Do You Have a Homeschooling Group?

The #1 question I get asked when someone learns we homeschool, even before the ridiculous “socialization” query, is Do you have a homeschooling group? I don’t know why non-homeschoolers tend to place so much emphasis on this idea. Maybe they don’t know what else to ask?

The truth is, we’ve tried several and never found one that was a good fit.

Group of kids lined up in a field, preparing to play a game. Text reads: Do you have a homeschooling group?

Do We Belong Here?

There was the oh yeah we’re totally inclusive! group who wanted to know what church I attended within five minutes of meeting them.

Then the time I showed up for the first meeting of another group and was berated by a member for not already having a group. Yes; that’s right. The very people I went to for encouragement were scolding me for not having found it sooner.

And who could forget the we’ve lost all control and gave up trying disorganized sh!tst&rm group. Good times.

We actually tried to get on board with that last one, despite its loud, unruly, haphazardness. But, ultimately we decided it was not an activity worth disrupting our week.

Do People Even Hear Themselves?

More recently, not long after our move to Virginia I received an invitation to join what sounded like a fabulous group: kids of all ages getting together twice a week to learn history and science from a small group of dedicated parents.

Minimal costs, great social time, the possibility of actually making new friends easily. Open to everyone, of course, I was assured. Anyone can join! This group is truly for everybody! Yes, we are an inclusive group!

Then this person sent me a link to this too-good-to-be-true opportunity.

The name of the group is Homeschooling With Jesus.

We declined.

What If We Just Don’t Need One?

Yeah, I used to get discouraged. I thought, I am never going to find a homeschooling group that works. I started to wonder if it must be me.

I’m too picky, too difficult, too introverted. I’m looking for something perfect, and that doesn’t exist. I just need to give it more time, try harder, be more open.

Then I realized something very important. Maybe it’s not that I can’t find the right one. Maybe it’s that we don’t need a homeschooling group at this point in our journey. My encouragement comes from other areas, and that works for us right now.

I mean, we have a few local friends who homeschool. {And someday we might even get to see them in person again.} We belong to a supportive Facebook group where we can ask questions and share resources and find support. We have friends in faraway places we have met over the years who either currently homeschool or have in the past and understand our joys and struggles.

{Although, given that my first pancake is about to start high school, maybe it is simply too late for us.}

Maybe it’s not that I can’t find the right one. Maybe it’s that we don’t need a homeschooling group at this point in our journey. My encouragement comes from other areas, and that works for us right now. Click To Tweet

Could We Really Go It “Alone”?

Admitting this is practically sacrilege in homeschooling circles. Ask most homeschool moms, and I guarantee you, find a homeschool group or co-op is number one on their list of survival and sanity skills.

It’s also a primary way for their kids to make friends. And if that works for a lot of people, great. We just aren’t Group People.

The closest we came was when we signed the Agents up for a charter school one of the years we lived in California. Even that ended up being sort of a meh experience.

{If you are interesting in finding an in-person group, however, this list may help. It includes some online support groups as well.}

A related epiphany for me was letting go of the notion that I had to like every homeschooler I met.

I think there is some expectation when you are doing something that goes against conventional wisdom and you meet someone else taking the same path you will undoubtedly bond over your rebellion so to speak. And that’s not always the case. 

I don’t click with every military spouse, or every parent, or every blogger. This is no different.

Fellow homeschoolers, what say you: Do you have a homeschooling group? Why or why not?


How Do I Determine Which Blogs Are Worth My Time?

Over the years I have read a lot of blogs. As a writer myself, I engage with other bloggers not only to learn from them but also to support them on their journeys. 

Yet I cannot and do not engage with every blogger that comes into my feed. As a reader, how do I determine which blogs are worth my time? What qualities does an avid blog reader look for?

Open laptop and vase of pink flowers on a small table with a couch in the background. Text reads: How do I determine which blogs are worth my time?

First, a Caveat

I am certainly no expert when it comes to blogging. And my intentions with this post are not mean-spirited in any way.

If I have followed your blog in the past, and decided not to going forward, please do not take it personally. I’m not directing this at anyone in particular. Similarly, I do not take it personally when someone I “know” from the blogging world starts following me and then disappears.

But, I know what I like {and what I don’t } and believe maybe others can relate.

I want what I read online to encourage me and not just contribute to my mental clutter.

Also, writing this post has helped me, because it allowed me to look at my own blog from a different perspective {reader} and consider what changes I might like to make.

As a reader, how do I determine which blogs are worth my time? What qualities does an avid blog reader look for? Click To Tweet

Quality Writing

When it comes to blogging, nothing is more important than excellent writing. If you cannot communicate your thoughts well enough to be useful, what is the point, really?

Tell a good story, offer helpful advice, share solutions to a common dilemma, or let me know I am not alone. 

Then edit like crazy, because no matter how meaningful the content is, major typos and grammatical errors give the impression of not caring.

{I know I have guaranteed myself at least one mistake in this post now that I mentioned it.}

Simple Navigation

I hate having to search for an about this blog section or hunt down a list of categories. I also like to see a list of popular posts in the sidebar; that usually gives a good indication of what the blog is about.

I don’t particularly care for most landing pages, truthfully. Most of the time I just want to get to whatever content I am looking for.

Nor am I a fan of pop-ups or those blocks that spring out from the sidebar. {Subscribe! Follow me on Pinterest! Check out my freebie! But wait, don’t go!} I close them all immediately without even really looking at them.

Also, assume anyone who finds your website might like to share your post or connect with you on social media. Make this as easy as possible by including obvious buttons or links.

But for the love of squirrels do not make the sharing buttons float or overlap the content {usually on the left or bottom}. I am convinced that the people who subject readers to these travesties have never actually read a post on their own blogs. I find this particularly aggravating when reading posts on my phone.

Hands holding a cup of coffee next to an open laptop on a marble table. Text reads: What qualities does an avid blog reader look for?
Assume anyone who finds your website might like to share your post or connect with you on social media. Make this as easy as possible by including obvious buttons or links. Click To Tweet

Focus on Sharing {Not Selling}

I will just say it: If your blog is full of ads, I will probably close the tab and never return.

I mean, I get it: blogging does open up a pathway to extra income for some folks. It can be very tempting to try all avenues toward this goal.

But when I follow a link to what sounds like an interesting piece, and then I am bombarded with pop-ups and banners and “suggestions”—I honestly want to run the other way.

Too many advertisements distract from the content and make it frustrating to navigate through a post.

When I wrote about how to spring clean your blog I tentatively used the word manipulated but now I feel it was probably accurate.

As a reader I simply don’t want to be overwhelmed with marketing pleas. When I click on a post and it is filled with tons of tangentially related links I feel resentful.

Some fellow bloggers might scoff at this—or even feel offended—but I am being brutally honest. Very few bloggers can pull off ads successfully.

To be clear, I’m not talking about discreet, relevant affiliate links or tasteful promotions for one’s own products or services. I occasionally use these on my own blog {almost exclusively Amazon recommendations for homeschooling books we have used and loved}.

I mean when I go to a post about homeschool schedules, and there are tons of affiliate links for kitchen gadgets {because you use the kitchen table during school?} or lawn furniture {because sometimes you take school outside?} or Tylenol {because your kids give you a headache?}.

Readers can detect disingenuous marketing pretty well.

Genuine Connection

This is huge for me. I follow bloggers whom I feel truly “get” their readers and would not hesitate to offer up a helping hand or a listening ear.

If I can’t imagine sitting across from you at Starbucks I probably won’t read your blog, either.

What turns me off a blog super quick is requests along the lines of “I followed you, now you have to follow me.”  I cannot even with this one.

Sometimes I follow bloggers who do not follow me back. Inversely, I often have fellow bloggers who engage with my blog or social media for whom I do not reciprocate. It is not a competition. No one is keeping score.

Not everyone you follow will benefit from following you. And vice versa.  

What I enjoy most about the blogosphere is forming relationships with fellow writers {and readers}—wishing well for them and being in their corner supporting them, knowing they support you as well.

Are there specific things you want {or do not want} to see when you discover a new blog? How do you determine which blogs are worth your time? Have you made significant changes to your own blog since you started it?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


Planning the Homeschool Year

Welcome to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Does the thought of planning the homeschool year overwhelm you? Are you worried about missing some crucial element, or simply not sure where to begin? This post can help.

First, let me assure you that planning the homeschool year is not as daunting as it sounds. Yes, it can be a lot of work, and research will be involved.

However, if you have a strong commitment to helping your students—and even minimal organizational skills—it will be easier than you think.

Note: We tend to have more of an eclectic style when it comes to organizing and planning the homeschool year. We do not follow an all-in-one curriculum, instead preferring to piece together what we need from a variety of sources. Therefore, these suggestions will be most helpful for folks who intend to follow a similar style of taking what works and leaving the rest.

Let me assure you that planning the homeschool year is not as daunting as it sounds. Click To Tweet
View of person's hands holding a pencil poised to write in a blank journal. A cup of coffee, laptop computer, and decorative shells are nearby on the table. Text reads: Planning the homeschool year, it will be easier than you think.

Where Do I Start?

l like to first look at the big picture: What are my overall goals for my students? What basic subjects do we intend to cover? How will the rest of our calendar {i.e., travel and work plans} look during this time?

Well, that last one could be difficult to pinpoint for a while. Articulating a homeschool schedule in the middle of a global pandemic is certainly not something anyone anticipated. 

For now I assume we will mostly stay close to home {at least at the beginning} and have limited access to libraries, meetups, and field trips.

As far as topics, we generally cover the following: math, language arts, geography, science, American history, world history, mythology, world religions, health, physical education, art, and music.

Whew! If that sounds like a lot of subjects to you, don’t panic. I prefer to list them all separately to make sure I am not missing anything. 

In reality, some will likely end up being combined, or done at different times. For example, we could decide to study something that encompasses both geography and science {e.g., ecosystems} , or spend half the year each on art and music.

My high school student will likely choose few additional courses as electives, and I will probably add a critical thinking component as well.

Again, it sounds like a lot when you list it all out, but these are just brainstormed topics. You, personally, do not need to include all of them. Or you might decide to include more! Or you may separate them out even further; for instance, breaking down language arts into grammar, spelling, punctuation, and writing skills.

Another aspect you should contemplate here is additional household or personal responsibilities that might impact your schedule. 

For example, do you prefer to get groceries or run essential errands on a particular day or days and how will that affect your daily plans? Do you have outside commitments {e.g., volunteering} that will occasionally abbreviate your school day?

If you consider these “interruptions” in advance, you can compensate for them and adjust your agenda accordingly. One year we utilized a four-day week, saving Friday as a “catch up” day, and this worked out well for us at the time.

Tip: If contemplating the entire year at once is too much for you, think of it in terms of semesters {half a year} or even quarters {3 months at at time}. It’s okay to say, this is how we will organize the beginning of the year through {insert whatever time frame or date works for you} and then re-evaluate.

How Do I Know What To Teach?

Before going much farther into the details of planning the homeschool year, you may want to consider a few basic guidelines about what exactly you want your students to learn, and how you are going to teach that information.

First, if you haven’t already, definitely review your individual state requirements. 

Many states will request some combination of notifying the school district of your intention to homeschool, submitting an overview of what will be covered, and providing for some sort of assessment. 

Not all states will require all of these, and some states will ask for significantly more {looking at you, New York} so be sure to check your state specifically. An easy way to do this is to go to the department of education website for your state and search for the word “homeschool.”

Now that you have the legalities sorted, you can turn your attention to expectations and a plan of study for each grade level you will be working with. 

If you are unsure where to begin, or if you really just have no clear idea of “what kids learn and when” you can easily find assistance with that. 

This is often referred to as scope and sequence. Very basically, scope is the content you teach {the “what”} and sequence is the way you present it {the “how”}.

I have found several sources to be helpful with this process:

Core Knowledge

If you are familiar with the What Your ______ Grader Needs To Know book series, this is the same resource, but online. Here you can find detailed lists of what skills are taught in a variety of subjects by grade level. You can download the entire sequence as well as curriculum and teacher’s guides all for free.

Full disclosure, we have not used any of the curriculum, so I cannot offer any specific reviews. We primarily use this resource to get an idea of the kinds of things being learned at each grade level. 

For us it simply helps to jumpstart the planning process and gives us ideas to expand on. It includes information for up to and including grade eight.

World Book Typical Course of Study

Similar to the Core Knowledge website, this also provides detailed information about what is taught by grade level and subject. This resource, however, goes all the way through grade twelve.

It is extremely detailed, and the lists tend to be more concrete {i.e., easier to comprehend and plan to implement} than most lists of “standards” I have seen.

Common Core

Oh, man; do people have feels about common core! I highly recommend you check out this website for yourself, especially the myths vs. facts and frequently asked questions.

That said, this site provides an excellent breakdown of standards through grade twelve, and you can download all the lists for free.

Local School District

This is another tool we frequently use when planning the homeschool year. You may have to search around a bit to find exactly what you are looking for, but we are able to see course guides and handbooks for every grade. We can see how each year is planned out, what courses are required, and view specific course descriptions {including which texts are currently being used}.

Since Agent E is entering 9th grade this year, we also reviewed graduation requirements to assist with overall planning for the next four years.

White flowers, computer keyboard, cup of coffee, and notebooks with pen and binder clips arranged on a white table. Text reads:  How to plan a homeschool year, tips from someone who has done it 10 times.

What Resources Will We Use?

Now that you have a better idea of what your overall plan will look like, and you have considered scope and sequence, it is time to choose materials.

We tend to be eclectic in our choices and use mostly a combination of books and workbooks in a self-designed “curriculum.”

However, if your style of homeschooling leans more structured, and you are interested in packaged curriculum {not necessarily an all-in-one, perhaps just pieces here and there} I highly recommend you check out the following:

The Ultimate Guide To Secular Homeschool Curriculum includes tons of suggestions for finding secular materials. Another great place to peruse and research myriad print and online secular homeschooling resources is Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers. {They have a very supportive Facebook group as well.}

Keep in mind that you may crave the structure of curriculum for a particular subject, but be okay exploring another on your own.

For instance, you feel really want a geography curriculum, or a health class spine book, but feel comfortable without an organized curriculum for language arts.

It is okay to plan in whatever way works best for you and your students.

For us, however, choosing resources essentially means choosing books. We are very book-based in our approach, preferring a hard copy of an actual text to the comparable electronic version. My students do not enjoy online lessons or video explanations.

This year we even went as far as purchasing the algebra and geometry texts our local public school uses as a reference for my oldest. They lay out everything she will need to review algebra one and dive into geometry.

{Side note: AbeBooks is a fabulous resource for gently used books! We scored the two aforementioned math books for under $20 total, including tax and shipping.}

I usually start by making a list of the books I think I would like to use, and then trying to learn as much as I can about what the books specifically cover so I can narrow down said list.

My preferred method is to hit the bookstore and library and browse in person. As that is not an option this time around, we will be sticking with a few old favorites to start.

Yes; we often use the same books for more than one year. Sometimes the information is just so dense we need more than one year to get through it. Other times, we may pull from a specific section for one year, and then shelf it until we need it again.

It is okay to plan in whatever way works best for you and your students. Click To Tweet

My advice here is do not go too crazy with purchases. You probably do not need individual texts for every subject or grade level. You may already have books on your own bookshelf that can be “repurposed” as “school” books. 

Also, we have found that many books work for a fairly large age range, and can be understood on multiple levels.

For example, you can read a biology text aimed at middle schoolers with your elementary student and your high school student. The younger one might not process all of it, but exposure over mastery is okay. Your high schooler might be sparked by a few particular topics and decide to pursue them further with additional materials.

While we do like to combine as much as possible, some things—like math and language arts—will need to be tailored specifically.

For these two subjects we tend to use grade-level appropriate workbooks just for simplicity. {You can take a look at the ones we have used for math and language arts.}

How Can I Keep Track of Everything?

We don’t put a lot of effort into attempting to designate in advance exactly what we will do each day {e.g., read chapter 1 from this book, complete these 10 math problems, write 2 paragraphs explaining xyz}.

In general I find it much more productive to simply put one foot in front of the other and progress at a comfortable pace.

Of course, I do a rough page, section, and chapter count to have a basic idea of what we can reasonably accomplish in a school year. I want to know our resource choices “make sense” for the amount of time we have available relative to our goals.

What I do not have is a daily or weekly or even monthly spreadsheet of the specifics. Because as long as we continue to move forward, it doesn’t matter if we were supposed to be on chapter 3 of our history book by September 23rd and we still need to wrap up chapter 2.

This means we typically keep track of what we have done rather than devising a strict schedule to follow from the beginning. I realize that’s a bit too into the unknown for some, but trust me when I say it becomes easier with time and experience.

If you need more information about how to translate your new plans into a workable day-to-day schedule, check out how we created a realistic daily routine for our homeschool.

How do you feel about planning the homeschool year? What stage of the process are you in right now? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments, and I encourage you to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool series as well.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


Homeschooling Update {Spring 2020}

We’ve reached the point where looking ahead to the next year homeschool year becomes way more interesting than pressing through with what we need to complete this year. Alas, we need to find the motivation to get to a good stopping point in all of our current studies, despite the pull of the new and shiny.

Things look much different now, however, than they did last year at this time. It can be difficult to plan when we do not yet know what we will be able to do in the coming months.

That said, we are very fortunate and privileged to have been minimally affected by this pandemic. We do not have financial worries and everyone in the family is healthy.

We have been spending lots of time outdoors {in our own backyard} and reading tons of books. The Agents have been making their way through many series on our own bookshelf, including some “younger” ones they haven’t revisited for a while. The Senior Agents both had birthdays recently, too, and so we added a few new titles to our collection as well.

{You can see what they have read recently here on our Goodreads page.}

Mostly it has been an inconvenience. For a house full of introverts—with one parent already used to staying home and three kids already in homeschooling mode—not much of our day-to-day life has changed.

We miss the library the most. And the zoo. And hanging out with homeschool friends. {Yes; even hard-core introverts miss socializing eventually.}

Colored pencils pointed in toward each other to form a heart. Text reads: Homeschooling update spring 2020, wrapping up and looking forward.

Almost to the End: Closing Out the 2019-2020 Year

We will be wrapping up our current homeschool year in approximately seven weeks. The plan is to finish around the third week of June, take a brief “re-setting” break, and start the new homeschool year on or around 1 July.

This short amount of time between “grades” is pretty typical for us. We enjoy our year-round schedule and generally do not take much of a summer break anyway.

In addition to written work in math and language arts, we have a few books from our loop rotation left to complete.

We have worked our way down to the end-of-the-year hodge podge; now it is just a matter of which books we will have time to get through and which will need to be tacked on to the beginning of next year.

Planning Ahead: A New Configuration of Students

Of course, planning a new homeschool year is my happy place. I love looking at books, workbooks, curriculum, and documentaries—and then figuring out how it all fits together for each grade level.

Next year I will officially have one elementary student {Agent A, grade 4}, one middle schooler {Agent J, grade 7}, and one high school student {Agent E, grade 9}.

In spite of the age/grade differences, we will still do much of our schoolwork together, following the same basic plan. Generally our routine is to complete written work first and then do joint reading aloud.

Each student will have their own appropriate skill level math and language arts, as well as other potential written work. For example, my 4th grader might also be doing a geography workbook; my 9th grader will likely have a written Latin curriculum. But our basic reading loop schedule will use the same books for all three.

This means that for subjects like science, history, music, and health all three Agents will be studying the same topics. We always try to choose books that work with a wide age range. Teaching multiple grade levels together is quite do-able with a little creativity.

Usually I like to investigate any resources {books and workbooks} in person before we commit to purchasing them, but obviously heading to a library or bookstore to “research” is not possible this year. Because of this we will likely be starting the school year using some old favorites already on hand.

We do not have all the specifics worked out just yet, so that will likely be a separate planning post coming soon.

What do your homeschool days look like right now? Have you begun looking ahead to the next year homeschool year? I’d love to hear about what you are doing in the comments.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


How To Homeschool: What Is Child-Led Learning?

Welcome to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

When you were in school did you ever wish you could skip the “boring” parts and get to what you love? To pursue what you felt the most passionate about? Or at the very least be granted some say into what you studied? This is the basis of child-led learning.

The thing I love most about homeschooling is the freedom we have to choose our own path of study. While a more structured course of study might work for some, just as unschooling might work for others, we fall somewhere in the middle. Our school at home tends to be {mostly} child-led learning and we create much of our “curriculum” by following our current obsessions.  

To be clear, I do not advocate bypassing all parts of your child’s education they don’t jump for joy over. Face it, there will be aspects of one’s schooling that seem bland, unnecessary, or downright aggravating.

However, in most cases it is possible to take their interests into account when planning your homeschool year and teach in a way that works with their strengths.

Our school at home tends to be {mostly} child-led learning and we create much of our "curriculum" by following our current obsessions.  Click To Tweet
Open book with center pages in shape of a heart. Text reads: How to homeschool, what is child-led learning?

What Does Child-Led Learning Look Like In Practice?

In our secular homeschool, we have always taken a cooperative approach to learning. This has looked different over the years, but essentially it means the Agents have been involved in the planning process each step of the way.

Of course I have a general idea of the kinds of things I would like to introduce to the Agents. However, much of what we study each year is heavily influenced by their enthusiasm for potential topics.

When you plan your homeschool within a framework of child-led learning, it does not mean you necessarily need to hand over full rein to your students. Instead, it establishes a sense of cooperation from the beginning and encourages discussion before making any set plans.

How This Works for Different Ages

When you have younger students {say, kindergarten through about 3rd grade} much of what you cover past the basics is going to focus on exposure over mastery anyway, so you might as well be considering topics your students seem excited about. 

At this point, do not worry too much if the subjects they choose seem random or disjointed. Trust me, it is all learning and it will all work out.

As your students grow, you will likely find that they naturally narrow their interests. Some subjects will be hits and others misses. Remember there is no pressure and no critical timeline.

I realize our culture’s general “school” mentality has made us believe that if kids don’t do x by a certain age or grade, so they can do y by the next age or grade, failure is imminent.

Let me assure you: This is not true.

If you didn’t learn how to do something in school, does that mean you never will? If you didn’t take the “right” classes in high school and lack a college prerequisite, does that mean you are doomed to never attend any institute of higher education? Suppose you wanted to learn a new skill today. Would you be able to without formal instruction?

Child-led learning, which could also be called interest-led learning, is what we all do automatically as we age. We spend more time investigating things that interest us, and less time on things that don’t.

We quickly realize this may mean doing things we don’t particularly enjoy in order to reach our ultimate goal. For example, meeting a math credit requirement even if you plan to major in English.

However, because we have the freedom to pursue what really excites us, we generally accept this as necessary and it does not dampen our enjoyment.

Young girl sits by a tree near a body of water reading a book. Text reads: Is child-led learning right for my homeschool?

How Do I Know We Are Doing Enough?

One thing many folks early in their homeschooling journey often stress over is covering “everything.” Do you really think that a public or private school education covers literally “everything” a child needs to know? How would this even be possible, and what would this look like?

So how do I know we are doing “enough”? 

The truth is: I don’t.

While there will undoubtedly be certain knowledge gaps that will be discovered, it is impossible to predict in advance specifically what these might be. Of course, it’s always a good idea to cover the generalities: basic math, grammar and writing, reading comprehension, general science, history, etc.

However, as you continue along your path with child-led learning you will begin to notice that the “gaps” will begin to close on their own. Also, contrary to popular belief, it does not get more difficult to adhere to a child-led learning schedule as your homeschooler enters high school.

A popular question frequently asked of me back when we first started was, are you going to homeschool through high school? {Which, by the way, is a very bizarre and slightly intimidating query of a mother to a kindergartener, toddler, and baby. So maybe don’t?}

As if once a child reaches a certain arbitrary age this crazy experiment must end and I would need to step back and let them get a “real” education in a “real” school environment. Certainly this whole study-what-interests-you thing has to end at some point?

I hope you understand now that is not the case. We can continue to nurture our children’s interests {and our own} for the rest of our lives.

How does child-led learning look in your homeschool? What interests are you and your students currently following on your homeschooling journey? I invite you to share any comments you have, and I encourage you to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool series as well.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


Simple Science Experiments for Your Homeschool

I am not one of those cool homeschool moms who provides awesome hands-on fun every day. I am more of a thank-goodness-my-kids-like-reading-as-much-as-I-did-at-their-ages kind of homeschool mom. However, even I can manage to pull off these simple science experiments, which means you can, too.

While we’ve tried several “simple” science experiments over the years that resulted in epic fails, the following actually worked. For each one I’ve included supplies, directions, what {should} happen, and the basic explanation of the scientific principle it illustrates.

Splattering of colors on a light purple background. Text reads: Simple science experiments for your homeschool.

Naked Egg

What you need: raw egg, vinegar, glass {wide and deep enough for the egg to be completely covered}

What you do: Put the egg in the glass and pour vinegar over it until it submerged. Let it sit for 24 hours. Carefully change the vinegar, and let the egg sit for another 24-72 hours.

What happens: The egg shell disappears, leaving you with a translucent, yellowish membrane {and a slightly bigger, bouncier egg}.

What it illustrates: The acetic acid in the vinegar dissolves the calcium carbonate shell. Some vinegar also permeates the egg, increasing its size {osmosis}.

Even I can manage to pull off these simple science experiments, which means you can, too. Click To Tweet

Poofy Soap

What you need: fresh bar of original Ivory soap, wax paper, microwave

What you do: Lay the bar of soap on the wax paper in the microwave and “cook” for 60-90 seconds.

What happens: The molecules of air in the soap move away from each other and the soap “grows” into a big puffy cloud.

What it illustrates: Gases expand when heated. {Charles’s Law}

Crashing Colors

What you need: whole milk {yes, it has to be whole; you need the fat for this to work}, food coloring {liquid, not gel, in blue, yellow, and red}, shallow bowl, dishwashing liquid

What you do: Pour the milk in the bowl until it covers about one inch. Place a drop of each color of food coloring as far apart from each other as possible {making a triangle}. Do NOT mix or bump the bowl. Place a few drops of dishwashing liquid right in the center of the bowl.

What happens: The colors begin to move and swirl into each other.

What it illustrates: The detergent weakens the surface tension of the milk so the food color molecules are free to move around.

Floating Egg

What you need: 2 glasses, 2 eggs, water, salt, spoon

What you do: Fill both glasses with water. Add 3-4 spoonfuls of water to one of them. Carefully place an egg in each glass.

What happens: The egg in the plain water sinks to the bottom, but the egg in the salt water floats.

What it illustrates: The salt increases the density of the water, making it greater than the density of the egg, enabling the egg to float.

Oil and Water

What you need: empty water bottle, cup, water, cooking oil, food coloring

What you do: Fill the water bottle halfway with oil. Fill a separate cup with water and add a few drops of food coloring. Add the now-colored water to the bottle until it’s full. Cap tightly and turn the bottle upside down and side to side.

What happens: The oil and water mixtures stay separate, with the oil settling on top no matter what direction you turn the bottle.

What it illustrates: Oil and water molecules don’t mix, and oil has a lower density {hence why it “floats” on the water}.

Simple outline of an atom. Text reads: Fun science experiments for Kids.

Diffusing Colors

What you need: 2 same-size glasses, cold water, hot water, food coloring

What you do: Fill one glass with cold water and fill one glass with hot water. Add a drop of food coloring to each.

What happens: The food coloring moves through the hot water faster.

What it illustrates: Temperature affects the rate of diffusion.

Make Your Own Goo

What you need: shallow pan, cornstarch, water, food coloring {optional}

What you do: Add some cornstarch to the pan {maybe 1/2 cup to start}. Slowly add water {you’ll need less than half the amount of cornstarch} and mix. Add food coloring if desired.

What happens: As you manipulate it, the texture of the mixture seems to change from liquid to not quite solid and back again.

What it illustrates: Properties of a suspension {the cornstarch—a solid—is dispersed in the water—a liquid}.

Expanding Balloon

What you need: empty water bottle, funnel, vinegar, baking soda, balloon {not inflated}

What you do: Use the funnel to add approximately 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the balloon. Pour roughly 1/2 cup of vinegar into the bottle. Carefully turn the bottle to the side, and without letting the baking soda fall into the bottle, secure the balloon on top. Tilt the bottle back up to a standing position.

What happens: The balloon inflates.

What it illustrates: The baking soda {a base} and vinegar {an acid} react to produce the gas carbon dioxide, which expands and fills both the bottle and the balloon.

Card Trick

What you need: glass, water, card big enough to completely cover the opening of the glass {something thicker than paper but thinner than cardboard, like an oversized playing card or index card}

What you do: Fill the glass with water and place the card on top. Keeping your hand on top of the card, gently turn the glass over. Remove your hand from the card. 

What happens: The water stays in the glass. {Confession: I still do this one over the sink every time.}

What it illustrates: Air pressure—the pressure of the air outside the glass pushing up on the card is greater than the weight {pressure} of the water inside the glass pushing down.

Invisible Skin

What you need: cooking oil, running water, soap

What you do: Pour a little oil over your hands and massage it in well. Once your hands are coated, try rubbing your hands together under running water. Add soap and try rubbing them under running water again.

What happens: The water rolls right off your oily hands, but once you add the soap the oil comes off and your hands are clean.

What it illustrates: Oil and water molecules don’t mix, but the soap molecules are attracted to both.

Flying Tennis Ball

What you need: a basketball, a tennis ball, an outside location with a hard surface that is free of obstacles

What you do: Stand holding the basketball with tennis ball centered on top of it and release both together.  

What happens: The basketball bounces a little, but the tennis ball flies way up into the air.

What it illustrates: Energy transfer—the kinetic energy in the basketball is transferred to the tennis ball.

Have you tried any of these simple science experiments? Do you have any more to suggest that you and your kids have enjoyed?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


Surprising Benefits of Homeschooling

When you first considered homeschooling, you may have approached the idea from an academic standpoint: How will I teach them? What materials will we use? How will we structure our days? However, most homeschoolers eventually learn the many “surprising” benefits of homeschooling.

We began our homeschool journey back in 2011 when Agent E would have been starting kindergarten. At the time it was mainly a practical consideration: We wanted to do more traveling that year {our last months living in Italy} than the school found acceptable for “unexcused absences.”

I assumed it would be a one-year gig and she would start first grade the following year when we moved. Little did we know at the time it would turn into a lifestyle for our entire family. 

Outline of a purple and blue house. Text reads: Surprising benefits of homeschooling.

Following are just some of the surprising benefits of homeschooling we discovered after we had been at it for a while and found our groove.

Most homeschoolers eventually learn the many “surprising” benefits of homeschooling. Click To Tweet

20 Surprising Benefits of Homeschooling {You May Not Have Considered}

1. Relaxed mornings {no morning rush out the door or school drop off}

2. Relaxed afternoons {no worries about being back out the door at a particular time for school pick up}

3. Weather forecasts no longer faze us {rainy day or impending snowstorm? simply adjust plans as needed}

4. Making our own calendar {without regard to school breaks}

5. Traveling during the off-season {Disney World in October, anyone?}

6. School work take surprisingly little time {in the younger grades especially}

7. More time for reading {literally hundreds of books logged each year}

8. Go to bed when tired and get up when rested {no alarm clocks; everyone can find their own rhythms}

9. Illness no longer consumes us {not having to choose between dragging the sick one out or having a healthy one miss school}

10. Extra opportunities for sibling bonding {they still make each other crazy sometimes}

Close up of a young girl completing written work using a red pencil; other pencils and an eraser sit on the desk beside here. Text reads: 20 Benefits of homeschooling you may not have considered.

11. Kids can be kids {more time to play or simply do nothing}

12. No homework stress {for kids or parents}

13. Spending more time with parents {for us this means we can work around Hubby’s often crazy schedule}

14. Learning alongside your kids {this part is more fun than I anticipated}

15. Getting to re-read All The Books {hello, books}

16. Lots of extra outside time {in the middle of the day if we want}

17. Lesson planning is fun {if you’re a geek who likes that sort of thing}

18. No summer slide loss of skills {when you homeschool year round}

19. No worries about how to keep the kids occupied during school breaks {just business as usual around here}

20. Time to follow any rabbit holes we want when it comes to learning {we do this a lot}

What other surprising benefits of homeschooling have you discovered?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


How Do You Know If You Are Ready To Let Go of Your Faith?

When do you cross the line from believer to non-believer? At what point can you put a label on your new feelings and identity? How do you know if you are ready to let go of your faith?

For me personally—as I suspect is the case for most—it was a long and challenging process. As your thoughts continue to evolve, you might hesitate to say too much for fear your ideas will be dismissed by well-meaning friends and family. So you end up doing a lot of exploration on your own, feeling no one truly understands how agonizing it can be to confront your doubts head on.

Woman with dark hair in a sleeveless long white dress stands at the edge of the shore looking out at the water. Text reads: How do you know if you are ready to let go of your faith?

In spite of what some might imagine, it’s usually not a dramatic, earth-shattering moment that leads someone out of their faith. Often it is just quiet reflection or mundane daily activities that gently guide you right out the door. Once you make it outside, you realize this is where you belong. 

You end up doing a lot of exploration on your own, feeling no one truly understands how agonizing it can be to confront your doubts head on. Click To Tweet

If I had to narrow it down, two primary factors sparked my journey into non-belief: finally being able to admit my own unhappiness with my worldview, and homeschooling curious children who expected real answers not platitudes. After a brief introduction, I will address both of these in detail. 

Why Do I Bother Talking About This?

I share my non-belief journey on this blog is to let others who struggle with questions know they are not alone

You may not be ready to let go of your faith—or maybe you are. I am not here to judge or to sway you one way or the other. I am just here to provide perspective and solidarity. If even one person can relate to and be comforted by something I have written, it is worth it.

Writing also allows me to process my own thoughts, which in turn helps me to parent my own children as they navigate the predominantly religious-leaning world they live in. So to some extent I write so I can better support them.

A Little Side Story

One summer at a family picnic, a relative my kids had never even met walked up to us and the first words out of his mouth—before he so much as knew any of their names—were to ask them if they knew Jesus. As in, he saw they were our kids, made the usual assumptions about our religious beliefs, and felt totally justified in evangelizing them right there next to the potato salad.

At the time I still identified as a Christian, so while I probably found it odd and rolled my eyes a little, I didn’t say anything. Would I react differently now? Honestly, I don’t know. 

However, I do not want my children to feel uneasy in these situations {like I always did} because they are afraid of ruffling feathers. I want them to know it’s okay to say no, thank you, I am not interested in hearing about that right now when it happens again. Because I can guarantee it will. 

I want to help them find their voice. That is why I speak up even when it is uncomfortable. Even when I know someone will read this and judge me {and them} for it. Someone always does. 

When Your Default No Longer Fits

Christianity dominated my mindset for most of my life. I grew up in an area where Christianity {specifically, Roman Catholicism} was widespread. My extended family and friends impressed upon me this was the correct way to understand the world, and I believed it because it was all I ever knew.

I must be a Christian. I had to be a Christian. I was baptized, confirmed, and took communion regularly for years. I went to Catholic church until college. As an adult, I attended various Christian congregations, organized Bible studies, and joined prayer circles. I said marriage vows in a church and later baptized three children in the same church. 

It was absolutely my default programming. I didn’t look for anything else. I had no reason to. I was Super Duper Jesus-y. Or so I thought. 

I credited God/Jesus for every little occurrence and told people to have a blessed day and said corny things like God’s timing is perfect. I read the Bible every day. {Even when I didn’t feel like it. Looking back now I’m just like, why? What did I think would happen if I didn’t?}

I nodded along to my Christian friends’ prayer requests and touching God-stories. I listened to Christian rock music for crying out loud.

The truth is, however, something about my dedication always seemed off. I laughed and cried at the correct times, and played the role felt I had been given, but I never belonged. Maybe some seed of uncertainty always lingered. Perhaps I should have recognized it sooner.

Some might be reading this and assert, aha! that means you were never a True Christian to begin with! And if that is the message you want to take from this, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time an ex-believer had someone dismiss their experiences in this way.

Regardless, I realized this wasn’t me. It began to feel forced. I started to think of my “faith” in terms of what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. But I honestly had no idea how I could make things better. Leaving my faith altogether—the horror—was still not even on my radar. 

I blamed the ambivalent feelings I had over the years on a number of things: 

I’m too young, I’m too old, my Catholic upbringing, college rebellion, bad past relationships, not finding the right church, not finding the right Bible study, not finding the right friends, not having sufficient roots, being upset over my father’s death, not being grateful enough, not being strong enough, not wanting it badly enough.

It never occurred to me that maybe it is just wrong. Maybe this is just not who I am. 

I honestly had no idea how I could make things better. Leaving my faith altogether—the horror—was still not even on my radar.  Click To Tweet

When I finally admitted that I could still be me without Him, the burden of not being “good enough” dissipated. For the first time I began to believe my existence had meaning beyond belief. 

Lily pad and flower floating in the water, which has a purple hue. Text reads: Losing your faith, how do you know it's time to let go for good?

The Role Homeschooling Played

Unlike a lot of homeschoolers, we have always taken a secular approach. Even as a Christian, I never wanted our faith and our home education to overlap. We used only secular materials, and kept religion and church as completely separate entities.

Still, we wanted to investigate religious faiths as a homeschool subject, from an academic perspective. The school year we began this, it was very early in my own “evolution” so to speak. At the time I had only recently realized I no longer identified as a Christian. I had not yet admitted this to another soul. I was not very confident in my ability to “teach” anything about religion. But I decided I could learn alongside my kids.

I should clarify that even before my doubts surfaced, I knew I needed to give my children the opportunity to figure this all out for themselves. I did not want them to be exposed to one faith because I decided when they were infants that we should go to this place, read this book, and practice these rituals. I did not want them to simply follow along with me {not that I’d be a great tour guide}. 

I knew I could not simply push my version of God or religion on them at an age when they still believed everything I said. Because if I told them, hey from now on we’re going to go to only this type of church and pray only this way and read only these stories because they are right and nothing else is, they would say, okay. And that’s not what I wanted for them.

At this point, we had been on again/off again church goers for years. So they didn’t have a clear reference point as far as “religious studies” from a specific denomination or church family. It never occurred to me that the reason we had so much trouble finding a place that felt like “home” is that we were looking for something we didn’t need to find.

We first began studying world religions in our homeschool when my oldest two were nine and seven. We shied away from nothing {despite my initial reluctance} and discussed complex concepts from the start—the afterlife, how different people believe different things about the world, why we are here, and what happens when we die

I knew I could not simply push my version of God or religion on them at an age when they still believed everything I said. Click To Tweet

My kids were absolutely floored when they learned that many folks truly, honestly believe that their way—their religion, their view—is the only right one. That if you don’t follow the one, perfect, exclusive way you’re out of the club. 

Considering the number of people on the planet, and the number of diverse world views, it made no sense to them that anyone could claim to know the single, correct way to interpret God. 

In 4th and 2nd grade, they already figured out something many people never do: Thinking any one person or group knows the only true way—and everything else is a myth—is foolish at best. 

This was mind blowing for me, because it was truly the first time I really saw it in that exact light. Having to explain religious views to a couple of curious elementary students stopped me in my tracks. Saying it out loud and seeing their reactions enlightened me in a whole new way. Suddenly “this is the way we’ve always done it” seemed like a ridiculous reason. 

After a bit more chatting they somewhat timidly asked me what religion they were. I told them they’d have to decide for themselves. 

Then the asked me what religion I am. I had to tell them I didn’t know. Because at the time, I truly didn’t.

Of course, back then I still believed in capital-G God. Not in a magical, superhero, wish-granter God, but more of an omnipresent spiritual life force. I assumed the presence of a divine element “out there” whose understanding is likely beyond our limited humanness. 

It had not yet occurred to me that not believing was even an option. It seems absurd to say now—I mean, of course it is an option. But back then the idea completely escaped me. 

As time went on, and we researched more beliefs and read more stories {which they quickly discovered all vaguely sound the same} it became clear that we were all heading in the same direction. 

I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but one day we were finishing up a book or a story and one of them looked at me and asked, what is it called again when you don’t think any of it is true? I think I’m that. They were not sad about this. They were relieved to have a word to identify their feelings.

What About the Little One?

Interestingly, my youngest child—four, almost five, at the time the older two kids and I started pursuing religious education more intently—never had any doubts or confusion when it came to his own views. 

He had never been indoctrinated into a particular religious world view, so he had no reason to think any of them were more “right” than the others.

Unlike his sisters, he had no memory of “going to church” or hearing about God or Jesus or Christianity or any other religious dogma. He simply sat with us and listened to a wide variety of world mythologies with interest. When I asked him if he thought any of them were true, he looked at me like I had truly lost my mind. 

What is it called again when you don’t think any of it is true? I think I’m that. Click To Tweet

It was blatantly obvious to my pre-K student that these tales were fictitious. No one had ever tried to convince him of their realism, and so he took them at face value. He knew what sounded true and what sounded imaginary. These definitely sounded “like someone just made them up for fun.”

Of course as he got older and participated more in our discussions, we talked about how many of the people were likely real historical figures, but the mythology had been retold many, many times—like a long game of telephone. This made sense to him. 

What was more difficult to explain was why so many people still believe these stories to be absolutely true.

What Specifically “Flipped the Switch” For Me?

The truth is, nothing. And everything. Some combination of all of the above, I guess.

I have written previously about the exact church service during which I realized my relationship with Jesus was over, as well as a very memorable tearful incident I consider the beginning of the end

However, these moments were only two of many that I chose to write about; there were numerous other examples of uncertainty. Most are just vague recollections without great distinctions, just one part of a huge puzzle.

I honestly cannot pinpoint the exact moment my faith in any god—not just the Christian god—completely dissipated. The moment when you are ready to let go of your faith will be different for everyone. You might not even recognize it at the time. Or you might walk right up to the precipice and turn back around.

Wherever you may be in the process, remember you are not alone.

What Do I Call Myself Now?

The reason I use the descriptor “nice atheist” in my tagline is very intentional. People are typically surprised when they find out I do not follow any religion or believe in any gods. But you’re so nice! Cognitive dissonance definitely at play here. 

I admit I used to be incredibly uneasy about the term atheist. Of course, atheism literally just means without theism. Yet, you and I both know what kinds of connotations it carries. 

Consider this my tiny contribution to normalizing it. I hope that when folks come here and see these words under my blog title, they either react with a chuckle or with curiosity. 

And then I hope they continue reading, maybe questioning a few stereotypes in the process.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


How To Create a Realistic Routine for Homeschooling

Welcome to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Wondering how to create a realistic routine for homeschooling? Worrying your kids might not be doing enough academic work? Looking for reassurance that you will find your groove and it won’t always be this hard?

A previous post {Developing a Framework For Your Days} addressed overall plans such as determining a calendar for the year, daily work requirements, and the level of independence expected from your student{s}. 

This post will explore more specifically what you need to do day-to-day to create a realistic routine for homeschooling your children.

Open book with two pages wrapped into the shape of a heart. Text reads: How to homeschool, creating a realistic routine

Let Go of the School Day Mindset

Honestly, even with the best laid plans it will take you a while to feel comfortable with your approach to homeschooling. There is no “right way” to plan your days. Even when you feel like you have it all down, life happens and things go awry. We have been educating at home for nearly nine years now, and we still periodically change up the way we do things. 

However, I can assure you of this:
Homeschooling will take way less time than you think.

Seriously, do not worry that you need to account for 6-7 hours of academics each day. Structured learning might be 1-4 hours total depending on the ages of your kids. Maybe an hour or two a day for elementary, two or three hours for middle school, and perhaps a bit more if you have an older student doing significant independent work.

Remember, it will take much less time to finish everything once you lose the distractions of homeroom, lockers, dozens of other students, chatting, cafeteria drama, transitions between classes, etc. Teaching a few kids one-on-one is nothing at all like teaching a classroom full of students. 

I can assure you of this: Homeschooling will take way less time than you think. Click To Tweet

Your days will include a lot more free time, and this can be both a blessing and a curse. At first you may feel your students are “wasting” the day or “not doing enough”—especially if they are coming from a public school environment where most of their activities are planned out in detail.

If you feel that you must have a more specific schedule to function, consider dividing your day into blocks. Perhaps block out an hour for “every day” subjects like math and reading, then another block for rotating subjects like science and history. Have a certain time of day for independent reading or music practice or art. Put lunch and recess on the calendar as separate blocks as well. 

This is often a good compromise for first-time homeschoolers who feel they need to follow more of a set plan. In my experience, however, the longer one homeschools, the easier it is to let go of preconceived notions of scheduling and “shoulds.”

I am sure this is also why so many veteran homeschoolers recommend deschooling.

What Our Daily Routine Looks Like

Everyone’s ideal homeschooling day will look different. Keep in mind that being able to create a realistic routine for homeschooling will take some time and a bit of trial and error. If you struggle with what to do next, perhaps taking a look at our current routine will spark some ideas. 

Following is what we typically do on a weekday when we have no outside commitments. This is what our daily routine looks like right now with an 8th, 6th, and 3rd grader. Times are approximate, but very rarely change by more than 15 minutes either direction.

{On days we go out—whether that be to pick up library books, for appointments and errands, or simply meeting homeschool friends at the bookstore or park—we generally do so in the morning and follow an adjusted “afternoon school” schedule.}

Keep in mind that being able to create a realistic routine for homeschooling will take some time and a bit of trial and error. Click To Tweet

I should also note here that of course I am doing chores and blogging and cooking and keeping the household running throughout the day as well. But, for purposes of this post I am primarily focused on what the Agents do with their time.

{5:00+} Wake Up

On any given day I am likely downstairs making coffee and feeding the cat no later than 5:30. The Agents wake up whenever they are ready. All three are almost always awake by 8:00, often much earlier. We do not have a set wake time or use alarms.

Prior to our first meal of the day, everyone is pretty much doing their own thing {reading, phone/computer time, drawing, playing, etc.}.

{8:45} Breakfast and Getting Ready

After we eat, everyone brushes their teeth and gets dressed. Agent E often practice an instrument or works on a sewing project while the younger Agents play.

{10:15} Start School

We start our homeschool day with some brief stretching/yoga. Then we do “table work”—mostly math and language arts written work with some geography or science puzzles, experiments, or other workbooks thrown in. 

Everyone works together at the kitchen table and I am available to assist as needed. I don’t lecture or share “lessons” or “teach” them per se. I am just there to help guide as they work through most things themselves. 

{12:00} Lunch and Break 

Sometimes we start lunch a little later if morning school time runs over. Usually all three kids head upstairs and entertain themselves for a bit afterward. 

{1:15} Reading Together

We follow a loop schedule, which simply means we have a shelf of books we’re in the middle of and we rotate through them. We choose whatever is next in the rotation, read aloud, and discuss as needed. Then we move it to the end, and start the next one. We cover a variety of subjects, including but not limited to science, American and world history, mythology, world religions, health, and art.

{2:30} Free Time

We usually go outside {weather permitting} for at least an hour, often longer. If it is too cold or raining, the Agents might read, message friends, complete an art project, or some other indoor activity.

Pink highlighter checking off boxes on a blank checklist. Text reads: How to create a realistic routine for homeschooling.

{4:45} Dinner 

Yes, we eat dinner very early. We don’t snack during the day, so everyone is super hungry by late afternoon.

{5:30} Free Time

This could be more outside time {depending on time of year and weather permitting}. If not, the younger two Agents will read or color or play together while the oldest reads, listens to music, or works on more sewing.

{6:15} Showers

Everyone likes to be bathed and in their pajamas early. Contrary to what you may have heard about homeschoolers, unless someone is ill, we do get dressed in real clothes every day. 

{7:00} Watch TV

Evening is the only time the television is on. We don’t have cable {so we are not checking local news or weather during the day} and we don’t like background noise. We thoroughly enjoy this time planted on the couch together. 

Although sometimes our viewing is educational—we love a good David Attenborough documentary—lately we’ve been binge watching Clone Wars and We Bare Bears. Snacks are frequently involved.

{8:45} Bed

Everyone {kids, adults, and cat} goes upstairs to get ready for bed somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45. Very early by some standards, I know. But we all wake up early and prefer our quiet, alone time to be in the morning.

But . . . It Can’t Be That Simple. Can It?

Actually, it can and it is. We all learn new things every day. But, we also spend a great deal of our time on individual pursuits and simply relaxing and enjoying life. We don’t feel that we need to fill our days being busy for the sake of busy-ness. 

Hopefully seeing the example of our daily plan will assist you with how to create a realistic routine for homeschooling that works for your family. 

Are you new to homeschooling? I would love to hear how things are going for you, so leave a comment. I encourage you to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool series as well. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.


Studying Major World Religions in Your Secular Homeschool

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Even if you are homeschooling from a secular perspective—perhaps especially if you are homeschooling from a secular perspective—your students will benefit from studying major world religions. 

Learning about other cultures and worldviews increases empathy. One does not need to believe the stories to be true to gain wisdom from them.

Of course, there are so many different doctrines it would be impossible include them all. For this post I will focus on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. 

{You may also want to check out Why Everyone Should Study World Religions.}

Lit light blue candles arranged in a wooden box. Text reads: Studying major world religions in your secular homeschool.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Overview and Common Questions

The Kids Book of World Religions 
Really Big Questions About God, Faith, and Religion 
What Do You Believe? 

If you need a more general introduction to belief systems and want to learn some basics about the major faiths currently practiced today, these books would be a good start. Most tend to emphasize the six world religions primarily addressed in this post, but they include information on others as well. 

Learning about other cultures and worldviews increases empathy. One does not need to believe the stories to be true to gain wisdom from them. Click To Tweet

Familiar Stories

Traditional Religious Tales: Buddhist Stories 
Traditional Religious Tales: Christian Stories 
Traditional Religious Tales: Hindu Stories
Traditional Religious Tales: Islamic Stories 
Traditional Religious Tales: Jewish Stories
Traditional Religious Tales: Sikh Stories 

This series from Anita Ganeri quickly became one of our favorites. I love that she presents the stories without giving more “weight” to a particular set of tales. I have found it to be quite common in many world religions books for kids—even ones that purport to be completely secular—that the Christian stories come across with more authority, intentionally or not. You will not find that here. These books perfectly introduce the various mythologies without bias.

Long bookshelf that seems to fade into the distance with hanging lights in front of it. Text reads: Talking about world religions with kids, suggested readings.

Through the Eyes of a Child 

This Is My Faith: Buddhism 
This Is My Faith: Christianity 
This Is My Faith: Hinduism 
This Is My Faith: Islam
This Is My Faith: Judaism 
This Is My Faith: Sikhism 

This series by Holly Wallace discusses the main rituals and practices of different religions as told by a young child {around ten years old} being brought up in that faith.

Key Religious Figures

Buddha Stories 
The Dalai Lama 
The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna 
St. Francis of Assisi 

This is a sample of works by the author Demi. The illustrations are amazing and the information provided is thorough. We have also enjoyed her books about historical figures and folktale retellings.

Festivals and Celebrations

Buddhist Festivals Throughout the Year 
Christian Festivals Throughout the Year 
Hindu Festivals Throughout the Year 
Jewish Festivals Throughout the Year 
Muslim Festivals Throughout the Year 
Sikh Festivals Throughout the Year 

Another series by Anita Ganeri we have enjoyed. These texts include information about holidays, rituals, prayers, songs, and more.

Who Was Books

Who Is the Dalai Lama? 
Who Is Pope Francis?
Who Was Jesus? 
Where Is the Taj Mahal? 
Where Is the Vatican? 
What Are the Ten Commandments? 

These books are always a hit around here. As with most of the series, the reading level is mid to late elementary school, but my middle schoolers still enjoy them. 

{Did you know they also offer lesson plans as well?}

I would love to know what other resources you have used when studying major world religions in your homeschool. Leave any suggestions you have in the comments. And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

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