Author Archives: Sallie

best homeschooling curriculum

The Best Homeschooling Curriculum and Only Method You Should Choose

best homeschooling curriculumWhat is the best homeschooling curriculum? Which homeschooling method is best? These are often the first questions a new homeschooler will ask. Likewise when two homeschoolers meet for the first time, the inevitable questions are “what kind of homeschooler are you?” and “which curriculum do you use?”.

There absolutely are right answer to these questions, but so many people get them wrong for so long. What are the answers?

What is the best homeschooling curriculum?

The one that works for your child.

Which homeschooling method is best?

The one that works for your child.

There is only one reason to choose a homeschooling curriculum and that is because it works for your child.

There is only one reason to choose a homeschool method and that is because it works for your child.

Our Homeschooling Choices

My homeschooling method is now some form of relaxed homeschooling that borders on unschooling. This would not have been my choice. This was the method that chose us because along the way I realized relaxed homeschooling was the best homeschooling approach for my child. If I had my way, I would be doing something totally different because I have ideas about how I would like to homeschool. But those methods are a terrible fit for my child. And her needs are the only thing that matters. I’m doing this homeschooling thing for her, after all.

Pressures from Other Homeschoolers and Non-Homeschoolers

If you are feeling subtle (or not-subtle) pressure to choose a particular method because people around you deem it “better” or “superior” to what you are currently doing, please ignore them. Seriously.

If someone is telling you that they are using the absolute best homeschooling curriculum and everything else is clearly inferior, feel free to do a mental “la la la la la la la” while they are talking.

If non-homeschoolers who know nothing about homeschooling and your family are giving you grief about your carefully made choices, please ignore them.

Ignore the Homeschool Method Crusaders

Some people become so passionate about their particular method that it’s like they lose all objectivity. They denigrate other methods and the people who use them. If you are unfortunate enough to run into someone who is a zealot for any particular kind of homeschooling method, you have my sympathies. You also have my support to walk away from their zealousness and happily choose what works for your family.

The truth of the matter is every kind of homeschooling approach and curriculum is the perfect fit for some family. They all work in certain homes. But none of them will ever work in all homes. And people who put down people who choose something different are only showing their smallness.

Did I Choose the Wrong Homeschooling Curriculum or Homeschool Method?

At some point in your homeschooling journey you may realize on your own that a particular curriculum or approach isn’t working for your family. If you think you chose the wrong curriculum or the method isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make changes! So often people become slavishly dedicated to their homeschool method of choice, even when it clearly isn’t working. They fall into the sunk cost trap.

What works for one child might not work for the next one. What works for your children in elementary school might not work in middle school. Making a choice once does not mean you have to stick with it forever. Know when to cut your losses and move on.

There is only one reason to choose a homeschool method and that is because it works. There is only one way to determine what the best homeschooling curriculum is and that is because it works. How you determine that will be up to you. As a Christian, I pray a LOT about how to homeschool my child because she’s just so different from me. I’ve had to depend on wisdom from God to make my choices and hope I’m not screwing up her education and her life. The bottom line is make decisions for your child and let the rest from other people roll off your back.

This is part of the iHomeschool Network Homeschooling Choices round-up.

Homeschooling Choices

Gryphon Online Safety App

Gryphon Online Safety App

Gryphon Online Safety AppWe are a very plugged in family. Between working from home and homeschooling, at least one person in our home is accessing the internet almost all of our waking hours. Many times all three of us are on at once via Kindles, laptops, smartphone, etc. This includes Caroline who is already quite savvy with utilizing a laptop, a Kindle, and an ipod. I struggle with trying to strike the balance between allowing her freedom to learn and play online with keeping her from harm lest she end up in some corner of the internet that is a cesspool of vileness. When I had the opportunity to learn more about a new internet safety app, I was sure it would interest not only me but probably also the vast majority of my readers. (In the interest of disclosure, I was compensated for my time to share this information with you.) So let me tell you a little bit about the Gryphon online safety app.

Gryphon Online Safety App

Online Safety for Children

The digital age brings a wealth of information and conveniences, but we cannot ignore the risks it poses for the family. Most children are exposed to the Internet at the age of 6, and 70% of children see inappropriate content by accident. The average family has 10 Internet-connected devices and counting, creating new security threats and vulnerabilities. However, the existing parental control tools are too complicated to use and expensive with annual subscriptions.

Gryphon Online Safety AppGryphon is a powerful yet convenient approach to online safety. Gryphon combines a high-performance WiFi router and a simple-to-use smartphone app, making it easy for parents to manage the connected home from anywhere. All security features are built directly within the router itself, eliminating the need to install additional apps on your connected devices. Setting up the Gryphon router takes just three steps and a simple tap with the Gryphon app. Grant access to specific websites, restrict internet access during various times of the day (such as during sleep and homework), and monitor your connected home devices like thermostats or cameras to prevent hacking. This can be done on your smartphone from anywhere.  The app even features a social collaboration tool, so you can work together with fellow homeschooling parents to create a safer Internet for everyone, by recommending and rating specific websites.

Grypon Online Safety AppGryphon Online Safety App

The people behind Gryphon have worked hard over the last year on the design and the software platform and they have launched a Kickstarter campaign today for the final production of Gryphon. You can go to to find out more about the product and the campaign.

Gryphon Online Safety from Pure Cinema on Vimeo.

If you are interested in seeing better options for keeping kids safe online, please check out the Gryphon Kickstarter program and consider contributing.


Sunk Cost Mistakes in Parenting, Homeschooling, and Life

sunk-cost-mistakes-in-parenting-homeschooling-and-lifeSunk cost is an economic term, but I’ve learned it is very applicable to parenting, homeschooling, and life in general. If you aren’t familiar with it, defines sunk cost this way:

“Sunk costs are costs that are unrecoverable (i.e. nonrefundable) and represent past expenditures. These should not normally be taken into account when determining whether to continue a project or abandon it, because they cannot be recovered either way. It is a common irrational instinct to count them, however.”

The key words in that definition are irrational instinct.

This is a challenging concept for many people to grasp and put into action because it goes against that irrational instinct we seem prone to fall back on. It’s one I’ve had to work at for some time. It’s challenging to make decisions for now and the future and not take into account expenditures you’ve already invested. The expenditures could be money, time, physical effort, or emotional energy.

Examples of Sunk Cost

Let’s look at a few examples of sunk cost that we might encounter as we parent, homeschool, and/or take care of our homes.

Scenario: You sign your child up for a class and discover after a few weeks that she hates it. It isn’t a good fit, but since you paid money for the class you determine that she has to continue. You aren’t going to waste money. She’s going to suck it up and finish it so you get your money’s worth.

Why is this a sunk cost situation? You’ve spent the money and it’s gone. Forcing your child to continue to do something that she doesn’t enjoy isn’t going to bring that money back. You’re also forcing her to spend time doing something she really doesn’t like which is a complete waste of your child’s time and life energy. (And subtly punishing her for not liking something isn’t going to do much for your relationship either.)

Scenario: You purchase a homeschool curriculum everyone you know loves. It is a total failure with your child. You eventually decide to stop using it because it is such a bad fit, but the materials sit on the shelf and mock you because you wasted money on them. You even feel a tiny bit annoyed at your child because you spent all that money for his educational well-being and it didn’t work.

Why is this a sunk cost situation? Even though you decided to accommodate your child’s learning needs and switch to something else, you still kept the books around because they have “value” of some kind. After all, you spent a lot of money on them! The only way they have value is if you sell them to someone else. So sell them and get back 25% of your money or give them away. But staring at them on your bookshelf isn’t going to bring back the money you spent.

Scenario: You start homeschooling according to a particular method that sounds like it is just perfect. You buy books, pay for an online course to learn about it, or even invest lots of money attending a special training conference because you are all in and want to do this homeschooling thing right. And then you start and you don’t like it. Your kids don’t like it. But everyone else does so you don’t know what to do. Maybe if you try harder? Maybe if your kids would try harder? You feel you can’t give up because you’ve invested too much to fail.

Why is this a sunk cost situation? You’ve invested a lot of not only money but emotional energy into a particular homeschooling method. But you aren’t going to get it back. You can perhaps salvage some of what you learned and use it in a different way. But the time and money you invested is gone so it’s time to cut your losses and move on.

Avoiding the Sunk Cost Trap

There are many other examples of sunk cost that can quickly become an unhealthy trap.

  • Feeling compelled to finish a restaurant meal when you are already full.
  • Going away for a long weekend when you have paid a non-refundable deposit and now you are too tired and just want to stay home.
  • Keeping clothing in your closet you don’t like or that doesn’t fit you because it is still “good”.
  • Staying at a church that no longer works for your family due to a change in mission or theological views or pastor.
  • Keeping your gifted child in a school that doesn’t meet his needs because you’ve already invested so much time and effort into developing relationships, advocating, etc.

In each case, if you make the decision based on the fact that you’ve spent money or invested a lot of energy, you are making an irrational choice. The past efforts you’ve put in will not make the future any better if it is no longer a good fit.

You won’t recoup what you’ve invested in the past by continuing with something that no longer meets your need. Cutting your losses is the wise thing to do. Moving on will probably open up new opportunities including some that will be clearly better for you and your family. When you realize the sunk cost is not recoverable and move on, you’ve made a smart decision to improve your future.

Multiplication Practice Math Game

Multiplication Practice Math Game

Multiplication Practice Math Game

I am always on the search for ideas to make math learning fun. Hands-on, active games are always a good possibility for our family so we were excited to try one of the limited copies of HoliMaths X, a new multiplication math practice game.

I received this product for free and was compensated for my time to review it. All opinions are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

Multiplication Practice Math Game

HoliMaths X is a family multiplication strategy game that can be played ten different ways and with one to six players.

HoliMaths X GameCaroline and Big Bear (David) first played Stairs (Game #2). This game is kind of like dominoes in that you lay down cards that connect in some way to another card. Each time you lay down a card, you say the multiplication problem and answer.

100_4599There are wild cards to fill the gap until you get the necessary card at which point you swap it out and take the wild card back.

100_4601If you can’t place a card on the grid, you have to draw a card from the pile.

100_4605The first one to get rid of their cards is the winner.


Math Game for Multiple Ages

HoliMaths X is designed in such a way that it offers so many options for kids at all ability levels and works for kids who are at varying stages of learning their multiplication facts. For example, cards with all of the multiplication facts are provided to help kids who are still mastering their facts so they can participate and be fully involved with the game. For that reason, it makes it great for a homeschooling family with multiple children who can play together.

As children become more fluent in their math facts, they can also play some of the other games that are more challenging and require increasing strategy. The games are designed to be played by all ages so there will be something new to try for some time.

HoliMaths X Kickstarter

If you would like to try out HoliMaths X with your family right away, consider participating in their Kickstarter campaign. They have a very limited reward level for a small number of people so check out their campaign and sign up to get a copy right away. You can also learn more about when the game will be available on the commercial market.

You can also enter this giveaway to win HoliMaths X. (If you buy the product in the Kickstarter and win the giveaway, your money will be refunded!)


HoliPlay Games is a great educational company with many games already available. You can find HoliPlay Games on the social media platforms you enjoy:

Happy Multiplying!
















Creative Learning Ideas for Miss Suzy

Creative Learning Ideas for Miss Suzy

Creative Learning Ideas for Miss Suzy

Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and pictures by Arnold Lobel [Purple House Press, 2004] is the delightful story of a little gray squirrel who lives “in the tip, tip, top of a tall oak tree.” First published by Parents’ Magazine Press in 1964, this classic book has been enjoyed by generations of children. It teaches important themes such as friendship, bravery, and love in the context of the charming illustrations.

The picture book can be a great launch story for a variety of learning activities, creative writing, and art projects. It is perfect for early elementary aged learners.

Miss Suzy Synopsis

Miss Suzy is very content in her little house in the oak tree. She enjoys taking care of her home, making acorn pudding, sweeping her moss carpets, and dusting her firefly lamps. Miss Suzy has a cozy home and sings little songs while going about her work.

One day her home is invaded by a band of quarrelsome red squirrels. The six squirrels chase her out of her home, break her belongings and eat up all her stored nuts. Stuck outside in the pouring rain, Miss Suzy discovers an old abandoned house and climbs into the attic. She finds a beautiful dollhouse and decides to clean it up and live there. While looking around the attic, she discovers a box of toy soldiers sleeping in a box. She sets them free and they come to live with her in the dollhouse.

But Miss Suzy misses her old home in the tall oak tree and tells the soldiers stories about it. The soldiers decide to do something about it and march over to the tree where they surprise the red squirrels. The soldiers chase the squirrels out of Miss Suzy’s home and then tell Miss Suzy it is safe for her to return home. Miss Suzy is so happy and goes about putting everything in order again.

Write a Song for Miss Suzy

Miss Suzy loves to sing while cleaning and cooking in her home. Write a new song for her to sing while she works around her home in the oak tree.

Write a Story for Miss Suzy

Every night Miss Suzy told the soldiers stories. Write a story that Miss Suzy might have told the soldiers.

Design a Treehouse Picture or Shoebox Diorama

Miss Suzy loves living in her house in tip, tip top of a tall oak tree. Design the perfect treehouse.  What would it look like? What would be in it? What would someone do there? Draw a picture and label the different parts of the treehouse. Or create a shoebox diorama that shows the inside of the treehouse.

Acorn Art Project

Miss Suzy liked making acorn cake and had acorn cups. Collect acorns and use them for an art project such as a picture frame decorated with acorns. If you live somewhere where it isn’t possible to find acorns, you can purchase both real and faux acorns online.

Firefly Lamps

Miss Suzy’s lamps had fireflies in them. Learn about fireflies and how they light up. Catch some in a jar to observe up close.

Squirrels Copywork

If your learners would like to explore more about squirrels, check out this free Squirrels Copywork pack in my learning shop. It includes fascinating facts about squirrels to write in both print and cursive.

Squirrels CopyworkRetell the Story

Purchase a small gray squirrel and have children retell the story of Miss Suzy. They can make a home for her out of a box and draw soldiers that stand up on cardstock.

Young children are captivated by the story of Miss Suzy and her band of toy soldiers. The charming illustrations add to the warmth of the story that focuses on friendship, bravery and love. By completely art projects and enjoying writing prompts, children can find their own way of expressing their joy with Miss Suzy.

Daily Life and Priorities in a Creative Family

Daily Life and Priorities in a Creative Family

Daily Life and Priorities in a Creative FamilyOne of my homeschool parenting aha moments came when I realized we had the freedom (and responsibility) to fully embrace that we are a creative family. Prior to that moment I had always felt that I needed to structure life and homeschooling responsibilities in such a way as to allow time to be creative as much as we could fit it in. Instead I realized that above all else we are a creative family and the rest of life needed to be structured around that fact.

It might not sound like a big deal, but the shift in my mind was significant. In a family of three very creative people, creativity is what we do. It is who we are. It’s not a nice add-on after we fulfill the demands and expectations of others. While someone might have a creative hobby they do after work to unwind, our creativity is central to how we were created. God made each of us to be highly creative people in a variety of ways and so using that creativity should be our focus.

Once I realized this, I felt a new level of freedom as I thought about our homeschooling, our time, our energy, and our schedule. I’ve always been willing to think differently about how to structure our homeschool day which eventually evolved into becoming unschooler-ish. This freedom allowed us to take it to another level when I fully embraced some fundamental truths about creativity and what it means to be a creative family.

Creativity Requires Time

Creativity requires time and lots of it. Yes, you will hear about people who write a great novel while on the subway commuting to work. But creative expression generally does not happen in twenty minute or even sixty minute increments. Oftentimes, creativity is just starting at that point.

If being creative people is our calling, then I realized we did not need to feel badly about carving out huge amounts of time to be creative. Nor did we need to feel obligated to do things that took away from the time we needed to be creative. We have long been focused on living simply, but we are constantly tweaking how that looks as life changes from year to year. Lately simplifying has been a means to an end in terms of freeing us up for extended creative time.

Creativity Requires Space

Making physical space for creativity has always been a priority in our home, even before Caroline was born. Over the past few months I’ve done even more to make sure that we have the space we need.

One of the major things we did this spring was moving this large desk into Caroline’s room. Prior to this she had a small desk that left her no room to be creative. I had a large long desk we had made out of an eight foot countertop for my office in our previous home. It was in the basement and not really being used. I suggested to Caroline that we move her bedroom around a bit and put the desk along her long wall.

Long desk or craft table made with countertopShe loves it! She has tons of room to keep her computer, projects and supplies out. Storage drawers full of crafting materials fit neatly underneath. When I used it, I had curtains that hung across the front and sides, but she wanted it left open. So most of the crafting supplies that were once in the learning room are now in her room where she prefers them. I love that I could provide her with space to be creative.

Creativity Requires Investment

I have spent virtually no money on homeschool curriculum or supplies for this year. The money I have spent has been for two co-op classes (history through literature and gym) and an online art class through DIY. When we do our limited academic work, Caroline prefers workbooks and worksheets. (Go figure.) She doesn’t like open-ended work, but wants to sit down and just do the page and be done with it. So I have some workbooks we’ll use for math. We’ll do handwriting. Both required minimal investments.

I have, however, become accustomed to purchasing markers that cost $3-4 EACH. We are long past the cheap stock-up during back-to-school Crayola markers phase. Above all else, Caroline loves to draw and markers are her medium. And so we print off the Hobby Lobby coupons and buy the markers a couple at a time because they are currently her number one art thing. That’s where I’m investing my money.

Being a Creative Family

I love that all three of us are highly creative individuals. Now that Caroline is old enough to self-direct a lot of her creative endeavors, it frees me up to embrace my creativity at a greater rate again. I feel like I’ve received part of my life back as Caroline has become more independent in this way.

I also love that because we are all creative, we can spend a lot of time doing our individual thing and the others understand it. We now have long stretches during the day when we are each engrossed in our projects. Because we’ve made the commitment to embrace our creativity and make the most of it, we’re all much happier and more content with the flow of daily living.

And that’s an amazing blessing.

3 Books Featuring Girls Changing Their World

3 Books Featuring Girls Changing Their World

3 Books Featuring Girls Changing Their WorldToday I would like to introduce you to three pictures books featuring girls worth knowing. The three girls lived in different places and different times, but they all share one thing in common – a desire to imagine, create, and change their world.

(Sidenote: I receive free books to review all the time and only share a small percentage of them with my readers. These three are very good!)

Ada’s Ideas – The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer

Ada's IdeasAda’s Ideas introduced me to someone completely new from history. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron (famous poet) and Anna Isabella Milbanke (a mathematician and member of society).

Ada's Idea - Ada's FatherMilbanke left Byron when Ada was a month old due to Byron’s reckless ways so Ada never knew her father. But she inherited from him a great imagination. And from her mother she inherited a mathematical mind. When put together, Ada Lovelace was a creative, inventive young woman.

Ada's Ideas - Ada's MotherThe book takes the reader through Ada’s life from the the time she is born to her friendship with Charles Babbage (engineer, mathematician and inventor) to her work that resulted in becoming the world’s first computer programmer (nearly a hundred years before people actually created computers). It includes her childhood learning, her marriage, and the thought processes behind her discoveries.

Ada LovelaceThe book is creatively illustrated with a design style that pops off the page. (It could be a wonderful launching point for paper crafts with children.)

This would be a great book to tie in with STEM/STEAM, history, or biographies. It could open up many discussions about what life was like for women in the past when they were expected to marry well. It also could lead to discussions about how while parents might think they “know” what is best for their child, it’s hard to keep the child’s true passion from coming out.

Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist ScientistCoincidentally, the next book is also about an Ada! Ada Twist, Scientist is set in the present and is the fictional tale of a little girl named Ada who doesn’t talk until she is three, but when she does – oh my! All she asks is, “Why?” She needs to know about everything. And she gets into (and on to) everything.

Ada Twist Scientist ParentsThis is a great book about a little girl who fits the gifted/2e profile to a tee. She’s inquisitive to the point making her parents frustrated, frazzled and mad, but who are committed to figuring her out.  While I was reading the story, I kept thinking that this is the life that so many parents are living and it’s great to see it in a picture book.

Ada TwistThe one caveat I have with this book is I don’t like how her parents handled it when they finally blew their top at one point. I think it is realistic, but it’s at odds a bit with my own parenting philosophy so I feel compelled to point that out. Otherwise, it’s a great book. If you have a gifted/2e child, get the book and read it. You’re not alone. LOL!

Diana’s White House Garden

Diana's White House GardenDiana’s White House Garden is based on the true story of a little girl who lived in the White House during World War 2. Her father was President Roosevelt’s chief advisor so Diana enjoyed life (and pulling pranks) in the White House.

Diana's White House Garden - In the White HouseDiana wants to help the war effort and when President Roosevelt suggests the idea of what would become Victory Gardens, she knows she has found a way to help. With Eleanor Roosevelt, she plants the first garden on the White House lawn. She helps tend it and is even featured in the paper for her hard work that inspires many others to grow their own Victory Gardens.

This is a sweet and gentle book that would fit well with a study of history, biographies, girls in history, or character traits (perseverance, determination, helpfulness, etc.). There are lengthy author notes at the end that give more information about the real Diana as well as a photo Diana with the First Lady.

3 Books Featuring Girls Changing Their World

So there you are! Three very different books about three very different girls all with one desire – to understand the world and make it a better place! Enjoy and happy reading!