How to Help your Student Choose a College Major


by Dorita Deierlein

Did you know that according to Gallup poll data people who use their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life?

One important step in the process of identifying a career based on your student’s strengths is choosing the right college major.

Is your high school student undecided when it comes to choosing a college major, or does he know what he wants to do? Selecting college majors and careers is exciting, but often involves uncertainty and questions. However, there are ways you as a parent can assist your student in selecting a college major.   Begin by seeking God’s direction as you and your student explore his God given strengths, values, and interests.

Explore Strengths

Strengths involve skills, qualities, and personal characteristics that come naturally. They are part of the way God designs us. In what area does your student naturally excel? Strengths can be hard for us to identify in ourselves so it can be helpful for your student to ask others to assist him in discovering strengths. What do friends, family members, and authority figures respect and appreciate in your student? Look for places of excitement, energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. Working in areas that utilize our strengths is motivating and energizing.

Identify Interests and Passions

What does your student love to do? What are his favorite courses in school? Think about activities where he has been so engaged that he lost all track of time. Have your student describe his ideal job. What would he find joy in doing each day? Also ask him what he doesn’t enjoy doing.  Being aware of what you don’t enjoy doing is helpful in giving direction.  Is it realistic that this interest can support your student, or is it more appropriate as a hobby?  Even if it is better suited as a hobby, there is often an element or theme of that interest that can be part of a college major or future job.

 Discover Core Values

What matters most to your student? Core values are traits or qualities that represent an individual’s highest priorities, fundamental beliefs, and core driving forces.  Knowing your core values makes decision-making easier and more effective. When we are in alignment with our core values we are living authentically and stress and frustration are reduced.

Practical suggestions for exploring careers and college majors

  • Have him identify three jobs that use his interests, values, and strengths
  • Talk with people who work in careers that interest him and encourage him to make appointments to shadow some of them
  • When he talks with people in careers of interest, suggest he find out what college majors prepared them for their work
  • Look for volunteer opportunities in areas that interest him
  • Research together the field he is considering

As you approach this season in your student’s life, be encouraged. Explore together and have fun discovering how God uniquely created your student. Approach this with a learner’s mindset and remember that your student will continue to acquire and build skills throughout his life. Encourage your student to also seek God’s direction.  He created your child with specific interests, values, and strengths and will lead you both as you seek His guidance.

What have you and your student discovered as you explored college majors?

Dorita Deierlein, former home schooling mom, now life coach, partners with students, young adults, parents, and empty nesters as they navigate life’s transitions and seek God’s next best step. To find out more about how Dorita can assist you contact her at dorita@doritalifecoaching or visit her website



Seven Ways to be a Rock Star Homeschool Mom

seven ways to be a rock star mom

This is one of our most popular back-to-school posts! If there is any point here that you are going to be working on this year — or that you think you SHOULD be working on, will you tell me in the comments?

It’s back to school time!

The summer is winding down, and for some of you the new school year has already begun!  Reflecting upon my many back-to-school years, I offer you some food for thought about being a Rock Star homeschool mom.  :)

1. Academics are important – but relationships are more important.

Always remember that the child is more important than the work.  I know you agree, in theory… but sometimes when one is correcting a wiggly, uncooperative kid – for the fourth time in an hour – it is hard to remember.  Put away the math book.  Stop and talk for a while with your child and try to determine what is going on in his head instead of just lowering the boom.

In the same vein, relationships with siblings are more important than the work.  In our house it is not permissible for siblings to fight and tear each other down physically or verbally.  Stop and referee, require apologies and make things right before trying to get back to work.

One more relationship  to talk about – the one between you and your husband.  Don’t put that on the back burner for 15 years while you teach school.  It is SO easy for us to put the kids before our marriage, and when we do so we are not doing ourselves or our children any favors.

2. Don’t stress over things you can’t control.

Allow a little margin in your life.  I say this from experience!  I am the Queen of Overcommitment.  As soon as you squeeze too many responsibilities on your plate, the most inconsequential thing can put you into a tailspin – and everyone in your path suffers.  Uh huh.  You can relate.  When you homeschool there are things to which you need to say “no.”  Beneficial things.  Fun things.  Learn to say no.  If you have trouble with this, learn not to commit without talking with your husband about it first. (Then you can blame it on him when you say no.)  Just kidding. =D

3.  Worry about the big things and let the little things take care of themselves.

You are not going to teach them everything they need to know and they certainly are not going to remember everything you teach them. In my view the important things are:

  • Where are are your children in terms of their spiritual life?  This is of utmost importance in our home. If it is in yours, too, is it reflected in your daily conversation and how you spend your time?
  • Teach your kids how to discipline their minds to listen, to learn and to find information on their own.
  • Train them to own their own work, manage their own belongings (including school supplies) and their own spaces.
  • Give your children opportunities to serve others and rub shoulders with people of all ages.
  • Teach them to communicate with others politely, tactfully and kindly.

Let me ask you — what do you remember about what you learned in school (the academic part, I mean)?  If you are like most of us, you don’t remember all that well.  What you do remember is what engaged your interest.  The projects you worked on, research you did, some of the papers you wrote. Which leads me to number 4:

4.  Study your children; identify their passions and how they learn best.

What do they enjoy the most? What do they do in their play time?  What grabs their attention?  What do they talk about?  What do they like to read or learn about in their free time?  What do they learn quickly and easily? Do they automatically grab a book or search the Internet to learn something?  Do they like to listen to music?  Do they like to talk about what they are learning?  Do they frequently move around a lot while they are learning something?  Do they like drama?  Art?  Music?  Playing with Lego blocks?  Educate yourself about learning styles and try to identify yours and theirs.

5.  Cultivate a love for learning.

The best way to do this is to be an enthusiastic learner yourself.  Generate some excitement about learning new things.  READ.  Let them see you read.  Provide lots of stimulating reading material – at or below your children’s reading level.  Let them choose whatever they want to read for a daily fun-reading time.  (Shh- this will also improve their reading comprehension and fluency, but don’t tell them.)  This is not a school thing, it is a fun thing. (It is all in the marketing.)  Go to the library frequently.  Choose to buy magazine subscriptions in the areas of your child’s interests for Christmas and birthdays. Talk about what you are learning.  Regularly go around the table at dinner telling each other about the most interesting or surprising thing you learned that day.

6.  Take the time to be prepared.

You don’t always have to be perfectly organized and prepared to homeschool.  BUT, it make school much easier if you make an effort to be ready.  If you are prepared, you are more confident.  If you have confidence in yourself, your children will have more confidence in you as their teacher. This is especially important if you have recently taken your child out of public or private school.  Strategies that help:

  • Put your things away and teach your kids to do the same. (See #3)
  • Avoid clutter like the plague.
  • Take time to prepare lessons in advance.  Ask yourself — do I understand this?  Do I need to look anything up first?  Do I have the supplies I need?  Have I allowed enough time for this lesson?  What are the younger ones going to do while I teach this?
  • Take an occasional “teacher work day” and spend some concentrated time during holiday/summer breaks to get ready for school
  • Ask your husband or a friend to take the kids for a few hours a week so you can plan and prepare for the next week.

7.  Don’t try to be a friend to your kids.  They need you to be a parent first.

I’m not suggesting that you be an authoritarian or dictator, or that you shouldn’t worry about ‘getting along’ with your children.  I’m just recommending that you  be a parent first – set clear expectations of what is acceptable behavior in your home and how children are going to behave when school is in session. When you assign school work, make sure your children understand exactly what you expect.  Be consistent with your discipline. Expect children to always be respectful to you and other adults.  You are laying a foundation for them to be secure, for school to be successful and for friendship as they become older.

Do any of these particularly resonate with you this year? Which one(s)?



The Question Box – a lesson plan you can use over and over!

fun idea for any unit

I am not sure where it came from or where it went, to be honest, but we used to have a small, shoebox-sized square box.  It had large red and green paisleys running around the outside and at one time probably held a yummy food gift.

But this was no ordinary box—this was the Question Box.  Using it MADE EACH UNIT MORE FUN by:

  • getting my kids excited about what they were going to be learning
  • starting our school day/history study with a fun, challenging activity  
  • helping our kids actually see how much they were learning as the unit progressed


After morning devotions, our routine was to head to the schoolroom and start the academic day with the kids taking their turns excitedly pulling a question pertaining to our unit study from the box.  Here’s how it worked.

How to do it.

Customarily, I would make up numbered history and science fill-in-the blank and short answer questions on the computer and print them out, making them different colors.  

I also made myself a key on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t forget that. 

I cut the questions apart and into the box they went.  I coded them so we knew which were the ‘younger student’ questions and which were the ‘older.’ 

We would have a new boxful at the beginning of every unit, and a big box full of new questions was always something my kids looked forward to.

Typically, at the start of a new unit they wouldn’t know many of the answers. (If they did not know the answer, the question went back into the box.)

But they had fun guessing and, at the same time, became more interested in what they would be learning. As we progressed through the unit, they were jazzed about how they were getting more and more of the questions right, and how I had to throw in some harder questions just to keep things interesting. 

By the end of the unit they usually had all of the questions, even the hard ones, answered correctly. We also had contests and sometimes received prizes (like a piece of gum or an M&M) for answering, for example, three questions in a row correctly. 

This simple idea could be adapted in a variety of ways:

·The kids could create and decorate the box

·Older students could make up questions for the younger ones

·Kids could pull a ‘seat work’ assignment out of the box, such as a verse to copy or memorize, a sentence with errors to edit, a short word problem to figure out, etc.

·An older elementary, middle or high school student could pull out a person, place or event to research, write about, and present to the group (or to you)

·Even household chores for that day could be chosen from the box.

As I have been slowly cleaning my way through the school room this summer, I came across some of our Middle Ages questions that would be appropriate for late Primary (K-2nd), Intermediate (3rd – 5th) or early Preparatory (6th-8th) students. The last five or so would be suitable for Preparatory and/or Secondary (9th-12th) students.

Sample Middle Ages Questions and Answers

The answers are in bold type and in parentheses after the questions:

1.  What is the name of the part of a castle that is a tower, often round, with many stories?  There, nobles slept, ate and planned.  Soldiers lived on lower stories with the dungeon below.  (keep)

2.   Between 1100 and 1300 AD, large groups of knights, nobles and even some peasants (and children!) traveled from Europe to the Middle East to try and take possession of the Holy Lands from the Turks.  These trips were called the ___________.  (Crusades)

3.  What are two popular games played today that originated during the Middle Ages? (chess and checkers)

4.  During the Middle Ages, craft _________ were set up to make sure their members were properly trained as apprentices and produced high quality goods. (guilds)

5.  From what disease in the 1300’s did about a third of all the people in Europe die? (the Black Death or Bubonic Plague)

6. What was the name of a legendary king who ruled a Kingdom where people were peaceful and content? He came to represent the ideals of justice, peace and honor.  (King Arthur)

7.  Large, rural estates were called _________.  (manors)

8.  A craftsman who made tools, weapons and cooking utensils from iron was called a _______. (blacksmith)

9.  Books were copied by hand, one by one, usually by ___________.  (monks)

10.  In manor houses, people used ___________ to cover walls, to keep out drafts, and/or to divide rooms.  (carpets and tapestries)

11. What were musicians called who traveled around the country, played, sang and told stories at special feasts and other events? (minstrels)

12.  ________ traveled great distances to buy and sell goods. (Traders or merchants)

13.  A special design each knight carried on a shield or his clothing that helped knights tell each other apart in battle was called a  _____ __ ____. (coat of arms)

14.  What were pictures called that were painted directly onto wet plaster?  (frescoes)

15.  What was a mechanical device called that hurled heavy objects into the air, at or over castle walls during an attack?  (a catapult)

16.  The ________ ________ was a survey completed in 1086 of nearly all the lands in England and was conducted by officials of King William the First (also known as William the Conqueror).  (the Domesday Book)

17.  Dried plant seeds, roots and/or leaves that were used to flavor foods or make not-so-fresh meat taste better (and were quiet expensive) were called ________.  (spices)

18.  The _________ was one of the most highly skilled craftsman of the middle ages, combining the jobs of architect, builder, engineer, and sculptor today, working on all stages of a building project.  (mason)

19.  Many ________ and _________ were used as medieval remedies for sickness and disease.  (plants and herbs)

20. What was depicted by the famous Bayeux Tapestry? (The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Norman invader William, Duke of Normandy, challenged Saxon King Harold.William’s forces won the battle; henceforth, he was called William the Conqueror.)

21.  Briefly describe the feudal system. (Vassals gave loyalty and service to lords in exchange for land and military protection)

22. Describe the concept of chivalry. (Chivalry is a group of character qualities thought to be exhibited by the perfect knight, including loyalty, honesty, courage, and courteousness—especially towards women.)

23. Describe the Magna Carta and its significance, as well as the circumstances under which it was signed. (The “Great Charter” was the first document in English history that forced a monarch to be subject to the law and provided for the creation of a strong parliament.King John, a wicked and greedy king who had levied incredibly high taxes, was forced to sign it by his rebellious barons in 1215 in Runnymede, England.Once it was signed, the barons again swore fealty to King John, not realizing the king had no intention of keeping the agreement.)

24. Name at least one key character from the Middle Ages and describe why he or she was historically significant. (This has many possible answers! Among them:

  • Alfred the Great: a noble and wise ruler who bought about an educational revival in England; 
  • King John: [see above]; 
  • Joan of Arc:a young French girl who rallied the French against the English and who victoriously led the French army in battle.She was eventually captured and burned at the stake as a witch; 
  • Charlemagne: French ruler, Charles the Great, who controlled most of west and central Europe and presided over what was called the Carolingian Renaissance; 
  • Genghis and Kublai Khan:Grandfather and Grandson, these Mongolian leaders ruled over much of Asia and almost to Europe.Although Buddhist, they were tolerant of most religions other than Islam.Kublai did much to encourage literature and the arts.)

25. Who were the Moors? (A nomadic people from Northern Africa, the Moors descended from Arabs and Berbers who had moved into the Holy Lands and spent many years fighting the English during the Crusades.They are known for their goal to spread Islam across the world and for their magnificent, unusual architecture.)

Please feel free to use these questions in your school, and have fun making up some of your own!  (And if anyone wants to send in their questions, we will post them.  Many hands make light work, you know.)

How do you think your kids would do at this? Do you see how it could spark some interest in what were studying?


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Kudos – Another Year Done!

Kudos mom







You have worked hard this year, homeschool mom! You are winding down or maybe even finished for this year, finally.  Great job!

If you homeschooled for the first time, you may be feeling a little… well, inadequate. A little disappointed that you didn’t finish all you wanted to do. You might be thinking it was harder than you thought it would be and that you might not be up to the task.


Please don’t beat yourself up — it truly gets easier as you learn more about homeschooling and how your kids learn.  You will “settle in” between years two and three — so don’t feel badly about it!  You are learning as you go, and that is okay!


Use the summer, or your next break, if you homeschool year round, to relax and regroup. Once you have had a chance to rest, carve out some time to yourself to evaluate your school year. Grab something cold to drink and something to write or type on to capture your answers and ideas as you respond to the following questions:


Meditate on these wise words from Elisabeth Elliot:

wheelbarrow to work in the garden on a background of green plants

You can do it!  I have faith in you!  Believe me, if I could do it, you can, too.  =D


Poetry Study: Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet

Literature is hardly a distinct subject, so closely is it associated with history, whether general or English…and it is astonishing how much sound learning children acquire when the thought of an age is made to synchronise with its political and social developments.

 A point which I should like to bring before the reader is the peculiar part which poetry plays in making us aware of this thought of the ages, including our own.                      —Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6


Our history and literature study, including poetry, is intertwined. As Charlotte Mason suggests, poetry helps illuminate history for us by letting us peek over the shoulder at the thoughts of those who came before us.

Please take advantage of this rich primary source material by including poetry — the very words of those living in the particular time period you are studying  in history — into your homeschooling.

 Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Poet

The first woman to be published in the U.S. and considered by many to be America’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet was actually born in England. Two years married, Anne braved the Atlantic and moved with her young Puritan family to Massachusetts Bay, where her husband and father were eventually each governors of this new United States colony.

Anne’s vivid, beautiful poetry is a window into the intentional strength and faith of the Puritan soul in response to the hardship of life in Colonial America.

Below is one of Anne’s poignant poems followed by lesson plan ideas to use for your elementary to high school-aged students.

Here followes some verses upon the burning of our house, July 10th, 1666.

by Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

How to Read Poetry

No matter the age of your students, there are basic steps to reading poetry, as presented in How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. (This is a classic that should be read by all homeschooled high school students, in my opinion!) :-)

First, read the poem through the first time without stopping. Even though there are unfamiliar words and phrases, you will glean much more by first reading the poem through without stopping to figure out  the vocabulary.

Then, read the poem through a second time, but this time read it aloud.

Poetry’s inherent rhythm brings the words and phrases to life.  Now, you may start asking what the poem is saying.

The more you read it, the more the poem can speak to you.

For Younger Students

In true Charlotte Mason fashion, resist the urge to “teach” this poem. Instead, allow the poem to speak directly to your student. And this particular  poem will be more suitable for older elementary children than younger.

For elementary students, just focus on reading the poem. If you anticipate your student becoming frightened about your house burning down, remind him that during colonial times candles were used for light and most household items were of wood, so house fires were much more common than today. (Although we ALWAYS have to be careful of fire, etc…)

For an older elementary or middle school-aged student, read a stanza aloud, one at a time, and have your student narrate (tell back) what s/he has heard.  Record your student’s thoughts for each stanza.

After the narration is complete, you may ask your student to describe how the author feels about what happened, especially if this was not included in the original narration.  Your student  may also ask you questions about the poem, which is fine, but try to be brief in your answers. If your student shows particular interest in any poem, encourage questions, re-reading and further observation.

Of course, younger students will  miss the biblical allusions and will focus on the more ‘concrete’ aspects of this poem, as is normal for their stage of development.

You may choose to read other poems by Anne Bradstreet while studying the American Colonial period, as Charlotte Mason advocated reading one poet at a time, for six weeks or more.  For the younger set, focus mainly on reading and enjoying the poems.

For High School Students

High school students should initially approach the poem in the same way recommended earlier: first by reading the poem  in its entirety, without stopping; then reading the poem a second time, aloud, again without stopping.

Most high school students would benefit by reading this poem through every day for a week or more. As it is rich in biblical allusions and principles and Puritan theology, there is much here to be gleaned by the discerning student.

Assignment Possibilities (High School)

These are written to the student.

  • As you read through the poem, note at least eight examples of the dialect of the time period. Draw a line down the center of a piece of notebook paper and write the phrase or word on the left, as gleaned by your examination of the poem, and the meaning or spelling of the sample on the right, as it might be expressed in today’s language.
  • Read through each stanza of the poem, then write a summary of each in your own words.
  • As you read through each stanza, note any biblical allusions/principles. (There are several.) Make sure to identify and explain the allusion and for extra or Honors credit – add a Scripture reference.

Additional Assignment Ideas from our American Literature course:

  • Read an additional book of poetry by Anne Bradstreet, such as To My Husband and Other Poems.
  • Read at least one poem from each of the sections of the book and be prepared to discuss with your teacher what you learn about Anne from the sample of poems that you read.
  • After reading at least five of her poems, write two to three paragraphs about what you learn about Anne as a person. What is important to her? What did she believe? What did she love? What kind of person do you think she was?
  • Research Anne Bradstreet’s life and compare what you learn to what you discovered from her poetry. Were your observations accurate? How did they differ, if at all, from what you learned through research? Write two to three paragraphs discussing how your research compares to your observations from reading her poetry.
For additional reading on Anne Bradstreet:
For excellent reading concerning the Puritans, consider reading:


Is poetry something you enjoy reading at your house, or do you struggle to include it?

Christian literature based homeschool curriclum