The Journey

This blog began in an attempt to provide resources and encouragement for homeschoolers. However, during this homeschool adventure, I've found it's also about life. Specifically about losing my own life, that I might find it in Jesus and thus discover the joy of REAL life. (Matthew 10:39)

In March, 2012, our family stepped out in faith again as we moved out to the country. The first step of faith was trusting the Lord to sell our other home before our emergency fund ran out. He is faithful, and though I was hoping this would happen sooner, He knows what we needed.

I just know that He is going to use these 5 acres and this old house to teach me even more lessons in abiding with Him...and I look forward to the Adventure!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Where do I start?" (For those looking for guidance)

(originally posted on May 10, 2011, minor editing on August 14, 2011)

It's always an exciting time of year for me, the old year is ending and the homeschool convention is on the horizon...contented sigh.  I always find great excitement in looking ahead to the next school year, planning, researching, and, of course, buying!!!

I have learned a lot since the first home school convention I attended.  I remember feeling that I needed to buy it ALL then, because who knew when I might have another opportunity!  Maybe they wouldn't have it next year.  Maybe I wouldn't remember what it was.

Now, I'm not nearly as "seasoned" as some convention go-ers, and I'm sure I have a lot more to learn.  This year will be the 4th one I've attended and boy am I excited.  I usually start looking forward to it in January (maybe that's sad, but it is true).  It's great now, because my husband and children also begin looking forward to it several months ahead of time.

I've been talking lately with several other moms who are homeschooling, one for the first time and others whose children are beginning to get into "books."  So, as I looked up some information on what we use, and what we've learned, I thought I would share some of those ideas and research here as well.

First of all, if you're new to homeschooling and your child is in early elementary school (I'd say 3rd grade or younger, just my opinion), focus on finding a good phonics/reading and math program that will work for you and your child.  A friend shared with me the comment that a seasoned home school mom had told her:  focus on the 3 R's in the beginning...reading, writing and 'rithmetic.  So, I guess you could say, In the beginning, there are the 3 r's (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

I'd like to share one more thing before moving on.  When I look for curriculum, especially for those basics, I am looking for something that my two blessings will be able to do independently.  Let me clarify that further by saying that it doesn't mean I don't want to teach them, I definitely enjoy teaching them!

However, life has a way of moving in directions you don't expect.  So, if I need to do something before going to our classroom to get started in the morning, I want my princess (and eventually my warrior) to be able to get started without me.  So, I look for programs that are consistent in the type of material presented and the way it is presented.

For us, usually it's on Tuesday that we dive into a new math and phonics lesson, so I make sure I am there to get her started.  By Thursday, though, I expect her to understand enough to begin on her own.  I'm also in the process of teaching her to skip questions she needs help on until I'm able to be there.  I believe this will help her in the future as well, not to get bogged down when she runs into difficulty, but to move on and come back to it.

So, here are what we use for those basics.  They have worked well for us.  

For math, we use Math U See, the website is  If you check on ebay or craigs list, you may be able to find a set of starter blocks for less expensive.  You may also check at the used curriculum sale next week.  They are hard to come by used, so it may be worth buying the whole set new if you will be using them on multiple children.

Rainbow Resource is a great place to get curriculum for less. I also like that fact that this company was started by a homeschooling family.  It is still family owned and operated.  And the reviews are written by people who have experience in using the curriculum.  Here is the link to it:  This site has a search engine, so if you type in a title, you will be able to find it if they have it. 

Phonics:  These are 3 "primer" books which teach the consonant sounds.  There is a teacher's book which goes with them. It gives ideas on different activities to use in teaching your child and also provides directions for the "following directions" page.
Get Ready for the Code
Get Set for the Code
Go For the Code

Phonics: This series is for when they know their consonant sounds.  Book 1 focuses on short vowel sounds, they'll learn each vowel throughout the lessons in the book.  The teacher's manuals that come with this provide ideas for teaching (don't feel you have to follow it exactly) and also have the answers for the post tests.
Explode the Code  books 1-8
Beyond the Code books 1-4 is a reading comprehension series published by the same company as Explode the Code.

Other places to look for preparing for reading and such (pre-school) are Rod and Staff ( and Pathway (go to Rainbow Resource). 

Pathway is a reading program for Amish parochial schools, the early workbooks may be worth looking at.  This past year is the first I have used it.  I got grade one for my princess and have really liked it.  I used Before We Read with my warrior this year, which is mostly an activity book that starts to teach them some color words, yes/no, etc. 

There are also workbooks called Learning Through Sounds (from Pathway) which I have not used, but look to be good.   They are phonics workbooks.  Here is a link to where they are in Rainbow Resource:

This past year, I began using First Languages for the Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise.  It's a grammar lesson that takes no preparation and only 10 to 15 minutes a day.  We do grammar after our devotional, which we do after breakfast.

For history and science, I have enjoyed the Lets Read and Find Out science books by Scholastic and the "If You..." books, also by Scholastic.  There are a wide variety of topics and are a fairly painless (and definitely plan-less) way to incorporate History and Science into your school day.

I would usually read these after meals.  (It helps that my children are slower eaters.)  So, after breakfast, I would read our devotional and then either history or science.  The "If You" books are fairly long (for a paper back), so it would take us a month or two to get through one.  The "Lets Read and Find Out" books are easily read in one sitting.

Here are two links to a search in Rainbow Resource:

This search is for History, it's in alphabetical order.  All the books start, "If You..."  For example, "If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon," "If You Lived During Colonial Times," etc.

This search is for Lets Read and Find Out

As for character books, here are a few that both myself and my children have really enjoyed:
The Shady Lawn Twins

Wisdom and the Millers

Crossroads of Character (other books by the Boyer's are good too)

Little Blessings Devotional for Pre-Schoolers

Bible Stories to Read (and Bible Stories to Color is the coloring book to go along with it)

Well, I think that's about it for now.  If you are a more seasoned homeschooler and have other suggestions, please send me a comment and I would be happy to pass them along!

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