If You are New to Homeschooling or Thinking About It….

If You are New to Homeschooling or Thinking About It….

For those of you thinking about or new to homeschooling, I know it can be overwhelming. With a huge smorgasbord of curriculum and activities to choose from and all the information about homeschool philosophies, there is so much to consider. This is a good problem to have.  In this post, I’m going to let you in on some things that I wish I had known when I started homeschooling .

person thinking 2Many of you are spending countless hours researching different homeschooling philosophies and think you have to settle on one. I want to tell you to relax. You will probably start with one and then morph into something else. While there are some purists to a single philosophy such as Classical and Charlotte Mason, I know very few. Most people pick and choose what works best for them. For instance, I like many aspects of Charlotte Mason but not all. One example is that my kids hated copywork. So, we let that go a long time ago.  In fact, we are a hodge-podge of many different philosophies from the homeschooling world.  There are things we like and don’t like from each one. That is okay. You don’t have to follow a philosophy 100%.  Additionally, I mix it up further by adding in ideas from business and technology leaders.

Also, I know many of us have researched curriculum for hours and hours –particularly math curriculum. I wanted to let you know there is a good possibility you are going to change your math curriculum after a few months or a couple of years. Just pick something that seems like a good fit and get started. You are not locked into it. If your child absolutely hates it and is crying all the time, then it is time to change it up. You can either pick a new math program or simply let them do every other problem if it is super repetitive.

You have probably heard it said that you do not need to recreate public school at home. It takes many families 1-2 years to figure this out. Because so many of us were raised in a conventional classroom, it is surprising when we see how quickly are kids are able to complete their work.  You may look at public school state standards and think you aren’t doing enough. I can assure you that many of those standards are taught at a very surface level.  Another important point is you have the benefit and flexibility to make the world your classroom. Learning is not contained within the walls of a classroom. In my opinion, the most memorable and joyful learning takes place exploring out in the world.

Questions, Demand, Doubts, PsychologyHomeschooling is a joyful and sometimes challenging journey. The beauty is you are at the steering wheel. You are the entrepreneur in charge of your family’s upbringing and education. During this journey, you can be agile and change to what best suits your family. You are not locked into any philosophy or curriculum. You do not require the approval of a teacher, principal or school bureaucracy to adapt to the needs of your family. Please make the most of your homeschooling freedom by changing things up as needed.

I’m glad to have you here on my blog. I also have a Facebook page where I frequently share articles and ideas to help you on your journey. Please join us and feel free to chime in with your questions and thoughts.

You may also like:

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Infuse Joy Into Your Homeschool

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

How to Build Your Homeschool Tribe

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

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Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Are you looking for some great read-aloud books? Below is a list of my family’s best-loved books. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is having ample time to read aloud to my kids. Please note I update this post whenever we read a book we absolutely love.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” — C.S. Lewis

“If it’s a good book, anyone will read it. I’m totally unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood.”–J.K. Rowling

There are several indicators that reveal to me if my kids love a book:

  • They ask me to stop reading or to read loudly when they have to go to the bathroom.
  • They put the book they love on top of the stack of books I am planning to read aloud or clamor for me to read that book above all others.
  • They talk about it as we go about our day.


My kids are ages 10, 9 and 6. I have been reading these type of books for the past 2 1/2 – 3 years. So, my youngest began listening to them when she was about 3 1/2 years old. I read during snack and  meal times so they are somewhat of a captive audience. I do not read to them when Dad or guests are at the table with us.

If I don’t find the book interesting myself as I read it aloud a time or two, then I will just ditch it. If the kid don’t ask for it all, then it is confirmed for me that we should move on. After all, there are so many great books to waste time on ones we don’t love!

Here are our absolute favorite read-alouds. While we love some of the classics, we have also found some gems published more recently. Additionally, we do most of our history and geography studies through living books.You will find some of those living history books in the list below.whangdoodle

  1. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards is my family’s ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOK!!! We adored Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. This story is of the same caliber. Her imagination is genius!
  2. Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett are some of the finest children’s books ever written. They are excellent for character training because they show children who are pure, good and kind. These books created much discussion in our family as we grappled with the choices the protagonists in the stories would make. People of all ages will find wisdom and delight reading Burnett’s masterpieces.  Both my son and daughters loved all three of these books!cabin-on-trouble-creek
  3. Cabin on Trouble Creek by Jean Van Leeuwen is a based on the true story of two brothers, ages 11 and 9, who head out to the Ohio wilderness with their pa to clear some land to build a cabin and farm for their family. Pa heads back to retrieve Ma and their younger siblings but is delayed months. This is a survival tale of these two boys in the wilderness and is masterfully told. My kids chanted each day “Trouble Creek, Trouble Creek” to read this book before any others.
  4. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater will keep your family in stitches. If you are new to reading aloud or your kids are just old enough to begin enjoying novels, this is an excellent one to start with. Be prepared to laugh a lot! wiz-of-oz
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  by L. Frank Baum chronicles the adventures of Dorothy through the Land of Oz. The classic children’s movie, The Wizard of Oz, was based on this fantastical novel. You will find many differences between the movie and Baum’s book. It is fun to compare and contrast the two.
  6. Sophia’s War: A Tale of Revolution by Avi is a fast-paced and gripping tale set during the American Revolution. In the opening scene, Sophia watches as Nathan Hale is hanged as a spy. Later, she is recruited as a spy and serves as a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of British forces in America. Sophia’s War is a great example of why I prefer to learn history with living books instead of dry textbooks. This is an excellent read and is especially perfect when studying the American Revolution.my-brother-sam
  7. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is another fantastic book to read when studying the American Revolution. It will give you a lot to discuss with your kids. We loved it!
  8. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by  Betty Macdonald is the first in a series about a wise woman who lives in a neighborhood inhabited by children with bad habits. When the parents are at a loss how to break these bad habits, they turn to Mrs. Piggle- Wiggle. This light-hearted read will add plenty of laughter to your day.the-city-of-ember-image-book-cover
  9. The City of Ember series by Jeanne Duprau is electrifying and  fast-paced. I consider these books modern-day classics.  My kids always put these books on the top of my read-aloud pile. These are the kind of books that really cause you to think deeply. After reading the first one, you will see why The City of Ember has received many awards and honors.
  10. Gentle Ben by Walt Morey is a beautifully written tale about a large bear named Ben and a boy named Mark. It is set in the Alaskan wilderness and illustrates the special bond between humans and animals.
  11. Mr. Tucket by Gary Paulsen is the first in the Tucket Adventure series and is a perfect complement to American westward expansion studies. It starts off with Francis Tucket, a 14-year-old boy, who strays from his family’s wagon train headed to Oregon and is captured by Pawnee Indians. This book is fast-pace and adventure at its finest while learning history at the same time!tale-of-desper
  12. The Tale of Despereaux is by far our favorite book from popular children’s author, Kate DiCamillo. This Newbery Award winner is centered around a mouse named Despereaux who does not fit in with the other mice. He is in love with music, stories and a princess named Pea. A wonderful adventure awaits you, reader!
  13. Poppy  was the first novel published in the Tales from Dimwood Forest series by gifted children’s writer, Avi. These books chronicle the adventures of Poppy, a mouse, and the other animals of Dimwood Forest. Our absolute favorite character was the cantankerous but lovable porcupine, Ereth. blood-on-the-river
  14. Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone is a stellar way to learn more about the colony of Jamestown in 1607. Through the eyes of 12-year-old Samuel Collier, this engrossing book brings to life what it must have been like to live in Jamestown at that time. This book is a must!
  15. Matilda by the incomparable British writer, Roald Dahl, is another must read! It is about a brilliant 6-year old girl who is poorly treated and neglected by her idiotic and self-centered parents. Her sweet teacher, Miss Honey, quickly realizes Matilda is a child prodigy. However, the headmistress and villain, Mrs. Trunchbull, pays no heed to this. Oodles of laughter will exude from your kids as you read this book together.journey-to-river-sea
  16. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson is about a young orphan, Maia, in 1910 sent off to live with distant family who own a rubber plantation on the Amazon River. She is excited to explore the banks of the Amazon and view exotic wildlife. However, upon arrival she discovers her relatives are rotten people and they also hate nature. A wonderful story and mystery await you in this enchanting book.
  17. Streams to the River, River to the Sea is a book by celebrated author, Scott O’Dell, (who also wrote Island of the Blue Dolphin) about Sacagawea, interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark. This is unique from other accounts of Lewis and Clark because it is told from Sacagawea’s point of view.  This absorbing and suspenseful book will shed new light on the true-life adventure.
  18. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1972. We loved this tale of courage, morality,and heroism. Some people think it starts off slowly, but we did not find that to be the case.georges-secret-key
  19. George’s Secret Key to the Universe  by  famed physicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, is a fast-paced and funny adventure that explains our universe in quite an intriguing yet simple way. The book is fairly long, but my kids enjoyed every minute. Furthermore, we all learned a lot. Three additional books follow this one.
  20. Pinnochio  by Carlo Collodi is a wonderful book about making good choices and the consequences of making poor ones. This particular book I have linked to is especially beautiful because it shows different illustrations from around the world throughout the book. Collodi’s tale is quite different from the Disney version. I think all parents should read this aloud to their kids and discuss its many lessons. It is fun to read the dialogue with an Italian accent.
  21. The Twits by Roald Dahl is a hilarious, light-hearted and quick read. If you are new to reading aloud, The Twits is a nice way to kick it off!
  22. The Hungry Clothes by Penninah Schram is a great example of folk and fairy tales from around the world we have read.  These are an entertaining way to learn and discuss moral lessons. Furthermore, these tales teach us more about culture and history from around the globe. Many libraries have an excellent selection of international folk and fairy tales.
  23. Caddie Woodlawn, recipient of the Newbery Medal in 1936, by Carol Ryrie Brink is a tale of tomboy Caddie and her family’s adventures in the woods of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.  The stories are based on the real life of the author’s grandmother. All three of my kids, including my 10-year old son, adored Caddie and this book. For those studying American frontier life and the Civil War era, this is a great addition. However, it is a great story to read at any time!
  24. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, a Newbery Honor book, by beloved  children’s author, Avi, is a fast-paced, suspenseful novel that you don’t want to put down.  This exciting seafaring adventure takes place in the summer of 1832 when thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle is excited to return home from her school in England to her family in Rhode Island. “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty.”
  25. Pippi Longstocking, originally written in Swedish by Astrid Lindgren and later translated into more than 70 languages, has also been turned into several movies and TV series. The tales of Pippi, the girl with upside-down braids and no parents to tell her what to do, and her friends, Annika and Tommy, will bring a smile to your family’s faces. If you are new to reading aloud, this is a great book to get started. Even your youngest children should delight in Pippi’s adventures.
  26. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson is a suspenseful story set in Austria and Germany in the early 20th century about a child, Annika, who was left as a baby just days old in a church.  At 12-years old, Annika inherits a trunk of costume jewelry. A woman claiming to be her aristocratic mother arrives and takes her to live in a run-down mansion in Germany. Once you get into the meat of this story, your kids will not want you to put this book down.
  27. Death on the River of Doubt by Samantha Sieple is great for history lovers and those fascinated with the Amazon rainforest. Did you know that in 1913 former president Teddy Roosevelt led a perilous expedition deep into the Amazon rainforest to chart an unmapped river?  This book, which is an account of their adventure, was thrilling and exhilarating for our family to read together. Furthermore, I have learned more about the character and leadership of Roosevelt and have even greater admiration for him now. The wilderness doesn’t care if you are a former president or king. All are at risk of injury and death on such a harrowing journey with danger lurking almost everywhere.
  28. Secrets of Dripping Fang series by Dan Greenburg is another one of those series that015205457X my kids love so much that they chant for me to read it to them. It is fast-paced and hilarious. Many days I intend to read only one chapter but end up reading 3 or 4 because we all want to find out what happens next. While it is not as sophisticated as some other books we read, it is extremely entertaining and enjoyable. This is also a good series to hook your reluctant readers. I read the first 3 in the series aloud, and the kids polished off the remainder of the series reading alone.
  29. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is one of those great classics that is a fulfilling read. This story about a boy and his two hunting hounds will probably have you in tears but in a good way. The values and lessons conveyed in this story are so rich.
  30. Number the Stars by Lowis Lowry is a historical fiction novel set in Nazi-occupied B00HS8O7B0Denmark as the German soldiers began their campaign to “relocate” Jews.  The story centers around Anne Marie and her family as they hide her best friend, Ellen, and work to save others Jews. The story is an excellent tribute to the the brave people of Denmark who smuggled out most of the Jewish people to Sweden during this terrorizing time.
  31. The classic novel, The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley is an exciting tale about a young boy and his wild stallion. 0439669960
  32. Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust from Scholastic is one of the most important books I have read with my kids. Gripping stories from 9 Jewish boys and girls are described in this book. While there is so much evil, I felt it an appropriate ready for my 7, 10 and 11-year-old children. They hung on intently to every word.
  33. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, earned the 1994 Newbery Medal.  Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a dystopian world of no crime, hunger, sickness, unemployment or choice. He is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. This exciting and fast-paced novel gives you much to ponder about free will, freedom and society. All my kids loved this book–even my 7-year-old.
  34. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia 0375867821by Candace Fleming is an absolutely gripping narrative of Russia’s last royal family.  My kids especially enjoyed learning about the Romanov children and Rasputin. Insightfully, my son pondered if Nicholas had selected another wife than Alexandra if the 20th-century Russian history and, ultimately, world history would have been altered due to her bad judgment and influence on her inept husband. This non-fiction work is anything but dull. We plan to dive into the study of Communism and wanted to better understand the events that led to the Communist Revolution.
  35. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall is the first delightful book in a 4-part series about the Penderwick girls who go on vacation at a beautiful estate in Massachusetts.  They make fast friend with the estate owner’s son. However, his mother is less than thrilled with the Penderwick girls. We found this book a delightful read aloud for both boys and girls. 0142400580
  36. The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald is one of our favorite of all times. Set in Adenville, Utah at the turn of the 19th century, these enjoyable books focus on the narrator’s brother who has a great brain and uses it for all kinds of mischief and money-making schemes. My kids liked it so much that they read the entire series themselves and then clamored for me to read the whole thing aloud. This is also a nice complement to your history studies of this same time period. I’d say this a delightful and engaging read for all ages!
  37. Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan is the first in a quartet series of  0064408795Communist Russia. It shows both sides of the Russian Revolution opening in 1913 when this aristocratic girl goes to live with the Romanov family because her widowed mother is lady-in-waiting to Empress Alexandra. We get to know the Romanovs in a warm and personal way and see what a doting father Nicholas II is to his children. However, she also witnesses the exploitation of workers in the cities and the terrible living conditions of peasants. Meanwhile, war is spreading throughout Europe and Russia is crumbling. We give this fast-paced and absorbing book our highest review possible.
  38. The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan is the second in a quartet series of Communist 0066238110Russia. This book, which opens in 1934 in Leningrad a generation after the Communist Revolution,  is every bit as engaging as the first. The children of the heroine and hero of Angel on the Square are alone and desperate after their father is arrested and mother is exiled to Siberia. They are determined to find their mother and embark on a 1,000-mile journey in hopes of reunification. Filled with adventure and suspense, the children encounter many obstacles and confrontations and even a beautiful experience with the Samoyed tribe in the Siberian wilderness.
  39. A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an engaging, fast-paced book about the Berlin Wall from the perspective of twelve-year-old, Gerta. When the Wall was erected, her father and brother were on the other side looking for work in West Berlin. This left the family divided. We encounter Gerta’s struggles along with her other brother, mother and others surviving in East Berlin as well as their persecution in this Communist city controlled by the Soviets.  One day she spots her father on a viewing platform giving her clues to tunnel beneath the wall. This is risky because, if they are caught, the consequences are death. We loved this book. It is highly recommended at any time but especially if you are studying the 1960s and Communism.
  40. Red Scarf Girl, a memoir by Ji Li Liang, takes the reader to the destructive turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 0064462080 led by Chairman Mao in Communist China.  Twelve-year-old Ji Li is an accomplished student and athlete and joins her classmates in frenetically denouncing The Four Olds:  Old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits.  She witnesses relatives, teachers, neighbors and friends publicly humiliated and tortured but still remains fervent in her Communist ideology. Her family eventually becomes reviled due to their wealthy family background. Friends and neighbors turn on them, and they are constantly afraid of being arrested. After her father’s imprisonment, Ji Li is forced with a big decision. This autobiography received multiple awards including Publishers Weekly Best Book. ALA Best Book for Young Adults and ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice.
  41. Mao’s Last Dancer (Young Reader’s Edition) by Li Cunxin is the riveting 0802797792autobiography of a peasant boy born into extreme poverty in 1961 just before the Cultural Revolution. Despite his poverty and witnessing the brutality of the Mao regime, he revered Chairman Mao and Communism. He details life in school that is focused more on Communist indoctrination than the basic educational tenets of reading, writing and arithmetic. At the age of 11, Li was selected from his village by delegates of Madame Mao’s art program to study ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. The opportunity opens many unimaginable doors including a cultural exchange in Houston with the Houston Ballet in 1979. While in Texas, he begins to realize much of what he was told about the USA was a lie. He loves his taste of freedom in America and is in awe of such abundance and modernity.  The story is of his defection and climax of the book is nail-biting!
  42. The Cay by Theodore Taylor is a beautiful book that opens with 11-year old Phillip in Curacao during World B017WQDIBWWar II after the Germans invaded his tiny Caribbean island. When a freighter he and his mother are taking back to the United States is torpedoed, he finds himself on a lifeboat floating in the sea with an elderly West Indian man, Timothy.  He recalls what his mom says about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.” Phillip displays racial prejudice toward Timothy.  Eventually, the head injury he sustained from the torpedoing causes blindness and causes him to be dependent on Timothy. They develop a strong friendship. While this book takes you on an exciting adventure of survival on a deserted island, the message about love, loyalty and color-blindness is valuable for people of all ages to read. The novel was published in 1969 and dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.–the year following his death.
  43. The classic tale by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting, has the reader consider whether eternal life on earth is a blessing or curse. After Winnie Foster discovers a spring that grants immortality, she must decide if she will tell the secret and of the family she has come to know and love who accidentally drank from that spring.
  44. Set amidst a backdrop of World War II and Hitler’s bombings of 0147510481England, The War that Saved my Live by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is about a 10-year-old girl who never left her one-room apartment because her cruel mother is embarrassed about her clubfoot. When children are sent to another part of England to escape the war including her younger brother, Ada sneaks out to join him.  We really love this story and are ecstatic to find out there is a sequel. The War that Saved My Life has been lauded with many awards and honors and was a#1 New York Times bestseller.
  45. As a lethal plague sweeps through the lands, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor’s wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive and she is sent to Attic Island–a quarantine colony for ill. I give The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen the highest recommendation. This book is super fast-paced and exciting!!!!
  46. I am Malala is the story of a bold and courageous family living in a remote valley in Northern Pakistan firmly committed to girls’ education. Malala was shot in the head at just 15-years-old because she refused to be silenced on the matter. In addition to learning about Malala and her family’s story, you will receive an education on global terrorism and U.S. foreign policy in the Islamic world from a  Pakistani viewpoint. Malala and her father are inspiration to us all. A young reader’s edition is also available.

What are some of your favorite read-alouds? Please share in the comments below.

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You may also be interested in:

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

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Thoughts about Schools on Trial

“On most mornings, millions of young people depart from their homes and travel by cars and yellow buses to drab-looking, claustrophobic buildings. Here, they will be warehoused for the next 6-7 hours. Every forty minutes, they are shepherded from room to room at the sound of a bell. They sit in desks in rows with 20-30 people of similar age, social class, and often race. They are drilled in facts and inculcated with specific attitudes and behaviors. If they get out of their seat, talk out of turn, or misbehave, they risk being drugged to induce passivity. Their day is preplanned for them. To succeed, orders and rules must be followed.”

This is a perfect day of learning to me!

“At the end of the day, they return home bone tired. There, they are forced to complete a few more hours of…homework. They follow the almost exact same routine for five days a week, 180 days a year, for thirteen years, until they are set free or begin another game called college.”

This is a passage from the new book by Nikhil Goyal, a crusader championing experiential and democratic education, called School on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice. I sure am thankful for our freedom in homeschool to learn in such a wide variety of environments and ways! He goes on to discuss everything from mindlessly copying down notes from a lecture with little or no engagement, recall-based exams of which he has forgotten it all and totally scripted labs. Near and dear to my heart, he talks about how his joy of reading was robbed by the school system. Continue reading “Thoughts about Schools on Trial”

Is Screen Time Like Digital Heroin?

Earlier this week, a provocative article came out in the NY Post titled It’s Digital Heroin: How Screens Turn Kids into Psychotic Junkies. The author, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, presented brain imaging research showing screens impact the frontal cortex the same way that cocaine does. Additionally, he described kids becoming “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.” Similar results have been described in many research papers and articles.

He described kids becoming “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

Over the past several years, I have taken a keen interest in this topic and have learned a lot through research, listening to parents discuss their experiences, and observing kids who spend a lot of time on screens and kids who don’t.

both kids on screens

As their brains become more consumed by their virtual worlds, they are less interested in the types of activities that are so important for physical, intellectual and social development.

The biggest problem I have seen with kids who spend great quantities of time on screens  is just what Dr. Kardaras states in the article. These kids get bored easily when they do not have their screens. The world becomes less interesting to them.  As their brains become more consumed by their virtual worlds, they are less interested in the types of activities that are so important for physical, intellectual and social development including playing outside, participating in sports, building Legos, drawing, scouting, and so forth. Concentration levels decrease making even reading a book challenging.  WebMD found “grades began to decline steadily after just 45 minutes of screen time and dropped even more significantly after 2 hours. More screen time led to greater sleeping problems, too.”

On the other hand, the kids I have seen who engage in little or no screen time are some of the most creative, well-mannered, and happy children around. I don’t hear “I’m bored” come out of their mouths often or if ever. Instead, they find many interesting things to do at home and when they are out with friends and family. They aren’t thinking about a screen because it is not part of their routine or a big part of their day.

smile fort
Kids are more likely to be creative and social at home when they can’t jump on a computer whenever they want.

I believe excessive screen time and physical inactivity are responsible for many kids’, though certainly not all,  ADD and ADHD diagnoses. Children as young as kindergarten and 1st grade are now being prescribed psychotropic drugs like Ritalin so they can sit still in class and not be disruptive. Before I put my children on any type of mind-altering drug, I would do some heavy-duty research about long-term consequences and other side effects. Furthermore, I would go cold turkey on screens and spend copious amounts of time out in nature before even considering those drugs. I would also look at educational alternatives such as homeschool before my kids began ingesting them.

I am not anti-screens with my kids. Though, I admit, I always cringe a little when I see they are playing a computer game. They earn their screen time just like a person earns a paycheck. For a full load of school work and chores, they earn 25 minutes per day. If they have less work then their earned screen time decreases. I don’t ban it altogether. Sometimes things become even more desirable when they are entirely forbidden.

I do not buy the argument that video games  are good because they help you to understand technology. On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I welcome teaching kids how to use technology to make them more productive and professional.

I do not buy the argument that video games  are good because they help you to understand technology. I agree there is excellent technology to enhance work and learning. I embrace that. However, sitting around playing video games is not an effective tool in teaching one to use effective technology.

On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I’m teaching a blogging and 21st-century skills class at our homeschool co-op in the fall. We will incorporate some strategic uses of technology including creating and delivering Power Point presentations, developing blogs, conducting research and graphing it with Google Sheets and much more. I welcome teaching kids how to use technology to make them more productive and professional. This is a smart use of technology in my opinion.

I am not a doctor. I am  sharing my opinion for your consideration. I believe this information is important with all my heart. I urge you to do your own research on this topic and draw your own conclusions. If your screen-addicted kid’s behavior is not satisfactory by your standards or is not interested in too much beyond his tablet, consider setting limits or getting rid of it altogether. I think 30-45 minutes per day is more than enough. You may try going cold turkey for 3 months. I bet you’d be surprised how your child started to find the world and other people interesting again after getting over the initial shock of losing screen time.

In the article, Dr. Kardaras states, “The key is to prevent your 4-, 5- or 8-year-old from getting hooked on screens to begin with. That means Lego instead of Minecraft; books instead of iPads; nature and sports instead of TV.”

Kate smiling

One of the most important and impactful parenting books I have ever read is The Last Child in the Woods:Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I wish all parents would read it. You can buy it on Amazon through this link here or perhaps get it at your library.


There are so many book excerpts I’d love to include here from Last Child in the Woods. Here are a few:

TV in the Car?

Constructively Bored Mind Versus a Negatively Numbed Mind

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Homeschooling: The Road Less Traveled

While reading a book today about life’s critical choices, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s words and immediately thought of our family’s decision to homeschool. It is the road less traveled and that has made all the difference for our family.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

–Robert Frost

Here is a picture of our first day homeschooling several years ago. I pulled my son out of public school March of his kindergarten year. I remember the feeling of freedom and joy to be out in the world learning together as part of their education.

First day of our homeschool journey several years ago.

Some ways it has made all the difference for our family includes:

  • Family Bonds–My kids are best friends. We experience so much life together.  While they do have a tiff every now and then, they generally really enjoy one beach playanother. I observe this same pattern with our homeschool family friends. You just don’t see a lot of bickering amongst siblings in our community. 
  • Love Affair with Books–One of my favorite things about homeschooling is having plenty of time for reading aloud.  We travel on many book journeys together and engage in lots of conversation about what I read aloud. Additionally, we frequent a wide variety of libraries.  The kids are dying to get to one to find more books to bring home for their reading pleasure. Each library has its own personality and unique book selection.
  • Friendships–Our homeschool family friends are incredible people with shared values and vision for how we want to raise our kids. We have a blast doing life with them! I did not experience this same connection when we were in public school.
  • Love of Learning–We are able to learn in a wide variety of environments and from many different people. Yes, I am their teacher for many subjects. However, we are also out learning from park rangers, museum docents, business owners, scientists and more! We learn from passionate parents in our co-op.  We are not confined to one classroom and the same teacher daily. Additionally, I do not teach to a standardized test which can crush a love of learning.
  • Customized Education–I am an entrepreneur for my children’s education. Nimbly, we tailor the curriculum and learning opportunities to their learning styles, passions and our family’s priorities.

How has homeschooling made all the difference for your family?  Please click onto our Facebook page below and let us know. Your words may be encouragement for a family who is considering homeschooling or one wondering if they should stay the course.

Here are a few other links you may enjoy:

Benefits of Experiential Learning

I Like Being with My Kids

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning


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Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part Two

Are you looking to have more fun with your kids and less time nagging them to do their work? Would you like to spend more time on field trips, engaging classes,  and exploration?If your answer is  yes, this post may be helpful for you.

You can have plenty of time for experiential learning with discipline and a good structure in place. We were out 3 full days/week last school year and plan to do the same again this year. Here is a sample of what our schedule looks like:

 Days We are Out

On the three days we are out, the kids have a lighter academic schedule and need to focus on their core work including math, writing composition and reading. As I am buzzing around trying to get us all packed up for the day, I don’t put anything on the schedule that requires my involvement. Required science/history reading takes place for 25 minutes in the car en route to our destination. They need to finish all math before we leave for the day, or I know they will be too tired when we return. Some things like instrument practice work out just fine to do when we get back.

Full Academic Workload Days

On the two days we are home, we do full workloads as you can see looking at Monday and Thursday. They schedule their day how they want. My only requirement is that math comes first. On top of that, anything that requires my involvement, like editing an essay, must also occur in the morning. I want to be done with my part before lunch. Due to homeschool efficiency, we still are usually completely done with everything before the conventionally-schooled kids get out of school around 2:30 PM.

Dry Erase Sleeves and Spreadsheets



We love these dry erase sleeves that we purchased on Amazon about a year ago. The kids simply use a dry erase marker to check off what they have completed for the day. The $8 we spent on the sleeves were a good investment, and they enjoy using them. Additionally, the kids learned how to use Google Sheets (similar to Excel) by creating their checklists.

Science and History

You don’t see it on the schedule because we do it primarily through living books during read aloud and quiet time, co-op and experiential learning.

Stay tuned for Part Three of this series.

Find Part One of this series by clicking on the link below:

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part 1

Here were our curriculum choices last school year:

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

For ideas on how to design your own writing curriculum:

Designing Your Own Writing Curriculum

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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

Teaching Geography with Living Books and Wall Maps

One of my favorite ways to teach geography is during read aloud time. I read aloud during snack and meal times (when we don’t have guests and Daddy is not eating with us). I keep a world map and U.S. map on the wall behind me. It is a great way to make the study of geography more interesting as we are enthralled in the action of a book. Additionally, as we engage in conversation throughout the day we can easily walk to the maps to see where a place is located.

reading pic

If you do not have a good wall space for maps then another suggestion is to put a map on your dining table and cover it with plexiglass. The kids can look at it every time they are eating even when you are not reading.

I like dry erase maps so we can write on them.

What are some other fun ways you like to teach geography?

Here are the two dry erase  maps we keep on our wall. One is a United Sates map and the other is a world map.




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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

Fantastic Whole-Hearted Book List

This is a fantastic list of whole-hearted books. If you are new to homeschooling, a list like this is a great example of how little you actually have to spend on homeschooling. You can get most of these books at the library. With great literature, including historical fiction, as a centerpiece of your homeschool, your kids will grow so much.

100 Whole-Hearted Books To Fight Back The Culture

map pics 002

I read to my kids during meals and snacks. We keep a world and US maps on the wall to enhance our geographical knowledge.

My 8 and 9 year olds’ music teacher was telling me today how advanced my kids are and that they are able to grasp concepts even adults can’t. I asked if he meant with music and he said no–about things in general. I was pretty flattered considering he is a grandfather and has been teaching music for decades. He said their ability to make connections is rare.


Immediately, two things came to my head. First, we read together and discuss many high-quality books and the bible. I can’t tell you important I think that has been to their education and character training. These characters have to make a lot of tough choices and undergo difficulty. Furthermore, it has created a great bond with us as we discuss the books and their characters as we go about our day.Second, they are with an adult a lot–me. We talk about so many topics that they probably would not be exposed to with such regularity if they were only with kids their age for 6 1/2 hours per day.

First, we read together and discuss many high-quality books and the bible. I can’t tell you important I think that has been to their education and character training.

Even though my older two kids are ravenous readers, they still love me to read to them. I hope this continues until they leave the house because it brings us all such joy and also helps us to grow in wisdom while also expanding our education and vocabularies. I read to my kids during our meal and snack times (unless we have guests or Daddy is joining us).

If you are looking to start a tradition of reading aloud, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a hilarious book with which to start! One book that did not make the list which is our family’s all-time favorite is The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards.


Journeying with Books

“Books are the answer to our wanderlust. From the moment we crack open the cover, a book transports us to worlds exotic and unknown. We breathe in the glory of different colors, landscapes, and cultural mores. Books are like passports–but so much cheaper to use!”–From the foreword of Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin



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Welcome to The Contemporary Homeschooler

FeaturedWelcome to The Contemporary Homeschooler

Welcome to The Contemporary Homeschooler! Academic excellence, lots of experiential learning and high-quality books are hallmarks of our household. With a good structure in place, homeschoolers are able to complete their academic work in around half the time of a typical conventional school day. We like to use that extra time to engage with the world and follow our passions.  I don’t box our family into following a particular homeschool philosophy. Rather, I  see myself as an entrepreneur for my family: nimble and adaptive to our needs and learning opportunities.

I  see myself as an entrepreneur for my family: nimble and adaptive to our needs and learning opportunities.

As a homeschool family, you have the freedom to put your children on the cutting edge of education. You can customize and personalize their academics. There is a huge selection of curriculum, both web-based and paper-based, available to homeschool families. You can incorporate abundant experiential learning opportunities into your schedule. I will not squander my time away with my kids as a slave to excessive busy work or  dawdle around the house all day. We finish our work and get out into the world. Now, more than ever, there are wonderful opportunities for homeschoolers! Carpe diem!!!!

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