Tag Archives: Heart of Wisdom

Oops, I did it again! Changing curriculum again… and again

1 Nov

By Renée Gotcher

My tango with homeschooling curriculum has been pretty well documented on this blog. If you haven’t followed my journey, here are the highlights of our curriculum exploration over the past two years…

First Year: My Father’s World and why it didn’t work for us

Second Year: Why I chose to try Heart of Wisdom & Charlotte Mason method

Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: What textbooks or curriculum do you use and why?

What I haven’t divulged this school year is that in the beginning, we were trying yet another new multi-age Christian homeschooling curriculum. We started our “official” year with the highly regarded Heart of Dakota — in hopes of finding something more flexible, more “laid out” (read: ready to go) and more easily customizable to my three daughters’ ability levels, while also being faith-based and unit-study driven like Heart of Wisdom.


We gave HOD an honest go for about a month, and it quickly became clear to me that my eldest daughter — 11 1/2 years old and the avid reader in the family — would quickly speed way ahead of my 10-year-old daughter (with a short attention span), and that if I tried to keep them both working on the same unit according to the lesson plan, one would be bored and the other would be frustrated with too many items on her daily “to do” list. I also tried to find cross-over with my 5-year-old daughter’s HOD curriculum for our daily enrichment activities, but her suggested track with HOD for her age was actually quite different in subject matter from what I was doing with the older two, so there was very little we could do together (such as art projects, read-aloud living books, etc.).

When it came to math, we had discovered early on in our homeschooling journey that Math-U-See worked fabulously for all three girls. That was a real blessing, so no issues there! Shurley English, which is new for us this year, has worked really well for both my sisters in law Rosanna and Elizabeth and working with their multi-age daughters together. So far, it has been working smoothly for us as a grammar and writing curriculum for both of my older girls together, while my youngest is still learning to read with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, combined with BOB Books.

I was really hoping that HOD would provide the “laid-out” lesson plan that I was looking for to handle the rest of our subjects in a unit study, multi-age, Charlotte Mason kind of way, with a strong biblical foundation. And don’t get me wrong — it’s a fabulous curriculum if you like the unit study format with a biblical worldview. There was a lot we enjoyed about it, but unfortunately I was spending way too much time trying to re-customize the given assignments for each child to fit our daily plan together and challenge my older daughter while breaking things down better for my younger daughter.

On days when I thought I had it all figured out, school lasted hours longer than I had planned. My eldest was always ahead and asking “what’s next?” while my younger two were overwhelmed and quickly began to lose interest. This is after I negotiated great deals on securing our new curriculum online via used homeschooling sales on Facebook and other group Web sites.

Seriously? Are we here again?

If there’s one thing I have learned on my previous two curriculum expeditions, it’s that there’s no reason to waste any time trying to reconfigure something that isn’t working for you. You’re the teacher, so you can switch gears whenever you feel that it’s necessary — no need to wait for a semester break or new school year. It’s more important to do what works for you than worry about being “inconsistent” or having a few extra books on your shelf.

So just as quickly as I purchased this year’s HOD books online, I was able to resell them to other eager moms waiting to score a used curriculum deal too. The buyers were happy — and I was happy. No harm done to the pocketbook.

Now what?

Earlier this summer when I was investigating Heart of Dakota, I had also come across a curriculum called Trail Guide to Learning by Geography Matters. I had originally been attracted to this curriculum because it was not only multi-age and unit-study driven, but it actually provided grade/ability-specific “notebooks” for each child that followed the main curriculum. The student notebooks provided different assignments (already predesigned in PDF form!) that were matched to their skill level for the main unit the entire family was studying. It was so close to what I was looking for, I was initially sold from the Web site alone. However, when I asked around on Facebook and other social media outlets, I didn’t hear back from many moms who’d been using it and could provide their experienced opinion. So I moved on.

Now that I was basically back to the drawing board, Trail Guide to Learning was my first stop, and their first series, Paths of Exploration, seemed like an ideal place to start with the ages and skill level of my girls. One thing that had always appealed to me about POE was the fact that you can download one unit at a time online, rather than purchasing a whole year’s curriculum at once for a higher price. The PDF file of each unit comes with both a teacher’s guide and student notebook pages, as well as related appendix pages. Perfect for tentative buyers like me who want to see if something is going to work before making a full-fledged investment!

Another plus: Downloadable, predesigned lapbooks that accompany each volume of the year’s curriculum. This is about as “well laid out” as I could have imagined! Last year we had experimented with lapbooks, and although the girls loved the creative aspects of them, they really wanted more direction as to what to include and how to present the information in an easy-to-discover format. The templates and cutouts provided by the POE lapbook PDF were exactly what we needed to bring lapbooks back into the picture without creating additional work for me and additional research for them.

I also appreciated that the books on the recommended reading list were not only “living books” (a Charlotte Mason recommendation), but easy to purchase used online or download to a Kindle. I had no trouble securing the books for Unit One the same night I downloaded the unit’s curriculum from the company Web site. Within two days (Amazon Prime delivery time), we were ready to dive into our fourth curriculum expedition.

It’s been two weeks, and…

I’m happy to report that we love our Paths of Exploration curriculum! I love it because I have that well “laid out” lesson plan that saves me time and keeps us on track for the year. Along with that, my daughters have their own tracks to journey along with the family in our unit study in a way that meets their skills and ability level — and I didn’t have to come up with those customizations on my own. They are also enjoying the week-long lapbook project that goes along with our daily lessons and notebook work. It’s a great way to switch gears for my short-attention-span learner and provide extra work for my speedy learner. Even my five-year-old has gotten into her own sping on the lapbooks, because why not? It’s all ready to print out and go — and she loves anything that involves coloring and cut-outs!

The recommended reading for “enrichment” (read: speedy learners) is just as compelling as the required reading for the unit. My eldest has already read two books off the recommended reading for enrichment, and she is learning more than I ever learned in school about these subjects. There is plenty to keep her challenged and engaged, while my 10-year-old gets the same content covered in smaller bites she can swallow.

Dare I say that we might have discovered the ideal curriculum for our family?

I’m too pragmatic to call this particular stop “the end” of our curriculum journey. However, I’m extremely optimistic that Trail Guide to Learning could really work for us. Right now, it’s working: The girls love it, I love it. It truly fits my family in this particular moment in time.

And this moment in time is all that matters.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Matthew 6:34

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: How do you schedule your day?

10 Feb

Welcome to “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler…” It’s your turn to ask the authors of NextGen Homeschool — four formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. From the practical to the personal, all questions are welcome — whether you’re a current homeschooler or just homeschooling curious!

This week’s question is one that we see posted almost daily to the many online homeschooling Web sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds:

How early do you start your homeschool day? How long do you spend on each subject, and how long does your homeschool day last?

The basic question here is scheduling: What does a day in the life of your homeschool look like, and what can I learn from your experience? Just like curriculum and lesson planning, we all have a unique answer to this question. But we hope that giving you a peek into our days — as varied as they might be — will provide a few tips, new ideas, insight and encouragement as you shape your own homeschooling agenda.

NextGen Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005

How early do we start our homeschool day? Well, even though our family has owned a donut shop for more than 13 years (which means a very early start to our business day), I am still not a morning person. The children and I usually get up somewhere between 7:30-8:30 a.m., get dressed and eat breakfast, and try to start school at about 9:00 a.m. Sometimes it’s closer to 10:00 a.m.

I used to try to stick to a strict schedule, but invariably things come up that throw off this type of schedule. So it just works better for us to have a routine and be flexible. For instance, my husband usually gets home from our donut shop between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. He likes to spend time with the boys before he takes his nap, which means our school work gets pushed back for a little bit.

How long do we spend on any subject? This year I have a high school senior who only has four classes (and is very independent) and a first grader. Joel, my first grader, spends about 10 minutes on Bible (Alpha Omega workbook), then 30 minutes on math, which includes a lesson or two in Horizons and some Addition Facts Practice. After math, he takes a short break. Then we read out of his reader (currently Christian Liberty Press Nature Reader 1), I read a story to him, and he does some printing practice and a phonics work page (also Horizons).

We just started a journal with Joel, where he writes the day and date, copies a sentence about his day, and draws a picture. After English, which takes about 30 minutes, we break for lunch.  After lunch, we try to sit back down for a lesson in history and/or science (Alpha Omega workbooks). This might take another 15 to 30 minutes.

On Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays, we go to my sister Elizabeth’s house to have school with her family. When there, Joel does history, geography, sometimes a science experiment, and music theory with Elizabeth’s girls — besides his math and English work. On Mondays he goes golfing with his dad after lunch, and on Thursday he has P.E. after lunch.

How long do we homeschool each day? Actual school work time fluctuates. On a good school day, I’d estimate that it’s between one to two hours of focused work time. But I believe learning happens all the time. Joel has learned math while golfing with his dad, and his understanding of measurement and distance is way beyond his years. He also understands weather conditions better than many first graders.

One of the great things about being a homeschool parent is looking for those teachable moments in life, whether it is during official “school” hours or any other time. And when your child has a passion for learning, you can wrap his education around that passion—  and his chances of both learning and remembering what is learned will increase dramatically.

NextGen Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

I recently wrote a “Day in the Life” post as part of “Q&A Friday: Your Day in the Life” at Simple Homeschool.net. But the day I shared wasn’t exactly typical, and I know that when I was a prospective homeschooler asking this same question, what I was really asking veteran homeschooling moms was what does this homeschooling life really look like on a day-to-day basis, and can I do it?

I quickly discovered that the short answer is: It depends! It depends on your family size, the ages of your children, the working schedules you and your spouse keep, your location and access to outside resources and enrichment programs, what curriculum you choose, what teaching approach you take, and so on and so forth. If you embrace this concept of “choose your own homeschooling adventure” and the fact that it is absolutely, completely up to you, it’s quite liberating — and even energizing! So here’s what our typical daily schedule/routine looks like these days…

How early do we start our homeschool day? I will admit in cyberspace print that we do not start our homeschool day in the early morning hours that are typical to traditional school days. Or typical to morning people. Because morning people we are not! Even when the girls were infants, they slept past nine most mornings. And nothing has changed.

When my daughters attended private school in Durango, we were fortunate that our school day started a full half-hour later than the public schools — 8:20 a.m. instead of 7:50 a.m. And even with that extra half-hour of sleep, it was a daily struggle to pull my then first-grade and third-grade daughters out of their deep sleep to quickly dress, eat breakfast, and hop in the car for a 10-15 minute drive down the mountain to school. They never enjoyed it, and frankly, neither did I!

So when we proposed the idea of homeschooling to our girls, their first questions were: Does that mean we won’t have to get up early? And can we stay in our pajamas? Ah, girls after my own heart! I decided the answer was yes — as much as possible.

Most days, we start family devotion time and school work around 10-10:30 a.m. By this point in the morning, everyone is fed and fully awake, and I’ve had enough coffee, done my personal devotions, and checked e-mail. PJs are sometimes still on if there are no afternoon activities on the schedule, otherwise the girls are also dressed by now. Occasionally we start earlier when there’s a field trip or other special outing on the morning agenda.

How long do we spend on any subject? Last year I used a curriculum that came with a lesson plan where we covered almost every subject every day, breaking up the day into lots of tiny segments. It sounded like a good idea to me, and I thought my girls would appreciate the variety throughout the day, but it turns out that when given the opportunity, the girls like to get very focused on the subjects they enjoy — and don’t want to be interrupted to move on to the next task until they are “done” with their work. And “done” means different things to all three of them.

So I no longer break up our days into subject-specific segments. Instead, I have divided up our day into group work and individual time. The morning section of the day (after breakfast) is carved out for group interaction: We sit around the couch for family devotions, then we do unit study work together around the dining room table in the front room (separate from our kitchen). Then in the afternoon, we shift into individual work mode, which includes math and grade-specific language arts, and I work with each of the girls one on one.

Unit studies include work that covers many basic “subjects” such as reading, vocabulary, memorization, art, history, science, geography — even some math at times. We do some lecture and discussion, followed by a video or some reading, some writing work, and creative projects known as “expand” work in our Heart of Wisdom lesson plan, where they get to choose from a menu of options to apply what they’ve just learned in a creative form that they can use to “explain” the information to someone else later. Unit study time can take from one to two hours, depending on how creative the girls get with their unit projects and how hard it becomes for them to put it down for a lunch break.

After lunch, I give the girls some free time to play in the backyard or do something fun indoors to work out some of their energy. Once a week, the girls also participate with a homeschool P.E. program for an hour immediately following lunch.

During our individual study time, all three girls (including my four-year-old) use Math-U-See — that involves watching a DVD lesson and practicing with manipulatives with me, then completing math worksheets on their own. While I’m doing math with one, the other is working on language arts and reading independently, and then we swap. Then I check back in with both older girls again after they’ve completed their written/independent work. We usually spend about two hours in this mode, then the girls have free time again or a late afternoon activity.

This is also when I get hands-on learning time with my 4-year-old Elise. For most of the day, I let our preschooler do what she is interested in doing alongside her 3rd- and 5th-grade sisters — and I’m surprised how much she is learning by osmosis. While we’re doing our unit studies, she may listen with focus and participate with any work that involves coloring and art. Or she’ll just play nearby and listen casually. Either way, she blows us away with the information she can recite later! I’m pretty sure she’s an auditory learner.

However, while the older girls are working independently, I look for opportunities to sit down with Elise for some “focused” lessons. Sometimes she’ll come up to me and say, “I want to do my math now!” Other times, I’ll have to make suggestions, like “Would you like to read with me right now?” Our lessons are a short 15-minutes and are always followed by a progress sticker on her subjects charts (posted in our homeschool area), because she is big on instant recognition. If she’s not excited about doing a formal lesson when I am free, then we read together, play educational games, make up new ways to use the math manipulatives, or do a craft that involves my support, or just role play with her Princess dolls.

How long do we homeschool each day? My elementary age girls easily spend at least 3-4 hours on school work of some kind each day. On days that we have enrichment activities, they spend less time doing table work with me, but will do independent work (such as reading, writing, or finishing a creative project) in the late afternoons. Even though we’re not “scheduling” time to specifically cover each subject everyday, I am finding that we’re doing more than enough with this approach — and most important, the girls are really engaged with their work!

I have also come to realize that schooling doesn’t have to be limited to traditional education activities. So our days are filled with just as much informal learning as structured time. Whether it’s helping with the cooking, reading to younger sister, spontaneous Web research on a topic of personal interest, or watching a Discovery channel show with dad when he’s done working, the girls continue to learn beyond our specified school time.

Learning is everywhere, and life is full of experiences that teach and grow our children just as much as books, worksheets, and notebooks full of finished assignments. Learning is a journey, and I’m very thankful that my girls are truly enjoying the journey — and that I’m along for the ride.

NextGen Author Cristina Eklund
Was homeschooled since the 6th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

How early do we start our homeschool day, and how long do we spend on each subject? We start between 8:30-9:00 a.m. That half hour is spent mostly making beds, reading a devotion or finishing up breakfast — unless I know we have to be out of the house by 10 to get somewhere (a field trip, etc.). In that case, we will start a little earlier.

Since I follow the Charlotte Mason method and have a six-year-old boy, I have found that short lessons (10 to 15 minutes) and changing up the “type of learning” (i.e. workbook, manipulatives, reading, games) works best for us. So we do about 30 minutes on Language Arts (divided into 10 minutes of handwriting, 10 minutes of phonics/sight word lessons, and 10 minutes of reading or games). Then we spend 10 to 15 minutes on a math lesson, 10 to 15 minutes of math games/manipulative practice, 15 minutes of reading a science/history lesson, 15  minutes doing a science/history activity (sometimes this means exploring together outside), 15 minutes of reading good literature (fairy tales/fables/Five In A Row books/Beatrix Potter), 15 minutes memorizing poetry/songs/bible or drawing/art/listening to the composer of the month.

All of these lesson types are interchangeable and can take place in any order during our morning school time. After this period of the day, we have free time (outside) unless we go to the library or park, until lunch time. I also like to read to the kids during lunch (a short non-picture book to get them used to listening without needing pictures to entertain). Because I have both a preschooler (my daughter Arielle) and Kindergarten/1st grader (my son Elijah), I’m a lot more hands on than I know I would be with children who are in 3rd grade and beyond.

How long do we homeschool each day? We try to end our “sit down” lessons by 11 a.m. Of course, I also expect that more reading together, as well as piano practice and Spanish review time, may take place in 15-minute increments later in the day, after nap/quiet time (which ends around 3:00ish). But those activities are not very “schoolish.” They are activities that we can do together to entertain during the downtime, rather than turning to a TV or computer — we save those privileges for “diligence rewards.”

One day a week, we attend a local co-op class from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., then go to the park afterward. All classes within that co-op time are 30 minutes long, and include subjects such as art, science, Bible, Spanish, and tea time for learning manners. They are designed for K-6th grade level students.

NextGen Author Elizabeth Thomas
Was homeschooled from K-12
Began homeschooling in 2009

How early do we start our homeschool day? We start our homeschool time at about 8:00 a.m. on good days, but most of the time, it’s by about 9:00 a.m. We start with Bible and pray, then we dive into math — math is a subject we work on everyday.

How long do we spend on any subject? This year we have been spending about an hour on each subject. But because I have one daughter with special education needs in the areas of reading and math, most of the time we end up spending longer on these two subjects. Right now I seem to be spending about two hours just doing math (using Saxon Math) with all four girls every morning — I get a little sick of it, but I just try not to watch the clock, especially if the girls are really needing the extra time with something.

I really do try to cover each subject every day, but my focus will change from week to week. For example, I like to leave science for the summer time — because it’s just a lot easier that way and the girls seem to get a lot more out of it — but during the school year, we’ll still do something science-related once a week and read science-related books from time to time. I use Shurley English with all the girls, and we do the same history lesson — and the girls will do work that is appropriate to their grade levels. This year, we have focused on American history together using the History of US books, which makes teaching history easier for me, but they still have workbooks that are grade-specific to work on.

How long do we homeschool each day? We usually do not finish as early as I would like. I like to say we never finish… or at least I don’t! On days when I have too much to do and can’t teach as long as I normally would, I will give the girls some life skills work, workbooks, and reading to do. I also keep a bag in my car full of stuff the girls can work on — even for a fast trip to the doctor, the girls will still have something to do.

Balancing my time with all four girls and everything else we have to do is a lot like juggling to me! Sometimes it feels like a huge mess, but it works out somehow.


What does your homeschooling day look like? How have your teaching approach, curriculum choice, age of your children, and family likes/dislikes influenced your daily homeschool routine or schedule?

We are also taking NEW questions for upcoming “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler” features. Send your questions to nextgenhomeschool@gmail.com or post them as comments to this article (and let us know if it’s OK to quote you if we use your question). We look forward to responding to your homeschooling questions!

The Gotcher Family’s Homeschool “Day in the Life”

4 Feb

By Renée Gotcher

This week I’m participating in Q&A Friday at Simple Homeschool, and this week’s topic is Your Homeschool “Day in the Life.” I had planned to write earlier this week but a little bout of illness went through the family, so I am literally writing about today. Funny thing is, I couldn’t have picked a better day: Although today didn’t exactly reflect a “typical” day in our homeschooling life, it did reflect many of the reasons we’ve come to LOVE our homeschooling life.

I’m the mother of three girls ages eleven, nine and four, and we’re halfway through our second year of homeschooling. Aside from homeschooling full time, I also run a part-time beauty consulting business and fledgling writing business (including writing and editing this blog with my sister and two sisters in law). My husband travels a lot for work, and those weeks are definitely my biggest challenge. But the trade-off is that he works from his home office upstairs the rest of the time. We enjoy eating lunch together, giving him mini-presentations of finished work throughout the day, and I occasionally pop-in on him for some adult conversation when I’m having “a moment” of my own. For that, I’m very grateful!

We’ve done a little bit of everything schedule-wise since we began homeschooling shortly after moving to Castle Rock, Colo., in 2010. Right now, I would say that we follow a daily “agenda” rather than a formal schedule, and days vary based on participation with our local homeschool group’s enrichment activities, my ladies bible study at church, field trips, and these days, sneaking away to ski when the freshly powdered slopes are beckoning. I realized that any day is just as good as the next to reflect a “day in the life” for us, because our homeschooling journey is very much a day-to-day adventure, with some weekly and daily routines sprinkled in.

So here’s a peek into our fabulous Friday.

Sometime early this morning… I woke to the glowing white light of a rising sun behind a thick Colorado snowstorm. We were due to have blizzard conditions today, and I couldn’t wait to peek through the sliver in the drapes beaming brightly to see how much snow had accumulated in our yard overnight. Not surprisingly, the answer was a lot!

I love a good snow day, but I’m not one to jump up and start shoveling at the crack of dawn. So I rolled over and blissfully returned to sleep for another hour or so. Snow days are usually sleep-in days in our family.

Sometime later this morning… I woke to the sounds of a neighbor’s snow blower buzzing and the scraping of the shovel as my husband cleared out our driveway. I knew he’d be hitting the shower soon, so I got up to take mine and rouse the girls out of their sound slumber. Snow days are also pajama days, so the girls bundled up in fluffy robes and came downstairs — frazzled morning hair and all — to eat before doing anything else.

Breakfast is a simple affair: Cereal, oatmeal, or a granola yogurt parfait, and coffee for mom and dad. We occasionally do pancake Fridays, but today it was a quick bowl of cereal so we could get on with our day — and the fun that was waiting outside in the pristine snow drifts.

For a brief moment, I contemplated calling a full-fledged snow day, which usually means movies and/or board game marathons by the fire and lots of snow play with the neighborhood kids. But since we’d already taken Monday off this week to ski, I told the girls we’d do one project and save the snow day fun for after lunch.

One “agenda” item that has become a regular part of our daily routine is family devotion time. This January, I started using Bruce Wilkinson’s “Family Walk” 52-Week Devotional. Each week is broken into five daily devotions based on a theme and Bible memory verse of the week. We gather around the couch, read the devotional story of the day, followed by a scripture reading (my 11-year-old Audrey and 9-year-old Claire take turns), discussion questions and prayer.

This week our topic has been “leisure” — who knew the Bible had something to say about leisure? It’s been really interesting, to say the least, and seemed especially fitting today because this was going to be a great opportunity to practice one of the principles we’ve learned: To embrace the gift of each day by simply enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

After devotions… we start what I would call “table time” — simply because we gather around the large front room dining table (which also gets the best natural light) to do school work together. Right now we’re wrapping up a history unit on Ancient Mesopotamia using Heart of Wisdom’s Internet-linked Mesopotamia Unit Study. It’s taken us longer than I was planning, but I’m trying to go with the flow — something that I wanted to change from our experience last year — because my girls love history and want to savor it a bit with extra projects, movies, Internet research and reading.

While I work on unit studies with Audrey and Claire, my 4-year-old Elise (our little entertainer) usually hangs out and does whatever she is interested in. If there’s a coloring page or printout associated with the unit, I’ll give her the same sheet and let her do what she wants with it. Sometimes she hangs on every word of a group reading and neatly colors in the lines of the printout. Other times, she’ll bring down her dolls and role play with them under the table, or persistently ask if she can use my laptop to play with her Webkinz. Today, I gave in and let her play while I helped the other girls get started on their work.

My eldest two are creating lapbooks to showcase personally chosen highlights from the journey back in time to Ancient Mesopotamia. All of my girls love anything that involves scrapbook paper, stickers, coloring utensils and glue, so the decision to hold off on the snow day was immediately accepted. Even Elise wanted to get involved, helping the girls select coordinating paper patterns and choose templates for each feature in their lapbooks. They quickly dove into the cutting and pasting and crafting.

We just celebrated Audrey’s birthday this month, and one of her gifts from us (money well spent!) was a new desk for her bedroom. The new desk has become invaluable for the times when sibling rivalry arises during table time. Both Audrey and Claire are competitive and sometimes critical of each other — a habit that I’m praying for wisdom to break — but today proved no different than any given day. As soon as they began to argue over who was using which template and why they couldn’t just share, I packed up Audrey’s paper and sent her to her beautiful new desk to “spread out” her stuff and work privately.

She was happy, Claire was happy, peace was restored, and quickly, much progress was made on the lapbooks.

Before I knew it, the lunch hour had come and gone… again! It’s not uncommon for us to completely miss a typical noon-time lunch because the girls are so engrossed with their work. Today, they were being particularly meticulous with the lapbooks, so I finally called a “time out” for lunch.

One thing I’ve tried to do to make lunch time more simple is cook extra at dinnertime so we can warm up leftovers. My husband has never been a big fan of leftovers, but I love the concept — especially when it means we can have a filling, well-rounded meal the next day in just a few warm-up minutes. So whenever possible, we make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers at lunch.

We warmed up last night’s chili, but it turned out there wasn’t quite enough to fill everyone’s tummy. For those moments, I resort to a quick fix like Annie’s Mac & Cheese or — I’ll admit it — Ramen noodles. What can I say, the girls love it and it takes just three minutes to cook! Today, it was Ramen to the rescue.

After lunch… the girls surprisingly asked to resume working on their lapbooks — even after one of the neighborhood girls came to the door requesting their participation in the snow-cave building taking place on our corner. This is one of those moments when I know that I love homeschooling: The girls genuinely love to learn! To see them put off snow play because they are captivated by their school work is priceless.

On a “typical” day, we usually shift into individual work after lunch. I spend time with each of the girls working on math, language arts, and other grade-specific work, while they individually complete reading, writing or math assignments. I also do more hands-on work with my preschooler Elise, which includes reading and math lessons, games and projects. I’m currently using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and Math-U-See’s Primer — when she’s willing — along with letter/number coloring books, cutting projects, card games, etc.

About an hour later… the girls were done with the “first half” of lapbook-making and ready to call it a day. I was so glad, because I personally couldn’t wait to get outside and start having some snow day fun myself. So we bundled up and took a short hike around the corner to pick up another homeschooling friend.

Along the way, we spotted an unexpected gift: We were being watched by two cautious does standing in the greenbelt beyond our cul-de-sac, peeking around a fence. We paused to savor this quiet moment meant just for us, watching God’s graceful creatures watching us, then proceeded back home to join in the construction of snow caves and sled runs.

For me, being in the presence of the pure white, sparkling snow crystals, the blanket of quiet over serene streets, watching chunky flakes drift slowly, then quickly, then slowly again, over and over, is like heaven on earth. I am still not sure how this California girl turned into a Rocky Mountain snow lover, but I am really grateful to not only love it, but live in it!

Another reason why I love homeschooling: The freedom to shape our schedule around the things we love, the things that bring us joy and family togetherness. Whether it’s enjoying a productive snow day on our own terms, escaping to the mountains on a traffic-free weekday to hit the slopes or take a hike, spending more time on the subjects that capture my girls’ imaginations, or starting every day with God’s word, we homeschoolers have the freedom to make those choices for our families.

Yes, it’s a lot of work — I get that comment a lot from both my working mom and stay-at-home mom friends. And truth be told, I agree with them: It’s work! I’m not doing much else right now when it comes to my businesses, and I’m no Martha Stewart around the house. However, I am one of those people who would rather do one thing well than many things mediocre. That one thing for me right now is homeschooling.

I believe God has called me to make homeschooling my mission, and I’m willing to do the work — and make the necessary sacrifices — for the privilege of having days like today. It’s a responsibility like no other, but His blessings are new every morning. Days like today may not be typical, but they are full of blessings. Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord!

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

This post is part of a reader feedback link-up at Simple Homeschool’s “Day in the Life” series. See “Q&A Friday: YOUR Homeschool Day in the Life” for insight from other homeschooling moms across the country on this topic! We are also linked up with The Homeschool Chick’s Homeschool Mother’s Journal and “Day in the Life” Thursdays on So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler?


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