Pregnant or a New Mom? I’ve Got Just the Thing for You!

There's No Place Like Home

[This post contains affiliate links. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are completely my own. See my full disclosure policy]

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I love babies. I guess that comes as no surprise coming from a mom of eleven. Pregnancy has also been something I’ve usually enjoyed, despite some difficulties in the last couple. I have read so many books on pregnancy and childbirth that I could probably be a labor and delivery nurse with no training at all. My youngest is 10 months old now, and the one book I wish I would have had would have be Baby Ready – Preparing for and Adapting to Life with Baby.

This week, my friend Monica over at HappyandBlessedHome.com, has launched this amazing eBook, and I promise, it will be a blessing to you.

As I stated earlier, I have read my share of pregnancy/new…

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And the Winner is…

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I’m so excited to announce the winner of my very first giveaway! Drumroll, please…

Diane Collins! Your name has been randomly selected as the winner of “home/school/life” magazine. I’ve sent you an email. Please check your spam folder if you have not received it. Congratulations!

Thanks so much for all who entered. Have a great night!

Pregnant or a New Mom? I’ve Got Just the Thing for You!

[This post contains affiliate links. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are completely my own. See my full disclosure policy]

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I love babies. I guess that comes as no surprise coming from a mom of eleven. Pregnancy has also been something I’ve usually enjoyed, despite some difficulties in the last couple. I have read so many books on pregnancy and childbirth that I could probably be a labor and delivery nurse with no training at all. My youngest is 10 months old now, and the one book I wish I would have had would have be Baby Ready – Preparing for and Adapting to Life with Baby.

This week, my friend Monica over at HappyandBlessedHome.com, has launched this amazing eBook, and I promise, it will be a blessing to you.

As I stated earlier, I have read my share of pregnancy/new baby books, but one of the things that this book has is heart. In a world inundated with facts and figures, it was so refreshing to read a book that is personal, rather than clinical. Believe me, Monica knows her stuff, and I’m sure there’s so much you will relate to. She has two children and has given birth at 30 weeks and at 36 weeks, so she’s been on both sides of the fence with a preemie and an almost full-term baby. She has also endured what some may have considered a difficult time during pregnancy, but her book exudes sheer joy.

Although I do not have a newborn baby, there are still some topics addressed that are still relevant to me. I really appreciated the tips on getting your baby to sleep because, at 10 months, Kenzie still has me up at night. Another of my favorite features is an exhaustive list of baby gear that includes items for newborns up through the early toddler years. I also happen to love the freezer meal recipes she’s included, which look particularly delicious. You don’t have to be pregnant to appreciate these meals!

As if this isn’t enough, she also has some wonderful freebies, including: free baby gear and magazines, free nursery planner and nursery wall art, free prayer cards for pregnancy and baby, free eBook for first-time dads, and/or the free guide to baby play.

As a part of the launch, from now through March 31, 2014, readers of There’s No Place Like Home will receive a 30% discount on the book and all the printables, but hurry because the offer does not last long. To redeem your discount, use the code 30LAUNCH. That brings the price down from $7.99 to $5.59!

Baby Ready includes:

Things you can do to prepare for baby’s arrival

  • FREE Baby Gear Linksstar baby ready book
  • Freezer Meal Recipes
  • Nursery Set-up
  • Baby Gear Recommendations
  • Baby Registry Checklist
  • Selecting an Obstetrician
  • Hospital Tour Checklist
  • What to Pack for the Hospital
  • Pregnancy Tracking Apps
  • Baby Name Planner

Make life easier after baby is born

  • Baby Tracker
  • Breastfeeding Tips
  • Bottle-feeding Tips
  • Get Baby to Sleep
  • Packing a Diaper Bag
  • Getting Organized
  • Babysitter Checklist
  • Recommended Reading
  • Marriage Resources

The book is 32 chapters and 115 pages of valuable information including resources, links and more.

For a limited time, “Baby Ready” also comes with the following:

  • 40 Printable prayer cards to pray through pregnancy and for baby based on Psalms 139 and 121, and Proverbs 3
  • Cute nursery wall art printables (8 1/2″ x 11″) perfect for almost any nursery – six styles to choose from (print, frame, and display) and
  • Nursery planner printable with varying room dimensions and standard size nursery furniture for planning your nursery’s layout
  • The eBook – “Twin Dad Talks: Help For First-Time Fathers Navigating Pregnancy” by Michael G. Crider
  • Free “Baby Games” printable from Spit and Sparkles blog with great ideas for baby play
  • This collection would also make a great baby gift for an expectant or new mom in your life.

    Interested? Click here to purchase and receive the eBook and all the printables for only $7.99 in one easy download. And don’t forget- from now through March 31, you will get a 30% discount by using the coupon code 30LAUNCH.

    Babies are such a blessing. Why not enter this new phase of life with confidence? Enjoy!

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Sorting Things Out: This Christian’s Thoughts on Birth Control

Image courtesy of BrandonSigma / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of BrandonSigma / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday I scheduled an appointment to have a tubal ligation, and I’m not sure how I feel about the idea. I’ve been repeatedly told by my doctors not to get pregnant again because of my history with blood clots. In this post, I talked about how my nurse practitioner had basically lied to me by omission by placing an implant in my arm that she knew was an abortifacient, despite the fact that I’m pro-life. I had it removed a few weeks ago after I discovered the truth, and I was basically told you shouldn’t get pregnant again because you could die. You need to do something.

After many, many prayers, I decided to go ahead with the doctor’s recommendation, and schedule the surgery, which brings me to today.

I’m still not thrilled about this idea, and I keep going back and forth between two things: God’s sovereignty and the fact that God gave man the intelligence to intercede in situations like this. There tends to be two camps among Christians- the nothing beyond natural family planning faction and the birth control is okay as long as it is not an abortifacient faction. Of course, I have to be difficult and jump back and forth.

Here’s what I think:

Most of the people who are completely against man-made birth control believe that trust in God’s will trumps all, and I completely agree with that. But, what if…

We were created in God’s own image. Not only did He give us the intelligence to manufacture these products, but He also gave us all the resources we would need. Think about it. Plastic is considered to be a man-made product, but it is still made from products naturally found here on Earth. All man-made products are. What if He gave us this technology for a reason?

Now on to my bigger point- the NFP faction is probably reading this post, open-mouthed and wondering what I’m thinking. But I’ve got some honest questions for those people, and please keep in mind that I am alluding to the use of birth control as a life-saving medication/surgery, not to actually control the amount of children I’m blessed with. (That should be obvious. I’ve got eleven kids.)

– When you have a headache, do you take ibuprofin?
– If a family member would fall seriously ill, such as a heart attack, would you allow surgery?
– When your child has a fever, do you give him/her Tylenol?

Do you see what I’m getting at? Most people who are against birth control would probably admit that, yes, in those circumstances, they would use those medications/procedures. Those are man-made, aren’t they? I don’t understand what the difference is between using birth control because of valid health issues and getting an angioplasty for a heart attack. Why is one okay while the other is not? I’m on blood-thinners for a DVT I had over the summer. Am I failing to trust God by taking these everyday? No, I am trusting that He knew what He was doing when He gave man the intellectual capacity to create these things. Are they all good? Of course not, but that’s why we have to exercise discernment when choosing to use them.

Now on to the other side of the argument. God is sovereign and omniscient. He knows what’s going to happen already. He also has a plan for me and my children. What if He has a plan for a child I haven’t had yet? And, as a good friend pointed out to me- God already knows when your time is up. Regardless of what you choose to do, He will take you when it’s your time. Period.

And now I’m back to where I started from. I may have scheduled the appointment, but I’m far from sure that I’ll go through with it. I’ve got three weeks to decide.

Have any of you been through this? I really need to get this sorted out.

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What Exactly Is an Unschooler?

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[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.]

Ah…that good old question seems to be popping up again and again lately. What exactly is an unschooler? I realize that I just posted yesterday about the pros and cons of labeling, but today I’m going to delve into this topic a little more, as a reader posed an easier question to answer…”What is your general definition of an unschooler?”

I like that word “general” because I’m certainly no expert on the subject, and I think that when you start getting into specifics, it can get a little murky because you would probably get a different answer from each unschooling family because we all do it differently. So, yeah. General I can probably do.

My understanding of this method comes directly from John Holt, author of Learning All The Time. He is the man who initially coined the phrase “unschooling” when he referred to the process of natural learning.

You will hear from many unschoolers today that this means no curriculum is to be used; the definition has evolved a bit from the initial meaning. Unschooling is letting a child pursue what they want, when they want, and how they want. So, if a child chooses to study a particular subject with a textbook, they are no less an unschooler than they were the day before because it is still their choice. This principle was actually perfectly stated on “John Holt and Growing without Schooling“:

“Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not “natural” processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority.”

I’ve gotten quite a few comments about how my daughter’s Sherlock curriculum does not fit in with the unschooling method because it has structure and, yes, books. This quote says exactly what I’ve been trying to explain in terms of my daughter’s approach to learning, but I think it is so hard for people to comprehend that sometimes unschoolers use textbooks because there are those who completely discredit anything that might look schoolish. But if you look at the original definition of the word, it is obvious that the use of any curriculum can, indeed, be a part of natural learning if it is initiated by the child.

I honestly have a hard time with people even questioning the fact that structure and textbooks can have a place in an interest-led learning environment. Think about it. What if when Devin requested to use a curriculum for some of her interests, I would have said, “Oh no! You can’t do that. We’re unschoolers. Textbooks are the devil!” (Yes, I’m prone to exaggeration.) I’ll tell you what would have happened: I would have hindered the opportunity for her to learn what she wanted to and how she wanted to. Now that’s something that doesn’t fit in with unschooling!

As parents of natural learners, we are there to facilitate our children’s learning. We help them find ways to pursue their passions. We tap into resources and try to find materials that will fit with their learning styles, whatever those resources may be- books, or not. And that, my friends, is unschooling.

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Don’t Be a Slave to Labels!

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A common theme among homeschoolers is, “Don’t be a slave to your curriculum!” The translation is: use your curriculum as a resource; you are not obligated to finish every last page. The key to a successful homeschool is flexibility. I’ve been thinking about this the last few days, and I think this theme can be added to labels, as well.

What do I mean by labels? In this case, I’m referring to differentiating between homeschoolers by their method- traditional, classical, eclectic, unschoolers. You get the picture. As with curriculum, this can be useful. Just as so eloquently stated by Sue Elvis on her blog,

“Labels are difficult. When they are used to separate people by excluding them (you’re not like us so you don’t belong), I hate them. But they can be good when they lead us to like-minded people who can support and encourage us. We sometimes need some reassurance we aren’t alone. When we were ‘doing our own thing’, I often felt alone and actually never talked about how we were homeschooling in case we were criticised. So saying all of that, even when we have adopted a certain label, this doesn’t mean we all have to be exactly the same…”

There is a time and a reason for these distinctions, but do not let yourself be bound by them! I think sometimes we can fall into the trap of defining our homeschool by these labels, and in doing so we can outright ban certain methods of learning because they don’t fit in with what those nifty handbooks say about our approach.

“We’re unschoolers, so we don’t ever use textbooks. We won’t even touch them.”
“Use a television show as a learning resource? No, thank you. They wouldn’t do that in school.”
“You want to read what??? But Charlotte Mason said that there’s no value in twaddle!”

Do you see what I’m getting at? I don’t see anything wrong with any of these homeschooling methods. In fact, I’ve probably used most of them. They all have value in their own way. My problem is with the inflexibility that can come from an attempt to follow each and every “rule” defining these man-made categories.

I, myself, have perpetrated this kind of mentality because I was trying to fall neatly within the “unschooling” parameter. But then one day I realized that I was more interested in “following the rules” than I was in what my kids were actually doing.

As Sue commented, it is helpful to designate which group your homeschool most looks like because that is where you’ll find camaraderie and your main source of information for inspiration, but it should not be the only place you search for ideas and friendship. As an unschooler, I read homeschooling blogs of every nature; I truly find ingenuity in each and every kind, and sometimes I take ideas from these blogs and incorporate them into our day.

So, as a self-proclaimed unschooler, and in keeping with the nature of this post, I’m going to confess to some (or all- how much time do you have?) of the un-unschoolish things that go on in our house.

– I require my kids to read everyday at a designated time, so that it gets done.
– I read aloud to the children at a designated time everyday, so that it gets done.
– I choose the read-aloud books based on things that I think might interest my children, but they would never pursue on their own. I also incorporate a lot of historical fiction/non-fiction because my children aren’t big history buffs.
– My children have a math curriculum, which we try to work on everyday.
– I’ve started a family newsletter, for which I’ve asked for a submission from every child.
– I’ve assigned “jobs” for the newsletter, such as: proofreader, senior editor, copy editor, photo editor, layout designer, etc.

Some unschoolers may well gasp at the amount of structure in our day, but that’s okay. We don’t need to all look the same; in fact, I don’t think we would even if we tried to. So when you go about your homeschooling day, remember that these methods aren’t set in stone. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I promise you, your homeschool will thrive because of it.

Confession time! What do you think about homeschooling labels?

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Going on a Road Trip? Ditch the Textbooks and Live Life!

Image courtesy of federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

[This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.]

Spring and Easter are right around the corner, so this is a popular time to travel here in the US. Ever wonder how to go about homeschooling on the road? I have one key piece of advice for you- ditch the curriculum. Why waste precious learning time sitting in a car or hotel room filling out workbooks when your family could be immersing themselves in a completely different environment or even a different culture? I have heard so many stories of homeschooling families who have done just this. Remember, your curriculum is a resource. Don’t let it get the best of you. Use it with some flexibility.

Almost two years ago, my son Brendan graduated from boot camp and AIT training in Fort Leonard Wood, MO. It took some planning, but we managed to pack up our nine other children (Kenzie wasn’t even thought of yet) and drive almost 1,000 miles to be there for him. Believe me, it took some preparation packing up everything that we would possibly need for a five-day trip. What was conspicuously missing, though? Our curriculum. Yes, at this point in time we were eclectic homeschoolers and did use a curriculum.

I knew that we didn’t want to waste precious time with our son by tying ourselves down with schoolwork. Doing it in the car wouldn’t have worked, either, because all of my kids get carsick, and this would have exacerbated the problem. After some initial thought, I realized that it really wasn’t a big deal because they would, no doubt, learn a lot on this excursion.

We began preparing for this trip by doing a week-long unit study on the military. We learned some military marches, what the different insignias mean, and what sorts of activities are done at basic training. It gave us a fair understanding of where we were headed, but, more importantly, it got us even more excited than we already were.

The trip to Missouri was a long one, and it was probably one of the best geography lessons my kids have ever gotten. We live in eastern Pennsylvania, so we had to drive across our state, then through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and, finally, Missouri. The children kept themselves busy by writing down all the different states we saw represented on license plates; surprisingly, we saw a license plate from Hawaii. The kids were pretty excited about that. We also observed the topography of the different states and noted the vast differences between, say, Indiana and West Virginia. (I do have to add that while all of the states were beautiful, West Virginia won our hearts. I would love to live there someday.) We also kept a close eye out for wildlife and had fun looking for Bigfoot. (Read this. You’ll understand; my kids love to poke fun at me.) My kids also got a kick out of the Missouri Department of Transportation name- MoDot. It took us a while to even figure out what it meant because here it’s called PennDot, and I guess we’ve never given any thought to what other states may call it.

You know how when you read about famous places or see them on TV, it’s kind of a ho-hum experience? (At least, it is for me.) I’ll tell you what, seeing them in person is amazing. Even though we were not able to stop because of time constraints, driving past Wrigley Field and the St. Louis Arch left a lasting impression on us. In fact, Devin particularly liked this monument because of Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief when Percy gets attacked by a chimera in the elevator of the Arch.

Once we got to the base, it wasn’t anything like we expected. I guess I’ve seen the movie Stripes one too many times because I imagined it would be some dreary military base with nothing to look at but trainees marching everywhere, getting screamed at. It was beautiful. Seriously. It looked like a movie of a small town in the suburbs. Grass everywhere (not concrete, like I was expecting), a mall that was called the exchange, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a school, fast food- you name it. Seeing where Brendan had spent the last five months helped me to breathe a sigh of relief because we all honestly thought it would be some horrendous place.

The first day we got there was family day, so we were all seated in an auditorium when all of the soldiers came marching in. I’m getting chills as I’m writing this because it’s still so emotional for me. They did several formations, and after a brief speech, we were able to spend the day with him. Seeing him for the first time since Christmas almost brought us all to tears because it was so obvious that our Brendan was now a man. He had an obedience and respectfulness that went way beyond the good kid who left for boot camp. The kids were fascinated with his dress blues because we had studied the uniforms, and the kids were happy to tell him all about it. We also signed out his battle buddy and spent the day with him, too, because his family would not be there until later.

We spent the day visiting the Leonard Wood museum and the exchange where the kids were introduced to the concept of sales tax and why the soldiers there did not have to pay it. Since we walked everywhere once we were on base, the kids had a great time looking at the gigantic bullfrogs we saw everywhere. Gigantic.

After family day was over, we retreated to our hotel rooms, which the kids were enamored with because we never go anywhere, and got some sleep.

The next day was graduation. The army played a slide show of actual basic training exercises, and we were blessed enough to see Brendan throwing up after coming out of the gas chamber. Perfect. After a beautiful awards and graduation ceremony, Brendan was ours again because he is in the Military Police reserve unit. Sadly, we witnessed several families saying goodbye to their sons and daughters who, being active duty, would not be coming home just yet.

This trip was, by far, one of the best learning experiences we have ever had. The kids still talk about it, in great detail, to this day. Not one math or language arts book made it into our suitcases, but look at what they learned:

-geography
-topography
-government services
-biology and natural habitats
-economics
-military history
-social studies

There’s probably so much that I’m missing, but I think you get the picture. So if you’re planning a vacation or a road trip, consider leaving those books at home. There’s so much more out there.

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Five Weekend Links

I’m linking back to some of my earlier posts today. Don’t mind the fuzzy pictures on some of them. Up until recently, I was using my android as my camera, so some of my pictures turned out less than desirable. If you haven’t read these, take a look. Maybe you’ll find them to be useful.

1. The Top Ten Reasons I Homeschool

2. Lessons from an Eight-Month-Old- An Illustration of Natural Learning

3. Sometimes Simple Is Hard

4. Maybe “Educational” Should Be a Bad Word

5. Five Great Homeschool Resources and a Giveaway

I hope you enjoy them, and have a great weekend!

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Weekend Review- The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can finally tell that spring is coming. We had several warmer days this week, including Tuesday, which was over 60 degrees! I’m not even going to complain that the wind chill was in the single digits today because spring has announced its imminent arrival, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yay!

We had another busy week this week, but busy is good because it means that we actually left the house. I’ve gotten so used to being stuck inside that every little outing is exciting for me.

Sunday we made it to church, despite losing an hour. Although we did miss Sunday School and attended the later service, we made it. Sunday night was the first Awana and Ladies’ Bible Study that we’ve attended since before Christmas, so the kids were ecstatic, and I enjoyed spending time with the ladies.

On Monday, I had to get my blood drawn, so Arianna walked to the hospital with me. I had some sort of trainee drawing my blood, and she must have done something wrong because my blood was leaking out everywhere. Arianna even pointed out that it was dripping on the floor. Note to Phlebotomy instructors- keep your trainees away from people on blood thinners. Just saying. I made it out of there alive, and we enjoyed walking home in the warm(ish) weather.

Tuesday was just an awesome day. Shawn took a vacation day because he knew that it was going to reach 60 degrees, so we took the kids to the trout nursery. We had an amazing time, and we all learned so much, despite the fact that we’re there several times a year.

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They’ve set up a bunch of information boards, which we really enjoyed reading. They really made a difference in that we learned more on this visit than we have in the last several years of going there, combined.

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Afterwards, I took Devin to the local camera store where she got a very detailed lesson on her camera. I posted about this day right here because it was such a good illustration of what unschooling is all about.

Wednesday we were back at church. This time the kids went to Kingdom Builders, while I helped in the nursery. Again, the kids were so psyched to go because we have’t been to church on a Wednesday night since December, either.

Thursday was too cold to go anywhere, but we actually needed the down time, so it worked out.

So what about the schoolish stuff?, you might be wondering. We started the Life of Fred math curriculum this week. We all love it. I wish we would have known about this curriculum years ago. Since I have so many kids, I bought almost every single book in the series, including the new language arts set.

See? I wasn't kidding.
See? I wasn’t kidding.

Ireland and Luke have actually initiated a lot of seat work this week, so Luke has been completing some basic addition problems, while Ireland is getting familiar with her letters and numbers.

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Dillon is still going strong with his gaming, but something great has come out of it…he’s found a like-minded friend in Taiwan who’s been helping him with the mods, so they’ve been emailing back and forth about Minecraft. Sunday they plan on chatting via Skype, so Dillon’s really looking forward to it.

Today Arianna and Caollin were learning French, Irish, and Japanese, thanks to Mango Languages. This is the same free program that Devin is using for Swedish. We also created some chalk pastel sunsets today, thanks to a tutorial over at Hodgepodge. Chalk pastels can get a little messy, but it’s usually the messy stuff that creates the best pieces.

On Friday, Devin is going to a sleepover/tea party at her friend’s house, and then she’ll be headed to her painting and drawing class on Saturday afternoon.

These past two weeks have been such a boon to our souls. I can feel our cabin fever slowly melting away…

How about you? Have you been enjoying getting out of the house?

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My Hands-Off Approach to Teaching Reading

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.

Today I’m back to answering readers’ questions again. Teaching reading can be a scary thing with any homeschooling method, let alone unschooling, which prompts this next question…

– Now, for my big question: In your opinion, how do you continue unschooling your young children while still teaching them some of the basic necessities (reading, math, grammar)

That’s a great question. I really don’t know. 😉 I’m only half-joking here because this is only the third month I’ve actually been unschooling, although I do think I can help here since my method of teaching reading relaxed more and more as I continued to homeschool.

When I first started to homeschool, I went all out with every subject and got a book for EVERYTHING. It was so excited to imagine all of our glorious future days of sitting around the table having our own little school at home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite like that. My children soon- like, immediately- tired of completing book after book with no end in sight. And reading? Well, that became one of their most dreaded subjects because learning to read can be overwhelming enough without completing five worksheets for a four-page story.

Next, I ditched the reading workbooks and turned to Saxon readers. Everyday I would sit with London and read her they same story for one week. I would read it once, then she would attempt to read it. If you would go by school standards, London was a slow reader and would probably have been put in special education. This kept weighing on my mind as we were reading these books, and every time she would have a hard time reading something, I would get so frustrated because I love reading, and I just couldn’t grasp how hard it is for some children. I would get frustrated, and she would cry almost everyday. Until I read the book Learning All The Time by John Holt. He surmised that the best way to teach children to read is to let them teach themselves! This seemed almost too good to be true, but I was so frazzled over the whole situation that I decided to give it a try. I stopped making her read to me and only read to her when she asked me to. After a couple of weeks, she had taught herself how to read all those books she had been having trouble with because it was something she wanted to do, and the pressure from me was gone. I can’t recommend this book to you enough.

Another year rolled around, and it was Bailey’s turn to learn to read. You would think I would have learned from my mistakes, but no, those phonics books just looked too alluring, so I bought them for London, Bailey, and Luke, and I started going down the same path a different way. Instead of using readers, I forced phonics on them, which they LOATHED. Bailey was great at memorizing sight words but just couldn’t get the hang of sounding things out, so, before the frustration returned, we stopped the phonics books, and I just read to them- a lot. Bailey can now read books that I’ve never read to him before with words in it that he was never taught. He figured it out on his own. And you want to know why those phonics books didn’t help him? Apparently, he’s a whole language learner. If I would have made him continue his phonics lessons, it probably would have taken him longer to learn how to read.

One thing that I’ve learned in all this is that you have to go with the flow. Luke is five, and, so far, isn’t interested in reading at all. He likes to be read to, but right now that’s sufficient for him. Ireland is four, and she is the one asking me, “What’s that say?” “What letter is that?” “How do I spell Easter?” They’re two different kids and have two different learning styles. Am I worried? Not at this time. Children develop at different rates- they’re not robots. While Ireland may eventually surpass Luke in reading skills, Luke’s a mean skateboarder- something Ireland can’t do. And honestly, what does it really matter at what age a child starts to read? As far as I know, no one’s been turned down for a job because they were a late reader. When you’re all grown up, no one cares.

Reading isn’t essential for learning. If all you use is books, then, yes, it’s an asset, but don’t be discouraged if your child seems to be taking a while. Learning can happen in so many different ways- with or without reading. Look at babies. Their illiteracy certainly doesn’t seem to hinder them, does it?

Since standardized testing does begin in 3rd grade where I live, I do have a plan in place. I’ve heard so many great things about a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. While I haven’t personally used this book, I have heard nothing but good things about it from people I absolutely trust. In the event that one of my kids still needs help by 3rd grade, this is what I’ll be using. The lessons are short and sweet, and it’s easy on the parent, too.

I’ve spent a lot of time on reading, so I’ll keep grammar and math short and sweet. There are a lot of fun ways to teach grammar, such as Mad Libs. My children also like to write their own stories, so this is a great way to teach them about proofreading for grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation. In PA, homeschoolers are subject to standardized testing in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. This year Dillon is the only one who falls into that category, so today I just started having him complete Daily Grams: Guided Review Aiding Mastery Skills JR/SR High worksheets. These are really nice because they only take about five minutes, but they cover a wide variety of grammar and punctuation rules.

Math is something we still do everyday because I’m just not comfortable without a curriculum for this subject. I’ve recently gotten the Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred), Life of Fred Kidneys (INTERMEDIATE SERIES), Life of Fred Fractions to Pre-Algebra 5-Book Set : Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, and Pre-Algebra with Economics, and Life of Fred Advanced Algebra Expanded Edition. Devin is the only one who actually hasn’t tried these books yet, but everyone else loves it! These math books are literature based, so they make the subject much more interesting than the standard instruct and drill methods. This series also presents the subject matter in a comical way that my kids really enjoy. Perhaps the best thing about this series is that it presents math in real-life situations, so that the reader will actually know why he/she needs to know this stuff. I will point out that I don’t plan on formally introducing math until 3rd grade, unless one of them desires to learn it earlier.

I know I’ve been rather long-winded in this post, so let me just finish by saying that, in my experience, the best way to learn is to learn naturally without outside pressure. It’s that simple.

How have you taught your children to read?

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