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Back to School Homeschool Motherhood

Why We Start School BEFORE the First Day of School

August 11, 2017

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the flexibility of the schedule. Now I’m not just talking about the day today schedule  – I’m also talking about the yearly schedule. If you look into the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state, you’ll find that most states require a certain number of days or hours, but it doesn’t dictate when those days or hours have to be. So, for our family, we start “school” before the formal first day of school to get some of those hours in ahead of time.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for summer break. Believe me. I was an elementary school teacher for 8 years, and my husband is currently a teacher……so we LOVE our summers. We also know that the kids need that break too. So we always take a few weeks completely off, and we definitely don’t do school when we are traveling, visiting family, or on vacation. But for those weeks in the middle and end of summer when we’re home, we definitely try to put a few hours of school into our week.

Our “summer school” days are not our typical days. We only put a hour or two in, as opposed to a full day, but you’d be amazed at how much you’re able to cover in that seemingly short amount of time. We also don’t try to cover all of the subjects. One day we might focus primarily on language arts and art project. The next day we may dig into a fun science activity and review some math. And although I don’t count these days as full days in our calendar, it really gives us a jump start in to the year.

There are few reasons we really love this approach.

Number one. Starting school in the summer gives me some time to figure out what using my curriculum really looks like. The teaching guides and what I think should happen is one thing, but when I actually put the material in front of my kids, it could be something totally different. So spending some time before we’re in our formal school year figuring out just how long that reading lesson will take or just how much prep time I need for science is super helpful. Though the time each day is limited, it gives me a chance to kind of experiment with the curriculum so that I can better prepare and plan when the formal school year starts.

Number two. If you’ve been anywhere around the teaching world, I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “summer slide.” Basically, it means that during the summer a lot of kids lose some of what they’ve learned in the previous school year and they’ve “slid” a little bit backwards in their learning progress. It’s totally normal, but by keeping my kids involved in activities that review what we’ve done the previous year it helps prevent them from falling into the summer slide trap.

Additionally a lot of the material we cover at the beginning of the year is review of the prior year. For instance, this year my son is starting first grade. Having looked at and planned some of the curriculum, it’s clear that a lot of the material in the first few weeks even the first couple of months reviews what he learned in kindergarten. So, by tapping into some of that material over this summer, we’re not only engaging in our new curriculum, but we’re also continuing to review concepts and material that he learned or was introduced to last year.

And number three – (and perhaps my favorite) – by putting some hours and days in during the summer, it gives me a little bit more flexibility during the actual school year. If we have to take a few days off for travel, sickness, or if we just simply need a break, we’re able to do that (and still meet or exceed our requirements) because we’ve built a little cushion during the summer. And we all know that sometimes we just need those random breaks.

So, if you’re planning on homeschooling this year, and just can’t wait to dive in, go for it! Take it a couple of hours at a time, and you’ll learn so much – even before the school year starts!

Back to School Homeschool Motherhood

Mapping Out Your Homeschool Year

August 3, 2017

Planning Your Year

Planning an entire year might seem completely overwhelming, especially if this is your first time. But let me tell you, the time you take to map out your school year is well worth the investment! Without a doubt, plans will change, things will take much longer (or shorter) than expected, but if you have this general curriculum map in place, you’ll have an idea of where you’re going and about the pace you need to go to get there.


When I taught in the classroom, we often referred to this as our pacing guide. Being a runner, this resonated with me. For example, if I’m running a half marathon (13.1 miles) and I want to get in under the 2-hour mark I know I have to keep a pace of about a 9-minute mile with a little wiggle room. Some miles might be faster, others will be slower, but I know about the pace I need to go to meet my goal. The same is true for your curriculum mapping. If you know you have X amount of lessons to cover and 180 or so days in which to do it, you’ll want to know about the pace you need to go.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT about “just getting through the curriculum.” Part of the beauty of homeschooling is being able to adjust to your student’s needs, interests, and learning style. However, I also know I’m responsible for equipping my kiddos (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and academically) for when they transition to public school. And so part of that requires I move at a pace that does prepare them academically.

Okay, let’s dig in! If you don’t have one yet, grab a planner to jot all this information down (I suggest in pencil)!

So, let’s start with the simplest part. Begin by establishing your starting and ending dates. Now as I shared in a previous post, we always “start” our school year a little early – getting our feet wet with some of the curriculum in the summer. But we still establish a date when we’re going to start that full day schedule. Once you have those, block off holidays and any other days that you know you will not be conducting school. At this point, make sure that you have – at a minimum – the number of days required by your state.

Now, you’ve got your big picture outline, and it’s time to start actually adding the meat of your planning.

I suggest starting with your mathematics curriculum. I suggest starting with math because it tends to be laid out in lessons that will consecutively build on each other and it’s a subject you’ll likely be doing every day. Start by evaluating how many lessons are in your curriculum – be sure to count any review and testing days as lessons as well. Then, divide the number of lessons by the number of weeks in your calendar, and you’ll have a general idea of the number of lessons you want to cover each week. Using the planner, pencil in when you’re going to do each lesson. This is where you want to start paying attention to dates and day. If you know you’re heading into a break, you aren’t going to want to start a brand new unit right before. Also be sure to plan review days. Not only is it important for kids to review the material they are learning, but it gives you the freedom to spend two days on a lesson that your students find more challenging.

I suggest moving on to language arts next. I advise you to do these two subjects first – simply because they are two of your core subjects that you’ll be doing every day, and if you can get these two subjects planned, the rest will be a piece of cake.

You’ll take a similar approach in planning your language arts curriculum as you did with the math. However, many language arts curriculum are planned out in weeks or units as opposed to numbered lessons that you often find in math. But you’ll basically start the same way. Evaluate the number of weeks or units that are in your curriculum. Look at the number of days you have in your calendar and divide to see approximately how much you need to cover each week.

Remember, you’re getting a big picture idea with this planning. You don’t need to go into great detail with every single component of the curriculum. So don’t stress about that! You’re just trying to get an idea of the pace, and when you get closer to the actual teaching, you’ll be able to spend more time preparing for all of the components of the lessons.

Once you have your language arts and math planned out, it will be time to tackle the other subjects. What else do you want to include in your teaching? How often do you plan to teach those subjects? You’ll likely include history and science. But do you want to include art? Bible? Music? Foreign language? This will depend partly on the age of your student, as much more is required for older students.  

One thing I DO NOT recommend is trying to hit every subject every day – especially if you have young ones. Not only will your kids burn out – but you will too!

So, maybe you plan to do history on Monday and Wednesday and focus on science Tuesday and Thursday. You can leave Friday open for other specialized activities or just for review. Or may you choose to really focus on a history unit for a couple of weeks and then dig into a science unit for a few. The choice is really up to you.

The big idea with this planning is to assess where you want to be at the end of the year and then to map out a general plan and pace. This has made such a difference in my planning – and I sincerely hope it helps you as well!

Do you have other tips? How is your planning going? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a note in the comments below!

Homeschool Motherhood

Renfros on the Road

July 25, 2017

If you’ve followed along with my posts on Tenspire since the beginning, you’ve read a bit about how our family came to the decision for me to leave the classroom and stay home with our daughter. It was a scary financial situation since my husband was a teacher at the time as well, but we felt convicted that it was the right thing to do and that God would provide for our family. We took a major leap of faith and just as I’ve seen with so many other situations in my life, God had a bigger plan laid out for us that we could have never imagined. By leaving the career I loved to become a SAHM, we have been set up for our family’s biggest adventure yet.

On the Road

For years, my husband talked about following in his dad’s footsteps and becoming an independent insurance adjuster. While he loved his students, working in a field that require more hands-on work was exactly what he wanted. However, I loved my students as well and was not ready to give up the classroom. This job requires lots of travel. When a storm hits, you go work the claims that come in from the damage. That could be anywhere in the U.S. and you could be gone for months at a time. Either we would spend months apart or I would travel with him. Neither were an option at the time.

Things have changed quite a bit since then, and I bet you’re starting to see what God was up to… Leaving the classroom for a traveling job was not exactly on my radar, but leaving the classroom to spend all day every day with my baby girl was an absolute no brainer! After about a year of me staying home it occurred to us – what was keeping us from trying the job then???

Making it Work

So here we are now in quite an interesting situation. We sold our house and moved in with my grandparents at the beginning of June so we can look for our new home. My husband has completed his training and is waiting for his first call! How is this “stay-at-home-teacher” going to make this all work, especially with an 18 month old? I hope you’ll follow along to find out! I can’t wait to share with you all how we organize our learning activities, time, and make life comfy while we travel! After all, isn’t that what all teachers do? We take the cards we’re dealt and see how we can make the best of them to give our kiddos the best experience possible. I hope to share tips and tricks that make life in the classroom easier and more simple!

Featured Motherhood

Mornings Matter

June 27, 2017

When I was in the classroom, I was that teacher who didn’t leave until everything was ready for the next day. All copies were made and placed in their appropriate drawer, the classroom was tidy, and morning work was written on the board or laid out on students’ desks. I knew the value of an organized morning, so you would assume that I’m the kind of mom that wakes up well before the baby to have a head start. Right?


I love productivity as much as the next Type A “teacher/mom”. But the truth is, I love sleep a whole lot more. (Can I get an “AMEN”?!) Most mornings I sleep until Baby Girl wakes up. This comes with several good and bad consequences.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good thing about sleeping in with the baby means I’m not missing out on much-needed sleep. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a much nicer person if I’m not sleep deprived. After exclusively pumping around the clock for 10+months, I cherish the nights that my daughter sleeps straight through. This still doesn’t happen every night, though, so sleeping until she wakes up allows me to catch up when we have rough nights.

The bad thing about sleeping in is that I’m hitting the ground running as soon as she wakes up. I’m rushing to get her a bottle and breakfast while trying to make coffee and handle the dogs’ needs, all while I’m still not fully awake. I try to start unloading the dishwasher while Baby Girl is eating breakfast, and then immediately worry about getting other tasks completed around the house. This leads to the “ugly” consequence.

In the last several months, my now 16mo kiddo has figured out how to REALLY play. I’m talking about the good kind of play where she’s pretending and trying to have conversations with me and isn’t very interested in keeping herself busy anymore. She wants my companionship, and completely deserves it! But the more I focus on housework, the more lonely she becomes and fussier she gets. This makes for a tough morning for both of us and can lead to a tough day period.

Slow It Down

Today, however, we had a very different kind of morning and it completely changed our day. I woke up feeling like we needed some “us” time and I believe we have found our new morning groove.

As soon as I got Baby Girl out of bed, I gave her breakfast and turned on our favorite music. To no surprise, she lit up and boogied in her seat while she ate her whole breakfast, giving me a chance to make a pot of coffee and enjoy her company. We sang and “talked” until it was time for her to get down. Then, instead of opening my laptop and trying to sneak in some work, I sat with her and enjoyed my coffee as WE played together. I could see a completely different demeanor in her from most mornings. She wasn’t following me around pulling at me to play, or fussing when she was annoyed with her toys. Whether she played with me or next to me, she seemed so pleased just to have me near her giving her my full attention. This broke and blessed my heart at the same time.

Why Are You Home?

In the beginning of my time as a stay-at-home mom, I used to stress so badly over things around the house that didn’t get done. Before Baby Girl was born, I had a million ideas of how I’d be the best housewife/mother and truthfully they were all focused around my productivity. One day my husband made the wisest, most encouraging statement. “We’ve made sacrifices so you can spend the day with our daughter, not so you can be our housekeeper.” I want to cry just remembering that because it’s so true. It’s easy to get caught up in “things” instead of focusing on what’s important.

Whether you’re a SAHM, you’re home for the summer with your kiddos, or you finally have a day “off” to be at home with your family, ask yourself – why are you home? What is your purpose and what do you mean to your family? I promise if you shift your focus to your “who” instead of your “what”, your days will be completely changed for the better!

Homeschool Motherhood

2 Summer Reads for Homeschool

June 21, 2017

Ahhhhh, summer. A season filled with unmistakable sunshine, the sound of water splashing from the pool, gardens full of fresh fruits and veggies, and a much needed break from the daily school routine. And if you’re a homeschool mom, like me, you probably anticipate the summer just as much (if not more) than your kiddos.

Now, we don’t totally abandon all educational activities during the summer, as I’ll be sharing about more next month, but it’s definitely a less structured season and the planned educational activities are less frequent.

However, fall always comes faster than I expect, and I have found that if I don’t take the time to rest, reflect, and prepare for the next year, I start the year feeling like I’m already behind.
So, I’m excited to share two books that have inspired, encouraged, and blessed me in my homeschool journey. These are perfect reads for the summer – because who really has time to read another book during the school year?

The first book is Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood by Kimm Crandall (**affiliate link). In this powerful book, Kimm shares about the battles that so many moms face, but are often hesitant to share openly. With great transparency, she shares how she struggled with (and sometimes still struggles with) feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to “do it all” and make it seem easy, how she placed unrealistic expectations upon herself and then kicked herself when they went unmet, how she constantly fell into the mom-comparison trap, and perhaps the one that spoke to me the most, how she allowed her “performance” as a mom to dictate her self-worth.

This book spoke directly to my heart. At times, I really felt as if she had taken a peek into my journal and was speaking right to me. Kimm does not come across as the expert who already has it all figured out. Rather, she shares with great vulnerability anecdotes from her own life and constantly reminds us of our desperate need for Christ.
Christ in the Chaos does NOT outline a five-step plan for being a better mother or give you a checklist to eliminate chaos. Instead, she calls each reader to bask in the grace of God and find our identity in Him – knowing that we cannot do it on our own strength, and that we are not enough on our own.

The book itself is broken into ten short chapters – again, perfect for mothers. In fact, this one is on my list to re-read this summer!

The second book I’d recommend is Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie (**affiliate link). Like Christ in the Chaos, this book is written from a Biblical perspective; however, unlike Christ in the Chaos, this is specifically written for homeschool parents and the entire book focuses on that subject.

As a homeschool mom, I know I have wrestled with the questions: Am I doing enough? Am I doing this well? Will my kids be successful in the long run? Was homeschool the right decision? And when I meditate on these questions, I am left feeling stressed, burdened, anxious, and completely exhausted.

Sarah uses her own experiences to address these questions and provide incredible encouragement and affirmation. She emphasizes the fact that teaching from rest does not mean ease – quite the opposite; rather, it is having meaningful learning and growth, but without the stress, anxiety, and overwhelm so common in many homeschool moms.

Sarah shares practical tips and ideas from her own experiences, but also highlights the fact that every family is different and you truly have to find what works best for you and your children. She focuses on the opportunities you have as a homeschool parent to build an irreplaceable relationship with your children and how you can tailor your curriculum to suit their needs and interests.

As a former elementary school teacher, this book really challenged me to alter some of my approaches to homeschool because it reminded me of the fact that my homeschool classroom does not have to look just like a traditional classroom, only at home. And I found incredible freedom in that. As she shares in her book, “What if, instead of trying to make the most of our time, we worked harder at savoring it? What if we were more intentional and lavish with our time and more detached from our checklists? ……Teaching from rest doesn’t mean we aren’t planning ahead…..It means we are doing one thing at a time, and we do that thing with all our heart.”

This was such an inspirational read, especially for homeschool parents (like me) who desire to create a loving and nurturing homeschool environment, but are struggling with numerous anxiety-inducing questions and doubts. It has definitely impacted my approach to homeschooling for the better!

Do you have any reading planned for the summer? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below.

Homeschool Motherhood Uncategorized

Can I Really Start My Own Co-Op?

June 4, 2017

Community. It’s something we all long for, need, and yet often resist because sometimes it just seems like too much work.

Now, if you’re a homeschool mom, you need this community more than ever! Yes, you seem to be talking with little ones all day, but having a conversation with another adult, especially in person, is a rarity.

And to be quite honest, when you don’t have a community encouraging, supporting, and pouring into you, your motivation to continue can become depleted quite quickly!

So, what’s a mom to do?

Our solution – one that has truly been nourishing to my soul was starting a co-op.

On a side note, when we started, the kids were all preschool age, as you’ll see in my story below, but the principles and applications hold true for moms with older homeschool students as well.

Now, you might be thinking: Can I really start my own co-op? Or, my little one is only 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5), does he really need this? Or, I can barely make it out of my house as it is, do I really have the time and energy to coordinate a co-op? Or, my plate seems so full already, is the effort to attend another thing every week even worth it? The answer to all of these questions is YES, YES, and YES!

I know because I wondered the same things.

After teaching for 8 years, I transitioned to being a stay at home mommy. I was incredibly thankful to be home with my little ones – a newborn and almost 2 – but I was completely overwhelmed. To be honest, I just survived for about a year. While I loved being home to pour into these little lives, I was exhausted. I knew something needed to change.  

I knew I wanted to start incorporating some “instruction” into our day, especially for my then almost 3-year-old. I knew we needed more structure for our day because I constantly felt frazzled. And I definitely knew we all needed to get out and connect with other families more regularly. How that was going to happen? I didn’t know, but I started to ask.

The more moms I talked to, the more I found that so many moms were in the same boat. Being a stay at home mommy is HARD. Even when you have a wonderfully supportive hubby (like I have been blessed with), I truly believe it is one of the hardest but most important jobs in the world! So, we started talking…and meeting….and meeting at parks to talk some more.

We asked questions and discussed. We tried out different ideas – some were successful, while others weren’t. But we kept talking and meeting, praying and encouraging. Slowly but surely our co-op was born.

It has now been 4 years. Our little co-op of about 6 kids has grown into a much larger co-op that meets at a church because we’ve simply outgrown anyone’s home. We currently have 4 classes (grouped by age) and will be adding a 5th class next year. To be honest, I have been blown away by the way our community has grown, and it is truly a testament to how much we crave that community.

The friendships that have grown out of these weekly meetings are some of our most treasured – for the kiddos and myself. They have both learned so much – not only academically, but socially, spiritually, and yes even physically. They’ve learned about listening to authorities (other than mom and dad). They’ve learned about conflict resolution – when that one special toy just seems to bring out the worst in them. And I must say, I’ve been quite impressed with their academic growth! Personally, I’ve learned that I am not alone, even when it feels like no one else understands. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be perfect – and neither do my kids. And I’ve learned that the push to get breakfast done, everyone dressed, and out the door with their school supplies (most of the time), is worth it every time.

It has truly been a blessing for our family, and I would love to pass it on to you! On my blog, Teaching Where You’re Called, I am offering a FREE email course that will walk you through 7 steps to starting your own co-op. There will be an email lesson with a simple PDF printable to make things as easy as possible for you! Don’t worry, you’ll get a lesson every 3 days, so you’ll have plenty of time to process and prepare. And hopefully, by the time fall hits, you will be ready to kick off your own co-op! I am so excited for you to start this journey! Don’t hesitate to ask questions- I am more than happy to help!

Or you can just click HERE to sign up!

Homeschool Motherhood

We’ve Decided to Start Homeschooling…..but What Do We Do Now?

May 29, 2017

If you’ve just decided to start homeschooling, congratulations! Making that decision and truly committing to it is the first step in your homeschooling journey. But now, you might be thinking, well, “I’ve made the decision, but I have absolutely no idea what to do next!”

Last month I shared a bit of our “journey to homeschool story,” and probably like you, this whole concept was completely foreign to me. I had been raised going to public schools and had spent the majority of my adult life (up to that point) teaching in a classroom. However, we truly felt this was something we had been called to do, so we just went for it. There were certainly some challenges and hiccups, but we just took everything one step at a time, and God was (and continues to be) so faithful on this journey.

Thankfully, we’ve learned quite a bit along a way, and I’m eager to share these tips with you so that the start of your homeschool journey will be as smooth as possible!

  1. Spend some time researching your legal requirements

As I shared last month, we have had the privilege of homeschooling through a school, so almost all of the legal components are taken care of for us. So, I recommend looking there first. Is there a public, private, or charter school in your area that offers a homeschool option?  If so, what does it offer? Does it align with your goals and purpose in homeschooling? What kind of support do they provide?

If homeschooling through a school is not an option – or it’s not a great fit for your family – don’t fret. There’s plenty of support available. I suggest visiting the Home School Legal Defense Association website. It offers a plethora of information regarding the legal requirements for home school in your state. While some states require a minimal amount of documentation, others are stricter. It’s important to know your legal requirement before you get started.

  1. Establish a Budget

Now, this was one area I had to learn from my mistakes! I didn’t establish a budget early on and ended up spending much more than I had planned on supplemental curriculum (the majority of our curriculum came from our school), materials, school supplies, “cool” educational gadgets, books, and more (some of which we hardly used!) You don’t want to repeat my mistake. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that homeschooling is an investment – and that includes the financial component. So, work with your spouse to set aside money for a budget that will allow you to purchase the supplies you need. Notice I said need – not want. Because if you’re anything like me, when you start browsing all those teacher supply and curriculum sites, your cart fills up fast! Having a budget really helps to keep your spending in check!

  1. Evaluate Your Child’s Interests and Learning Style – and Think About Your Own Teaching Style as Well

Before you decide on a curriculum, you will want to consider your child’s learning style and interests. Does he like a hands-on approach to learning? Does she respond best to visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning experiences? Can he focus on an activity for an extended amount of time, or does he need to incorporate lots of movement and activity into the learning process? Does she process information inwardly, or does she need to talk it through?

It’s also important to consider your teaching style. Even if you haven’t been formally trained as a teacher, consider what you want your day and your instruction to look like. Do you want a more structured, scheduled routine or do you prefer it to be more relaxed? Do you want to guide instruction or do you envision it being student led?

It’s important to consider both of these factors because if either party is completely miserable, it’s just not going to last long. Prior to homeschooling, I didn’t even realize there were different homeschool methods (traditional, classical, Montessori, unit-based, Charlotte Mason, project-based, unschooling, and eclectic to name a few). So, you may want to spend some time looking at the different methods and evaluating what might be a good fit for your family.

  1. Find a Community

After asking a number of homeschool families the top things they can’t image homeschool without, one of the top responses is almost always “other homeschooling families.” Friend, this is a huge task that you are starting – and it’s not an easy one at that – so you need people who understand what you’re facing, can offer encouragement or advice, or simply be someone you (and your kids) can share life with. So, try to establish connections with other homeschool families. Look into joining – or starting your own- co-op (look for more info on that next month). But get out there and find your community!

  1. Choose Your Curriculum

Once you’ve got some ideas about your child’s learning style, your teaching style, and the budget that you have to work with, it’s time to start investigating some different curriculum options. If you’re going through a school, start there and see what’s available. However, don’t feel like to have to do exactly what that school’s doing. There’s also an abundance of other resources available. A few places to start browsing could be: Sonlight, A Beka, Heart of Dakota, Time for Learning, Oak Meadow, My Father’s World, the Teachers Pay Teachers website…… the list truly goes on and on. Again, you want to choose materials that will be a great fit for your family, so don’t rush this decision. There’s also a reason I mentioned finding your community before settling on a curriculum – they are an incredible resource! Ask them to share what’s worked for them. What are the pros and cons of different programs that they’ve used? It’s likely that a large portion of your budget will be allotted to curriculum, so take your time with this one. Ask for samples, borrow guides from other families, and don’t be afraid to ask the publishing company questions.  You also don’t need to go out there and purchase huge amounts of expensive curriculum, especially when you are just starting and really figuring out what works for your family. Yes, you’ll need to purchase some, but there’s also lots of free materials available, so explore lots of options before making any final decisions.

  1. Map Out a Weekly Plan

Once you’ve selected your curriculum and have nailed down your weekly commitments (co-ops, classes, piano lessons, etc), I suggest mapping out a general idea for your week. Now, the beauty of homeschool is that there is flexibility; however, having a general idea of what your week and each day looks like will help ensure that you are meeting your legal requirements while also meeting the individual needs of your child. It’s also a time to determine when and how often you plan on teaching each subject. Do you plan on starting each day with Bible? Is it important to you to incorporate technology into your plans? Be sure to go back to your child’s learning style as you’re drafting this. If you know your kiddo needs plenty of breaks, build them in. Is your child an early riser? Maybe you want to start school earlier in the day and leave more free time in the afternoon. There’s not a right way to do this. And most likely, you will modify it as you get into the school year, but having a general idea, gives you an excellent starting point, especially if this is your first time. I also highly recommend building some “independent time” into your week. This could be quiet reading time, independent work time, or even independent play time for the younger ones. But this gives you a much needed opportunity to get some of your prepping and planning work done (or even a well deserved nap!)

  1. Get Started – and Give Yourself Grace

Like we tell our kids, “Just go out there and try it. You’ll never know, unless you try,” – the same goes for us. Eventually, you just have to start – even if you’re still filled with an infinite number of questions. Just start. Yes, you’ll need to make adjustments, tweak some things, maybe even try a completely new curriculum, but you won’t know what works best for your family until you try. So give yourself plenty of grace! One method of homeschooling not working for your family? Try a different approach! Kids feeling burnt out every week? Adjust your schedule or try an alternate curriculum. Remember, there’s not just one way to do this. Find the best fit for your family, and enjoy this precious time with your kiddos!

Are you starting to homeschool this year? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your questions  – and I’ll be sure to get back to you!



Homeschool Motherhood

I Never Thought I Would Homeschool….. and Look at Me Now!

April 2, 2017

Let me begin by saying I never thought I would homeschool. Never. I was brought up going to public schools. My husband went to public school. We both taught at public and private schools before having kids, and my husband currently teaches at a public school. And yet, here I am, about to begin our third year of homeschooling my two boys – and for the first time, both of them will officially be enrolled in school (T-K and 1st grade)!

So, how in the world did we arrive in the homeschooling world? Well, let me begin by saying, it was NOT because we thought the public school system was doing a poor job. It was NOT because I questioned the public school system.

So, I suppose to truly understand our reasoning, you have to understand a bit of our story.

My husband and I were both working at a private Christian school when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. And this was a BIG DEAL. You see, we had tried to get pregnant for over three years, had doctors tell us it just wouldn’t happen, and then we found ourselves staring at a positive pregnancy test – tears of joy streaming down our faces.

When our miracle baby was born, I took the 6 weeks maternity leave that was allotted, but soon after, had to return to the classroom. Financially, we just couldn’t swing living on the single income. Thankfully, the campus also had an infant through preschool center, so we actually had our little guy on campus with us. But every time I saw him, my heart just broke.

I absolutely hated having to get him up early every morning. I grimaced at the fact that for at least 8 hours of the day I was not with him. And because I wanted to devote as much time as humanly possible to him when I wasn’t in the classroom, I ended up feeling like I was failing at both jobs. Have you been there?

A Leap of Faith 

So, with a lot of prayer and a leap of faith, we decided that I would leave my full-time job in the classroom and become a stay at home mom. The Lord graciously provided a job for my husband in the public school system, which meant things would be tight financially, but we could make it.

Fast forward 4 years…… I was loving being a stay at home mom to our now two boys, and the daunting decision of schooling began to get very real.

And then, I learned about what I will call “the one-third factor.”

I was chatting with a friend, whose oldest son had recently turned 6, and she made the comment, “Well, one-third of the time that I will have him at home is over.” I think my mouth dropped to the floor. Yes, I knew basic math – that 6 was indeed one-third of 18, but reality hit. 6 years old seems so young, but when you view it as one-third of their time under your roof, it’s a game-changer!

These years had already flown by so incredibly fast, the thought of them being nearly one-third over made me really start to think. Yes, I knew I could still pour into their lives beyond the age of 18, but I knew I would not have nearly the influence I once had.

So, we started to think and pray, ask questions of homeschool families, and pray some more, talk to parents who had put their kids in public school, and prayed some more. And we kept coming back to two things: time and influence.

Over and over, the themes of time and influence kept coming back in our conversations. And they ultimately became the two primary reasons we decided to start homeschooling.

Time and Influence

This was a huge factor for me. These first few years with my kids had absolutely flown by – I really couldn’t believe we were even discussing school – and from what we had heard from other parents, it only sped up from there. So, being able to spend all day, every day with my kids, rather than sending them off to school for 8 hours a day, seemed incredible. And I knew that with time came influence.

Now, looking back over the past two years, this has truly been a gift. I know that I cannot and will not ever get these years back, and the sheer quantity of time spent in the every day activities (yes, even the mundane ones) with my boys is irreplaceable. Not only have I developed such a close relationship with my boys (I mean, when I leave for Bible study for an hour and a half, you would think I had been gone a month), but the bond between my boys has absolutely flourished. And I know it is because they pretty much get to spend all day, every day together.

Then, because of the amount of time I get to spend with my kids, I have a tremendous opportunity to be a powerful influence in their lives. And this, again, is not something you can just re-create. For us, we want to build a strong Biblical foundation in their lives. We want to develop Godly character, and being home with them each day gives me so many opportunities to do this. Whether it is discussing forgiveness when a toy is broken, modeling being a servant to our neighbors or choosing to show love and kindness when it’s not the easiest thing to do, being around them all the time affords me countless opportunities to pour into their lives in ways far beyond just academics.

When asked why we chose to homeschool, our short answer is, “We know that at some point, they will go to public school – maybe next year, maybe in three years, or perhaps further down the road. But when they do, we want to have equipped them enough – spiritually, academically, emotionally, and physically – that they are able to be more of an influence on others than being influenced by them.”

And the way that we are truly able to accomplish this (or at least work toward that goal), is having that extended amount of time with them and using that time to invest in their lives and character.

Are you on the fence about homeschooling? I’d love to talk to you more about it! Leave a message in the comments below!

Featured Motherhood Motivation

Living on a Teacher’s Salary

March 24, 2017

Living on a teacher’s income can be tough. Whether your income is in addition to your spouse’s or you’re living off of one teacher salary like we are, making things happen can be a struggle. But check out that keyword – struggle. Not an impossibility. So today I want to offer some of the ways that our family has made cuts that have enabled us to live off one teacher’s salary without barely making ends meet.

  1. Meal Planning – The way you grocery shop and plan your meals can make a huge impact on your budget. I spend way too much money if I show up to the store without a plan, or if I make our weekly menu based off of cravings. You would be amazed at how much you can save by planning your week’s meals based off of your favorite store’s sales and only sticking to those items.
  2. Cable Alternatives – We are in such a great time to find alternatives to paying monthly for cable! Check out a streaming device and explore the world of Netflix, Hulu, etc. We haven’t missed it a bit!
  3. Health Insurance Alternatives – I didn’t think this would be possible. But there are some great alternatives out there for healthcare coverage! Using my husband’s ISD insurance was not going to be affordable for us at all. Fortunately, we were able to sign our daughter and me up for a healthcare ministry that makes way more sense for our family.
  4. Student Debt – This was another budget buster we didn’t think we could get away from. While my student loans are sticking around, repayment options like “income-based repayment” are available and soooo helpful! I would encourage you to check them out with your lender!
  5. Mortgage – There are so many details involved in this cut. But to make a long story short, my husband and I are in the middle of a “cash-out refinance”. This will allow us to use a portion of the equity we’ve gained in our home to pay off things like student debt. This is definitely something to chat about with your mortgage lender.

These are just half of the cuts and ways we’ve found to save every month! When you really crunch the numbers and search for areas you’re willing to cut back, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’d like to chat or want to see the other ways we’ve saved, I’d love for you to visit my blog at!

Motherhood Organization

Fitting It All In

February 16, 2017

Being a stay-at-home teacher can be so much fun! But just like any other work-from-home job, it can be incredibly stressful. My time management has been the biggest deciding factor in which of those experiences I have. Just like when I was in the classroom, I’ve learned that if I don’t structure my time just right, I have a hard time fitting everything in. I have to find a balance between scheduling and flexibility so that I’m able to get work done without cutting into my main job – being a stay-at-home momma. I’d love to share with you a glimpse of my day and the routine I try to stick to! (PS – Notice the “ish” in our routine…)

Our Routine

7:30-ish am – Baby Girl and I are up, ready to enjoy breakfast and our morning shows. We take it pretty easy in the mornings, but try to get out for any errands we might have for the day. I know I’m not the only momma who hates running around when everything is super busy in the afternoon!

10:00-ish am – I try to get Baby Girl down for her nap 2.5 – 3 hours after she woke up. This is where the flexibility comes into our routine. Sometimes she might have a rough night and go down earlier. Other times she’ll be wired and hang out for longer. Or….. She might have a cough that wakes her up 10 minutes into her nap and have to hang out with me while I work. (That may or may not be the case as I type this!)

Noon-ish – We try to get lots of active play in during the afternoon! This could be anything from a dance party in the living room to spending some time at the park. We’ve got to get all that energy out!

3:00-ish pm – Baby Girl goes down for her second nap, and I get my Bible study and afternoon work done.

4:30-ish pm – Daddy gets home from school (yay!) and we tackle any family activities we have for the evening!

Naptime is Worktime

Like I said earlier in this post, my main job now is being a stay-at-home momma. So I try very hard to make a point to only be on my computer while she is asleep. This can be SO HARD for me when I’m on a roll with something, or if she’s fighting naps. But it’s very important to me that I focus on her full-time and treat my TPT/Blog work as my part-time job. What I don’t get to during the day, I get to in the evening after she goes to sleep.

The easiest way for me to stay “on task” during my work time is to have a list handy. I tried assigning work to get done for each day, but that just stressed me out! Now, I have my planner next to me while I work with a list of tasks I want to get completed that week. That way I can work on whatever I’m in the mood for. If I’m having writer’s block but am on a roll with a TPT product, I’m not forced to sit and stare at my computer.

I hope this gives you a little look into our day and gives you an idea of how I manage my time! Best of luck if you’re trying to do the same!