Tag Archives: school

School Evolves With Spring

Spring has arrived in Alabama.

The kids are more easily distracted from book work. The lure of a warm sunny day calls to them. It beckons to be played in, and discovered. So with that our lessons evolve from snugly days reading, afternoons coloring, regular crafting, and page after page workbook lessons to a world of discovery outdoors.

School Evolves With Spring

Paige’s craft from when we discussed chickens.

We are discovering animals  anew. Long walks lead to a discussion on cows, and their nature. An introduction of the baby chicken to their new environment, begins a discussion of life cycles. The planting of seedlings produces a wonder in the cycle of life that the Lord has created. The children marvel at how a seed so small can grow so large, which again open the door for more discussion.

School Evolves With Spring

The baby chicks around 1 week old.

Teamwork and diligence are demonstrated as a green house is being assembled. The value of hard work is being passed on to the next generation.

School Evolves With Spring

Rusty and a family friend working on the frame for our large greenhouse.

Playtime out doors brings its own lessons. Creativity and imagination develop as they turn an old box into their play house. They learn the value of sharing when there are three of them and one softball bat. New skills are being discovered as they are roller skating, riding bikes, and learning to climb trees.

The lessons don’t stop because the weather is warm. They simply evolve.

There is time enough for book work and crafting when the weather is  poor. So while the sun shines I will let them play, for in play they are still learning.

What are some ways that you can inspire learning outdoors where you live?

***Share this post with a friend if it has touched or inspired you in any way. Please just be sure to link back to the original post.***

Please continue to bear with us as we slowly work to update and improve this blog. 🙂

Preschool Homeschool: Themed Lessons

In our preschool homeschool we have been doing themed lessons as of recently. I thought I would share one of our themes from a couple of weeks back. At the preschool level I like to cover character, colors, shapes, introduction of letters, listening skills/ reading skills, counting, and as Chloe advances  further along letter and number recognition.

As I read blogs from homeschooling veterans, and books from experts they all seem to agree on one thing. At this age learning through play is natural. With this in mind while we have lessons, I have decided to keep them short and enjoyable. The lessons themselves are centered around things my children already enjoy doing even without specific lessons in mind. I would encourage you even if you plan on sending your preschooler to public or private school to keep the idea of active playing or playing with purpose in mind with your preschooler. While free play is wonderful playing with purpose helps children to understand from a young age learning can happen in almost every environment.

My girls naturally gravitate towards arts and crafts, stories, videos, games, and anything that involves outdoor play. My two oldest girls also love helping Momma in the kitchen. What do your kids love to do? Think about those things. Use the things they enjoy to introduce new concepts and reinforce old ones. Time spent with building blocks, for example, can also be a quick lesson in counting or colors, simply by asking them to hand you a specific number of blocks or asking them to find a certain color block. Arts and crafts also naturally lend themselves to learning. With crafts, kids work on fine motor skills, cutting, pasting, counting, color/ shape recognition, and more. They just need a parent there to challenge them to try new things, help them when they get stuck, and supervise to make sure they don’t eat the glue or cut their sibling’s project in half. 😉

Now that you have the idea, here is my theme from a couple of weeks ago:


Homeschool Preschool: Themed Lessons


I kicked off the lesson with a viewing of  Finding Nemo. I used the movie to talk about love, family, and listening skills. Plus it is just a cute movie.

Then we read a poem about fish. Now I really would have loved to have read The Rainbow Fish, but since we don’t have that book. I searched for children’s poems about fish. Reading is a great way to help young children build their vocabulary, so as you read  to them not only read their favorites introduce new stories, poems, and concepts.

The final portion to the lesson was a fish craft.

Materials needed:

  • construction paper
  • crayons/ markers/ paint (really whatever you are comfortable letting them use)
  • scissors
  • white paper
  • glue sticks

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Cut a fish shape out of your white paper.
  2. Draw face on fish.
  3. Cut scales out of construction paper.
  4. Demonstrate how to use the glue stick to put a scale on the fish.
  5. Let the kids have fun decorating their fish with the scales and coloring utensils.
  6. Display fish for all to see. 😉

***What are some of the ways your children learn best? What are some of your ideas for learning through active play?***

Now This Is Something New To Me… Church Schools

Moving has provided me an opportunity to learn more about homeschooling and how different states do things. Michigan is one of the most free states in the nation in regards to homeschooling. (If you want to know more about homeschooling laws and your state, refer back to my post on September 3 titled Homeschooling Laws. That post has some references to help you learn more.) Alabama has more regulation regarding homeschool than Michigan, yet the only regulation it has is that you must report that you are homeschooling. (In Michigan, it is optional whether or not you report that you are homeschooling.)

Now This Is Something New To Me... Church Schools

Coming from Michigan my frame of reference for reporting that I was homeschooling was simply filling out a form and sending it back to the state. Alabama takes a different approach and it has thrown me a bit of a curve-ball, at least at first glance. In Alabama you can homeschool via a (cover) church school or if you have a  teaching license under the title of personal tutor. The church schools are something new to me and each one is so different from the next. It seems each school provides a different level of oversight. Some say that the children must be taught by one parent who does not work outside the home, they must attend ‘school’ for 175 days out of the year, they get 5 sick days, 5 teacher development days, the parent turns in lesson plans and grades, the students must undergo regular standardized testing, and the family must provided a statement of faith. Then there are church schools that provide a legal cover and that is all, you are free to school under their cover in any way that you wish.

Honestly while I am not opposed to parents choosing a higher level of oversight for themselves, I am thinking our household will be looking for a school with no oversight. I want, if need be, to teach my daughter  at seven years of age kindergarten/ 1st grade English, because that is where her skill level is at and not be told she is failing. I want to foster a love of learning, and not make it a chore. I worry that if they must perform to some preset notion of what level they should be at and instead of the level they are, then they will start to see themselves as a failure.

That being said I am not opposed to challenging children. I plan to challenge mine. It is through challenges and even struggles that we learn and grow. I just want to be able to set the bar for the challenges at an attainable level for my children. Basically I just want tailor my children’s curriculum to their individual needs.

My other big thing is I want to be flexible as to when we do school. By that, I mean if we are really sick for two weeks straight, I would rather focus on getting well than on studies. Or perhaps I would rather just take off for a vacation mid year and visit family. Flexibility in scheduling is part of homeschooling, to our family.

At the end of the day I will just need to pray and do research to find the right cover school. Perhaps the right school for us is not one with no oversight but rather one with more than I am currently comfortable with. Perhaps the Lord will use this as a learning experience for me.


Homeschooling Through Transitions

In last week’s post I promised that this week we would discuss homeschooling through transitions. So here is that promised post, and another look into our homeschool.

One of the things I like best about homeschooling my girls is the flexibility it allows me. Currently we are in the middle of a big move and our homeschooling experience looks different from what it did a in the spring, or even over the summer. I really need the flexibility right now that I said I like.

When you are packing, traveling, visiting relatives, and unpacking it is hard enough to keep anything that looks like routine, let alone homeschool. I have found though, when we completely give up a habit (especially those that are healthy) it is that much more difficult for us to return to. The problem with that though, is I can not keep up with our normal activities and stay on top of the move.

Homeschooling Through Transitions

A little self-directed play time, all while working on skills.

4 Things I am doing in our Homeschool, while we are in transition:

1. Reducing the number of days a week we are doing school. If we know that we only have to get in school three days of the week we can work around the curve balls that moving likes to throw.

2. Focusing on the basics. This means arts and crafts, and science are taking a back seat right now. The girls are two and three, the more important things right now are play time, and learning: numbers, colors, shapes, patterns, and expanding vocabulary.

3. To reach our objectives, I am looking at methods and programs that can do more than one thing at a time. For example building with blocks we can play, discuss colors, count the blocks in our structures, and I can build things and see if the girls can repeat what I just made.

4. Last but not least, the one thing I am making a point of not sacrificing  is story time. Story time doesn’t need to be a long drawn out affair to be effective, just as long as we spend quality time reading together.

Curious George is a big favorite with my girls.




***During times of transition, such as the birth of a new child, a move, major illness, etc…, how does your family handle school? Do you take a break for a season and then pick back up? Do you find another solution that has not crossed my mind? Or perhaps you send your kids to school, so then how does your family handle the increased pressures of such times?***

Where the Focus of My Homeschool Belongs

If you were to take a peek into life at the Russell house, you might begin to realize that my children’s education does not look exactly the same from day-to-day.  One day we might be watching a little much TV for some people’s taste, but then on those days I try to balance it with outdoor play or anything else that involves being active. The next day we might be crafting and cleaning all day. Then again it might be a day full of errands and building blocks. One of my three-year old’s favorite kinds of days is spending time on ABCmouse.com, reading, cooking, playing outside, coloring, and playing with her trains.

On a superficial level you might assume that there is no consistency to their education, but that is where you might be mistaken. Daily we are talking about colors, numbers, letters, and the kind of behavior we want to develop.  We read bible stories daily, and stop to talk about what it is that we can learn from the stories.

As my girls grow, we will develop a more regular routine for school, but at 2 and 3 years old I want their education to happen naturally as part of their lives. We still have workbooks and educational software, but those don’t need to be where they get the bulk of their education. I want them to see that learning can happen in almost every situation, and I want to nurture their natural love of learning.

For now the consistency comes into play as we are learning daily in almost every situation. As I scoop flour they can help me count the scoops. Crafting helps them develop fine motor skills, learn colors, shapes, and more. I can print coloring sheets that have the ABC’s or numbers, and we talk about what we see on the sheet. Their Mobigo’s and ABCmouse.com are both educational software that they can learn with as they play. Reading together helps to expand their vocabulary.

So I offer you this encouragement while your children are young; don’t fret if they don’t like work sheets or anything that might resemble a formal education. Instead while they are young focus on developing your relationship with them. Your children are only this young once. Mother’s who are further along in this journey called life promise me that developing a relationship with your kids is foundational to almost every other aspect of parenting.


(Note: I am not being paid or compensated in any way for the links provided in this article. I just really believe that these items are working for my family and wanted to share them.)


How I am Teaching My Children to Rise Above

The bible is an excellent tool in teaching children to rise above temptation

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, this morning I noticed a friend was contemplating acting vindictively. I am actually not here to discuss that, while I don’t feel we should act in a vindictive manner, I think we all would agree we have  felt those urges. Some of us have acted upon them, and others  of us know how to rise above those feelings. What struck me really was in the comment section.

Hiding among the encouragement, for my friend, to walk away from the negativity and for her to set healthy boundaries, was the suggestion to simply give into that side of human nature. I don’t disagree it is human nature. What I disagree with is the idea that we should simply give into it if it is natural. There is a whole generation that believes if it is natural then it must be alright to do.

I would argue that emotions are just temporary, no matter how natural that it is that we have them, and our responses should not be based on the temporary. I understand the appeal; there is short-term gratification, some times it is just easier, and other times we know no other way. Instead I believe as a Christian I need to be seeking to live a life that brings me closer to my God. That life does not include room for the negativity.

I also believe that as a parent that it is my responsibility to be teaching my children how to rise above temptation, and that is one of the benefits for me in homeschooling. I can show them how I am living this out in my life everyday.

It is in the little things we build relationships.

It is in the little things we build relationships.

How I am teaching my children to rise above:

1. Drop to their knees

Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. We pray at every meal. We pray at bed time and nap time. They see me pray when I lose my temper, when I am hurting, and any time I am called to.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

2. Open the Good Book

We read bible stories together. We read from Psalms together. (I found at my children’s young age they handle the poetry better, than the long stories found in many of the other books.) We talk about what we read. They see me reading it on my own.  They know this is a book that is a part of our days, and not just decoration for our homes.

“I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” Job 23:12

3. Live transparently

In other words, I let them see me succeed and mess up. When I succeed I seek to show them how to do so humbly and graciously. When I have messed up and fallen short, which is often, I model apologizing, repenting, and simply trying again.

John 13:1-17 Is a beautiful example of Jesus modeling behavior.

4. Praise

When I see them displaying the character traits that I am hoping to instill upon them I praise them for their effort and hard work at it.

In Titus you will see where the Bible talks of encouraging one another in Godly behavior.

2013-06-26 10.59.56

Homeschooling allows my family the opportunity to do this each and everyday throughout the days. I know homeschooling is not the answer for every family, but it is for mine. I can best model this behavior when they see me consistently doing this.

Now if homeschooling is not the answer for you, great. Just don’t forget you can model the behavior you want to see when you spend time together as well. As I have read in multiple posts and heard in multiple venues recently, “More is caught, than taught.”

***What do you think? Is this something you can do? Is this something you are doing? Do you want to do this? Is there something more that you include in teaching your children to rise above?***


How I Came Around to Homeschooling

Sometimes it feels like I had a little birdie chirping in my ear about homeschooling, long before I had any children. At first, I was extremely resistant to the idea. It was for other people, strange weirdos, but not for me.  It was for parents who were highly educated themselves, not just anyone could do it. Really, how could a child ever socialize enough if the only people he or she saw were family members? I surely did not have  THAT much patience for educating and raising my future children.

This gives me a chuckle and I thought was appropriate here.  (source: Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division from a Pinterest link they found.)

This gives me a chuckle and I thought was right here.
(Source: Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division via a Pinterest link they found.)

One day the ‘buts’ and the ‘well maybes’ started to creep into my thoughts. But my mother’s cousin homeschooled, and her kids were always well-mannered and polite. Well maybe the flexibility to set your own schedule and take vacations when you want, not based on a particular school calendar wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe  if she is doing it then it isn’t as weird as I thought, but then again her family is pretty odd. (Looking back I have to say ‘her’ family was no stranger than mine is now.)

I was still had plenty of reservations. I was sure with more than two kids I would need the break, especially since my husband travels for work. What about my patience, could I be that patient day in and day out? I was convinced, I would never be able to write an adequate enough curriculum on my own.

Then one day it happened. I was sitting down with my two oldest at the kitchen table. They wanted to continue to color, but they were starting to get bored with what was in front of them. So I created a coloring sheet for them. They loved it! I was excited that I was able to work with them so simply, and still teach them new concepts in a way that entertained.  I ran down the stairs to the basement excited to tell my husband, that I thought it was even a possibility for me.

Chloe working on one of her homemade worksheets.

Chloe working on one of her homemade worksheets.

Upon opening up on Facebook, that I was considering this, I had expected much criticism. Instead, I received lots of encouragement and probably some of the best advice I have been given regarding this decision. I was told to research, research, and research some more.

So that is what I did. I continued to teach the girls during the day. During nap time and bed time, I would scour the internet for blogs, resources, local groups, and any other resource I could think of.

I learned that there are many curriculum choices available, for the homeschooling parent. I also started to see that there are about as many ways to homeschool as there are parents doing it. I also took the time to learn about the laws in my state. I went to a homeschool conference. I met some amazing families, heard some amazing people speak. Received some encouragement that convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt not only could I do this but that this was the road God was calling me down.


The conference I went to in the spring.

The conference I went to in the spring.

One of the biggest things I took from the conference: none of these parents felt they were exceptionally patient. They each had their own struggles. There will be tough days, but the rewards seem to out weigh any of the drawbacks. I also learned that, while homeschooling is within the reach of every parent, it is just not the right fit for everyone, and that is okay. This is my story of how I came around to homeschooling.

Why I Homeschool My Children

Why I Homeschool My Children

Chloe and Paige finding out what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda.

I am relatively new to the world of homeschooling, and I invite you to follow me on this journey. Come discover pitfalls as I do, and celebrate milestones with me as we reach them. I will not only talk specifics of our journey, but try to provide encouragement for your journey, whether or not you homeschool, because every parent is a teacher for their child.

I want to note that I am not against the public schools or any sort of school for that matter. Rusty and I have made the choice to homeschool our girls and that is our choice. It is right for us, that does not mean it is the right choice for everyone.

Here are my reasons why I homeschool my children:

1.  It provides me with the best opportunities for discipleship.

2. I can customize lessons to work with them at the level they are at, for each subject.

3. Excellent student to teacher ratio. 🙂

4. More family time.

5. More flexibility on when our family can take vacations.

6. They get to spend their days socializing with people of all ages and backgrounds.

7. I will be able to allow them to help direct the course of their education.

8. My husband would say we are homeschooling so that we can have the smartest babies, ever! 😉

9. My kids are loving the learning process currently, and I want to encourage that love daily. (I see too many kids who enter the school system, and then develop bitter feelings about learning.)

…and last but not least

10. I feel God calling me to do this!