Category Archives: Homeschooling Advice

Unit Study Theory 101 – Class 3

education3Welcome to the third and final class of Unit Study Theory 101.   For today’s class I will be answering the question, “How do you make weekly plans for unit studies?”  However, before we get to that, I’ll explain how my longer term plans are designed.

After years of having a messy planner, (erase marks, comments in the margins, and scribbled out assignments),  I gave up traditional planning and threw the planner away.   It seemed like we hardly ever “stuck” to the plan because life happened, we took advantage of unexpected learning opportunities , or  group activities would consume a day or two.   Sometimes assignments  took longer or went quicker than I expected them to.

Keeping a journal works much better.  I keep my journal in a binder.  The first page is this printable from Teacher Files (I changed the months to match our school year).  I fill in some of the  blanks as we start each month,  the rest gets filled in as it happens.

Making a “possibility” list of topics and the subjects it will include for the current unit study is the next page in my binder.  I add  the start and finish dates as they happen, (or cross out what we didn’t do). The next page is where I record resources.  I print off themed notebooking pages for my journal (usually the same pages I print  for the kids notebooking/journaling assignments).  When the unit study is over, I begin a new possibility list for the next study .  This a simple way to keep track our learning.

I love sticky notes for weekly planning .  Usually  Saturday is the day I make the upcoming weeks plans.  I look over the special days list first to see what  I want to be included in our studies for the upcoming week.  I write that on a sticky note and place on the weekly chart.  Next, I put extra curricular activities on other sticky notes and add those to the chart.  Finally, I make  sticky notes for daily assignments (based off of my “possibility” list) to add to the chart.  At the end of each day, I move the notes to my journal to record later or move the sticky note to the next day if the assignment needs more time.  I found this chart at the $Tree for us to use this school year.  In the past, I made my own weekly charts on poster board.


Fridays are left blank on the planner.  This is the day to catch up on any uncompleted assignments or free study and group activities.

Other related posts :

The first class of Unit Study  101, click here

The second class of Unit Study 101

Listing of special days in August

About our homeschool Fridays

If you have questions or comments, please leave them for they may be helpful to others.

Happy planning!

betty jo


Unit Study Theory 101 – Class 2

education3Welcome back to Unit Study Theory 101.  Today’s class will be covering the answer to the question, “How do you keep records for the subjects covered in a unit study?”

First, I want to make it clear that the way I keep records is partly because the state of Kentucky mandates that I keep attendance records and scholarship reports.   Some state laws do not require such records and some laws require more.   If you are unsure about what is required of you, then you can find help here or here

Author, Dave Ramsey uses an acronym often when giving financial advice, “KISS” it stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.  I don’t like it put that way, however it is a pretty good system for most everything.  Let’s change it to “Keep It Simple, Sweetie” for our purposes. OK?

My record keeping system is as KISS as one could be.  The subjects (in an abbreviated code) run across the top and dates run down the left side.

The chart ends up looking a bit like graft paper and continues for 15 days. So, it takes 3 copies per 9 week grading period.

With this form I check off the subjects covered each day.  If my child did an extra good job they get a check with a “+”, or if they could have done better, they get a check with a “-“.  If I have a % grade (spelling or math test) or a letter grade (notebooking, essay, report) to record, I just put it in the correct box instead of a check.  After nine weeks. 45 days,  I average the grades in the bottom columns.  I count a check+ as an “A”, a check as a “B” and a check – as a “C”.  I also include a note about field trips, activities, or other comments.

You are welcome to use my daily subject checklist form if you’d like.



If you missed the first post  Unit Study Theory 101, you can catch up here.

Class 3 of Unit Study Theorey 101 Planning the Unit Study Week,

If something was not clear, or if you have questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.

betty jo



Dinosaurs…kids love them and want to learn about them so homeschooling parents teach it. But the study of dinosaurs can lead to debate, especially for the parent who is using social media to ask for lesson links or curriculum suggestions. This discussion/debate is active once again as many of us are planning out our studies for the school year. I have some thoughts, article links, and some teaching resources here.

betty jo


To Homeschool or Not


“To homeschool or not to homeschool” that is the question that many parents are asking themselves.  Most homeschool groups, private and public schools start in August, so now is the best time to be making that decision if your children are school age.

My first piece of advice is not to “cave in” to pushy advocates on either side of the education debate.  You MUST do what is right and best for your family.  And only you can determine that. Period.

With that being said, I’m definitely a home educating advocate (for many different reasons).   I’ve been homeschooling for a while (about to start our 16th year).  I’m  part of the leadership team for our local  homeschooling support group.  I’m an admin for Homeschooling Around the World and Schoolin’ Swag You would be welcome at either or both groups.

For months I’ve been hearing daily of families who are considering home education (for many different reasons) and have some questions or are seeking a little advice.  If this is the case for you, then I recommend you just ask a homeschooler about it.  Homeschoolers love to talk about homeschooling (both the good and the not so good).  In fact it’s our favorite conversation.

If you have made the decision to home educate, of course I have some advice for you on how to start this adventure (oh yeah, it will be an adventure).  Here is my top 5 list explaining what I think should be done first.

1  Pray for wisdom and patience.

2.  Understand your state laws:   or

3.  Check out a local homeschool support group or co-op.  If you’re not aware of one, this link may help you find one

4.  Figure out your teaching method and your children’s learning styles.  This link has a free assesment for both you and your children  if you are unsure.  Hover the mouse over “Homeshool” on the header.  From there click “Resource Center” and “Currently Homeschooling”. There you will have the choice of “Learning Style” or “Teaching Method” assessments.

5.  Remember that you want your child to love homeschooling so plan some fun and interesting learning activities and plan for unexpected learning opportunities.

For links to my posts containing advice on home education click here

Please know that I welcome your questions and comments.  Like I mentioned above,  homeschoolers love to talk about homeschooling.

betty jo

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Preparing the Defense

When we started our homeschooling journey some 16 years ago, it wasn’t as popular of an idea as it is now.  I had some awesome seasoned homeschooling moms prepare me with what to say when, not if, but when, I would face negativity about our family’s choice for education.

“What about socialization?”  “Do you have a teaching certificate?”  “Don’t you want them to go to college?”  “They are going to miss so many opportunities.”  “But your kids will be weird.”  “Is that legal?”  These questions have come from church members, neighbors, public school teachers, strangers, and even family members.  There’s been hard days/weeks/months that I have questioned our homeschooling decision and have had to remind myself why we do this!

I’m glad to have had a “heads up” that these questions would be coming.  And, I am so thankful that I had some ideas about how to handle them.   There’s a good chance that if your family homeschools, you have already had to defend your choice or will at some point.  If you’re a new homeschooler, expect these questions and prepare for them.

Answer with Scripture:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7  “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Proverbs 22:6  “Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

For more Scripture concerning home education


Homeschooling is most logical way my family can fall into obedience to these parenting  instructions from the LORD.

Answer with facts and statistics:

hs facts

According to :

  • Ninety-five percent of homeschoolers had an adequate comprehension of politics and government, compared to 65% of U.S. adults.
  • Seventy-one percent of homeschool graduates participate in ongoing community service activities, including politics, compared to 37% of adults in similar ages.
  • Eighty-eight percent of HS graduates are members of organizations (community groups, church, or professional organizations) compared to 50% of U.S. adults.
  • Significantly, 76% of homeschool graduates voted in a national or state election within the past 5 years, compared to 29 percent of similar U.S. adults.

Answer with, “I do not agree with what public schools teach”

hs facts 2Answer with a list of successful and famous homeschoolers:

Recently I saw a Youtube video series that covers excellent answers to those pesky questions that homeschoolers face.  These videos are animated, and quite clever.  Even if you are well prepared with Scriptures, facts, and statistics, I still recommend viewing for the fun of it.

For parents


For kids (because they get asked about homeschooling, too)

betty jo


Ultimate mom  Our days button 2

Why And How

unit study

When others learn that we do not buy curriculum, but that I design ours myself, they often stare at me as if I’ve grown a third eye, and  ask me, “Why?” or “How?”.    My answer to both questions is, “By the grace of GOD”.  However, upon request, I can explain a bit more.

We pulled our oldest out of public school kindergarten 16 years ago.  At that time we just used some cheap workbooks for language arts and math along with plenty of books to read to finish up that school year.

Over the following summer, I poured over curriculum catalogs taking in all the information I could.  I could not decide on anything and truthfully, we couldn’t afford anything either.  As August approached we still did not have curriculum.

That same summer our son went to Space Adventures Vacation Bible School.  His head stayed in outer space even when the week long program was over.  Outer space was his favorite topic of conversation and play.

We went to a used curriculum sale and I was talking to some experienced homeschool moms about our lack of school books when one of them asked my son, “What do you like to study?”  Of course he replied, “Outer space!”  He then shocked me with, “I’m going to start a space club!”  She then told him that astronomy was one of her favorite unit studies and a space club sounded like a marvelous idea.

I had to have these moms explain what a unit study was.  I had not seen anything like that in my catalogs.  She invited us to her house so she could show me how they did school.

Her coffee table was covered with library books and notebooks.  Apparently, her kids picked a subject they were interested in, and checked out everything the library had on it.  Then they read, bookmarked pages, and took notes.  They made trivia games and art projects that related to their topic.  Their spelling and vocabulary came from those library books too.  When they got tired of one study, they picked another. They were only spending money for paper and art supplies.  Those kids were smart.  Everyone seemed happy with their homeschooling. She even had a son who had graduated and was attending college.  Smart and happy and going to college is what I wanted for us, too.

These moms assured me that since I had at least graduated from high school,  I was capable to teach my  children what they needed to learn.  And that I could do it without spending hundreds of dollars. They told me I would want a large map,  dictionary, thesaurus,   grammar guide,   good pencil sharpener,  Bible and  Bible dictionary.  I mentioned that I did not have a Bible dictionary and could they recommend one.  One of these sweet moms went out to her car and got hers.  She gave it to me , not let me borrow but gave it as a gift!  She showed me how to use it for a space study.  “Look up a word such as “stars”, then look up the Scriptures for copy and  memory work.”

That August we founded the Space Adventure Club.  I even found a math workbook that had a rocket on the cover and cute space pictures on the worksheets.  We borrowed library books about the solar system and space travel.  We made a telescope, a solar system model and a mini planetarium.  We wrote and memorized Scriptures about stars. We learned of ancient ideas about the heavens.  We watched space themed movies. We researched space careers.    We sang space themed songs.  This unit study idea was working well.

The next study club was Nature Scouts, followed by a series of different clubs.  This is how we schooled for the first couple of years.  I had to add spelling as a separate class because my son was able to spell difficult words but was having trouble with the more common ones.  We picked up a used grades 3-12 spelling course and have stuck with that same one for all the years since.  We have also been given or bought some phonics readers as the other kids have started their road to reading.  We have added current events to our non-unit study list of classes.

There was one year when I made the mistake of comparing my homeschool to others. I thought what they were using would be best for us too.  That year we spent over $700 for three children  to learn with a “regular” curriculum.  We hated it!  The following year, we ditched the idea of regular curriculum and went back to our unit study approach.

It’s been years since we’ve called our unit studies clubs,  but our studies are still made like those were.  For the past six years I have designed our unit studies based on historical period timelines.  We have also added technology,  free web resources,  to how we homeschool.

So now you have my answers to “why” and “how” we homeschool like we do.

betty jo

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Youthful Tendency Disorder

It seems like everyday there is a news article explaining some new research, or treatments and therapies for disorders.  When I first saw this one, I thought ,”OH NO!   A new disorder, what now?”   Usually, I would have skipped over it,  but it was from The Onion, and I like the way they spin their “reporting”.

So my conclusion after reading about Youthful Tendency Disorder is this:   All of my children, even the 21 year old, have several symptoms of this condition.  I notice it most often during our homeschooling days, especially when it’s nice outside, or time for a grammar lesson, or after they  have read  an exciting story.  It’s probably in their genes, for both my husband and I have struggled with Youthful Tendency Disorder for years.  Until this article informed us, I did not realize just what is was that we have been “suffering” from.

I’m hoping that a cure for this “disorder” is never discovered!

Here’s the link so you may investigate this unusual disorder for yourself, and I hope you and your family have it also!,248/

albert-einstein“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Albert Einstein

betty jo

Abeka, Lifepac, and FIAR, Oh My

Did you catch the line when the girl says, “You might be a homeschooler if you are filled with fear and dread when you hear the word ‘Saxon'”?  That may not be the case for all homeschoolers, but it is certainly the case for this homeschooling momma.  There’s other strange homeschool vocabulary words that give me shivers.  Abeka, Lifepac, and FIAR, oh my!  The list could go on but I’ll stop here so you won’t get frightened too.

I suppose I should explain.  Those strange words are names of popular homeschooling curriculum.  If you have ever had the opportunity of being around a group of homeschooling parents,  you have most likely been trapped in a discussion (aka debate) on which curriculum is best.

I suppose I should explain more.  First, every homeschool family is different.  God designed us that way.  With that being said, what kind of cirriculum works best can only determined by the individual family.  What works in your homeschool is probably not what works in mine or in the Jones’ homeschool.  The second reason why curriculum  discussions  are so scary is the reactions of others when I say (insert a slight southern, country, redneck accent), “Oh, we don’t use curriculum, I make it up.”

                                         Cartoon panic

However, over the course of our 15 year homeschooling journey I have practiced a more refined response to the “What cirucculum do you use” question.  “Our family learns with a history timeline based unit study approach that includes notebooking and lapbooking. We choose this reinforced learning method because it enables me to teach history, science, language arts, music, art, and religion to the children all at the same time just altering the lessons with more requirements for the higher grades. With these unit studies, we use online resources, text books, video, audio, and library materials. Each child has his own spelling and math programs based on their skill level. Also starting in the middle grades, each child gets to choose his own elective for each grading period. We research catalogs, talk with other home educators, read reviews, compare costs, and assess our children’s individual weaknesses and strengths before deciding on each years educational choices.”  That’s better, huh?

So my advice to the new or dissatisfied homeschooling parent is to pray it through before you start buying curriculum.   And figure out your child’s/children’s learning style and your preferred teaching method so you can narrow down your choices.

Learning Styles:

Kinesthetic – Student learns best with hands-on activities

Auditory – Student learns best through hearing

Visual – Student learns best by reading, viewing pictures, observing

Teaching Methods:

Unit Study – Reinforced learning in which the same topic is covered in several subjects

Classical – Latin, Trivium, Rhetoric

Charlotte Mason – Real life observation and discussion

Unschooling – Informal lessons determined by child’s interests

Traditional – Text books and work books

Eclectic – Some sort of combination of the above methods

For another article with advice for the new homeschooler wondering where to start click here

betty jo

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Another New Homeschooler And Another …

It’s spring and almost time for the school year to come to a close, but there are quite a few parents making some changes about their children’s education.  Many are deciding to home educate.

Just this month alone, we added 5 families to our local homeschool support group.  At a parent’s meeting, one of the newer moms made the comment that she was looking forward to learning from the “veteran” homeschoolers.  I looked around the table to see who she was talking about, and I was shocked that she meant me.  I had never thought in the terms of me being a “veteran”.   After all, I school a second grader.  I really did not know how I could help her out.  But wait, I have been homeschooling for 15 years.  I have a homeschool grad and two more in highschool and a special needs child as well as that second grader.  Maybe I can help.  At least I can advise about what not to do.   I certainly have experience with what does not work well.

I’m an admin on a brand new Facebook homeschool support group page,  Homeschooling Around the World,  and we already have several members.  Many are just starting their homeschool journey.  And they too are looking for some “veteran” advice.

Yesterday while I was at the library, I met a mom and teen daughter who will begin home education for themselves in August.  She asked me to point her in the right direction to get started.  So for her and whoever else is wanting to start home educating , here’s my top 5 list on what to do first:

1  Pray for wisdom and patience.

2.  Learn  your state laws:   or

3.  Checkout a local homeschool support group or co-op:

4.  Figure out your teaching style and your children’s learning styles.  This link is good for helping with that:

5.  Remember that you want your child to love homeschooling so plan some fun learning activities.

If you would like to be added to Homeschooling Around the World on Facebook,  join here:

For more of my posts about our homeschooling and my personal thoughts about teaching:

Happy Schooling,

betty jo


Train Up A Child?

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.”   This is one of the homeschooling parent’s favorite verses.  This verse is what motivates Christian parents to teach their own kids in their own homes. This encourages us to seek out Bible based curriculum.  

Just in case Christian homeschooling isn’t enough, we add church, Sunday school, youth groups, AWANA, Keepers of the Faith Clubs, UPWARDS, etc.  We try to “socialize” our kids with other Christian homeschoolers by joining support groups and co-ops.

We are careful about how much tv , secular music, internet, social media, or video games they are allowed.  We monitor their reading choices.  We enforce modesty.

But, we don’t want our kids to be too “sheltered” as we fear they won’t know how to act once they enter into the “real world”, so we get them involved in mission projects.  We add current event studies to our homeschool days.  Sometimes we may go as far to watch a Twilight DVD or an episode of Teen Mom with our teenage girls or some Alien Zombie Something with the teen boys so they can find out for themselves just what all the hype is about.

Is this enough training in the “way they should go”?  A homeschool parent has hope that it’s enough.  But a homeschool parent also has doubt.  At least this homeschool mom has doubts  sometimes.

I’m taking a serious look at how I have been training mine.  It’s not only because A-21 is struggling to make a place in his post homeschool world, it’s also because of a new blog and social media site I stumbled on.  In fact I’ve been shedding tears over it.  My heart is breaking for those who have written articles.   The site?  Homeschoolers Anonymous.

These former homeschoolers have written several articles.  I only read a few before tears blurred  my vision.  They share stories of abuse, of being social outcasts and misfits.  Some have written about “breaking free” of the faith they were taught by their parents.  Homeschoolers Anonymous has a mission statement.  The following is what I copied and pasted from their site:

“The mission of Homeschoolers Anonymous is:

1. To bring awareness to the suffering many children experience through aspects of certain homeschooling subcultures

2. To educate the public about the inner workings and politics of the homeschooling world

3. To provide a voice against some of the extreme positions from within homeschooling ideology

4. To inspire others to speak up about abuse and control

5. To give hope to those who currently suffer from abuse and control

6. To bring healing to those who have escaped an abusive or controlling home environment and provide new survivors with resources for developing independence

7. To create a community of shared experiences”

E17 knew I was upset.  I confided in her.  I told her about Homeschoolers Anonymous.  She tried to assure me that she’s glad that she’s been homeschooled.  She does not think she’s been overly sheltered.  She does not think I’ve forced my faith on her.  She says that she’s planning to homeschool her own children some day.  She gave me hope.

I’m praying about the training.  I want it to be in the way they should go.  I’m praying about the way I teach and the way my kids learn.  I’m praying that I’m not being too controlling or forceful.  I’m praying that they will never feel that they have been brainwashed or have to “break free” from their mom’s faith.  I’m praying that my kids will know that I love them more than anything else on earth.  And I am praying that they will come know, love, and follow Jesus through something I said or did or had them do.

Here’s the link to Homeschoolers Anonymous:

betty jo