shopping with Mom

Questions Homeschoolers Must Answer

Years ago when we began our homeschool journey, I was careful to keep our children home during normal school hours. The fear that others would judge us as non-schoolers and report us was real at that time, even though we had plenty of proof to the contrary.

shopping with MomToday we are more adventuresome. With more homeschoolers in our community, we are now “one of those” rather than a unique oddity. Our lifestyle is still strange, but its legality is questioned less frequently.

Now we face other questions. The socialization question still comes into play and we smile as the kids themselves explain all they do with other people. Fewer formal school hours and no bus ride time gives ample time to pursue those extra-curricular activities that usually provide socialization.

A recent trip to the grocery store brought the usual questions by a new cashier. “What grade are you in?” My daughters giggled a bit. While we do use grade levels loosely, the fact is that they are never in one grade. One daughter is working in subjects that would be considered three different grade levels. Even our twins differ in levels. One is more accelerated in math, the other in language. How do you respond to the “what grade” question?

Sometimes they choose to give a grade level, choosing whatever one is age appropriate. That keeps the conversation limited on that topic. On this occasion, as with some others, they choose to explain that they homeschool, so are at different grades in different subjects. The confused cashier accepts the answer and jumps to another subject quickly. A senior in high school herself, she obviously was not sure how to respond. We chatted about the upcoming weekend, a topic with which she felt more comfortable.

Summer vacation is now upon us and I expect more questions regarding that. Like an increasing number of homeschool families, we use a flexible year-round schooling approach. If we need a week off, any time of the year, we take it. Family visiting from afar? Vacation time! Relative needing help? Vacation time! Just needing a break for a couple of days? We are free to take that, too. Year-round schooling gives us that flexibility with the added bonus that learning is continual; we don’t need to review last year’s material before continuing on. Weeks are saved in each subject in this manner and I’ve noticed that our children have always preferred it.

But what do homeschoolers say when asked if they are excited about summer vacation? When they were younger, I would smile and say, “shhh…they don’t know about that. We homeschool year-round” and laugh. The children would laugh along with me, sometimes with a cute comment of their own.

Now that they are older, I let them manage the question on their own. Often it’s a simple response of “Oh, we homeschool year-round so we get breaks when we need them, not all summer.” Sometimes it’s a little more of a discussion; occasionally they will joke about how they don’t get vacations, then continue, explaining.

I’ve learned to relax with these homeschool-unique questions over the years. We do have a different lifestyle. Our kids are with us most of the time, by our own choice. We are free to set our daily and annual schedules the way that works best for our families. If we need to shop at 9 am, then do school at 6 pm, it’s not a problem. Work at 3 different grade levels or even more? Whatever is best for the child at that time.

While it’s true that we don’t owe others an explanation on any of these topics, we find it’s an excellent time to educate other people about homeschooling. We aren’t looking to convert them, but we do strive to show glimpses of our lifestyle, to bring some understanding. No doubt some will look into the option themselves, but if we can just help them understand a little of why we choose to homeschool, we’ve accomplished a goal. I try to impress upon my children the necessity of being respectful and kind as we respond to the questions, just as they wish that others were always kind when asking.

Many years ago I feared those questions, concerned that we were being unfairly judged. Now I welcome them as a way to reach out and tell others how happy we are as homeschoolers!


Summer Trip Tips

For my last post of the year, it’s only fitting that I share with you a few things that I’ve done as I prepare for and begin our 6,000-mile, six-week expedition across the United States. Driving. With three small people.

My traveling companions are my youngest son who will turn 15 the second week of our trip, precluding his helping me drive (no chance to get a permit), and my two younger daughters, aged 11 and 9 years old.

Our route will encompass the states, beginning in Colorado, of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico — not quite half of these 50 United States.


We will leave Colorado before the last snowfall of the year, and hope to get out of Florida before the oppressive heat begins. The race is on!

Fortunately, we won’t be traveling long, brutal hours on the road. Our trip is split up into mostly bite-size stretches of Interstate. We either have family, friends or hotels to allow for a stop of a couple of hours for a meal or even overnight for a brief sleep.

Yes, the kids have electronics but at some point even that becomes incapable of passing the miles and hours. What to do…what to do!

I thought I would share some tips, perhaps a couple of games that I have gleaned from experience and the internet that have been a big hit so far.

So far our favorite game so far is “Cows on My Side.”

I figured the girls would enjoy this game, but as it turned out even my 15-year old got into it and became quite eagle eyed!

Observation is key! What you’re looking for is cows on your side of the vehicle (teams are allowed). The rules are as follows:

When you see a cow on your side of the road, you have to yell, “Cows on my side!”

Every time you call a cow, you get a point. If you see cows on the other side you say, “Cows on your side!” If you call, “Cows on your side,” before the person sees them, you steal a point.

If anyone sees a cemetery they call out, “Ghost cow,” stealing all the other side’s points.

We added the rule that if you called “Cows on my side!” and it turned out to be a horse, dog or clump of dirt, you lose a point.

We also began looking for other unusual animals such as llamas which counted for five points. You could add in other animals that would count for various high-scoring-points depending on the rarity of the animal.

My kids were on the edges of their seats looking for bovines throughout a stretch of Nebraska that was BORRRRRRR-RING!! I couldn’t quite believe that they were engaged with the outdoors and each other instead of their noses buried in electronic gadgets!

For each of the states we will travel, we are referencing the website and reading the 50 facts about each state as we are driving in it. This activity doesn’t last long but it provokes some interesting conversations that maximize teachable moments focusing on history!

The other thing I did was prepare several “bingo” cards. The bingo cards were either for restaurants (makes of vehicles (logos for Toyota, Honda, Fords, etc.) or road signs.

Restaurant bingo

I printed these sheets out two to a page and cut them in half. Then I went to Walmart and got three storage clipboards (to store the bingo sheets and other print outs), a package of white-erase markers and three “Scotch Display Pocket” which is like a page protector on steroids. Basically it’s glossy and is heavy duty (vs. the page protector which I was afraid might get beat up).

display pocket

The kids would take a sheet of bingo, place it in the display pocket and could write on it to their hearts content and I won’t have to print out a bunch of colored sheets! Woot!

Then a second benefit of the white-erase markers became apparent: the kids could write on their windows and it was easily cleaned off!

{jaw drops open}

When my oldest two were toddlers, my husband came up with the brilliant idea of letting the boys put stickers on the back seat windows to keep them entertained.

Yeah. That was sarcasm. Worst idea ever.

I had thoughts for which I had to repent as I did my best to get those stickers off the windows with Goof-off and razor blades.

So when I realized that the girls were drawing on the windows, I about had a heart attack! But when I looked back around ready to reprimand, I saw Laurie sedately erasing her beautiful drawing leaving behind nothing more than a few ubiquitous finger prints on the windows…that probably pre-dated said drawings.

Now that was brilliant!

If you’re taking dogs along on your trip, (yep, I have two Italian Greyhounds), keep in mind that you can now find dog parks within a matter of moments on your phone GPS unit. This saved me and my dogs both enormous mental stress!

I was able to locate a beautiful park in Iowa City, Iowa, that had a separate area where small dogs could play unmolested by the large dogs whose area shared a common fence.

That common chain-link fence was amazing! It allowed my little dogs to see and bark at the big dogs then race up and down said fence with the big dogs expending lots and lots of energy without becoming the running squeaky toy of every dog in the place!

When you get to somewhere and the weather is nasty, may I suggest a fantastic way to pass the time!

Also at Walmart, I grabbed Elmer’s glue, fancy yarn (I got much fancier than what is pictured), cheap spray adhesive and colored paper to use as a backing (or matting), making them bigger circles than the circles you cut out of travel pictures and/or maps printed of the major cities where we’d been. You can add glitter – the confetti with shapes – or any other decorations you can think of!


Map craft

So far we haven’t had a chance to work on these, but I figure that if nothing else it can be a project for when we get home. Compile all of our pictures, print them out and go to town!

There’s a few ideas from what we’re doing! There’s much more out there than simply the Alphabet Game – always a family favorite.

If you’re inspired by these few little offerings, may I suggest you go to Pinterest and search “travel games.” Prepare to be sucked in for hours at a time!

Have a great summer, y’all! May God bring us all back again this fall from our various wanderings and activities this summer!

Homeschool Planner

In my quest to become organized and stay on top of our homeschooling, I have tried many planners throughout the years! From homemade to store bought planners. I’ve even tried software and EBook planners, but nothing seemed to stick. Finally, after going through my second store bought, pre-filled in, fancy homeschool planner, and discovering only small portions were used; I decided I needed a flexible change! I know myself and my kids. We don’t always stick to what I have scheduled. We also have sick days or weeks, break weeks, holidays, vacations and tons of other things that come up. Then we just have weeks where mama doesn’t want to do anything…I know you’ve been there too. So after researching different options and websites online I decided on keeping my planner in a 3 ring binder that I can reuse every year. I have attendance forms, school calendar, and curriculum overviews. Each month is separated out with its own calendar and then I take each week and fill in our lessons on my lesson planning spreadsheet and then print it out.

Below I have included a video walk thru of my current homeschool planner along with links to where I got all of the planning forms…for Free!!! Who doesn’t love free! I hope you enjoy it!

Planning Forms

Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool –

Scattered Squirrel –

Half A Hundred Acre Wood –

  • Weekly Lesson Plans (I used one of their 36wk planners and edited it to suit my needs)

Artist Study:

Composer Study:

Hymn Study:

Nature Study:


Self-care for Parents

Life Skills for Homeschoolers, Pt. 10


In today’s post, I wish to discuss a topic that many parents with children with challenges neglect to address. That is practicing self-care.

Parenting a child with special needs takes a lot of work. Depending on the severity of the challenge, it may end up being a lifetime job. [This leads to another topic for another post.] What often happens in the more difficult situations, the marriage will not survive the challenges of being blessed with a special child. So, not only does the parent (often the mother) not practice self-care, but s/he will often have to carry the load alone. Of course, God is always there to equip this parent to make it through the years. These years do not have to be simply a time of survival, but can be a time of thriving.

This is why self-care is important. We do not want to merely survive our child’s younger years. We want our lives to be a witness to those around us about the enduring power of relying on God in the daily challenges of being a parent of a child with challenges. I recently asked a friend about what type of witness do we have when non-Christians do not see us thriving, but merely surviving? I’m not talking about living a life without problems because we are told we will suffer. I’m talking about how we handle things when the going gets rough. Do we focus on the problem or the problem solver?

Ideally, it would be good to have “Me Time” every day. This would be time set aside when the kids are occupied safely somewhere else, and you can do something just for you, something you enjoy,  something you find refreshing. That’s not always practical, especially if you are a single parent with a high-needs child. If daily time is not possible, then at least once a week is a must. For myself, my Me Time was attending Toastmasters once a week. It was fun. I was out in the community, meeting other adults, and learning all types of things (my way to relax). I would also wake early for private Me Time.

Other ideas to find Me Time: gardening, walking/running, join a book club, women’s Bible study, crocheting, scrapbooking, etc. The main requirement would be that you enjoy it, and it does not create additional stress or add to your sense of responsibility. I know some may want to give Bible studies for their Me Time. If this is you, please make sure this time is refreshing to you and not added stress because you feel this is something you should do.

I spent five years as a caregiver. During that time, I took a caregivers’ class in order to learn how to take care of myself. We had a simple goal we were to practice daily. We had to write it as a smart goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). We also had to give a rating on how likely we were to meet this goal. If the likelihood was less than 75 percent, then we had to choose another goal. Now, our goal could be “walk for 15 minutes three times a week” rather than actually doing it every day. Each week we set a new self-care goal. It might be possible to Google caregiver resources to find an example of this.

What if you are having trouble finding time for Me Time? First, make it a priority. Seriously. Just as many make having morning worship a priority, make self-care a priority. If married, arrange time with the spouse so he can watch the kids while you go out. You might even arrange time with some girlfriends to hang out with as part of your self-care. This could be a once a month activity. If the hubby can’t provide that time, then turn to grandparents, close personal friends, or church members. As a last resort for a single parent, you could hire a baby-sitter.

One bit of information that many parents are unaware of: If you have a child with challenges, it may be possible to get respite care through an agency of some kind. An example of this would be the Federation of Families in your state. Your local Disability Action Center might be able to point you to the agency that could provide respite care. Another agency that may be able to help is the Parents Unlimited of your state. Most of the time, this service is free, but there may be a charge in some venues. Insurance does cover this at times also.

Self-care is essential. Remember every time you fly, you hear the information of what to do if the oxygen masks drop down. First, you take care of yourself, and then you help your child or other person in need. Self-care also teaches your children important life lessons on boundaries that will provide untold blessings their entire lives.

Another aspect of self-care is not to forget the spouse. Taking care of that marrige relationship is just as important as taking care of yourself. Date night is an important activity recommended by almost every marriage counselor — secular or Christian. Date night doesn’t have to be expensive. It just takes some creative thinking. There are numerous books and online sights filled with ideas on how to keep the marriage relationship growing.

Having a special needs child is difficult enough without having to sacrifice our marriage. I think this is harder on women because we tend to sacrifice so easily. Again, those boundaries are important-for yourself and your marriage.

Don’t forget your friends, also. This may be further down on the priority list, but take time for those friends. Once a month or even bimonthly would be better than never getting away and enjoying the simple blessing of friendship. We are social creatures who need to be able to connect with others. It helps give us strength and often lets us know we are not alone in this pathway.

Self-care takes setting boundaries. Boundaries where you say no, either to the church or community or relatives or even immediate family. If setting boundaries is a challenge, I suggest the book Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend. It’s an excellent, Bible-centered book. I actually offer classes on this book.
If self-care is not practiced, what often happens is that mom will suffer, either mentally, emotionally, physically, or even spiritually. Health may fail due to overwhelming stress. Especially with homeschooling, burn-out can occur because of lack of proper self-care. Self-care is not an option. If you want to be the best parent for your special child, start by taking care of yourself each day in some small way.



Learning can happen from just about anything in life. It can be a lesson on what to do or what not to do. I thought I would share something I am using with my granddaughter. If you are into eating healthy, you have probably heard about sprouting. Sprouting is when you use seeds in a jar and start them on the growing process, but eat them before they are too many days old. When a seed (or nut) sprouts, the nutritional value skyrockets. They make great sandwich fillers or soup add-ins. They can also be used for special types of bread.

In addition to sprouting, another way to boost nutrition is to use micro-greening. This is basically a mini-garden where you use the same foundation as sprouting, but you do it in soil. I use a small aluminum roasting pan with about an inch of dirt. Sprinkle the seeds lightly around the dirt, pat down, and water well. They need to be kept moist enough, but not so moist that they are sitting in water. Micro-greening takes a few more days to harvest because you are allowing them to grow the first few leaves. Then you can eat to your hearts content. They have a good deal more nutrition than the full grown plants do. Plus, they are ready fairly quickly to eat. There are some good books available to learn more about the details of micro-greening.

Now, for the educational side. Since my granddaughter is only five, we did not get that deep into the topic. We talked about what a plant needs to grow (sun, water, soil), and we ended up talking about protecting the plants from weather (hail storm).

Other possible lesson ideas:

  • Art — drawing the different stages of growth
  • Science — photosynthesis, stages of seed growth, nature journal
  • Health — different nutritional values from different sprouts/micro-greens, raw vs cooked, organic vs conventional plants
  • Math — charting growth, percentage of plants that sprouted (would take some counting before planting), difference in length of sprouting times in different seeds
  • Reading — reading about the seeds, gardening, recipes to use sprouts
  • Writing — record keeping, journaling, reporting on how they taste, taste comparison between seeds
  • End-times prep — the ability to sprout seeds being a very important body of knowledge when food may become scarce and we are unable to have gardens, lifesaving knowledge of how to get the proper nutrition
  • Bible — researching verses that talk about seeds

This is just a small example of how we can turn just about anything we do in the home into a learning unit. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and thinking out of the box.