my son said, “I think we need to sketch a plan so we’ll know what we’re building.” (I wonder where he got that from???) So he disappeared and came back a while later with a nice sketch.

Fast forward to Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, I reminded them of the project and mentioned that I would like to see some cardboard cut and glued today. They got back to work laying out the project according to my son’s plan.  They even located the scissors, tape, and glue. Then I heard my son say, “We don’t have the right boxes to use this plan. I’d better make a new plan.”

WHAT??? Will you quit all this planning and BUILD something please?

Did I just think what I think I thought? Thankfully, I did not say my thought out loud, but I was immediately struck by my thought. How often do I spend MORE TIME PLANNING than DOING?

I’m not advocating just “flying by the seat of your pants” so to speak. After all, Jesus said in Luke 14:28

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

We are building towers in a way. We pour out much of our lives into teaching our children. We absolutely need to have both long-term and short-term plans for “building” our children. We need to make sure we have a plan for teaching our children math and reading for example. We need to make sure that we’ve got the materials on hand to do our science experiment on Friday.

But I think those of us who are “planners” need to be sure that we’re not PLANNING so much that we miss out on actually DOING things with our kids. Ask yourself some questions.

  • Are my plans so rigid that I can’t tolerate any deviations?
  • Have I spent so much time getting my plans “perfect” that I don’t want to change them?
  • Have I made so many plans that I never get around to doing them all?

Just make sure that your plans are serving a purpose and really helping you to accomplish your goals. I especially like this quote:

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”—A.A. Milne

Jul 192014

We’re gearing up to start our 12th year of homeschooling.

Or maybe I should say, I should be gearing up. I have purchased all our curriculum. It’s waiting on the shelf. And waiting. But I have not felt like starting to plan. I’ve enjoyed taking the summer off, and it’s hard for me to admit that it’s already almost the end of July. I really am not ready to get back into the daily grind.

So in case you’re feeling a little less than enthusiastic about starting the school year, here are 7 things (I call the UPDATED approach) to help you get motivated for school planning.

Refueling for the new school year

Photo Credit

Refueling for the New School Year

1.  Use momentum (gained at the end of last year)

It is always helpful to highlight the strengths of each of your children.  You don’t have to start all of your curriculum all at once.  Pick your kids’ strongest subjects and introduce them one at a time to get a great start to the new school year.  You can choose one subject added per week or two per week, or whatever it takes to get a good start to the new school year.  Sometimes we focus on our children’s weakest subjects because we know that they need to spend more time on those; however, if the school year doesn’t begin well, then that extra time may not be beneficial.  So start the year off with subjects that your students love, rather than the thing they struggle with the most.

2.  Plan for some review time during the year.

I am usually very good at planning things out at the beginning of the year.  I have good intentions.  My kids have good intentions.  But there are always little things (sometimes good things), and other outside activities that get in the way of the perfect plan.  Start your year off by planning for some review time for your kids.  Don’t wait to insert some time until later in the year. Do it early while things are still going well.  If students are on a roll, and don’t want to slow down too much, use this time to work on some fun interdisciplinary projects.  This is different than taking a complete break from school work (step #5) which we all need as well.  This can be a valuable part of reinforcing the learning that is going on in your homeschool.

3. Do something new.

It’s not good to constantly switch to the latest and greatest curriculum. But sometimes adding just a little something new is enough to bring enthusiasm and excitement to your school day. You might get excited about a new curriculum or a supplement. Your excitement as a mom can be contagious.

4. Add some fun.

When my older kids were younger I realized I had trouble getting the fun projects done. I was pretty good at keeping us going through our math and English books, but making salt dough maps just wasn’t happening. At that time I instituted Fun Fridays. On Fridays we didn’t do our regular handwriting, math, and grammar lessons. Instead we made time for those hands-on opportunities I was too tired to do on other days by giving them priority. It’s something I’m considering trying again with William and Lizzie this year since I am once again struggling to find time for the “fun” things.

5. Take a break.

Hopefully, you’re doing that. I know schooling year round is popular with some, but we all need breaks. If you school year round, enjoy the shorter, more frequent breaks. If you take the summer off, be sure to spend some time relaxing. If you find the need for more breaks during the school year schedule them and make sure you actually take them! I have friends who use a Sabbath Scheduling Method. With my older children in outside classes I don’t know if it would be worthwhile for me to try at this point, but the idea is appealing.

6. Evaluate

Before you plan, look back at last year and think about what worked and what you’d like to change. Have you children fill out an evaluation too. I’ve created an evaluation form that can help you with this process.

7. Delegate.

If your kids are middle school age or older, why not have them help you with the planning? Have them look through their curriculum and tell you how many math lessons there are or how many science experiments. Let them make supply lists or book lists. Or give them a planner and have them figure out how to pace one or all of their courses. Keep them involved throughout the year as well. Have them help you evaluate how the year is going so far and add suggestions for improving the rest of the year.


So maybe you’re not chomping at the bit to get started on the new school year, but try this UPDATED approach to bring some energy to the new school year.

Photo credit: Graphic created from Creative Content photos by Greg Peverill-Conti and Rachel K on Flikr.com.

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.


May 282014


As I set my goals this year,  I started by thinking about some of what I had been struggling with during the previous year.

I was frazzled.

I felt pulled in all directions.

I lacked focus.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to any of my children during “school time”.

I was exhausted.

I determined that there were a couple of things contributing to these problems. One was biological.

Electronic Distraction

I have this amazing device that sits open a good portion of my day. Its home is right at the end of the dining room table.

It’s my Macbook Pro.

Macbook Glow

And while I was “teaching” it sat there open.

I heard my e-mail notifications.

I heard my Facebook notifications.

So I would stop by and “just check my e-mail really quickly.” Frequently.

Unfortunately the “really quickly” was rarely quick. Usually I saw something to respond to, a link to check, or I thought of something clever to post on Facebook. And the next thing I knew, 30 minutes had passed, and I had several kids waiting on me to help them with something. (Sometimes they were physically waiting, more often, they just quit doing their school work and disappeared.)

I was frustrated when I was interrupted, but I was almost always doing something where my children would have to interrupt.

Removing Distraction

Finally, I realized what I had to do.

I needed clear and defined times when my laptop (and my Kindle Fire) were off-limits. Completely. No exceptions.

So I did it.

I made 8-11 am a “NO computer time”. The laptop was closed and put away.  We also set 6-8 pm as off-limits for both my husband and me.


I have to confess it has been HARD.

At first, I had to be extremely legalistic about the hours. I would find myself nearly desperate to open the laptop. Really. It was pathetic.

Addicted to Distraction

Once I got used to my new off computer hours, I felt like I had mastered my addiction, so I let the hours be a little more flexible. And I would occasionally pick up my Kindle Fire at 9:30 or so, just to see if there was anything important.

Then I realized that I was slowly sliding right back into the same pattern of distraction during our morning school hours. I realized, that like a recovering alcoholic should avoid bars, I needed the strict rules. Legalistic or not.

So even though there are definitely times when I don’t need to be working with any of my children in the morning I do NOT allow myself any computer time during those hours.

Productive Pursuits

What have I been doing instead?


Folding the laundry




Reading magazines

These are all things that I either enjoy or need to do that were getting pushed aside because of the amount of time I was wasting on the computer.

I have a long way to go. And with summer coming, I may not keep the same off-limits hours. But then again, it may be best to keep on with my routine.


How about you? Have you been able to successfully decrease your computer usage permanently? How do you do it?


Apr 052014

I can’t believe it, but next year 2 of my students will be in high school! I must say that overall high school has not been as scary and hard as I thought it would be, but it has been a big change in our day to day schedule with the addition of outside classes.

David will be a junior next year and that’s the year to really ramp up the college planning.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been busy lining up the classes that David and Anna will be taking both inside and outside the home next year.

*Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links.

Curriculum Choices-00211th grade plan

The current plan is for David to take Spanish 1 with a small group in someone’s home.

He will hopefully be taking an American Literature class with our local homeschool enrichment group.
Complementing American Literature is American History. We are planning on using the American History course from Compass Classroom. (Read my review)

We’re brining him home for math again and will be using both Thinkwell and Life of Fred for Calculus. We purchased Thinkwell through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. They run periodic group buys for Thinkwell classes.

He’ll be taking Physics using Apologia. Right now the plan is to do that at home, but if we suddenly come into extra money, we could sign him up for an outside class for that as well. But that’s not likely.

Curriculum Choices-0019th grade plan

My daughter Anna will be in the 9th grade next year!

We are planning on her taking Apologia Biology with our homeschool enrichment group.

Notgrass World History High SchoolWorld History will probably be Notgrass.

Literature will be a combination of the Notgrass readings and Excellence in Literature. I’m also strongly considering The Elegant Essay from IEW.

For math, she will be finishing Jacob’s Geometry at the first of the year, then moving on to Algebra 2. (I have Foerster’s for her to use. I’ve never used it before, so we’ll have to see how that works. David used Life of Fred, but Anna doesn’t think that would be very effective for her.)

We also are planning on her taking an on-line Latin 3 class from Memoria Press. The text is Henle 2nd year.


Hopefully we will be taking a reasonably long summer break. However, there are a few things that definitely need to be finished.

David has to finish his chemistry course. Our journey through chemistry is a subject for another day. Lucky kid. Since he’s the oldest, I get to experiment on him.

Fourth Form LatinAnna has to finish Fourth Form Latin before she starts Latin 3 in the fall.


I have to get David’s transcript updated. To do that, I need to write some course titles and descriptions for his electives. I also need to get the big picture mapped out for Anna.



Feb 032014

I can’t believe that January is already gone! I set some goals for myself for this year and I think it would be a good idea to share how I’m doing with them. Hopefully it will encourage me to keep trying.

I broke my goals up into categories.

Here are my ongoing goals.

Goals God/Spiritual 

1. Continue with daily Bible reading. I am so excited to report, that I made the goal to read the New Testament during the month of December, and I have almost completed that goal!

2. Focus on scripture memory with daily practice using Scripture Typer. I have recently started using ScriptureTyper.com and it is a fantastic way for me to study and review.



1. I did a much less challenging Bible reading plan for the month of January. I read through the book of Proverbs. But I did do that and also frequently read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions and Daily Light. I am happy to report that good habit has continued. I heard about Professor Horner’s intriguing Bible reading plan in December. I thought about starting it with the new year, but decided not to jump into anything that had so much reading. But it keeps coming to my mind. So my goal for February is to try 1 month of the plan. (OK, starting February 3.)

2. I did well with Scripture Typer for a few days. But due to cutting back on my computer time, it was something that wasn’t making the cut with my new computer hours. I also received a book on memorizing the Book of Galatians, so that will be my scripture memory focus for a while.



1. Get children started on schoolwork before 9 am. Enforce the use of the checklist for the younger students.


1. We’ve done pretty well with this for the most part. We haven’t always started before 9 am, but the younger kids are getting their school work done and we’ve paid more attention to the checklist. This month I am going to making sure we do science and geography lessons as well.


1. Start a consistent exercise routine. I have learned from experience, that the only way I can get this to work is to get up early and go to the Y. So in order to do that I need to….

2. Get to bed on time!

3. Continue looking at ways to improve our family’s eating habits. Continue researching how to implement a gluten-free diet with tentative plans to begin a trial during February and March.


1. I have exercised some during January. But I didn’t get myself back to the Y. I was hoping to use the time I was there for my kids’ swimming lessons to work out, but unfortunately I had to remain poolside. My goal for February is to go to the Y twice per week and to exercise at least 1 additional time.

2. Doing ok with this goal. I’m not much of a night owl anyway, but since I haven’t been getting up early to exercise it hasn’t been an issue.

3. I have looked a little more at the gluten free. I cannot implement in February though because of food budget issues. I will hope for March.


1. Block out specific, focused times of day to complete work tasks for SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

2. Publish 3 blog posts per week.



1. This is working marvelously. I have implemented “no computer” times and it has made a tremendous difference in how I’m spending my time.  More on this to come!

2. Umm. No. Haven’t come close to that one. I will keep that goal for February.


Jan 082014

One of my goals for the year is to


Block out specific, focused times of day to complete work tasks for SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

I tend to have my laptop open all day long. I have e-mail, Facebook,  SchoolhouseTeachers.com, and whatever else I might be working on all open. At the same time, Lizzie (2nd grade) and David (10th grade) are at the table with me periodically asking questions about schoolwork, I am trying to make sure William (5th grade) is staying on track with his schoolwork, and I’m trying to make sure that Andrew (3 years old) is occupied with something not too messy, loud, or destructive. And Anna (8th grade) is completely fending for herself upstairs in her room.

This is a recipe for stress and distraction. It’s a very good recipe for it. I have a 100% success rate at getting frustrated whenever I try this. And I have been doing it every school day for longer than I am going to admit.

I decided something had to change. Since I am not going to send my children to school, I had to take control of my computer time.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

1. Check e-mail early in the morning to see if there are any pressing needs for the day.

2. Take care of any emergencies early.

3. Then I close the laptop. And remove it from the table. And don’t open it.

For 3 days I have eaten breakfast without my laptop.

I have worked with my children in the morning without my laptop open.

I have paid attention to them.

I have felt less frustrated with them because they’re not interrupting me AND they have gotten more work done.

Amazing, huh?

I know this is obvious. But if the computer calls out to you and pulls you away from the most important things, you need to set limits.

I wasn’t doing the obvious. I don’t know why it took me so long.

My laptop is staying put away until 11 o’clock. Then I do another e-mail check and plan my afternoon work. I have focused work time from 2-5. I usually don’t need that much time for work, so I can use that time for blogging too. That will help me to meet another of my goals.

Publish 3 blog posts per week.

My mornings are so much more productive now that I’m not trying to do too much.

How about you? Have you so busy multi-tasking that you’ve forgotten to focus?


Dec 312013

I’ve recently finished reading Crystal Paine’s (MoneySavingMom.com) soon to be released book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. One of the most important steps to getting out of survival mode, which I’ve been living in at least partially for a couple of years now, is to set goals.

So, I’ve been thinking about what things about my current state are making me unhappy. Are my priorities out of line? I won’t say that I’ve completely let me priorities slide, but I have let some less important things get in the way of what my priorities are (or should be). And although, I have a lot of things organized, I’ve lost sight of my purpose.

I’ve been thinking about mission statements and purpose statements and I was getting nowhere. But then I realized I know my purpose.

It’s the first question and answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

I Cor. 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

So that is the lens that I need to look through when I evaluate the things that I am doing.

  • Does this activity bring glory to God?
  • Am I glorifying God in all my actions?

I am  setting some goals for the new year. But these will be evolving. I want to work on building some habits for myself, so I don’t want to try to add too many things at once, or it will be counter-productive.

Here are the categories that I am dividing my goals.

  • God/Spiritual
  • Family/Homeschool
  • Personal/Health
  • Work/Blog

2014 Goals Button


1. Continue with daily Bible reading. I am so excited to report, that I made the goal to read the New Testament during the month of December, and I have almost completed that goal!

2. Focus on scripture memory with daily practice using Scripture Typer. I have recently started using ScriptureTyper.com and it is a fantastic way for me to study and review.



1. Get children started on schoolwork before 9 am. Enforce the use of the checklist for the younger students.



1. Start a consistent exercise routine. I have learned from experience, that the only way I can get this to work is to get up early and go to the Y. So in order to do that I need to….

2. Get to bed on time!

3. Continue looking at ways to improve our family’s eating habits. Continue researching how to implement a gluten-free diet with tentative plans to begin a trial during February and March.



1. Block out specific, focused times of day to complete work tasks for SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

2. Publish 3 blog posts per week.


This post is shared on Let’s Homeschool High School.

LetsHSHS.com High School Homeschool Blog Hop

Read more New Year’s Goals posts by some of my friends.

2014 – Love, Joy, Peace, Grace, and to Know Him Better by April E. @ ElCloud Homeschool: Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet

2014: The Adventure Continues by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

2014 Prayers, Hopes, and Goals by Clara @ A Slice Of Homeschool Pie

A Peek into My Plans for 2014 by Jennifer @ Conversaving

Anticipating 2014 by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

A Year to Sparkle! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Saying Hello to 2014 by Tess @ Circling Through This Life

2014 Already? How can that be? by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Goals For 2014 Homesteading & Homeschooling by Kim @Homestead Acres

Facing 2014 With Anticipation And Caution by Audra Silva @ Simply Audra Marie

Embracing Real Moments in 2014 by Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm

2014 Goals and Why We Should All Set Them by April B. @ Coffee, Cobwebs, and Curriculum

Nov 062013

BlahBlogBustersI’ve been blogging for a long time (almost 7-1/2 years!!!) and there are times that I feel like I’ve run out of things to say. There are only so many times I can write about how busy I am or why I haven’t been blogging much!

So if you’re feeling like your blogging is blah, here are some tips for coming up with ideas for posts.

1. Check your site stats. What’s your most visited post currently? Mine is my step-by-step instructions for making pumpkin roll.

2. Organize something and take pictures before and after pictures. I was so inspired by the 31 Days to Organize Your Kitchen Frugally posts at Organizing Homelife. Expect to see some posts from me on that soon!

3. Find a fun Pinterest project and try it yourself. Did it work? Here’s my very best Pinterest project – My Fireplace Makeover.

4. Find a meme that looks fun and join in. I like blogging through the alphabet at Ben and Me. (Not that I’ve ever come even CLOSE to making it through the alphabet.)

5. Share some great freebies you’ve found on other blogs. Look at the Philippians 4:6-7 printable at His Mercy is New. Or better yet, make your own. Here’s a printable Homeschool Evaluation form.

6. Write a review. Pick something that you really love and tell everyone why. Or compare 2 products. One of my all-time favorite posts was this one comparing Sonlight to Tapestry of Grace.

7. Make a list. They’re always fun!


Aug 222013

We start school this Monday and I am trying to make sure I have everything ready to begin. This is our 11th year homeschooling. Hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two by now. But every year is different since the children grow, study different things, and there are always new challenges.


William, Anna, David, and Lizzie on our End of “Summer” trip to Roan Mountain State Park last week. It was the chilliest I can remember in August in Tennessee with highs in the 50’s one day!

This year I’ve made generic weekly schedules for Lizzie (2nd grade) and William (5th grade). I searched through lots of forms and finally decided to use one of the Weekly Planning forms from The SchoolhousePlanner. I left the Week # and Dates blank. Along the top of the chart are the days of the week. Down the left side are the subjects, which I customized with each of their subjects. Then I filled in each of the blocks with a daily assignment. Most of their subjects are “do the next thing” type of courses, so I don’t need to do extensive planning. (This is one of the things I finally figured out.) I can just put Lesson or Exercise in the Math box for every day. Lizzie is going to be using Prima Latina, so I have simple plans like Go over lesson, Do 1st workbook page, Do 2nd workbook page, and Review Vocabulary in those boxes. I have tried to take into account that Monday will be crazy with transporting David and Anna back and forth to classes, so it is a little lighter. After I finished my generic plans, I printed the page and laminated it. Then they will check off their assignments with dry erase markers and I won’t have to remember to print something new every week.

We also bought a used school desk for William for his room. He will be doing at least some of his independent work upstairs. Hopefully that will cut down on distractions for him. I am considering having him set a timer for himself for breaks. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea though because I fear he would spend most of his time focusing on when his break was.

Anna, 8th grade, is scheduling all her own school this year. Nice, huh? She has decided to do 4-5 week blocks in some subjects like geography and science so she isn’t doing every subject all the time. I’m excited to see how it’s going to work. I’m also going to mirror her geography lessons with similar topics for William and Lizzie at the same time.

I have also set up Google Calendars for David and Anna. I have their schedules on separate calendars (shared between us). Then I have another calendar for the cross country schedule, and my own appointments. I also have a menu calendar that I need to start using again.

I have used the Google Calendar to set up deadlines for David’s Chemistry class. I have Complete Chapter 1, Complete Chapter 2, etc. We’re working on training him to be more independent and take more ownership over his schedule.

Andrew is, as usual, the one who will have probably the biggest impact on how our days go. We’re taking a very relaxed approach to potty training, and I’m trying to come up with some special learning activities for him as well. He really loves attention so that makes school time tricky. I need to remember the advice to play with him FIRST. That way he’ll be more ready to play by himself when I need to work with the other children.