2nd year of homeschooling – planners, curriculum, and controlling the circus

It’s crazy to believe we are racing to the finish of our second year of homeschooling!  I’ve made changes to our approach this year, as I’ve learned more about myself and more about my son!

Last year seemed like the year of personality struggles and the big adjustment to schooling full-time.

This year feels like a full-blown attempt at scheduling & curricula.

Things you should know:

Momma doesn’t always know best (sshhh don’t tell anyone)

The hardest part of homeschooling for me, has been that I’m a recovering control-driven perfectionist.  I think every day should follow the schedule which is set apart in my happy little noggin.  Then, all of my dominion shall act like scholarly little subordinates who love learning and enjoy worksheets as much as a young Leah did. When do I get my way?  About 1 out of 15 days.  Maybe once a month.

I’m learning to choose my battles.  I go “old school” in that I try to focus all of my energy on that which I think is most important- reading, writing and arithmetic.  Then I read (to the children) some more.

Sometimes I’m discouraged because I feel like something I’ve chosen isn’t working for us and so I’ll spend a day or days or weeks trying to tweak.  I have to tell myself, THIS IS WHY WE DO IT…because we can tweak it and we can make our boy get the most out of it.

Basically, like most things good things in life, homeschooling is work and it does take some adjustments!

It’s hard to keep the troops in line

I really thought life with 3 under 4 was the 3-ring circus, well it turns out life with a 1st grader, preschooler, and energetic 3 year old can be just as hectic.  One of our major battles is distraction (which is probably true in a public/private school room, too).  The younger kids listen in for our read-aloud time (we’re on our third book in The Little House series) and Bible.  Beyond that, if they are wanting to be more involved, they’ll do map time during history or I’ll pull out some alphabet flashcards.  I also have age-appropriate workbooks if they want to join.  For preschool books, C has cheapos from The Dollar Tree.  Olen is very particular about any workbook (he’s my hands-on man) so I have these Star Wars books which he adores!!

Chewy                                                Anakin                                           C3P0

We live or die by a plan

One of the major changes I felt happened between kindergarten and first grade is that a schedule was even more important.  I’ve used a planner like THIS the past two years and I love how easily I can break down our days and still have a space to write the things I need to do, too.  I’m a planner by nature and I think Jackson needs to know what’s expected each day, too!

I usually only plan a week or two ahead.  Most of the time I do this while Jackson is working on math problems so it doesn’t eat time out of the evening.

A sample of last week’s planner

Due to The Plan, we don’t get out of the house as much as did last year.  In the spring and fall we’re playing outside, but I’m really missing the playdates and social time!  We DID just move though so I think we’re just generally missing our friends — along with March cabin fever.

Curriculum loves and hates

I shared in the recap of our first year about our curriculum choices.  We changed our phonics from A beka to Explode the Code and I’m thankful we did!  It’s just a much simpler format for both of us!  I ended up buying A beka 1st grade History because it covered US History and countries of the world, but I don’t love it.  I’m considering putting the boys in Classical Conversations next year- so if I do- we’ll have history covered.

We’re continuing to use Long Story Short for our Bible time and I really can’t imagine using anything else.

For science we’re bouncing around between some Charlotte Mason work and Our Father’s World.  I like both, but the Charlotte Mason is a nature study with many outside things and well, this is Ohio. 😉

For math we’re using Horizons Year 2.

New room

Maybe the most welcome change since the new year is that we now have a school room!  It’s still evolving, but I’m so thankful I’m not longer clearing books so we can eat, then cleaning the table so we can restart school.  Gosh, it’s just made the day a lot easier!

So that’s a little (800 word) update on what’s been happening at Yoder Academy.  What does your homeschool day look like?  Do you feel like you run a three-ring circus?  Any thoughts on Classical Conversations?

Stop the Mom Shaming

Taking time away doesn’t make you a bad mom

It was November 2010 and I was visiting my Aussie bff in London.  We’d taken a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar.  It was nearing the end of the day- we’d climbed the steps at Sacré Coeur, eaten a crepe, and tried to figure out those free-standing Parisian toilets.  Ha!

I was waiting outside the loo for Briony when I heard an American couple next to me.   We made small talk.  I don’t know how it came up but I said something about being away for my baby for the first time- a 10 month old.  The lady, probably in her early sixties, made her opinion known.

“You need to go home and be with your baby.”


Little did she know that I hadn’t slept more than 3 hours at a time for 10 months.  I’d nursed until I was raw and then my sweet little man would spit it up all over me.  I’d change my clothes sometimes three times a day.  I didn’t have time to rattle these statistics-  Share about the colic, the YouTube videos of a vacuum sound that would soothe him enough just so I could take a break.  Her judgment was known.

Paris was not where I should be.

Mom shame 2

Mom shame 3

It appears that since the dawning of the social media craze that we’ve all become experts on parenting & motherhood.   Try going on Facebook to make a comment about vaccinations, breastfeeding in public, the cry-it-out method and you’ll see that most covet their own opinion more than their own friendships.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in 6 years of mothering:  It’s a crap shoot. 

We align our parenting with our convictions, we pray, and then we hope for the best.

I love psychology authors like Brené Brown.  From Daring Greatly, “You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they are making…our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support parents that are doing the same.”

Obviously she’s not talking about BAD parenting: drug abuse, child abuse, etc- she’s talking about the majority of us, the ones that are TRYING HARD- figuring out ways to get our little ones to sit still through church, pulling our teenagers away from their screens, or trying to make our grocery budget stretch so we can take the kids on some fun outings, or godforbid homeschooling. And we wonder why we have Mom guilt?

In her follow-up book, Rising Strong, Brené adds, “Shaming other mothers is not one of the million ways to be a great mom.”  Ohmygoodness, YES.

I’m not trying to shame the mom that shamed me.  I’m sure she was just remembering the sweet times with her babies (and not the sleepless nights and endless days).  Maybe she didn’t realize that it was exponentially cheaper for me to visit my friend when she was living in London versus Australia.

I’m hopeful for a world where we chose our reactions to moms a little better.  Remember–they probably are trying their best.  And taking 7 days away after 10 months at home does in no way equate to being a bad mom.

For further thought?  Would she have ever said that to the father?  NO way!


A really long post about our first year of homeschooling

There’s nothing like celebrating the end of our first year of homeschooling with a little Alice Cooper. #notyourtypicalhomeschooler Ha!   As of today, we are d-o-n-e, done.  Now that’s not to say we won’t do some review over the summer or keep up with our daily kids’ devotional, but no more 4-days-a-week-2-hours-a-day for the next 3 months.

I’m going to break down what went well, what worked and what didn’t- mostly for my own reference to just.keep.swimming.  However, SO many people asked me about homeschooling this year.  Questions about curriculum to schedules to state requirements and even things like “Don’t you want a break from your kids?”  Only 3% of American school-aged children are homeschooled, so it is rare, and people want to know more- I totally get that!  So here’s my two cents- along with what I loved and what I didn’t love.

Things I loved/that went well:


Do you know how hard it is to get three kids out the door on a Sunday morning by 9:30 am when both parents are home?  HARD.  So I shudder at the thought that I would have had to either drive or walk Jackson to school every morning with two other children fed and out of their pajamas. I love the flexibility of homeschooling, to be able to easily maneuver our day around sick children, appointments, naptimes, and the like.

That said, I felt like I spent much of the year trying to find a weekly routine that worked for our family.  I started out trying to school mostly in the afternoon while the toddler slept, but I realized after the holidays that Jackson was pretty tired in the afternoons (as was I) and I was treating his lack of focus as disrespect even though he was just facing a drop of metabolism like I was (but without the coffee).  Since March we’ve moved to mostly doing school in the mornings (typically 9:30- lunchtime) and I’ve seen a small, but helpful, change in ALL of our focus.

I also adore the flexibility, not only on the daily notion, but as a whole.  A quick review of my calendar shows at a minimum, had he been in public/private school, my little man would have missed 5 weeks of school!  I’m sure some truancy officer would be sending me hateful letters.  In reality, I can’t imagine how much of life-altering on-the-road schooling Jackson would have missed had we not taken that time off.  Nonetheless, we DID do school when all of the neighbors were off for Christmas and Spring Break.

I like the idea that our school year can revolve around our travels and my husband’s busy/slow seasons at work.  We have talked about doing some type of private education in the future, and I think the flexibility would be one the single hardest things to give up.


In July and August last year, I spent a lot of time asking trusted homeschooling friends and acquaintances what their favorite curriculum was and why.  I tried to give them a feel as to where Jackson was at and get their feedback on what they thought would be appropropriate.  Since it was just kindergarten, I didn’t want to overwhelm him with a bunch of history/science/etc but just work on setting a good foundation for phonics, reading, and math. We also did a handwriting and Bible lesson everyday.

We used the following:

Math- Horizons Grade 1

Phonics and Reading- A beka K5 

Handwriting without Tears – Letters and Numbers Kindergarten

Bible- Long-Story Short: 10 Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God

I think what I picked worked really well for our first year.  I will continue to use Horizons next year.  My only complaint is that it really goes quickly from one item to the next, so I’ve been supplementing learning with a Rod and Staff grade 1 book and worksheets I find on blogs or Teachers Pay Teachers.   I think A beka worked well, but I am going to use something different next year.  While Jackson thrived with this, everything was formatted for a larger classroom and I disliked having to buy the curriculum that includes handwriting and numbers, when I didn’t want to use those.

We finished the Handwriting without Tears curriculum before our trip to Australia (I may have required too much, too soon), so since then we’ve been working through A Reason for Handwriting and we’ll continue to do a page/day next year.  While I’d like my kiddos to have nice handwriting, I worry that I’m teaching them a lost art.  I wonder if I should start teaching them to type!  😉

I didn’t focus on science and geography this year, although I know we did so much learning in Florida and Australia and during local field trips.  Our local arboretum also offers a preschool science class every other week and we attended most of them.

Things that didn’t go so well or I didn’t expect

Strong-willed child v. strong-willed mama

I always laughed when a comment was made like, “Wow, you must have more patience than me.” or “It’s great you have the patience for homeschooling.”  Let it be known, if there was a character trait I was to be praised for, it would NOT BE PATIENCE.  Because I did a little bit of homeschool for preschool- maybe 2 days a week for 45 minutes a day, I was naive about the process of schooling approximately 8 hours a week.  If ever there was a sanctifying process, parenting full-time AND teaching your children to read, write, etc, is THAT.  Poor Mr. YT fielded a lot of calls during his workday between a stressed out mama and a frustrated, antsy pants, little boy.  Whatever the cost of it though, we’ve both grown up (maybe me as much as the little man) and we’re resilient to keep going (his decision, too).

Time-management/playtime for Mommy

From having three kids in four years to having three kids and one needing to do school was a big change.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that much of that past 5 years was spent in survival mode, a cycle of diapers, dishes, and, eh, drama?  Once this Momma entered the world of teaching a child, schedules had to become more concrete and social time diminished.  I used to have many more playdates and outing during the week, but when most of your friends are also homeschooling, the time alloted to get together with other ladies and children is reduced.  Much of this has made me consider how doing a co-op would help with the social time for both the kids and Mommy– although the oldest needs no help to his sociability- TRUST ME.



The first year of homeschooling was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, years of my life.  I know that many may read this and think, “well if it’s so hard, why would you keep doing it?”  I ask myself once a week! No, really, most good things are never EASY things, and even when days were hard and exhausting, I remember how much Jackson has learned and grown (and how much I’ve learned in the process).

This process of growing up isn’t just for the kids, right?  Each new phase of parenting (and schooling), grows me, too.

I’m not sure we’ll always homeschool, but for right now we’ll enjoy learning new things while constantly being there to see every new milestone and learned skill.


Life is either a daring adventure…

A Mother’s Day Well-Lived

I’d been in a funk with a capital F the past few weeks and the mundane of life was getting to me.  So when I woke up yesterday and Mr YT asked what I wanted to do that day I said, “Maybe take a road trip.  Or go for a walk.”  “You don’t want to just rest or get out alone?”  He asked a little bewildered.  “I don’t know…let me think about it.”

The sun was shining and the post-church nap by Miss C was complete so we loaded up for a drive.  There is a small Ohio town we wanted to check out (more on that, later) so we headed an hour away and promised the kids ice cream and a park if they took the drive with ease.

We found a McDonalds – not a hard feat- and gave the kids the joy of eating inside.  I laughed to Brian that our kids were more excited to eat inside at the McDonalds of small-town Ohio than they were to go to Australia (notevenkiddingonebit).  Then we found a park and the kids enjoyed all the new slides and swings and playground equipment they’d never been on before.

We left the park with smiling, wind-blown faces.

“I mother better when I’m out of the house,” I said to Brian.

daring adventure



I’ve joked with friends that most days I would consider it easier to put my kids on an airplane than get them all ready and through the doors at the Y.  It’s easier for me to do something different than to do something typical.    Going places- seeing new things and new faces, is what fills my cup.

Beyond that, the kids were different, too.  They were on an adventure with mom and dad.

Somedays I’m so worried about “using my time well” that I forget that the time I have is meant for living.

My family took a Sunday drive most spring/summer Sunday afternoons.  I always thought this was an excuse for my parents to look at used cars and get ice cream (ha!) but I realize now it was more about changing life up a little, finding something new, getting out of our comfort zone, maybe having a conversation without TV and cassettes (hey, 1990) competing for our attention.  Oh, yeah, and Mom & Dad wanted ice cream.


I’m thankful for these kids, for the sleepless nights, for the early mornings, for the long days indoors and the adventures far away.  They’ve taught me so much.  They make me die a little bit to self every day.  I hope for so much for them- in the least that they continue to let me take them along on excursions- big and small.