Author Archives: Sallie


Get FREE products from me when you buy the Omnibus!


The bloggers at the iHomeschool Network have put together a new Omnibus this year that is FULL of new resources. It really is an amazing collection of practical homeschool curriculum, planners, ebooks, mp3s and more.

Honestly, there is just so much there I’m not even going to try to list it all. I’d be sure to miss the products that especially stand out to YOU for YOUR homeschool.

You can view this amazing set of resources here.

You can view all of the bonuses you’ll receive as well here.

And if you purchase, you’ll be entered to win a Kindle!


On top of that…

If you purchase the Omnibus through my affiliate link, I will send you your choice of $15 worth of products from my Sallie Borrink Learning store!

Click here to order the Omnibus.

And if you purchase the Omnibus AND The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas through my affiliate link, I will send you your choice of $25 worth of products from my Sallie Borrink Learning store! 

Click here to order The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.

In order to get the free products from me, you MUST email me your order numbers for your purchase(s). That is the only way I can verify via iHN that you did purchase via my links.


Important Purchase Fine Print Details!

  • The deadline for refunds is September 5. Positively no refunds will be given if the file host shows that you have downloaded any files.
  • The ebooks will only be available until September 25. Please do not delay in downloading them. See the FAQ or contact iHomeschool Network for more information.
  • DVDs can be purchased until September 20.

 Click here to order the Omnibus

Click here to order The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

Our Homeschool Learning Room 2014

Our Homeschool Learning Room 2014-2015

Our Homeschool Learning Room 2014Our homeschool room hasn’t changed a lot since the previous years (2012, 2013), but for the sake of keeping a record I thought I would go ahead and share some photos. I won’t mention some of the areas I’ve discussed in the past. I’ll just hit the newer highlights in this post. :-)

The biggest change is that we moved the piano against the wall which opened up the room quite a bit. I never liked it in front of the windows, but never took the time to get someone to help David move it. When my parents came to visit one day this summer, my dad helped David move it and I felt like I had a whole new room! Woo hoo!

I added the cords for hanging Caroline’s artwork at the end of last year. It really adds a lot of personality to the room and it makes it seem more her room as well.

Caroline's artwork

Under the artwork you can see a wire basket hanging thingy I added that also has hooks. I’m using that for our Fun Fact Cards. I’m putting them on rings so I can hang them there and then the overflow this year will go in the basket up above. If they are easy to grab, they get used more often. Caroline has a to do list of topics she wants me to do that is a mile long. She’s really good at coming up with ideas. :-)

Fun Fact Cards

On top of the craft cabinet (you can read more about the craft cabinet here) is my little teacher corner. Every item here has some special meaning to me from when I was teaching or else it was a gift from someone special.

Teacher Corner 2This year we are going to start doing some more notebooking, especially since we are doing The Mystery of History. I turned this set of drawers into our notebooking station. I picked up a bunch of fun embellishments Caroline can use for notebooking. She knows that these supplies are only for notebooking and not for general crafting. :-)

Notebooking Supplies in DrawersWe are heavy library users. The basket on the floor is where we keep our library books. The cozy glider is where Caroline enjoys reading. I love all the natural light. :-)

The Library Books and Reading Corner

This is Caroline’s Duck Tape drawer. We hit the gold mine recently when someone was selling a bunch of partially used rolls on FB. LOL! I also keep her supplied as does my mom. I need to do a post with all her Duck Tape creations. :-)

Duck Tape Drawer of Endless PossibilitiesLastly, here is my corner. It’s actually kind of deceptive because I rarely sit at the desk. The height of the desk doesn’t work well for me. But it holds my stuff as does the bookcase. I’d like to get a computer desk and computer in here eventually when it is in the budget. :-)

Desk cornerSo there is a little tour of our room. We love it. It’s small and cozy and works very well for us. :-)


Guest Blogging at Bright Ideas Press – Back to School Secrets for Homeschool Moms

Bright Ideas Press Back to School Secrets Homeschool Mom

This school year I have the pleasure of being one of the bloggers for Bright Ideas Press! David and I have known Bob, Maggie and Tyler Hogan for a number of years as we have done graphic design work for them. I’ve also discovered through Facebook that Maggie and Tyler are fun people with similar interests (books and off-the-wall humor, respectively).

I’ve had the products from Bright Ideas Press on my radar for a number of years, but Caroline wasn’t old enough to use them. This year we are starting with The Mystery of History Volume 1 and we’re both looking forward to it. I’m sure you’ll read lots more about our experiences with this in the months ahead!

Each month I’ll be posting on the Bright Ideas Press blog about some aspect of homeschooling. This month my post is 3 Back to School Secrets Every Homeschool Mom Should Know. I hope you’ll check it out and subscribe to the BIP blog for lots of good ideas and encouragement!


Touch Typing Course for Kids

TypeKids Touch Typing Course for Kids

TypeKids Touch Typing Course for Kids

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

My, how times have changed! When I learned to type it was on an actual typewriter in a high school classroom filled with loud machines. We used whiteout, manually counted our words per line, and turned in actual typewritten papers to our teacher.

We certainly didn’t get to play games, earn fun badges, and follow along with pirate stories from the comfort of our own home!

Such are the advantages Caroline has learning typing today!

TypeKids Online Typing Course

TypeKids is a fun way for kids to learn keyboarding skills. When the opportunity to review this program presented itself, I jumped on it because I know how important it is for Caroline to learn proper keyboarding skills. Whereas typing was once optional, it’s now absolutely critical for kids to learn. And the earlier she masters this skill, the better.

The physical act of writing is also not on Caroline’s list of favorite things to do. Knowing how to type well will open up other learning opportunities for her even now so this was a great learning opportunity for her from that aspect as well.

Engaging Material for Younger Learners

The TypeKids program is set up in thirty lessons. Each time Caroline completes a lesson, a new part of the pirate story is unlocked. The story drew Caroline right in and she was very interested in getting through each lesson to find out what happened next!

Students also unlock games to play throughout the course and earn badges for completing different tasks.

One aspect that we both liked is that while she is doing a practice lesson, a pirate ship moves across the screen. She likes being able to see that with each keystroke she is making progress toward the end.

Independent Learning for Right-Brained Learners

One of the aspects I like best about TypeKids is I can just turn Caroline loose on it and it is pretty much self-directed. I sat with her during the first few lessons until she felt confident navigating the different aspects of the program and website. Otherwise she’s pretty much able to work independently on this. I still sit near her while she’s doing it to keep an eye on what might give her problems (and she likes the company), but she really doesn’t need my help after just a few practice sessions.

For right-brained children who love to learn and don’t like to be taught, this is the perfect fit. I cannot imagine sitting down with Caroline and instructing her on how to type. I don’t think so! This is perfect for our learning styles and family!

Intelligent Course Adapts to Child’s Needs

One great feature with TypeKids is that the program tracks the letters that give your child the most difficulty and adapts the lessons to help meet that need. So if you have two learners in your family, they will each receive lessons tailored to their specific learning needs based on their performance.

Overall Positive Typing Program

Overall I think TypeKids is a great typing program. The only “negative” I would point out is that the pirate story is not a fully animated cartoon. The story is read by a narrator and each section has a few illustrations that stay on the screen while you listen to the story. It is fine that way, but I wanted to point out that it is not an animated cartoon in case that makes a difference to someone considering purchasing this program.

I haven’t used any other online typing programs so I can’t offer a comparison. I can say that Caroline is very particular about materials and programs we use in our homeschooling and she enjoys using this program so TypeKids is definitely doing something right!


Relaxed Homeschooling Curriculum for a Creative Gifted Child

Relaxed Homeschooling Curriculum for a Creative GIfted Child

Would it be wrong to start off a post about curriculum choices for the upcoming year and admit that a lot of the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing?

Would it make you feel better to know that I have a degree in education, am an experienced teacher, and I still find homeschool planning challenging?

That’s honestly how it feels right now.

I feel like I have been making it up as I go for the past four years since we attempted homeschool preschool (here and here), did something that I guess was kindergarten (and here), muddled through first grade, and we’ll call last year second grade.

The realization this spring that Caroline is gifted has made that muddling a bit clearer and explains a lot. When I look over the posts I wrote about our past experiences, words jump out at me now because they all point to her giftedness that I couldn’t clearly see at the time.

So if you are looking for a traditional approach curriculum post, this isn’t it.

If you are looking for ideas from a mom who is winging it as she tries to figure out how to home educate a gifted, right-brained child with some significant asynchronous development... I’m your girl!

Homeschool Planning With My Child, Not For My Child

One important realization I came to is that even though Caroline is only seven, I have to plan with her and not for her. I’m not comfortable with becoming complete unschoolers and giving her total control, but we have become very relaxed homeschoolers and that includes (starting this year) letting her suggest a lot of what we are going to be doing. Otherwise, it is just too much of a… I don’t want to say battle because of the negative connotations but you get the idea. I’ve come to the conclusion that the more input she gives, the smoother our journey together will be. :-)

Yesterday Caroline and I sat down and brainstormed all the things she would like to learn about this year. I already had some things planned, but I also wanted to hear from her. Once she got rolling, she gave me lots of good ideas. So her suggestions are incorporated below.

Learning That Requires Little Writing

Writing is not one of Caroline’s strengths. Because of that, I’m leaning heavily toward activities that require as little writing as possible. Drawing is great, Writing is not.

Notebooking and Lapbooking

In keeping with the less writing is better theme, we are going to be incorporating more notebooking and lapbooking this year. The notebooking will include minimal writing and I know there are lots of ways to notebook effectively without it. I will have her dictate to me as necessary. The same with lapbooking. I did design one lapbook to use with her last year that required almost no writing and had hoped to make many more, but time did not allow it.


Tools We Love

We have some learning tools that we love and will continue to use. We have a Dry Erase Board and Dry Erase Markers. These are a must have in my opinion. Caroline loves to draw on the whiteboard and it makes it seem less like work when we use it. I have it mounted low to the floor so she can sit on the floor and draw whenever she would like to do so.

We will also continue to use the Boogie Board. It’s another fun tool.

We still use our Calendar Pocket Chart which is similar to this one, but not the exact same one.

I like using the Fellowes Comb Binding Machine. This is especially helpful when I find old books online that I want to print out and give to her to look at. I also use it to make my own little learning packets on different topics. And we use it to make blank books with white or colored cardstock pages that Caroline wants to do things with on her own.

History and Geography – The Mystery of History

I’m looking forward to doing history and geography with Caroline. It’s arguably my favorite subject area and I haven’t done much with it because she’s had classes for this at co-op the past couple of years.

The basis of all our academic learning this year is going to be The Mystery of History Volume 1 (Creation to the Resurrection) from Bright Ideas Press. Caroline saw the book on my desk and said, “Oooo, what’s this?” (That’s a very good sign!) She’s been completely fascinated with Ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures for quite some time so this is totally appealing to her.

I’ve got the whole kit and kaboodle to do with her.

The Mystery of History Volume 1

The Mystery of History Volume 1 Reproducibles Download

The Mystery of History Volume 1 Craft Pack

The Mystery of History Volume 1 Challenge Cards

The Mystery of History Volume 1 Notebooking Pages

The Mystery of History Volume 1 Folderbook Full Set


Caroline specifically asked to learn about Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt so we’ll cover those in TMOH.

She also expressed an interest in learning about:

  • Australia
  • Russia
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Machu Picchu
  • Lewis and Clark
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • The TItanic
  • Strange creatures (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, Ice Monsters, UFOs, werewolves, vampires and Frankenstein)

We’ll probably cover these topics primarily as read alouds and I will probably develop some of my own materials for those.


Caroline’s main requirement for science was nothing gross. I can’t say I blame her! She expressed an interest in making a leaf collection this fall and learning about Venus flytraps.

I have a Homeschool Science and Nature Study Pinterest board where I continue to add interesting ideas. I plan on using ideas off that for our science.

I also have some science activity books and workbooks that I’ve picked up here and there over the years. I plan on having us do different activities out of them.

Fun Fact Cards

For history, geography, science and holiday topics, we’ll be using my Fun Fact Cards. I already have many made for topics we’ll be doing and I’ll continue to add more over the year.



I am not planning any kind of formal reading curriculum. We read to her all the time. She reads on her own. I’ll have her read to us. She is way ahead of her grade level in reading ability.  We make multiple trips to the library each week and always have a large basket full of books. We’ll check out many books related to the history topics we study.

For read alouds, we’ll finish going through the American Girl series. David reads them to her every night and they have been great for giving her an historical reference for many time periods. They’ve read the following series so far: Caroline, Kanani, Isabelle, Lanie, Saige , McKenna, Kit, Chrissa and are working their way through Molly.

I’m thinking we might start going through the Little House on the Prairie books (which I’ve tried in the past and she just wasn’t interested yet), including the newer series about Caroline and the other ancestors when they were younger including The Caroline Years and The Martha Years.

She’s also expressed an interest in my Nancy Drew books she saw so I’m thinking maybe trying to hook her on Trixie Belden first and then move on to Nancy Drew.

We also have a membership to Reading Rainbow online that she accesses with the Kindle Fire
and she enjoys that a great deal.

Writing and Handwriting

Writing is currently one of the bugaboos for our lefty, right-brained learner. I’m going to order Handwriting Without Tears and see how it goes. Unless Caroline expresses an interest in learning cursive, we won’t be starting it this year.

As far as formal writing, I’m not planning on doing a formal writing curriculum. I’ll incorporate writing with The Mystery of History and that will be enough for us this year.

The past few years we’ve kept a journal in a Primary Journal. Caroline dictated the content to me and then illustrated it. I’m thinking we will continue to do this as she really enjoys going back and reading what we wrote at various times. Toward the end of last year I had her do bits of the writing and spelling so I’m hoping we will continue to build on that. My hope is that by the end of the year, she will be doing the writing herself.


Caroline has started learning to type this summer! I’m doing a review for Type Kids next Monday so we’ve been using the program. I’ll save my comments for the review, but so far it has been great!


Math is currently our other area of puzzlement. We’ll be doing a combination of using math websites, Kindle math apps such as Math BINGO, and some miscellaneous workbooks I’ve picked up here and there.


Last year we used GrapeVine Studies for the first time. Caroline and I both loved it. We did the New Testament Overview Part 1 last year and I’m planning on Part 2 this year.



Caroline will be taking a gym class at co-op so I’m not doing anything with this.


Caroline is taking an art class at co-op so this is covered. However, she had many ideas of things to learn related to art so I’m going to incorporate these as I’m able. She was interested in:

And Duck Tape. Lots of Duck Tape.


Caroline has a very nice children’s guitar we bought last Christmas and I’d like to see her actually get into it. I’m not sure if private lessons would be best or what. She has also expressed an interest in piano lessons at times. I’m not sensing anything clear at this point so we’ll just wait and see what develops.

Field Trips

We have not done nearly as much travel as I would have expected when we started homeschooling. Part of that has been financial and part of it has been my health issues. I believe that field trips and travel can be such an important part of homeschooling so I hope we are able to do more in the years ahead.

Caroline suggested a few places she was interested in visiting and I added a few. They include:


Caroline really wants to learn how to sew. I have minimal sewing skills and honestly don’t enjoy it because I am too much of a perfectionist. However, I am willing to get it out and see what we can do with it. I have no agenda with this. This will totally be according to her interest level.

Foreign Language

She said she didn’t want to learn one. I’m going to try to find a really fun website and convince her to try it out to see if she changes her mind. David took French in high school and I took two years of German at Michigan State. It would make the most sense to have her choose one of those since we’re familiar with them, but she’s expressed an interest in Spanish. We’ll see.


We already have a good collection of games. I should probably buy a new  UNO deck as ours is quite well used. (Caroline will clean your clock in that game!) Last year I purchased Blokus, Qwirkle and Appletters. I was describing Tiddly Winks to Caroline the other day and think that would probably be a hit. LOL!

Caroline has enjoyed playing Minecraft on the Kindle Fire and is amazingly good at it. Last week we downloaded the full Minecraft to the computer. She only plays on Creative mode and loves it. I suspect she will spend lots of time exploring Minecraft in the coming year.

One game I know Caroline would enjoy is a magnetic dart board. My parents have a really nice one we purchased for my Dad at Restoration Hardware a number of years ago. They no longer carry it, but I found this one online. It’s rather pricy, but I’m thinking this might be something I buy for our family.

That’s It!

So there you go. That’s an outline of our plan for this year. I see it as more of a general roadmap that will change and twist along the way. :-)

Check out many more curriculum posts in the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop!

Of Eosinophilic Esophagitis, a gifted child, and a husband trying to keep up

Of Eosinophilic Esophagitis, a gifted child, and a husband trying to keep up

Of Eosinophilic Esophagitis, a gifted child, and a husband trying to keep up

I haven’t written a post just about our day to day life in a long time. Some of you have been reading my site since 2005 and have followed me through childlessness, a pregnancy, numerous church changes, theological changes, a move and so on up to the present time. I thought as we get ready to head into a new school year I’d catch everyone up on life around here.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

If you’re one of my long-time online friends, you know I’ve been battling physical issues for years. This spring we were finally able to figure out one of the issues plaguing me. After working with my new allergist for over a year, we determined via scope and biopsy that not only do I have Silent Reflux but I also have Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE). In layman’s terms, I’m having an allergic reaction in my esophagus. White blood cells are attacking things they aren’t supposed to be attacking. (Or as one fellow EE person put it… We’re supposed to have well trained soldiers in there taking care of us. Instead we have drunken hillbillies shooting randomly.) Just in the past month, there was a huge announcement that researchers from the Cleveland Clinic have determined the gene responsible for EE. Hopefully this will lead to better treatments. But it is clearly genetic so at least I know I didn’t do this to myself.

It seems fairly clear that EE is caused by food and environmental triggers although they still aren’t certain how much each plays a role for each person. It seems that environment does play a role as people seem to experience worse EE symptoms in the spring and fall when outdoor allergens are at their worst. All of the EE people I interact with in online forums have said that this year has been brutal for them which coincides with one of the worst allergen seasons in quite some time the US. Stress makes EE much worse. And inadequate sleep.

The Silent Reflux diagnosis last year changed my life considerably. I had to give up many foods (regular coffee, pop, onions, tomato-based products, peppermint, many berries, juice, lemon, mustard, pineapple, etc.). The EE on top of the Silent Reflux coupled with my Oral Allergy Syndrome has completely disrupted our lives. It has been hard on all of us over the spring and summer. I’ve been working my way toward a major elimination diet, but can’t come up with enough food to eat to feel well while on it. So I’m trying to introduce new foods that I can eat on the elimination diet, but have to do that carefully when I feel well so I can determine if I’m reacting to them. For example, sweet potatoes are a big plus on the elimination diet. Except I’m apparently part of the population segment that doesn’t deal well with the starches in sweet potatoes. And so on.

I’m trying to get to the point where I can follow the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) for thirty days and then reintroduce foods to hopefully expand my diet. That means no dairy, no grains of any kind (rice, bread, pasta, etc.), no legumes, no eggs, no nuts, no nightshades (potatoes, bell peppers, etc.), no corn, no soy, no seeds, no chocolate, no coffee… I think that is it. The AIP has you include fish and seafood, but the standard allergen elimination diet does not include them so I have taken those out too. Drinking bone broth is supposed to be a big part of the healing plan on the AIP. I’m sure no one will be shocked when I say that I’m one of those people who doesn’t react well to the bone broth. At the very least it bothers my reflux although I think it is more than that. To be honest, I’m skeptical I can even get to the point of doing the AIP which leaves me wondering where to go next.

I met with a standard nutritionist about a month ago and it wasn’t really helpful at all. I pulled out my three ring binder of all the information I had collected along with a two page description of what I couldn’t eat, what I had tried, etc. and I think she was overwhelmed since none of her standard dietary roadmaps would work for me. Kind of depressing in a way, but I also knew that I had already done a ton of research on my own that was very specialized so I wasn’t surprised when she couldn’t help me.

So if it sounds like I’m not left with much to eat, that’s the truth. Because of my Oral Allergy Syndrome, there are many fruits I cannot eat. And now things that have never bothered me (red grapes and raw carrots, for example) are now bothering me. I’m eating mostly meat, a few fruits and veggies, and some gluten-free snacks I’ve found that don’t seem to bother me. I’ve switched to (expensive) higher pH bottled water because water (even filtered through a Brita) flares my reflux. And Starbucks mochas. I cannot drink a cup of coffee any longer, but mochas with coffee, milk and chocolate (all bad for reflux) do not bother me. Go figure. But in order to get on the AIP I have to eliminate the mochas and all the gluten-free products because they all contain things I can’t have on the AIP. But I can’t get enough calories and fat to function without them.

If it sounds nuts, try living it for a few months and contemplating if the rest of your life will be this way.

If you can walk into your kitchen today and cook and eat whatever you want, I hope you will get down on your knees and thank God because I truly had no idea how good I had it before all of this started. I cannot eat anything at a restaurant or carryout at this point. I have to cook everything at home from scratch with so few foods that I’m starting to deal with food fatigue where I basically don’t even want to eat a lot of the time. Naturally I don’t expect Caroline and David to eat with the same limitations so trying to cook well for them and cook something else for me is getting old. On top of that, food in general has become stressful for me because I feel like I can no longer predict how my body will react to things and so wonder every time I eat something I haven’t eaten in a while if it will cause a reaction.

Because the outside allergens have been so bad this year and I’ve been trying to get the EE under control, I have been inside all summer. With the windows closed. We’ve missed a wedding, cancelled plans with friends, etc. all spring and summer because I’ve felt so unwell so often. My world has become very, very small. We haven’t been to church since January (but that’s another story).

(We’ll skip over the hiatal hernia details as well as the fact that I’m a 47 year old woman – if you know what I mean. And the fact that my scent sensitivities continue to worsen.)

What are the bright sides?

Well, I can eat bacon!  LOL!

It could be much worse. I’ve interacted with people who have very extreme EE. Every time I get frustrated, I remind myself it could be much, much worse.

Probably the biggest blessing is the fact that I can work from home and stay connected with people through the internet. I cannot imagine going through this with a regular job. I cannot imagine going through this without the internet.

A Gifted Child

So while I’ve been trying to deal with all the health stuff, I finally came to the realization that Caroline is a gifted child. It actually took another homeschool mom pointing it out to me after reading my blog and inviting me to become a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Bloggers group to come to this realization.

As evidenced by the topics in my header, I’ve always known that Caroline had unique traits. But I never really researched the gifted angle seriously because… I don’t know. I just didn’t. Even though I’m gifted and qualify for Mensa so it would make sense she would be gifted, I just didn’t zero in on this with her. Maybe God’s restraining hand? However, after digging into the reading I have zero doubts. Some of the characteristics made me laugh out loud because it’s just SO OUR LIFE! There was one list in particular that zeroed in on some very. specific. things. that just astonished me how accurately they described Caroline.

I’m not going to say much about this here since I try to protect Caroline’s privacy online. But a gifted child is not the same thing as having a smart child. Gifted is different and it brings with it a whole set of challenges and opportunities. Like most gifted kids, Caroline’s development is asynchronous in some significant ways and so I’m struggling to determine the best ways to meet her needs and address areas that need focus. And have all of us stay sane in the process.

I’m sure I’ll write more about this in the days ahead. If you want to read between the lines, follow my Sallie Borrink Learning page on Facebook. I often link to articles there that say things I want to say but don’t necessarily want to write about my own child on my website. :-)

The Long-suffering Husband and Father

God knew what He was doing when He put David and me together. And He knew what He was doing when He gave Caroline the parents He did and vice versa. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God created our family and equipped us for each other.

That said, David has had plenty of opportunities to earn many jewels for his crown in heaven. Dealing with an intense, gifted child and an intense wife with health issues… Pray for him! LOL! Seriously! He really has to deal with a lot every day on top of trying to run a business, take care of a home, etc. We have one very specific prayer request related to this that I cannot write here, but if you pray about it, God knows what it is.

Three Full-time Jobs

So I am basically juggling what feels like three full-time jobs right now. When I do it properly, the EE stuff is almost like a full-time job with appointments, cooking, trying to find things to eat, trialing new foods, etc.

Homeschooling and parenting a gifted child is emotionally intense. I could spend all day with her, finding things for her to do in her never-ending need for new experiences/items/ideas/books. Researching, planning, and executing it all for a highly-relational gifted only child could be a full-time job.

And, oh yes, my actual need to work. God has opened some amazing doors for me and I have enough opportunities and ideas to keep me busy full-time now. Between writing here, blogging opportunities, curriculum development, etc. I can easily work full-time. And, honestly, I need to do so after all the medical expenses and lost work time over the past several years. But finding the time to do it is nigh unto impossible with all the other demands on my time and energy.

The Rest of the Story

So now you know some of the behind the scenes stuff. I’ll have to share about not having a church home another time. And life in Cute Little Town. And the adventures of Daisy and Rebecca, our American Girl dolls. (The blonde Daisy belongs to Caroline and the brunette Rebecca belongs to me. LOL!)

See you then!

Ultimate Back to School Pin

The Ultimate Back-to-School Giveaway!

Ultimate Back to School PinWhen putting together this iHomeschool Network Back-to-School Giveaway extravaganza, I thought to myself… What do homeschoolers and teachers want? I think it is pretty simple.

  • Coffee
  • Free Curriculum
  • Books and Supplies from Amazon

So that is what you will win in this giveaway!

This prize includes three gift certificates. You will win:

(Fine print: Caroline’s shopping cart not included. The Apples Galore! and Back to School products shown are samples of what you can purchase in my store.)

You can enter my giveaway right here. And then be sure to enter some of the other 27 gift baskets below or at the iHN Giveaway page! Best wishes for a great back to school!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


(1) STEM {Science, Technology, Engineering, Math} Gift Basket from Amy
(2) Hands On Science Basket from Colleen
(3) Second-Third Grade Back to Homeschool Giveaway from Heidi
(4) Back To School Sensory Resources Basket from Nicole


(5) Foreign Language Learning from Selena
(6) Toddler Fun Basket from Dianna
(7) Apologia Basket from Stephanie
(8) Tot School Supplies Basket from Kara


(9) Middle School Science Basket from Megan
(10 Nature Discovery Gift Basket from Amy
(11) The Ultimate Back-to-School Giveaway from Sallie
(12) Explorer’s Basket from Tina


(13) Back to School Gift Basket from Janine
(14) Back to School Homeschooler’s Art & More Basket from Renee
(15) Classically Charlotte Gift Basket from Lara
(16) Learn to Knit and Crochet Giveaway Basket from Aadel


(17) Let Freedom Ring ~ A Back to School Patriotic Giveaway from Eva
(18) Geography Learning Tools Basket from Heather
(19) Back To School with Financial Peace Giveaway from Amy
(20) High School American Literature and Research Writing Curriculum from Vicki


(21) Five Homeschool Essentials Giveaway from Sam
(22) Getting organized for the new year from Laurie
(23) American History Basket from Karyn
(24) Nature Study Bag from Alicia


(25) Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Basket from Cindy
(26) Mom’s Favorite Things from MacKenzie
(27) Pampering Mama basket from Shannen

colour pencils

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas – Now for sale!

colour pencils

One of the things I love about being a part of the iHomeschool Network is the wealth of knowledge and insight that we share. We’re homeschooling moms from a variety of backgrounds, locations, family sizes and approaches. But we all have the same goal in mind – to home educate our children in a way that is best for them as individuals.

A group of 55 of those moms (including me!) got together to create The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. It’s 562 pages of practical and helpful advice for homeschooling parents.

Each of these sections contain multiple practical articles.

  • Preschoolers
  • Elementary to Middle
  • Teens and Beyond
  • Learning Resources: History and Geography
  • Learning Resources: Home Ec
  • Learning Resources: Language Arts and Literature
  • Learning Resources: Special Needs
  • Learning Resources: STEM
  • Learning Resources: Engaged Ideas
  • Learning Resources: Enrichment
  • Learning Resources: For Mom
  • Learning Resources: Training Hearts
  • Learning Resources: Budgetary Concerns
  • Learning Resources: Maintaining Your Home
  • Learning Resources: Unique Homeschool Situations

I contributed three chapters:

  • Making Play Your Child’s Preschool
  • Parenting and Homeschooling an Only Child
  • Parenting a Highly-Sensitive and Spirited Child

I’m not going to give you a big sales pitch and go on and on about why you should buy this book. It’s just not me. I only recommend books and products I believe in and this is one of them.

I’ll simply tell you that The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas is a great book that is well worth the price.

Everyone will find helpful articles and ideas in here. The layout is professional and it’s available in three formats (PDF, mobi and epub) so you have the choice to read it on whichever computer or device you own. I’ve already picked up a bunch of great ideas I plan to incorporate into our upcoming school year and I know you will too.

Click here to view more details about the book, download a table of contents, view a list of contributors and buy your copy!

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas


Relax and Plan More Fun to Re-Energize Your Homeschool

Relax and Plan More Fun to Re-Energize Your Homeschool

Relax and Plan More Fun to Re-Energize Your Homeschool

How often do you have fun as a homeschooling parent?

Do you ever allow yourself to simply relax and enjoy the process of watching your child’s learning unfold before your very eyes?

From all the articles I see online about homeschool mom burnout, stress and fear I’m guessing many of us do not take enough time to just relax and enjoy this homeschooling journey.

As we wrap up this five day series on re-energizing our homeschool, I’d like to encourage all of us to relax and plan more fun.

Yes, plan for fun.

Unless you are a naturally wired to be a fun mom, you might actually need to make an effort to include more fun in your homeschool planning. And, believe me, I’m speaking to myself here. I’m not naturally wired to be a fun mom.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in units and checklists and requirements. But I think we can safely assume none of us made the decision to homeschool because we wanted to spend hours absorbed in keeping track of the minutia.

We signed up to homeschool our child out of love and a desire to see her flourish as an individual. We wanted to see him have opportunities we knew he would never have in a traditional classroom setting.

But hopefully we also decided to homeschool out of a desire for a better relationship with our child.

And I think this is often where it becomes tricky because too often we are quick to worry about the educational requirements at the expense of the relationship.

We are more apt to worry about what others think of our homeschooling accomplishments than what our child thinks of our homeschooling relationship.

And, in the process, homeschooling can become way too serious too much of the time.

I know it probably seems like there is no time to plan for fun. You already feel stretched and stressed getting through everything in the year.

Maybe that is a sure sign that you need to plan for some fun.

We’ve covered a lot of different ways to re-energize our homeschool this week. We’ve considered changing our approach, switching up our space, investing in new materials, and practicing the art of strewing.

Making positive changes in each one of these areas has the potential to add more fun to your homeschooling. Making positive changes will also make it easier to relax.

So perhaps the first step is making some of those other changes. Then as you get a better handle on other areas that were not working for you and your child, you’ll feel more confident planning some fun.

With a better plan in place, you’ll feel more free to relax and enjoy the homeschooling journey with your child.

What changes are you making to re-energize your homeschool? Which day of this series was most relevant to where you are now as a homeschooling parent?

This post is part of my 5 Days to Re-Energize Your Homeschool series.

girl lying on bed and reading book

Daisy photo credit


Practice the Art of Strewing in Your Homeschool


Have you ever heard of strewing in the context of homeschooling? I discovered I was doing it before I learned it had an official term. I think strewing is a valuable concept that can do a lot to re-energize your homeschool, especially if you currently have a very mom-centered or mom-driven approach to homeschooling.

What is strewing in a homeschool?

My definition of strewing is leaving out things for Caroline to discover and explore on her own. It could be anything I think she would find interesting… seashells, rocks, a book of poetry with lovely illustrations, flash cards of famous places, a magazine, a new type of craft…

For example, a few weeks ago I got out the various Calvin and Hobbes anthologies we have and put them in a pile on the coffee table in the family room. No comment by me or David. But I knew she would be drawn to them. Sure enough she was and now most mornings before and after breakfast she sits down and reads them, often regaling us with retellings of what is happening.

That’s strewing in action.

Strewing is also setting out a small bin of colorful flashcards about various topics (U.S. Presidents, animals, etc.) and just waiting to see what she finds interesting.

Strewing is also rummaging through my craft stash and leaving some new supplies on her table in the learning room where she will discover them the next morning.

The Purpose of Strewing in Homeschool

Strewing, in my mind, serves a few different purposes.

One, it takes the onus of Caroline’s learning off me to a certain degree. While I am her mother and her teacher, I want the responsibility of her education to gradually shift more and more to her. This is a small step in helping her become responsible.

Two, it reinforces to her that she can explore without me and learn in the process. I’m pretty sure we’ve already made this point clear over the past few years, but it certainly can’t hurt to give her lots of examples of how she is empowered to learn on her own.

Three, it gives me a break. As the work- at-home mom of an only child, providing her with something she can get lost in on her own for a certain amount of time is huge. Really huge.

And, perhaps most importantly if you have a right-brained child who loves to learn and hates to be taught, it fits perfectly with her learning style. Sitting down with a right-brained child and saying, “Let’s look through these flashcards of the U.S. landmarks” can be a bit of a risk. Leave them out for the child and she’ll be telling you all about the interesting facts she’s reading on the cards. It just works for kids who are wired this way.

The Downside of Strewing?

The downside of strewing? It can be expensive, to be totally honest. I’d love to do more strewing than I do, but buying stuff to newly engage Caroline on a regular basis is a costly proposition.

Other than the cost and taking the time to remember to strew regularly, there is no downside to strewing. It’s really a simple but powerful way to influence your child’s learning in a hands-off kind of way.

If your homeschool needs some re-energizing, I highly recommend doing some strewing.

Photo credit

This is part of my 5 Days to Re-Energize Your Homeschool series.

girl lying on bed and reading book

Money in the form of many large bills

Re-Energize Your Homeschool by Investing in New Materials

Money in the form of many large bills

Homeschoolers are generally a thrifty bunch. And that is good. No matter what our financial situation is, it’s a good idea to be financially prudent. In addition, many of us have traded off significant financial advancement to be at home with our children and educate them ourselves.

But just like putting on a new outfit can lift our spirits, so can new homeschooling materials lift the spirits of our children.

I do think it can be a good financial choice to invest in new homeschooling materials on a fairly regular basis. And I don’t just mean curriculum. I mean fun things like games, fun books, apps, craft materials, hobby materials, play equipment, etc.

Providing New Challenges and Opportunities for Gifted Children

Providing new materials is especially important if you have a gifted child or a child who craves new experiences, information, etc. Some children truly are wired to need new all the time.

This has been one of our greatest challenges with parenting Caroline. While some kids might enjoy playing with the same things over and over again, she doesn’t (except her stuffed animals!). Once she’s figured something out, she’s ready to move on to a new challenge.  Children who are wired to explore and learn in an intense way truly do need us to provide them with more than the average child.

The Delight of New Materials to Explore

One of the reasons we all homeschool is to provide our children with opportunities they wouldn’t have in a traditional classroom setting. I think those opportunities should go beyond the basics of curriculum. I think it should include providing them with delightful new materials to explore.

I will say that I’m all for supplying free creative materials. Caroline has a large bin in the learning room that is always full of recycled cardboard, boxes, caps and all sorts of interesting potential craft materials. We keep her supplied with a variety of craft items in the craft cabinet. But I honestly don’t think this is enough in a homeschool.

In a traditional classroom, a teacher will regularly swap out materials for the children. She might create a new extended center each week, a thematic play area, or some other opportunity for children to explore new things. While most of us can’t afford to fully trick out a new thematic area on a regular basis, we should look for opportunities to provide our children with a variety of learning experiences. And those experiences should go beyond the required curriculum.

What are some things we might consider investing in?


Wood crafts

Model kits

Sewing crafts and kits

Painting kits for kids

Puzzles in a variety of themes and sizes


Books! Lots of books in topics they love!

Blocks and building toys including LEGO and K’NEX

I see all of the above as valid and important homeschool materials. They really aren’t extras. Depending on the child’s interests, they are just as important as math books, science experiments and notebooks. And you might be amazed by how providing these kinds of learning materials re-energizes your homeschool experience.

Swapping for New Materials

For some families there may be truly no extra money to purchase anything new. If you can’t afford to buy new things, can you arrange a swap with a few other families (homeschooled or not)? Each family can bring a laundry basket full of books, games, puzzles, hobby materials, etc. to offer in exchange at your swap.

You can decide ahead of time if it is a permanent exchange or a loan. If you go the loan route, you could meet a couple of times a year to swap again. That way every family has the opportunity to pass things around and try new items.

Photo credit

This post is part of my 5 Days to Re-Energize Your Homeschool series.

girl lying on bed and reading book

Creative Ways to Re-Energize Your Homeschool Space

Creative Ways to Re-Energize Your Homeschool Space

Creative Ways to Re-Energize Your Homeschool Space

Homeschooling happens in all different kinds of places. Some people have a room dedicated to their homeschool endeavors. Some people study at the kitchen table. Some use workboxes. There are lots of different ways to set up the physical aspect of your homeschool.

Today let’s think about ways to re-energize our homeschool by looking at the place where we homeschool and how we can make it better for our families.

But before we go any further, let me clarify one thing. I am NOT advocating spending large amounts of money to do the things I’m suggesting below. Obviously if funds aren’t an issue for your family and you have the ability to do lots of great things then that is super! But for many homeschool families funds are an issue.

What I’m advocating below is primarily working with what you already have and looking for ways to repurpose what is already in your home to re-energize your homeschool environment. Then supplement what you already have with some carefully thought out purchases.

If you look through my Homeschool Organization Pinterest board, you’ll discover I don’t put many pictures on there of gorgeous homeschool rooms that cost a fortune. I can’t afford it and so I just don’t go there. I’m more interested in sharing clever and affordable ideas.

So what can we do to re-energize our learning environments?

Create a Homeschool Learning Room

A few years ago we changed our living room into our learning room. We’ve been so happy with this decision although it took me about a year to actually do it once I started thinking about it. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

I know I am biased, but if you have a room that you honestly don’t use all that often I truly think it is worth considering making it into a learning room. It could be your formal dining room, your living room (if you have a family room as well) or a sunroom. Our home is not that large compared to most these days (1500 square feet), but I think it is being a good steward of this space to use it all the time rather than having it sit there mostly unused so I can have a living room.

What I love about having a learning room is that it encourages learning all the time. Because it is in such a prominent place in our home, Caroline goes in there often to do crafts, sit in the glider and look at library books, or drag out some other activity. (More on that later this week!)

It also keeps the mess and supplies in one place rather than all over the house. It is much easier to keep track of our learning materials because there is a central location for all of it. It doesn’t wander off into other rooms of the house. We rarely waste time looking for anything related to our homeschooling because we’ve trained Caroline to know that it stays in the learning room.

If you already have a learning room, there are a few ways to re-energize it. How about painting it a different color? Something cheerful like a pretty yellow or a soothing light robin’s egg blue?

What about removing heavy window treatments from the windows and letting in lots of natural light?

Moving the furniture around? We just moved a couple of pieces of furniture last week and wow! What a difference!

What about switching up the way you use the wall space? I use ours primarily to display Caroline’s artwork (something I’ll share more in the Not Back to School Blog Hop in a few weeks). Other than her artwork, a fun US map, a small dry erase board, and a monthly calendar pocket chart I try to keep the wall decorations few and far between. It makes the room look bigger and it cuts down on the distraction. Re-energizing your room could be as simple as rethinking what you put on the walls. Remember – less is usually more.

Organizing a Homeschool Learning Space or Pantry

Let’s say you simply don’t have a specific room you can use. Can you set up a specific space?  What about a corner of the family room? Could you clear out some of the stuff in the family room you really don’t use and instead put in bookcases or shelves with bins to organize learning materials? For a while we had a small table and chairs and bookcase in our family room for Caroline. Yes, it was a little crowded and it wouldn’t be a set up to feature on Pinterest. But it told her that she was important to us and that we wanted her to learn and explore all the time, not just when we were sitting down to “do school” with her.

If you have a kitchen pantry, you could use that. Most people could clean out half of what is in their kitchen and not even miss it. By purging your kitchen cupboards and pantry, you could open up the pantry space to hold all of your homeschool and learning materials.

Using Portable Homeschool Storage

If none of the above are possible, some kind of a rolling cart could work well. There are carts like this that could hold materials, books and supplies. Each child could have her/his own cart that could be stored in a closet or lined up against a wall in a room used less often. Each drawer could be labeled by subject with one drawer for supplies. The nice thing about rolling carts as opposed to crates is that it keeps all of the materials contained and looks a lot neater.

Utilize Bins and Shelves for Homeschool Organization

If you have room in the dining room or family room, you could set up a set of shelves/bookcase that holds colorful bins. Each child can keep his/her materials in his/her own bin and then you can use a couple of bins for basic supplies. This, too, will keep things looking neater than an open bookcase where everything gets dumped. It also keeps in all in one place instead of children dragging it throughout the house.

Purge Your Learning Materials

I believe that homeschooling moms, by and large, are natural hoarders when it comes to educational materials. Whether it’s books, supplies or curriculum, we have a natural bent to hang onto stuff because it might come in handy.

At some point, however, it can become more of a headache than an asset.

One way to re-energize your homeschool that won’t cost you anything is to simply purge what you have. Do you honestly need to keep every book? Every resource?

Getting rid of materials you really don’t need will free up both physical space and mental space.

Are there games no one wants to play? Get rid of them. What about craft supplies no one likes? Donate them. Curriculum you know you’ll never use again? Sell it. There’s no point hanging on to stuff that doesn’t add true value to your homeschool experience. Model good stewardship to your children by getting rid of what you don’t need so someone else can use it.

Some Guiding Principles

As you think about ways to re-energize your homeschool space, keep these principles in mind:

  • Neat and tidy saves time
  • Less is almost always more
  • Releasing things you don’t need brings freedom

How are you reworking your learning space? What has worked well for you in the past? What do you wish you had changed sooner?

This post is part of my series 5 Days to Re-Energize Your Homeschool.

girl lying on bed and reading book