Why I will be investing in myself this summer . . .


Before I began my research I knew only two things about homeschooling.

1) Homeschooled kids are weird.

2) For some reason, God was telling me to homeschool. I was baffled. Why would God want me to have weird kids?!

     I grew up in the public schools and couldn’t begin to imagine how I would add “school” to my already overflowing plate of young motherhood. I read every book I could find on the subject and Googled until my eyes were sore, leaving me even more overwhelmed. If God hadn’t had mercy on me and led me to a homeschooling mentor I would probably still be rocking in the closet.

     Hours of study and research couldn’t teach me what one hour with a good homeschool mom taught me. I learned: homeschool was doable, that homeschool moms and kids aren’t perfect, normal people can homeschool, where to go for curriculum, the laws in my state, that my socialization fears were unfounded, that I was good enough, that I had friends to help and that I could DO this! All in one hour!

     Since that time I have tried to never pass up the opportunity to learn from a good mentor. Doing so has transformed my homeschool experience from doable to wonderful.  I just rearranged my family travel plans so I could attend the ULTIMATE mentoring opportunity happening in Houston, Texas on August 1st and 2nd.  The line-up for the LDS-NHA “UP and AWAY” Homeschool Conference represents the best of the best in LDS speaking and homeschooling and I am not going to miss it!

     If you have never attended a conference before you can expect to listen to motivating talks from key note speakers, to take mini classes specific to your needs, mingle with the industry’s best in curriculum and instruction, and ask questions of fellow moms and homeschooling experts. There will also be booths with curriculum and other LDS friendly goods to peruse and purchase- many offering conference discount prices and specials. There will be snacks available and lunch for purchase. It will be held in a hotel conference hall. Rooms at discount rates are available for those who want to stay on location, but this is not required or included in conference ticket. “UP and AWAY” is a parent focused event and there will not be activities for little kids. (Make it a date or girl’s weekend!) The Teen conference will be going on simultaneously on location, and homeschooled or not, this is an event not to be missed.

     There is great strength in numbers, friends. Being surrounded by parents with similar challenges and resolve will boost your confidence for the next school year like nothing else can. The expert advice you receive will save your sanity, your money on failed programs, and years of learning things the hard way. This alone, is worth the price of admission!

      Here is a little inside scoop into some of the classes and speakers presenting at “UP and AWAY”. Key-note speakers who will address the conference are beloved LDS motivational speaker, Kris Belcher, and New York Times Best Selling Author, Stephen Palmer. I was already sold when I heard the keynotes, but also attending the conference and teaching mini-classes will be homeschooling guru and owner of FamilyEducationCoach.com, Diann Jeppson,  and Jane Mack, veteran homeschooler and writer of “The Family School” Curriculum. I have been following these ladies on YouTube and can’t wait to meet them in person! Mentor of mentors and homeschooling authority, Nicholeen Peck, will be teaching several mini-classes. And if that’s not enough awesomeness… local Texan homeschoolers will be sharing some of what they do best. Judging from the caliber of the local names I have met, this conference is going to be all-around amazing!

     There will be a little something for every homeschooler at this conference. Check out some of the course topics you will be able to choose from: Conquering your Fears and insecurities, You Can Homeschool Through High School , Making Gospel Learning FUN, Class for Dads, One Room Schoolhouse, Correcting not Criticizing, The Power of Calm, Home Management, Helping your Marriage Soar, Finding Your Homeschool Identity, Philosophy and Curriculum, All About College, a Homeschool Graduate Panel and an entire course block for Beginning Homeschoolers.  

     In all your careful curriculum purchases this summer, invest a little in yourself. The training you receive at “UP and AWAY” will yield priceless rewards. You do not want to miss this!


Click HERE to Register

Finding our Homeschooling Identity

By: Audrey Gross


            I began my journey in homeschooling with certain expectations.  I had visions of well-dressed children sitting gleefully around our kitchen table, listening with eagerness as we worked through a textbook; much like the cover a curriculum catalogue!  I would be the smartly dressed mother, smiling down on my cheerfully engaged offspring.  In my now 7 years of homeschooling, I’m not sure this particular scenario has played out even once.  Not only were we not often sitting gleefully around the table poring over workbooks, I can assure you, I was very rarely smartly dressed.  Much like how you picture motherhood in general before you actually have children, so homeschooling was for me . . . uncharted territory. 

            When I began this adventure, my oldest was five, followed by a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a 1 month old.   I suppose this seemed like a daunting task at the time, but really…  I only had one child to teach.  Easy enough, right?

            I was pleasantly surprised that in the early days, my homeschooling went beautifully.  I read many a homeschooling guide and talked to all the homeschooling families I could, all while diligently searching the different curriculums and methods.   Of all the methods I learned about, there was one that seemed to encompass the kind of education I was seeking quite perfectly.   It was love at first Charlotte Mason book.  (In this case it happened to be A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola).   I embraced Charlotte’s philosophy, read her books (with excited, new homeschool mom fervor), and devoted myself to implementing her methods.  In a nutshell, the Charlotte Mason method can be summarized by Charlotte’s own description:

 “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”  This ‘atmosphere’ of learning included a heavy dose of ‘living books’ (as opposed to dry textbooks), nature study (along with ample time in the great outdoors), and also a heavy emphasis on the arts (particularly poets, composers and the great works of art.)

            From the very beginning, we kept our nature journals, took long walks through the woods to observe the birds and other creatures, listened exclusively to classical music (studying a new composer each month), studied the greats in art, and delved into some pretty heavy literature for a 5 year old.  Charlotte’s philosophy also included not “dumbing things down” to a young child’s level, but to expose them to the great literary classics from the beginning.  In her words, “no knowledge should be so precious as that gained in childhood, no later knowledge should be so clearly chronicled on the brain, nor so useful as the foundation of that to follow…. Therefore it behooves parent or teacher to pour in only of the best.”  What is better than Plutarch, Shakespeare, Kipling and Longfellow?  

           I recognized my oldest child, at an early age, as a highly artistic individual who needed ample freedom of expression.  The Charlotte Mason philosophy seemed to fit her completely and she thrived on the art and literature studies.  We were happy! And even better, learning things! 

           Things were going along just pleasingly.  I spent hours a day reading complex passages from beautiful books to my daughter, learning Latin, and painting pictures.   Eventually, as my next child became school age with his two siblings a couple of years later, I realized I didn’t have the time I wanted to spend on each child’s lengthy and individualized curriculum.  Each year that I received a new student, I began to feel it was difficult to keep up with the relaxed, learning lifestyle, when our lives seemed to be pulling in so many different directions. 

           We accumulated a packed schedule of extracurricular activities; sports, field trips, church activities.  Basically, we were getting our socialization on… a lot!   Although this was all fun and productive, I began to feel crunched for time.   I also started feeling the pressure that my children may not be “keeping up” with all they needed to be learning. Doubt began creeping in.  Finally, after my husband and I agreed that I needed something more structured (and simple); I bought my first boxed curriculum. This was sure to help me keep it all together, and ensure my children were learning everything their active little brains required, right?  In many ways it did help.  I was able to see just how much we were accomplishing, where we were in the grand scheme of that intimidatingly thick workbook, how many more lessons we had to go, etc.  But, something I didn’t anticipate happening did; I felt like our family’s love of learning had turned into a check list of workbook pages and dry textbooks.  It felt as though our collective creativity was being stumped, school had become a chore - something to “get done.”

            After a semester of trying more rigid curriculums, I would always come back to my Charlotte Mason favorites;   The Blue Fairy (and all the other colors of the classic fairy tales), Fifty Famous Stories Retold, The Beautiful Feet Books, and our poetry favorites.  These are the books that Charlotte Mason refers to as “The great tales of the heroic age {that} find their way into children’s hearts.”

             I found that when we became rushed or overburdened with outside activities, workbook/textbook curriculums seemed easier.  This made me realize I would rather scale back on these excess outside activities, to allow more time for my kids to pursue what they love through literature.  We belonged in the great outdoors, hunching over a lovingly worn copy of The Handbook of Nature Study. (By, Anna Botsford Comstock, check it out, it’s great.)   There were gaps in our education that our nature notebook and composer study once occupied.

           Slowly, Charlotte Mason returned back into our lives.  My oldest child’s science textbook got replaced with a book on marine biology (one of her new found passions.)  My 10 year old son’s science book was replaced with a book on rocks and minerals, along with the materials for him to pursue the study of geology.  Outside.  In the dirt.   I realized I had been failing to keep in mind the kind of education they needed; a kind that I preferred myself.   Isn’t this the unique and amazing thing about homeschooling, that we are able to cater to our individual child’s educational needs?  I knew that my children flourished in creative and natural environments.  Does this mean we never do core subjects such as math and language arts? Not at all.  It simply means literature, art and nature need to play a pivotal role in our homeschool. 

          So Charlotte came back to our homeschool in full force, with all her linguistic beauty.  Karen Andreola said the two words that best describe “the educational ideals of Charlotte Mason” are magnanimity and enthusiasm.  That came back too. 

          It was an affirming moment when my 12 year old told me “Today was the best school day I've ever had!  I never realized how the tilted axis of the earth affects our seasons.”  This realization was delivered to me as she sat at the kitchen table, hands covered in paint, affixing a foam model of the earth to her project.  She had spent the day poring over books and articles about the earth’s polarity, axis and tides.  My 10 year old son showed similar zeal for his school day, telling me (cheerfully engaged and all)! “I learned so much today about the rock cycle!”  He had spent hours that day in 40 lbs of assorted rocks and stones, sorting and labeling his geological finds.  Obviously, finding something to pursue that piqued their interest and allowing them more time to pursue it had brought the joy back into their learning. 

          We still have days when they slink down in their kitchen chair in math rebellion, or a battle of wills will rear its ugly head during a writing assignment.  But, for the most part, peace and learning have settled themselves back down upon our little classroom. 

          For my 12 year old, incorporating art into anything she does makes her happy.  The lasting lessons of great literature and art they have learned over the years have been remembered, tucked away lovingly, as a building block of who they are. 

     Charlotte Mason,  in A Philosophy of Education, said “Every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls  of his imagination,  to say nothing of great buildings,  sculpture , beauty of form, and color in things he sees.  Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too, --sunsets, cloudscapes, star-light nights.  At any rate he should go forth well- furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds, the more it will.”

            What do I want to hang in the halls of my children’s imaginations?  They already know what they love.  I just need to give them room and the tools to explore for themselves.

             I know this sounds like an ode to the Charlotte Mason method, and in a way it is.  But, it’s also a story of finding our homeschooling identity.  It’s a story of rediscovering the freedom that is possible when a family chooses to homeschool.  It’s the story of how our family realized the potential to let our interests and passions guide us to a more effective type of learning.  It’s a story I love to tell, and I don’t want to ever forget the reasons I fell in love with homeschooling to begin with.


*All Charlotte Mason quotes were extracted from the (amazing) books from her original homeschool series.

*For free Charlotte Mason curriculum and lesson plans, check out www.amblesideonline.org.  (You won’t regret it.)

10 Things I wish I knew . . .


One of the questions I hear the most from new homeschoolers is “what do you wish you knew when you started homeschooling?”

Well here it is, the good, bad, and the ugly.

1. I wish I knew that my children were not gifted.

Everyone wants to think their kids are gifted. We started homeschooling (in part) because my kids were just SOOO amazing! The truth was they weren’t. I mean, yes, they ARE amazing in their own ways but not in the sense that I thought they were. They aren’t ahead of their peers, they aren’t math geniuses, they aren’t even reading “above grade level”. My kids are totally and completely average as far as their IQ and other academics are concerned… and that’s ok.

The truth is that your child does NOT need to be the next Einstein in order to deserve the fabulous education only YOU can help them get. Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old, was severely dyslexic and his teachers told his mother he was a simpleton and needed to learn a trade… thank goodness she didn’t listen! The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of world changing ideas are brought to pass by children whom society deemed as “lesser”.

Your child’s genius might not show at five years old, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have genius in them! They may be “behind grade level” or not progressing as fast as their public school peers… that’s OK!

We all want to believe our children are extraordinary, and they ARE, but they don’t need to be running circles around their peers academically in order for them to have amazing potential and a hidden passion that will change the world.  Gifted, average or special needs our children will thrive when WE (their mothers) take an active role in their education and make it our business to find out their passions and individual needs.

As long as they know who they are, are happy, loved, and progressing AT ALL, you are doing your job right. Don’t worry about the Joneses. Their kids have problems you will never have to deal with.

2. I wish I knew how hard it would be.

On second thought, no I don’t. If I knew how often I would longingly look at the yellow bus as it drove by my house, or how often I would want to lock myself in my room with a carton of ice cream, or how often I would have grown-up tantrums I might not have signed on for the deal.

Homeschooling is HARD, but it’s not hard in the way that so many newbies think it will be. Homeschooling is hard because motherhood is hard. It’s HARD being around your kids. All. Day. Long. It’s HARD being the only homeschooler in the area. It’s HARD being snubbed because you are Mormon. It’s HARD having to field the questions when you are out as a family in the middle of the day. It’s HARD when the noise takes me to my breaking point.

But you know what isn't hard? Knowing exactly what every day will look and feel like regardless of whether or “school is in session” or not. It’s not hard to get to set our own schedule or not have to “catch the bus” or set an alarm in the morning, or worry that my kids are learning bad behavior from spending so much time with their friends. It’s not hard not having to deal with peer pressure, bullying, moody teachers (we’ve all had at least one) and the PTA, or the ever changing curriculum and “standards”. And it’s not at all hard being able to gather your children into a hug the minute you hear of yet another school shooting, knowing that your arms are the safest place they can be.

3. I wish I knew I was smart enough.

You ARE smart enough to teach your kids. Every subject. You ARE smart enough because you are still capable of learning. And as an added bonus, as an adult it takes you FAR less time to learn something new than it would take your children.

Did you struggle with math in high school? Pick up your kid’s math text or log onto Kahn Acadamy and brush up on your skills. Was history never your subject? Given what history texts are made of I don’t blame you. Check a biography or some historical fiction out of the library and give it go. Did you hate science? So did I… it’s fascinating now! What eluded you when you were younger will be a breeze as an adult. I know this from experience. The only dogs who can’t learn new tricks are prideful ones, and if you have a love of learning it will be impossible for your children to not love learning as well.

4. I wish I knew I was patient enough.

Look, we are ALL going to have days when we are sick of being touched, when we want to have a grown-up conversation, when we just want ten minutes where we don’t hear a little voice calling our name.

That comes with motherhood, not homeschooling. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the kids that drive you crazy are the kids that are too young for school. The hardest time of my life was when I was the mother of children ages 5 and younger. It was constant noise, mess, and crying. Then that blissful day came when I sent my oldest off to kindergarten… and it didn’t get any better. In fact, it got worse. Not only did I still have to deal with constant noise, mess, and crying, but I also had to deal with busses, packing lunches, permission forms, and my daughter’s newly discovered bad attitude.

I have since added two more children (and a third on the way) to my repertoire and homeschooling. Instead of adding to my workload and making my life harder, homeschooling allows me to ENJOY my children. Why? Because half of them are no longer in that stage of everlasting neediness. They are now independent(ish), helpful, and FUN to be around.

If I were to send my school-age kids to public school I would be in a perpetual state of “young motherhood” and that is EXHAUSTING!

5. I wish I knew they wouldn’t be lonely.

I was SO scared of this at first. The first several weeks of summer vacation after her kindergarten year my oldest pined away for her friends. That was also about the time we started “testing the waters” as far as homeschooling was concerned.

After she got used to the “new normal” she no longer asked to see her friends every day.

Here is the dirty little secret. Little kids don’t need friends. WHAT? That’s CRAZY talk! Preposterous!!

True story.

Up until the age of eight children are naturally drawn to their families. If kids get used to hanging out with other people all the time they will become acclimated to it and begin to crave it… kind of like TV or candy… but that doesn’t mean they NEED it for healthy development.  Out of my five children the only one that has ever craved peer interaction before about eight years old has been the only child who has gone to public school.

The age of eight is important for more than just being old enough for baptism. It’s called “the age of accountability” for a reason. It is around that age that they start to make sense of the world, start to be a little more conscious of how they fit into it, and they start to look outside their families for social interaction. In public school (pre-common core) it is the grade where all of a sudden things get HARD.

It’s not just a church thing, it’s a cognitive and developmental thing.

Coincidentally (or not) the age of eight is also when our primary age children start attending mid-week activities. The moment our children start to crave extra-familial interaction Activity Days and Cub Scouts swoop in to save the day!

Around age 12-14 the need starts to increase, as does the church activity level. Seminary, youth dances, firesides, and other youth activities are perfect to fill our growing children’s social needs.  There is absolutely no evidence that suggests that daily peer interaction even at these older ages is helpful or even desirable (as a grown up do YOU get upset if you can't spend several hours a day with your friends?).

The Church has done an amazing job in the organization of these developmentally appropriate activities and I am so grateful for them.

It’s almost as if they were divinely inspired ;)

6. I wish I knew I didn’t need to change who I am to be a good homeschooling mother. 

Now this one is a tough one, because in reality I (personally) DID have to change who I was in order to be a good homeschooling mother, but that is not what I mean...

What I mean is that it's ok that I'm not super organized.  It's ok that I'm not an early bird.  It's ok that I love history more than math and that I need to have a a good supply of chocolate on hand for emergencies.

Heavenly Father gave me these children because they need ME, not Suzy Homemaker, Molly Mormon, or Hannah Homeschooler.  I may struggle with certain things but I also have some amazing strengths that are JUST what my kids need in order to fulfill their mission on earth.  I don't need to feel bad that I don't wake up at 5 am, that I can't stick to a meal plan for more than a few days, or that all the pretty planners in the world will never make me start science at exactly 11:35 am (after we have breakfast promptly at 8:30, scriptures at 9 and math at 10).

Never going to happen.  And my children will NOT suffer from it.  I may need to abandon my weekly manicures in order to be able to afford their new math book and I might not be able to go to the gym as often as I would like (and my fitness level will inevitably suffer for it).  Sacrifices will inevitably need to be made but I don't need to pretend that I am someone I'm not.  That is the wonderful thing about our Heavenly Father's plan: They need what I can give them.

7. I wish I knew there was no "perfect" curriculum.

There are hundreds... nay... THOUSANDS of options out there for homeschoolers!  It's an AWESOME blessing!  But it can also be a terrible curse if we let it.  The truth is that while we may have a child whose needs make us need to try something new (I had a dyslexic daughter and the reading curriculum we had been using was a disaster for her), MOST of the time we can make do with what we have available to us... even if that is nothing more than a library card.

For those of you who are blessed to have the financial resources to keep your options open... don't over think it.  There are a few things that you are going to have to keep in mind (your worldview, your chosen educational method, the knowledge that there will likely be some anti-mormon stuff in certain things published by mainstream Christian homeschoolers, how scripted you want your curriculum, whether or not you want something independent of Common Core State Standards), but what was a life-saver for one person's family might be a disaster for yours.

Feel free to ask questions, do your research, read reviews, and look at all you possibly can... but when push comes to shove pray about it and follow your gut.

8. I wish I knew my house would never be perfect.

If you know that you are supposed to homeschool but are a neat freak... you need to get over it... and fast.  I'm a big fan of a tidy home and I am blessed to have the space that keeps my growing family comfortable, but we still have to clean several times a day to keep it the way I like... and it's just not worth it.  There are a few things that you can do to keep mess down to a minimum and you should never allow your house to become dangerous or filthy, but it's not necessary to have it picture perfect all the time.

Beyond the "mess" side of things, most of us have more books than bookshelves to put them on, more toys than toy boxes, art supplies everywhere, loose papers with drawings and writings scattered... not to mention the mess and dishes that three meals and snacks for a large family every day makes...

Those of us who choose the alternative homeschooling lifestyle means that we have stuff that other people don't have and need to make allowances for having our children home all day every day.  We have to shoehorn more bookcases, cabinets, and tables in our house than the average person and it's not always pretty.  We do what works because it's what Heavenly Father wants us to do for our families.

Sometimes it can make us a little self conscious and we invariably compare ourselves to other people (other people who have very large blocks of time without children in their faces and still can't manage to keep on top of their housework) but the truth is no one cares what your house looks like.  If you are anything like me, no one but your kids and spouse will see it anyway.  Stop worrying about the hypothetical visitor... they aren't coming and chances are your visiting teachers have messy houses too.  Don't let the state of your house become a source of contention between you and your children.  You are around each other all day long and if you get upset at every loose crayon or cheerio you will all be miserable.

If you homeschool, chances are your hopes and dreams of a house worthy of Better Homes and Gardens will be dashed forever.  That's ok, no one wants to live in a model home anyway.

9.  I wish I knew the worrying would never end.

I think it must be part of our feminine nature.  I can tell you until I'm blue in the face not to worry about certain things but the truth is I still worry about those things, too.  After five years I still I worry about my kids not being "up to snuff".  I worry about them not having enough friends.  I worry about curriculum.  I worry about my clutter.  I worry about being fat.  I worry about not eating healthy enough.  I worry about illness.  I worry about gaining too much weight when I'm pregnant or not getting enough sleep when I have a newborn.  I worry about the month of TV my kids watched when I was bedridden with morning sickness.  I worry about about everything you worry about and just because I "know better" doesn't mean I'm going to stop.

I just don't let it take over or make it question what I know is right for our family... mostly.

10. I wish I knew how awesome it would be.

Homeschooling isn't just an educational choice, it's a lifestyle.  Choosing to homeschool will change your family in ways that you can never imagine.  When I started I had no idea how much I would come to enjoy my children's company.  I had no idea that they would become best friends with each other.  I had no idea how much I would come to love learning.  When we started homeschooling I had no idea how much my relationship with my husband would grow.  I had no idea just how much money we would spend on books and how little desire I have to watch television these days.  I had no idea that I would weep when my younger daughter finally started to read on her own.  I had no idea how different my priorities would be.  I had no idea how much I would love being a teacher (to MY children... I don't think I could teach other people's kids).  I had no idea how many wonderful family traditions it would allow us to have.

There are thousands of reasons why homeschooling has been the best thing my family could have done.  Maybe one day in ten is perfect and there are a few things along the way I would have done differently, but I would choose homeschooling over and over again if I had it to do again.

Bonus.  I wish I knew the woman I would become... if I had known, I wouldn't have waited so long to start.


Pour it Out

By: Tammy Ward


     Having a hard time as a homeschool mama?  You've already received revelation on the matter.  You know it is what you are supposed to do.  Yet, you are still having a tough go of it.  I get it.  Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months or seasons when you felt like you could not possibly continue on?  If not, let me tell ya, it's not a lot of fun.  I have had some doozies, believe me.  Here are some "go to's" that have helped me for all you mamas who are seeking to be Christ centered and to find relief in the midst of homeschooling trials.  

Pour it out.

That's right.

Pour it out.

     Go somewhere semi-quiet and private.  Fall down on your knees and give it all to Him.  I am not going to pretend that I understand all the workings of the Atonement. But, I DO know it covers so much more than sin.  It is incomprehensible to me that Jesus Christ, who lived so long ago could understand what me, a mother living in the last days could possibly be going through.  Yet, I testify to you that He does understand.  It goes far deeper than that, my friends.  He doesn't just understand; he has already taken those burdens upon Him and paid the price for them.  ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GIVE THEM TO HIM.  He is just waiting for you to ask.

     Remember the picture with Christ standing at the door with no door knob?  That is such a powerful visual for me.  It is TRUTH.  Ask Him for help and He will help you.  He will and I know He will because He has done that for me time and time again.  

     Take about an hour once a month and make a list of the continued and/or additional reasons why you are homeschooling.  As your list lengthens, your resolve strengthens. The basics will come to you in the first 30 minutes but the real heart tugs will appear after that.  Include everything!  You will be surprised at how much this list, reflected upon during trying times, can help you.  

Powerful Truths That Have Helped Me Along My Path:

      I am a cherished, beloved daughter of the Most High God.  He knows who I am and He loves me, regardless of what I have done or what has been done to me.  He has a very important work for me to do.  He trusts me, ME!  I am worthy of God's love and I'm able to receive God's love.  I know without a shadow of doubt that my ancestors are watching over me, waiting for the opportunity to help.  God hears every prayer, knows every thought and understands the deepest desires of my heart.  The following quote is taken from lds.org, I feel prompted to share it here with you.

"Revelation is communication from God to His children.  This guidance comes through various channels according to the needs and circumstances of individuals, families, and the Church as a whole .... According to our faithfulness, we can receive revelation to help us with our specific personal needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help us strengthen our testimony. The scriptures tell of different types of revelation, such as visions, dreams, and visitations by angels. Through such channels, the Lord has restored His gospel in the latter days and revealed many truths. However, most revelations to leaders and members of the Church come through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Quiet spiritual promptings may not seem as spectacular as visions or angelic visitations, but they are just as powerful and lasting and life changing. The witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on the soul that is more significant than anything we can see or hear. Through such revelations, we will receive lasting strength to stay true to the gospel and help others do the same.

     The following counsel will help us prepare to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost: Pray for guidance. The Lord said, 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened' (Matthew 7:7-8).  In order to find and receive, we must seek and ask." 

     One of the best tips I've ever been given is when you are waking up in the morning to begin with a prayer and ask specifically for:

  • a)  Protection from the adversary.  We are in a literal spiritual war.  Why not ask for protection, EVERY DAY?  
  • b)  Revelation for each child that day. Take a notebook and a pencil and as you go through each child's name, write down promptings as they come to you.  It could be something as simple as an extra hug, a note, that they need more physical exercise, a friend, etc.

      I am feeling so blessed for Heavenly Father's blessings of trials.  There is opposition in all things.  My faith is strengthened, my bond with Him even closer, my desire to serve Him magnified.  It is amazing to me that He loves me, even me.  I testify He loves you, even you.  His extraordinary love for us does not change because of what we have done or what has been done to us.  He loves us all, every one.


     Tammy Ward is the organizer for the Winter Homeschool Conference in Ogden, UT in January.  She also hosts the Future Mother's Camp, a camp for homeschooling girls each June.  Some of her other favorite events are the MDR, Mother Daughter Retreat as well as many other events.  Check out her most recent event, Energy Healing Conference

     She enjoys staying home with her (almost 8) children that range from 15 on down.  She loves helping support all homeschooling parents everywhere.  Feel free to "friend" her on FB at 'TammynCasey Ward' where she frequently offers tips and support for homeschooling.

Slowing Down


                 As we became a homeschooling family we dove headfirst and completely submerged ourselves in our new lifestyle.  We joined all kinds of groups and signed up for extracurricular activities.  I didn’t want my children to miss the social aspects of public school or be left out of opportunities to develop their talents.  We soon found ourselves involved in dance lessons, play groups, book club, science classes, art classes, sports teams, guitar lessons, and the like.  Just typing this list makes my head spin.  Somehow we managed to keep our heads just above water.

                 One night my husband made a startling comment as we sat down to family dinner, “This is a novelty,” he remarked.  I quickly realized that he was right.  Family dinners had become few and far between, family home evening was even going by the wayside as I made justifications that we were getting plenty of family time, after all, we homeschool!  Our weekends were filled with all kinds of activities and I was really starting to wear out. 

                My littlest kids were spending hours in the car each week as we sat in traffic to drop kids of at their “enriching” activities.  After the third or fourth week in a row of relentless activity I had finally had enough.  I now longer cared about looking like a flake or a quitter.  I started weeding things out left and right to clear some space into our schedule.  One by one I cancelled activities and I began to feel lighter.  That next week, I had carved four free days into our schedule. 

              Suddenly, we had the gift of time!  I made a point to have family dinner.  I read an article posted recently on The Sentinel about making family home evening a priority.  We held family home evening that week.  Guess what?  I was starting to find my center.  I was amazed at how many enriching activities we could actually do at home when we were not sitting in traffic trying to get from one activity to another.  I can’t believe I was almost robbed of one of the most precious gifts of homeschooling, simplicity. 

                The adversary wants us to be completely distracted.  He wants us to be rushing from one activity to another so that we cannot hear the one resounding truth that we are enough.   Our young children especially need their Mothers and they need family time at home to learn and to play and explore.  Our children need us to really SEE and HEAR them.  While I believe that it is important for kids to be involved in extracurricular activities so that they can socialize and develop their talents, these activities cannot replace that crucial time spent in the home.  As homeschoolers, we are blessed to create our own schedules and choose our priorities for the most part.  I am grateful for the wise counsel of former General Relief Society President, Julie B. Beck in the following quote:

Mothers Who Know Do Less

                "Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power."

                  I hope to be able to guard and protect our most precious commodity – time.  I hope to have the discipline to choose only the best things and the confidence that I am making the right decision not to choose it all.   

The Parable of the Empty Harvest

Editors Note:  We are so excited to have Donna Goff join our writers!  She is a wealth of knowledge and experience.  You can find her at Moor House Academy and Royal Academy.  


There once was a farmer that lived on the outer edge of a small city. Each summer, he would plant his fields in corn. The people in the city loved his corn. His acreage was quite large. It was too difficult to grow many different types of crops. So, he chose to specialize in growing corn. He had to use large farm machinery and a commercial irrigation system to get all of the work done. He built a large barn to store his machinery in. His farm was efficient. He always had a good crop for the summer farmer's market in the city.

To the west of this farm was a small neighborhood. A certain man from that neighborhood was out for a walk one day. He viewed the beautiful corn plants, in nicely spaced rows. This man decided right then and there, that he would start a garden. Inspired by the lovely corn fields, this man went off to the city to purchase all of the needed supplies and equipment. He went to a hardware store and purchased small scale farm equipment to set up a small corn farm in his back yard. Then he went to a plant nursery and bought a bag of the same kind of corn seed and chemicals that the farmer used. The man went home and got to work. First, he tore out the velvety green lawn in his back yard and tilled the earth. He installed an automatic water irrigation system, and set it on a timer. He planted his corn and felt very happy. He could almost taste the corn! He was now a "new gardener."

This "new gardener" took another walk on one of those fine sunny days, which so often graced his community.

He walked pass his neighbor to the south. The neighbor's gate was open and his neighbor waved to him, and bid him to come. When he got to his neighbor's back yard, he saw the most colorful and bountiful garden he had ever seen. It was not planted in rows. Instead, it was planted in neat little square-foot garden of grow boxes. The neighbor had 64 corn plants growing in a 4 x 4 foot square. They were a short season corn that produced two ears of corn per stalk. The neighbor had a salad garden, lined and intermingled with flowers and herbs. The neighbor had a canning garden, with trellised tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and colorful peppers. This neighbor's bountiful garden was beginning to come into harvest. This was the garden that fed his neighbor's small family, quite well. They had no expensive equipment. They hand watered from five gallon buckets that they had let sit out all day, so they would not shock the plants with either chlorine or cold water. There were not that many weeds, because the square foot gardener had made his own soil. The few weeds that did grow were almost effortlessly snipped of with scissors. They composted and rebuilt the soil. Now this made our "new gardener" excited. The "new gardener" went home and yanked up his all of his corn plants, then put his tools and sprinkler system in the shed. He then went out to purchase all he needed to set up a square foot system in his back yard. The "new gardener" came home, built the grow boxes, and then planted his seeds. The "new gardener" was proud of all the pretty boxes.

In July, the "new gardener" took another walk. He saw that the farmer had lovely knee high corn. The "new gardener" went walking through his neighborhood. The "new gardener" was weary. When he had looked at his neighbor's square foot garden; it looked so beautiful and easy. His plants did not look as good as his neighbor to the south. His neighbor and his wife to the south had two children and managed their garden without much effort. The "new gardener" and his wife had seven children. He had planted more grow boxes than his neighbor to the south to provide for his larger family. The hand watering was hard to keep up on, and the clipping of weeds from stray weeds, had fallen behind. 

Then the "new gardener" walked by his neighbor to the north. The neighbor to the north had a medium size family. So, the "new gardener" peeked over the fence.

There was a greenhouse in his back yard! This neighbor to the north used a hydroponics system. No weeds! Food year around! The "new gardener" knew that this was the answer. He ran home full of hope. Yes, you guessed it! He pulled out his entire square foot system; plants and all! He put all of the parts in the shed. He went into town and purchased a large green house. He went to the hardware store and bought more tools. He went to the garden shop and bought liquid plant food and seeds. He went home and set the whole operation into action. Boy, was it impressive! He was joyful and full of hopeful anticipation.

In August the "new gardener" took another walk. Oh my! The farmer to the east had harvested his corn and took it to market. The square foot gardener was getting his third crop in. His greenhouse neighbor had a lush garden. The "new gardener" was tired.

The greenhouse had proven to be too much work, as well; measuring nutrients, watching the temperature, opening and closing vents. What was our "new gardener" to do? He then noticed his neighbor to the west. That neighbor had a huge family and a wonderful garden. 

The neighbor to the west had long raised beds, covered with fabric mulch to keep the weeds away, and a drip irrigation system. He fed his plants colloidal minerals in a water solution. These in deed were healthy plants. The "new gardener" thought," no weeds, large plants, no watering hassles (it is on a timer), almost no work!" "This has got to be the best system ever devised!" he thought. So, home he went. Down came the greenhouse. The shed was full, so he stacked everything outside. Out came all of the plants too. Back into town he went. Home he came with everything he needed. He worked long and hard. Finally, everything was planted. He could rest now. The plants would practically grow themselves.

Harvest time came, but not for our "new gardener." While his neighbors all picked a method and worked it with consistency, our "new gardener" had been unwise. Ever looking for something better, he was always changing to a better method. The winter came and he had nothing to harvest. His shed was full of partially used equipment. His plants were too young to harvest. He had spent all his time, money and energy trying to have the best garden. To make matters worse, he was impatient and had tried to rush things. He poured a whole season's worth of fertilizer on the garden one day. He did not have time to get the water going. So, he decided he would work out that automatic system on Saturday. He could flood it then, to make up with the lack of watering. After all, it worked in the orient for their rice paddies. Well, he burned the crop and then drowned it. He was left with an empty harvest; and he was sad.

Are we like this unwise gardener?


Everyone can see how foolish the "new gardener" was. Each system he tried would have worked had he stayed with it. All would have yielded a harvest. Perhaps some harvests would have been better than others; but they all would have had a harvest. 

The farmer represents mass schooling systems. To teach enormous groups of children they use a one size fits all education. Many home school families following this model have actually had better success then the schools themselves do.

The square foot gardener represents the Classics Mentorial Approach or Leadership Education. The harvest from this method is very fine. This approach can be used even with larger families. It takes time and dedication to implement.

The greenhouse was the private schools.  This also yields a fine harvest.

The raised bed gardener represented a living education like Charlotte Mason. Again, like the other methods it too yields a harvest.

Many of us jump from method to method. We have accumulated rooms of "buyer’s remorse." We could free ourselves from guilt and sell it all on the internet :) 'Big doors swing on small hinges.'Consistently applied effort in any of these methods will bring a glad harvest. We need to take stock. We need to weigh out the options; then choose wisely the materials and methods to use. The Charlotte Mason method helps you eat the elephant on bite at a time, as I also feel Leadership Education does. They both can cover the typical school subjects and more, and in the way children naturally learn. Both can be taught one-on-one, or in a group.  I find that they can both be used together, or rather that Charlotte Mason ideas can be used in a Leadership Education context. I find this very freeing. 

You need to choose what system works best with you and your family, and then consistently do it. There is a tendency for some people to not stay long enough with the model they have chosen and may not do the needed study to fully implement the model. This may be because the model requires more effort to fully understand, and that one may have unrealistic expectations. We also have got to stop this perfectionistic craziness of always looking for the best curriculum. I understand we want the best we can provide for our children. Perfect curriculum does not exist. Educational theories are in constant change. We need to see that we will never harvest, if we cannot consistently apply anything. We need the discipline of habit and patience or the ability to delay gratification.

Nature walk and Wild Day Time (science)! Story Time (literature and character development)! Crazy Day Time (Field trips and inspiration)! Do school each day. The sanity you save may be your own. Do not try to catch up. Catch up to what? Learning is a continuum. Trying to cram learning will only drown and burnout your tender children. Just place one foot in front of the other and keep, consistently moving forward.

Remember that the tortoise learned that slow and steady wins the race. If you keep moving in the right direction it is amazing what little bites here and little bites there will accomplish. Those little bites add up and the sum total can be more than you can imagine.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


This is the first book we have read where I actually had the blog in mind as I read it. If you have not read Willy Wonka in class you are in luck. If you have, you may just want to read it again after this post. Yes, it's just that good. 

     Let me start by saying that I did not do every single thing on this list and I don't expect you to do so either. We all come with different talents and different interest so with that in mind, choose what would suite your family the best.  

    While reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I thought of activities for several of the chapters that you can choose from. As you read the book, you will see how they fit with the story. I'm telling you this list is amazing! No modesty here ;-). I wish there were a website made of just these lists. Here is the incredible list so that you can also dream of such a website:

Ch. 1: Volunteer at a food bank or shelter, donate food (sometimes they have collection boxes at the doors of grocery stores), make up food bags for the less fortunate and (with parents permission) give them out to homeless on the corners or buy a few $5 gift cards for fast food to keep in the car to hand out. This is a great opportunity to give a pass along card, by the way. Or, Option B: really sacrifice and make/eat cabbage soup for lunch! ;-)

Ch. 2 & 3: Design your own Chocolate Factory! Use food, play dough, legos---get creative! Make it 3D!

Ch. 4: I looked in 3 stores to try to find a chocolate bar that you actually unwrap with paper but couldn't find one. I wanted J to open a golden ticket but that just didn't happen. So instead....Option B: design and make your own chocolate bar yourself! What would you put in it? My mouth waters just thinking of it!

Ch. 6 & 8: Act out the kids as the tickets are discovered. I loved acting like Veruca---I mean J loved acting like Veruca. I'm a respectable... ok, ok, it was me. I pretended to be Veruca- happy now? And it was fun, too!

Ch. 10: Go for a walk and look for money on the ground. It's a long shot but you never know. Plus, exercise is good for the soul. 

Ch. 11: Make your own golden ticket. There may even be a template already out there. Use a JoAnns or Hobby Lobby coupon and buy gold scrapbook paper. I would think 1 sheet could make 6 tickets and each sheet is about $.60 regularly. Print off the tickets your kids design. If they are too young to use a computer, use a Sharpie and watch them closely. 

Ch. 14: Have kids practice their 'mental imaging' by first picturing then drawing Willy Wonka based on the description in the book. Hint: He doesn't look exactly the same as he does in the movie so the kids need to pay close attention. Side note: The Oompas look VERY different in the book than in the movie. It might be fun to look up images of the movie to compare. 

Ch. 15: Drink some chocolate milk or hot cocoa together while reading this chapter. This sounds like a journal prompt to me: What would you do if you had a chocolate waterfall in your home?

Ch. 16: Dress up like the Oompa Loompas. The one in the movie would be more fun in my opinion. 

Ch. 17: Make some fudge. Option B: Make up a song or two- like the Oompas do! This would be a great keepsake if written down.

Ch. 18: Design your own boat. Make it out of anything. For some reason a bar of soap comes to my mind. How about butter or mashed potatoes? Think about it, "What did you do in school today?" "I made a boat out of mash potatoes." COOLEST. TEACHER. EVER.

Ch. 19: DIY Gobstoppers. In the book they are described as green marbles- more like the ones sold in stores now. The ones in the movie were way cooler to make (that's my library # taped to the top of my computer): 


This might be a fun time to explore the candy isle {only} searching for Willy Wonka Candy. There isn't much in comparison. 

Ch. 20: We made pretend flavors of gum with playdough such as yellow with blue stripes or pink with red dots. Have you ever made snozzberry flavored gum? By the way, I bought a pack of 6 or 8 colors of playdough at the Dollar Tree. It was much cheaper then trying real flavors (and our teeth thanked us).

Ch. 21: Eat some blueberries while reading.

Ch. 22: DIY lick-able wallpaper, fuzzy juice (Aka rootbeer floats), or marshmallow pillows. Here is a recipe link.

hand on reading 12.jpg

Ch. 24: Eat some nuts while reading. Confused? In the book Veruca is a bad nut- not a bad egg. Personally, I think she was the worst kid and she got off the easiest. 

Ch. 25: Design a glass elevator. I'll admit, I don't know how I would do this so please if you do send me pictures! Go ride in a glass elevator if you know where one is located. Look up google or pinterest images of glass elevators. They are beautiful! 

Ch. 26: Make dark glasses. Let's cheat with this one and use the same idea from the Wizard of Oz. 

Ch. 29: Draw before and after pictures of the kids who visited the factory and compare. In the book you get to see them come out of the factory.

     I truly hope that this post (and perhaps my past post) have opened your eyes to how simple and fun hands on learning can be. If you try these things at home while reading Willy Wonka I really would love to hear from you in the comments below. If you have more ideas to add to this list- I'd love to hear them, too. Remember that you can look up images of the movie or watch clips on youtube throughout. There are also some great quotes and useless facts about the movie you can find. We watched the movie first and I often spotted exact lines from the book used in the movie.   Have fun!