Challenge A: Watching my Dialectic Dyslexic BLOSSOM

I already wrote a post detailing how we prepared our son, our Dialectic Dyslexic, for entering Challenge A and I wanted to take a few minutes to recap the year.

The best thing I did as a parent to prepare myself for the Challenge A program was to read “The Question” by Leigh Bortins. The second best thing I did was to not burden my child above and beyond what the curriculum laid out. I remained confident in my decision to personalize it for my son and his gifts while still challenging him to stretch.

Reading “The Question” helped me understand that Challenge A was not the stopping point. My child did not need to master the theme of ownership in order to have a successful year. “The Question” helped me see the bridge leading into the upper Challenge years and reminded me that not all children cross the bridge at the same time. It helped me learn to ask good questions and even the power of the right question at the right moment. Admittedly, an art form itself.

The theme of Challenge A is actually, “personal investment leads to ownership” and I can say, both as a Challenge A parent and as a Challenge A Director, that everyone in the class experienced that truth and understood that it was true. Even if they only did half the work the student to their right accomplished, they all learned this lesson and in my mind, THAT is the real accomplishment. I’ve known adults that can’t grasp this concept.

The scaling of certain strands within the program to meet the needs of my child and not add to their load before the starting bell even rang, helped us narrow our focus on the goal at hand. It was a stretch but it was doable because we had ROOM to stretch. I’ve been around CC communities long enough to witness how quickly kids (and parents) burn out when they try to fill their plates with too many good things. We kept it simple and laid reasonable, reachable goals that required him to push himself without asking him to exhaust himself. We needed to make margin in his life for rest and play and room to follow his own pursuits and interests. We needed margin for relationship building between parent and child, to leave the door open for more conversations at home about the wonderful things he was discussing in class on community day.

One area of margin for play and rest: Friday Beach Days!

This was accomplished by having regular planning meetings with our son, who has low executive function skills. Meetings and execution went like this:

Step 1: Pull out the family calendar so he can see what is happening between community days. Tae Kwon Do classes, doctor’s appointments, visits from family or friends, dinner dates, etc. This was important because he is dependent upon us and our schedule.

Step 2: Pull out the Challenge Guide and read what work needed to be finished at home that week and allot time for each item. We spent a solid hour on Cartography every day and a solid hour on Latin every day. Why? Because those two required the daily diligence over the course of the year to produce fruit. He had a Saxon math lesson each day. We alternated days with Reasoning and Research strands the first 2/3 of the year. Once Research moved into Biology we had to allot daily time to it as well. Finally, we had to set up a schedule for each three week rotation within Exposition. He has dyslexia so this required a lot of honesty for what tools he needed, what time of day he worked best and how much time he required to accomplish his goal.

Step 3: We would pull out his planner and write on top of each day how much time he had available to work. We always assumed we had less time than we did. This was crucial! Sometimes things take longer than you think they will. On good days, he would have extra free time if things worked out well.

Step 4: He would start by writing in his REST and BREAKS first. This world has lost its mind and has no idea why REST is an essential part of our work. We have to fight to teach it to our children (Lord, help it to rub off on us along the way). He writes in his rest and then he writes in what work he should be doing each day and account for how much time each strand requires.

Step 5: Once all the puzzle pieces for the week were laid out, he got to work. The first 10 weeks were spent trying to figure out how to study. Thats a skill in itself! Especially for someone who struggles with focus. We tried different settings and approaches and finally came up with a few solutions. For example, he ended up setting timers for his work to keep himself paced and eventually learned that he needs a moderate amount of background noise to be able to work. Too much quiet or too loud, and he could not focus.

Step 6: DAILY check in time. This is hard, because we don’t always have time for this sort of thing but it was important to have that accountability. There was a box on each day that needed my initial to close out the day. First to make sure he was being diligent with the work he needed to do but also to make sure he wasn’t doing too much. One hour on Latin means one hour. If you don’t finish that last exercise, its ok. Close the book and move on. Your brain needs the break! On Week 3 he came to me at the appointed hour and told me he had not finished three of his strands. I looked at him in surprise and asked, “What’s going on?” He confided in me that he had spent hours on Latin and was mentally spent. He even worked through his breaks to finish it all. I thanked him for telling me and we came up with a plan for the next day that included not working beyond those 60 minutes.

My son and one of his classmates at our F/E End of the Year Celebration

My son has struggled with a few things because of his Dyslexia but he has also thrived with it. He knows what his gifts are because we point them out all the time and encourage them.

There are many ways of tackling Challenge A because Directors are not the teacher. The parents are the teachers. Every community day I lead a seminar comprised of 8 students that all have different teachers. They each had a different Challenge A experience. That is a grand and glorious thing.

For example, my boy loves nature. He has a remarkable affinity for understanding and explaining all things related to nature. Its a vital part of his imagination that contributes to the nourishment of his inquiring mind and the refreshment of his spirit. You better believe I made it a part of his Cartography study! Every time we moved on to a new region, we spent time during the week studying the nature of that region. He loved it. Challenge A students draw a map of the world from memory at the end of the year and his map will feature animals from all over the world alongside countries, capitals and geographical features. (Since he also has dysgraphia, one way we made his mapping a little more legible is to have him dictate all the countries and capitals he learned so I can type them up. He numbers the countries to correlate with the list which is later affixed to his map).

When we finished Biology, he used his incredible Visual-Spatial skills to draw all the systems he learned onto a human form we traced on butcher paper. What a victory day!

Drawing and labeling the systems of the human body from memory

Here is where his particular gifts helped him thrive:

Cartography: Visual-Spatial Learning in drawing, memorizing countries and capitols by repeated LISTENING (record yourself and hit play, my friend) DRAWING Geography terms on flashcards.

Latin: Memorizing Vocabulary by repeated listening, using a whiteboard to pull apart words when parsing or translating. Skills repeated over three years in Essentials helped tremendously here!

Research: Research Presentations about Animals, An animal-themed Science Project and Biology– we found ways to use his strengths for each one of those. Relying on drawing, asking good questions, making solid outlines, etc.

Math: Never had I ever had a conversation about a math problem before Challenge A. This was incredibly valuable and changed the way we approach our regular math lessons. We are gaining so many valuable tools here.

Reasoning: This strand was joy for him. Getting to act out analogies or fallacies in teams, having in class discussions, drawing comic strips. JOY.

Exposition: Auditory skills. He listened to most of his books on Audio while following along with his book open. It took him all year to really nail the art of the ANI Chart, because it took me that long to realize he needed to work on it OUT LOUD first. I also helped scribe his outline and essays for the same reason. I consider LTW to be a THINKING program before it ever becomes a writing program. This year he needed to spend his time thinking through the form well, so he could learn it. This was crucial. His beautiful memory skills helped so much here!

I am truly amazed by all I witnessed this year. The other day he shared some of the things he learned with me. It blessed me deeply to hear him say: “preparation, organization, planning, and time management are so important, Mom.” He gets it. We are taking an executive function course this summer to put a few more tools in our toolbox for next year.

Challenge B is on the horizon and we are eager for the next challenge. He learned a lot about himself this year and is already making plans for his study habits next year. He still struggles with aspects of work but because of all the flexibility we found within this program the struggles aren’t what determine his learning ability.

This summer, I will read “The Question” again and maybe, “The Conversation,” too. I’ll gather what is in the curriculum for next year and consider the tools he has in his possession and make a plan for how I will lead as his teacher so he can grow at home and contribute in class.

Morning Time 2020/2021

I have not blogged or published an article since September of last year. This is for two reasons. The first is that my Abuela Elsa passed away and my heart has been full of remembering and processing the surreal experience of losing someone I love during the time of Covid. The second is that my children, the eldest in particular, have grown and matured quickly in the last six months. The days of little boys are rushing past and we are ushering in the age of young men. I needed time to quietly process and plan for the next phase and determine what would be appropriate to share and what needed to be safeguarded just for us.

Its a beautiful Sunday afternoon and some of my boys are playing out in the backyard, building tents and frolicking with the new puppy. One is painting and another is reading a book. It feels glorious and fleeting. I have no wish to hover over their play and so here I sit, trying to drum up enough heart to write the first blog post in quite a long time.

I’ve decided to start with Morning Time.

Morning Time these days has flourished into a very conversation oriented experience. This is entirely fitting within the dialectic phase of learning my children are currently in. They have a lot of questions! At the start of the new school year we had to figure out how morning time could serve our family best this year, taking into consideration our age gap (8-13), work load (my eldest is in Challenge A) and therapy appointments (like speech!).

Last spring I made a list of all the things I wanted to tackle this year and divided them up by season. During our Classical Conversations year our selections are a bit lighter. Once we are done for the year, the selections are longer. We also have people coming and going this year from the morning block which took some adjustment.

For example, we start the day with our morning collect (more on that later) and then dive into the daily portion for that day. My youngest is 8 years old and generally leaves about 15-20 minutes into the daily portion, which is appropriate for his age. He typically retreats to his room to play for a bit. I finish the daily portion with the older children and the final selections are geared for their ages. Once we finish this portion the eldest child leaves to dive into his Cartography and Anatomy studies. I’ll stay with the middle two for a bit more and once they finish the youngest comes back for a few picture books. (Though I should note here that older children generally drift in when they hear their favorite read alouds. Always warms my heart).

What did we portion off this year? Let’s take a look:

Daily Collect: the daily collect is done every morning and typically takes about 20 minutes depending on what we are reviewing/learning. This includes—
Daily Liturgy Prayer (taken from Every Moment Holy meal liturgies Monday-Friday)
Bible Reading (we are reading through the Bible together and are currently in 2 Samuel)
Scripture Memory

Daily Portion: This is the material that changes depending on the season. Some of these only last a few weeks, some may stretch out over the course of the whole year. I even took one whole topic (biography) and moved it to the evenings after dinner so my husband could join in! Topics with an (*) are portions we reserve for older children. Instead of writing out a long tedious list, I have linked just a few examples of what we used/are currently using this school year.

Poetry: Tennyson, Hughes, Whitman, Clifton, St. Vincent Malay
Poetry Memorization: The Harp and the Laurel
Art Study: Sesshu Toyo, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Sculpture
Composer Study: Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Scott Joplin, Ernesto Lecuona, St. Matthew Passion by Bach
Nature Study: invertebrates, fungus and deserts
Biography: Ernest Shackleton, Florence Young, Betty Greene, Mildred Cable, Lilian Trasher, Amy Charmichael Winston Churchill
Theology: The Pursuit of God, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig
Science: Michael Faraday’s The Chemical History of a Candle, Napoleon’s Buttons,
Physics* Matter and Energy by Paul Fleischer
Economics: Uncle Eric books by Richard Maybury*: Personal, Career and Financial Security, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?
Plutarch* : Life of Solon, Life of Lycurgus
Current Events
Great Speeches

Depending on the day of the week, we have our daily collect along with a mixture of a few strands from the daily portion. The length of time we spend on each strand depends on the day of the week and the time we have available. If poetry memorization is on a review rotation then we will only spend 5 minutes on that strand before moving on. If we are on a memorization day then it will take a few minutes more. Current Events is another topic that sometimes stretches way longer than anticipated. The beauty is that I have the freedom to choose to continue the beautiful conversation for a few minutes longer and push the Shakespeare reading or the Art lesson for after lunch or even into the next day. Flexibility and faithfulness coexist happily here.

Here is a taste of one morning time. I have transferred my notes on here. Tomorrow will look like this:


Daily Collect:
Opening Liturgy (Monday Blessing, Every Moment Holy)
Bible Reading (2 Samuel 22)
Hymn (Holy, Holy, Holy)
Scripture Memory (Review select old verses, continue learning Hebrews 12:28-29)

Daily Portion:
Poetry reading (Tennyson)
Art Study (Mary Cassatt)
Shakespeare (Macbeth continued)
Speeches (“We Shall Fight on the Beaches” Winston Churchill audio)
Current Events (Myanmar and New Russian Naval base in Sudan)
Physics* (Matter and Energy)
Economics* (Personal, Career and Financial Security)

Picture Books: (Usually read alone with the youngest once he returns)
The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Weatherford
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima
The Raft by Jim LaMarche


With only 8 weeks of CC left to go we’ll be changing up our morning time by May. The boys have asked to study the Napoleonic Wars this summer and so we will be organizing our selections around that time period and Morning Time will likely end up stretching out of the breakfast hour and well into mid-morning.

Morning Time has been one of the most beautiful parts of our homeschool life together. It is where we practice the art of living a life of learning, where we exercise the beauty of an inquiring mind. No worksheets. No tests. Mornings without measure that have, over the course of thousands of days, given us a lovely foundation.

Have you enjoyed something special during your morning time? Leave a comment below and let us know 🙂

This post includes affiliate links.

Memory Work Notebooks

We started weekly memory notebooks this year for some of my boys. Not because I needed one more thing to do, but for a whole host of small reasons that added up to one solid good reason. Anytime you are tempted to add something to your homeschool life, its important to ask yourself what purpose it will serve. I had to stop and ask, “will a memory notebook serve our learning this year? For us the answer was a resounding yes. This memory notebook serves a purpose.

A few of our reasons…

  1. My eldest is in Challenge A this year and I am his Director. This means the odds of my slipping further and further out of the loop with my younger kids memory work will likely go up each week unless I am resolved to attend to what they are learning.
  2. My second born is, for the first time in his homeschool career, not with his older brother. Not only are they physically separated, but they are no longer learning the same exact material. Following this separation is the fact that its my second born son’s THIRD time through Cycle 3. The temptation to zone out will be high unless he is challenged.
  3. My kids love being in charge of their own notebooks. They don’t like WORKBOOKS full of blanks spaces to fill. They like BLANK notebooks that wait for them with wide open spaces full of possibility. Notebooks are a great way for them to have some ownership over their memory work and the sparks they chase on any given week. It gives them the chance to demonstrate what they have learned.
  4. For years we have been enjoying The Friday Exam. Its one of the highlights of our week. But storing all that butcher paper and filing away photos has gotten a wee bit tedious. The kids are growing up and I needed a way to show individual progress.

A memory notebook serves every one of these issues/needs. It helps keep me accountable and attentive, it provides an extra challenge and outlet for my second born son, it is something my children enjoy doing and it serves as an excellent record of our time together and a natural step up from The Friday exam butcher paper. I am not necessarily adding a new thing, I am revitalizing something we already do to better serve our needs.

This is not something I would do with really young children. This is not something that needs to be gussied up or overly complicated. This is not a hill I would want to die on if my kids were dead set against it. (I have to say that from the outset after what happened with my morning menu idea. The morning menu served very practical purposes in our home but it exploded into something way more complicated than it was intended to be, which is fine for those who love a little fabulous complication at the breakfast table, but thats not how we use our menus).

I would never do this if it needed to be fancy or complicated or something that my kids fought against. No thanks. Like I said, who needs ONE MORE THING?


Once a week my two middle boys (aged 9 and 11) pull out their memory notebooks. We open to a fresh page and start recording what we learned this week. First entries are our Foundations Memory work, followed by bits and pieces of our Essentials work. Then we fill in with poems, songs, nature study, anything we learned this week that was especially meaningful to them.

It should be noted that this is not a foreign concept for them. We’ve been using a closing board for a long time now and Friday Exam has been the work of years. They are used to having a discussion at the end of each day where they recall their favorite things from the day. Its a familiar exercise. If this is not something your children are used to then it might take them awhile to go through the process of recalling things they loved throughout the week.

Not everything they write down is serious and scholarly. Sometimes they record field trips, favorite meals or even a good joke. I’m ok with that. I love that RELATIONSHIP is a big part of our home education. If our walk to the pond finds space next to Wordsworth’s Daffodils poem, you won’t hear me complaining.

My youngest son is 7 years old and has special needs. We keep our memory notebook together. He basically has his own mini Friday exam notebook that he can draw in when he wants to or stand beside me and recite what he wants recorded on the days when he needs that extra help. We keep it fun for him and slowly introduce the skill of notebook keeping in stages.


Find a quality notebook that serves your purpose. I hunted high and low for just the right ones for our family. There are 24 pages (One for each week of a CC Cycle!) and they measure 10 x 12. Paper weight is like card stock. Its spiral bound so it can lay flat while you are working on it. The “Soft cover” is very thick and sturdy (not bendy).

Determine what supplies are appropriate for use in the notebook you chose. If your notebook is not weighted for watercolors, make sure your children know not to use watercolors. Ditto on the marker situation. I provide sharpened colored pencils, drawing pencils, crayons and rulers. It may sound silly, but you need to give your kids a tour of their new notebook and what it can handle and what it can’t to avoid the heartbreak of soggy pages or bleed through.

Some children may want to copy and paste things into their notebook. Pictures from a nature walk or copies of poems from a book. Be prepared to facilitate those requests for them! Teach them to use the copy machine or be ready to make copies for them. Do they have access to scissors? glue? washi tape? Make room for their creativity, especially if that creativity follows the boundaries you set down. (hint: SAY YES!) If you are wanting this to be a chance for more independence or ownership, then give them access to the tools they need to accomplish the goal.

Presence. Be present. Be ready to sit beside them and have conversations. This is a rich opportunity to make connections between areas of learning, to see what your kids are connecting with and to simply enjoy being with them. As much as possible, make their individual notebooks an endeavor achieved within community.

Organizing Our School Year & Life of Learning

I look forward to planning new terms. I really enjoy looking through books and putting together the menu for the yearly feast of ideas we enjoy. Oh is it fun for me!


But organizing a school year is a horse of a different color. Organizing a school year can feel overwhelming, especially if your school year takes place in the midst of your every day life.

There were two major life events to help reframe my perspective on what to organize for our family. The first was agreeing to become a Foundations/Essentials Director (and tutor) for Classical Conversations. The second happened in the years before our insurance started covering my youngest son’s therapies, when I did many of them here at home. Both of these enormous responsibilities taught me how to plan things out, pull them together and organize them well. They also taught me what to skip on organizing all together. They taught me what hills to avoid dying on.

You see, I promised myself years ago I would not spend another minute surfing blogs looking for ways to organize socks or how to color-coordinate all of my children’s closets or toys. Those things led to a lot of frustration and feelings of “If only my kids would appreciate all I did to do this for them and stop messing it up!” Because really, I did those things for myself only. I was ministering to my own pride. Once I realized what I was doing, I did everything I could to change course. No, thank you. Not one more minute looking at how to organize things for the sake of my own pride.

My home is the setting for my main ministry right now, which is raising and educating my children, serving my husband and making a hospitable space for our community to gather. I look around these days and ask myself, “What do I need to organize well so that I can meet my ministry goals? So I can serve my family? So I can help the kids increase in capability and independence? So I can reduce friction?” Those are things I want to organize because they are the things I need to attend to no matter what! I won’t share every single life organization we’ve done, but I will share a few of the main things we’ve done to bless our life of learning together…


The first step in organizing is understanding what you have planned for the year and figuring out how to order it. Its a bit like writing a paper. After you figure out what you want to say (planning) you have to figure out how you are going to lay it out (organization). When I organize my school year, I am ordering it the way I would lay the framework out for a paper.

This year we have new elements added to the mix and I spent a couple of weeks getting our balance just right. Sort of a test run for what I had planned out. This weekend I’m organizing the framework for day to day movement to ensure we stay on track and to protect our adventure days.

Here is a look at how we organize our school year for four male children aged 7-12. I hope you may find ideas here that help you even if you don’t use the programs we use.

Morning Time

If you want to know WHAT we are using for Morning Time you can ready other posts under the Classical Conversations tab to find out. I organize for morning time in a few different ways.

On a shelf near our dining room table, the following items are stored for easy transitions.

  1. A MORNING TIME NOTEBOOK thats just for me.
    This notebook has a calendar of our current plan in the front cover pocket. That way I only have to glance it to remember that, for example, on Monday we have our Daily Collect (Scripture reading, Scripture Memory, Creed, Catechism and Hymn) plus biography, poetry memorization, current events and Plutarch.
    I keep copies of verses, creeds, hymns, poems, speeches and monologues we have memorized in this binder. Its a record keeper/scrapbook of what we have done together so far. (I write in dates and ages of the kids on top of the copies before filing them away once we’re done) I also have a small book tucked in the inside pocket that I keep for reference. This book is A Handbook to Morning Time by Cindy Rollins. (NOTE: I linked it on Amazon so you can see what it looks like in case you spot it “in the wild.” It’s currently out of print. Please don’t drop $100 on this book. Cindy is working to republish it soon and I’ll be sure to share once its up)
  2. Morning Menus
    We shared this idea a few years ago and then it exploded online with several homeschool mothers even turning the idea into businesses where you can by ready made menus for morning time. Now I have to be honest and say that I never made a fuss over our menus. I never printed things out on pretty paper with fancy fonts. They’ve never been color coordinated. Because we eat while we have our morning time I needed a way to keep our papers together and clean and dry. So I purchased a stack of menu covers off of Amazon, made copies of the current term’s hymn, verses, memory work, poems, etc. and slid them in. I love having copies for everyone to handout that we can wipe clean when we need to. These menus were meant to be helpful, not stressful. If you’re making them yourself, keep it simple. Your kids will never know that you skipped the fancy fonts. 🙂
  3. Book of Centuries/Timeline
    Nancy Kelley has an excellent post on her blog with examples of what these look like. My boys have not given me permission to share ours.
  4. Scripture Verse Memory System 
  5. Nature Journals
    We’ve been using Exploring Nature with Children for a few years now and we love it. It’s been so helpful in navigating Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. The nature journals we keep by the table are for water colors or more detailed drawings that we finalize based off of our field notes. They usually water color while I read our current biography.
  6. Current Books used for Morning Time.
    **This includes our Foundations Guide for memory work. I decided to rip the spiral binding off mine and put the pages in page protectors for easier page turning. This way I could also pull out our current cycle and relocate into a much small binder to use for the year. (You can find a video from Wandering Schoolhouse on how we organize our Essentials Notebooks for the kids here)


Organizing Lessons

The first step here is sitting my kids down and going over each and every resource and explaining how its used at the start of every term. This way they know where things live and what goes together. We try to do each subject at the same time every day. Yes, of course exceptions are made for doctors visits, grocery runs, field trips, etc. But for the vast majority of the year my third born knows that right after morning time, he practices the piano for half an hour. He knows where his books are and how to set his timer to practice. My second born knows he needs to grab his Latin Notebook to work on his drills and translations and he knows to grab his instructional DVD if its the first day of the week. Muscle memory and repetition go a long way here. We still have our fun and spontaneous days (Hello BEACH DAY every Friday!), but solidifying a routine that is repeated in the same order, week after week, helps them become more and more organized and capable as time goes on.

Most of our subjects are recorded in plain old composition notebooks. History narrations, Plutarch narrations, spelling lists, parsed sentences, science narrations. We store all their composition notebooks (along with their Math and Latin notebooks) in one of those little rainbow carts of doom.   Each kid is assigned a color and they get two drawers to store their notebooks. The cart gets the job done.

Try as one might, we can’t avoid the homeschool PAPELEO (as my Abuela says) Papers, papers, papers. So many papers. I have a mail sorter perched on the school room counter with four slots, one for each kid to turn in spelling tests, geography work, etc.  Nothing fancy there. Every month I take an hour and organize all the work and record then toss, or file it away for their end of the year portfolios. (More on this later)


Speaking of papers to hand out. I love these 24 pocket notebook folders for corralling extra papers, handouts, maps or charts that I give out to the kids during certain weeks of the term. I use one for Foundations and one for Essentials. For example, in the 24 pocket essentials notebook folder, I keep fun IEW Vocabulary crossword puzzles that I make for them at the start of each semester, along with copies of charts, ATS or QEQ they need to do that week. I spend one hellish day copying everything so that throughout the year all I have to do is reach for that delicious little pocket folder of time saving organization and hand it over.

I’m a big fan of children knowing what they’re responsible for on any given day. Once they reach a certain age, usually 8 or 9, my boys loved having their assignments and chores laid out for them so they could have the satisfaction of checking them off (CHECK!) but more importantly, know what they needed to do before they could be FREE for the rest of the day. That’s another thing I’m a big fan of…lots of free time for kids.

Years ago, Sarah Mackenzie shared her spiral notebook approach and I adopted it and never looked back. The older boys have moved on to slightly fancier planners since they are learning to plan and organize their own schedules as they move into ownership of their education, but this is what I’m currently using for my middle boy and what I will use next year for my youngest.

A cheap spiral notebook. At the end of the school day, I take a couple minutes to write down everything he has to do the next day. All assignments, chores, practice times and sports activities. Its all there in one list that he can cross off line by line. Most of these items are the same day to day to day, but he still loves knowing whats expected of him.  Now the deal is, once he is finished with his list, he is FINISHED. I don’t get to say “Oh hey! Its not even 1pm and you’re done with everything? GREAT! In that case, can you please do________.” Nope. He earned his break. Unless he has an evening specific chore, he is done.

Recording Lessons & Portfolios

Here are a few things I do to keep up-to-date records and build their school year portfolios throughout the year.

  1. A BLANK Homeschool Planner
    A really cheap planner. Doesn’t even have to be the current year, I’ll just put a big label on it with the right year if needed. A planner straight from the clearance section, one without meal plans or extra planning space. Just days of the week with lots of boxes or lines beneath each week day. I record what we accomplished there in pen. (My regular homeschool planner has all the bells and whistles and I write in PENCIL for that one) But my record keeper? That one is a plain Jane and she gets updated in pen. I have it on hand in case I ever need to give an accounting of how we spent our year by our local school district office.img_5893.jpg
  2. WEEKLY Journal
    Remember the Friday exam? Well, I used to record that by taking pictures and adding them to the end of the kids portfolios every year. That worked for awhile. But when they got older they wanted to KEEP their Friday exams. Yowza. I did NOT want to store that much butcher paper all year. So we compromised. Enter the weekly journal. This Journal from Rainbow Resource was PERFECT!  I hunted high and low for this exact sort of notebook. Ready? There are 24 pages (One for each week of a CC Cycle!) and they measure 10 x 12. Paper weight is like card stock. Its spiral bound so it can lay flat while you are working on it. The “Soft cover” is very thick and sturdy (not bendy).  On Fridays, we can do our usual Friday exam to get our ideas out and then the kids can pick their favorites and enter them into their weekly journals. BOOM. At the end of the year I have something handy dandy to give to our Evaluator. (In the state of Florida your child can progress to the next school year by 1) Taking a standardized test OR 2) having a psychological evaluation OR 3) getting a certified teacher to sign off on your portfolio.)IMG_2911.jpg
    Each year I get the kids new portfolio binders (one per child). The first page in it is the layout of what we are using that school year. On my computer I keep a file where I upload pictures of events (field trips, science fair, belt testing in karate, etc) and keep a record of all the books we read together. At the end of the month when I pull all the papers out of the mail sorter, I take an hour to assess what stays and what goes. I only keep examples of their work. I don’t know a single evaluator that wants to see every scrap of paper the child worked on that year. They like to see evidence that progress has taken place. I weed things out and record anything that needs to be recorded and I keep whatever is deserving of portfolio status. Then I file it away in their individual binders.When the evaluator comes I present the homeschool planner with recorded days and accomplished assignments, individual binders with examples of work,  the children’s weekly journals, nature journals, photos of field trips, recorded after school activities, morning time records, etc.



My boys train hard nearly every day of the school week at their tae kwon do school. They get those uniforms good and dirty. I set alarms on my phone each week to soak and wash those uniforms and sanitize mouth guards.  I also set reminders each month for the kids to wipe down all their gear. We store everything in the same spot to try and keep the chaos of “Mom!!!! WHERE IS MY__?!?!” 5 minutes before departure time to a minimum. This means a lot of before hand reminders as we are pulling into the driveway (“OK boys, what are your four steps now? Shoes away. Bags Away. Uniforms Away. Shower) and follow through on my part before dinner (Four steps all done?) Swimsuits and towels are also a kind of uniform for us since we use them weekly. We store all those things in the same place too, along with our adventure gear. I’ve organized my trunk (which is a double decker trunk) with bins of beach gear that we hose off and store in the trunk again once we get home. 


Maybe you don’t do karate or go to the beach every week, but you might have a uniform of sorts in your home that correlates with something you do often? Having a place and a plan for its care and upkeep can help minimize frustrations throughout the week. Consider how to care for that uniform and give your kids a few steps to memorize concerning that uniform.

Pencils and papers and pastels. Yes! But also goggles and nets and catch and release viewers and water shoes. There are many supplies that we use throughout the week here. Helping children keep track of their resources and caring for them is something I have to work hard at. We don’t want to constantly drop money to replace goggles or mislaid (or misused) water colors.

Here is a simple thing I have trained myself to say at the end of each subject. “Put away your books and prepare your materials for storage” They know this means return the watercolors, wash the brushes, empty the pencil shavings, etc. But I have to remember to give them a few minutes to do that well and not rush them on to the next thing. They learned how to care for things well during their preschool years. We used a lot of Montessori materials to help them with this! Whenever we’re returning home from a beach day or nature hike, I’ve trained myself to say, “OK! Empty your packs of food scraps, wrappers, trash and make sure your pack is ready to go for next time!” We prep for the next time before we settle in to anything new.

Easier said than done! Ever finish a beach day with a car full of kids in 100 degree weather with 100 percent humidity? You’re not exactly in the mood to reset your car and your gear. But we know by now that we have to get it done right then and there, if not we pay the price for it six days later.

Again, we don’t do this every time we leave the house. I never have a special saying for when we get back from the farmer’s market. Just for those outings that are part of our routine.




I’ve shared about it often. Its been years. We will never quit blessing hour. At the same time every day, my boys get to work on their tasks and they help reset the house. The table gets wiped and swept underneath and then set for dinner before we leave for sports practice. Common areas tidied. Door handles wipes. We get these things done to bless our family so that in the evenings we can rest together and mentally prepare for the following day.


Yes, I organize my rest. Or rather, I organize so that we can all rest. Or maybe I rest so I can organize. Either way, organization and rest are on a loop. We have to make room for it in our rhythm. A pocket of rest during the day, a pocket of rest during the week, a pocket of rest during the year. Or in other words: evenings, Sundays and vacations. We are careful to organize our lives so we can uphold these things.






Before the New Term: the last of the summer days


After our recent How We Plan Part 2 LIVE video on IG, a few people asked for a closer look at what a typical “layering day” looks like for us as we head into a new term. Here is a peak at our current “layering” schedule. At this point we’ve introduced most of the morning subjects and have only to add in our afternoon work in the next week or so.


Early Block

The first block of our day includes the boys morning chores and our morning time meeting over breakfast. Morning time lasts longer between terms since we have less formal work throughout the day and the kids are willing to linger a bit longer. Here is a look at the books we are currently working through.

Morning Time:
Hymn Sing
Bible (We’ve been reading through the Bible and are currently in Joshua)
Scripture Memory Verses (We use this system)
Of Courage Undauntedby James Daugherty
Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence by Esther Averill (Out of Print)
The Book of Indians by Holling C Holling  (Out of Print)
Secrets of the Woodsby William Long
Exploring Nature with Children
Famous Speeches (trade out for Shakespeare once new term starts)


Morning Block Block:
This is what our second block look like right now, it starts with lessons and ends with lit lunch. After morning time my youngest clears the dishes and the eldest gets out his Challenge A Geography work right away. We have our planning meetings once a week and he already knows what needs to be done every day. I stack dishes into the dishwasher while my 2nd born grabs his timer and starts piano practice. My third born gets out his materials for Latin. Once the dishes are in I go over the morning Latin work with no.3 and then I track down the youngest and we have our reading lesson. Once the timers go off for the middle kids they close their books and move on to the next thing on their list. At 10:30, I sit with the eldest and go over the beginning of his math lesson, then leave him to finish. I head over to no.3 and begin his Spanish lesson with him then leave him to finish. Finally, I sit with the youngest at 11:10 and start his math lesson. Between kids I usually have a list of “little things” to check off. Flip the laundry, five minutes of lunch prep, etc. We keep up our work until it’s time for lit lunch. You can see the visual below. 





Child 1




Lit Lunch

Child 2

Piano (30 min)
(30 min)

(30 min)
SSA (30 min)

(40 min)

Lit Lunch

Child 3

(30 min)
SSA (30 min)

(30 mi)
Piano (30 min)

Math *
(30 min)

Lit Lunch

Child 4

Reading lesson **(20 minutes)

Math lesson**
(20 minutes)

Story time**
(20 minutes)

Lit Lunch

* = Mom starts the lesson and they finish it. ** = Mom stays for the whole lesson. 
SSA (Silent Sustained Attention) is when the boys read their extra history/science/special interest books.

Lit Lunch
We love lit lunch. We are big on books and food so stopping in the middle of the day to light a candle and eat lunch and read aloud is a touchstone for all of us. Right now we are enjoying:
The Quest of Michael Faraday
Uncle Eric books (without a doubt one of the best book investments I’ve made)
Once the new term starts the Uncle Eric book will move down to morning time and we’ll read (or listen to) a fiction book during lunch.

Afternoon Block
After the new term starts our afternoon block will begin with language arts, spelling, grammar and the eldest will also have his science research strand. It will end with afternoon tea. But in the weeks leading up to the new term the afternoons vary from day to day. The eldest usually puts in his piano practice right after lunch and then the boys launch into hours of playing with legos, researching something in nature, inventing and designing their own board games and reading books about World War 2. We also take time during the afternoon to practice their Tae Kwon Do forms for testing. The afternoons before term also provide a great window of time for me to get in some planning and organization time.


Afternoon Tea
I know. We’re ridiculous. But if the boys are going to sit down and have a snack we might as well enjoy a few chapters while they do so. They don’t all drink tea in the afternoons, some settle for a glass of water and an apple. But the hobbits among us prefer tea and a biscuit.
Currently reading:
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr
Full disclosure: During the school year we usually put in an audiobook at this point to save my voice a bit.


Reset Block
Now this block of time is short but so CRUCIAL. It keeps our evenings pleasant and enjoyable. BEFORE we leave for sports practice/activities, we have our blessing hour (which does not usually last a whole hour). The boys have their responsibilities laid out on their clipboards and they clean their assigned areas at the end of each day. We RESET the house. Floors are swept, dishwasher unloaded, garbage taken out, shoes put away, common areas tidied. On really good days, someone sets the table so that when we get home from practice its one less thing to do before dinner.

We have dinner together every night. Its a huge priority for us and I spent years training the kids to make it happen. We spent a long time teaching them how to “reset” the house so I could focus on making dinner. This team work gives us the GIFT of family dinner every night. When dinner is over, guess what we do? Thats right. We read together one last time. This time, Dad does the reading. We’ve been all over the world together and traveled throughout all history and never had to leave the dining room table. We recently traveled down to the Weddell Sea with Ernest Shackleton and sat in Parliament with Wilber Wilberforce.

This is their favorite piece of reading all day long. We are working our way through a huge stack of biographies and the kids love to take them all out and sneak a look at who is next. We usually choose our books based on things the kids are working through or interested in.

We are currently reading:
Florence Young by Janet Being
Hiroshima by John Hershey

We decided to delve into Hiroshima by John Hershey, which is obviously a heavy and graphic book. But the boys are very interested in World War 2 right now and I wanted them to know that Hiroshima isn’t just a word in a book or a far away place or turning point in the war.

Playing on their latest homemade board game. 

Night Block
After the kids are in bed I knock out a few more things off my weekly list. The list right now is full of prep for the new term. Build the boy’s binders for Essentials. Finish prepping for Challenge A (which starts next week!) Work on a few articles. Do the laundry that has been staring up at me from the basket for the last few days. That sort of stuff. I only work until a certain time and then I put it all away and go through my nightly checklist for the next day. If they have sports practice I make sure the uniforms are clean and ready to go. I look over tomorrow’s menu and take things out of the freezer to defrost or leave things ready to be prepped for whoever has that morning chore. I don’t do all that stuff because I’m a crazy perfectionist. I do it because the older I get the more I realize how badly I want those smooth days with my kids. If I can put in 15-20 minutes of prep the night before to make sure I’m not a screaming banshee the next day, then its worth it. Also, I’ve been married to an engineer for almost a decade and a half. His efficiency was bound to rub off on us all.

Once the prep is done, its time for me to read my books.

I love books. You probably noticed that. While I love the books I read with my kids during the day, I’m still hungry for more books at night.

Right now I am reading:
Surprised by Paradox by Jen Michel
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
Awakening Wonder by Sally Clarkson
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (audio)

That’s our day! Unless its Friday. In that case…




A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Quarter 1 (5th edition)

Here is a look at how we are incorporating our Cycle 3 Memory work within our Charlotte Mason/Classical based homeschool.

IMG_78581 (1)

Morning Time Plans:
We always begin with our Daily Collect. When sit at the table to eat, I begin with a verse and we sing the Doxology. Then we eat breakfast and talk. I used to read while the boys ate, but they are older now and I can now eat with them before I begin reading. The Daily Collect is a list of what we do every single day.  Within the collect there is a Learning Loop of four items which switch out on a loop from day to day.

Daily Collect (Every day!)
Daily Bible Reading
Daily hymn
Catechism (1 question per week)
Memory Work Review
Geography (Map Tracing)
Dialectic Exercise (either parse a sentence or use the Five Common Topics to discuss a math problem).
Current Events
Learning Loop*
Family Morning Read Aloud

*Learning Loop: (one a day)
Poetry Study
Art Study
Nature Study


Lit Lunch:
It all starts with a candle! Every day of the week a different boy helps out with lunch, by now the older ones can prepare it on their own. Once I am done eating, I pick up a couple books and we chip away at a few more chapters of reading. This semester we’ve decided to continue our read through of the Uncle Eric books with a reading of his book on Justice. (We’ve greatly enjoyed his books on the World Wars, basic economics andAncient Rome). We’ll be alternating with American Tall Tales.


Now for the Quarter 1 Booklist. Please remember that we do not read every single book on this list in six weeks. This is a list I keep on hand while I plan and then I pull books from it depending our time allowance, interests, etc. I have tried my best to gather books that are 1) living books 2) in print 3) representative of a wide range of experiences in American history.  In our house, education is fed by “living ideas” and so our book list tries to reflect that. We are jumping back and forth between a few different history spines this year and reading as many source documents as we can.  I did not share the history spines in this post, but will share them as we continue on with our year.

Week 1
counter (Voyager Books)by Jane Yolen
The Discovery of the Americas by Betsy Maestro (This book has sparked many conversations in our home!)
The Kidnapped Prince by Ann Cameron
Columbus The D’aulaires
Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter Sis
Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus by Pam Conrad

[(Your Skin and Mine )by Paul Showers

Surrounded By Sea: Life on a New England Fishing Island by Gail Gibbons
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Clooney
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
One Morning in Maine (Picture Puffins) by Robert McCloskey
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle

Fine Arts: OiLs Basic Shapes practice
Ish (Creatrilogy) by Peter Reynolds

The Creation Story for Childrenby Helen Haidle
The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley
Genesis 1-8
Indus Valley City (Building History)by Gillian Clements
Voices of Ancient Egyptby Kay Winters
Pharaoh’s Boatby David L Weitzman
Pyramid by David Macaulay
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
—Chp 2 The Sumerians
—Chp 3  The Indus Valley
—Chp 9 The Minoans

Week 2
The Pilgrims of Plimoth (Aladdin Picture Books) by Marcia Sewall
People of the Breaking Day (Aladdin Picture Books) by Marcia Sewall
The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by PJ Lynch
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dagliesh
Sees Behind Trees by Michael Dorries
N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims by Robert San Souci
Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl or
Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters
Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

The Skeleton Inside You by Phillip Ballestrino
Bones: Skeletons and How They Work by Steve Jenkins
Bones: Our Skeletal System by Seymour Simon

A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History by Lynne Cherry
Amazing Impossible Erie Canal (Aladdin Picture Books)by Cheryl Harness
The Erie Canalby Peter Spier
The Brooklyn Bridge: The story of the world’s most famous bridge and the remarkable family that built it. (Wonders of the World Book) by Elizabeth Mann
The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night (Dell Picture Yearling) by Peter Spier
Libertyby Lynn Curlee
The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy Maestro
Henner’s Lydia by Marguerite de Angeli
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jaqueline Davies
Thee, Hannah!By Marguerite de Angeli

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Lynn Curlee
The Bible (Patriarchs)
God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah by Joanna Livingstone (Kush)
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
—Chp 7 Babylon
—Chp 8 China (Shang Dynasty)
—Chp 16 The Hittites
—Chp 17 Kush
—Chp 18 Assyria

Week 3
The Boston Tea Party by Russell Freedman
Black Heroes of the American Revolution by Burke Davis
Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer
Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz
The Scarlet Stockings Spy  by Trina Hanks Noble
Sybil’s Night Ride by Karen Winnick
The Story of the Boston Tea Party: Cornerstones of Freedom
Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak: The Outbreak of the Boston Tea Party Told from Multiple Points-of-View! By Kay Winters
Benjamin Franklin by D’ulaires

You can’t make a move without your muscles by Paul Showers
Muscles: Our Muscular SystemSeymour Simons

Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birdsby Cynthia Rylant
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard


Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet by Don Robb
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
—-Chp  19 Cyrus the Great- The Persian Empire
Exodus 3-15
Numbers, Judges, 1 Samuel 1-7
1 Samuel 8-31, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11
The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna by Demi

Week 4
Mumbet’s Declaration of Independenceby Gretchen Woelfle
Crispus Attucks: Black Leader of Colonial Patriots by Dharathula Millender
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? By Jean Fritz
The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
Ticktock, Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller
We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Peter Spier
The Declaration of Independence
Phoebe the Spy by Judith Griffiths

Use Your Brain by Paul Showers
The Brain: All about Our Nervous System and More! by Seymour Simons

Parrotfish and Sunken Ships: Exploring a Tropical Reef by Jim Arnosky
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Georgia Music by Helen Griffiths
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell
Sam the Sea Cow by Francine Jacobs
The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle by Lynn Cherry
Swamp by Donald Silver
River Town by Bonnie Geisert
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C Holling
Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell

The Twins by Plutarch
Romulus and Remus by Anne Rockwell
1 & 2 Kings
1 & 2 Chronicles
Depending on skill level:
The Children’s Homer by Padraic Collum
The Odyssey by Geralidne MacCraeghen
Buddha  by Demi
The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi
Confucius: The Golden Rule by Russell Freedman

Week 5.
A Spy Called James by Anne Rockwell
George Washington by D’Aulaire
We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Lynne Cherry
George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz
A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro

My Five Senses (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Aliki

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C Holling
Warm as Wool  by Scott Russell Sanders
The Log Cabin Quilt by Ellen Howard
Too Many Mittens / A Good Place to Hide / The Little Mermaid Who Could Not Sing (Dover Children’s Classics) by Lois Slobodkin
Floating House by Scott Russell Sanders
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Daniel 3
Alexander the Great by Demi
The Secret of Alexander’s Horse by Tony Palazzo
The Children’s Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks by Plutarch
Daniel 5
2 Chronicles 36
Herodotus and the Road to History by Jeanne Bendick
Archimedes and the Door to Science by Jeanne Bendick
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine  by Jeanne Bendick
What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis
Rome Antics  by David MacCaulay
Famous Men Of Rome: History for the Thoughtful Child by John Haaren

Week 6
Blades of Freedom by Nathan Hale
Sacagawea by Joseph Bruchac
Sacagawea by Lisolette Erdich
A Prairie Dog for the President by Shirley Redmond
How We Crossed The West: The Adventures Of Lewis And Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer
Seaman’s Journal
Year of the Horseless Carriage: 1801 by Genevieve Foster

What Happens to a Hamburger? by Paul Showers
Guts: Our Digestive System by Seymour Simon

B Is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet by Mary Ann McCabe
Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt
Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Howard
A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers by Deborah Hopkins
Copper-toed Boots by Marguerite de Angeli
Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli
The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Saving Strawberry Farm

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
The Life of Julius Caesar by Plutarch
If You Were Me and Lived in….the Mayan Empire
Secrets in Stone : All About Maya Hieroglyphics
Rome by Andrew Saloway
[(The Children’s Plutarch : Tales of the Romans)
Matthew 3, John 3, Matthew 14

1st Quarter Family Read Aloud Possibilities

Ocean Born Maryby Lois Lenski
Landmarks of American History Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1)
The Landing of the Pilgrims (Landmark Books)
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
The Matchlock Gun
Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
America’s Paul Revere
Johnny Tremain
Calico Bush
The Cabin Faced West
Of Courage Undaunted

Prepping my Dialectic Dyslexic for Challenge A


Me: “Are you excited for Challenge A next year?”
My Boy: “I’m a Dyslexic Dialectic! I’m thrilled and terrified!”

8 years into our walk with Classical Conversations and we now find ourselves on the threshold of Challenge A. I’m his Director next year and he is my student in the class and at home. What a gift.

A few weeks ago someone asked how I was planning my year out for my eldest, who has been open with our sharing of his homeschool walk with Dyslexia. I thought I’d share the process with you in this post.


Whenever I am lost in the mire of information that tends to follow the triple letter learning disabilities, I remember to go back to the core of what it is we are aiming for. This is always the first step in my planning. What is the end goal and are my tools lining up to serve the end goal? This has helped me shave off hours of unnecessary therapy hours, look for more creative avenues for achieving goals and, most importantly, keep pressing towards a beautiful education.

As my eldest moved towards Challenge A, my thinking during the last year fell along these lines:

How can I use the tools within Challenge A to give my son a beautiful and robust education this year and how can it help shape who he is becoming and his understanding of whose he is and where he is going?

I began by reading “The Question” by Leigh Bortins, who addresses the above question in her opening chapter, and discovered all the tools presented inside to be workable for my neurodiverse family. The book is packed with practical help. Learning and practicing the five common topics over the last year was certainly helpful. But the greatest value for me was reading the book cover to cover multiple times, which helped me remember my goal over and over.

It would be an impossible expectation to say: I want my son to know everything by the time he graduates. Instead, my goal is teach him how to learn anything by gathering knowledge, asking good questions and applying wisdom. This year is not about his reading speed, its about teaching him to look for truth and goodness and beauty. Its setting a foundation of wisdom. Rather than try to learn everything, we’ll be equipping him to be able to learn anything.

Classical education is hard.  It’s beautiful, it’s worthy and its hard. Truth, goodness, beauty, sweat and tears. For nuerodiverse kids, you can add an extra few helpings of sweat and tears. I don’t say that to discourage, merely to acknowledge the fact that classical education is work! And yet, the longer I am in CC the more equipped and encouraged we both feel, even as we go about the inescapable reality of hard work.


In a typical classroom setting, students are often measured against one another and most measurements are scaled towards discovering what a student doesn’t know so they can be penalized accordingly. Part of the beauty of learning in a classical Christian community is the weekly demonstration of gathering with fellow students to share what they do know and discover truth together by pooling their collective knowledge banks and asking questions of one another. Naturally, every student has his strengths and weakness, but all together they contribute what they can and cover each other in beautiful ways. We can already see, just in the friendships already established in the group, that when they shine, they spur each other on. This is hard work, but it is good work indeed. He’s not behind when he’s working beside them.


So let’s get to work.

We spent the last year getting a good handle on potential stress areas, equipping him to verbalize his frustrations and needs in a clear respectful way, and we gave him extra tools for conquering the daily ins and outs of learning to the best of his ability. Here are a few steps I took over the last year to start preparing for Challenge A.

First, I thought about what a typical week looks like for my boy, his particular challenges (Dyslexia & mild Dysgraphia, low executive function) and the subjects that require a lot from him. I thought about his strengths (incredible auditory processing skills, high memory retention, etc) and the things that breathe fresh life into his lungs. He is twice-exceptional, meaning he is gifted and has a learning disorder. Its been the work of years to get the gifts and disorders to work in tandem and we are still working on it! (See this book and this book).

Next, I invited him into the conversation about his schedule and routine. His schedule is written in pencil right now, all these plans are tentative. He’s a child, not a machine. We also have to live through it a bit before we can fall into a rhythm together. I asked him what parts of the day are most important to him and what he wants to spend his free time on. I’m so glad I asked this question. It really changed the way I approached his schedule and helped us take those steps towards letting him begin to plan on his own. We’ve put chores and daily goals in pockets of time that won’t interfere with the things he really wants to do during the day. He told me that beach days are a must, now and forever. We put those things in first and then we scheduled (tentatively) our order of study.

Finally, I thought about the language of the dialectic/challenge years and the language I used in teaching here at home, and I tried to align myself more and more with the language of the dialectic years. We had already been doing this for many years, but it was helpful to keep mindfully refining.

After contemplating all this I wrote out the six challenge A strands and thought about what each one would require from him in terms of time and energy. I began a rough outline of thoughts for each strand. Its important to note that this is my plan for my particular child. I am sharing more for the thought process itself rather than the actual nuts and bolts of what we did. I have linked items here just to save time later in case people ask for links. But this isn’t meant to be a shopping list.

The six strands within Challenge A are:

Logic (Math)
Grammar (Latin)
Research (Science)
Reasoning (Analogies/Fallacies)
Exposition (Writing and Literature)
Debate (Cartography)


Years ago I spoke with my friend Bev about the Latin portion of Challenge and knew that my boy would benefit from a head start. He needed time to develop the muscle for this one. If the words looked familiar it would take him less time to decode the letters before beginning to decode the language itself. This year we finished our third course with Memoria Press Latin (Prima Latina and Latina Cristiana 1 {2xs}) and the benefit has been tremendous. The boys would watch the instructional DVD, complete their workbook, quiz each other with flashcards, play games and finish reviews and quizzes at the end of the week. When we finished the final exam last week I teared up with thankfulness at the solid foundation they received from Memoria Press. We cracked open the Henle book and he took a great big sigh of relief! “Mom! I already know most of these words!” It wasn’t said with a hint of bragging, it was complete gratitude that he had a better handle on one of the strands.

NOW HEAR THIS! If you did not study Latin beforehand its ok! Remember that what the students learn in Challenge A is repeated again first semester of Challenge B. Then in Challenge 1 all of the Latin from Challenge A & B is repeated. Its a bit like Essentials in that you get three rounds with parts of the same Henle 1 book. 

Here are some other things I have put in place to help him with the Latin strand this year. These are small practical helps. If your child is Dyslexic, than you likely have discovered that making accommodations to ease small areas of tension or difficulty help free their head space for the enormously difficult task of being able to process what they’re reading.

Flashcards: In Challenge A, students make flashcards for their Latin vocabulary. I’ve heard repeatedly from Directors everywhere that making flashcards by hand helps a great deal in furthering memory and retention. This is one example where I needed to count the cost of this exercise for my son and make a call as the parent/teacher! Because he already has a head start in Latin and because writing is such an exhausting ordeal for him, I decided to purchase a set of ready made cards so that he could save that writing energy for other strands.

The Books: My friend Angela, Challenge Director extraordinaire, held a Latin Boot camp over the course of several summers. Her first piece of advice? GET THAT  BOOK SPIRAL BOUND! That Henle book is small and thick and does not lay open with ease and adds one more element of frustration. We spiral bound both books and they now lay flat when open. We also took tabs and labeled all the sections for declensions, conjugations, tenses, etc. It was worth the work! They are easier to navigate and lay flat for study time.

Latin Workspace A: its an optional resource but again, any time I can limit the amount of writing he has to do I go for it!

Tools: Colored reading strips, no bleed highlighters, visual edge slant board (recommended by his behavioral optometrist).

A few years ago we started to kick up our cartography game here at home. We would practice often with our Pin it Maps and CC memory work. Pin it maps were a very helpful resource because the words were positioned on flags instead of a flat lay on the map. He could distinguish features and locations far more easily with the pins. We also purchased a globe to keep on hand so we could look things up whenever we read about a new place. It really helped that geography interested the boys greatly! They each always wanted to be the boy that got to find the spot on the globe.

We eventually began using the Draw the World Series by Kristin Draegar which took our free hand drawing to the next level. I know some parents that use this series during Challenge A, but I don’t want to add more work to this strand. We will keep using these during the summer months and once CC starts again we will switch to the Cartography book.

There were no tricks in our cartography study these last few years. He would use the white board side of his slant board to draw the same countries over and over and then would pull out a sheet of paper, place it on the board and try to draw again from memory. The greatest thing we did was to make geography a habit. Every day, we did at least 10 minutes of geography. While he doesn’t have the whole map memorized yet, he does know his way around a map.

Things in place for Cartography next year-

Timing: This is one strand that my son has expressed a lot of interest in. Because of his deep fascination with political maps and history, he is very familiar with the world map. This strand is something he is looking forward to! I have blocked off time in his schedule accordingly. This strand will go between two more difficult strands to give him a break and a switch to other hemisphere skills.  I have scheduled it during a block of time when his siblings will likely finish their work early so I will “be around” either cooking, doing laundry, or tiding up, but available should he need help.

Scribe/witnessing: After drawing and placing things, I have a hunch that he will be a bit tired. I plan to let him either show me his map and point and verbally tell me where everything is OR I can point to things, he can tell me what they are and I will write it down for him. As long as he demonstrates that he knows it! In class he will have to draw and label maps with the group so he will get plenty of time to practice the skills together, but at home when he is trying to finish the lion’s share of weekly work, I am fine with making these adjustments.

Scaling: This is one strand where I am fully prepared to scale terms when necessary.


We read the Challenge A books out loud as a family over the course of 2 years.  This book list is purposefully easy so that students have more time to focus on the writing portion of exposition and the ease of the list made it a great fit for family read aloud time. Now, my son was a late reader and we had a very rough start with learning how to read. I had to repent from the many mistakes I made and I’m so thankful that my son now loves reading. It takes him longer than some of his younger siblings, but he still loves it. Having these books tucked in his memory before the year starts, takes some of the pressure off. He is already looking forward to experiencing them again.

As for the writing portion of Exposition, I am pleased with the foundation we received in IEW. We did not add anything else to our grammar or writing load, it was more than enough by itself. Additionally, after three years with Essentials he has learned how to portion off his work and be faithful with small bites every day. But even those small bites, take a lot of time.

I am constantly taking note of his mental energy throughout the day. He has several pockets of time where he is more focused and productive and other times when he needs a reset or a break. This is crucial information for me to have, especially as I try to faithfully homeschool my three other children (including one with special needs) while providing support and attention for my eldest. Exposition is one of the strands I have to be available for. Not only to help ask questions but to make sure he stays focused.  Therefore, I need to be wise about when we schedule this strand.

He is easily distracted and his mind is constantly asking for writing/reading breaks.  We have had great success in breaking up tasks within tasks and setting timers for him to complete the smaller tasks.  For example, if today’s writing portion has three steps, I’ll set the timer for 10 minutes and he will work until the timer rings. Then he gets a five minute break. Then he does another ten minute work round. He might finish all three tasks in three rounds, but sometimes he needs four or five rounds. Some days he doesn’t need a timer at all. He just naturally breaks up the tasks and does the work. It just depends on the assignment and the day.

Looking ahead through the LTW manual, I see several areas where I can help him out by scribing when he gets tired. This leaves room for him to free up his brain to think and process the writing rather than trying to think while decoding.

Tools for next year:
Audiobooks: Though he does have physical copies of the books to follow along with, we have been able to find most of the Challenge A books on other digital platforms (most for free-like Hoopla!) He loves listening to audiobooks and this will be a great strand to switch too after a more intense strand that tires him out.  I’ll schedule his “listening time” between two more taxing strands to provide a reset for him.

Focused Attention from Mom: Its in the schedule! While I will be helping him with other strands, this is one that will require a lot of focused attention from me. Planning ahead for this is critical! (I’ll be sharing in a future post about how I schedule my personal tasks for the day alongside my children’s tasks for the day).


He is bursting with excitement for this oneIf you follow “Jack” on instagram then you know how much he loves animals and science. This is a strand he knows he can contribute a great deal to. One area where he can stretch in is learning to not share everything he knows about an animal, but letting others answer too. This is probably the strand that will end up teaching him the most about group dynamics and productive conversation. His three years in IEW will also come in handy when he gathers all his information into papers to present each week

Creative Resources:
Again, thinking in terms of his energy limits for the day, we may be utilizing some of his favorite documentaries along with familiar books to serve as “source texts.”  

Put Spelling on the Back Burner:
Spelling is a huge source of stress for most Dyslexic kids. We have a deal about spelling. We don’t let it become a barrier to deeper learning. In other words, I don’t want him so panicked about spelling that he doesn’t write the paper or finish the outline or label the map. He gives it his best go and we’ll circle back later to adjust spelling. Usually I have to read the word and spell it out loud for him several times for it to slowly click.  ( One of the reasons we use IEW’s auditory based spelling program)

Make it a Puzzle:
Another trick we have when filling out a sheet with a word bank is to cut out the words and let him fill in the blanks with the word strips. (Thanks Essentials!)


We’ve spent the greater part of our homeschool life with Right Start Math. I have the Saxon book for Challenge A and will be drawing out problems little by little as we slowly transition over to Saxon this summer. But I am fully prepared to be flexible here too. Saxon might not work right now, and thats ok. We’re nearing the end of Right Start’s available curriculum. Once we finish G, he will have to transition over to Saxon, so we are taking baby steps in that direction while he wraps up his last year of Right Start.


Family Conversations:
This is one area we want to invite Dad into. We’re practicing the five common topics as much as possible this summer during our math study. I never had a conversation about a math problem once during the course of my entire formal education. No one ever asked me to consider the problem and define its terms or explain the laws behind or compare it to something else. There is so much we are going to learn together this year. I can’t wait!

We’re going to keep playing N2K and Quick Flip Arithmetic and all the other games in the Right Start Game book. Math Fluency is a big one for us.


We’ve dabbled with logic during morning time and its always been a family favorite. Because this strand only requires one hour for the whole week, we’ve decided to tack it on to the end of morning time so we can take one small bite a day while the little guys clear off the breakfast dishes and finish up their morning chores. I am really looking forward to this sweet time together. No special adjustments for this one. Just time with my boy and a chance to grow in humility, wonder, and wisdom alongside him.

I’m sure I’ll revisit this post later in the year with updates. For now, this is what we have done and plan to keep doing in the months leading up to Challenge. I’ve reached out to some other Moms of nuerodiverse CC kiddos and encouraged them to leave suggestions in the comments below.



I’ll be posting soon about how I’m organizing our homeschool for the coming term and you’ll see more on there about getting my boy ready for Challenge A.





Affiliate links included in this post.







The 3rd round of Cycle 3


Next year my eldest is moving up to Challenge A and I will be his Director. I plan on sharing posts about how we are preparing ourselves and how we are planning to make the most of his Dyslexia superpowers, but right now I want to share about my second born son, who is entering his final year of Foundations. It will be his third time going through Cycle 3 and the first time he and his older brother won’t be in the same class. I didn’t want him to start his year disgruntled and detached and so I took the time to hash out what we wanted next year to look like for him. This is a post about how we are approaching this coming year together.



We met together. This was a helpful place to start. I asked a lot of questions and realized that there were many areas about the coming year that needed clarity. It helped to make sure our definitions were aligned so that our conversations was pointed in the same direction. We also took time to address our expectations of each other and for the year. I let him know what things we would be working on this year to get him ready for Challenge A (2021-2022). We talked about accountability for the next year. I will be directing Challenge A but will still be teaching him, his 9 year old brother and his youngest brother, who has special needs and requires extra services (some led by me). He let me know that he was ready for more of a challenge this year and didn’t need much hand holding. So we talked about what that might look like…


Over the summer we will be working on a 1-2 sentence “focus” statement for the year. He didn’t feel comfortable sharing it here, but it mainly deals with relaying our goals and expectation in a succinct way. This will be a good reminder for both of us in case either one or both of us drifts off course during the year.



Together we drew up his lesson schedule for the coming year. Before we met I took some time to think about his areas of strength and his areas of weakness and found a few places were I could be more flexible. Coming to the meeting ready for flexibility and with an eye for strengths and weaknesses was incredibly helpful! (Knowing my own is also a game changer).


Latin (Form 1)
The boys just finished Latin Cristiana 1 for the second year in a row. Last year they finished and when they took their final exam, I realized that they could benefit from another go around. So I purchased fresh student books and they went through the course a second time. They took their final exam today and aced it. I am so excited for them! While big brother moves on to Henle 1 with his Challenge A class, my second born will progress to Latin Form 1 with Memoria Press. I am so impressed with their curriculum. This will be their fourth year with the program and Memoria Press does an excellent job of introducing new vocabulary, layering grammar rules, working on declensions and conjugations and slowly developing their ability to translate.  We use a four day schedule with the program here at home.
Day 1: Watch the instructional DVD and complete the two workbook pages for that lesson.
Day 2: Latin Drill Sheets and Flashcards (usually a game)
Day 3: Latin Review sheets for that lesson
Day 4: Latin Quiz for that lesson, or test for the unit

Right Start Math (Level G)
We are still making our way through Right Start and have only one or two levels left in the program. This level is a beautiful course on Geometry and we are so eager to dive in. Once he is finished he’ll dive into Saxon. We already agreed that once he finishes (G) he can jump into Saxon, even if Challenge A hasn’t started yet. I love the freedom of choice in the math strand of Challenge and see no reason why I should hold him back. Go baby, go!

We’ve been using these wonderful Geography books along with our Pin it Maps for a few years now. Paired with our weekly Geography work at CC, we have grown quite a solid foundation over the years. This year he has set the goal to work through as many of these books as possible, in preparation for Challenge A’s cartography strand next year. This is a personal goal he has set for himself and not something I’m forcing on him. My boys are big fans of board games like Axis and Allies, enjoy discussions about the world wars and different expeditions, and always run to the map when we read about a new place. This is part of the drive that spurred him forward to set this goal.


Another high up on his list of requests for this year. Because he is very self motivated and organized, I knew I could give him more freedom in this area. We carved out space in his schedule and purchased a Rosetta package that would suit his needs. This study will be entirely independent.

Essentials (IEW)
Once the fall hits he will begin his third and final year of Essentials. His next youngest brother will join him as a first tour student, and I will try not to cry since I won’t be their tutor for the first time ever. (My third born and I have already shed tears over the fact that I won’t be his tutor, but of the joy of knowing that I am still his Essentials TEACHER here at home). The Essentials class with Classical Conversations includes grammar, writing and numeracy. My second born has already worked through all three of the spelling rotations in the EEL and spent two years making corrections on the Bible sheets so he will be using Fix it! Grammar from IEW and I’ll be curating his spelling lists from misspelled words found in his daily written narrations.

Economics: The boy loves studying economics. Never would I ever have chosen to study economics at this point in time but he is so hungry for it we ended up diving in this year with the excellent book on Economics and accompanying guide. I’m still narrowing down which book to use next, but he will have time for economics this year which, along with French and a green light in math, has gone a long way in soothing his heart over not progressing into Challenge A with his older brother.

Morning Time
I will give a more detailed list of Morning Time plans for Cycle 3 when I post my quarterly book lists. This is the time of day when we read and recite scripture, sing hymns, read and recite poetry, study art/architecture, study nature, read fairytales or myths, work on memory work and enjoy a family read aloud. The littles drop off as the hour progresses and soon I am left with just the older two who have their Plutarch or Shakespeare reading and narration, depending on the day.


Tae Kwon Do

I am already working on my Cycle 3 Quarter 1 list for this year (you can find my 4th edition list here). Because this is his 3rd time through American History, he has requested a reading list of “deeper dive” reading rather than progressing through a history spine that hits on the corresponding history for each week.  I told him we would settle on one of Genevieve Foster’s books and use it along with individual reads that paint a deeper picture of American History.

Here is his list of books for the year. Some of these are historical events, some provide a look into a different culture or time period. This list is curated to his strengths and his weaknesses, feeding what he loves and stretching him into new areas that are not his forte. He is a fast reader and we’ll probably add to this list as the year goes on. For now….

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome True Story About Brain Science by John Flesichman
Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
Water Sky by Jean Craighead George
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
The Wright Brothers by Russell Freedman
The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman
Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Elin’s America by Marguerite de Angeli
Prairie School by Lois Lenski
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

While we have nature study all year round, he has expressed an interest in Marine Biology next year. I told him that we aren’t in a rush to plan something out. We’re sitting on this one for awhile. I like to add things in layers, lest I buy more than we can handle in a year. We have a lot of layers going on already and I want to wait before we add one more. This will give him time to think a bit. He’s still wrapping up his current Chemistry study with MEL Science, so he has time yet!

I’ll add to the book list as time draws near or once he reads it all and we need to add more.

Coming up soon on Farmhouse Schoolhouse….

Cycle 3 Quarter 1 Booklist
Preparing for Challenge A: Student
Preparing for Challenge A: Parent
50 States Booklist
Classical Conversations and Neurodiversity


What It Looks Like Now

Its been weeks now that people have been messaging and asking if I would share a “Quarantine Schedule.”

This is an excerpt of a response I posted on Instagram:
After I posted about grieving during the pandemic, I received a few messages from people asking if I would post something a little more hopeful, or even helpful, like a quarantine schedule. Friends, here is a spoiler alert—I won’t be posting a schedule. That doesn’t mean we don’t have one, but the last thing I’d do is share a schedule that we definitely aren’t following. We’ve lost our co-op, therapy team and access to our community. Nobody here is breezing through this. Sure, I could put together an idealistic quarantine schedule and post it, but I certainly wouldn’t follow it. That’s never been my jam and I won’t start now…..


I still stand by this. I have no schedule to offer because every day looks a little different for us. Instead, I’ll share what TODAY looked like. I will try to do this a few times over the next few weeks to give an idea of what homeschooling looks like now with so many of our support beams gone. Homeschooling without co-op, beach days, art museums, libraries, friends, field trips, or therapies. It is both richer and poorer in many ways.

On Wednesday April 23, 2020, our 42nd day of isolating at home, this is what happened. No apologies for the long post. If you asked for it, here it is. More than anything I want to document what these days look like. You’re welcome to tag along. I have linked materials here because I am not answering many messages these days. Some are affiliate links.

8:00AM I woke up late. Far later than I got up in my before corona days. This is because I have been staying up late into the night catching up with friends or reading with inadequate respect for tomorrow. I feel like I saw a meme that said that once….

I follow my PTSD management protocol, try not to look at any news items or social media, remind myself that I have work to do and head out to the kitchen to get the morning chores rolling. I’ll admit that I have at least two or three days a week lately when I really do not want to do anything at all. I have to pray, read scripture and pull myself together to do the work at hand. Its painfully hard some days. Today when I walked out to the main part of the house the kids looked happy and eager for the day. That doesn’t always happen these days, but today it did which meant it would be an easier day. Children scattered to feed the animals or unload the dishwasher and then the boys began to make a breakfast quiche. I caved and looked at my phone and found a text from a friend who is struggling greatly. I teared up, sent her a verse, prayed for her and helped the boys put the quiche in the oven.

Little Boy Quiche Recipe
store bought crust
12 eggs
bits of eggshell
1/2 cup of cheese
olive oil
(If you are under the age of 8, all the herbs you can find)
Bake at 375 till golden brown.


8:45AM-9:45AM Morning time. Its been starting late these days. I’m ok with it.
We lit the candle and sang a call to worship. We’re currently memorizing a portion of the Sermon on the Mount and begin with it every day. Then we go round the table with our readings. I’m reading Exodus right now, the eldest reads the Psalm of the day, the second born reads a portion of Proverbs and the third born reads from John. The youngest closes by leading us in the hymn of the month which is “I need thee every hour.” This is something we do nearly every day.  Today we read a little extra from Exodus because it was a gripping part of the story.

We recited the Nicene Creed and said our catechism. By this point everyone had eaten and we were free to sip tea and practice our poems. We reviewed memorized poems from years past and learned a few more line from our new poem: “Bilbo’s Walking Song” by JRR Tolkien. The boys asked for this one since we can’t go anywhere except in our imaginations so we might as well walk with Bilbo. The little one asked, “I wonder what our friends are doing right now?”

We read a fairytale, Sleeping Beauty and talked about the duty of kings. Then we read a portion about stink bugs from our nature book (evolution viewpoint) and the boys were quite riveted. At this point the seven year old was rolling on the floor by the window so I moved us all to the library and set “The Silver Chair” (CS Lewis) on audiobook for the boys to listen to. The boys had dropped their dishes in the sink on the way to the library so I stacked them while we listened to Puddlegum and Jill and Eustace make way through the land of the giants. Afterwards I dismissed the youngest and we read a bit from “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat and “World War 1” by Richard Maybury and had a fifteen minute discussion about it. We were going to read from their economics book but my brain felt foggy. Thats been happening a lot these days.


9:45-11:20AM I told the little one to go play or visit the animals and the older three to commence THE TRIO. This is what we call music, math and latin, which they rotate throughout three different rooms in the house. The third born began practicing piano and the older two began their Latin which today consisted of a review sheet and working through vocabulary flashcards. They recited declensions and did a little bit of translation work. Its difficult to capture the chaos of everything that took place within that sentence. The older boy works at a slower pace than the second born who flies through everything with haste. When they work together I have to spur one on so he stays focused and slow the other one down so he doesn’t make mistakes. The little one of course came back inside and was crawling all over me (and the flashcards) while the dueling personalities tried to sync up for recitations.  They (FINALLY) finished and went to work on math and music respectively while I worked with the third born on his Latin assignment which included new vocabulary words and a translation of the table blessing he is memorizing. He finished and began his math assignment today which happened to be a test. I caught up with the eldest and we worked on his math while the second born worked on his music. In about twenty minutes the older two switched places. I’m very thankful for our math curriculum these days. Its provided a good foundation for the boys these last few years and the short, focused lessons are a gift now more than ever. I sneaked in three small reading for my youngest: a fable from Aesop, a poem from Robert Louis Stevenson, an Elsa Beskow book and half a reading lesson.  Most boys wrapped up by 11:20 and we went outside to gather eggs, play with the cats, check on the fruit trees and work on the boys latest form for Tae Kwon Do.


11:30-12:45PM We returned inside for our Tae Kwon Do Zoom class. The boys are almost finished testing for their form and will be graduating to the next belt. It is bizarre to think that they earned 95% of this belt away from class. We miss our studio, instructors and classmates deeply. While the boys trained, which they do with varying degrees of success, I prepared lunch. When the call ended we gathered in the library for another chapter of “The Silver Chair” on audiobook. It gave me enough time to eat my own lunch before reading the next chapter from our lunchtime read “A Tale of Two Cities.”  When we finished the younger boys cleaned up the lunch dishes while the older boys tidied up the library and school materials from the morning. I sat in my chair and closed my eyes for a few minutes and gathered my resolve, because as with the morning, the post-lunch lull is hard for me to fight through. Part of me wants to throw in the towel and watch Pride and Prejudice or waste the afternoon reading science or medical journals or my high school friend’s conspiracy theories.  I force myself to get up and head to the dining room for the next round.


The older boys get their audiobook set up for History. Today they are learning about the impact of Gutenberg’s Printing Press. I wrote a subjective question up on the whiteboard for them to consider as they write up a narration that tells me about Gutenberg but also answers the question. They won’t get by on just facts, they need to think! While they worked I grabbed up my little guy and we worked through three lessons of his math (which he is suddenly flying through these days after a year of v e r y gentle learning) and a reading lesson. Once he is finished he decides to do a drawing lesson and then asks for a vintage Disney nature show and I grant his request. I returned to the table and approved the third born’s work and sent him off with his timer set to 45 minutes to do his SSA reading for the afternoon. I read the narrations of the older boys while they took a short break and I marveled at how old they are and how proud I am of them and made a mental note to go over how to spell that one word they really should know how to spell by now. The older boys and I open our Plutarch which today happened to be a more mature topic that caught me off guard because I didn’t read ahead the way I used to. We forged through and I think we did fairly well with it. After their written narrations were completed we moved on to our Economics lesson, which the boys ate up. They loved it and I am learning to love it.

2:00-2:45PM At this point the older boys took their list of independent work and headed to the classroom to complete it on their own. They are working intensely on their cartography skills, especially the eldest who is going into Challenge A next year.  It helps that they are intensely interested in their maps. They are less interested in spelling, but finished that list too. Their grammar work was also parsed, corrected and diagrammed before they wrapped for the day.


2:45-4:30PM The older boys read their own SSA books (currently that’s an Andrew Peterson book and Children of Odin by Padraic Colum  and then we had tea. We decided not to read anything, instead I updated them on different countries we’ve been praying for and we talked about how the world will likely not be the same when we reenter it. I told them about the long unemployment lines and food bank lines and they asked questions. When we finished I told them they could do whatever they’d like until dinner time and they decided to watch a movie together since the heat outside was at its peak. I used this time to file insurance papers, close out therapy accounts, finish editing our co-op yearbook, ignore the giant pile of laundry in the guest room and throw ingredients in the crockpot for taco bowl night.


The rest of the day felt like a vacuum. The eldest asked me to record the next episode for his animal show, Waiting for the Wild (instagram account @jackinthewilderness) and the youngest asked me to read him a few more stories. We ate dinner late, read our latest family read aloud together and went for a family walk around the neighborhood to visit the miniature donkey that lives a quarter mile away.


We returned home and my husband reminded me that the NFL draft was tonight. I hate football, but today I was glad for it because the boys, in the absence of all sports, were eager to watch the draft with their dad and this left me with a free evening. I made a cup of tea and curled up in bed to watch two episodes of Julian Fellowes new show “Belgravia” and wrote emails to a few friends. I drafted a to-do list for the weekend and filled out the boys assignment books for tomorrow as well as my own schedule and then began this post.

Here is the rest of that IG post I shared at the beginning of this post:

Here is the heart of our days: Its the practice of remembering. We remember the truths that anchor us to solid ground through catechism, song, scripture. Truth that leads us away from the shifting sand that seems to be everywhere these days. We remember the context of the story we are in and we keep our eyes fixed on the plot line of redemption and restoration playing out before us. We remember LIFE with stories and songs and art. We reach out to others as best we can and pour out however we can. We remember that our experience during this time, is NOT the same as everyone else’s. We are not all in the same boat and remembering this will help us with empathy later on. We are attending to the moment at hand, remembering that in a home of six souls not everyone will be ok at the same time and reminding ourselves to look up and look in. We are gathering around the table every meal to fill our bellies and fill our hearts with more stories that sharpen our appetites for the eternal. Yes, we are remembering. We are grieving— with hope. A walk in nature, a good western movie night, apologizing after losing tempers, caring for an animal, confessing fears and uncertainty, morning time squared, asking for help, eating more bread than we probably should, sticking around for one more chapter of The Silver Chair. Love dwells here. Sadness too. Brokenness and joy, all of it. We are remembering. Grace to you friends as you walk through this story with your children.



Our nearly 6 week long winter break is over and we feel refreshed and restored.


I’ve never been one for resolutions, I am a gardener at heart and therefore spend most of the year weeding and tweaking things here and there. In January, I tend to recalibrate our schedules to make the most of the pleasant weather, make space for more individual projects (like Faces of History and the Science Fair) and start making early preparations for whatever new phases are on the horizon.


I strive to be diligent in observing my boys as they grow. How are they learning best these days? Are they increasing in responsibility and ownership over their learning? How reliable are they? Is there a good balance between rest and learning? As all mothers know, these sorts of evaluations tend to stem into many different areas such as physical activity, diet, supplements, emotional health, etc.  Then you start multiplying the evaluations for each person in the home and the number of things to track increases more and more.


For example, here is one small area we spent time recalibrating last fall: my children are involved in a sport that meets M-F in the late afternoon/early evening. This may surprise you to read, but it is wonderfully convenient for us! The boys adore the practice and exercise and I love that I get the chance to unplug and read for an hour while they are active and growing in discipline. They love ending their afternoon with friends. I love ending mine with a book.



However, for this good thing to take place in a way that blesses our family, I must plan in advance. Before we leave the boys must 1) complete their individual work 2) finish blessing hour 3) set the table for dinner and 4) get themselves dressed and packed for practice. I usually have dinner in the slow cooker or take the boys’ preparation time as a pre-dinner prep time (if its a simpler throw together kinda meal). When we leave the house is relatively clean, dinner is in place or well on its way and I have a bit more peace knowing that when we return we can begin the rest of our evening on the same page. Upon return the boys all shower while I finish getting dinner together and then we sit down with Jeff for fellowship and dinner. We enjoy reading from whatever missionary’s biography we are reading at the time (wrapping up Livingstone right now!), then we clean the dishes, clear the table, the boys have music lessons with their dad and we relax before bed. **This is on a good day. Sickness, Small Group meeting, meltdowns from children (or parents), HUMAN NATURE can change the way this all pans out. On our good days, it works well and serves us well*** 


To figure this one block of time in our schedule, I had to go through a few years of motherhood to figure out what style of planning worked best for me. I went through seasons of freezer meals and special planners and all sorts of tricks and tips from other mothers before realizing that few tips ever really worked for me long term. Knowing myself and how I work best and reaching for better habits, helped me better than anything else. Essentially, taking ownership and growing in discipline instead of looking for shortcuts and quick fixes. Here is where I landed:


I have to think about my entire day before I go to sleep the night before. I take ten minutes to look over my schedule, write out what needs to be done, make sure things are in place for meals, enter reminders into my phone (ie. pack snacks or work for any therapists office if we have an appointment) and group them into bite sized chunks throughout the day.  I usually make 4-5 groupings depending on the day, making sure that the priority items are listed first.  Whenever the kids break from lessons, I begin to knock out everything I can from a grouping. Anything I don’t finish gets moved to the last grouping of the day. Most days, I can knock out about 80-90% of the list. Whatever is left over, gets moved to the next day and placed on a higher priority level. For example, I know that on Monday morning I need to wake up early, read my bible, wash and dress, pop our favorite quick quiche in the oven, set dinner into the crockpot, feed the animals, water the garden, brew the tea and lay out the supplements before 7AM. I’ll look on the schedule and remind whoever needs to set the table to get it done and just before the quiche comes out, I’ll make sure the lunch items are grouped together in the fridge so the 7 year old can find them easily (its his turn to make lunch!). We begin morning time fully immersed in learning and being together. I don’t have another grouping until later that morning, once we’ve returned from speech therapy and just before lunch.

I’m on the latest Wild + Free podcast talking about being “Wild and Free in the Waiting Room.”

Guess what? Turns out this way of thinking works really well for *most* of my kids, too! One of the best homeschool tips I ever got was from Sarah Mackenzie (who got it from her friend, so pass it on!). It was quite simple. Invest in cheap spiral notebooks for the kids and write their school work (I also add appointments, errands, chores, etc) in it the night before and go over their next day’s work with them so they know what to expect and what is expected of them and if our big 12 passenger van will be transporting them anywhere. Over time my boys realized that they could group things to knock off the list  (copywork, spelling, chart work, geography, etc) and save longer tasks (Plutarch, math, narration essay writing) for longer pockets of time. They brought books along on errands and carved out spaces of time to complete their tasks. They started thinking ahead and planning for themselves. “Hmm, we’ll be at speech tomorrow. I’d better bring along a snack and water bottle to enjoy with my book while I wait!”

This level of thinking did not happen right away, of course. They are male and under 12 years of age!  Like their Mama, they had to slowly come to value ownership of their time and take hold of discipline and skill over shortcuts. We’ve been using this system for over a year now and I’m happy to report that it was just the thing to transition the older boys into taking more responsibility in their learning and managing of their time. This was crucial for one boy in particular who struggles mightily with executive function. (This book was also a tremendous help!)


Our first week back was lovely. Even though the kitchen flooded and we had to rip out flooring in the dining room and kitchen and I find myself without a dishwasher (the latest in the battle of adoption discouragement frontlines). We really enjoyed our time together. The older boys feel so grown these days. I don’t have to remind them to complete their work as often as I used to. They’re interests are expanding and growing. They’re outgrowing shoes at an alarming pace.


A few quick highlights from our first week back…

We are enjoying Ernest Seton’s book “Wild Animals I have known” and are having deep discussions over Gerald Thompson’s book, “The Presidency“** in light of the upcoming impeachment trials. (** This is out of print and was written during JFK’s time as President) We’re continuing our catechism study and memorizing hymns. We started reading “A Tale of Two Cities” and the boys have flown their kites nearly every day. We’re digging further up and further in with latin and math. I am so pleased with the foundation we’ve laid using Right Start Math.

The boys are also learning to compose music with their Dad, a pianist and drummer, who is now trying to learn the guitar so he can teach it to his children. What an encouragement this is to me as I ponder the things I’m trying to teach myself right now so I can teach them to the boys in a few years.



I found myself washing dishes for long hours while enjoying audiobooks. I managed to knock out 5 in two weeks! I nearly broke a glass listening to Shusaku Endo’s Silence and wept through Hannah Coulter again. The garden is growing and the radishes will be ready soon. On Friday we celebrated my eldest son’s 12th birthday with his friends at our favorite beach and they caught a moray eel of all things with a small net. It coiled and snapped at us, while we marveled at him. We still can’t believe it.



Dishes, radishes, good books, dangerous sea creatures. How lovely it is to be back in the swing of things. The road ahead is uncertain this year. New therapies added to the mix, a young man starting Challenge A, our adoption still in limbo. I can only keep praying, surrendering, recalibrating and loving. Oh, I must keep loving! The truth is I can keep observing the boys and making my notes, but really, the best thing I can do to serve them well is to spend time with them and love them.


Ahoy matey! There be affiliate links up in me post!