Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Unity

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

Welcome to day 2 of Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool As a veteran homeschooling mom, I know how much God has led our decisions about homeschooling. He has given us the wisdom and vision to walk out His call to homeschool our girls. He has also empowered us to have a sense of unity about homeschooling. My husband and I are in agreement about God’s call to homeschool, and we pray for God’s continued unity between us. We also enjoy a sense of unity between our girls. That is nothing short of God’s grace in our lives. Our girls are not perfect, but we don’t struggle with a lot of the sibling rivalry that many families deal with. Our girls do occasionally get on each others’ nerves, but for the most part, they are best friends who enjoy living life together.

While I have encouraged this type of unity in our family, it is not something I can pull off alone. It is a gift God has given us. If you are lacking unity in any area of your family life, look to Psalm 133:1 and Romans 12:10 as a way to pray for your family. “God, thank you that Your will for us is that we walk in unity. Your word says that it is good and pleases You when we are unified. Grant us grace that we may walk in unity in every relationship in our family. Bind my husband and me together that we may seek common goals. Strengthen the relationships among our children that they are truly good friends who love, encourage, and bring joy to each other. May they be devoted to one another, honoring the other above themselves.”

Arguing among siblings and division among spouses do not have to be tolerated in your family. Give those situations over to God and ask Him to bring peace and unity to those relationships. Be encouraged that He wants Your family to live in peace and unity much more than You do.

Check out my other post in this 5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool series about wisdom.

If you’d like to see other 5 Day Hopscotch posts on iHomeschool.net, please click here.

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Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Wisdom

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

Welcome to “Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool.” As you might imagine, this is a subject that is near and dear to this homeschool mom’s heart. I know the power of prayer, and homeschooling is definitely too big of a job to go it alone. Any education about educating our children needs to be bathed in prayer, and homeschooling is no different. After six years of homeschooling, I can honestly say that we would not have made it without God’s sustaining, leading, teaching, and comforting us all.

Whether you are merely curious about homeschooling or you’re a seasoned veteran at it, we can all pray that God would lead us to follow His wisdom and vision in how to best educate our children. Using Ephesians 1:17 and Colossians 1:9 as a model, we could pray something like, “Lord, we ask You to give us Your Spirit of wisdom and revelation on how to best educate our children. Lord, our greatest goal is that they know You, so please grant us Your wisdom as we make this important decision. Fill us as parents with the knowledge of Your will that we may walk in a manner worthy of Your calling. We want to please You by using our children’s education to bear fruit for You. Strengthen us with Your power, according to Your glorious might, that we might attain steadfastness and patience.”

We certainly want God’s wisdom to guide us as we make the decision to homeschool, and we will need His wisdom to guide countless decisions throughout the school year. Come back tomorrow for the next day of “Five Days of Praying For Your Homeschool.”

Want to read other posts from the 5 Day Hopscotch on IHomeschool.net? Click here.

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How Much Homeschooling Costs: A Look at Yearly Expenses

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One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is how much homeschooling costs. Typically, my answer is, “More than public school, but less than private school.” But a closer look at the actual expenses is helpful when parents are making a decision about homeschooling. There are out-of-pocket expenses that homeschooling parents must pay including books, supplies, homeschool cover tuition, field trips, co-op classes, and such. Expenses can add up quickly, but there are ways to cut costs as well. Sometimes cutting costs is worth the hassle, sometimes it’s not. Here is a realistic look from our family’s perspective about how much homeschooling costs:

Tuition: Wait a minute… if you’re homeschooling, why do you pay tuition? Laws governing the education of children vary from state to state. In Alabama, in order to satisfy state law, each child between the ages of 7-17 must be enrolled in school. Therefore, we pay tuition to a cover school, which collects our attendance, grades, and in addition provides many services and opportunities to homeschool families. While we can choose whether to participate in many of the educational and community activities our school provides, we are required to at least pay tuition, which is $35 per month for 10 months, with a $50 registration fee per year. Total yearly cost: $400

Books and Supplies: This is where things get murky. If I were to purchase new books from the publishers for each subject and each child, I could easily spend several thousand dollars. I do my best to search for used books on eBay, Amazon, and in my local homeschool group before I pay full retail price for anything. I can typically find good deals on teachers’ manuals and textbooks, but workbooks and test books are a different story. As these get written in, there are very few available in used condition. Last year was our first year to have two students homeschooling, so our costs for teaching materials were almost double. While there is no way to go back and capture an exact amount, my best estimate for what I paid for last years’ books and supplies for my two daughters is $700.

Field Trips and Extracurricular Activities: We pay for it all. While our cover school offers field trips, the student’s family pays the full amount. Not all field trips we take are through our school, and those expenses, of course, are variable. When we have extra money in our budget, we spend a little more. Instead of having PE at a school, we pay for our daughters to play soccer. Instead of having a school-sponsored fine arts class, we pay for ballet, pointe, and acro lessons. Would we pay for these even if our daughters went to traditional school? We certainly wouldn’t have time to do them all, but I’m not sure where we would draw the line. I include these fees in our homeschooling costs because without them, we’d have to cover the costs of providing PE and fine arts in some other way. Total Estimated Yearly Total: $3800

Educational Website Memberships: There are several websites that I pay for because they help so much with our daughters’ education. Because I think it’s important for children to learn in a variety of ways, including books and computers, I consider these to be necessary expenses. Total for the year: $250

Co-op and Online Classes: While we believe co-op and online classes will be an invaluable part of our daughters’ high school experience, we currently do not participate in any right now. Many families with elementary and middle school children do, however. Since we do not take advantage of any of these classes, I will not include any associated costs here. However, if you are planning your homeschooling costs and would be taking online or co-op classes, please understand that these costs can be around $400-600 per year per class.

With all expenses totaled, our family pays somewhere around $5150 per year to home school our two daughters. This amount is not exact, and it fluctuates every year. Last year we spent the money to set up a separate room in our home to use as a homeschool room. Costs of desks and bookshelves: $1200. I didn’t include that expense in my total because it was a one-time purchase for us, and it certainly isn’t a necessity. It’s not cheap to homeschool, but neither is it as expensive as most of the private schools in our area.

Questions?

This post is part of a series by the iHomeschoolNetwork.com bloggers. To read the perspective of other bloggers, please click here.

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7th Grade Summer Reading List

I’m a big fan of summer reading. Around our home we stay so busy during the school year that we don’t have a lot of time for leisurely reading. I wish that were different, but it just doesn’t work out that way. However, summer is a great time for catching up. And there is no better time than summer for diving into the classics. I know it’s been said that “it doesn’t really matter what kids read, as long as they read.” I don’t really agree with that. I’m unconvinced that reading poor writing with loosely connected plot lines is not beneficial to kids. I prefer classics which are challenging, have more complex and well-developed story lines, and more universal characters. According to Reading Rainbow, “Why do we read the classics? Some might say we read the classics because we have to, but I say we read the classics because we love them. Classics are the stories that appeal to us at all ages, and through multiple generations. These are the threads that bind us together and give us a common culture. They are the tales that challenge us and inspire our imaginations; but more than that, they teach us something about ourselves and about the world around us.” I’d add that reading well-written stories that reflect human emotion and the complexities of hard situations show us all how to be more empathetic and serve our neighbor better.

My oldest daughter will be in 7th grade in the fall, and she asked me to help her pull together a reading list for the summer. We came up with the following for her:

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: Because of Winn-Dixie, a big, ugly, happy dog, 10-year-old Opal learns 10 things about her long-gone mother from her preacher father. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal makes new friends among the somewhat unusual residents of her new hometown, Naomi, Florida. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal begins to find her place in the world and let go of some of the sadness left by her mother’s abandonment seven years earlier.
With her newly adopted, goofy pooch at her side, Opal explores her bittersweet world and learns to listen to other people’s lives.

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy: In a powerful, dramatic narrative, critically acclaimed author Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city’s residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Drawing on first-hand accounts, Murphy spotlights the heroic role of Philadelphia’s free blacks in combating the disease, and the Constitutional crisis that President Washington faced when he was forced to leave the city–and all his papers–while escaping the deadly contagion. The search for the fever’s causes and cure, not found for more than a century afterward, provides a suspenseful counterpoint to this riveting true story of a city under siege.

Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech: Mary Lou Finney is less than excited about her assignment to keep a journal over the summer. Boring! Then cousin Carl Ray comes to stay with her family, and what starts out as the dull dog days of summer quickly turns into the wildest roller-coaster ride of all time.

How was Mary Lou supposed to know what would happen with Carl Ray and the ring? Or with her boy-crazy best friend Beth Ann? Or with (sigh) the permanently pink Alex Cheevey? Suddenly a boring school project becomes a record of the most exciting, incredible, unbelievable summer of Mary Lou’s life.

But what if her teacher actually does read her journal?

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman: The girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the sharp-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat–who renames herself Alyce–gains knowledge, confidence, and the courage to want something from life: “A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.” Medieval village life makes a lively backdrop for the funny, poignant story of how Alyce gets what she wants.

Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott

Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg’s joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo’s struggle to become a writer, Beth’s tragedy, and Amy’s artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. Based on Louise May Alcott’s childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Everyone in town thinks Meg is volatile and dull-witted and that her younger brother Charles Wallace is dumb. People are also saying that their father has run off and left their brilliant scientist mother. Spurred on by these rumors, Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their new friend Calvin, embark on a perilous quest through space to find their father. In doing so they must travel behind the shadow of an evil power that is darkening the cosmos, one planet at a time.
Young people who have trouble finding their place in the world will connect with the “misfit” characters in this provocative story. This is no superhero tale, nor is it science fiction, although it shares elements of both. The travelers must rely on their individual and collective strengths, delving deep into their characters to find answers.

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed. When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.” But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.

What about you? What are you guys reading this summer?

Visual Latin: A Homeschool Curriculum Review

When Kathryn from Compass Classroom contacted me about reviewing Visual Latin, it was an easy sell. We’ve used Visual Latin for years, so I’m happy to receive our next level of it just for telling you about it. 🙂 Since I don’t speak Latin and have never studied it, I am dependent on a good curriculum to be able to teach Latin to my children. We’ve tried a couple of different curricula, and each one had benefits, but Visual Latin is the one we have stuck with for the long haul.

Visual Latin is a video and worksheet based curriculum from veteran Latin teacher Dwayne Thomas. Dwayne is funny and silly, so my daughter looks forward to watching the videos. His approach is that immersion is the best way to learn Latin, and so from the very beginning he has students listen to Latin readings as he interprets for them. He also believes that students learn Latin better when they read it instead of memorizing it, so each lesson has a Bible story in Latin.

Visual Latin

Dwayne believes that kids stay engaged better when they are taught in short spurts and when they achieve small successes along the way. Therefore each video lesson is short, lasting only around 10 minutes. He weaves new vocabulary and grammar into each lesson, so that by the end of the week, students can read an entire story in Latin.

If you’d like to try out Visual Latin before buying, Dwayne offers a free download of seven lessons to get you started. My guess is that once you get started, you’ll be using Visual Latin for years, just like we are.

Educating Kids During Summer

Educating Kids During Summer

A long school year will soon be coming to a close. While kids are predictably excited, many parents are left wondering how to keep their children engaged in learning over the summer. As a homeschooling mom, I am often asked how parents can continue educating kids during summer, while at the same time giving kids a break from the pressures of school.

School isn’t easy. Children today are under more pressure to perform academically than at any time in history. Mountains of testing and homework promise to deliver academically superlative kids, but children often emerge from the school year burned out and hating school. My best advice to parents just beginning their summer – allow kids some time and space to decompress from the pressure of school. Take a break from the busy pace and allow kids time to play outside with friends, swim at the neighborhood pool, and have sleep-overs. This approach might not look like a traditional education, but maintaining a slower pace allows kids to be kids, which is one of the primary way they learn life skills like effective communication, creativity, and problem-solving.

Sometimes as parents, we think learning only happens if kids are in a classroom or have their noses stuck in a workbook. But learning happens all day every day as children explore the world and their place in it. When parents think outside the box of traditional educational methods, they allow children to learn through play, adventure, living life beside their parents, and experiencing new things. A trip to the grocery store becomes a lesson in math as they learn to shop for the best bargain, a lesson in science as they learn how to determine whether fruit is ripe, and a lesson in hospitality as they plan the menu for a sleep-over. Reading a fairy tale with your child allows them to visit other worlds and expand their imagination. A visit to the hair salon teaches them how to communicate with adults and how to use polite manners. All of these are necessary life skills that aren’t necessarily learned from a textbook, and the slow pace of summer provides rich teaching time in these areas.

When parents want to create more intentional, purposeful educational opportunities for their children, the two ways I find to be most effective are travel and service projects. When children travel, especially to cultures different that what they grow up in, their views of the world change. They see that the way they live isn’t the only right way. They experience new ideas that expand their way of thinking. They learn to celebrate people’s difference for adding richness to life.

Service projects can have similar effects on children. Seeing people in need softens children’s hearts to the world around them. They learn that not everyone is as blessed as they are. Serving others teaches children to see other people as fellow human beings, each with their own story of struggle and triumph. It gives kids a sense of responsibility to care for each other. It gives them a tangible way to live out their call from God to care for the poor and give help to those in need.

Summer can be a wonderful time of learning and growing for children. Even though it might not look like a traditional education, parents can play an active role in continuing their children’s learning, even during the off months.

Gap Year Experiences

There’s a new-to-me phenomenon in education that I’m all shook up over (in a good way). I’m seeing more and more that high school seniors are taking a “gap year” between high school graduation and college to travel and/or work abroad. I couldn’t be more in love with this idea. The majority of students who take advantage of a gap year experience report that the two main reasons they do so are burnout from the competitive pressures of high school and the desire to find out more about themselves. When I was a high school senior, this wasn’t really a socially accepted or parent accepted notion. You went straight from high school to college, and that’s just what you did. Looking back, I think so many kids could have benefitted from a year off to figure out where they want to go in life and what they want to do with their time for the long haul.

The American Gap Association (Who knew there was such an organization, right?) reports that the three highest rated outcomes of a gap year are:

  • Gaining “a better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me”
  •  Giving students “a better understanding of other countries, people, cultures, and ways of living” 
  • Providing students with “additional skills and knowledge that contributed to my career or academic major”

Missionary and blogger Seth Barnes says that sending his two oldest children on World Race’s gap year experience is “one of the best things we ever did to help them lead full lives and make their faith their own.” He says further, “(A gap year) introduces you to the person that God wants you to be. You’ll learn how God wants to use that to live the life he created you for.”

My friend Melissa, whose beautiful 18 year old daughter Meredith is also participating in the World Race Gap Year program says, “I personally feel that traveling to other cultures cannot be substituted with the class room. Young people need to see that the way we live is not the only way; the way we worship is not the only way. We tend to want to stay in our bubble and not venture out, but that is not Biblical, and to me, tends to make a person even more self-centered instead of other-centered. Meredith has seen unspeakable evil, but she has also seen incredible joy in hardships (like the typhoon-ravaged Tacloban, and people who praise God for what little they have while living in squalor). You cannot duplicate that experience just going straight to college.” Meredith’s gap year experience has taken her to three countries in nine months to work with people in poverty. She’s been to Honduras, the Philippines, and Botswana.

The American Gap Association reports that students participating in a gap year experience gain a better ability to focus on academics once they returned to college. “Taking a 1-year break between high school and university allows motivation for and interest in study to be renewed.” Not only do students do well in school, but they also fare better after graduation. Students who participate in a gap year experience are overwhelmingly more satisfied with their careers after college. Upon further questioning, participants explained that by participating in a gap year in which they saw more of the world and the problems people face, their focus became less self-centered and more others-centered. As a result, the careers they chose were ones that brought great satisfaction because they were more geared toward serving other people.

Are there risks to taking a gap year? Of course. My friend Melissa says about her daughter, “The biggest risk to me is that the student may not wish to pursue higher ed afterward. But that is with my mama hat on, and my fear of the unknown future. Of course, I think that Meredith needs an education so that she has skills to offer on the mission field when she returns. That is not necessarily God’s path for her, however.”

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Have you or your children taken a gap year? If so, what was your experience like? Benefits or risks? Share!

Christmas Story Books

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When our oldest daughter was born, we established the Christmas Eve tradition of family worship time. We read and discuss the Christmas story from Luke 2, Jonathan usually leads us in prayer, and we finish up by reading a Christmas story book. We buy a new book to read each year, and the girls and I start searching for the perfect book as soon as Christmas books hit the shelves in December. At this point, we have quite a collection of beloved stories that we enjoy each holiday season. I’d love to pass them on to you so that you can share them with your family as well.

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson

The Littlest Magi SEA: A Christmas Tale by Chris Auer

Santa’s Christmas Prayer by Nell Navillus

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall

We haven’t yet bought this year’s story book, but these are in the running:

The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel

One Wintry Night by Ruth Graham Bell

And because Little Bit is learning to read and could read the Christmas book this year:

Dick and Jane: A Christmas Story by Larry Rupert

Does your family have a favorite Christmas book?

PS: All links are Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made help to keep The Hill Hangout up and running.

Using PicMonkey to Edit Photos

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PicMonkey is y go-to site for editing and adding text to photos. It is a free online site that is user-friendly. I have been using PicMonkey to edit photos for several years, and I have never had one bit of trouble. If you’d like to see how I use PicMonkey, complete with a step-by-step tutorial, head over to my guest post at Grace Tells Another Story.

Book of the Ancient Greeks

We are rocking along in our school year here at the Hill Preparatory Academy for Girls. Baby sister is settling in to her kindergarten work, and my big girl is having one of her best years yet. For whatever reason, some years are easier than others, and this year has been pretty relaxed. But by “relaxed”, I don’t at all mean that we’ve done less work.

As I said in my Curriculum Choices post, we are lightening up on places we’ve been too rigorous and clamping down all the more on places we feel are most important. In a good classical education, history and literature are the spine of the education. This year we are focusing the first part of the year on delving deeper into Greek and Roman history. We just finished an in-depth stury of Horatius at the Bridge, which I enjoyed as much as MA. We learned not only how to read a complex piece of writing, but we saw how devotion to country and honor and bravery were carried out in ancient Rome.

Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods,

Good stuff.

Now that we are finished with that gem, I wanted us to take a step back and spend a little time in ancient Greece. I’ve never really gotten a full grasp on the world of the Minoans and the Myceneans, and therefore I’ve never been able to teach it well to my little student. Memoria Press, whose history resources are incredible, has a set that I thought could give us just the background we were lacking in this area. We are now about a week into Book of the Ancient Greeks, and it is just the historical education I thought it would be. We (I) now understand the rise and fall of Crete and the Mycenean culture on Greece’s mainland. We will continue this week with learning about the early time of the Greek Empire.

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I’m learning a very interesting thing about myself with all this study of history and ancient lands and other cultures. I’ve always considered history as one of the weaker segments of my education. I hated, loathed, and despised history when I was in school. My analytical mind only wanted to study things I could “figure out” as opposed to memorizing battles and dates and rulers. But as homeschooling has given me a second education, I find history so fascinating. I’m intrigued by the choices people make and the tendencies of societies that run throughout every culture. And how it only takes one voice speaking truth to turn the tide of history.

And that makes me hungry to learn more.