Junior High: EEK!

imagesWhen I began home schooling my children I had no intention of teaching them beyond third grade, but it is amazing how your path takes a different course than you intended. Each year my husband and I would discuss the previous academic year and look at the upcoming one to determine what we thought was best for our sons. After prayerful consideration we would proceed on to the next grade level of our educating at home.

The first 6 years flew by and I was thoroughly enjoying teaching, but seventh grade began to turn out differently. My son and I began to have conflicts and disagreements.  I realized that something had to change! Guess what that “something” was? Yep- ME! As my attitude changed, I realized that teaching middle school/junior high could be a lot of fun! (most of the time) My son never really found me half as funny as I found myself, :) but our approach to learning took a=on a different approach. We were able to study subjects more in-depth and have “life conversations” that I doubt we would have had otherwise. It even gave me the confidence to continue teaching senior high.

Why do I share all of this? I think there may be a few of you who need reassurance that you can teach junior high. Here are some areas where you will start to see junior high students begin to excel:

Doing independent work Your student will not need your help as much as they did in elementary school, but do continue to check on them and their progress. Helping them do this will be easier if you begin with a subject in which they are mastering.  After teaching the lesson, set the timer for 30 minutes and walk away! After the time has expired, come back and check on him and see what work has been done. Praise him and answer any questions about the subject. If more time is needed, set the timer for any additional minutes needed and leave the room again. As your student gains confidence and is competently completing assignments, add another subject.

Checking/following a schedule Give your scholar a daily schedule at first and eventually allow  her to write out her own with your supervision. This will help her  see the schoolwork load for the day. You can help her prioritize her subjects and help with her independence.

Checking their own work Show your pupil that you trust them by allowing them to check subjects. I would suggest one at the beginning, such as spelling because that will actually help them if they see the correct spelling once again. when first beginning this process, let them know you will be rechecking it to see of they have missed anything and to hold them accountable. After they have been able to do this successfully, spot check once a week. Do not allow a student to self-check subjects daily that they still are learning and developing. They still need you to catch errors and reteach to clarify the subject matter.

Finding a sense of humor Junior high students are a lot of fun! They are understanding the nuances of life and have finally gotten past the knock-knock  and chicken jokes. Schoolwork doesn’t have to be all work and no fun. Find the joy in the daily things of life. Take your junior high student out for a “date”. It doesn’t have to cost anything; a trip to the park to enjoy the outdoors, go window shopping, watch a favorite movie and fix popcorn.

The interesting thing that has happened in my life is that I now teach junior high. I love my students and helping them navigate through these years. I find it fun to throw puns at my student because they either laugh or groan, but I do get a reaction, which is right up my alley. :)

Speaking of, here are a few for you to try on your junior high student, educational of course!

  • Without geometry, life is pointless.
  • The roundest knight at King Arthur’s table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from eating too much pi.

Have a great week and enjoy your junior higher!






Tile Blocks Ideas and Giveaway Winners

imagesOh, the things you can do with wooden tiles! Young children love to play and manipulate small objects. Using 1 inch tiles can help with mathematical and other academic concepts.

Visually appealing, tile blocks can be used to help students with the following concepts:

  • sorting
  • color recognition
  • counting out the number of each color (You can decrease the amount of tiles according to the child’s ability.)
  • making designs You can make your own or download pentomino worksheets 
  • measurement (Line tiles up in various lengths and use a ruler or a tape measure to measure how long it is.)
  • demonstrate the concept of sets
  • demonstrate the concept of area
  • develop small motor skills
  • follow directions For example: Find a blue tile and stack a yellow tile on top of it. Now add a green tile on top of the yellow tile. Draw a picture of your stack.
  • independent work You can keep these tiles in a small tub and bring them out when your older children are doing school.


3 winners have been awarded a set of blocks. Please see the comments section to find out if you won. 






Teaching High School: Things to Remember

rememberTime flies rather quickly and before you know it, you have a high school student! Don’t panic, because in many ways teaching high school is easier than elementary school. With high school students they are able to be given an assignment and complete it without much intervention, if any at all.

Many thoughts were going through my head when I was thinking of the most important things to remember when teaching high school so I asked for help from some home school graduates, my sons. After much discussion, we narrowed it down to five areas that are important with respect to high school.

Respect is one of the most important aspects of teaching a teen. If you show your student respect by treating them as a responsible young man or young woman you will see your child flourish. Speak to them as you would like them to speak to you; respect their privacy; respect their time; and respect them as young adults.

Expect your children to do what you have asked. Set realistic goals for your scholar and then help them to achieve that goal. If you are not sure what those academic goals are to be you can look at  websites such as the Ohio Department of Education. If your child is not sure if they are wanting to go on to college, prepare them as though they were going because it is easier to study a foreign language now then when they decide to go to college when they are in their twenties and one of the admission requirements is two years of a foreign language. Hold the academic standard bar high for your student, they will achieve those standards with your guidance.

Deadlines are one of the hardest things for us as a homeschool parent to hold our students to because we know what their schedules look  like; we know if they have had to work or had an illness. But, when your graduate goes off to college or enters the workforce, no one is taking into any of that into consideration. You are given a deadline and are expected to meet it. So, make that transition  for your high school student by setting deadlines.

Consequences should be in place and discussed in the event that your student does not meet the academic deadline or doesn’t do the assignment that was given to them.  Discuss with them work that has to be completed and what will happen if they fail to meet the deadline.

Independence is what we want for our children. I know it was hard for me to think of my sons not living with us anymore, but I also knew that it was necessary for them in order to become adults. Was it easy? Not at first, but my sons are doing well and are happy living on their own. My youngest son told me the other day, “Thanks for not always checking up on me, Mom.”




Educating Sons


Homeschooling sons looks different than homeschooling daughters or even a mix of both. I have asked my friend, Maura Timko to share her thoughts as she has some insights that will be helpful.

Including my husband, there are 4 men in my household (45, 17, 15, and 14), plus our 2 male cats. All men, and all their man-friends, all the time. I am very clearly outnumbered.

Now, my guys are very, very good to me, and I love them to pieces. I am thankful for them every single day. It’s just that living with a bunch of men presents its own, particular brand of interesting. If you are the only woman in your household, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I am reminded daily of my minority status by the myriad of male conversational topics (I-can-do-more-pull-ups- than-you-can), television shows (ANOTHER baseball game?), and animal-like eating habits (dirty gym socks + toenail = EEW! on the coffee table, next to the nachos). Sometimes, I’m convinced that I’m an alien. Or, that they are.

Homeschooling our family of 3 boys looks very different, in so many ways. I had a hard time deciding which one to address in my blog post. (If there is interest, I’d be pleased to address more of them.) I figured I’d start by putting the biggest rock into the jar first: It takes an all new level of emotional fortitude to have all boys. As a mother you must rise to the occasion.

If there is any squeamishness about you, Mom, it has GOT TO GO! Any (every?) gross topic is up for discussion, in great detail. It begins as soon as your boys can go out and find things: nasty bugs, slimy worms, and rotting road kill will always end up on your front porch. Magnifying glasses, large and small jars, and probes/sticks will all be necessary. Stuff will get chopped up and thoroughly examined, so buy a hose. You will need to pretend that the dead squirrel they just found near the curb is the coolest thing, EVER! And…any snake or lizard that they find WILL be coming inside, in a box, without a lid, as a pet. And YOU will be have to touch it.

YOU must grow a backbone. Fast.

Over the years, I have been mentored by the writings of Victorian-era educator, Charlotte Mason. One of the pillars of Mason’s approach to education is this: Children are born persons. They are to be respected. They have their own likes and dislikes, their own favorite things, and their own thoughts. My role as a “teacher” (or even as “Mom”) is more like being a facilitator or a coach: to respect the person that God has uniquely created them to be, and to “train up my child in the way he should go,” according to God’s plan, and not my own.

Boys need to be respected, especially by their mothers. It helps them to respect themselves, and to have a strong self-esteem. As a Mom, this requires a constant trust in the Holy Spirit to be the One to speak to their hearts, to sift truth from lies, and to form good opinions. Although I will never tolerate an ungodly opinion, sometimes my boys form opinions that differ significantly from my own. Part of this is their increasing need for autonomy as they grow into men – normal adolescent development. They may even change their opinion 6 months from now – also normal development. But if my son’s opinion differs from my own – I must be respectful.

As my boys have grown, I’ve seen this bringing-of-gross-stuff transition to their writing. My teen boys no longer bring slimy bugs to my door. However, if given the freedom to express themselves, they will write about things that stun me. They will explore topics, form opinions or create stories around violent things, taboo things, gross things, and shocking things. I have learned that what they are really doing is exploring their own minds. They are learning how to deal with a hard topic, and not be afraid. They are learning to hear and know the voice of Jesus. Again, Charlotte Mason reminds me that it is the Holy Spirit who is the teacher:

“This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God – we do not merely give a religious education…but we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God, in which our being finds its fullest perfection.”

I’ve also learned a great deal from Julie Bogart, author of The Writer’s Jungle, and founder of Brave Writer (www.bravewriter.com), on this topic. Here is what Julie writes about respecting the thoughts and writing of our boys:

“…boys tend to write about violence, guns, war, attacks, violent video games, machine guns, and violence. Did I mention violence? I have to overemphasize that point because so many mothers have come to me horrified that what was actually lurking in their precious boys’ minds were thoughts of blowing up the world!

We mothers are extremely uncomfortable with these subjects. Boys seem to know it and when they write, they feel reduced…boys hate this restriction, but they also can’t articulate it. Our boys believe that what they really care, think and fantasize about is not acceptable to us. They become cut off from their real thoughts, opinions and beliefs.

Girls tend to write about relationships (no brainer, right?), horses, nature and stories of puppies and kittens. How’s that for stereotyping? But I’ve seen it over and over.”

It can be very hard to read the inner thoughts of your boys, to keep your mouth SHUT, and to trust the Lord with the process. It requires an emotional distance that I never realized I would need. Most of the time, the best thing I can do for my son is to smile, and say, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me today.” Stop and think about this for a moment: Wouldn’t you rather hear your son’s actual thoughts? Or will you settle for what he thinks you want to hear, because it’s more comfortable for you? I prefer to have a window into the hearts of my boys.

Julie continues, describing good writing as a kind of “undressing.” Good writing is raw and vulnerable. Now that my guys are older, I have found them to be more willing to write about hard topics than to have a dialogue. Writing seems to create enough of an emotional distance to make any subject approachable. Then, they can more safely explore what they think and how they feel.

Sometimes, but not always, they will allow me to read their writing. I never demand to see it. I try not to laugh, judge, or even to look shocked. I read everything very carefully, and I take my time. Sometimes, I pray. I give my feedback, which they really do seek, but it is never of a moral nature. If a moral correction is ever needed, the moment for doing THAT must be far removed from the actual sharing of thoughts – not while they stand naked in front of me. The best way to shut your son down, to ensure that they will never share their vulnerable thoughts with you again, is to be critical in that moment.

I must be the one with the backbone. I must trust the Lord. I must allow the messy frogs, and the dirty worms, and the icky bugs. I must allow my boys to think, to fail, to course correct, to repent, and to deal with the Lord on their own terms – not mine.

I’ve been visiting colleges lately with my eldest son. At many of them, I have witnessed the fruit of parents who have not permitted their children wrestle with their own thoughts. They have raised very smart kids, certainly – many have scored higher on the SAT than my son. But they have also raised kids who cannot decide, who lack vision, and have no idea how to think for themselves. I have seen these seniors, and their parents, attending college tours; the parents are asking all the questions, the students are pulled along behind. The parents are taken on tours, given information sessions, nice food, and meetings with the Dean. The prospective students are given cheap pizza and entertainment – bread and circuses. Sadly, most of them seem satisfied.

I’m not sure how education has come to this point, but we no longer respect the personhood of our young people – particularly our young men. It’s easier than growing a backbone yourself. Education has stuffed students full of information, at the expense of their God-given personhood.

One more closing thought from Charlotte Mason:

“Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests upon them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice, we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need. We must allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.”

I am proud that my sons see through the façade, and are learning to think for themselves. It is the fruit of having trusted the Lord to deal with them directly, helping them sort through the hard topics. They are being transformed by the renewing of their minds. Sometimes, my back still hurts – I’m a work in progress, too.

I still have my hose ready – just in case.

This post was written by my friend, Maura Timko. These opinions are entirely her own. :)

Berries and Citrus Smoothie

The school topic of health is one that seems to take place naturally as we go about our daily routines. We discuss the importance of covering your mouth when sneezing (disease prevention), establishing a bedtime routine and getting the rest needed, playing outdoors and participating in community sports programs. But, it’s hard sometimes to get your children to eat “healthy” foods. There isn’t much appeal for children in eating a spinach salad or nibbling on broccoli and cauliflower. If you have a child who enjoys that, it is a blessing.

I was an awful eater beginning in childhood and continuing through early adulthood. One of my favorite things to eat as a child was a Wonder Bread potato chip sandwich. I’d put the potato chips in between the slices of white bread, pressing and squishing until it was paper-thin. Wow, enough said!  When we first married, my husband and I ate a pepperoni double topper nearly every Thursday evening!

Realizing  we couldn’t continue to eat that way by putting all those bad things into the bodies, I had to change our diet. I introduced whole grain bread, plus more green vegetables into our diet.  But, I have continued to search better foods for us to eat and be more purposeful in dietary selections. Searching has led me to discover superfoods nearly two years ago.

What are superfoods? Well, they are not foods that Clark Kent and Peter Parker noshed on before dashing off to fight villains, but they would have helped them! Superfoods are nuts, berries, and foods that are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrition to help your body fight off disease (like a super hero), and give you energy. They also help you to feel full longer and thus, helping you eat less.

I know it can be expensive to eat this way, but it is expensive to go to the doctor.  It also takes time out of your life to be sick. Who wants that? I had to go to the doctor recently for a sports injury and the nurse said,”You  haven’t been to see us in a long time.”  I call that a good thing!

A fairly inexpensive way to begin to make changes and improvements to your family’s diet without it costing a hunk of your grocery budget is to add a smoothie to your menu. Instead of providing a sugar-laden snack, how about a fruity one? You can add some a superfood such as chia or hemp seeds and the family won’t even notice!

Personally, I use smoothies as a snack or a substitute for a meal. I visited a friend the other day during her lunch break and instead of us grabbing a burger and fries, I took her this smoothie. She thought it was so delicious that she asked for the recipe. I think this would be a good introduction if you are wanting to give smoothies a try. The smoothie looks seedy, but it isn’t. Those are the skins of the blueberries, but you can blend it longer to make them disappear. I just thought it added something visually for the photo. Enjoy!


Berries and Citrus Smoothie

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 cup frozen strawberries

1/2 cup frozen pineapple (substitute fresh if available)

1 cup orange juice

1 cup mango or peach kefir (you can use vanilla yogurt instead)

2 tablespoons hemp or chia seeds(superfood)

2 teaspoons honey (optional)

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Makes 2 servings.


* Hemp seeds are one of the best sources for protein and include all eight amino acids, omega-3 and can help balance hormones.  Chia seeds are best known for their healthy fats, higher fiber content, and antioxidants. They have eight times more omega 3’s than salmon (Yippee! I detest most fish.), five times more calcium than milk, three times more iron than spinach, and three times more antioxidants than blueberries.  source: Superfood Smoothies, Julie Morris

I am sorry I don’t know the exact number of calories for the smoothie, but I would estimate the number to be 225.