Category Archives: Our Vision

Taking the Classical Plunge

This post has been a long time coming.  I started reading books on homeschooling when my oldest was just a baby.  Through the preschool years I leaned toward the Charlotte Mason method, but I was never a CM purist.  Here and there I would read about classical education, and because I have always loved learning, parts of it naturally clicked with me and I incorporated them into our eclectic approach.

Then last year, I was asked to write a review of The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, a program which many of my friends across the country have praised.  I was so intrigued by the ideas presented in this book about homeschooling classically during high school, I went out and purchased Bortins’ books on elementary and middle school education (The Core and The Question).

Bortins Collage
At the same time, Ian started going through a Veritas Press online history course, which showed me the classical method in action.  He memorized their timeline and so much information as he went through his lessons. The VP memory song was so successful for us, especially for Ian, who is a strong auditory learner, that I went looking for a similar resource to cover all of history. I  loved the VP course, but I wanted something I could reuse with all my children through our history cycle over and over, so an online course wasn’t where I wanted to settle.  I also wanted to avoid a full curriculum or textbook, seeking instead for more of a skeletal framework I could use with children at various levels.

My search led me back to Classical Conversations.  By this time I had finished all three of Bortins’ books, and while I really liked what I read, I wasn’t ready to commit to joining a CC Community.  For one thing, I didn’t want another day out of the house.  I also really like the 4-year history cycle we’ve been using, and CC uses a 3-year cycle.  I figured we could just use some of their materials as a framework.  I purchased all their Timeline cards, as well as a set of CDs, and before long my kids were memorizing the Timeline song (and more).

CC Card Notebooks
All my kids were learning so much, and as we wrapped up this school year and started looking ahead to next year, several things came about that convinced me to set aside my reservations and reconsider joining a CC Community.  In a God-orchestrated way, we were all set within days, and the kids are almost as excited as I am about this next stage of our homeschooling journey.

As eager as I am, I’m also a little nervous.  This is the first time I’ll be following someone else’s plans rather than having the flexibility of doing things on my own.  I’m sure it will take some time to get into a rhythm that works for us as far as how much time to spend on CC material on the days we’re at home.  Overall, however, I am looking forward to the new school year and what lies ahead of us as we step deeper into classical Christian education.


“Home-Management” in the Little Years–A Hopeless Battle?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted for Mentoring Monday, but I really do want to finish this book, despite the challenges life has thrown my way recently.  So here I am, diving back in.

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 16 (part 2)

WholeHeartedI’m trying to decided whether I love this chapter or hate it.  Organization has always been one of my strengths, (though I have never been able to tame the clutter-beast, and I’ve almost given up trying), but having four small children has definitely turned managing my home into one battle after another.

Right now, I feel like I’m barely able to stay afloat.  I have 4 baskets of laundry that have been sitting in various parts of the house waiting to get put away for days.  (The big boys have actually taken care of theirs; this is just for the little ones, my husband and me.  So there’s one victory.)

My Bible lies open in the bathroom, but I’ve only managed to get through 2 chapters this month.  I spend time in the Word each day in our family devotions and in preparing to teach in children’s ministry, but my personal reading habit has fallen apart.

Our dining room table is covered with a board game that’s been in progress for days as well as stacks of books and stuff for a home improvement project I started but then abandoned when I hit a roadblock.

Sometimes it feels like my life is never going to be back in order.  So when I read this passage on page 306, I probably should have felt encouraged, but one sentence reached out, grabbed me, and wouldn’t let go:

Life will always be unpredictable–your schedule will fall apart, homeschooling will occasionally grind to a halt, and the house will at times seem like someone detonated a megaton stuff-bomb inside your walls.  If that puts your heart in conflict with the Lord, then no amount of organization, planning, or scheduling is going to make you the godly homeschooling mother that you envisioned becoming.  If, though, you are trusting God and depending upon his grace, you can still be the mother you want to be, which includes managing your family and your home.  If you are regularly seeking God, strengthening your faith in the Word, letting the Spirit control your attitude, and being as faithful as you know how to be, then you can be assured you are fulfilling your role as a mother and as a family manager.  God is not asking any more of you than your faith and your faithfulness. (emphasis mine)

As I said, I suppose that as a whole this paragraph should be encouraging, but that sentence I put in bold is what killed it for me.  It seems like such an impossible ideal.  If only I could be doing all those things!  If those are the bare minimums and I’m not even managing that, how on earth can I hope to every win this war against the chaos that threatens to overwhelm our home?

I keep telling myself to give it another 5 years (!) and it will no longer be quite such an impossible task.  When I have an 11-year old, a 10-year old, an 8-year old, and a 6 year-old, even if we have more young children, things will be so different.  In the last year my two oldest have become so capable of helping with a lot of things, and I feel like surely we must be on the rebound from the hardest point, when all we had were just lots of little ones.

Right?  (Don’t tell me if I’m not.)

I look around at our very “lived-in” home and cling to the hope that I won’t always be tripping over blocks as I stumble across the house for the 4th time in the middle of the night to help who ever needs me (for bathroom trips, refilled water cups, or sick buckets, which all seem to be needed on a fairly regular basis, all in between feedings from the 1-year old who just can’t seem to sleep through the night without nursing at least once).  I won’t always have to do a quick scan of the house so I can grab the toilet-training toddler’s underwear off the kitchen floor when I realize our extended family has stopped by.  I won’t always be clinging to every last minute of nap time so I can have a moment to myself (which I rarely spend cleaning).

I want to be “regularly seeking God, strengthening [my] faith in the Word, letting the Spirit control [my] attitude, and being as faithful as [I] know how to be.”  I really do.  But in this season of life, that doesn’t look at all like I think it should.  Like I want it to.

Thank you, Lord, for your grace.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Planning with Purpose

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 16

WholeHeartedI love structure.  You might not be able to tell from looking at my house, but I get great satisfaction from bringing order and organization to most part of my life, including homeschooling.  So this chapter (“Structure:Keeping the Homeschooling Together”) was right up my alley.

One thing that stood out for me was the section on “Know Your Priorities” (p.287).  For the past few years I’ve pretty much eliminated our outside commitments, but now that the children are getting a little older, I’ve started stepping back into the world.

There’s an opportunity coming up in a couple weeks that I’m praying about for Ian.  My initial reaction was “Now way–we’re too busy).  But then I actually looked at my calendar and realized some of our other activities would be ending and that really didn’t need to be a hindrance.  So said I’d pray about it.

This section on priorities gave me a lot to think about.  In fact, I had to get out a notepad and start jotting down all that thoughts that started flying through my head with regards to this decision.  Am I just thinking about what’s convenient for me or am I considering how God would use this opportunity to develop the unique gifts He’s given Ian?  Would this really be a God-honoring activity for Ian or would it be a distraction?

I’m not ready to make a decision yet, but the Lord was definitely speaking to me through this chapter, helping me to consider the matter from multiple angles, and I trust the He will guide my husband and I to the right decision and give us peace.  I know as all our children get older, many more opportunities will arise.  This is only the first of many times we’ll need to consider our priorities and pray before letting them jump into something just because it sounds fun.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Vacation Schooling

We were on vacation this week so we didn’t do any official lessons, but when you’ve developed a learning mindset in your family, you tend to find educational opportunities everywhere you go.  We spent a week camping along the central coast of California, which I think is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Whether just hiking and playing around our campground and the beach next to it or venturing a little further out, our whole family enjoyed learning about the history of the area and some of the wonders of God’s Creation.

The boys had plenty of opportunities to observe insects up close, including beetles and a praying mantis.  We also had daily visits from the raccoons around our campsite.

We visited Heart Castle and learned a bit about architecture and art.


We explored some tidepools and collected things at the beach.


We fed sea lions and admired beautiful sea creatures at the Morro Bay Aquarium and learned about local geology at the Morro Bay Natural History Museum.


I love the freedom that homeschooling brings!  Not only do we get to take off on vacation during the off season, our kids take delight in learning as a lifestyle.

My #1 Job: Love

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 15

WholeHeartedChildren are an expression of the heart of God.  He loves them and created mothers so they would love them too… As you understand that perfect design and accept it as God’s blessing for you and your children, you strengthen your heart for them and reflect the heart of God to them” (page 280).

When Ian was a baby, I was giddy with the excitement of being a mother at last.  As I prayed about how to be the best mother I could be, I very clearly heard the Lord tell me I only had one job with Ian: to LOVE him.

So simple, but that little word encompasses SO much.  Security.  Acceptance.  Affection.  Grace.

Not only is loving those around us the second greatest commandment after loving God, it is the essential element of our mission as mothers.  Our children learn about the love of God through us.

It seemed like an easy job when he was a baby, but as the years have passed, I’ve realized it is deceptively simple.  The older my children get, the less I feel like I am loving them the way God called me.

I find myself losing sight of my number one job and getting caught up in other tasks, like training and teaching them.  Child-training important, but it’s not supposed to be my focus.  P1040017xI am especially prone to getting distracted by the academic side of homeschooling, simply because I love learning and I delight in sharing the journey with my children.  But educating them is not my number one job.  I am called to LOVE them.

I want to remind myself to set everything else aside when it seems that I’m losing my focus.  I put on this temporary “love tattoo” to help me to keep this in the forefront of my mind this week.  We are taking a break from all schoolwork, and I hope that I can use the time to be intentional about pouring love into my children’s hearts, that when we go back to our routine, their “love tanks” will be filled, and they will have tasted the sweetness of the Father’s love for them.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  When I got sick a couple weeks ago, these posts were one of the first things to get pushed aside.  I actually did keep up with my reading, however, and I wanted to try to get back into the habit of writing reflections even though I didn’t write about the last few weeks’ worth of reading, just because it helps me stay focused and accountable.

Discovery Studies: Foreign Language

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 13 (part 2)

WholeHeartedI think most of us have heard about the benefits of learning a foreign language when you’re young, and the Clarksons addressed that a bit in this chapter on “Discovery Studies.”

“Scientists believe that the first ten years of a child’s life are the peak time for learning language.  A child’s brain in those years is wired by the sounds of language–neural pathways are constructed from what is heard and used, and other factors contribute to make learning a foreign language easier and more natural than at any other time in life” (page 253).

I was fascinated by the German language as a child.  One of the teachers at my elementary school spoke German, and even though I was in the other fifth grade class, I was allowed to go over to his room when he did German lessons because he knew of my interest.  He also gave me a set of audio cassettes with a lesson book and dictionary.  I used to listen to them over and over again, repeating the phrases after the speaker.

I ended up taking four years of German in high school as well, but you know what?  The sound of those simple phrases on the cassettes stand out more in my memory.  There really is something about hearing and learning to speak a language when you are young that sticks in the brain differently than when you are older.

I’ve never fully learned a second language.  In spite of those four years of German class, my abilities were always more in reading the language than being able to participate in a conversation.  I lived in Kenya for a while and learned quite a bit of Swahili and a little Maasai, but while I could understand fairly well, I would never have considered myself fluent.  I also have a fair amount of Spanish floating around in my head, mostly just as a result of living in Southern California.  One time I even had a dream in Spanish, but I’ve never really spent time learning it intentionally.

Until this last year, that is.  I am determined to help my children have more success when it comes to learning languages.  I’ve read controversial articles among homeschoolers about why Spanish isn’t the best language to study, but I think where we live it is an essential skill.  By the time my children grow up, it may be a real hindrance in getting a job if they don’t know Spanish.  I’ve driven through neighborhoods where there are more signs in Spanish than English, and there have been multiple occasions when I’ve been unable to help someone because I don’t speak the language.

“If you want your children to learn a foreign language, you should create a reason for them to want to learn it” (page 253).

While I do hope to inspire my children with mission trips to Spanish-speaking countries, I think just living in Southern California might be reason enough for them to want to learn it.  Our neighbors speak Spanish (though the children are bi-lingual) and while Ian is shy about using what he’s learned with them, he’s also quite proud to tell them, “My mom is teaching me Spanish.”  (If only they knew how incompetent I am!)

I may not know enough to help them become fluent, but I try to make it as fun and appealing as I can, and I hope than by exposing them to the language they will naturally be drawn to learning more on their own.  Actually, I hope that I am just lighting a spark that will ignite a love for foreign language in general, and that all my children will choose to go beyond learning Spanish and dive into German, French and/or other languages as well.  And I think that’s what Discovery Studies are all about!

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Discovery Studies: The Arts in Homeschooling

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 13

WholeHeartedThere are many different parts to what the Clarksons call “Discovery Studies,” and I enjoy helping expose my children to all of them, but my favorite is probably the arts, just because music, dance, visual arts, and theater have all been important parts of my own life.

Ian took a couple years of Yamaha music lessons, but for the last year I’ve been teaching both boys piano on my own, which is rather isolating.  I want them to know the joy of making music with others, however, so I’m so thankful that this week my boys have a chance to spend their mornings at music camp.  Both camp and their Friday music classes this fall that will give them a chance to sing in a choir and play hand chimes as well.  I hope they will love being a part of creating something beautiful with their friends.

In the last year, Ian has also starting enjoying artistic expression.  He loves to draw, and we’ve gotten several books that show him step by step how to draw specific things.  This afternoon he created a game board, and all three older kids had a great time rolling a die and moving their game pieces around the board, landing on monsters that sent them back to the beginning.  Then he told me he want to make his own book, “Because lots of other people have made their own books.”  I cut some paper and stapled them into a book, which he then spent the next hour or so filling in with pictures on every page.


I want to make sure I make it a priority to allow him the time for things like this.  He may never be a professional artist of musician, but I hope the arts will always be a part of his life.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

The Heart of Homeschooling: Discussion Studies

Educating the WholeHearted Child: 12

WholeHearted“If Discussion Studies are not the constantly beating heart at the center of WholeHearted Learning, pulsing the life-blood of new thoughts and ideas to every part of the model, then the life will soon go out of your homeschool” (page 211).

I have always loved to discuss ideas.  One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I get to engage my children in discussions about things I love: the Bible, literature, history, theology, art, music…

There are things to enjoy in each stage of homeschooling, but I am really looking forward to a few years from now, when I can start discussing some of the favorite novels of my childhood with my children.  There are so many “friends” I’ve been eagerly waiting to introduce them to: Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox and Dickon, Johnny Tremain, Heidi, … There are times and places I long to take them as we snuggle up on the couch and spend the afternoon reliving history in our imaginations.

I don’t think we’ll have any problems keeping Discussion Studies at the heart of our homeschool.  There are so many wonderful things to look forward to in the years to come!

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Disciplined Studies (Math)

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 11 (part 2)

WholeHearted Back when I was in elementary through high school, if you had asked me what my least favorite subject was, I would have quickly answered, “Math!”  After my days of math class were behind me, however, I realized that it wasn’t really math itself I found distasteful; it was the way it was taught.  I thrived on the challenge of math, and because I grasped things quickly, I spent a lot of time waiting for the rest of my class to be ready to move on, which meant I rarely felt challenged.  I think if I had been homeschooled and could move at my own pace I would probably have found it one of my favorite subjects.

I actually really like most things about mathematics. I resonated with these reasons Clarksons give for considering a study of math worthwhile:

“Math is empowering–it strengthens logical thinking, which can contribute to real-life problem solving skills.

Math is rewarding–there is a certain feeling of pride and accomplishment in getting the right answers to challenging math problems.

Math is necessary–the bottom line of math study is acquiring abilities that enable us to function successfully and independently in society.

Math is affirming–the beauty, elegance, and exactness of math reflect the nature and faithfulness of God (unchanging) in contrast to the corruption and confusion of sin” (page 206).

I love the sense of order, knowing there’s a definitely right answer, and working my way through whatever I need to do to find that answer.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of solving math problems, and I see that same enjoyment in my children, particularly Elijah.  I could easily see him wanting to work his way all the way through calculus.

I’ve written a lot in the past about some of my struggles in teaching math to Ian.  I want to be sure that I don’t drive him towards a dislike for math simply because I’m not teaching it in a way that works for him.  Right now I feel like we’re in a really good place, but I want to stay sensitive to his learning style and needs.  I’m not saying he has to love math, but I hope he’ll be able to enjoy it more than I did as a child.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Disciplined Studies: Language Arts

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 11

WholeHeartedMaybe it’s because I come from a family of teachers and have my own classroom experience, but I’ve never struggled with the insecurity I know many homeschool moms feel when they think of the enormous responsibility they have taken on as their children’s main teacher.  The only time I waver a bit is in areas when I’m taking an approach that’s completely different from the way something is taught in schools.

One of the main places I see this is with language arts.  Schools tend to use a systematic approach to teaching things like grammar, spelling, vocabulary and composition.  I feel those things are best taught through regular exposure to good literature.  The Clarksons have a similar approach.

“The more language your children are exposed to in the early years, the more they will naturally acquire good grammar.  Grammar rules, which will never by themselves make any child good at grammar, can wait until your child is writing easily and well at around age ten, and then only if they are needed” (page 199).

The same is true for things like punctuation and spelling.  Rules and word lists are not as affective as constant interaction with the written word.  We use methods such as reading aloud, narration, copywork, and dictation to teach the same concepts, and it feels so much more natural helping Ian pick things up as we go along.  I need to remember this when I start seeing what other people are doing and get worried.  I really appreciated this chapter because it reassured me I’m not being negligent by postponing the technical side of things.

In my college music history class I remember being struck by the knowledge that composers like Mozart and Beethoven grew up learning music theory and the mechanics of writing music by paying careful attention as they copied beautiful music of other composers note by note.  In the same way, I believe my children will learn how to write and communicate best by paying close attention to how other authors have used beautiful language before them.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

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