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Seven Ways to be a Rock Star Homeschool Mom

  |   Encouragement, Personal Growth, Time Mangagement   |   9 Comments

seven ways to be a rock star homeschool mom

No matter where you are in your school year, here are seven¬†timeless truths to remember that will help you be a rock star homeschool mom. ūüôā


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’s 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’s 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’m 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? You might even want to create a homeschooling plan that reflects this priority.
  • 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 much!¬† 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? Would you add anything else to my list?



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The Question Box – an adaptable lesson plan for any subject!

  |   Curriculum, Geography study, Hands on Activities, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Teaching - all grades, Teaching Elementary School, Teaching History, Teaching Writing   |   3 Comments

question box- an adaptable lesson plan

The Question Box – an adaptable lesson plan for any subject!

I am not sure where it came from or where it went, to be honest, but we used to have a small, shoebox-sized hexagonal¬†box.¬† It had large red and green paisleys running around the outside¬†and at one time probably held a yummy Christmas¬†gift. We called it ‚ÄúThe Question Box.‚ÄĚ We study history chronologically and usually used it first thing in the morning as a fun, hands on way to kick off our history study, but it’s an adaptable idea that can be used for almost any subject!


  • beginning our history study with a fun, hands on, challenging, “game-like” activity
  • getting my kids excited about what they were going to be learning
  • 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 history study from the box. ¬†Here’s how it worked.


How to use the Question Box for Middle Ages history

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 ‚Äėyounger student‚Äô questions and which were the ‚Äėolder.‚Äô

We would have a new boxful at the beginning of every history 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‚Äôt know many of the answers. (If they didn’t 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 period 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.


Some of the ways this could be expanded and adapted to other subjects:

  • The kids could create and decorate the box
  • Older students could make up questions for the younger ones
  • Kids could pull a ‚Äėseat work‚Äô 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)
  • Geography – use it to study countries, capitals and/or continents (they pick a country out of the box and have to say the capital and/or continent where it’s located)
  • Geography- use it to learn different landforms, bodies of water, mountain ranges (they choose a term they have to define or identify where it is located)
  • Science – use for definition of terms or systems (“Explain the water cycle,” or “Name 5 characteristics of mammals/living things/insects”)
  • Literature study – definition/ example of literary terms (“Explain the term ‘setting’ and how it was used in¬†Wuthering Heights”)

Even household chores for that day could be chosen from a box!

As I have been slowly cleaning my way through the school room recently, I came across some of our Middle Ages questions that would be appropriate for late Primary, Intermediate or early Preparatory students. The last five or so would be suitable for Preparatory and/or Secondary  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‚ÄĒespecially towards women.)
  23. Describe the Magna Carta and its significance, as well as the circumstances under which it was signed.¬†(The ‚ÄúGreat Charter‚ÄĚ 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.)
  1. 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!

Would your children enjoy using this idea?


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Kudos – Another Year Done!

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Curriculum, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Music Study, Picture Study, Review   |   No comment

evaluate your homeschoooling year

You have worked hard this year, homeschool mom! You are winding down or maybe even finished for this year, finally. ¬†Great job! ¬†It’s time to take stock and objectively evaluate your homeschooling year.

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. Most¬†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!


Evaluate your homeschool year

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 homeschool 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:

evaluate your homeschooling year

After you’ve had a chance to evaluate your homeschool year, review your homeschooling goals and decide what you want to change or tweak for next year. ¬†Give yourself plenty of time to look at options and make a plan for the following year, once you’ve had a chance to¬†rest.¬† Schedule time through your break so you don’t wait till the week or two before you want to start the next year and then panic!
You can do it!  I have faith in you!  Believe me, if I could do it, you can, too.  =D


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Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet: a Poetry Lesson

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Teaching Elementary School, Teaching High School, Teaching History, Teaching Middle School   |   17 Comments

Poetry Study: Anne Bradstreet

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. When you are studying the American Colonial period, you won’t want to miss studying the poetry of Anne Bradstreet.

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.


 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!) ūüôā

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 ‚Äúteach‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äėconcrete‚Äô 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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?

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Teaching Character Using Poetry III

  |   Curriculum, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Teaching - all grades, Uncategorized   |   2 Comments


We are continuing to celebrate National Poetry month at Train up a Child Publishing!  If you missed our first three posts, check them out: Charlotte Mason on Teaching Poetry, Teaching Character Using Poetry (Psalm 1), Teaching Character Using Poetry II (Psalm 8).

The third poem we are using to teach character is the well-known¬†It Couldn’t Be Done,¬†by Edgar Guest. ¬†This simple poem will be appreciated and understood by all but your youngest primary students, and even they can appreciate it with a little discussion!

¬†It Couldn’t Be Done

by Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

About the author

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) was a naturalized American citizen born in Great Britain, a prolific poet and writer. Scorned by some poetry critics, he was nicknamed “The People’s Poet” because he wrote about common life and experiences to which most people could relate. ¬†Popular enough to be¬†syndicated in over 300 newspapers, he went on to have radio and television shows. ¬†Guest wrote about topics that encouraged and inspired, and before he died was named the Poet Laureate of Michigan.

Lesson Plan Options

First read the poem silently, then read the poem aloud once or twice. Choose a few of these options depending upon the age of your student(s). Then do a few of the following:

  1. Let your student know that after the reading, he will tell back what the poem said. (Give you an oral narration.)
  2. Ask your students to tell you what this poem means.
  3. Have your students write about what this poem means.
  4. Research the poet and write one to three paragraphs about his life. (See paragraph above for more info)
  5. What character qualities does the person in the poem demonstrate? What specific words in the poem suggest these character qualities?
    • Courageous, unafraid to try:
      • So he buckled right in¬†with the trace of a grin
      • ¬†If he worried he hid it.
      • With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      • Without any doubting
    • Diligence,¬†industriousness:
      • So he buckled right in
      • he tackled the thing
      • But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
        And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
      • Just take off your coat and go to it
      • he did it
    • Good attitude:
      • he with a chuckle
      • with the trace of a grin
        On his face
      • He started to sing
      • with a bit of a grin
      • Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
  6. Have your student memorize the poem.
  7. Here’s a cartoon version of this poem! ¬†Have your student choose another poem, and make a cartoon version of it. Here are some free downloadable cartoon templates to make it easier.

Don’t you love the character qualities this poem inspires?



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Teaching Character Using Poetry in Psalm 8

  |   Character Development, Curriculum, Hands on Activities, Language Arts, Teaching - all grades   |   1 Comment

April is National Poetry Month!¬†¬†It’s an ideal time to examine how you¬†can incorporate poetry into your homeschool in meaningful ways. One of the most valuable¬†ways to use¬†it¬† is to teach character using poetry. The poetry we often read the most often is not always recognized as poetry, because it doesn’t rhyme. I’m talking about Hebrew poetry, as expressed in the Psalms.

Here is one of my favorites!

Psalm 8

1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.

2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!


Teaching character using poetry in Psalm 8

Important Character Concepts and Activities from Psalm 8

When we consider the glory of God and all He created, we should be in awe and amazed just as David was when he wrote this poetry! God’s majesty lies before us in all of creation and He never lets us forget His greatness.

  • Character concept:¬†Humility‚Ķwhich us of could create an animal or put stars in the sky?


  • ¬†Possible related activity:¬†Take a nature walk and note every possible thing that could only be created by God. Discuss how we should be humbled that a God so awesome not only created us, but loves us above all of the rest of His creation. Have your students draw something¬†observed from your walk, and include Psalm 8:9 as copywork under your drawing.


  • Character concept:¬†God places man ‚Äúa little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.‚ÄĚ With this glory and honor comes responsibility and stewardship. How do you think God expects us to treat His creation?
  • Possible related activity:¬†Make a chart of the many parts of God‚Äôs creation from which man benefits. In one column, generally note the creation and then in a second column, specifically list benefits. For example:

Plants     /     medicine, herbs, food, art, cleaning the air

Ocean    /      medicine, food, beauty and leisure


Expanding your study

  • Memorize this Psalm¬†or another one in honor of National Poetry Month!
  • Have your high school student choose another psalm and write “character concepts” and “possible activities” as we have in these last two posts. ¬†Use that to teach a younger sibling or friend.

Which psalm is your favorite for teaching character? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with Beth Hempton, formerly with Train up a Child Publishing. You can read more from¬†Beth by going to her website¬†at Classes by Beth¬†or checking out her blog.¬†

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Charlotte Mason on Teaching Poetry

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Curriculum, Language Arts, Teaching - all grades   |   2 Comments


charlotte mason on teaching poetryDo you cringe at the idea of studying poetry? It’s not nearly as difficult as you might believe. Read this synopsis of Charlotte Mason on teaching poetry.

Following Charlotte Mason’s methodology, you don‚Äôt actually have to formally ‚Äúteach‚ÄĚ poetry, particularly at young ages.

Trying to dissect and analyze every word of a poem is not what Charlotte Mason had in mind.  Like when reading a book or studying nature, her emphasis was largely on the experience of the poem… the relationship formed by the reader or hearer.

The thing is, to keep your eye upon words and wait to feel their force and beauty; and, when words are so fit that no other words can be put in their places, so few that none can be left out without spoiling the sense, and so fresh and musical that they delight you, then you may be sure that you are reading Literature, whether in prose or poetry. ~Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4, Chapter 12, p. 41

The economy of words, the vicarious experience of sights and sounds, the beauty of poetry, can be easily neglected or missed with too detailed an examination, particular for your younger students!

Here’s the how-to: Charlotte Mason on Teaching Poetry

First, read it.  Read it aloud.  Make it part of your day.

You can make it a special part of your week as well, as everyone can come together, ¬†bringing a favorite poem for a weekly ‚Äúpoetry read aloud,‚ÄĚ accompanied by tea and cookies.¬† (Food makes everything more palatable to little ones, you know.)

Make it an event! Use the china!

But how do I choose the poems?

Readings in literature, whether of prose or poetry, should generally illustrate the historical period studied… ~Charlotte Mason Vol. 6, p. 340

Our Unit Programs and our Daily Lesson Plans study poets and their poetry in conjunction with the historical period in which they lived and wrote.

Like literature, poetry can spark your imagination so that you are there, in your mind‚Äôs eye, watching an historical event as it unfolds. If you doubt this, dramatically read ‚ÄúPaul Revere‚Äôs Ride‚ÄĚ to your children! The first two stanzas are below, just to give you a taste…

Paul Revere’s Ride

by American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One, if by land, and two,  if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.

Can’t you just see it as it could have happened?

This is a perfect poem to read during your study of the American Revolution.

The poem in its entirety is available, illustrated, in one of the two e-books we give you for subscribing to our mailing list!  Read more here.

Can we do anything else other than read the poetry?

  • Choose a stanza (or more) for copy work
  • Have your children provide an oral or written narration of the poem, just as you would for other literature
  • Have your children illustrate the poem
  • Choose poems for memory work
  • Copy pertinent poems into nature journals
  • Learn about some different poetry forms, such as Haiku, epic, lyric, sonnet, acrostic
  • Write your own poetry
  • Have your older children write a narration in a poetic form

Some of our favorite poetry books:

Here are some of our favorites, beginning with books for your youngest.


And for your older students:

Do you regularly incorporate poetry into your homeschooling?  How do you do it? Tell me in the comments!

Keep an eye out for other posts in our poetry series for National Poetry Month!





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Do your kids struggle with Blank Page Syndrome?

  |   Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Teaching Middle School, Teaching Writing   |   4 Comments

blank page

Steam is starting to come out of your ears listening to the tap, tap, tap of his pencil on that blank page as he sits there, groaning and sighing.

When is he going to get started with that writing?!

‚ÄúMom, I don‚Äôt know what to write!¬† Can’t I do something ELSE now?


Does your student struggle with “blank page syndrome”? (In other words, do you have a reluctant writer?)

I know what that’s like. I had one, too.

Not just had one. I AM one.

Two things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Staring at a blank page is totally intimidating.
  2. Writing is easier to do the more you do it. (Like with so many other things in life, right?)

Here is one idea you can implement TODAY that will help YOUR reluctant writer practice writing relatively painlessly.


Have him begin a reader’s response journal and write in it every day.  But only for FIVE MINUTES. Tell your writer that even if he has more to say, he can only write for five minutes.

How to make the blank page less intimidating.

Find a smaller sized spiral notebook or a composition book.  (Smaller = less intimidating.) Your student is going to use this for a short daily writing assignment in response to a short prompt.

Writing about an exciting story is easiest. Before your student starts his daily reading assignment, have him write the following in his journal:

  • Date:
  • Title of Book:
  • Page Numbers read for this entry (page # started ‚Äď page # ended)
  • Have him copy the assigned question (examples below)
  • Underneath, have him write his response to the question


How this daily assignment can help build writing fluency.

If your goal is to build writing fluency, I recommend you focus on just having him write without editing his writing.  (If you have a particularly interesting response from your student on one day, you can always choose to make that into a writing project for the week.  In that case, you would expect your student to fully develop his thoughts, write well-developed paragraphs, use correct spelling and punctuation and to self-edit his work.)

You need to periodically check this to make sure it is being done; every day to start and then once a week once the habit has been developed, with periodic spot checks at irregular intervals. ¬†ūüôā

Make sure the writing is done immediately after the reading.

Not only does daily writing increase writing fluency, this assignment also helps your student develop the ability to choose the main idea and to summarize a passage, both important writing and critical thinking skills.

Start with easier response prompts and then move to more advanced prompts as your student gets used to the process.

Remember that around middle school students mature to the point where they begin to be able to think more analytically, but this is a developmental thing.  If you are not sure your student is ready but you have been doing this awhile now and you want to ratchet it up a bit, occasionally pitch your student a more analytical question and see how it goes.

For your more artistic students, feel free to throw in some prompts that require illustrations.


A month of  writing prompts to get you started.

  1. Do you like what you are reading? Why or why not?
  2. In a few sentences summarize what you read today.
  3. If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  4. Is what you are reading believable? Why or why not?
  5. Draw four objects that represent your reading. Write a sentence for each item and tell how it relates to your reading.
  6. Write down one word from your reading today that you didn’t know. What do you think it could mean? Explain what made you think that.
  7. Is the setting (where and/or when the story takes place) described well enough that you have a ‚Äėpicture‚Äô of it in your mind? Why or why not?
  8. Draw the setting in which the story takes place.
  9. Describe your favorite character and explain why.
  10. Describe your least favorite character and explain why.
  11. If you were writing this story, what would happen next?
  12. Tell me about the main character. What kind of person is he or she?
  13. Tell me what problem the main character is facing. What would you do to solve the problem?
  14. What has happened in the story so far?
  15. What is your favorite part of the story so far?
  16. What is your least favorite part of the story so far?
  17. What have you found boring about your reading? What made it boring? If you were writing the story, how would you make it more interesting?
  18. Describe the thoughts and feelings you had while you were reading today.
  19. What are the two most important ideas from this story so far?
  20. Write the title of this book. Do you think the title fits the story? Why or why not?
  21. What is something you have learned from reading this story?
  22. What ideas do you have about what will happen next? Has the author given you any clues in the story? What were they?
  23. What object is important to the story.  Draw it. Why is it important?
  24. Describe what one character from the story looks like.
  25. What is the most important event that has occurred in the story so far?
  26. Who do you think is the most important character in the story and why?
  27. What have you learned about life from reading this story?
  28. Write a paragraph about the main character in the story.
  29. Write a paragraph telling about the setting of the story.
  30. Has anything happened in the story that was unexpected or surprised you? Why?
  31. Write about what one character feels. Write about when you felt that way, too.

Hang in there, Mom!  You are going to hear some groaning about this, but if you cut down on other writing for a week to compensate for this daily assignment, it will go better.

Having a prompt to respond to and keeping it to five minutes will make that blank page much less intimidating!

Have you tried reading response journals before?  How did it go?






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How do you Know Your Kids are Learning?

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Curriculum, Language Arts, Teaching - all grades, Teaching Elementary School   |   6 Comments

how do you know your kids are learning?

Elbow deep in soapy water, I felt a light tap on the top of my head.

Was that water?

Peering at the ceiling, I spied another drop on its way down, seemingly originating from the can light over my kitchen sink.

This¬†can’t¬†be good.

I wonder what the kids are up to? I took the stairs two at a time.

At the top I heard muffled squeals of delight. Hot steamy clouds hit me as I opened the bathroom door. On full blast, the shower pummeled two fully dressed kids sitting on a bath towel submerged in the tub.  With. water.  overflowing. everywhere.

‚ÄúWe‚Äôre in the rainforest!‚ÄĚ shouted my daughter happily.

‚ÄúYeah! We‚Äôre floating on a raft down the Amazon River!‚ÄĚ my son yelled, barely audible over the pounding of the shower.

Like any self-respecting mom, I was winding up to let ‚Äėem have it.

That is when the lightning bolt hit.

That’s when I knew. ¬†They were LEARNING!

How do you know your kids are learning?

Charlotte Mason’s approach to learning using living books, instead of textbooks, really works!

  • We’d read a few fascinating books about the rainforest.
  • They’d done oral narrations over what they’d read.
  • They’d completed copy work about the rainforest.
  • They’d drawn pictures of the rainforest (another form of narration).

And now they were dramatizing a scene in a story they were creating, with themselves as the stars!

Our recent readings about the rainforest had ignited their imaginations!

Isn’t that what Charlotte Mason homeschooling was all about?¬† Presenting children with a ‚Äúfeast of ideas‚ÄĚ and letting them¬†‚Äėform their own relationships‚Äô?

I certainly had not suggested that they soak the bathroom rug and do who knows what to the ceiling and light fixture downstairs.

Miss Mason’s thoughts:

The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times‚Äď‚Äďa delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the child does not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climes his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose.¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†~Charlotte Mason Vol. I, Part IV of Home Education, p. 153

My kids weren’t playing in the shower, they were ‚Äėat home in the climes‚Äô of the South American jungle!


I knew then that our recent switch to the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling was the right choice for us. Despite the punishment the house endured, I knew we had made the right decision. And we never looked back. ūüôā

So…. are your kids learning?

How do you know?





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How to Make Your Own Natural Easter Egg Dyes!

  |   Hands on Activities, Holidays   |   No comment


make your own natural easter egg dyes

Did you know that thousands of years ago the ancient Chinese were already dyeing fabric?

Or that the Maya in South America created red dye from ground insects?

Instead of buying those pre-packaged egg-dye kits this year, why not create your own natural dyes?  

How to make your own natural Easter egg dyes

You have most of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry already. Experimenting with various vegetables and spices and turning out eggs that are one-of-a-kind is a great hands-on, multi-age project.

Here’s what you need:

make your own natural easter egg dyes


The items we used are pictured above. (We had to go to the store to get red cabbage to get a bluer-blue, so add that one.)  Here is a list of what we used this year and the color that each material yielded:

  • yellow onion skins: dark red
  • red onion skins: purplish-red
  • coffee: light to dark brown
  • tea: light tan/golden brown
  • spinach: light green
  • turmeric (spice): bright yellow
  • red cabbage: bright blue
  • raspberries: light pink

Gather items you can use to make dye, such as the ones above. ¬†Try some other spices, grass, flower petals and other items you might have outside¬†‚Äď with one crucial caveat:

 Check and make sure that nothing is poisonous, please! 

You would not want to touch or have your children touch plant parts that are poisonous, and you certainly would not want to put anything poisonous in your cookware. If you do not have a thorough field guide to your local plant life, just stick to vegetables and spices.

You will need at least four small saucepans. (Smaller pans don’t require so much dye material.)

Depending upon how many eggs you would like to dye and how much material you have  Р I recommend at least 12-18 uncooked white eggs. It seems over the years that some eggs absorb dye better than others РI am not sure why that would be; does anyone know?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Authorities say eggs are not safe to eat if they have been out of the fridge more than two hours after cooking, so keep track of this unless you aren’t going to eat them.



  1. Chop (veggies/skins) or mash (berries) each item that needs it and put a cup or more in each saucepan with the egg(s).  The typical four burner stove allows four saucepans/dye colors to be done at one time.
  2. Measure about two cups of water  Рor just enough to cover the egg(s) Рadd one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of water. Stir it.
  3. Boil the eggs for 20 minutes and turn the heat off or remove pan from burner.
  4. Check the color of the eggs.  Leave them in the water longer/add more dying material if you would like a deeper value.
  5. You can even leave the eggs in the water overnight if you refrigerate the pan with the water and the eggs. (Cool before putting in your fridge.)

Leaving three eggs  in red cabbage/water overnight (in the fridge) resulted in the gorgeous blue pictured below!

make your own natural easter egg dyes



Other Method

Another method is to use the procedure above but without cooking the eggs until you have boiled the material for an hour and strained it.

Once the dyeing material has been boiled and removed by straining, use the water to boil the raw eggs ¬†for 20 minutes. ¬†This probably results in a more solid, uniform color, rather than the “textural” look of our eggs.

I have never tried this.

Perhaps I was too impatient to boil it for an hour….

While You are Waiting

While you are waiting for the eggs to cook/dye to take, you might read and talk about the history of dye creation. Here are a couple of links to get you* started:

General historical info about dye: http://www.ehow.com/about_5422885_history-fabric-dyes.html (Science)

Dying silk: http://www.advantour.com/silkroad/dyeing-of-silk-fabrics.htm (Science/history)

The famous “Silk Road” trading route:¬†http://www.travelchinaguide.com/silk-road/¬†(History/geography)

*Please do not let your kids loose on links without first taking a thorough look ‚Äď I did not read every word on every page connected to these.

The Results

When you are done cooking the eggs and you are happy with the color, remove them from the dye water, gently pat dry and refrigerate. The egg carton they came in is a perfect place to keep them. When they have cooled, shine them up with a little vegetable oil to bring out the color.  



make your own natural easter egg dyes


What About You?

Have you ever dyed your eggs using natural dyes? ¬†How did they turn out? Do you have any dyeing material that you particularly like? ¬†If you haven’t done this yet, would your kids enjoy this hands on activity?




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

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