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What you need to know about summer learning loss for middleschoolers

  |   Holidays, Language Arts, Teaching Middle School, Teaching Writing, Uncategorized   |   4 Comments

summer learning loss for middleschoolers

In elementary school it’s important….but for middleschoolers, the summers are really heating up — and I’m not referring to the weather.   Summer learning loss for middleschoolers?

Summer learning loss for middle schoolers is a big deal.

That’s a big statement!

And here’s another one that will  really amaze you:  The ACT (one of the tests students take to see if they’re ready for college) states in their research “the academic level a student reaches in eighth grade is more important in predicting success in college and career than what is achieved in high school.”*   So —  those foundational skills need to be there by the end of eighth grade, especially if your student is college-bound.

If you have a rising middleschooler, this is an exceptionally useful summer to plan some regular math, reading and writing work to keep or get your student to the level s/he needs to be. (And this would apply all of your student’s middle school summers, but particularly the one before eighth grade.)

What can I do to help summer learning loss for my Middle School student?


The easiest thing to do is just to to keep doing math over the summer.  That might mean finishing the book your student was working on last year if it is unfinished, or  beginning next year’s level early. Or it may mean doing something else to review skills already learned, or work on solidifying skills that are not quite “sticking” before more complicated skills are taught next year.

My very favorite math review books are the Key to Fractions, Key to Decimals, Key to Percentages, etc., series by Key Curriculum Press, available at Christianbook.com and Amazon.com.  I love this series because the explanations are clear and they’re practical. Instead of just worksheets (and you know I hate worksheets), they use real-life applications.  Depending upon what skills you want to review and how solid your student’s math skills are, I would look through the book descriptions and decide what your student would benefit by reviewing. At Christianbook.com you can see the complete table of contents which will help you best assess where you student might need review.

For example, this is the from the Key to Decimals series, with notes from the Christianbook.com website:

Book 1 “Key to Decimals begins with basic concepts and operations on decimals. It covers real-world uses of decimals in pricing, sports, metrics, calculators, and science. Key to Decimals’ success-oriented approach builds confidence and independence.” Book 1 focuses on the basic concepts.

Book 2 “Book 2 focuses on Adding, Subtracting, and Multiplying.”

Book 3 “Book 3 covers multiplication and division, remainders, place value, word problems and more.”

Book 4 “Book 4 covers rounding off decimals, estimating, graphing averages, the metric system and scientific notation.”
(These are also available used on Amazon.com, which might be cheaper.  Note that you need to buy an answer key as well as the student book.”


Just like your younger children, middle schoolers need to keep reading daily or almost daily to keep their edge. Thirty-45 minutes a day of free reading will be enough to keep their skills up, especially if you encourage your student to sample a little more variety than he may have read in the past. For example, you might help him alternate between books in different genres: historical fiction, adventure, mystery, biography, science fiction, non-fiction. You could always compromise and have him read something you helped pick out for the first half of reading time, then read whatever he wanted for the second half.  If you get stuck, let me know in the comments and I’ll post some ideas of our favorites books in a few different genres.


Writing is a lot like reading – if you do it regularly it becomes easier! Also, when it has a purpose, it’s easier.  Are you visiting any parks, relatives, the beach, the mountains, an historic site, aquarium or museum this summer? This is a great time to have your middle school student write a few paragraphs  every week or so about what she learned and her favorite part of the experience.  A middleschooler should be able to self-edit as well. Have her look over her writing after she’s finished to make sure it:

  • has a title
  • “makes sense” when it’s read aloud (Does it say what she wants it to say? Are there any words missing?)
  • is grammatically correct
  • has the correct spelling
  • is punctuated properly

Then you take a look. You don’t need to mark all of her spelling and punctuation errors — just put on the top of the paper how many you found of each and let her try to find them herself.

You don’t have to correct everything that your student writes.  But if you find the same types of regular errors in her work, it would be helpful for you to address them, especially if this is the summer before 8th grade. Make sure to have a good grammar reference on hand to help both of you. You can see some I recommend here.

Writing hint for a reluctant writer:  Have him get ready to write, and then tell him you are going to set the timer for 15 minutes and he is not allowed to think about spelling, punctuation or grammar — he is just to write as much as he possibly can about the experience he’s writing about and has to stop when the timer goes off.  There’s  something about that timer that helps get the words onto the page!  He can clean it up and organize it another day, also for 15 minutes, if need be.

Incorporate different forms of writing into the summer, as well. Maybe keeping a prayer or other journal, lists of things that your middleschooler wants to do over the summer, letters to Grandma or others, or responding to a writing prompt that you provide will appeal to your student. Variety always makes things more interesting.

I hope this sparked a few useful ideas for your middle school student!  If so, please tell me in the comments what you liked best!

*ACT. (2008) The Forgotten Middle:Improving Readiness for High School.  Iowa City, IA.

In part I of this series we talked about most kids forgetting about 1-2 months in math computation skills with not as much but still quantifiable losses in reading and other language arts skills during the summer.  If you have preschoolers through elementary school students, you’ll want to take a look at that post here.

Part III of the summer learning loss series is a must-read if you have high school students, especially if they are rising 9th graders!

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What you should know about “Summer Learning Loss” and what you can do about it

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Holidays, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Teaching Elementary School   |   No comment

summer learning loss

Also known as the summer slump or summer slide, summer learning loss is what your students forget between the end of one school year to the beginning of the next.

Public school teachers say they have to re-teach a MONTH or more of what kids had already learned the previous year to make up for summer learning loss. Yikes! And just because we are homeschooling families, we are not immune, especially if we follow the traditional public school year and take the summer off from academics.

How much learning do they lose?

The biggest loss seems to be in arithmetic computation – about one to two months’ worth! Yikes! That represents a lot of work on your part as well as your students’ part, doesn’t it? If you spent hours last year quizzing one or more of your kids on addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts, you see why it would benefit you to work a little math facts’ practice into your relaxed summer days.
Second to numerical computation, reading and spelling are affected, especially for children whose parents don’t or can’t involve them in summer reading programs or other summer enrichment programs.

What is really scary is researchers say this loss is cumulative, possibly putting students further and further behind as they move into middle and high school years.

What can I do about summer learning loss?

This summer slide is so preventable.  If you school year ’round, you probably don’t have to worry about this at all, but the rest of us need to plan activities to minimize it’s effect. Of course, summer should be a time to do some relaxing, get outdoors more and have fun, but keeping your kids in learning mode to some extent is critical to keep the momentum going during extended school breaks.

(Mom, even if you use the summer to work inside/outside the home, you can still put some steps in place to keep your kids’ skills sharp over the summer.)

Here are some ideas at different ages for avoiding the summer slump:

Preschool –

That’s right. Engaging in very active play – running in different directions, rolling on the ground, spinning, hanging upside down on a swing and just MOVING. A. LOT. is crucial to your preschooler’s development and learning readiness. It has something to do with inner ear development that takes place with these kinds of activities (they need “rapid vestibular input”) and it CUTS DOWN ON FIDGETING later when it’s time to start homeschooling. (Or any kind of schooling).

In addition to lots of movement, expose your preschoolers to books by reading aloud to them daily and talking about what you are reading. Let them participate in household events such as cooking, cleaning the house, doing the laundry and making their beds. This is the time to start that habit training that Charlotte Mason talked so much about. Start getting your littles ready for school by teaching them to listen to you and be obedient right away, to take care of their own belongings, and to do tasks well.


If you have pre-readers, let them work on their letters by using their bodies to form letters (and have you or a sibling guess which letter), write them in a pan of sand or in a sandbox, or build letters with blocks. Anything to add a hands on element.

If your primaries are beginning readers who are solidifying their skills, now is not the time to let them lose ground! Take them (and all of your kids, actually) to the public library once a week, if at all possible, and participate in their free summer reading program that will help you track your kids’ reading (or your time reading aloud to them) and get stickers or little rewards when they reach certain milestones.

Don’t insist on making them read things that are terribly challenging to them, just let them read for the joy of reading. Help your kids find books and magazines in areas they are interested – especially helpful for any reluctant reader. Spend some time in the morning when they are used to doing school or in the afternoon when it’s too hot to play outdoors to have a “reading time” when everyone quietly reads their books and look at their magazines.

Primaries can do a lot around the house, too. One of the best ways to reinforce arithmetic is to let them help with meal preparation–“How many forks do we need? How many knives and how many spoons? How many utensils is that altogether?” And, “If we are going to make twice as many cookies, we need to make the recipe ‘twice.’ But we don’t have to actually make the recipe two times, we can just make it once if we use double the amount of the ingredients. If we need two cups of flour and we want to double the recipe, how much flour do we need? We can figure it out by making this number sentence: 2 (cups) + 2 (cups) = 4 (cups). ”

And just like preschoolers, primaries need to spend a certain amount of time each and every day moving.  Going for a walk, swimming lessons, dancing and other active, whole-body experiences help children learn.

Later Elementary-

The last comment about moving applies here as well! Actually, it applies to all of your children, no matter what the age.

Reading: Have your elementary school children work up to reading  3o minutes a day. Even if what they choose is beneath their reading level, they are still building reading fluency by just putting the time in daily. Make sure you and dad are modeling reading as well – reading for pleasure and/or to learn something and talking about it will help a reluctant reader to see the value in reading.

Math: In addition to cooking and working with recipes, it is not a bad thing to do some daily math drills with this age. Anytime you can make this into a game, that’s good:

  • It might be as simple as standing in a circle with your kids, saying, “4+6” and then throwing a ball to someone who has to answer the question. Then the person who answers gets to come up with a problem and throw the ball to someone else.
  • Another fun game is “Math War” with cards: Two at a time can play; divide up the cards into two piles and each person gets a pile. Each person takes her top card and flips it face up on the table at the same time. The first person to add the numbers together gets both cards. You can also subtract the smaller number from the larger, or multiply the numbers. If you have a younger and older child, one can add or subtract and the other one can multiply. To make this more challenging, you can even have another person sit alongside to call out the numerical operation that needs to be performed.

Writing: Look for opportunities for your students to write. Have them write Grandma a letter. They can write instructions for taking care of a pet, or directions from your house to their best friend’s. Or have them keep a journal and write a few sentences in response to a daily prompt, or record what they did that day. Be creative and use as many ways to write with ‘a real purpose’ as you can.

What about the upper grades?

Learning loss becomes a little more serious as your student moves from elementary school into middle school and then into high school. Find out how to immunize your older children against summer learning loss in parts 2 and 3 of this series!


So, what are you doing this summer to hedge your bets against summer learning loss?


If you have a middle schooler, make sure to see Part II in this series:  Summer Learning Loss for Middleschoolers.

If you have a high school student, definitely read Part III to see just how important those summers are!

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Is your homeschool curriculum bossing you around?

  |   Curriculum, Teaching - all grades   |   No comment

unstructured homeschool curriculum

Personally, I don’t like my curriculum telling me exactly what to say and do. Maybe I have other things to say than my curriculum does about Christopher Columbus, the Civil War, or the ecology movement. Maybe I don’t want my kids to do all those activities each week.  Isn’t there ever any time for them to just… play?!

If you are just starting out homeschooling, you might want a curriculum to tell you exactly what to say, what to do and when to do it. There’s no shame in that. In fact, that’s why we created Daily Lesson Plans from our original Unit Program curricula — for moms who want and need that kind of structure. But if you have homeschooled awhile you may feel you don’t need that much structure anymore. You might be ready for a more unstructured homeschool curriculum.

Maybe as a Charlotte Mason mom, you want to let your kids form their OWN relationships with the concepts they are reading about, without needing a textbook to spoon feed them everything you want them to know.

Unstructured Homeschool Curriculum can work FOR YOU, instead of bossing you around.

Not only is it frustrating that your curriculum tells you what to say, it also gives you more to do than you think your kids need. (Busywork!) And when you don’t check off all the little boxes, you either feel like you aren’t doing a good job homeschooling OR you add extra hours to your day to get everything checked off. (Otherwise you’re wasting all that money you spent, right?)

With this tyrant in your home your homeschooling is not turning out to be nearly as fun as you imagined it would be, is it? You’re skipping all the fun stuff in order to get all those dumb boxes checked!

If you’d like to relieve the pressure before you blow a gasket, have more flexibility to go down those rabbit trails without feeling guilty, and make homeschooling FUN again, you can! Just try a more unstructured curriculum. Then YOU can add the structure when and where you need it.

Our unstructured unit programs give you the TOOLS you need to homeschool your kids:

  • Our 100+ page teacher’s manual teaches you how to use excellent literature for teaching history and science
  • We show you how to choose copywork, how to teach your kids to do narrations, and how to use the same books you’re using in history and science to teach grammar and punctuation.
  • Each of our unit programs has over 400 top-notch, pre-read book suggestions, divided by historical period, subject (history, science, and fine arts [music, art and architecture], topic and reading/listening levels.
  • Each historical unit also contains a 3-10 page overview of important events and people for that unit.
  • Our manuals include checklists of important English Skills for different grades, including phonics, so you don’t miss anything important.
  • Each unit has a page of history and science activities and projects to choose from, and our middle school and high school unit programs also have many assignment ideas as well!

With this unstructured homeschool curriculum, you can cover what you want to cover each day and journal what you did, rather than obsessing about what you didn’t do!

If your homeschool could use more flexibility and a little more fun, read more about our Unit Programs and click on the individual components at the bottom of the page to see samples for each level.

It might be time to toss that limiting checkbox curriculum that is cramping your style!  Are you ready to give more unstructured homeschool curriculum a try?


Read some homeschool moms’ thoughts about our Unit Programs:

              “I came across this gem several years ago as I was searching for a Charlotte Mason-style curriculum that would work with well with our notebooking pages and philosophy of education. True to its Charlotte Mason roots, Train up a Child Publishing has tossed the dry, dusty textbooks and carefully selected the best available “living” children’s literature to recommend with their integrated study of history, science, fine arts and language arts (grammar, spelling, vocabulary, composition, literature study, poetry, etc.).

           I have tried a variety of curriculum plans and each has their particular perks, but with this curriculum I feel I have all I need (not too much, not too little) to plan a wonderfully RICH, Charlotte Mason inspired, literature-based history program for my children.”      ~Debra, mom of many


         “E. is in 4th grade right now and C. is in 1st grade. I love being able to use Train up a Child Publishing curricula with both of them! (And we’ll be adding L. in kindergarten next year.) What a blessing this curriculum has been and continues to be for us! Thanks!”     ~Julie


          “The kids and I just finished playing a ’20th Century Trivia’ board game that A. made after I saw it in the Preparatory Unit Program of Train up a Child Publishing. What a great idea! He had to come up with the idea, use history & geography to come up with the categories and then the questions, make the board, paint the board and then make up the rules. It was a great 2-week project!”         ~Vicki


            “I love the Unit Programs’ FLEXIBILITY!!!! We can dig deep and do lots of writing and projects with each unit or at a bare minimum, just read some of the books listed – all depending on how busy the rest of our life is at the time. The kids LOVE the books. Also, I can teach multiple children of differing grades very easily with it. I will recommend this program [because it is] fun, flexible and far out! (I was trying to think of an F word that meant it’s awesome and good quality.)”        ~Julie Y.


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Do you have a homeschooling success plan?

  |   Character Development, Christian Parenting, Curriculum, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Planning, Time Mangagement   |   8 Comments

Most of us jump into homeschooling SCARED. TO. DEATH. So you look to someone else who has homeschooled longer and you copy everything you can from this homeschool expert, instead of taking the time to carefully think through what’s most important to you and your family. Instead of creating your own homeschooling success plan.

If you constantly compare your homeschool to your friends’,  endlessly second-guess yourself, change curriculum and activities like you do your underwear … you need a homeschooling success plan.

Without thinking through your priorities and identifying what successful homeschooling means to you, you’ll never feel satisfied that what you are doing is best for your family. You’ll be distracted by everything everyone else is doing and constantly be second-guessing yourself and your plans.

Until you carefully consider what is important for your homeschool, your stress will mount while your self-confidence plummets. You’ll continually chase every new idea thinking that the next one is the one that will magically make it all better.

If you don’t have a well-thought-out-and-prayed-over homeschooling success plan, you might be like the “double-minded,” “unstable man” in James 1 who is “like a wave driven and tossed by the wind.”

I have felt that way. Maybe you have, too.

Maybe you feel like that now.
Homeschooling Success Plan

You need your own vision and plan for homeschooling success. Like a road map, it will keep you focused and moving in the direction that YOU choose.

Otherwise you will continually be distracted by the next bright, shiny program or activity that you see. You will be constantly pulled off your course.

When you homeschool with a plan, you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” You decide at the beginning of each year what you and your family are going to do and not do, what kind of curriculum you are going to use for the year,  how many outside activities are possible, and which ones support your goals.

So let’s make a plan! Let’s live in peace, not trying to “live up” to what others are doing. Let’s make a plan that fits YOUR family.

Let’s scrape you off the road and get you back in the driver’s seat. 😉


Creating your homeschooling success plan

Start by getting away from everything with your spouse, or if you are a single mom/dad, by yourself or with another homeschooling parent. Take at least a half a day or an evening to talk and pray about what YOU want your homeschool to be like.


1. Pray.

Read through Scripture, perhaps beginning with the verses below. Ask God to give you wisdom about your homeschooling years and show you His priorities. You’re honoring Him with your commitment to homeschool your children and raise them in the admonition of the Lord, so He WANTS to help you do it!

If any of you lacks wisdom,let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  (James 1:5)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:9).

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. (Is. 54:13)

Pray. Write down any insights you glean from prayer.


2. After praying, determine your family’s primary core values.

Considering your prayer insights, answer the following questions and brainstorm others to help determine the core values you want to demonstrate in your family:

• Why are you homeschooling?
• How do you want your family to relate to one another and to others?
• What do you want your kids to be like when they are teens?
• What skills do you want them to have when they leave your home?
• What kind of atmosphere do you want in your home?

Continue to dialogue about what’s most important to you, writing everything down that you come up with. From the answers to these questions and the others you develop, create at least 5-10 primary core values for your family. These describe the “what” you want your family to be.


  • We will have a harmonious, peaceful household.
  • Teaching our children about the Bible and our faith will be top priority.
  • While they are in our home our children will develop life skills such as cooking, basic first aid and house and car maintenance.
  • We will focus not on the negative behavior with our children, but on the heart issue behind it.


3. Create tactics to fit your values/goals.

Tactics are the “how” you put into place to create the “what” you want your family to be. Using the first example above, these are some possible tactics:

Core Value: We will have a harmonious, peaceful household.


  • We will speak to one another kindly and character-training and development will take priority over academics.
  • We will proactively choose and monitor outside activities and limit them to what is realistic, affordable and in line with our goal of having a peaceful home.
  • Dad will take the kids once a week for a three hour period so Mom can do school planning, have some social time and/or take a nap.
  • We’ll teach our kids at an early age to be responsible for their own belongings and living spaces.

Note: these might not be priorities for your family, and that’s fine. Create values (goals) and tactics that work for YOU. That’s the point.


4. Put it in Writing.

Create a written homeschooling success plan by making a statement about why you are homeschooling. Follow that with your family’s core values,  and with the tactics you’ve developed to support those values. Use your plan as a guideline when it is time to make decisions about curriculum, activities, habit training and more. You might even post your list of core values in your homeschooling area to reinforce these values with your children.


5. Stop “looking around” so much.

Okay, you’ve developed your primary homeschooling goals and your tactics, put your plan in writing, and implemented it at home. Everything is humming along just fine and then you read something online, see something on Pinterest, talk to a friend who is raving about this new program…


6. Work your plan!

Concentrate on doing what you have already decided to do well and master that before you think about adding more.

Don’t ditch what you have worked so hard on in favor of something “new.” Work your plan!


Helpful hints to stay proactive instead of reactive:

  • Don’t endlessly search the Internet for new ideas. Search with a purpose and be focused.
  • Don’t try and keep up with the 25 blogs you used to read. Find a few that speak to you, share your outlook and values, are helpful, and concentrate on reading those.
  • Check in with your plan and your spouse before adopting anything new. Ask yourself: will this new idea bring us closer to one of our primary goals? Does it fit? Is there time for it? How will this change/ blend in with what we are already doing? Would it be better to wait and start this at the beginning of the next semester or the following year?
  • If you are experiencing problems in your homeschooling, try and ferret out what the problem actually is:  is it behavior you need to deal with?  Does your curriculum or teaching style work against a difficult child’s learning style? Do you need to get your husband to take a more active role in your homeschool efforts or hold a child more accountable? Do you need to train or re-train someone in a particular area? Could your child have a physical issue with eyesight or a learning deficiency? An opinion from an experienced homeschool mom and/or a professional might be profitable if you can’t determine the issue yourself.

Have you ever taken the time to think through your family’s core values and create specific tactics to reach your goals? How might creating a homeschooling success plan help you be consistent and more secure in how you homeschool and parent?

Does just the thought of creating a homeschooling success plan like this seem overwhelming?

Could you use a free ebook that lays out this process with step-by-step instructions and worksheets?

Get it here.

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How do you measure homeschooling success?

  |   Curriculum, Encouragement, Parenting/Homeschooling in General   |   9 Comments

how do you measure homeschooling success by Train up a Child Publishing

What is homeschooling success to you?

How do you know you are getting where you want to be if you aren’t sure what you’re aiming for?

Most of us have a vague idea that if we turn out ‘good’ kids and teach history, science, math and English every year, manage to have clean clothes most of the time, and throw half-way healthy meals on the table daily, our homeschooling is a success.

Those things are all important. But if you’re like most homeschool moms, it’s the things we do without really considering our true priorities that put us over the edge.

That make us live like we are being dragged behind our minivans instead of being in the driver’s seat like we belong.

Don’t you compare what you’re doing in your homeschool with what everyone else is doing in theirs? Haven’t you been guilty of thinking…

  • Shouldn’t each of my kids be in a sport year ’round?
  • Shouldn’t we be learning Latin?
  • Aren’t our kids going to be behind without starting athletics/ music lessons/art classes/ by age five, like everyone else’s kids?
  • Shouldn’t we be doing _________ (fill out the blank with a paid program), like the other homeschooling families in our church? 



It’s time to assess what homeschooling success looks like to YOUR family and let some of that other “stuff” fall by the wayside.

Identifying what homeschooling success means to YOU gives you a framework from which to judge everything: from what type of curriculum to choose, to what habits each of your children need to be trained in, to what activities you are going to participate in.

Does that upcoming field trip opportunity bring you closer to meeting one of your goals? No? Then maybe it isn’t the best use of your time, unless the social time is a priority for this season.

Does that curriculum you’re considering support a biblical worldview? Yes? If that would bring you closer to a primary goal, then that’s a superior choice for you over another curriculum that doesn’t support a biblical worldview.

Are you getting tired of being dragged behind that van?

If I am talking to you, leave a comment about what you want to change and why!

And be looking for part two of this post with a process for getting back into that driver’s seat.



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The Minimalist Guide to the Holidays

  |   Holidays, Music Study, Teaching - all grades, Time Mangagement   |   2 Comments

the minimalist guide to the holidays

 As soon as the crisp morning breeze hits your cheek, it seems like it’s just a few weeks before you’re facing the holidays and all the juggling of activities that brings.

Trying to homeschool while planning and preparing for the onslaught of company, huge, intricate meals, decorating, holiday crafts, homemade Christmas gifts, special holiday ministry events, parties, traveling, entertaining and holiday correspondence…

It’s enough to make you climb back under the covers just thinking about it.

But you aren’t in the middle of things YET.  Before holiday mode hits, consider approaching the holidays from a simpler perspective this year. Follow our 5 tip minimalist guide to the holidays to help you relax, enjoy and celebrate.

1. Take a longer break from homeschooling.

Our holiday break started the week of Thanksgiving and ran through New Year’s Day.   Yes, that’s about six weeks.  For that period of time we didn’t do “formal” school. We slept later and participated in church and community events without worrying about late nights and resulting cranky, sleep-deprived kids.

Just because we didn’t follow our routine doesn’t mean that I couldn’t count many activities as school.   We just focused on holiday preparations and service rather than completing math lessons and writing essays. Here’s an example of what we did during November and December:

  • planned and made holiday meals/company meals/meals for others (nutrition,  home economics, practical math,  service)
  • read aloud as a family from our collection of classic Christmas books
  • had daily independent reading time (children’s choice of material for youngers, olders caught up or read ahead for the following semester)
  • crafted projects to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and to make gifts for neighbors, friends, family and others (art, service)
  • participated in and attended concerts, cantatas, plays and other holiday events (music/drama)

2.  Scale back on gift-buying.

You watch your budget and carefully plan your spending all year, but somehow it all goes out the window at holiday time. Ask yourself if you REALLY have to buy as many gifts as you do.  Perhaps it is time to change it up:

  • decide to forgo spending so much on gifts for your kids and instead bless another family with a life-giving gift from Samaritan’s Purse’s Christmas catalog 
  • give everyone a spending limit
  • make gifts instead of buying them
  • do “family” gifts for your siblings and their kids instead of individual gifts
  • choose names for gift buying instead of getting everyone something

3. Don’t go to every event you are invited to.

Isn’t it true that every group each member of your family belongs to has a Christmas event?  And not only do you try and attend them all, you sometimes double or even triple-book when they  inevitably occur on the same dates.

Contrary to what you may have done in the past, you don’t have to attend all of these events. Just stop.

Look at the calendar and plan ahead to have a manageable schedule, planning in down time so you aren’t running somewhere different every night of the week.

4. Simplify the meals.

Growing up, at Thanksgiving and Christmas we had to have so many different dishes that it was exhausting and expensive for all involved.  Instead, at our house everyone chooses ONE dish that they can’t have Thanksgiving without. =D (If you have a large family you might have to take a vote instead.)

I have vivid memories of starting preparations for Christmas breakfast after getting home from Christmas Eve services and being up until 1:00 am or later making this particular item that we had to have for Christmas morning, while readying a 25 pound turkey for the oven at the crack of dawn the next day.

Now, Christmas breakfast is something simple we can make together, and we have a later, large meal for Christmas dinner so the turkey doesn’t have to start cooking so early. We’ve even been known to skip the turkey altogether or cooking just the turkey breast instead of messing with the entire bird.

So rather than having special menus for Christmas Eve and every meal on Christmas, we focus on one main meal.

I’m all for family traditions, but don’t try to do so many that you are exhausted. Pick and choose.

Make your crockpot your friend for November and December, and keep those regular meals extra simple and light to help compensate for the heavier eating that usually happens at all of the holiday events.

5.  Slow down and savor the time.

Take some time for yourself during these busy days.

  • Meet a friend for coffee. 
  • Go for a walk outside by yourself as often as possible.
  • Trade childcare time with a friend so you can shop, clean or cook by yourself or with your husband without the kids. Make it into a date!
  • Read a book. (Not a school book.)

In his book,  In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore wrote:

“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better…. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

Make the choice to SLOW DOWN and SAVOR. Enjoy being together with your loved ones, cooking together, crafting together, playing board games and watching holiday movies.  You are allowed to plan relaxation time into your schedule and say “no” to those things that will put you over the edge.

REIGN IN YOUR HOLIDAY TO DOS.  Use the time and money you save to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones and to peacefully celebrate!



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Paper Crafts for Thanksgiving!

  |   American History, Books!, Hands on Activities, Holidays, Teaching Elementary School   |   2 Comments

crafts for Thanksgiving

I LOVE making holiday crafts for Thanksgiving and other holidays with our kids. So much so that we collect different colored paper, ribbon, stamps, and other craft supplies throughout the year. We’ve often checked out craft books from the library, but we also collect some of our favorites from Amazon and local used book stores.

Making crafts for Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion is a good time to:

  • talk about the holiday’s origin and why it’s important. You can even consider this time as school (history and social studies).
  • count down the days until Thanksgiving as we prepare various projects (calendar review and math).
  • fulfill those “hands on” needs elementary children (and older children!) have
  • provide a happy break from some of the more academic things we do. And if you have a child that’s more artistically inclined, even better!

The presence of extended family and friends and the chance to make and eat our special Thanksgiving recipes (like our family’s huge pumpkin gingerbread cookies) all make Thanksgiving special, but the chance to examine and talk about what we are grateful for leading up to Thanksgiving is a not-to-be-missed opportunity (character training).

As far as Thanksgiving crafts go I especially LOVE paper crafts – they are fun for multi-age siblings (and mom!) , inexpensive, and not terribly time-consuming.

Paper Crafts for Thanksgiving

If you love them, too, here is a must-have book that has simple, inexpensive Thanksgiving crafts that kids (and moms) love to make.

crafts for thanksgiving
This useful Thanksgiving craft book has plenty of patterns and clear, simple, illustrated instructions for making turkey pop-up cards, a “Happy Thanksgiving” table greeting, a 3D “I am Thankful for my Family” sculpture, a cute reuseable turkey stencil, and much more.

The book begins with a easy-to-understand history of the Thanksgiving holiday and suggestions for using recycled paper to complete the projects.

In the “Read About” section at the back there are further book suggestions and website links to places where you can read more about Thanksgiving and see additional Thanksgiving crafts.

Our hands down favorite project is the pop-up turkey card!  You can see how simple the directions are in the image below.

crafts for thanksgiving

In addition the clear instructions, this is my favorite craft book for Thanksgiving crafts because of the really cute projects!

Does your family have specific crafts you love to make for Thanksgiving? If you haven’t started that family tradition yet, it’s never too late. 🙂

I’d love to hear what you do with your kids to prepare for Thanksgiving!



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Keeping a Calm and Quiet Heart: a Homeschool Mom’s Devotion

  |   Christian Parenting, Curriculum, Encouragement   |   No comment

Calm and Quiet Heart

One of the many blessings I received from writing our newest high school course, World History I, was reading through the entire Bible again, as the Bible is one of our primary references for the first two units of the course. Just what I needed to reinforce the need to keep a calm and quiet heart!

My reading plan directed me to read the books in chronological order, with a psalm at the end of each day’s reading. Finishing with a psalm every day gave me a chance to cycle through the psalms a number of times. I loved it!

I have continued the habit of ending my morning Bible reading with a psalm, and in my quiet time this morning I was encouraged — I hope you will be encouraged, too.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, 

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child with its mother.

Psalm 131: 1-2

 What a beautiful picture of a calm and quiet heart.

…no worries about all the  undone things I see around me

.…no worries about a loved one who will soon be with Jesus

….no worries about another loved one who doesn’t know Jesus

Your Worries Might be Different…

... not getting enough sleep because of the baby

…the eight year old who still can’t read, the middle schooler who won’t write, or the high schooler who just isn’t getting algebra

…month left at the end of the money

…starting homeschool later than planned

…not knowing whether your kids are learning

not sure you are doing “enough” in your schooling

I’m praying for you and for me.  That we would just be content to know we are safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, and be reassured that He is Sovereign.

Pray with me…

Oh Lord, help us to calm and quiet our minds and our hearts. Remind us that this is how you want us to live, able to step back from the circumstances of our lives, especially those we don’t understand and have no ability to control … and choose to be calm, relaxed, peaceful and as reliant upon You as a baby in her mother’s arms, not wanting for or worrying about anything…  just content to be held. 

What worries would you add to the list?  Do you have difficulties stepping back, as I do, and keeping a  calm and quiet heart in the middle of difficult circumstances?   How do you get back on track?

Image credit: David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.com

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What Subjects do we Cover?

  |   Christian Parenting, Curriculum, Geography study, Language Arts, Music Study, Picture Study, Teaching - all grades, Teaching Science, Teaching Writing   |   No comment

What subjects do we cover

What subjects do we cover?

What subjects do we cover in our Christian, literature-based curricula? We get a lot of questions about this!  We cover history, science (K-8th), language arts and fine arts.

Bible as History and Science

Although we do not cover the Bible as a separate subject, we use the Bible for teaching history and science, for memory work and as a foundation for everything else we do. Our curriculum often refers to the Bible, particularly during the Ancient and Renaissance and Reformation historical periods.  We also cover the days of Creation in science and include Scripture memory work during the Ancients, as well. Additionally, in our unit program manuals we include a three year Bible reading plan and blank prayer log.

Particularly with your younger children it’s important to use the real words of the Bible when teaching the subject of history (actually, we see it as HIS-story). In our Christian homeschooling curricula we refer to Biblical events as Bible ‘accounts,’ rather than Bible ‘stories,’  to help smaller children to understand that these events actually happened.

In our middle school daily lesson plans, as students mature, we help them start thinking about “author’s bias” and prompt you to guide them in examining what they read, hear and watch according to biblical standards.

In our high school courses we often examine leadership, author’s lives and works, and historical characters and events in relation to what God tells us in His Word.  In fact, in our World History I high school course, which covers the Ancients through the Renaissance & Reformation, we read significant portions of the Old and New Testaments.

When we include memory work or Scripture within our curricula, we have used the NIV or the ESV.  We hope you include the Bible and Scripture memory work in your homeschool, using the translation you are most comfortable with. Our curriculum is written from a Reformed, biblical worldview.


Train up a Child Publishing (formerly Epi Kardia) uses whole, living books as recommended by Charlotte Mason to teach the subjects of reading, history, science, language arts and fine arts.

We divide history chronologically into nine periods, and use that as a framework from which to teach the other subjects we cover. Since we aren’t really a unit study (where ALL subjects are centered around a theme), we call our our more unstructured curricula unit “programs” instead of unit studies.

Timeline, globe, map, and other geography activities, as well as projects for individuals and groups, are suggested in each historical unit of our Unit Programs and round out the subjects included in our curricula.

Our book suggestions are based on the quality of literary value, Biblical relevance, historical correctness and depth, and/or outstanding illustrations. Our literature-based homeschooling curriculum utilizes the best of the best children/young adult literature we can find. One or more of the authors of this homeschooling curriculum has read each book recommended in our programs and high school courses. We have read literally hundreds and hundreds of books putting together this curricula!

To see the history topics covered in our Daily Lesson Plans, view our scope and sequences for each of the grade levels.


We include science from kindergarten through eighth grade, but do not include science in our high school programs, since colleges want to see specific courses with labs covering specific topics in a particular way. We leave that to others’ expertise!

For kindergarten through eighth grade, science topics are integrated into the history focus, but not forced. For example – for science during the Ancients unit, we study:

  • Creation Science
  • the Desert (where much of the action takes place during this time in history)
  • Science in the Ancient World

During the Middle Ages unit, we study:

  • Plants and Herbs
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Forests/Trees

…all part of daily life during that time period. Wherever possible, the science topics relate to the core history reading.

We read nonfiction, science-based books as well as ones that include hands-on experiments, projects and other science-related activities. The books in our programs are suggested because they include strong science concepts, excellent graphics and examples, and/or valuable experiments.

Like Charlotte Mason, we encourage parents to spend time outdoors in nature observation as well as inside reading. Nature journals were a big hit with our kids, so we describe in our curriculum how to keep nature journals and encourage you to get outside as often as the weather where you live allows.

To read more about the science topics covered in our Daily Lesson Plans, view our scope and sequences for each of the grade levels.

Language Arts

Language arts consists of reading, phonics, composition, literature, grammar, poetry, vocabulary and spelling.  Whew!

Copywork and dictation integrate history, literature and science with grammar studies and other language arts. Copy work, reading assignments, narration prompts and discussion questions are provided in our structured Daily Lesson Plans and are taken directly from history and science reading and from Scripture.

With our more unstructured Unit Programs, you choose the books you want to read (from our pre-read book suggestions), the copywork, spelling and vocabulary. Our Unit Program Teacher’s Manuals include detailed instructions for you describing how to teach phonics, spelling, grammar, punctuation and handwriting. In addition, spelling, grammar and handwriting checklists are provided to assist parents in selecting copywork. Writing skills beyond copying are established beginning in the intermediate grades. Memorization of poetry and excerpts from literature are also part of the language arts design.

Fine Arts

Music and art (painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture) from each time period is studied not only to give students a clearer picture of the historical period, but also to develop a love of the gifts that God has given to His children. Materials selected for these subject areas were based on developing a desire to learn more about the arts without exposing children to more “worldly” materials.

Our structured Daily Lesson Plans include regular picture study and music study as well as a look at architectural innovations during the different periods of history. In our daily lesson plans we often provide web links featuring art of a particular time period.

In our high school literature and history courses, we include the arts in the variety of assignment choices provided. We have plenty of writing assignments, it’s true; but we also include assignment choices such as:

  • drawing a diagram or building a model of the Tabernacle (World History I)
  • illustrating a scene from a book (our literature courses)
  • creating a musical piece (World History I)
  • creating a graphic timeline or multimedia presentation (our history courses)
  • designing and creating a map book (on paper or using salt/cookie dough) (our history courses)
  • designing and creating a children’s book (American History I)
  • reproducing a Renaissance period work of art (World History I)

So you can truly customize your high schooler’s learning experience by including the arts!

Additional areas covered in our Secondary Unit Program

Our secondary unit program, which covers from 9th through 12th grades, has a few extra sections written to your high school student. Every unit includes a Bible Study/Scripture memory passage, Organizational/Time Management Skills section, and a page of mini-research topics.  For you, we also list several Multi-Level projects that could be completed by different-aged siblings or a co-op of multi-level students.

Do you have any questions about what we cover or how we do it? List them in the comments or email us at infodesk@trainupachildpub.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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Anxious about Homeschooling? Don’t Do These Three Things

  |   Curriculum, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Personal Growth, Teaching - all grades   |   No comment

anxious about homeschooling

You are getting ready to start school again (or just started) and already the anxiety is building.

You have homeschooled awhile, but you still don’t think you are doing it right. Your oldest is telling anyone who will listen she wants to go back to ‘real’ school. Your kids are groaning about starting back again.  You are on the defensive and feel your inner ogre taking over.

You were sure when you started that homeschooling was the best route to take, but now that you are on that path, you are plagued with doubts: am I covering the right things? Am I doing enough?  Are my kids actually learning anything? Am I really cut out to do this on my own?

What should you do?

Don’t do these three things!

  1. Throw in the towel and stop homeschooling. Put the kids back in public school. Make your relatives happy. Just give it up and do what “everybody else” is doing. After all, you went to public school, didn’t you? You made a few mistakes and wandered down some wrong paths, but you eventually got back on track, right? (I’m talking about myself here.)
  2. Take out a second mortgage and put your kids in a hybrid homeschool program you can’t afford. Then THEY can make all those decisions about how to teach your kids and at what pace they need to learn. Yes, it will be stressful to have to conform to someone else’s schedule for your family and your slower learner will have some problems keeping up, but he will just have to conform….or you will have to help do his work….
  3. Buy another boxed textbook curriculum. You know it is dull and feels like “public school at home,” but at least you’ll know you are covering enough. All the worksheets and tests you need are there so you won’t have to worry about evaluation. Whether the kids are actually learning anything is another matter, but maybe it will feel less like torture be better this year….


Before you do anything rash, just stop and think a minute.  I want you to write down what you would like your homeschool to be like. How do you envision it working? What would you be studying? How would your kids be?  How would you be? What would be different?

After you have described what you would like your homeschool to “look like,” I want you to send your description to me at dana@trainupachildpub.com .

The first step toward making things better is identifying how you would LIKE things to be!

Soon we will talk about some additional steps to take to bridge that gap!

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Why do “public school at home” using textbook curricula, when you can use innovative programs that are based on the way children actually learn?

Learn more about our curricula’s subject integration and our unique history cycle and see our curriculum options.  Explore our blog and receive two free gifts for subscribing to our free homeschool helps.

Train up a Child Publishing offers literature-based homeschool curriculum from Kindergarten through High School, all written from a Christian worldview. From our unstructured, Charlotte Mason-style Unit Programs, to our structured Daily Lesson Plans and our popular High School Courses, we have you covered.

Uniquely engaging with assignments appealing to different learning styles, Train up a Child Publishing curriculum makes homeschooling fun and effective.