Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To Woman with the three children at Cedar Springs Christian Bookstore in Knoxville, TN,

You are an idiot. That is the nicest possible thing I can say about you in this moment.
As I was sifting through the homeschool materials looking for a workbook, you were busy making judgement calls based on fear and ignorance. Then you taught your children to do the same. Shame on you.

From the same mouth that you profess the love of a savior you also villianized one of the nicest people you will never meet. My brother was the "strange man" that was standing behind your children.  No, he was not "watching" your little whelps, he was watching Veggie Tales, the same thing they were watching.

I watched you as looked up in horror as you saw your children watching Veggie Tales on the TV in the store and you saw my brother standing a few feet behind them.  I watched you get up and tell your children to come sit with you because there was "a strange man watching you."  I watched your children cry because of your fear of approximately half of the world's population.

I also noted that two of your children are boys who will grow up into the very thing you fear. I also noted that you were wearing a wedding ring. Are men just necessary evils in your world?

This "strange man" that you were so frightened of is my brother.  He is moderately mentally handicapped.  Had you just kept a watchful eye or even just quietly called your children to you, I may not have judged you so harshly.  But, since you are a loud mouthed idiot with no tact, kindness, or love in your soul, and yet call yourself a Christian, I do judge you. You need to think about what you are saying and what you are doing. Your actions speak far louder than the words you use with your children.

You told them to be kind to each other while you showed no kindness to others.

To the readers of this blog,
Why are we villianizing men? Why are we quick to think the worst of those around us?
I urge you to remember 2 Timothy 1:7 - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Being a Stay at Home Mom Isn't That Hard

Consistently teaching the children to pick up their belongings
means that the living room takes 10 minutes to clean.
I am zipping up my fireproof suit and putting on my hard hat for this one. I am about to make every stay at home on the planet mad at me. Forgive me as I might come across a bit harsh.
Being a stay at home mom isn't that hard. Ok, hear me out. There are always exceptions to the rule but for the majority of us, being a stay at home mom just isn't that hard. Yet, we are always the first to stand on our soap box shouting at others about how difficult it is to keep our homes clean or to complain about how we never get a moment to sit down. So what gives? Why does it always seem that there is something to be done? Why is the laundry never caught up and the sink never empty?


There. I said it. The majority of us moms don't manage our time efficiently. We have time to get on FB and complain about how our dishes aren't done when we should actually be up doing them. We manage to read blogs, complain, check emails, complain, Tweet, complain.

Let me temper my post with some grace. Yes, there were seasons of my life that were hard. I had 2 babies within 10 months (I swear it was all my husband's fault!) and my life revolved around sleep deprived diaper changes, feedings, play time and all the other joys of being high risk pregnant for practically 2 years straight. I am not saying that seasonally we aren't going to go through rough patches. I'm not saying that even the physically easy days don't have moments that are emotionally draining. However, the truth of the matter is, that as my children have gotten older, being a stay at home mom has become easier. Easy to the point that there is no good reason for me not to be "all together". No reason for me not to have a good nights sleep, cook a good breakfast, clean house, school the children and even enjoy some down time browsing Facebook.

Proof that we can memories without messes.
We are stamping with the bottom of a celery stalk.
Sorry to burst your "my life is so hard" bubble. The truth is that if we are managing our time efficiently being a stay at home mom is pretty stinking cushy. A messy home isn't "a sign of character" or "memories my kids have made". It is a sign of bad time management at best and laziness at worst.

Since I have taught my children how to do their own laundry,
and I actually LET them, this stack took about 20 minutes to fold
and get put away.
Oh, and the poor me attitude, it's old. Sure, I do a lot of laundry...for the BLESSINGS that God has given me. The three babies that I was told by multiple doctors I would never have. Some days I spend most of my time breaking up bickering, cleaning of messes that are instantly repeated, making meals that are complained about, but the worth of what we doing sure does change when our perspective is on the eternal value instead of the "hardness" of what we are doing.

I'm not saying that I am never guilty of complaining (trust me it is quite the opposite!) and I realize I defy all of the mushy memes that talk about how I am a "nurse, cook, janitor..." and I suppose, in a way, I am all of those things, but at the end of the day this is the life I am not only called to, but it is the life I CHOSE. So really, what I want to tell all of the stay at home moms out there is to pull up your big girl pants, get yourself together and realize how good you actually have it. Now stop reading this blog and go do your dishes! Oh, and remember, it is all worth it :)

Disclaimer: As I said above, there are exceptions to every rule. I am speaking in general terms. I realize there are mom's
whose children are ill, dealing with ADHD, autism or a other conditions and that their situations are far different than mine. Oh, and stick around for part 2 in which I tell you why being a stay at home mom is so hard!

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We Choose Virtues: A Mosiacs Review

Use the coupon code
VIRTUE15  for 15% off your order!
I never wanted to teach character separately from the rest of our academics. To me academics and character training go hand in hand. I have to admit, that this made me skeptical of using any sort of curriculum or manipulative other than the Bible to teach my children Godly character traits. That is, until I was offered a chance to review We Choose Virtues.

We Choose Virtues is an easy to use, bright, colorful and fun program that helps you teach different traits. Using catchy phrases and cute characters such as, Chuck and Duck's "I am diligent! I start fast, work hard and finish strong!", helps your child to remember each trait they are practicing. What is even better is that the cards come in 3 different versions: secular, NIV and KJV. The secular cards are great if you prefer to use a different version of the Bible not offered.

There are many products in many price ranges to choose from. A full homeschool kit will cost you about $99 or you can choose to purchase individual items such as the Virtue Clue Cards for $5.99!
We were blessed with a chance to review the KJV We Choose Virtues Flash Cards ($14.99), the downloadable Teacher's Manual ($5), the downloadable Kids of Virtueville Coloring Book ($3), as well as two free items: the Family Character Assessment and Memory Verses, Bible Truths and Heroes.

We have always begun each day with praying and our independent Bible time so adding in We Choose Virtues was pretty easy. At the beginning of each week I chose a card and introduced the virtue we would be learning that week. We would "meet" the character and read the card and the Bible verse together a few times. After that we hung the card up on the fridge so that would walk by and see it several times per day. Now this is where the Teacher's Handbook comes in handy. The Handbook is full of great teaching ideas and suggestions on how to help your child learn the virtue as well as fun ideas on how to practice. Throughout the week we added reading the scripture (we didn't memorize it as we already have a list of scripture we are memorizing). We also spent time talking about how to exhibit the virtue and of course, coloring our coloring page that went with it! The most fun I had was calling the children out when they did an especially good job with the virtues! My 4 year old son loved it when I praised him and we all clapped for how diligently he cleaned his room.

There are so many wonderful things about this program. Yes, you can teach all of these virtues without ever picking up a flashcard or a coloring sheet, but We Choose Virtues has so many great resources that help children to really internalize the meanings of those virtues. The products can all be used individually, as supplemental material or you can purchase the kit and have an entire curriculum. The products are affordable, fun and easily adaptable. Most of all, you and your children will have fun learning Christ-like virtues!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Navigating Homeschool Conventions

My shopping buddy, Stephanie gathering up her
convention purchases!
We are half-way through March which means the homeschool convention season is about to begin (or has begun for some!). Conventions are a great way to get up close and personal with curriculum publishers and the products they offer. Publishers usually offer a discount ranging from 10% or more off your purchase to free shipping on ordered items.Beyond all of the new curriculum for you to look at, most conventions offer break out sessions with encouraging speakers. And let's not forget the satisfaction of walking to your car with your arms loaded with books for the new school year. There really is nothing like being surrounded by your favorite curriculum in a room full of other like minded parents. Conventions really can be a homeschooling dream come true.

They can also be a nightmare. Yes, conventions are a great way to save money and get all of your homeschooling material in one place, but they are also intimidating to first time attendees and even to those of us who have been several times! Going in blind is the surest way to overwhelm yourself with all of the great options offered at conventions. Let me help you prepare for the convention season by giving you a few pointers.

1. Pre-register. In the age of the internet, most conventions have a website with an online registration option. Not only will this save you time when you arrive, but you often get a discounted price on convention tickets when you pre-register. For our local convention that translates into a $10 per ticket savings!

2. Visit the convention website and check out the speaker list. You will want to decide which break out sessions, if any that you want to go to. Most of the bigger conventions last 2 days so knowing which speakers you want to listen to will help you decide which day(s) you want to attend. Remember, these are totally optional. You can skip the speakers all together, but be sure to check out the list because there just might be someone you really want to hear!

3. Visit the convention website and check out the vendor list and the floor layout. I know this sounds silly but you will want to go in with at least some idea of how the floor is laid out. You should also take a moment to mark which vendors you definitely want to visit. It is easy to get lost in the sea of vendor booths if you don't have a plan.

4. Have a budget before you go. Better yet, take cash. Oh, if I could only give you one piece of advice this would be it. I love most of the homeschool publishing companies that I have had contact with, but at convention everything seems to draw me in. Going without a budget is a rookie mistake that will cost you dearly if you tend to be like me and are easily distracted by shiny new books.

5. Know that it is ok to walk away. I hate to put it this way, but sometimes, vendors can get pushy. Think used car salesman. You need to know before you go that you may have to walk away from a vendor who is still trying to sell their product. I found out the hard way that trying to be "polite" can cost you a lot of time.

6. Go with a friend. This is not an absolute must, but it is so much more fun to share the car ride and the convention experience with friends!

Conventions, in my opinion, are a must have experience for homeschoolers and with the right preparation can be an exciting and encouraging experience for you!

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Life Learning: Ditching the School at Home

Photo Credit
This morning our day started at about 9am with a mile long walk, after which I cooked breakfast while the kids cut out play money and played store. After breakfast we began our book work. By lunch we were finished with every thing except math. The second half of the say was spent out doors enjoying the spring-like weather. Today was a typical day of homeschooling for the Molders.

I had the same vision most new homeschoolers have. My children up, dressed and fed by 8am. We start the day at our desks in front of the white board by saying the Pledge of Allegiance. At exactly 8:30 we do Bible, 9:30 is math and so on. Certain lessons take an hour others take 30 minutes. Why? Because my heavily scripted teachers manual says so. Never mind the fact that they were only 4 and 5. Never mind the fact that most of the work was busy work designed to keep children in a classroom setting quiet while the teacher works with those who need the extra help. Never mind that school for 2 children is taking up just as much time as school for a classroom full. And never mind that we ended the day exhausted, tired of being around each other and generally hating school.

Boy was I in for a shock when my idealistic homeschool didn't work out. After a few weeks of trying this I finally sat down and started thinking about why it wasn't working. I hated it. It was boring and repetitive and so much of it felt pointless. If, as an adult, I didn't see the value in it, of course my children weren't going to either!

Not long after I had my epiphany I began to re-structure our schooling. I admit, it was hard. I was just as culturally trained as everyone else to believe that learning could only happen within the context of a seriously structured school environment. I was utterly willing to let school become our life. What I wasn't realizing is that it should have been the other way around. Life should have been our school!

Exploring Moss
Now, I don't mean that we ditched all of our school books and took the unschooling route, but I did stop trying to force busy work, long drawn out scripted lessons, and strict schedules. As I relaxed, so did my children and learning began happening everywhere! In between practicing our addition facts we were outside counting bugs. Instead of spending hours trying to force generic essays to appear on paper we were writing plays and acting them out. We went from hours of tears and frustrations to joyful walks in the park, interesting field trips, and book work that was fit into our lives naturally instead of forcefully. Homeschooling became fun!

There are going to be rough days no matter how you choose to homeschool, but take it from me, when you live like you are learning all the time you will find that both you and your child(ren) will enjoy school far more than if they were sitting at a desk and you were standing at your chalkboard trying to do school at home. Remember, it is HOMEschool not SCHOOLhome.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Homeschooling and the Struggling Learner

Homeschoolers are often portrayed as smart, savvy, super-socialized kids. Everyone brags about how their kids have progressed way beyond their public school peers. Studies that are widely regarded tout the abilities of homeschooled children every where and it is really made to seem like this is the norm. If you homeschool your kids they will be smarter, surpassing their peers in everyway possible, and will adore the process of learning. Standardized testing is something that a homeschooled kid can toy with and still outshine everyone else. The parents of these children give speeches, receive accolades in the homeschooling and the general community at large, and are sought after for advice.
For sure, there are super smart homeschoolers. There are super smart homeschooling families.
Then there is this: the struggling learner and their family.
Not many in the homeschooling world want to face the reality that there are struggling learners. There are children who are in 3rd and 4th grade who can not read fluently on a lower grade level, if at all. There are 2nd graders who have not yet mastered simple addition. There are 7th graders who read but comprehend little of the material. There are few homeschooling tutorials or co-ops that have classes for these kids. No one really brags on these kids or the parents of these kids. No one wants to talk about them much at all, unless it is to talk about everything they must be doing wrong and what they would do to change it. No one sees the value in the words of the homeschooling parent of a struggling learner – after all – it took her 4 years to get her kid reading on a 2nd grade level, she must be doing it all wrong, plus, her kids don’t know all their math facts, and to top it all off *no one* in the family has memorized The Preamble.

I can see the fear in recognizing these kids and families. Homeschooling pioneers really fought for the freedoms that we homeschoolers enjoy today. We are close enough to these homeschoolers, perhaps even being fortunate enough to be mentored by one of them, that we recognize the right to homeschool is a bit tenuous. Maybe we are afraid that if the government got wind of these kids who are seemingly left behind, that we would have new and unnecessary regulations and laws thrust upon us. Maybe we really are just a tad bit judgmental and really do feel that we are superior teachers or are using superior curriculum. Maybe we feel like we really can do “it” better and secretly blame the parent of struggling learners. Maybe we are the parent of a struggling learner and are scared of the judgment and criticism offered by the government, public school teachers, and other homeschooling families.
I have made no secret of the fact that I am the parent of a child with ADHD. I have also made no secret of the fact that I have a child with a chronic illness. But I am the parent of *three* struggling learners. For a while, I blamed myself. All of the children I homeschooled struggled. No one seemed to “get” anything. No one really wanted to “do school”. I changed curricula a few times, cried a lot, talked to a bunch of trusted friends, and received the well meaning advice from more than one Sunday school teacher. I even had one of my kids tested at the public school to see if they were mentally retarded. (She was not, but did test below average.) I thought maybe I was doing it all wrong and maybe they would be better off doing something else. I was evidently incapable of teaching anyone and was making a mess of homeschooling and was probably going to ruin whatever future my kids could have had.

Then came along my 4 year old. She is a homeschooling mom’s dream. This child learned simple addition in one sitting and then taught herself subtraction as she laid in bed that evening. (We still co-sleep with her). She essentially forced me to teach her to read and is doing well. I expect her to be reading on a second grade level in a few months. She has yet to officially start kindergarten or homeschooling.
Long nights of addition will do it to ya!
I use the same curriculum for all of my children. I use the same technique. I use the same schedule. I live in the same house. We all eat the same food. We go to the same church. We drive the same van. There is no fault. There is nothing to blame. It really is just what it is – some kids learn slower. Some kids may never be able to achieve high levels of academia. Some kids just are not that smart, intellectually speaking. Some kids really are just going to be average and that is okay. It is okay that some kids are just going to barely learn what they need to learn to graduate. One of mine is probably going to graduate with a special education diploma – that is okay if it the best that she can do.

We need to teach our kids to be the best they can be, even if that looks like it is less than their peers.

If you are the parent of a struggling learner, the time for self blame and feeling ashamed is over. It is not your fault or your child’s fault. 
If you don’t have a struggling learner the time for judgment & gossip has passed. Unless you are intimately involved in the life of the parents and children, you probably don’t understand and may not be able to understand where these families are at. Suffice it to say, these kids and their moms and dads work harder than you can possibly imagine.

We need to come together as a community and learn to accept other homeschoolers and homeschooling parents as they are. There is not one of us who can do it all. There is not one of us who has all the answers. There is not one of us who has the best way.

A gold star for everyone! 

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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Reading Lesson Review

GENERAL INFORMATION: The Reading Lesson – Teach your child to read in 20 easy lessons by Michael Levin, M.D. and Charan Langston, M.S.. This curriculum can be purchased on, and Barnes and Noble for typically under $20. This curriculum also has other items that can be added in order to make it more than just a reading curriculum! The additional separate components also include smaller parent books for different age levels that feature verbal math lessons, that is, step-by-step math without using pencil or paper. The Sounds of Letters DVD also teaches your child how letters of the alphabet sound, and there are also CD-ROMs with stories for your child to read (parent directed NOT a game format). But this curriculum doesn’t just meet the needs of your beginning reader. They also have a book titled Big Words for Little Kids (ages 8-11) which is geared for parents to teach their children how to identify and separate words into their roots, various prefixes and suffixes in order to help them learn the meanings of unknown words. Although I have not had the opportunity to use this Big Words book with my older elementary student yet, I am looking forward to it and am sure that it will prove to be a valuable resource.
For the purposes of this review I will only be referring to the Reading Lesson book and the Verbal Math Lesson Level One for ages 4-7. Mental math seems to be a lost art. With the exponential growth of technology and gadgets, it seems as though very little if any instruction is focused on learning to process mathematics in a mental way, sans pencil and paper. I was pleasantly surprised to find a verbal math book geared towards early learners (4-7). I really enjoyed how this verbal math book utilizes language to hone mental math skills at an early age, making the connection from concrete to verbal. Sure, mathematical rules are taught, but moreover, what is also reinforced is essentially the mental wrestling with basic math in the form of oral word problems from basic to more complex. At such an early age, I see this as a great benefit for all learners, actively engaging them in critical thinking. For those who are more verbally inclined, this is a fantastic way to reinforce learning in an outside of the box way.

The Reading Lesson book was different than anything we had tried before. Beginning with the alphabet and the sounds, putting those sounds together, and reading words, it is also uniquely different in that it specifically and gradually introduces punctuation as well. Such as, what do commas, question marks and periods look like at what do readers do when they see them? Each lesson can be done at your own pace, and is prefaced with helpful notes for the teacher as to what will be taught, warnings of possible problem areas for your learner as well as encouragement to take your time.

I have tried several other reading programs with my children over the years, and this one is definitely worth looking into. Others have been dogmatic and not very visually appealing in their approach but here the cute drawings, clear and uncluttered pages, as well as concise teacher directions make this one different from most. While the book itself contains “stories” we really did miss with this curriculum was the ability to hold books and turn the pages of pint sized books. There are many additional resources that are available on CD-ROM, yet the one thing that we treasure is the joy of holding actual books in our hands from which to read. However, each family is different and this curriculum just might suit your family’s needs perfectly!


Tara is a married home schooling mom of 2 who enjoys spending time with family and friends, serving in her church and passionately pursuing adoption. She has resisted the urge to blog for years now, but fears she may be losing the battle.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Homeschooling and Housekeeping (The Clean Edition)

Is your home company ready?
There it is, the dreaded knock at the door. You look around and frantically yell at the kids to grab everything they can and shove it into a closet and shut the door. A friend dropped by unexpectedly and your house is a wreck. As you open the door you smile and say "I am sorry for the mess, it isn't usually like this", which you think to yourself, is actually a bit of a fib...

Your husband calls you 10 minutes before he arrives home to let you know that his boss is coming for dinner. Panic sets in and again the mad dash to get not only get some extra dinner together but to also get the house "company ready" and yourself cleaned up.

Do either of these sound familiar? As I was perusing Facebook this morning I came across an article entitled Top 10 Reasons Not to Organize Your Homeschool. While I do understand that she probably meant at least some of it to be tongue in cheek...or I hope she did...I couldn't help but think back to all of the memes and blog articles with sweet words reminding us of how quickly the years pass, how there is always work to be done, how we should put aside laundry and dusting in favor of enjoying our children. Really, how can you look at that poem and not nod in agreement?! No doubt there is a time for laying down the broom and just enjoying your children. There are moments when cleaning comes low on the priority list, but how often do we put off cleaning or organizing in the name of "spending quality time with the children" only to find our homes and mind so cluttered that we can't truly enjoy it. What fun is it to play with your children all day and look up to find yourself surrounded by a mess? Or to have your husband come home from an already busy and often stressful day to house buried in chaos? Or to have company unexpectedly show up and your home not be clean and inviting?

We have been convinced that it has to be one way or the other; that if we are keeping a clean house we must be neglecting our children. I am here to tell you it doesn't have to be an either/or! You can do both!

So why should we keep a clean and organized home?

Because we want to be Christ-like and God is not a God of chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33). If our goal is to be like Christ, which it should be, we should be practicing the characteristics of Him. The Bible is clear on how we are to conduct ourselves. We are to do things decently and in order (I Corinthians 14:40) and we are to care for our homes (Proverbs 31 and Titus 2). If we are not following these scriptures we are sinning.

Because a clean and organized home contributes to your child being healthier spiritually, mentally and physically.  We discussed the spiritual aspects up above, but there are other obvious reasons that an orderly home is a good thing. God knew what He was doing when He gave us instructions to be orderly. Cluttered homes make for cluttered minds. You would be surprised at the behavioral differences between a child living in a clean uncluttered home and one living in chaos. I know that when my house is cluttered, I feel flustered and am easily provoked. When my home is clean, I am calm and find it easier to be patient. Then of course there is the obvious, clean homes make for less sickness!

Because we don't want to have to make excuses every-time someone shows up unexpectedly!
After about the tenth time of telling the same friend "I'm sorry for the mess" I knew she had to be thinking that my house was always chaotic. She was right. Sure I had moments, when given plenty of notice, that the house was clean for company, but I was never ready for someone just to show up. Just think of how much more enjoyable a visit is when you aren't sitting on your couch staring at a huge pile of dishes while you wonder if your friend notices that you haven't vacuumed the floor or cleaned the toilets this week!

Books are easy to access
And there is plenty of extra room!
Because it makes homeschooling easier, cheaper and faster. I was shocked to read in the blog above that leaving the school area in chaos made things easier for the blogger. I was equally as shocked to hear her say that she found herself selling things only to repurchase them later and that organized books take up more room. I don't know if my experience is unique but that is the complete opposite of what happens here! When our school room is organized I can walk straight into the room and know exactly where the book I am looking for is. When it is messy and books are just thrown onto the shelf this is not so. I also find myself repurchasing things that I was sure I had, but can't find, so maybe I sold it. Of course as soon as I re-purchase it, I clean the school room and find the original. The money I have wasted this way is a great source of embarrassment for me. We are in the process of unpacking and in the process I am having to do some major downsizing, so our school room goes back and forth from being clean to having boxes here and there. Let me tell you, books stacked neatly on the shelf and categorized in sensible manner take up FAR less space than books strewn here and there on the shelves. We also don't have to worry about towers of books tumbling off the shelf when a child pulls a book off the bottom stack. I'm sorry you can't convince me that unorganized shelves make for better homeschooling.

Like anything you can go overboard. If you find yourself spending 4 hours a day scrubbing your kitchen, you probably need to rethink your cleaning habits. If your family is not allowed to relax for fear of making a mess that freaks mom out, you probably need to rethink. If you aren't flexible enough to let your children do some messy activities every now and then, you probably need to rethink. However, keeping a reasonably clean, organized and company ready home is not only healthier it is Biblical.

Stay tuned for my next post which will offer some practical ways to keep a clean house and enjoy your children all at the same time!

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