Tuesday, August 26, 2014



     Please stop all tasks and take heed! Please step away from the google search of every method and mindset. Drop the debit/credit cards and do not buy another piece of curriculum. Put the home schedule revision # 7 back in the cabinet. Stop laying awake at night in a panic as you revisit all the details of what needs to be done. Erase the plans you have drawn out to ban all co-ops due to resentment that you can't leave your children there while you get things done. Ignore all fears that you can't do this.

     Go ahead and cry. Let out your emotions. Scream out "I AM OVERWHELMED" at the top of your lungs in front of all your neighbors and friends if need be. Write your nay-sayers and acknowledge you know they don't think you can do this. Admit to your spouse that, although you do love the children, you have repeated thoughts of the old days where children were sent off to boarding school...and seemed to turn out fine, right? Right?

     You are not alone. This is universal! It's called "BACK TO SCHOOL". Also known as "the time of the year when mothers are trying to do what they feel is right for their family but it's hard and overwhelming and mindboggling and you second guess if just putting them on the bus wouldn't be such a bad idea after all..."

     Take a deep breath and repeat after me "IT IS OKAY. ALL HOMESCHOOL MOTHERS FEEL THIS.(Yes, I mean 100%. I mean, I haven't taken an international survey but I just know). I AM NOT ALONE. THIS IS NORMAL. NOTHING WORTH HAVING IS CHEAP. THIS IS COSTING ME SOMETHING BUT IT'S WORTH IT. I TRULY WANT THIS (If you can't say that one with confidence just go ahead and say it in faith.) IF GOD WANTS THIS FOR ME THEN I CAN DO IT! YES, THIS IS HARD BUT IT'S NOT THE FIRST THING I HAVE CONQUERED! I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT WITH GOD'S HELP!"

     Now then. How are you? Still second guessing yourself? Wondering how all this works? Think God picked the wrong family? In all seriousness, it's okay. I believe those who have gone before you have been there. I am in my 7th year of homeschooling and I feel this way every year we start. Even more so, sometimes I feel this in the middle of the year. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That doesn't mean I should give up. And you shouldn't either.

     "If God is for you, who can be against you?" Romans 8:31. No matter how you feel or what you are facing with the school year, you have nothing to worry about. Fighting for what you know God has for you isn't easy but He is with you. He is the One Who will give you supernatural guidance on what to do and what not to do as well as the when, how, and why answers. He is the source of life physically but also mentally as you make your way through the maze.

     There is peace. There is clarity. There is favor. There is wisdom. There is patience. There is joy. All of these are readily available to you from the Lord. I have personally experienced them all in my life with schooling my girls. There comes a point where you will settle in and get in a groove. It may take time (for some, lots of time...as in years) but you will with God's help.

     My first year I was a professional researcher spending most of my time meeting with ladies and asking questions but it did end up helping . My second year I revamped all I had tried the first year and felt better. My third year I realized a person doesn't need to buy a lot of extra bells and whistles to teach, so that saved money. My fourth year I accepted that maybe I do need a co-op, which relieved stress. My fifth year I admitted that teaching a true ADHD child was difficult so investing in a tutor didn't mean I was a failure. My sixth year I was clueless on the new English curriculum despite my college degree, so I worked as hard as my 4th grader only to discover we knew what we were doing by the second semester. My seventh year I realized how fast the years are going so I need to stay focused. And now we will begin our new year of school in about a week or two. But Every year gets better! I am loving it because I know there are challenges but God is for me and always, always, always helps me.

     As we have taken this journey, I have grown tremendously in my walk with the Lord. The challenges have caused me to truly seek Him. We have not regretted our decision to home educate. We understand it's not for all families and yet feel blessed it is for us. The results of our endurance and hard work has paid off 10x over in more areas than we could have imagined.

     So, as we end this emergency interruption...just know, you are okay, dear friend. God is with you.

     BEEP BEEP BEEP ... we now return to our regular scheduled life of adventure!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Parenting Teens Back to School

    The excitement I had for going back to school changed dramatically after elementary. The joys of a new lunch box, meeting my teacher, discovering how much recess time was allotted and hoping friends noticed that I had lost a baby tooth were soon replaced by thoughts in the mind of a blossoming teenager. I looked forward to the status of being in an older grade, the fun of electives, seeing friends every day, and showing the world how much I had matured through the summer. But I also had other no-so-exciting emotions. I wondered if my clothes would be cool enough, what classes to take for college preparation, how to manage the endless social dramas, and if I was going to make the JV or Varsity basketball team. Back to school had certainly changed.

     Certainly, if you are in the midst of raising a teen, then you know students are the only ones feeling the change. What used to be a fun trip hand-in-hand to Wal-Mart for a pack of d├ęcor pencils has turned into a Mall trip with much discussion of what is or isn’t allowed. It’s a time of change for the parents as much as the student. So what are some insights into making the best of school preparation with your teenage child?
1. Keep It Fun! Teens are still tender at heart! While they long to be grown, there are parts that are still enjoying childhood joys.  So, create a celebration of the back to school days! Make a countdown chart in the kitchen, take them for a fresh haircut, leave a note of funny things you remember from being their age and/or hopes you have them this year. Some more ideas are to visit the school before it starts just to say hello to staff for a pre-school connection, make shopping day fun by planning out what is needed and the best places to look then enjoy stopping for a treat as you chat about how your child feels about the year, or have some close friends over for a back to school hang out time or dinner out. Their tender teen hearts may or may not express how much all this means but they will enjoy, appreciate, and remember all you have done.

2. Keep It Simple! With all the changes during those teen years, simplicity is a gift that some teens aren’t sure how to acquire. Everywhere they go, there are options and decisions for them to be involved in something. Whether it’s more classes, afterschool clubs, sports, church activities, community events, friendships, homework, home jobs or even a workplace job, there is much to be done! If you can help them narrow down their choices and responsibilities with logical reasoning it will help them not be overwhelmed. Think through their natural abilities, personal interest (not just because someone else wants them to do it), weekly schedule, daily schedule, cost, responsibilities and necessity to do what is offered. As you move through a time of investigation and discussion, you will both learn what will be the best for all involved. This will keep things simple which helps the teen and the whole family.  

3. Keep It Close! While these years are a time to offer more freedom and growth, this is also a critical time to stay close to their heart. They may or may not seem interested or may not be home as much but they do still need you! It will take some planning and patience on your part but keeping them close is a must. As you go into the school year, have a conversation about your love for them and desire to stay connected. Then go into the fall with plans for meals as a family, set weeknight or weekend outings, leave notes of encouragement as well as be willing to stay up for those late-night chat times, attend their activities, create time to know their friends, and do whatever it takes to get into their world. In return, having a close relationship that makes an effort to be together gives more opportunity to discuss the realities of teen pressures, friend issues, personal struggles, and deeper emotions. Going into the school year with the support of a parent that works to stay close gives incredible stability for the developing teen and endless rewards for you as the parent!

  These days may be different than years before but it can be a meaningful and enjoyable time in the journey of parenting as your teen goes back to school!

 *Article used as published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine August 2014  by Casey Gibbons

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Goals for Ages 3-5 yrs old.

          When we had the first four children in four years, my mind was always racing to remember which child needed to learn what thing. It was mindboggling to keep track only to realize one had not learned something they should have by a certain point. With all the training and teaching going on, I was just happy they were fed and clean by the end of most days. But there is more that needs to be learned in those first five years.

      So as some of you have asked, we are sharing the list of important things we wanted our girls to know and do between the ages of 3-5. This list allowed me to keep track of where each girl was and who needed to learn other things. 

     They are divided into 5 Categories that we implement every day for some through guided life learning and other days when we do "school time" which is approximately 3-4 days a week. 

 All these goals can be taught through basic simple teaching, games, books, dvds, car rides, Cds, and lots of talking. Plus, depending on when you start kindergarten, you have two to three years to teach it all so that takes the stress off of cramming it in their little heads in a year.

      On that noteconsider starting kindergarten as close to age 6 as possible. I say this for a couple of crucial reasons. First, when they enter kindergarten closer to age 6 they have had more time to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

     When they are on the "older side" of kids in the class they can have the experience of leadership to the classmates because they are ahead. Just think of the joy of being one of the first kindergarten kids to lose a tooth, or to be a fifth grader with cool braces, a junior high sports boy with a year ahead in height and strength, a mature freshman girl that is out of the awkward stage, or being one of the first friends to drive and have a job. In addition, their hearts have had time to grow in the Lord and they are able to make solid decisions with wisdom and knowledge that time gives.

     Secondly, when you start later, the child is home longer on the back end of high school before leaving for work, college, or marriage. A year can make a difference when entering the adult world. And by those years we want every second we can get with our kids before they are grown and gone!

     Although a child may be ready for kindergarten schoolwork that doesn't mean you have to send them. Go ahead and have them do some older work at home but consider waiting to place them in kindergarten at church class or school class until closer to age 6. This is a precious time to bond and enjoy a stage with your child as much as possible. Honestly, I would rather have my toddlers go to preschool a few times a week than my 5-6 year olds leave. They are easier and so much fun to do everyday life with by the time they are out of the "I walk around and get into stuff in dangerous ways" stage!

     And if you have already started your little one and this info is too late, perhaps the Lord will lead you to make the courageous decision to hold your child back a year to repeat or to just take a year off. My mom had to make this choice with my brother when he was in the second grade. He turned 7 in September and started second grade but she felt it was best to hold him back. He thrived socially and academically far better than the year before which kept on through his high school years.

     For us, our Allison turned 6 in June and we started her in Kindergarten then. She will be 7 in June and starting first grade more mature than those younger students entering that are perhaps just turning 6.

     Just something to think about but God will lead you for what your child needs and it may be different.

     So, back to some ideas to follow as you guide your 3-5 year olds. Here is what we have researched and used in our children: 

1. God -
His love for us, He does good, and He is good. You can learn these through Bible stories (read from Story Bible book, Dan and Louie Cds), prayer (for anything, anytime, anywhere) and scripture memory. (Steve Green's Hide 'Em in My Heart Cds or otherwise)

2. Others - Receiving love, showing love, manners such as personal hygeine, phone skills, doorbell responses, key phrases (thank you, bless you, you're welcome, please), how to behave in quiet settings (such as weddings, meetings, church). 

3. Play -
Lots of open imagination time, some directed time, playing with others

4. Work -
Why we work (to carry out God's purposes on earth) and how we work (with excellence unto the Lord)

5. Education - Safety Skills (calling 911, what to do when lost, water safety, strangers), 7 Keys to Health (Water, Rest, Exercise, Vitamins, Healthy food, Massage, and Clean Hands away from the face), Personal Information (names of family members, phone numbers, address), Colors, Shapes, Letters  Counting to 100, Parts of the Body, Handwriting (letter formation, name, upper and lower case, keeping it in a straight line, and spacing), Calendars (days, months, seasons), Workbook Pages (fun books from local store with some cognitive work pages).

          This is a list to plan for and give guidance but don't stress when its not all done perfectly. If you do a bit by bit over the 3,4,5 years it will all come together! I hope that this list is a help to you as you lead your little ones in the way and timing the Lord tells you is best for your family!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finishing Summer Strong with Your Children

      It’s here! Summer celebrations are well under way! Sunshine, vacations, camps, swimming, and family memories have taken the place of school and extra-curricular activities. This time of the year is a unique time of having fun and having free-time for a child. But did you know this can also be a time to make progress in some unique and valuable areas of your child’s life? The weeks of summer can be an ideal for investing in the minds and hearts of your children in ways that the rest of the year may not allow.

               It seems for our family, there isn’t time to do some of the meaningful things we want to do throughout the year that I know my children need. So, I decided we would use the summer to do some things the rest of the year doesn’t allow for due to time. In addition, children are more open to doing things together in summer as there aren’t as many distractions from outside obligations and school needs that crowd their minds.

As you plan out the next 6 weeks or so of your child’s break, consider utilizing time during each day or at least a few times a week to do things that build the child internally. Move into a purpose-driven mindset that makes the best of the extra hours available. These days are gifts to parents as the children are looking for places and people to put their time and energy. This is a unique window of opportunity to guide them in fun yet productive activities. Plus, a bonus is that is can also help alleviate summer-time boredom that can lend itself to whiny, lazy, fussy kids that can get into mischief. (Not your kids, of course, but perhaps some kids you know?!)

               There may only be one or two things you will want to choose but if you do that over the years of summer time, by the age the kids leave home you would have accomplished much! The point is to choose things that make the most of the time given.

  1. Choose one book to read aloud and discuss what can be learned from it. Or have the children read on their own and tell you about it over dinner or during a car ride. The important thing is to choose a book that instills values or principles that benefit the child.  
  2. Plant a garden. Even wildflowers can be fun to grow if other flowers or food seems like too much to handle. A garden can teach the value of living things, patience, nurture, and the celebration of growth from something small to full maturity.
  3. Take a morning or evening walk. Listen to nature, stop and take note of neighbors you haven’t had time to interact with, or just chat casually as things come up. For those with little ones, use the stroller so you aren’t in work-mode as you chase tiny tricycles or carry toddlers.
  4. Learn a foreign language. Since there aren’t other subjects filling their minds or calling for homework, a new language or adding to one each summer can be fun for kids, especially if you use the right program or app.
  5. Write letters to relatives or distant friends. Perhaps there are grandparents or great-aunts and uncles, or former school friends and neighbors that don’t get time to see your child that would enjoy a handwritten, personalized card in the mail.
  6. Volunteer at a local organization that could use some help or encouragement. This could be as simple as asking your church, community center or foster care organization if they need any  help with a one-time project or as committed as having your teen assist weekly with a family of many children just to give the mom a breather without having to pay.
  7. Teach homemaking. Most kids know how to unload a dish washer or sweep a floor, but what about teaching (or perhaps learning together) how to build a shelf, organize a garage, change the oil, balance a checkbook, paint a room, sew a button, cook a new meal, or prepare for a yard sale ect. Most likely as parents we would do these on our own but kids and teens would enjoy learning these type things and will be able to use the skills later in life. 
  8. Nurture a new pet. Having a pet can be enjoyable to watch as well as teach responsibility. It could be as easy as a fish (our personal favorite) or as engaging as a new puppy. The summer allows for time to learn how to handle the new addition and set some habits of care into place before school starts back.
  9. Invest in others. All around us there are people who are in need of a caring relationship. Whether it’s a sick neighbor, an elderly person at the nursing home, a special-needs child from school, a family that just moved to town, a young mom with a new baby, or a foster teenager that is aging out of the system, taking time to call, enjoy a meal, give a gift, run errands or take somewhere can be just the encouragement they need. Summer is a wonderful season for relationships.  
  10. Build Character. The relaxed times of summer can lead to some of the greatest conversations about decision-making, friends, media, life direction, sibling love, peer pressure ect. There may even be some personal goals such as boundaries with food, being mature in proper settings, talking with an “inside voice”, building self-esteem or other skills that your child needs to learn but there hasn’t been the opportunity. These weeks are ideal for readjusting behaviors and teaching your insights for life character traits.

Enjoy these days! Make some lemonade and embrace these last few weeks doing whatever it is you want your children to do while you have some extra moments to invest in their hearts and minds!



Friday, July 11, 2014

What We Use for School

     After much, I mean MUCH, research, this is the easy-breezy, bottom line, thorough direction we have chosen to follow for our curriculum. One of the outstanding things about home educating is that we can pick what we feel is the best for our children according to their needs and our direction as a family.

     So, we use different things to teach our children including life experiences such as trips, church, extended family, hospitality, events etc. That is why we chose to name our home school "Liberty Classical...Free to Learn, Free to Live." We can totally decide what we want to do. Side note, most home school families do name their family school for organizational and record purposes, plus my girls thought it is fun to have an official name. (They also think its fun to wear a uniform to Wal-mart and march in a line like they are in the Madeline Movie! ha)

     Anyway, we have chosen some curriculum in book form, some in DVD, some in Audio, some in a teacher/classroom setting, and some online. This format has allowed our girls to flourish in education given in many forms.

In addition, something else we do that is unique but beneficial is that we send our girls to 6 weeks of public school at the end of the year. This has been worthy of doing for the experience (MAP testing, field trips, outdoor skills day and to see how other children live and learn) personal discipleship (by way of witnessing and being challenged by the world against their faith), and a change in pace of the flow of how we do life. This also gives me a little vacation and makes them appreciate home education the rest of the year! It truly does show them the pros and cons first hand rather than us always explaining why we do what we do the rest of the year.

    All that being said, I have listed the curriculum we use the rest of the year.  When you read below, you will see that we use much of the Classical Conversations material and school group. It's extremely inexpensive compared to private classical school and you will know your children are actually learning everything they need to know. This takes the pressure off of my mind wondering if we are doing what we are supposed to do as well as keeps me on schedule weekly.

     Classical Conversations is an awesome co-op (most likely there is one near you) where you don't have to teach. Hooray. And, it meets once a week and your children get many of the benefits of a school (recess, backpacks, classroom setting, field trips, school parties, year book, friends, teachers) without having to go every day.

     As stated previously, we use many methods and materials. The following is our list:

There is a checklist I have composed of all things needed by the end of the child's fifth year. Check posts for this list.

Kindergarten - 1st Grade
Geography, latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - my own teachings from random workbooks at the store of basic addition, subtraction, clocks, and money

2nd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - Math-U-See DVD program

3rd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Phonetic Zoo Audio for Spelling, G.U.M. Drops for Grammar

Math - Math-U-See DVD Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

4th Grade-6th Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Classical Conversations which teaches the grammar, writing, and vocab using the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing), and Phonetic Zoo audio for Spelling

Math - Math-U-See DVD Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

7th Grade - 12th Grade
All Subjects are Classical Conversations ... but I haven't been to this point in school yet with my girls so this may change. Otherwise, this is my plan.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cousins Camp!

Woo-hoo! We just recently completed our 5th Annual Cousin's Camp! I gathered all first cousins who are 4 and older to make some major life-time memories. From the first-class greetings, to opening ceremonies, games and prizes, mini-group, and water fun we lived it up for yet another successful year of bonding. Here is a highlight video from this past month at Cousins Camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WOSnGRN6fg

     After some thought, I decided that anything to lead and love children is worth sharing. Perhaps this will offer you some creative ideas to build relationships with the children in your world whether biological, extended, adopted, friends, neighbors, little ones you mentor etc. The main reasons we get together is to make an extra effort beyond birthdays and holidays (those are so busy) to grow in God, to have both sides of the family making memories, and for them to know their Aunt Casey loves them! Here is the schedule we use but adapt for your own interest and needs:

We keep the activities to two days and each day goes from 10-3:00. This is just enough time to do everything and yet not too much when things would get a little crazy.

10:00 WELCOME Greet outside with lots of energy and random instruments while cheering their name and making a tunnel. We do this until all arrive. Then we let the kids choose if they want to get their face painted which is done by a big kid or one of the helpers. Helpers are someone like an adult friend, relative, or teen. This year I had three helpers bc I am pregnant and also had 14 kids at the house…in addition, I decided I better have two camps next time bc the age gaps between the 4 yr olds and the 10-11 yr olds as well as the amount of kids! But it was fun!

10:15 OPENING CEREMONIES We gather around for the pledge to the American flag, then we circle up for a Cousins Camp Cheer (“We’re cousins! We’re cousins! We always stick together! I am with you, you are with me, its Cousins Camp Forever!”) then we put on some dance music and do a dance together (Electric Slide or something similar that is fun and easy).

10:30 BIBLE CHAT TIME There is a theme each year and we talk about a concept such as trusting the Lord, prayer, living a pure life, and learning what truth is in life. I lead the lesson and pass a balla round for each child to hold when it’s their turn to talk. We act out the lesson or use props to prove the point. It is the most valuable time of the whole camp as the children share their hearts and insights. Then we close with prayer requests and I remind them about being wise and choosing God no matter what life brings their way.

11:00 CRAFT TIME Anything from decorating t-shirts to stuffing panty hose with cotton and drawing faces to make long snakes, this is just a fun activity.

11:30 GAMES These games are easy and fun. We have two teams with equal ages on each if possible so older can help the younger. These games have included through the years tossing balls into buckets, throwing popcorn into mouths, playing Pictionary, guessing what items are missing from a tray or wrapping up in toilet paper races etc. The final game leads up one big game on day two such as a scavenger hunt for a treasure box with real coins or an obstacle course.


12:30 FREE TIME outdoors with sprinklers or set up pools, bikes, chalk, swingset etc.

2:00 SNACK TIME and sometimes we combine one of our girls bday celebrations during this part if the camp falls during a bday. We eat and open presents on Day 1. For Day 2, we do snack then give out awards for each child with a certificate or medal or trophy to acknowledge something special about each one. This year, due to rain, we had to move Freetime and snack to an indoor community swim area so I sent a picture with awards on it in the mail later.

2:45 PACK UP All kids gather their items and do a cleanup so the house isn’t too messy and moms don’t have to wait at pickup.

These years of effort have been worth every minute and I hope it inspires you to connect with the children in your life before they grow up and go their own ways. It truly is a gift to have influence and time with the heart of a child. ENJOY!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father Shows Best

This is a favorite pic from when I surprised my dad at his 65th bday...which explains the party necklace too! HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to the man who set my life on the right path!

     Powerful. Influential. Heroic. Men, would you like to be these? When you are a father or a father figure, you have the potential to be all these and more. When someone positions you as the primary male role model in their life, you are crucial to their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. You are a big deal. And when it comes to life, you truly do show them best.

    While it is understood that being a dad to someone is a top-honor, what is often misunderstood is what should a man do once he is one? What does it look like to “show them best” if there isn’t a manual that comes with each young person? While there are thousands of stats and ideas on what can be done, there is one man that has lived fatherhood for one boy and one girl that is an example to all.

     My brother and I were raised by a successful dad. Although he was an Eagle Scout, Marine, and businessman, his most valuable success was in our home. He was and is a father that has showed us best through his actions and words. His sixty-five plus years of life can answer some of the questions about being a dad for other men just simply by hearing how he lived as we were growing up.

  1. He understood imperfection. Dad knew we would make mistakes and need understanding. He listened well to us before he enforced discipline. With his patience, we felt heard and respected even though we knew discipline was needed and would come. Afterwards, he always, yes, always, chose to forgive us. In addition, dad was the first to admit his own shortcomings. Whether it was from his childhood memories, relationships with others, or something at work, he would talk with us so we could learn from him and, at times, offer our own forgiveness to him. Dad kept life real and knew we weren’t perfect and that was okay. Consequently, we did all we could to please him and make him proud because of our gratitude for his understanding.
  2. He loved unconditionally. The words, “I love you unconditionally” came from dad countless times. And he meant it. He loved no matter what we did or didn’t do. And as any parent would know that isn’t easy and also says a lot. We absolutely knew no matter what extra-curricular activities, friends, clothes, music, hairstyles, colleges, or jobs we chose, as long as it wasn’t harmful or disobedient, he supported us. His words were encouraging and positive when he spoke to us and when he spoke of us; often times even when he didn’t know we were listening. Because of his love, we trusted him, and loved him unconditionally in return.
  3. He provided, protected, and played. Dad did everything he knew to do to provide for us with life necessities and anything above and beyond. He worked hard but not for his own gain, it was to give his family his best.  And because he worked hard, he protected us from anything that would come against us to break up the family. He guarded his faithfulness to mom, his time with us, and entertainment choices or people that weren’t beneficial to our minds and hearts. Consequently, had the freedom to enjoy the provided, protected life and had a blast playing with dad on family nights, in the car, on vacations, and at extra-curricular activities. We loved being with him!

     While being a “father that shows best” may take effort, it comes with matchless rewards. Perhaps you have attempted your best but have fallen short, start fresh. Even if your child is older, you can choose to be successful starting today. You can be that powerful, influential, heroic man to whoever it is in your life that needs you as a dad.
*Article used as published in Paradise Lifestyle Magazine June 2014