The miracle that brought me home is one I don’t share a ton, but is one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me.
The moment they laid my baby in my arms, I was toast.
How could I leave this little miracle?
How could I have ever said that teaching would be what I wanted to do after he was born?
I had no idea how I would feel, and I was officially stuck.
My husband sadly said there was no way we could swing my being a stay-at-home-mom.
Financially we’d solidly built our life to be a two-income home.
I knew I could trust the LORD to bring me home.
I’m not even going to pretend for a second that I didn’t have doubts, but I prayed.
The years kept passing by.
I asked my husband if he thought I could come home again.
I asked every year since my oldest was born.
Fast forward five years later.
I asked again.
He said there was no way, and that he really needed me to stop asking.
This just wasn’t going to happen for us.
And, he admitted, every time I asked, it hurt him to say no.
So, I promised that I wouldn’t ask him ever again.
Halfway through Year 6
I sat at the end of my driveway about to pull away from my home for yet another time.
To look back at their dark bedroom windows knowing all I’d miss again.
I couldn’t bring myself to push the gas pedal.
I went to pray like I always did, but this time I was mad.
“God! You know this hurts me! God, you can fix this. You can stop this pain. Please, God. Stop this pain. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do it without you, and I cannot keep living like this. It’s breaking me, LORD. You made me like this. I wanted to teach. You made me this mother; God! Please bring me home! I’m out. I’m sick of trying to fix our budget and make extra on the side and do everything I can to provide for myself. I clearly can’t do it, so it’s Yours. I give it to You. I’m out!”
All the way to school I cried my eyes out, which was nothing new.
I dried up my tears, and taught until I finally came home for Christmas break.
I couldn’t even get too excited for Christmas because I knew after two weeks I’d be ripped away from my home again.
Where my heart belonged.
Where I belonged.
My Own Christmas Miracle
For some reason, as we sat in the basement wrapping Christmas gifts, I felt an inward nudge. A push to ask if I could come home.
No. I’d promised.
I felt that it again.
So I told him I didn’t really want to ask, but for some reason felt like I had to.
I apologized profusely, but said I just have this weird feeling I need to ask one more time.
“Can I come home after this school year?”
“You know this isn’t funny to me. Are you serious?”
“Why are you saying this?”
“I don’t know. I just know we can do it. You can come home. Yes.”
Home With My Babies
I don’t know why the Lord kept me teaching six years, and I don’t need to know.
What I do know is that every day with these boys is a dream.
Every single day we learn and laugh and play.
I even fold every tiny little inside out piece of clothing with a big fat smile on my face.
Sometimes I just break down with tears of joy over how my Father works.
Would I be as grateful if I’d gotten all I wanted six years before?
I wish I could say yes, but maybe not.
So, I’ll stop writing now.
My seven-year-old is snuggled up next to me reading a book, and I’d like to praise God for His perfect ways and see what this little bug is doing.
This book cracks me up. My kids, too. Even my husband, who prefers to read about his Ohio State Buckeye solely can get into this one. Heads up: your reluctant readers may start calling you a fuzzy little butt. You’ve been warned.
I got the idea of a book trail from my friend years ago, and it’s been a hit ever since!
A book trail is a line of books going from your child’s bedroom leading them to the tree Christmas morning.
Why do One?
Building your home’s library is key to your child’s education.
The journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility stated that, “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.”
The excitement of Christmas morning puts books in a fun light.
Where reading can quickly grow to be a chore with the frustration that can tag along with homework and learning to read, these books are special and chosen especially for your child.
What Books Should You Get?
Books of high interest.
Too often when I taught, I had sad conversations with my 8th graders’ parents about how they once loved reading but lost it somehow.
Then they’d tell me that not only did their child hate reading, but he also refused to read books at “his level.”
Let’s look at these Christmas books a little differently.
These tree trail picks are the fun books.
The who cares what “level” I’m at choices.
They’ll get there, friend, but first we have to draw them in.
Open their eyes to the wonderful world they can find between the pages of a book that speaks to them.
In fact, I’d even argue we can nudge your child toward his or her “level” while keeping interest high!
Where to Get Good Quality Books
We like Usborne books because they’re easy to browse for the kinds of books we like.
Our boys are really into adventure, dogs, and inventing right now, and Usborne has it all!
I especially love this for the tree’s trail of books because I can find SO MANY for around $5 that have been super popular with our kids!
Print copies of words your child is struggling to memorize. Create your board with sidewalk chalk, on a chalkboard, or with painter’s tape on the floor. You can also have your child trace over the word with his/her finger to help.
Print a few words your child is working on, and draw out or tape out a target somewhere safe. Let them shoot at the target with a Nerf gun or even water balloons!
Print the words your child is working on, and lay them inside a drawn hopscotch board or a mat like this one. Roll a rock. Wherever the rock lands, they have to pick up the sight word and say it before finishing the board.
Hold the card up in front of you where you can’t see but the child can. Have him/her act out or draw what’s on the card for you to guess. If you want to add a challenge, put a two minute timer on and add up the points you get with each card you’re able to guess. These mini-white boards can be helpful with this game as well as many other times as you school.
Print doubles of the words your child is working toward mastering. Flip them over and play a game of memory with them. Make sure anyone playing says the words aloud when flipping them over.
Slap the Fly
Get a new flyswatter. This one that looks like a hand is super fun and comes in different colors! You can use this flyswatter game for lots of things, so they’ll come in “handy!”
Tape the sight words your child is working on in a location where he/she will have room to slap with the flyswatter.
Want to work in a pair of dice and have your child do addition to make it cross-curricular? Or one single die to work on counting the dots?
They can get as many points as the die shows for getting the word right. If they’re a little competitive like my boys, they’ll also enjoy if you hang a few up a little higher so they have to jump to swat the “flies!”
Giant Floor Game
Print and laminate as many sight words as you’d like. Lay them out in an open space in swirls, with toys they have to jump over, towels pretending to be lava or instruments they have to play in addition to it.
Be as creative as you can be while co-creating the game board with your child to add to the fun of playing it.
Then, roll the dice. These giant foam dice are super fun for this game and many others! Each space you land on, do that activity or say the sight word. The sillier the better!
Red Light/ Green Light
Play your normal game of red light/green light, but when they hit a red light, they read the sight word at each “stop.”
Sight Word, Sight Word, GOOSE!
If you have multiple children to play, this is a fun game. Each child holds a sight word on top of his/her head. The one who goes around tapping the words when he/she reads them. He/she shouts, “GOOSE!” when he’s ready to choose the child who’ll run toward grabbing his seat before getting tagged.
Each time we add fun and movement to school, our children win.
As you see, it doesn’t even have to be expensive or complicated to add in a little adventure and laughter into your school day.
As a former public school teacher and now homeschool mom, I’d love to share some free family resources for sanity during COVID-19.
I believe these will be super helpful in breaking up your day as well as helping you all enjoy this time together.
1.Your Home Won’t Be a Mini-Public School
It can’t be.
So, when your kids are done with their packets hours before the normal 7 hours they’d typically spend at school, don’t panic.
You’d be shocked at how much time is lost in a school day to transitions, waiting for other kids to finish, lecture, questions, bathroom breaks, lunch, recess, interruptions, packing up for classes/ end of the day, and more.
You don’t have to worry they’ll backslide as long as you’re reading, writing, and practicing math every day (like you’re used to in summer and on breaks in small bits).
However, those seven hours can feel long, especially with siblings who aren’t used to being together all day.
To break up the day and enhance their learning experience, here are some links you can use for free:
2.A Quick Morning Meeting will Save Your Day
Our boys get ready for the day and make their beds then have breakfast as their morning routine.
It’s that first sense of accomplishment that prepares us for the day.
We then have a “morning meeting,” to do Bible study, pray, and have a quick briefing on how the day will go.
Here they can know when they can expect screen time.
They can also ask any questions they might have.
Please don’t make the same mistake I did when I began homeschool and do a hard and fast schedule.
It likely won’t stick, especially with littles.
Then you’ll be left feeling frustrated, they’ll be defeated, and it just doesn’t have to be that hard.
It’s okay if they learn without a strict structure because each kid’s work is different and requires different timing.
Roll with it. I promise. You’ll be glad you did.
3.Breaks will Keep You Sane
Remember…in school they get breaks.
Taking some time to play, take a walk, or even setting a timer to let them do whatever they want for 20-30 minutes every hour will keep everyone happier!
4.When it’s NOON and They’re Done
When school is over before noon, and you’re wondering how to keep the kids (and you) from losing it, here are some things that don’t exactly look like learning but are actually really working your kids’ brains a TON:
It’s such an amazing book series to continually practice handwriting just a few minutes at at time.
We don’t have a traditional curriculum for Spelling, but he learns a ton of spelling words with our Words Their Way book.
I happened to find the one we’re using in an antique store where homeschool moms drop off all of their old stuff they didn’t use, so I linked the one my former first-grade teacher friend suggested I get for Kindergarten. It’s the more updated version.
The boys love this Bible Study because it’s set up to have fun activities, a story from the Bible, and a practical application piece.
We highly recommend it.
Can I just add this in because it’s a huge part of my belief system as an educator?
Especially when they’re little.
Never feel bad about their little developing brains taking lots of breaks to play, climb, run, and imagine.
We don’t let them have tablets or phones, but we do let them play Minecraft at 3:00 for a half hour if all their schoolwork is finished, and they do, of course watch TV and movies from time to time.
They especially love their slow mornings where they get to groggily chill in front of PBS Kids’ Molly of Denali or Wild Kratts before heading upstairs to make beds, brush teeth, and get dressed for the day.
Other than that, we’re just such believers in outdoor play, and goodness isn’t it great when they’re bored?!
What a great skill for them to learn to overcome.
An amazing opportunity for them to have to think outside the box (or inside a box, which is one boredom buster in our home!).
We listen to every genre I can think of.
Watch videos of BB King and Eric Clapton playing live.
He’s so laid back and his teaching is thorough and slow-paced.
The boys have made some seriously fantastic art following him!
My boys play sports. Baseball, basketball, swimming. Pretty much anything with a ball or some sort of physical activity, and they’re on it.
However, we also get outside and play. A ton.
It’s so important for them to be physical and taking care of their bodies.
With all of our time hiking, canoeing, biking, running, taking family walks, bouncing on the hippity hop all over the house, having water balloon fights, or even just jumping on the trampoline out back, we’ve more than got Phys. Ed. covered!
Kindergarten is FUN!
Between reading aloud, running around like crazy, random wrestling matches in the kitchen, and working our way through this curriculum, our homeschool is full of life that has become the heartbeat of our home.
I can’t think of a better way to spend this time in our lives together.
A mentor author can be any published author that is an example of the lesson you’re wanting to teach.
This allows your children to see how real writers use the skill you’re teaching .
For example, when I pull Ezra Jack Keats The Snowy Day, my plan might be to teach words that make sound and how we put them in our writing.
With words like, “Crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank into the snow,” and “Then he dragged his feet s-l-o-w-l-y to make tracks,” and “-a stick that was just right for smacking a snow-covered tree,” and “Down fell the snow-plop!” I know I’ve got lots of great examples to teach from.
Choosing a mentor is powerful.
It lets your child zoom in on one learning point, making him or her feel successful as a writer because it’s easy to see how to perform that certain skill.
There will be one small reading teaching point and one small writing teaching point.
The beauty in Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop is that you’ll be able to teach your children based on what their specific needs are.
You can pull from the state standards if you’d like, and as a former public school teacher, I have some thoughts on how this can fit into your homeschool without taking over here.
Here’s the key to your mini-lesson: keep it short and break them up!
First, let’s teach our reading lesson.
For example, let’s say I want to teach children how to make a text-to-self connection.
I’d tell them what a text-to-self connection is and then have places in the mentor text that I’ve prepared to show them examples of this as we read.
Read it Aloud
While we read our mentor text aloud (depending on your child’s ability perhaps they read it aloud or their sight words to encourage beginning readers), show them where your mini-lesson comes to life as a reader.
After reading about Peter waking in the morning to fresh fallen snow, I can say, “I have a text-to-self connection! I love waking up to find it snowed while I was asleep just like Peter. I can tell he was excited because right after breakfast, he put on his snowsuit and ran outside.“
After teaching the reading mini-lesson and reading the book aloud, I’ll share something I noticed that the author did to keep us loving his book and reading more.
For example, I’ll point out how Keats used sound words also called Onomatopoeia.
I’ll ask the children to look back in the text to see if they can hunt them down.
We can write them on post-it notes and stick them in our Writer’s Notebook to use as reference for the next part: writing.
Put the Lessons into Action
We keep both a Reader’s and Writer’s Notebook.
If you’d like to learn more about them, this book as well as this book are both great resources.
The Reader’s Notebook is for all our good thinking we do about the books we read.
The Writer’s Notebook is for exploration and growth in our writing.
The only rules for our Writer’s notebook is that we all understand this is a place for trying new things and being brave as writers.
Whether your child is writing a longer or shorter piece, prompted or free write doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that they’re writing and trying out your lesson.
What matters in your Reader’s notebook is that they’re writing what they’re thinking.
Your Role in Notebooks
Here’s what you can get from your children’s notebooks:
Their thought process and what gaps they have in their comprehension
What they need to learn next
Writing goals (we usually set one or two per session–see our homeschool schedule here).
A conversation starter about what they’re reading to conference (talk) with your child about what they’re thinking/learning/wondering.
Apply to Self-Selected Texts
Choice is key to life-long readers and writers.
The mentor text time will be more heavy-handed in examples and your own thinking aloud/writing example alongside them, so they can see what it’s like to read and write well.
Afterward, they should be given an assignment to read from their choice book applying the lessons to their Reader’s and Writer’s notebooks from that text.
For example, if I taught sound words for Writing and text-to-self connections for Reading, I would assign the child to make a couple of text-to-self connections to what they choose to read and write about it in their Reader’s Notebook.
They’d create a story (either prompted or free write) to add in sound words like you picked out in The Snowy Day story.
Take your time incorporating this idea into your homeschool setting.
It can feel overwhelming if you’ve never taught like this before, but I think like me, you’ll find that over time you’ll love it.
You’ll likely see what I did: students growing in their reading and writing, enjoying the process, and feeling like as their teacher you have a really great grip on what they know and where they need to go next.
Who doesn’t love shouting, “You sunk my battleship!”? Our six-year-old still struggles with the grid on this one, but the eight-year-old is amazing at it. We typically team up for this since it’s only a two player game, anyway.
Numbers, colors, and a great one to play with the whole family or in teams depending on your family’s needs. Sometimes the amount in the boys’ tiny hands can get to be a bit much, so we’ll let them lay them down or put some back.
We also really love this Harry Potter version here!
This game is fun to play faster with bigger kids, but will need to be slowed way down for the younger ones. What kid doesn’t love to push a button and shout words? Super fun and easily adaptable to any age.
I loved this game as a child, and playing it with our boys is the most fun! I like this game as a simple way for little hands to learn moving and counting. Of course, the popping bubble is the kids’ favorite, though!
This game is so fun and simple. We also like the flexibility of time since you can choose to go as many times as you’d like through the calendar. If it’s a night after not a lot of sleep the night before, we’ll choose this game, so we can run through the calendar once and head right up to bed.
I like how we can change up Scrabble to fit both a kid who devours books and one who’s just learning to read. It’s fun to play, and as a homeschool mama, it tips me off on any spelling words we need to add to our school day!
This game is one that comes with past stories they tell others about.
We laugh so hard when we play Pie Face, and the boys are always begging to play it! If you haven’t played Pie Face yet and are okay with some mess on the table, your face, and table, this is the game for you!
“Let’s play a game to decide. I’ll name a kind of character, and you name a kind of character on the count of three. No matter what kind they are, you’ll make them both a part of your story. Even if they don’t seem to go together. We’ll make it fun! Got it? One…two…three!”
He said inventor. I said troll.
“What words did we say were giving us setting?”
He answered the words he saw on the board from the text. I circled them.
“Okay, let’s choose your own setting. You pick the specific kind of place, and I’ll choose the big location. One…two…three!”
He chose an underground laboratory. I chose Alaska. He changed it to an underground Alaskan ice lab where an inventor creates a troll that helps him make his creations.
At this point, he was excited and ready to go!
Keep It Small
One way to keep your writers loving the art of writing, is keeping your lessons and the amount they write small.
Realizing it didn’t all have to happen today (and shouldn’t) was one of the best things that happened to me as a teacher.
Just write this starting point.
Just get going.
Tomorrow you can look at how an author crafts his characters. Then later in the week, his plot, another day his problems, next week his solutions, and even later his conclusions.
We can slowly investigate writing with our author’s eye looking for the genius behind our favorite authors.
But what’s best…we can be successful because they showed us how.
We have played the math card game Rubbish approximately one billion times, and I’ll play it 1 billion and one if it means our boys practice the skills this game sharpens.
My five-year-old loves it, my three-year-old wants in, and we all enjoy the time together.
It’s quick, and super simple, too!
1.) Lay out two rows of five cards, horizontally for each player. The rest of the cards are for the draw pile.
2.) Choose the first player. We rock-paper-scissors for it. 🙂
3.) The first player chooses a card. Each of the cards you laid face down represent a number (left-to-right) Ace-5 in the top row; 6-10 on the bottom row.
4.) If the card drawn is Ace-10, pick up the face-down card in the corresponding spot, and replace it with the card drawn (lay it facing up).
5.) The face-down card you pulled to replace with the drawn card is now the next card you play. If it fits in to what’s left, you pick that spot’s card up and lay the one in your hand down in its place. Your turn continues until you don’t have any more spots available for the switch out.
Example: I draw a 5. I pick up the card face down that’s in the 5 spot (top row last card on the right) and lay the 5 I just drew where it was. The card that was face down was an Ace. I pick up the first card on the top row and lay the Ace down in its place…keep going until you run out of spots to fill.
The first to fill all his or her spots is the winner!
Other Handy Rules:
1.) If you pick up a Jack or Queen, you automatically discard into a discard pile next to the Rubbish draw pile.
2.) If you pick up a number you already have face up, discard.
3.) If you pick up a King, it’s wild and can be used as any number Ace-10!
4.) When you run through the entire deck of draw cards, shuffle the discard into a new draw pile and keep going until you get a winner.
The Best Part
The best part about Rubbish is that it looks exactly like the ten-frames my oldest is learning in Kindergarten math!
He works with numbers, placement, and I was really surprised by how quickly he learned the numbers associated with the face-down cards.
For our three-year-old, this has been great to help drive home learning his numbers.
I love this silly game called Rubbish and how it helped the boys’ skills grow so quickly, how it’s teaching and reteaching number sense, and most of all how it always brings us together.
A bowl of popcorn, a game of Rubbish, and our two boys makes for a great time in our homeschool day!