Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Do You Pray or Plan?

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

pray or planYou know the story — Mary wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet, while Martha was more of a woman of action.

I am afraid my natural, type-A self is more of a Martha than a Mary. Years ago Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World was a great read reinforcing that I needed to spend time with Jesus in prayer before I jumped in to add this or that new activity to our already busy homeschool days.

If that is something you have a tendency to do, too, it might help you to read this post offering some poignant Scripture verses applicable to your homeschool journey, as you seek the Lord’s guidance for your family and homeschooling this semester.

On the other hand, you may be more of a wing it, let’s-see-where-this-rabbit-trail-goes, oops-we-forgot-to-do-science-last-semester type.

(I guess I have been that mom, too…)

If that describes you, it may be time to do some planning to ensure that you cover what you need to cover this next semester.  Here’s how to set some structured goals for the new school semester. Setting specific goals and accomplishing them is motivating for you and is a powerful example for your kids.

But what if you just began homeschooling and you are having trouble just getting your children to listen to you?

You need both prayer and planning, as we all do! Start with prayer. Then make plans to do some basic habit training. Teach your children these nine habits to start with and homeschooling will be MUCH easier. Continue to guide your students in forming these valuable intellectual habits and your children will turn out to be lifelong learners.

Ideally, we will grow to demonstrate the best of both Martha and Mary. We will spend daily time sitting at His feet and asking for His wisdom and grace in parenting and homeschooling our children.  AND, we will plan, using biblical priorities to train our children’s character and teach them what they each need to know. We will model using our time wisely, according to the principles set forth in God’s Word.

What about you? Do you tend to be a “Martha” or “Mary” homeschooling mom?




Six Tips for Raising Leaders

Monday, September 30th, 2013

world history high school course

Have you noticed recently that the world is becoming notably less tolerant of our biblical beliefs? Moral relativism and immoral perspectives are not creeping, but charging,  into our communities, public education system and even into our churches.

This situation is not going to be improving any time soon, and in no time at all our children and grandchildren are going to be on the front lines.

It is our jobs to prepare them!

Coming from a corporate background prior to marriage, kids and homeschooling, I’ve always had an interest in leadership. But there is a difference between training leaders in the marketplace and training them at home.

As Christian parents we not only want to raise leaders; we want to raise godly leaders.

I know it is a lot to ask harried moms struggling  to get in the academic basics, but it is crucial that we look at the big picture and intentionally raise our children to be godly leaders. What could be more important that that?

So, how do we raise godly leaders?  Here are six tips:


1.  Teach the Word daily and model integrity.

  • Men and women who are leaders have integrity. Integrity is moral uprightness; displaying strong principles based on truth. Without daily teaching of the Truth, your children will not know how to recognize it from the falsehoods constantly bombarding them from our culture.
  • When an integrity issue comes up, put the books away and deal with it immediately. There are some non-negotiables when it comes to behavior, and integrity is one of them.
  • As Christian parents, hold yourselves to the same standard and remember that you have little ears and eyes listening and watching. And when you are at fault for something – apologize immediately. Just as they are accountable to us, we are accountable to God.

2.Keep your eyes on the big picture: share your vision for your children with them from an early age.

Teach your sons and daughters that they are made in God’s image, and that He has given them strengths and special talents to accomplish great things in His kingdom. Share with them how excited you are and how you anticipate watching those special gifts and talents develop as they grow up!

Remind them of this periodically and identify and reinforce these gifts and talents as they appear.

3. Train your children to have sound physical and mental habits.

Probably because my husband and I lived so far away from our parents, we had no clue how to raise children.  Then we moved to the South where children’s roles are very well defined, and we learned the secret: You train them to have good habits.

As Charlotte Mason wrote:

“The habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

Habits are skills that are cultivated in our children by training, repetition and accountability. Character is molded through habit training, whether they be physical habits or intellectual ones.

4.  Read and discuss stories that show children as leaders.

If you are using a literature-based homeschool curriculum (and I hope you are!), read historical fiction and literature with characters who demonstrate the leadership traits you would like to see in your children, such as: integrity, humility, responsibility for self and others, reliability, initiative, willingness to be self-sacrificing, ability to learn from mistakes, resistance to peer pressure, willingness to tackle difficult problems with a positive attitude, diligence, and  perseverance.

5.  As you study history and current events, regularly point out and discuss examples of exemplary and poor leadership.

History is full of examples of leadership and good character, as well as their opposites!  If you use a Charlotte Mason-style, literature-based homeschool curriculum, you have the perfect opportunity to set a feast of inspiring characters before your children on a regular basis!  Choose books with plenty of examples of great men and women of the past, and in your discussions and assignments, compare and contrast them with others, as we do in our high school World History I course, subtitled Lessons in Leadership.

Additionally, do not wait until your kids are old enough to vote to discuss local and national candidates for public office. Talk about the jobs candidates are campaigning for as well as their track record and experience. Identify leadership experience within their backgrounds.

The newspaper and other media are full of articles of both exemplary and poor leaders. Draw their attention to these snippets and help them to identify these differences in discussions.

6. Give your children opportunities to practice leadership inside and outside the home.

From being responsible for their own belongings at home, teach them to be responsible for pets, chores and their own school supplies. Let them be responsible for a family event, such as a service project, teaching them to plan, anticipate, organize and communicate with others what their roles will be. Give them a small garden to research, plan, plant, weed and harvest. Encourage industriousness and entrepreneurship.

Let older children be responsible for helping to teach younger children at home, as well helping teach Sunday School, Youth Group, etc., at church. Help them expand into service to the community, such as spearheading a neighborhood or road clean-up project.

Encourage them to earn all or part of the money for their own activities, rather than just handing money over like so many other parents do. (This happened regularly with friends of my son, particularly, and it was very difficult at the time but our firm stance on this issue has reaped benefits now that he is in college and has to manage his own expenses.)


We owe it to our children to prepare them to live in the world they will be facing in just a few short years.  They must be mature, steadfast and well-grounded to be who they were designed to be.

What are you doing to encourage godly leadership in your children?  What are your biggest challenges to instilling leadership characteristics in them?


Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing


twitter button



What a Can of Worms I Opened!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

what a can of wormsYou see only the tip of the iceberg with blog post comments.

I often receive emailed comments, and my recent post on setting goals certainly sparked a few emotional ones:

I would love to set goals – but the only one I can occasionally manage is getting through the day without losing it with my kids!


My personal goal is to actually do everything in my lesson plan – just once!


How in the world can I do school, make dinner AND keep the house under control? There is certainly no time, let alone energy, for personal goals.

–and, my favorite–

A good week is when we all have clean underwear all week!  I am just trying to survive.

Give Yourself Some Grace!

It is clear that there is a  segment of  homeschooling moms in need of encouragement and grace.

Ladies, step back and take a deep breath.  This season of life is indeed demanding and often seems rather thankless – especially with very young children or when just beginning to homeschool.

And even the most sensitive of husbands often have no idea what it is like to be home all day with children, playing competing roles as mom, teacher, coach, chauffeur and nurse.

Neighbors and extended family can be critical, but even if they aren’t – they are often watching to see how our children ‘do’ compared with theirs.*


It’s all about focus!

We have been called to do a mighty thing, and it is intimidating and difficult. The enemy would like nothing better to keep us discouraged, tired and focused on our shortcomings.

Sisters, now hear this: the answer is NOT just to try harder*.

It is a matter of focus!

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Eph. 3:14-19 NIV 1984


Love Surpasses Knowledge!

Did you get that?

…and to know [Christ’s] love that surpasses knowledge…


Christ’s love surpasses knowledge.

Get out of your own head. Stop focusing on what you are not able to do.

Now I am going to be bold…

Stop focusing so much on yourself and how you are feeling.

Start focusing on Christ instead.


THIS is how He sees you:


It is okay if you don’t do everything on your lesson plans.

It is okay if you can’t keep the house as clean as you once did before homeschooling.

It is okay if you have to apologize to your kids for losing your temper.

It is okay if you have school in your pajamas sometimes, you take off a day to catch up on laundry, or you eat a lot of left-overs.


What you can also do…

  • Spend a part of every day focused on who God is. Praise is the best antidote for anxiety and depression.
  • When you are tempted to start that cyclical, self-critical thinking (2 Cor. 10:5), remember instead that you are loved and it has nothing to do with what you do or don’t accomplish today.
  • Meditate on the Ephesians passage above, and realize there is nothing you can do to make yourself lovelier to Him.
  • Pray that you would be ‘rooted and established in [His] love.’
  • Play Christ-centered music on the radio or Pandora on a computer in the background during school, helping everyone within earshot to be encouraged and peaceful.


It is only from a foundation of belief, of faith in Him rather than in yourself, of ‘being rooted and established in love’, that you will be at peace enough to think about making other positive actions in your life and homeschool.

Setting goals and moving ‘forward’ in areas of difficulty is a great thing – but the foundation has to be there first.

Baby steps.


Your Sister in Christ,

Dana's signature


*Once when visiting a brother’s family, he took the opportunity while moms were at the grocery to play some kind of Trivial Pursuit for kids game with our sons (both about eight or nine). Upon returning, my brother declared: “He missed the question about chlorophyll, but he knew that ‘Tock’ was a character in some book called The Phantom Tollbooth. I guess he did okay.”

**Some of these concepts are from my notes after listening to a presentation by Elyse Kirkpatrick at East Cooper Baptist Church, Mt. Pleasant, SC on 1/19/13. Additionally, they echo words of Tullian Tchividjian’s Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels,  and sermons by Tim Keller,  Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC, NY; available by podcast.




New Year’s Resolutions vs. SMART Goal-setting

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

set goals2

 New Year’s Resolutions.

There was a time every January 1st when I thoughtfully crafted a list of resolutions for the New Year.  However, since I am a dyed-in-the-wool control freak goal setter, I scrapped annual New Year’s Resolutions awhile back in favor of setting goals.

Rather than a list of vague things I want to accomplish, I worked on setting “SMART” goals, a concept from prior years in business:

  •  S = specific
  • M = measurable and defined in such a way that I can evaluate progress
  • A = achievable;  i.e., challenging, but not impossible
  • R = relevant;  important to vital areas of my life
  • T = time-based; that is, they are linked to a date

So, instead of having a goal that sounds more like a New Year’s Resolution:

Lose weight.

It would be written as a SMART goal, such as:

In the next month I am going to lose five pounds by losing at least 1 1/4 pounds per week. In order to do this I am going to exercise at least 45 minutes, five days a week and cut all grain products from my diet.

Writing this as a SMART goal forces me to think specifically about how I would lose weight and what specific steps I need to take to do so. It also gives me a way to measure how I am progressing toward my goal.


Setting Homeschooling Goals

Homeschooling is a perfect opportunity to hone your goal-setting skills! In fact, if you have not set goals for yourself and your homeschooling/child training, you have missed out on the motivating, organizing, intentional action-causing power this process provides.

Here is a former SMART goal from a few years ago:

I am going to be more organized with homeschooling by arranging for my husband to watch the kids so I can spend 3-4 hours on the weekend planning for the following week. During that time I will:

  • read over my lesson plans for the following week
  • look through and note on my planning pages/calendar any scheduled appointments or errands we will need to run
  • plan the subjects/assignments we will cover together and individually
  • make sure I reserve my books at the library for the next three weeks’ reading
  • grade any papers that need grading before the week starts
  • plan to procure any needed material for science, history and art activities and projects prior to their scheduled time

It is extremely motivating and rewarding to make positive changes in your life.  Moreover, it is crucial modeling for your children, especially as one of our primary goals is to teach them to become independent learners and problem solvers!


Perfectionists: Set Goals with Caution

Now hear this: setting goals does not mean unproductively comparing yourself, your children or your homeschool with others, especially if you are a new homeschooling mom.  Nor does it mean that you are a failure if you don’t meet all of your goals.

You, your children and your homeschooling efforts are all works in progress, so realize that like everything else worthwhile, it takes work to make changes  - and it often takes longer than you would think and certainly more than you would like.


First Things First: Start With Yourself

I find goal setting the most productive when I begin with myself. Over the years I have learned that the tone I set with my demeanor and attitude, the way I react to my children’s behavior, the peace I exhibit (or not) all greatly affect our school day.  Am I modeling grace? Am I flexible? Am I self-controlled? Am I emotionally, spiritually and academically prepared for the day?

If you are having difficulty in some of these areas and you are not meeting with Jesus on a daily basis – I would definitely begin there. Start small and remember it takes 30 days or so to make something a routine! Work on developing consistency!


Your Challenge!

Create one personal goal or one homeschooling goal in the next 48 hours. Assess where you would like to be and formulate a goal to help you get there. Work on it until it is a SMART goal rather than a vague statement.

For example, perhaps you would like to have more regular prayer as part of your daily morning quiet time.  Your SMART goal might read something like this:

Beginning tomorrow I am going to have intentional daily prayer for my children  for ten minutes as part of my daily quiet time. 

Note – you may have to set a ‘process’ or secondary goal to achieve your primary goal, so consider that as well.  You may have to reword your goal as follows:

Beginning tomorrow I am going to get up 15 minutes earlier to have intentional daily prayer for ten minutes as part of my daily quiet time before the children get up in the morning. I will set the alarm to get up at __ and set it again to make sure I pray for at least 10 minutes.

If you already have that priority covered, perhaps you have other personal areas you would like to consider, such as:

  • Beginning or tweaking an exercise program
  • Making more time for daily personal reading (for your own pleasure and edification)
  • Planning a weekly letter or visit to an elderly neighbor or relative
  • Finding one relaxational/social outing per week with a friend to renew your perspective
  • Rediscovering a beloved hobby you haven’t taken the time to engage in regularly since you began homeschooling
  • Trading babysitting time with another mom and planning a weekly or biweekly ‘date night’ with your husband
  • Beginning a blog
  • Volunteering at church or in your community


Respond in the Comments

If you are serious about making a change in your life, make your goal public. Sharing it with others = instant accountability!

Would you benefit by setting a personal goal for yourself? Do you regularly set goals for yourself or your homeschool? I would love to hear what you are planning or about any difficulties you have setting goals in this post’s comments!


Dana's signature


Follow @dana_wilson


 Next Post:  





How to Spice up Your Homeschooling – Try English Country Dancing!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Including  fun activities along with academics is crucial to maximizing engagement and learning.  Here is a resource that I GUARANTEE your children will enjoy so much they will not even realize that they are learning. 

English Country Dancing DVD - a must have history resource


English Country Dancing

Recently a nineteen year old homeschool graduate Garrett Stowe, whose family is a long time user of Epi Kardia/Train up a Child Publishing curricula, sent me a wonderfully professional instructional DVD he produced to teach others how to participate in the entertaining group activity: English Country Dancing.

I was so impressed!

The cover of the DVD is shown above and a screen shot of Garrett during the film’s introductory comments is below.

English Country Dancing creator

I was thrilled to preview the DVD and found it not only to be professionally recorded, but a solid historical resource suitable for all homeschoolers, no matter which homeschooling philosophy or curricula you use. In addition to step-by-step directions for and demonstrations of six well-loved historical dances, English Country Dancing includes accompanying period music and lovely artwork depicting the enchanting fashions of this era.  Furthermore, the DVD offers additional historical narrative describing Victorian dancing etiquette – even revealing how proper single ladies used their fans to demurely communicate with potential suitors! Fascinating!

Here are some more details about English Country Dancing  from its creator:

Garrett, what inspired you to create this DVD?

Garrett: With my first introduction to the Civil War era dancing, I realized that this was a wonderful way to bring the family and community together for good, “old-fashioned” fun! Unfortunately, there were not many people who knew the dances, and every time we hosted a dance, we ended up spending half our time teaching the new dancers. After several frustrating dances, my (very creative) mother suggested that I combine my enjoyment of the dances and my interest in cinematography to create an instructional DVD that would allow people to learn the dances at home. 

Then when you held a dance, you could spend their time dancing instead of just teaching! Makes sense!

Side note: Even though Garrett and friends enjoyed this type of dancing and thought of it primarily just as fun, I suspect his (also very wise) mother saw this entertaining activity as an extension of their history studies, don’t you think?


Homeschool history resource - English Country Dancing


What historical topics do you cover in the DVD?

The history of the Victorian/Civil War era is incredibly rich and entire documentaries have been dedicated to understanding their society. In our DVD [we] attempted to capture the beautiful etiquette, manners, and fashion of the day; especially where it pertained to dancing. Some of their customs can be somewhat humorous but many still have application today.


Why did you decide to title your DVD English Country Dancing?  Weren’t these dances done in the United States as well?

Garrett: The title English Country Dancing often confuses people and understandably so; after all, many of the dances we cover were also enjoyed in the United States. We had a hard time deciding on a title that accounted for all the origins of the dances included in the DVD. We had dances originating from Celidah Dancing, English Country Dancing, Scottish Country Dancing and even American Folk Dancing. But, at the root of all these dances was the underlying emphasis on timing and precise movements that so typified English Country Dancing. So, for simplicity’s sake, we grouped all the dances under [that title].  

How old are these dances and from where did they come?

Garrett: Supposedly, the Virginia Reel has been in existence for almost 400 years. Although not all the dances in the DVD are quite so long lived, most originated in the mid-nineteenth century and were most popular in Europe and America through the Victorian/Civil War Era. Some of the dances were peasant dances from Ireland (like the Cumberland Reel), others were dances of the aristocracy (such as the Gothic Dance or Soldiers Joy), but all [played] a central part in every community gathering. There were even dances for children to join in on; my favorite is the Patticake polka … even my three year old sister can dance it like an expert! Today, the dances are enjoyed by everyone with a love for history and a taste for family fun.

Where did you find period costumes to wear for the production?

Garrett: The period costumes used for the dances were almost entirely hand made by the dancers. All the ladies sewed their own gowns and many of the men wore costumes made by sisters or friends.


Using English Country Dancing with your History Studies

Incorporating this entertaining activity into your history studies is easy. Here are several ways:

1.  Just watch it!  This enjoyable and informative DVD is a delightful break from the normal routine.

2.  Use English Country Dancing to introduce studies of this time period. Have your student take notes on the historical portions of the DVD and use ideas from it for further research and writing on any of the following topics:

  • Queen Victoria
  • the Victorian Era (the time Queen Victoria reigned in England – from 1819 to 1901)
  • Victorian Morality
  • The American Civil War
  • Civil War past-times
  • More about Fan Language
  • The Language of Flowers

3.   Have your students study and practice the dances of the DVD as they complete their reading and writing on this time period. Have them use the DVD to help plan a celebratory unit-culminating event with a few other homeschooling families. Make costumes, check out some authentic music from your public library and recruit some other dancers. Serve ice cream to your guests after the dancing. (After all, ice cream was on the scene during this time and considered quite the delicacy.)

Win Your Own Copy of English Country Dancing!

Not only is this charming, well-made DVD academically useful, the dances are suitable for a small to large group from ages 6 to 60, are simple to learn and continually shift dancers to different partners (rather than encouraging ‘couples’).

So could you put a copy of English Country Dancing to good use in your homeschool? If so, please participate in our contest! We are going to be giving away one  English Country Dancing DVD!

We will be collecting entries from now until Friday night 9/28/12 at 11:30 p.m. and having a random drawing Saturday morning, so don’t delay.

Choose one or more of the following activities to participate; each thing you do increases your chances to win!

Make sure you leave a separate comment below EACH time you complete one of the following:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling us how you would incorporate English Country Dancing into your homeschool history studies.
  2. Leave a comment on another recent post on this blog and let us know you did.
  3. Visit and “Like” our new Train up a Child Publishing Facebook page at
  4. Tweet this offer and let us know you did.
  5. Share this offer on your Facebook page and let us know you did.
  6. Share this offer on one of your Pinterest boards and let us know you did.
  7. Grab our new blog button (at left sidebar) and post it on your blog – include your blog address in your comment.
Don’t forget to include your email address in your comments so we can let you know if you won!

In addition to our give-away we will be offering a limited number English Country Dancing DVDs on our website for an introductory price of $12.97 (plus S&H).  At this price – think CHRISTMAS and buy several!

So, if you know your right hand from your left, you can walk and you can count to eight, this excellent history resource will help you make hours of wonderful memories, and teach you something as well!

This is something our whole family will love! How about yours?


Dana's signature