10 Pieces of Advice for New Homeschoolers

Our family spent fourteen years homeschooling and during that time I helped a lot of other families get started. If you are in the beginning stages of homeschooling, then here are ten pieces of advice.

1. Why are you homeschooling?

Write down all the reasons why you’ve chosen to homeschool. Believe me, there will be days when you will need to reread this. Days when everything goes wrong. Days when people question your sanity and/or your children’s well-being. And days when you’re tired, confused, or burned out. There will be days!

2. Set goals

Set goals for each of your children, and your family as a whole. Not only educational ones, but quality of life ones. Write them down for future reference. These will come in handy in making decisions about allocating time and budget among curriculum and activities. These aren’t etched in stone. They can be revised as needed.


3. Define success

Success is going to look different for different families. One family may have the goal of their children attending an Ivy League school, or their own alma mater. Another family may want their children to take over the family business. Still other families may have definitions that don’t have anything to do with education, but rather the quality of their children’s lives. Again, write this down. There will be times when you will be tempted to compare your students with others, and being able to review your definition of success will remind you that all homeschools are unique. It will also help you to determine when you have achieved it.


4. Don’t try to recreate school

Embrace freedom. Let yourself enjoy the time spent with your kids, watching them blossom. It may be hard to believe now, but one day you’ll look back and wonder where all that time went. You won’t remember the days you were locking horns as much as you’ll remember the days when you witnessed a light flickering on, the discovery of a new talent, and the precious time spent with little ones that grow too fast.

Homeschooling has so much freedom that it can actually be a little scary. Some families Unschool, while others prefer the reassurance and structure of curriculum. I’ve known families whose school schedule followed a parent’s work schedule. One family whose father traveled a lot did school when he was away and took off when he was home to spend time with him, for example. I’ve also known families who homeschooled while traveling in an RV or boat. School doesn’t always have to take place at a desk. Also, see “Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling.”

Dignify your homeschool by giving it a name and a motto. When your students graduate you can order a custom, high-quality diploma with these details on it.

5. Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

Homeschooling isn’t just an educational choice, it’s a lifestyle. It affects your family relationships because you’ll be spending so much more time together. If you view it more as a lifestyle than just school, you’ll have a broader view and see that learning and socialization take place all the time. It’s like putting on a different pair of glasses. Also, be sure to read “Warnings from a Retired Homeschool Mom”.

6. Allow A De-tox Period

If you are taking your kids out of school to start at home, give yourselves time to adjust. Don’t feel the need to leap right into bookwork and a strict schedule. There are lots of changes taking place with schedules, expectations, and family dynamics. Do educational, yet fun, things to mark the change from school to homeschool. For science go on nature walks and take some guidebooks along to identify trees or birds. For math do some baking or order a pizza to practice fractions. Visit museums and zoos. Take a family vacation and visit historical spots. Once you start your curriculum, you still may want to ease into it, adding a few subjects at a time as you figure out where your children are, what their needs are, and how they learn best.

Hands-on Learning at an Aquarium
Hands-on Learning at an Aquarium
7. You aren’t married to your curriculum

I feel safe in saying that you WILL make changes. As you find out what works or doesn’t work, and as your kids mature, your needs will change. Read about homeschooling approaches, learning styles, and curriculum reviews. Make the best choice you can and start.

8. Keep a personal journal

Write down funny things, “aha” moments, lessons learned, answered prayers, etc. You will enjoy having it, and someday might want to blog or write a book. This would be a good place to keep a copy of your reasons (#1), goals (#2), and definition of success (#3). Read “Save Your Memories with an Easy Email Journal.”

9. Keep a SCHOOL log

I kept a running list for each child. At the beginning of each school year I listed what grade they were in, what curriculum and outside classes we were using. Below that I listed any field trips or extra-curricular activities the kids participated in throughout the school year. This may come in handy if you ever have legal trouble, when applying to a school or college, or even for your own memories later on. Keep copies of certificates, awards, and photos. This will be especially handy during the high school years when making transcripts. If it’s on the computer, be sure to print it out occasionally in case something happens to your computer.

10. Go with the Flow

This may be hard to do, especially at first, but homeschooling is full of change. Every year, every semester, is different. Each child is different. You will never have it all figured out so try to relax and enjoy the ride. Know that your children are being taught by their parents (or other family members) who love them and want what is best for them. As long as you are diligent in homeschooling, it will be okay.

Go with the flow
Go with the flow


You can read about how we started homeschooling in “The Birth of Curren Christian Academy.” I would love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments.

For even more advice, visit my friend, Amanda’s article, “Advice for New Homeschool Moms.”

If you’re a Homeschool Mom, consider subscribing for future encouraging posts.

Thinking Outside the Desk while Homeschooling

When we first began homeschooling, I was a voracious reader about teaching styles and methods. I read many books that caused me to rethink education and convinced me that I didn’t need to recreate my own school experience. Maybe it was even better not to. With my mind opened to new possibilities, I was motivated to think outside the desk, and determined to find what worked for our family – what allowed our children to flourish and didn’t burn me out as the teacher. I wanted all of us to enjoy our homeschooling lifestyle.

Living Books

When studying different approaches to homeschooling, the Charlotte Mason, or  “Living Book Approach” most appealed to me. It relied heavily on literature (versus textbooks) and allowed me to teach both of my children, who were four years apart, at the same time in many subjects. As a result, I spent a lot of time reading out loud to both of them in subjects such as Bible, Literature, Science, and History. A few years into homeschooling I discovered Sonlight Curriculum and we used it for over ten years.


I had read The War Against Boys when our son was about four years old. In her book, author Christina Hoff Sommers wrote that many schools were cutting recess time, or doing away with it altogether, and how that negatively affected boys, in particular. It made sense to me that young children needed to move around, so when we started homeschooling I did as much school outside as possible. While I read aloud, I would let Hayden (and later, Margaret) swing, climb a tree, or even ride his bike nearby, as long as he could hear my voice. When we had school inside I also let the kids keep their hands busy. Hayden usually played with Legos while Margaret usually drew. I stopped often and asked the kids to tell me what I had just read. It amazed me, that even though they were being active, they could usually repeat what I had read, pretty much verbatim.img_0931

Kinesthetic Learning

In 2006 there was a movie called Akeelah and the Bee. It was about a young girl who discovered she had an aptitude for spelling, and she advanced through the local and regional Spelling Bees, eventually winning the national Spelling Bee. The movie followed her through the process and chronicled how she came to find and hire a coach and the methods he used to prepare her.

Jump rope

At one point he discovers that she retains the information better while she is doing something rhythmic such as jumping rope or bouncing a ball. This type of learning is called “kinesthetic.” I had already discovered for myself that my son learned very well while having the freedom of movement.

Also consider this report from Plymouth University and Western Sydney University which considers the impact that outdoor learning has on a child’s quality of life. Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling.

Homeschooling Advantage

This is one of those areas where homeschooling really gives us an advantage to cater to the needs of our kids. From my own experiences in public school, I started homeschooling with an assumption that, in order to learn, kids needed to be sitting quietly at a desk (or table). Not only is that not true, but from my own homeschool experiences, I now believe that by meeting the physical need for muscles to move, it frees the mind to learn even better. Not all children have this need, but for the ones that do, it makes a huge difference.

If you are new to homeschooling and have young children, try letting your kids be busy with their bodies, or even just hands, while you read aloud and see how it affects their listening and retaining skills. If your kids are older and you have similar experiences, I would love to read about them, so please share in the comments.

Shared on The Homesteader Hop and Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop.

Helpful Links

Sonlight Curriculum

Five Homeschooling Styles

What Schools Can Do to Help Boys Succeed

Characteristics of Kinesthetic Learners

Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling

Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling
Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling

Have a Merry and Memorable Flea Market Christmas

As we approach the holiday season your thoughts may already be turning towards Christmas and everything it entails. Most families’ celebrations are steeped in traditions that everyone looks forward to year after year, but just in case you’d like to shake things up a little bit, I wanted to share an idea with you.

Several years ago my family wanted to do something different so I suggested that the adults shop for each other at flea markets. We still exchanged gifts, but at a fraction of the price. That Christmas was different, alright. Where normally we would remove price tags, that year we gleefully bragged about how little we’d spent on the gift. We all had so much fun laughing.

Even though you’ll spend less shopping at flea markets, that doesn’t mean that less thought goes into the gifts. You should give some thought to what others might like, what they collect, or what they definitely would not want. Spending a large amount on a gift doesn’t guarantee the recipient will like it. At least this way, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to feel as guilty about wasted money.

What do you collect?
What do you collect?
Affordable Jewelry
Affordable Jewelry
Thrifty Fun

Because it’s thrifty, this is a way for everyone to feel equally involved in gift-giving since differences in amount spent are not as evident. It’s possible to find a treasure – something that is worth more than its price, or that will appreciate with time. You can also include “White Elephant” gifts (things you already have but don’t use) or homemade gifts.img_1944

Flea Market Christmas Decorating

Gifts aren’t the only thing you can find at flea markets, you can find some great decorations, too. You can find things to fit any decorating style, or recreate the feel of your grandmother’s house.

Flea Market Christmas Decorations
Flea Market Christmas Decorations
Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Have a Merry and Memorable Flea Market Christmas
Crafty Snowmen
Christmas Games

Need a gift for one of those crazy Christmas games? Look no further than your closest flea market for something that will be the life of the party!img_1938

Record Your Memories

I think I can guarantee that if you have a Flea Market Christmas it will be one you will never forget! Be sure to take some pictures, and you might want to record the details in your Email Journal so you can relive it at future family get-togethers.

If I were shopping for a gift for you, what should I look for?

All photos taken at Bella Vista Vintage in Bella Vista, Arkansas.

Post shared on Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Related Reading

Let’s Go Flea Marketing!

Have a Merry and Memorable Flea Market Christmas
Have a Merry and Memorable Flea Market Christmas

Red Thai Roselle ~ A Garden Adventure

I enjoy trying new things, so this summer I experimented with growing Red Thai Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa). I saw it in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog and thought it sounded interesting. They listed many uses such as tea, pie, and jelly, but using the leaves to make herbal tea appealed to me the most.


Although my garden didn’t have its best season, the Thai Roselle was one of the things that performed the best. The plants were healthy and mostly pest-free. In researching the plant, I learned that it is a member of the Hibiscus family and a native of West Africa. Other names for it are Jamaican Sorrel, and Flor de Jamaica. In tropical areas it’s a perennial, but here in zone 6B I have to grow it as an annual. Growing in full sun, it needs at least 90 days to mature, and as long as 150 days to harvest. Mine is about 5′ tall and 3′ wide. Although the calyxes can be used to make jelly, mine hasn’t bloomed yet. I was excited to see them starting to form, but it’s already October so I don’t know if I’ll get to try them this year. Since we’re nearing the end of our growing season, I thought I had better go ahead and start harvesting and drying some of the leaves.

Calyxes Starting to Form
Calyxes Starting to Form
A Quick Rinse of the Thai Roselle Leaves
Drip-Drying in a Collander

I cut off a bunch of the larger leaves, gave them a quick rinse in the sink, and lightly layered them on all nine trays of my Excalibur. They actually dried pretty quickly. I tried leaving the leaves whole, thinking it would be easy to strip them from their stems when dry, and that worked beautifully. The first batch nearly filled a quart jar.

Thai Roselle Leaves on Excalibur Tray
Thai Roselle Leaves on Excalibur Tray
Dried Thai Roselle Leaves
Dried Thai Roselle Leaves
Thai Roselle Layered on Excalibur Trays
Excalibur Trays Filled with Thai Roselle Leaves
Finished Product: Thai Roselle Stripped from Stems and Crumbled
Thai Roselle Stripped from Stems and Crumbled
Tea Time

Of course, I was anxious to try the tea to see what it tasted like. I filled a tea infuser and steeped it several minutes. I had read it described as “cranberry,” and that’s pretty accurate. It was tart and tangy, with a beautiful red color. I sweetened mine with a sprinkle of stevia. Later when it cooled, I added some ice to try iced tea, and I think I liked it even better that way.

Thai Roselle Steeping
Thai Roselle Steeping
A Cup of Hot Thai Roselle Tea
A Cup of Hot Thai Roselle Tea

On herbal tea ingredient lists, I’ve seen “hibiscus” and am now wondering if it’s this variety that they use. This is just the beginning of experimenting with this interesting plant. Maybe next year I’ll get the seeds started earlier to experiment more with the calyxes. In the meantime I can try combining it with other herbal teas or enjoying it alone. When I’m chilled in the evenings, it’s nice to have a hot herbal tea to sip by the fire that won’t keep me from falling asleep. If you’re adventurous like me, you might have fun growing it in your garden. Did you try something new this year? I’d like to hear about your discoveries, too.

This post was shared on The Homesteader Hop #25

Helpful Links

Excalibur Dehydrators

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Listing

Red Thai Roselle Hibiscus Tea

All About Roselle

Red Thai Roselle ~ A Garden Adventure
Red Thai Roselle ~ A Garden Adventure

Save Your Memories with an Easy Email Journal

I have kept an “email journal” since my children were small. Periodically, I would write an email to my parents and sister about my family’s activities, then I would print it out and keep a copy for myself. I’ve put about twenty years of journals into 3-ring binders. It’s fun to go back and read through them and remember some of the things we’ve done. I especially enjoy re-reading the funny things my kids said and did when they were younger. Here are a few examples:

October, 2004 (Margaret, 6 yrs)

Today the kids and I went to our new Walmart Supercenter for the third time since it’s grand opening, yesterday. I was trying on sunglasses and all of a sudden, Margaret started crying and yelling at me, “MOVE! MOVE! Go somewhere else!” I had no idea why she was so panicked. I asked her if she was feeling sick, or if she had to go to the bathroom. No. She was upset because she had touched a watch, and at that moment, someone over the loudspeaker said, “Call the police!” (Hayden said that they said something else with “please” in it. I didn’t hear it at all.) I tried to convince her that they wouldn’t call the police on her just because she touched a watch, but she wouldn’t believe me. She did calm down, though. When we got home, I suggested that Margaret take a bath before gymnastics, which she did. Hayden started playing a new PlayStation game that he had bought – a racing game complete with police sirens. When Margaret heard the sirens, she thought the police were coming for her, so she jumped out of the bathtub and ran to get dressed. Then she realized that the sirens were coming from Hayden’s game. I’ve been chuckling about this all afternoon!

June, 2005 (Hayden, 10 yrs)

You may have noticed that Hayden is drawn to anything electronic and technical. A few days ago he changed the ringer on my cell phone so that it clucks like a chicken when I’m getting a call. Yesterday I was sitting in the library looking at a magazine while the kids were watching a movie. The clucking started and people were looking around with the funniest expressions, trying to figure out where it was coming from. I suddenly realized it was my phone, grabbed my purse and hustled out of the library.

The email journal was an efficient way to keep in touch and preserve memories at the same time. I tried the scrapbooking craze, but found that it was a time-consuming and expensive hobby. This method worked better for me.

Steps to start An Email Journal of your own
  1. Write a newsy email about what you’ve been doing lately. Remembering to write periodically may be the hardest part. Frequency is up to you, but the more often you write, the more memories you’ll preserve.
  2. Send to its intended recipients.
  3. Print out a copy for yourself.
  4. Use either a 3-hole punch or plastic page protectors to put them in 3-ring binders.
  5. Include photos in your journal, optional. You can buy plastic sleeves for that purpose. This is something I wish I had done from the beginning.

It’s never too late to start. You may also want to include emails you receive from friends and family. Do you have a funny story to share?

Related Reading

Caution: Warnings from a Retired Homeschool Mom

Shared on Blessed MOMdays Link Up Party and Homestead Blog Hop and The Homesteader Hop.

Warnings from a Retired Homeschool Mom

If you arrived at this post while researching homeschooling, I’m glad I caught you in time. I need to warn you about some things before you make this life-altering decision for your family!

  1. Once you begin to see learning everywhere you just can’t unsee it.
  2. Once you’ve learned to think outside the box, it’s really hard to get back in.
  3. Being with your children all of the time is really tough…to let go of when they fly the nest.
  4. Your children may not learn to stand in line or raise their hand to speak until they’re in their teens.
  5. When they start college classes they may do annoying things like attend class, answer questions (if they’ve learned to raise their hand), visit the teacher’s office (gasp!), work ahead on their own, and turn their homework in on time.
  6. A day may come when you are no longer needed as a teacher and you will be demoted to taxi driver and counselor.
  7. You may have to duck under doorways while wearing all of your different hats (teacher, cafeteria worker, custodian, chauffeur, nurse, etc.)
  8. When your final student graduates you may have feelings of withdrawal from field trips and park days.
  9. Homeschooling is a very independent venture. No two homeschooling families are alike. In fact, no two homeschool students are alike, either. From year-to-year and semester-to-semester you will constantly be tweaking to tailor your homeschool to the changing needs of your students. At times you may feel alone, overwhelmed, and like no one understands.

If, after reading this, you are still thinking about taking the plunge, then go for it. Your life will never be the same, and I mean that in the best possible way. There’s nothing I can say to prepare you for the unique challenges of a Homeschool Mom, but I can’t begin to describe the joy it brings, either.

If you are an experienced Homeschool Mom, what would you add to this list of warnings?

Related Reading

Homeschooling and Entrepreneurship

Boredom: Gateway to Creativity

10 Pieces of Advice for New Homeschoolers

This post was shared on the Floyd Family Homestead Hop and Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Jamie’s Restaurant, Harrison, Arkansas ~ Worth the Drive

My husband and I prefer eating at local diners when possible. We just think it’s fun to get a feel for the local flavor and support small businesses. Occasionally, we stumble onto a real gem. That happened when we stopped at Jamie’s Restaurant in Harrison, Arkansas.

Jamie’s Restaurant, Harrison, Arkansas

Located on the end of a strip center, Jamie’s had a cute exterior, but it didn’t give away the secret of what was inside. The waitstaff all wore black uniforms and delivered dishes that looked like they were coming out of a five-star restaurant kitchen.

Jamie’s Restaurant Interior

As I was looking over the menu, I couldn’t help but overhear the couple at the next table, “oohing” and “aahing” over their lunch. So I turned around and asked what they had ordered. One of them had gotten chicken strips and French Fries. I couldn’t help but wonder what could be so special about that ordinary dish to make her rave like that. Her husband had gotten the Creole Blackened Catfish, and he, too, raved and said it was “excellent.”

Returning to all of the tempting options on the menu, I decided to try the Broiled Lemon Pepper Catfish ($9.99) It came with a small Strawberry Salad. My husband, Scott, ended up ordering the Hand Breaded Chicken Strips and French Fries. ($8.99) I rushed to get a picture before he dove into it.

Hand Breaded Chicken Strips and French Fries

Afterwards, I asked him how he liked them. He said, “They were fresh and moist, not overcooked. They were excellent,”and then added, “they exceeded my expectations.”

I could say the same for mine. The catfish fillet, served over a bed of rice, was moist and cooked to perfection. The salad looked amazing with fresh mixed greens, strawberries, orange segments, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts. I asked for the dressing on the side. I don’t know exactly what it was but I would describe it as a strawberry vinaigrette. It was delicious and a little went a long way. I loved seeing the red stem of a baby chard leaf in there! So pretty!

Broiled Lemon Pepper Catfish and Strawberry Salad

They served their drinks in quart-sized Mason jars, and even the black straws kept with their black theme. Their menu had an amazing variety of old favorites, healthy options, and gourmet adventures. We felt the prices were very reasonable, especially with the high quality of the dishes. We couldn’t help but notice all of the beautiful presentations as meals were delivered to tables around us.

If you’re ever in the vicinity of Harrison, Arkansas, then you should definitely make a point of visiting Jamie’s Restaurant. Take it from Michelle and Scott – it is definitely worth the drive.

Jamie’s Restaurant Facebook Page

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Greater Inspiration ~ An Interview with David Hunt