How We Make it Work, Uncategorized

I’m pregnant, I have a toddler, and I still have to educate older children! by Cheryl


First, take a deep breath! (That’s just as much for me as it is for you.) Then, take a nap.

Okay, now you are ready to think about school, a toddler, and a baby.

Last time I was pregnant with a toddler, I only had one school-age child, and he was only in first grade. We had relatively few problems, even though I was very sick for six months of the pregnancy. Now I have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and an energetic preschooler.

The best thing I have done with our homeschooling was to train my oldest to be independent. He works alone, and then I check his work. We go over troublesome issues together, but he normally does well on his own.

Not all kids can do this – my daughter cannot. I have to sit with her for every minute of school. So, how do we make this work?

We are combining some subjects. Last year we started The Prairie Primer but only made it half-way through the book. We will spend this year finishing that. With this curriculum, we cover literature, some history, some science, and some nature study.

My oldest is working on a book of centuries for history. He is reading through the Kingfisher Encylopedia of World History a couple of pages a day, making notes in his book, and following up on what truly interests him with other books we have at home or that he finds at the library. He can also make entries from our Little House on the Prairie studies. This is completely independent.

We have always used Real Science 4 Kids for science. We will work through the middle school series for geology and astronomy this year. Because they are only ten chapters each, it is easy to finish two in a year. Even if we miss a few weeks, we can still finish the books. If we are on track to complete everything, we can supplement with other labs, books, and activities. The flexibility is great!

Everything else – math, grammar, writing, reading, etc – is open and go, just do the next thing. No planning, no searching out supplementary books. I simply track our days, and we do the next thing until we have completed 180 days, or really close to it.

We also attend a weekly co-op. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always been great for us. I enroll each kid in a class that is fun and fluff and one class that is more educational. Plus, they both do PE. If I put them each in a science class, I know that if we fall behind at home and skip science, they will still be getting science all year.

While these things help us maintain our education in the busy times in life, it is not perfect. I still have to remind myself that this is just one short season in life. I am only pregnant for a short time, they are only babies for a short time, and while toddlerhood seems never ending – too soon they are preteens.

We got behind a little when Matthew was born, and again when I had gall bladder surgery. Both times, we caught up and even surpassed what I had planned. The break from the norm may help reset everyone so that your school time is more effective. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the new baby smell.


Education is a Life

Calling for Backup, by Apryl

This piece originally ran on May 23, 2014.  Enjoy this Throwback Thursday!

Sometimes in the homeschooling journey, we run into subjects we cannot or do not want to teach. Sometimes our children need more interaction with the world at large. Sometimes mom just needs a small break. When these times arise, calling for backup is warranted.

Outsourcing is an important part of homeschooling, especially as your children reach the teen years. Depending on your area, income level, and family preferences, outsourcing opportunities can look very different from family to family. I will be discussing some of the ways our family has met these needs.


Volunteering is a great way to expand your child’s view of the world. There are so many unique ways your family can serve others in the community. My oldest child, in particular, has been a very active volunteer.

When she was twelve, we managed to talk our vet into letting her help at his office. She was able to observe surgeries, interact with adults, and learn a bit more about the profession. This experience allowed her to realize that she really did not want to be a vet like she thought, but she also learned that she has a very strong stomach!

Her love of animals, and that iron stomach, have led her to be a volunteer at a rescue center for birds of prey. There she has learned so much and developed a great relationship with the woman who runs the center. Now she is a pro at cleaning up bird dung and handling mouse guts.

She has also volunteered at two different libraries, one that was part of a metropolitan library system and one that is a small town library. Working at a local food pantry was another volunteer position she had and she learned so much about people there.

The girls have all spent time volunteering at nursing homes. They have gone with homeschool groups, scouts, and our church and have done everything from putting on a show to doing arts and crafts projects with the patients.

All of my girls will be volunteering at a summer camp this year. They will be mentoring and teaching younger kids in a science camp.

In order to find volunteer opportunities in your area, just ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses and services if they can use help: the worst they can do is say no. You will have more luck with older children and teens than with young children, but even when they are small you can volunteer as a family.

Religious Activities

Church is a large part of our lives, and I consider the things we do there as part of our outsourcing. The kids have attended Awanas, worked in the nursery, sang in the choir, helped with events, and attended regular services. Again, they have learned things they could not pick up at home such as relating to the elderly, caring for small children and infants, meeting some of the needs of the poverty stricken, being part of a choir, and socializing with larger groups of people. They have also learned more about our faith, and grown stronger in it.

Park and Play Groups

This option will depend on how many homeschoolers there are in your area and how far you are willing to drive. Most larger metropolitan areas will have park groups. A group of this sort usually meets on a regular basis to play, go on field trips, or organize things like field day. Don’t limit these to smaller children. We were lucky enough to belong to a teen park group that met once a week just to hang out and play. On warm days we met at a large park that could handle 20+ teens and other days we would meet at various homes. The kids developed some very close friendships, and also got some much needed exercise. They often played things like zombie tag, or “everybody’s it” tag, dodge ball, Frisbee, or just ran around and had fun.

Groups like this also have the ability to organize group field trips, often at a discounted rate. We were able to see plays at school rates, attend an astronaut school, visit museums at school rates, take farm tours, and more.

It did take us a while to find a group that we felt comfortable in. We have had the most luck with inclusive groups. While we are Christian, we have found that exclusive groups simply weren’t a good fit for our family.

Online Classes

Sometimes you need a class taught by someone else. There are many reasons for this, from a parent needing a teaching break, to the parent just not feeling comfortable in their ability to teach a subject. We are fortunate that so many classes are available online. There are paid and free options, with the paid options giving you more time with a real instructor.

Our personal experience with online courses have been with both self-directed classes such as ALEX math and Kahn Academy, and with a class that had a live instructor and certain class times. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Self-directed courses allow more flexibility in scheduling and pace. However, if you run into difficulty, it can be hard to get help. With live classes, you will have an instructor that can help the student, but you are also tied to the class schedule. We have found both types of courses to be valuable to our homeschool instruction.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) should also be considered as part of this option. This is a rapidly growing area in which you can find self-directed courses on just about every subject you can imagine. There are both free and paid options from universities and teachers around the world. Some of the most popular MOOC providers are Coursera, EdX, and Udacity.


Co-ops are parent co-operatives in which parents come together to teach (or hire someone else to teach) classes to homeschooled children. Co-op styles and structures vary greatly and it is important to find one that fits your family’s needs. There are religious and secular co-ops, inclusive co-ops and co-ops that require a signed statement of faith. There are co-ops that are entirely parent taught, and there are co-ops that hire professional teachers for their classes. Some co-ops focus more on extra-curricular classes, and some are more academically focused.

We have attended three different co-ops over the years. Our first was a very small, parent taught co-op that focused on extracurricular classes. This was a good way for the kids to do some fun things a few times a month. Since it was so small, however, a little bit of drama between families made the entire co-op uncomfortable. We ended up leaving.

Our second co-op was huge. It was in a large city with a very large number of homeschoolers. It was run like a large one-day-a-week private school, and there were waiting lists to get into classes. We weren’t there for very long due to a move, but it was a good way for the kids to get a few classes in, like acting and choir, that I couldn’t do well at home.

Our third and current co-op has been a huge blessing to our family. Now that the girls are all in high school, there are some needs that I find hard to meet at home. Our current co-op is fairly large. While it is a Christian co-op, it is inclusive and does not require a statement of faith. We attend one day a week, and the kids change classes during the day much like they would at public school. Parents are required to volunteer and the classes are taught by paid teachers. The quality of the classes and teachers is very high, with many classes taught by former professors and degreed teachers of their subjects. The girls take all of their foreign language classes there, along with some very interesting electives like Ballroom Dance and Fencing.

Clubs and Sports

Most communities have various clubs and sports organizations for children. You often do not have to be part of the public school system to participate. I know our rural area has Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, rowing, swimming, summer camps and more.

In some areas, you may also be able to participate in public school or private school sports teams. The laws vary from state to state. Some homeschool organizations even have their own sports teams.

Other Sources

Finally, don’t forget some of your most valuable resources: friends, family and neighbors. Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends all have talents and abilities that they may be willing pass on to your children. My father-in-law has taught the girls about gun safety, archery, botany, and more.  A friend organized a writing club for our children, and a friend of a friend ended up being our piano teacher.  The people in your life can become wonderful mentors to your children.

Most of all, don’t let the thought of being responsible for your child’s entire education intimidate you. You are essentially the director of their education, and you can find the resources you need to accomplish your goals, regardless of where your own strengths and weaknesses are.

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

Homeschool Wisdom

Sometimes You Must Compare, by Briana Elizabeth

I’ve said it so often myself, as a veteran homeschooler, “Don’t compare! Your child learns at a pace different from everyone else, and it’s an injustice to them to compare how fast they learn!” I mean, isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? A parent having the power to choose what’s appropriate for their student?

But I have found an exception to my rule, and I want to be a warning to you that sometimes, you must compare.

We’re almost into the middle of June, many of us are winding up our school year, or at least changing tracks for the summer, and planning out the next year and giving final grades or assessments to our students.

My 11th grader and two freshmen have all used David Hick’s Norms and Nobility Humane Letters lists which I love because I see them as an orchestra of beauty and truth, and my children have read through those challenging lists with gusto. Some of our favorite books and poetry are found on those lists. We truly love them. But my youngest son, who will be entering 8th grade this year and is a boy who would rather be playing in a fort, had to have a lot of accommodations made for his 7th-grade list (which is quite substantial, I assure you).   I was getting upset with his work, and though I have always taught to an A, meaning we do the work until it’s done perfectly–there is no mediocre and move on–I was having to constantly move projected dates back for him, and I started to realize that he wasn’t as mature as he needed to be to accomplish this list, never mind the 8th grade list. I was dreading how I would eventually have to drag him through those books.

Because of all this, I began to wonder if I should red-shirt him. Now, I have done so before with my current 11th grader, and it worked out incredibly well. I remember my math teacher in high school remarking that he wished all boys could enter school at seven years of age, instead of five, because they needed time to mature. Although it puzzled me then, now as the teacher of my children, I see what he meant. Not all boys need the time, but some do, and that should be available to them as a gift, not as a punishment of being held back.

Then I began to consider doing a 7.5 year, and just idling where we were until he was ready to take off again. Kind of like a gap year, but for middle school. It isn’t a bad idea, and one I was happily starting to pull together.

However, I recently received Memoria PressClassical Teacher in the mail and it hit me – I was expecting so much of him because I had only ever compared him to his siblings. As I read Memoria’s catalog, I realized he could more than accomplish the work they had laid out for 8th grade, and I wouldn’t have to make any accommodations.

I have long held that a parent should use MP as a plumb line, but I had forgotten to follow my own advice.  I know Memoria’s choices are wise, and their scope and sequence challenging yet appropriate. In our case, it will work perfectly.

Comparison doesn’t always have to be the root of envy. Sometimes it can be a reality check  that doing less than what you’ve expected or previously accomplished isn’t always a bad thing. I was reminded to adjust my expectations to the child. After all, he learns at a pace that is his own, and I have the power to accommodate my student as a homeschooler.

And that is always a wonderful thing.

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.


Parents as Teachers: Qualifications, by Lynne

This article originally ran on May 26, 2014.  Enjoy a Throwback Thursday!

One of the most frustrating things I have heard when I’ve told some people who know me that I homeschool my children is, “Well, YOU are qualified to do so.”

Yes, I’m fairly intelligent, have gone to grad school, and have taught and tutored many students. I have even taken half a dozen education classes in college. I’m not a certified teacher, though. I dropped out of the education department when I realized I’d be spending the majority of my life with angst-ridden teenagers if I taught high school French classes. (That wasn’t the real reason, but it’s a darn good one!)

So, yes, one might think that with my background I am qualified to teach my own children at home.

But guess what — so are millions of other parents who have completely different backgrounds from mine. Homeschooling is an entirely different animal from traditional school. Although many former teachers have chosen to homeschool, you don’t need a degree in education to teach your children at home. In fact, in my state, all you need, legally, is a high school diploma. If you’re willing to devote your time and energy to provide opportunities for your kids to become productive adults, you’re qualified to homeschool.

Homeschooling is not one definable “thing.”It’s as varied as the families who homeschool.   Homeschooling works for so many families because the parents are invested in finding out which methods, which curricula, and which approaches work best for their individual children.

Here are the qualifications that I think are most important for a homeschool parent, in order of importance.


I’ve put Resourcefulness as number one, because from the homeschool families I’ve observed, it seems to be the main factor in the success and happiness involved in this intense journey. You need to be able to do the research and find the materials or techniques that will help your child learn and grow. As Apryl pointed out in her article, sometimes that means finding someone other than yourself to teach your child.

Flexibility. Life happens. Kids are kids. You must be flexible. All the carefully planned out lessons in the world can be derailed in an instant. If you don’t go with the flow, your homeschool path will not be as happy as it could be.

Patience. This is another thing that makes me a little nuts. Mothers who have stayed up nights with colicky babies tell me they would never have the patience to homeschool their own children. Here’s my answer: “Yes, you would.” Do you have the patience to clean up vomit from a sick child’s bed? Do you have the patience to make macaroni and cheese every day for lunch for a decade? Do you have the patience to be vigilant when your baby starts to crawl and get into things? Of course you do. You’re a parent.

                                                  Patience is your job.

How else are these little people going to learn to ride their bikes or tie their shoes? And, I believe, your relationship with your child has a different dynamic when you are homeschooling as compared to when your child is gone for a good chunk of the day. My kids have gone to public school, so I’ve experienced both. You have a lot more patience for homeschooling when you don’t have to worry about homework, packing lunches, making sure the trumpet is packed for band practice, and getting to the bus stop on time. It’s a completely different way of life. That said, I think I’ve dug down deep into my baby toe to find my last reserve of patience as I’ve been teaching fractions this year.

Resilience. Not only do you need to be flexible, but you need to be able to bounce back from setbacks. Things will go wrong. It’s inevitable. You need to pick the family back up, brush off your pants, and get back to work. Sometimes homeschooling isn’t all kisses and cuddles and field trips. Sometimes you worry that you’re screwing your kid up for life. If you get bogged down in this mire, it’s hard to see the end goal.

So basically, your parenting skills transfer over to homeschooling skills. Don’t have any idea what the quadratic equation is? Find a math tutor. Your kid blew through in one month the Language Arts workbook that you were planning to use for the whole year? Go to the library and find books on parts of speech and punctuation. Your fifth grader can’t learn to capitalize a sentence after being made to correct about 8 billion un-capitalized sentences? (Personal experience!) Learn meditation techniques. The wonderful curriculum you spent $200 on is not working for your kid? Sell it online and buy something else.

I love teachers. I think many of them do an amazing job of reaching kids and inspiring them to learn. They have earned a degree in their field, and it applies to what they do in a classroom setting. I also think that the really good teachers have all the qualities mentioned above. So if you feel intimidated or worried that you are not a “real” teacher, take a moment to think. You are not in a classroom setting with other children. You are with your own children, and nobody knows them as well as you do. You are plenty qualified to inspire your children to learn and to become the best people they can be.

Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at


Author Page: Courtney


Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.

Courtney’s articles include:

Neuroscience & the Trivium

Neuroscience Says: Teach Them Cursive!


Scheduling: How to Pull It All Together, by Jen N.

I purchased grade level sets for most of my main curriculum for the last two school years. This year I’m mostly on my own. I inherited a plethora of books from my mom who is a newly retired schoolteacher. Coincidentally, her school covers American history in fifth grade, as we do. If you are a planning junkie like I am, take a minute and let the serendipity of my luck wash over you. Usually, I’d have used the library for all these books. We may even take two years to get through them. I haven’t quite decided yet.

I had a moment of panic when I thought about scheduling all of it, though. That’s a LOT of books. Then I settled down with a caffeinated drink, a snack, and everything in a big mound on the floor surrounding me like the book hoarder I am.

I’m going to attempt to break down the steps for you in a more civilized way.


  • A notebook/plan book/bullet journal – whatever you’ll be using to record your ideas. There are also great digital planners available if you like that sort of thing.
  • Your daily To Do list – what subjects do you want to cover on what days? Keep in mind any outside-the-home obligations. Don’t schedule a big academic day on errand day.
  • A list of materials and books for the year. I highly suggest writing a list and dividing into must-haves and extras. If you are using the library, try to write the list in order so that you can schedule those interlibrary loans on time.

Review your calendar and your To Do lists. I like to start with blocking off all our planned vacation time so that we know how many weeks we’ll be working.

Think about last year. What got done and what didn’t?

What amount of progress are you shooting for? I like to take this subject by subject and know my objectives for the year. For example: in geography, I’d like my student to have mastered the states and capitals both as recitation and finding them on a map.

In thinking about the big picture: with the results you are looking for in mind, what do you need to accomplish daily to get there?  This is where I try to be very honest with myself about how much work we can really do daily. It’s tempting to knit three math programs together, but that may not be realistic or fit with your big picture goals. I would rather add to a schedule later then have to drop subjects after a few weeks.

Make a new list that reflects these priorities and strips away anything unnecessary.

Schedule the core classes first. Make blocks of time devoted to those truly important things.

You may want a traditional schedule with subjects spread out over the week.

Block scheduling works well for some families. We do daily items in the morning and make subjects like science, history, and geography blocks where we work for entire afternoons on one topic.

Loop scheduling prioritizes certain subjects, and after you’ve ranked them, your schedule only loops through them circuitously.

Commit to one month of working this schedule before you start tweaking it. The first month of school can be rocky; don’t take it out on the schedule. Let it play out a bit. We homeschoolers are always learning at home, but any extended break tends to affect our work ethic. Give yourselves time to settle in before flipping things around.

You’ve got a big pile of textbooks and a clear plan book – now what?

Check the publisher’s website and see if they have a suggested schedule. If so, all you need to do is plug that into your plan. If not, then you can take the number of lessons or chapters and divide it out by how many school weeks you have and then by the number of days per week that you’ll study that subject.

Here is my grade school plan for this year:

Daily – Math, Latin, and Literature in the mornings.

Block afternoon schedule –

  • Monday: History
  • Tuesday: Geography
  • Wednesday: Science
  • Thursday: Writing
  • Friday: Art/Music

My high school student usually plans herself and works late into the night. I meet with her as needed to keep things in check. I made a blueprint for her four years, and as we complete subjects, we check them off.

That about covers it. Do you have more questions? Hit us up over at Sandbox to Socrates. We have about a million years of collective experience and can get you sorted in no time.


Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she lives in a world of fandoms. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and reviews books at


Parents are Teachers: You Can Teach Your Child to Read, by Cheryl

Every so often we run a favorite post from the past.  This first ran on May 28, 2014.  Enjoy!

Before we became official homeschoolers, I knew my son needed to learn to read. He was only four, but he wanted to read and was picking up some things on his own. I wanted him to have a good foundation. I wanted him to know phonics better than I did, but I was terrified I would mess him up for life by teaching him wrong!

All my life it had been made clear to me that you needed a degree to teach. I could not teach reading. I knew people who had done it, but I did not think I could. No way! I can teach kids to dance and sing, but read? I needed a professional.

One day a good friend brought me a book: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She told me I could do it. I also checked out the first set of Bob Books from the library (at her suggestion), and we gave it a try. Within a month, my son had read through half the Easy Lessons book and two sets of Bob Books! I did it! This reading thing was easy.

A little over two years later, my daughter (at age four) wanted to learn to read. My son read at four, so I tried. We went back to 100 Easy Lessons, but it was a disaster–there were tears every day. She just wasn’t ready; the desire was there, but not the maturity. We stopped.

Six months later we tried again, and again there were tears. We had studied all the letters, and moved on with more advanced phonics and some sight words, so I thought she was ready for sure. Again, we stopped. After another six months we tried again, and again we had tears.

What was I doing wrong? She was almost six and yet was not anywhere near reading. (I learned that it is not abnormal for a child to learn to read as late as 8.)

I was ready to give up until I read Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching reading.The first book in her Original Homeschooling Series lays out the plan in a clear and easy-to-follow way. (Read the full plan here or start at page 199 if you have access to a print copy of her series.) I started to use that method, and we made progress. We continued with phonics workbooks to support her reading. Eventually the Charlotte Mason method became too cumbersome. I like open-and-go-type programs, and this method required me to find books and make cards of all the words on a page. It took more prep time than I had.

I went to my bookshelves and stood staring at everything I had. I decided to go back to the simple, tried and true method: McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers. The pictorial primer lays out a lesson similar to the Charlotte Mason method, but I did not need to prep for it. Each lesson builds on the next in slow steps. I am pairing that with the Explode the Code series for phonics, and we have made significant progress in a couple of months.

The most important lesson I learned through this season in our homeschool life is that my kids are different and I must adjust our lessons accordingly. What works for one child may not work for another. Finding a method that works for teacher and student may take some trial and error, but it is important to find the right match for everyone.

Don’t let one “failure” stop you. There is a method that will work for each child; sometimes it is the curriculum that makes the difference, but sometimes the child needs more time.

Some Practical Help

One of our problems was reading-readiness. How do you know if your child is ready to read? A few things to look for:

1. Interest. Does the child want to read?
2. Ability to rhyme. This ability is linked to the ability to decode word families. My daughter only started rhyming in the last six months.
3. Oral blending. Break a word down into sounds orally (/k/-/a/-/t/) and have the child tell you the word. If she can’t do it listening to you, she will struggle doing it completely on her own.
4. Left to right tracking. Another issue we had to overcome. The human brain is not born tracking from left to right; it takes everything in at once. Practice this skill by having your child match a pattern or series you lay out in blocks or letters, starting on the left.

There are others, but with my daughter, these were the big four we faced. She had #1 down (interest), so we kept working on the other three skills until she was comfortable with them; then lessons became easier.

If the task at hand has you scared you may ruin your child for life (you won’t!), many programs exist to help you teach reading. These are all products we have used with some success in our house.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

The Bob Books

Junior Phonics

The Writing Road to Reading

Explode the Code

McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers

All About Reading, Abeka, and Rod and Staff’s reading program have been recommended many times as well.

You can do it! You can teach your child!

CherylCheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.



Neuroscience Says: Teach Them Cursive! by Courtney

Many folks these days feel that teaching children to write by hand is, at best, an afterthought. Typing has a higher priority. In fact, in my state students are supposed to be fluent typists by third grade. Many, if not most, public school districts now leave teaching handwriting to preschools, as part of the continuing shift of grade-level expectations downward. Students receive almost no handwriting instruction after learning to write the alphabet.

But, there are numerous reasons why this is a Bad Idea.

Cursive handwriting promotes literacy. Specifically, handwriting evokes a sophisticated reading “circuit” in the brain. The process of handwriting requires the brain to exercise literacy, whereas typing and “drawing” letters does not. (James & Engelhardt, 2012) For the last 40 years, some researchers have promoted teaching cursive from the beginning for just this reason. (Early (1976) as paraphrased in Montgomery, 2012)

Cursive handwriting promotes spelling. Students actually learn to spell better from the process of handwriting, as opposed to typing. (Berninger, 2012) For the last 40 years, researchers have advocated that students learn to write fluently in cursive because “each word or syllable consists of one continuous line where all the elements flow together … Handwriting, therefore, supports spelling and this contributes to literacy development.” (Montgomery, 2012).

Handwriting promotes writing. Berninger also says that children write more words, faster, with more ideas when writing by hand than with a keyboard. (Berninger, 2012)

Handwriting promotes content learning. Many studies have noted the poor retention by students when taking notes on laptops as opposed to longhand, but focused on the temptation to distraction.  But, when a series of studies focused on that exact issue, they found that typing allows students to space out, rather than have to think about their learning while writing. (Oppenheimer & Mueller, 2014)

Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscientist at the Collège de France in Paris, says, “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain, and it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize. Learning is made easier.” (Dehaene, 2014).

Cursive handwriting helps students with learning exceptionalities. “What has been known for many decades is that visual, auditory and articulatory elements must be firmly cemented in writing (Stillman, 1940, Schonell 1942).” (as paraphrased in Montgomery, 2012) Dyslexia programs have centered around cursive handwriting for the last 65 years because it works! (Montgomery, 2012). Cursive helps students with dysgraphia who would otherwise be “lost” on the page as soon as they lift their pencil from the paper. (Montgomery, 2012)  Furthermore, this extends to helping students with working memory — those who use handwriting have greater working memory activation. (Berninger, 2012)

Cursive handwriting promotes academic success. Montgomery notes that in upper-level courses, a student’s writing speed influences how well a student does in class because it affects how fast they can take notes and write essay examinations. She notes that because cursive writing is faster than printing (Ziviano & Watson-Will, 1998), it contributes to academic success. (Montgomery, 2012).

Increases in literacy, spelling, content learning, writing, and academic success for students with and without learning exceptionalities change the real question to “Why aren’t we teaching cursive?”



Berninger, V. (2012). Evidence-Based, Developmentally Appropriate Writing Skills K-5: Teaching the Orthographyic Loop of Working Memory to Write Letters So Developing Writers Can Spell Words and Express Ideas. Handwriting in the 21st Century: An Educational Summit. Washington, D.C.

Dehaene, S. (2014, June 2). Neuroscientist. (T. N. Times, Interviewer)

James, K. H., & Engelhardt, L. (2012, December). The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, pp. 32-42. doi:10.1016/j.tine.2012.08.001

Montgomery, D. (2012). The Contribution of Handwriting and Spelling Remediation to Overcoming Dyslexia. In T. N. Fern-Pollak, Dyslexia – A Comprehensive and International Approach.

Oppenheimer, D. M., & Mueller, P. A. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science.

Ziviano, J., & Watson-Will, A. (1998). Writing speed and legibility of 7-14 year old school students using modern cursive script. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59-64.


Courtney Ostaff is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.

Pezze e Piselli

July Pezze e Piselli, by Tammy

Today marks the celebration of the United States of America’s 240th birthday. 2016 is also a presidential election year here. Teaching our children about government processes is important no matter where we live, so I’ve compiled a list of resources to help with that endeavor. If you can recommend a resource, especially for countries other than the US, please link it in the comments or post it in our Facebook group. (Some of these are affiliate links that benefit Sandbox to Socrates if you purchase.)

Grammar Stage:

The U.S. Constitution and You

How the U.S. Government Works

Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts

The Land of Fair Play: American Civics from a Christian Perspective (uses a baseball game analogy)

iCivics (free games)

Logic Stage:

America’s Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty (free)

One homeschool mom’s schedule for America’s Heritage

Crash Course Videos

Written resources to use with Crash Course Videos ($$)

Rhetoric Stage:

The Federalist Papers – Federalist Paper #10 speaks to factions and much of the logic applies to the advantages and disadvantages of parties; Federalist Paper #68 speaks to the electoral college. A Kindle version is free. THIS Kindle version has a free bonus audiobook (99cents at time of posting).

The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate. ~Thomas Jefferson



Tammy lives in the desert southwest where antelope play in her front yard, grazing among the rattlers and scorpions. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking, and crochet. She currently  homeschools one son.