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 (, 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.

Tile Blocks Ideas and Giveaway

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.

If you are interested in a chance to win a set of the tiles, there are five ways to do this.  The drawing will be September 29.  Please check back to see if you won a set. I will need your address to send them to you. 

1. Leave a comment that pertains to math and using manipulatives.

2. Follow my blog (if you aren’t yet).

3. Post this on Facebook.

4. Pin it on your pinterest board.

5. Refer a friend to my blog and let me know.






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.



Culture and Community

images-1Today I have asked James Kenniv to share about his thoughts on the area of Fine Arts. He is a musician, teacher and homeschool dad. Welcome, James and thank you for sharing about the subject. :)

Culture and Community

The area of Fine Arts and its intersection with homeschooling can strike fear into the hearts of parents. Often the Fine Arts represent that which we call “culture” and we are not quite sure how to deal with this topic. Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, in his book Christ and Culture, discusses five basic ways we as Christians relate to culture. We are either against culture, of culture, above culture, in tension with culture, or transformers of culture. Without going into detail on each of these positions I will place myself firmly in the last camp of transforming (or creating) culture and urge all believers to do the same.

Since the creation of culture is often about pursuing truth and beauty we as Christians should see the immediate advantage that our world view brings to the table. After all, if we believe that “all truth is God’s truth” as was postulated by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Calvin, then we are simply forth-telling what we believe. Non-believers do not have that point of reference as a place to start. Along with the truth that has been entrusted to us comes the responsibility to present that truth in the most compelling way possible to the rest of the world.

Culture does not happen in a bubble, but rather in the context of relationships with others, or in community. Intentional community formed around areas of the Arts are wonderful ways to transform our often disturbing culture into something once again beautiful and uplifting. Take piano lessons, join a theatre group, sing in a choir, play in an orchestra, perform in a 50’s cover band (!). Dance, write, play, perform, create! One sure way to keep the darkness from taking over our world is to shine our light brighter than ever.

One opportunity for those in the Cincinnati area is to join the Greater Cincinnati Community Choirs. This Fall my wife and I are offering three choirs to all that are interested in community and culture. The three choirs are Intervals, for those in fourth through seventh grades; Dynamics, for those in eighth through twelfth grades; and Tonality for adults. We will be performing new music written by local writers in a modern classical style. Our goal is to glorify God as a community of believers with our music. We intend to be excellent in our pursuits and intentional in our purposes. For more information you can visit our website at Our season begins September 22nd and registration is open now.

Whether you come and sing with us, study an instrument, attend a concert, write a poem, or dance a ballet I encourage you to transform our current culture into that which is beautiful and full of truth for the sake of Christ.

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders , making the most of the opportunity (Colossians 4:5 NASB).

James Kenniv


James Kenniv is a composer, arranger, musician, and singer. He and his wife Kristen live in Lebanon, OH where they homeschool their seven children. In addition to leading the Greater Cincinnati Community Choirs, James teaches private music lessons at his home studio on piano, percussion, theory/composition and audio recording. You can contact him at

9oo Hours


When you first read the Home Education Notification Form that you need to provide 900 hours of home education you might have had visions of your precious child sitting at a hard wooden desk for 8 hours. Maybe your thought was, “How are we supposed to do that?”

The good news is that you do not need to spend those 900 hours only doing schoolwork at a desk and reading monotonous textbooks. Although, using an interesting textbook is an excellent way to learn. :) Home Education takes place each day, all day long. You are instructing your children throughout the day.  Discussing the importance of taking a bath, brushing teeth, and eating a well-balanced breakfast all are part of a health curriculum since these are components of hygiene and nutrition. Receiving an allowance; deciding on a plan for saving money to purchase something; tithing; and saving a portion of it are areas of math that are not necessarily covered in a textbook; but are essential to teach our children how to manage their money. Keeping toys picked up, not touching a hot stove, discussing and practicing how to get out of your home in case of a fire or an emergency are all part of a safety curriculum. All of these activities help to reinforce and enhance what you are studying.

One time I was telling the boys about how sound carries better if you cup your hands around your mouth and shout. Well, of course, we had to go outside and prove that idea. I couldn’t just have them go outside and yell, I decided to incorporate stranger safety into the activity as well. One son was on our play set slide while the other son was on a swing, each yelling “help” and kicking their legs with all of their might.  It didn’t occur to me until well into the activity that someone might really think the boys were actually in trouble. Fortunately, no one was around to witness this event except me.

So, how do you go about making sure that you have covered 900 hours of home instruction? If you take a typical school year, which is approximately 180 days and you divide into 900 you will arrive at 5 hours. This means you would provide instruction for your student a schedule of Monday through Friday beginning at 8:00 (if you are an early bird) and finishing at 1:30 with a 30 minute break for lunch.  Of course, you can begin and end school with the schedule that works best for your family.

Many families go on school-related outings on the weekends with things such as park programs with a naturalist (science), participating in sporting events such as a soccer team (physical education), going to a museum (history, art) or going on vacations and identifying birds, wildflowers, seashells (social studies,science), etc.

I created an attendance sheet that was Sunday through Saturday since we had several weekend events and field trips. You can keep track of the number of days you are homeschooling and have a record of that to put in your lesson plan book or school binder. Days add up quickly and you will find you easily meet the required hours of home instruction.

Am I advocating you sit around and watch cartoons, eat 3 bowls of ice cream and call that home education? No, I am not. You need to be purposeful in your home instruction and plan your school year, which includes all of the subjects listed on the Home Education Notification Form. You can watch cartoons and eat one scoop of ice cream in your free time. :) You can, however,  make your school practical and fun while teaching your children; that is one of the benefits of home education. Educating our children doesn’t stop when we put away the school books.

If you are in need of a calendar to plan school and extra curricular activities there are many free printable calendars available. Some you can even edit, which is a nice feature.  I marked the calendar date with a diagonal line through the date if it was just a half day (such as a weekend) or an x for a full day. This is a website I have used over the years and i just type right on the calendar and print it off. Easy! To view, CLICK HERE.

This is not legal advice. It is my opinion. I am not a lawyer, have not studied law, nor do I play the role of an actor in any play or motion picture. :) Please consult your local homeschool group, CHEO, or HSLDA if you are in need of legal advice.