Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

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Last Chance to Buy Your Own Copy of Homepreschool and Beyond!!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 29, 2015

Hello, subscribers and friends of Homepreschool and Beyond! I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that. I am planning on doing better! But for now, I have some important news to share with you. My editor has contacted me to tell me that my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, will go out of print as of January 31rst, 2016 , kn both paperback book form and inn Kindle form! So if you’ve been waiting to  buy your own copy, you’d better do it right away!

I do  intend to purchase a limited  number of copies to sell, but I haven’t decided exactly how to make them available, and I don’t even know how many are still in existence…so I’d encourage you to buy your copy now. Don’t forget to buy copies for your friends or kids (for your grandbabies), either.

It really makes me sad that the book didn’t do better. To me, the chapters on art, music, and games alone make it  worth it–not to mention the huge book list (and entire chapter!!)  I guess the developmentally appropriate approach just isn’t popular in today’s culture. Many parents want to push their children along, ready or not.

Nevertheless, I will continue to encourage parents to let their children learn at their own pace, emphasizing the three R’s: Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud, along with activities in art, music, science, and more. Preschoolers can learn so much, and Homepreschool and Beyond shows you how to teach them. Please be praying for me as we begin this transition. There is more news coming soon!








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Christian Families and Halloween: Do They Mix?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 24, 2014

Halloween is usually associated with “innocent fun.” I celebrated Halloween as a kid…who didn’t? We went around the neighborhood with a mixture of excitement and fear. My dad and brothers were really into it. One year, my dad rigged up a crane of sorts that could be controlled from the inside of the house. When children approached the door, they used it to drop down a scary looking dummy right in front of them. Another year, our church (yes, our church) put on an adult Halloween party. My brothers helped decorate a barn for the occasion. They somehow got a coffin in the center of the barn with a scary looking dummy inside. They rigged it up so that the coffin opened and closed, and if you touched it, you got a mild electric shock.

Innocent fun, right? Anything but. If you are brave and willing to have your way of thinking challenged, read on…

Now that I’m an adult, I hate Halloween. We don’t celebrate it, my children don’t dress up, and they don’t “trick or treat.” We don’t even answer the door. I refuse to celebrate a “holiday” that glorifies witches, demons, Satan, and evil.

Many parents tell their children that these things are just “pretend.” Really? I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell my children that witches and demons aren’t real. And ghosts? I believe that what most people think of as “ghosts” are really demons.

I wonder about the spiritual repercussions of Halloween as well…especially in regards to preschool-aged children. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want our young, impressionable children thinking about monsters, witches, and demons. I hope you understand how terrifying they are to preschoolers…especially since we honestly can’t tell them that they are pretend. What might that lead to? Bad thoughts? (Certainly.) Lack of faith in the protection and power of God? Bad dreams? Spiritual oppression? Interest in the occult?! Maybe. Can we risk that?!

Other things I hate about Halloween: I hate that I can’t even go out to eat or to the grocery store without exposing my children to scary things that glorify the devil. In fact, I avoid taking the kids shopping or even out to dinner this time of year.

I hate the feeling of spiritual oppression that comes over me this time of year.

I hate that Halloween is imposed on me (I don’t knock on my neighbor’s doors on Christmas and demand a present upon risk of playing a trick on them.) I also hate what Halloween teaches children: That it’s OK to knock on the doors of strangers and take candy from them; that scary, evil things are real, acceptable, and fun. But most of all, I hate Halloween’s roots and what it represents spiritually.

In my opinion, Halloween is not a Christian holiday and should not be celebrated by Christians. I believe that as Christians, we should teach our children that evil is evil, and it is to be avoided. Not only are we to avoid evil, but even the appearance of evil. Part of our responsibility as parents is protecting our children’s innocence and their thoughts, as well as teaching them to control and protect their own thoughts as well.

Below are some links that better explain what the Bible has to say about such things, how the “holiday” got started, and what Halloween really celebrates. The last two links will take you to You Tube videos, where a former witch shares why Halloween is not for Christians. I hope you will prayerfully consider the information, and pray about your family’s decision to celebrate Halloween—or not.

Should Christian’s Celebrate Halloween?

The Truth About Halloween (article)

The Truth about Halloween—video by a former witch, part 1

Part 2

Can You Christianize Halloween?



© 2010, 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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What To Do When You’re Off to a Rough Start

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2014

Note: This is a classic post that originally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back. I’ve updated it, hoping it will encourage you. Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!

Have you been thinking: “Here it is, only October, and I already feel like a failure as a homeschooling Mom?” I feel a little like that right now, too.

It seems as though September was nothing but one interruption after another. We had one child struggling with an ongoing illness, along with all the requisite doctor appointments; we had unwelcome guests in our house—two mice—which meant traps, then cleaning and sterilizing; we ALL got miserable colds, and finally, we finished off the month with our annual off-season vacation.

Not enough school has been completed! I already feel “behind”. My plans have been set aside, and my vision for the first month of the school did NOT come true.

What should you do if your year has started like ours? First of all, and especially if you are new to homeschooling: Realize that “some days are like that.” Actually, some months are like that. I always tell new homeschoolers that the hardest part of homeschooling is not the academics—it’s life. It’s dealing with interruptions, illness, errands and laundry. This is a normal part of homeschooling that we all must learn to deal with. If this is your first year of homeschooling, you are probably finding that out.

Another thing you may be learning is the pain of unrealized expectations. They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed, and of course, a house that is always perfectly clean and beautifully decorated. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.

So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start? Here are some ideas:

-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool, and the bravery/grace to be able to follow it.

-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling. So we can’t give up!!

-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. A realistic goal is steady progress (slow and steady wins the race.) Preschoolers and Kindergarteners need time to build a foundation of basic knowledge about the world, and a wide vocabulary before they are introduced to academics.

-Re-examine your expectations. Are they appropriate? Often new homeschoolers spend TOO much time daily, and expect TOO much from their children—especially YOUNG children.

-Re-examine the readiness issue: Has what you’ve been expecting of your young learner been inappropriate? Is your child resistant? If so, perhaps you need to back off a little.

-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do? (I admit, I’m still working on that one.)

-Re-examine your thinking processes. Are you “thinking like a homeschooler” or a public-schooler? Are you trying to bring the public school into your home? (I will be posting about “thinking like a homeschooler” soon.)

-Consider shortening your lessons, doing more work orally, and generally “lightening” your load. Charlotte Mason says that short lessons actually build children’s attention spans. After all, it is better to have your child fully engaged and paying attention for a short lesson, than having him squirmy and inattentive for a long lesson. We want our children to look forward to school, so keep them begging for more.

-Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays, in exchange for schooling part of the summer (it’s too hot to do anything outside in much of the country, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week; Fridays are set aside for catch-up work, park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, and so on (we often can count Fridays as school days, too.)

-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Take the phone off the hook if you need to, or turn off the ringer. Set your cell phone to silent.

-If you haven’t already, take the time to write down the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place–as well as some basic goals. That way, when you have a tough day (or week), you can re-read them and remind yourself that those reasons haven’t changed. You’ll probably see that your important goals are being met, as well. (These are usually spiritual or behavioral in nature.)

-Plan time for the fun stuff: I know this doesn’t make sense if you feel “behind”; our tendency is to double the school work, instead. Resist that temptation or you and your child will quickly become frustrated and burn out. Instead, plan the time you need to enjoy art and music with your children. Art and music are more than just “extra” subjects; they teach skills vital for young children. Furthermore, they lighten the mood in your home, make learning fun, and give you and your children the opportunity to feel successful.

-Start over: If you are new to homeschooling and feel as if September has been a bust, give yourself a chance to start over. Give yourself grace! Count the days you have already done as “practice”– time to break into your school routine, and get the “kinks” out. Then, start over. That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments.

-Get support: Do you have the support that you need to homeschool? If you haven’t connected with a Christian homeschool support group first, do so right away! Connecting with a Christian support group and participating in the activities/supportive meetings they offer can make the difference between homeschool success and burn-out or giving up. It can even make the difference between sanity and insanity!!

-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He always gives us the knowledge, strength and abilities we need to complete the task. Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up. Just start over! Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there. It does get easier. It really does, I promise.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Elementary School, Encouragement, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Join Us on Facebook

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 8, 2014

Did you know that there is a “Homepreschool and Beyond” Facebook Group? If you have younger children (especially preschool through grade three) and are trying to “live the 4R’s” (relationship, routine, readiness and reading aloud) in your homepreschool/homeschool….OR, if you a “thinking about” homeschooling/homepreschooling, please join us! The purpose of the group is to provide information, support, and encouragement to families like you!! We have 99 members now, and are trying to get more than 100. Won’t you join us HERE?!

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Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014

Have you ever considered how much peer pressure homeschooling parents have to endure? First there is the objections of friends and families when we decide to homeschool/homepreschool our kids. Then there is the unrelenting comparisons and academic competition (a lot of it, developmentally inappropriate, due to the curriculum “push down” that has been happening over the last twenty or thirty years of so.)

Is your homeschool (OR homepreschool) being held hostage by the expectations of others? Sometimes it sure feels that way. This is the question Heidi St. John tackles in this wonderful article I just discovered. I really needed this article today. I sometimes feel I’m “held hostage” to the expectations of the next few years…we are starting junior high again next fall. Lots more writing and heavy “academics” are expected. What about you? One thing this article says is that we should be free NOT to do preschool. Hmm. I always enjoyed the preschool years, and it was always fun to me. But how has it been for you?

Do you feel you have to “prove” yourself, and the value of homeschooling, to your extended family? Does that take away your joy? Does planning activity after activity wear you out? Do you feel pressured academically about preschool and Kindergarten? Please. Don’t. Go. There. You have so many years ahead of you. It will all be covered, in time.

Do you have young children, and yet are already worried about “how in the world will I teach Algebra?” Don’t. Go. There. God will provide a way!! It’s OK to let your little ones be little, and enjoy them at the age they are at right now. It’s OK to let them spend the day playing. Please, DO. I would much rather see parents swing the pendulum towards “no preschool” than swing it towards an academic-type homepreschool: Worksheets, two or three years of “alphabet” type activities and so on are not what preschoolers need! Remember, they will pick up those preschool “facts” (A,B,C’s, numbers, colors, shapes, and so on) simply through good parenting, if you trust them to do so. And if they haven’t learned all their “preschool” facts before Kindergarten, then teach them to them in Kindergarten! Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to make our preschoolers “ready” for Kindergarten. Instead, we can make our Kindergarten ready for them!

Remember not to overlook the forest for the trees. Remember WHY you are homeschooling/homepreschooling. I hope that it is for spiritual reasons.

What is really most important at this age? The 4R’s: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading aloud. Throw in lots of play, art, and music and you’ve got it covered. Really. Trust me on this!! If you need a refresher, please revisit my tabs (above), and explore the articles on “readiness” in the archives. You also might want to take a moment to read the “Goals for the Balanced Mom”. But for now, PLEASE take a moment to read this fantastic article (linked above). Think about it, and pray about it. Then ask God what priorities HE would ask of you for this year. What should your children be learning this year? How should you teach it (what methods should you use?) Ask for a bold vision, and then when it is given, don’t be afraid to obey God and follow his vision…no matter what that vision may be. It may have to do with academics. It may have nothing to do with academics. Most likely, it will have to do with building relationships with God and family, teaching morals and character, learning to love those basic Bible stories, being consistent and intentional, growing your patience, spending more time in the Word and in prayer as a family, and so on.
Hugs! ~~Susan

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Early Academics, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized, Vision | Leave a Comment »

The 4R’s Re-visited: Building Relationships With Our Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 14, 2014

Building relationships should be the focus of our lives and our homes. As I say in my tab on relationships (above),

“Developing relationships is the most important part of any homepreschool/homeschool. We must help our children grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families. Many of us say that this is our priority, but in truth, it is not. If helping our children develop a close relationship with God was really our priority, it would be reflected in the amount of time we spend reading Bible stories to our children, memorizing the Word with them, praying with them (and for them), and worshiping together. (Discipleship.)
If it really is our priority to build strong, loving relationships with our children, that priority should be reflected in our behavior as well. Specifically, it should be reflected in the amount and type of time we spend with our children. Children need both quality and quantity time. Quality time involves more than just our presence—a warm body alone is not enough. (Too often we are “with” our children without paying any real attention to them.) Instead, our relationship-building efforts should be concentrated in several specific areas: Building quality conversations (which is a two way street, involving listening and speaking), time spent playing together (which lets us into their imaginary world), and time spent reading aloud to our children. Reading aloud to our children is one of the most important ways to build relationships with them, and also, help them learn.
I’m sad to say that we too often neglect what is most important (building strong relationships) in favor of other priorities (early academics, our own interests, etc.)
We must take the time to “make the main thing the main thing”, and teach our children about the Lord while they are young.”

Here are some ways to build relationships with our children—and help our children build close relationships with God.

~Spend quality time with your children. Be fully engaged: Not half-listening while you are updating your status on Facebook, watching television, or talking on the phone. In fact, limiting your screen time will do a lot to help you build relationships. But take it even further: Limit your children’s “screen time”, too. Even having the television on in the background has been proven to be detrimental to young children. In truth, the television (and even those special “educational” programs and DVD’s) is not good for young children. They are not what they need. Nothing can replace face-to-face interaction with real people.

~Spend time talking to your children. Have real conversations, which involve listening and talking—a back-and-forth proposition. Let them tell you about their latest toy, art project, or whatever. Even if you really could care less about it, act as if you do care, and make yourself listen attentively. Pray and ask God to help you care. God cares about even the smallest detail of our lives. We should care about our children in the same way.
Set aside time for talking with your children, and take advantage of the time that happens naturally, during your normal daily routine–dinner time and bedtime are wonderful opportunities to connect with your children, no matter their age.

~Play with your children. The window of opportunity is small! Soon enough your children won’t be as open to this. While they are young, children welcome their parents into their pretend world. This not only helps you build closeness with your child, but helps you understand their thought processes, too. Often children’s play reveals a lot about how they feel, what has been bothering them, and so on.

~Play games with your children! Begin to teach your children to play games (not computer or video games, but board games and card games) when they are three and a half or four years old. You can introduce the “rules” gradually, if you want to; you can even use small treats as counters, if you want to. The key is: Make it fun!
Games teach lots of important social skills, attention skills, and can “teach” pre-math skills, too. For more game ideas, see my post on “playing games with preschoolers.”

~Reading aloud to your children: Reading aloud is a natural bonding time. Pick a classic picture book, get comfy, cuddle, and read!! Allow your children to participate in the reading by chiming in with repetitive pages, pointing to the pictures, and so on. Allow them to ask questions, and take the time to answer them….in other words, pay attention to them! Don’t just rush through the book as if reading is a chore to be done as quickly as possible. Suggested book: I Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.

~Use a gentle, loving touch: Touch communicates so much. A touch of the hand, the ruffling of the hair, holding hands, cuddling…all of these communicate love.

~Say the words: “I love you.” Say them often! In our family, we sing “I love you” songs, and even have a secret signal that means “I love you.” The words, “I love you, no matter what,” or “I love you forever, to the moon and back,” mean the world to children. We even sing songs of our love for them (“I love you, a bushel and a peck,” or “You are my sunshine.”)

~Make holidays special: Keeping family traditions gives children security, draws us closer to each other, and bonds our family together in a distinct unit. Many of the holidays also gives us the opportunity to share our faith with our children.
~Do special things for your kids: Surprise them with their favorite dinner or favorite treat. Tell them why: “Just because I love you.”

~In summary, the key to developing close relationships with our children is three-fold: love, conversation, and time.
Let your little ones be strongly attached to you. Don’t rush preschoolers into premature independence through a lack of the time and security that you can provide. Let them know you love them. Set aside/plan special time to spend with them. Talk to the all the time, and let them talk too: Really listen. Be there for them. Give them the security of knowing they can count on you to care for them, no matter what. These simple things are all you need to help you grow close, loving relationships with your children.

© 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author. Short quotes that link back to this site are OK.

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Homepreschool and Beyond Is on Facebook

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 10, 2014

I want to invite you to join me and my Facebook friends by joining our group, “Homepreschool and Beyond.” The purpose of the group is to share information and support with those families who are trying to live out the 4R’s, as listed in my book: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading Aloud. It is aimed at parents of younger children (preschoolers through third grade or so), but everyone is welcome. It is a place where I can answer your questions and share ideas, links, and more. Please join us!
If you need to know more, please check out the tabs above on the 4R’s. And keep your eyes open for new posts about the 4R’s, coming soon!


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Homeschool Parents: Are You Worried About What Your Children Are Missing?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 13, 2013

   Many parents who are considering home schooling worry about what their children will miss if they are homeschooled. They worry that their children will be lonely. They worry that their children will not know how to cooperate with others during group activities. They worry that their children won’t “fit in.” These questions boil down to THE question, “What about socialization?”

   What we worry about as homeschooling’s greatest weakness is actually homeschooling’s greatest strength. Home educators have the unique opportunity to “civilize” their own children through training, teaching social skills, and real-world socialization with people of all ages and races.  Children develop true, lasting friendships with children from like-minded families. Park days, field trips, and church activities—rounded out with work and service opportunities—provide ample, POSITIVE social interactions. The artificial world of a classroom, where children are all the same age and all do the same things at the same time, cannot compare to the real world of home, work, and family.

If you are still worried about the things your children might “miss” if you homeschool them, consider the list below.


Things Children “Miss” When they are Homeschooled


  1. The religion of secular humanism and other new age philosophies.
  2. Being taught moral relativism and even a tolerance of sin (otherwise known as “political correctness”.)
  3. Social contagion (“catching” the “contagious” attitudes, behaviors and immoral knowledge of peers, and even teachers.)
  4. Peer pressure (pressure to “conform” to group norms in order to “fit in”).
  5. Peer dependency (relying on peers for love, support and advice instead of relying on parents).
  6. Sexual harassment, bullies, gangs and drugs.
  7. The fear (and reality) of school shootings and other violence—fights, bomb threats, gang fights, school lockdowns, police chases, and so on.
  8. Catching (frequent) illnesses, diseases and head lice.
  9. Feelings of insecurity (feeling unwanted or rejected by their parents as a result of being pushed from the home nest before developmental maturity—see Home Grown Kids.)
  10. Being taught the test, and then promptly forgetting it.
  11.  Inadequate, inferior education.
  12. Lots of wasted time (while the teacher quiets the class, passes out papers, takes attendance and so on.)
  13. Being or becoming unwilling or unable to speak to or relate to anyone who is not their age or in the same grade.
  14.  Being bored by work that is too easy, OR being labeled “learning disabled” because of work that is too hard (it will come easily when they are developmentally ready!)
  15. Sex education, death education, and “outcome-based” education (“lessons” whose goals include changing your child’s attitudes and/or beliefs.)
  16.  Not knowing who your teacher will be the next year, or who your classmates will be.
  17. Being away from your family all day.
  18.  Having separate lives from your own siblings; growing apart from them.
  19. . Having to send your child to a school nurse if s/he is having an asthma attack or needs an Advil.
  20. Having to get a doctor’s excuse for every time your children aren’t feeling well or are sick (OR every routine doctors/dentist appointment, etc.Missing school while sick (we just “do school” later—our kids don’t miss anything.)
  21.  Getting arrested for bringing nail clippers to school.
  22.  Having to use filthy bathrooms (or avoiding them all day, to the point of physical pain….in my high school, the bathrooms were favorite hang-outs for the smokers and dopers. If you had to go, you had to breathe it.)
  23. Having to endure holidays you don’t celebrate (such as Halloween, in our case) and being forced to ignore holidays that you DO celebrate (or ignoring their true meanings.)
  24.  Cafeteria food (or soggy packed lunches.)
  25.  Enduring a year with a teacher who can’t teach.
  26. Hours of homework each night, leaving no family time.
  27.  Compartmentalized education—nothing inter-relates (not even God…)
  28.  Growing up too fast, but never really growing up.
  29. The systematic undermining of parental authority, teachings and beliefs.

I bet you can think of even more things to add to the list! Are you feeling more confident about your decision to homeschool now?  How about a real “shot in the arm”? Remind yourself of the following reasons to homeschool, and the advantages of the homeschooling lifestyle:

Reasons We Homeschool

  1. To obey the Lord.  Since we believe the Lord has called our family to homeschool, and that the scriptures command parents to teach their own children, we homeschool to obey the Lord2.   We want our children to grow up to be Christians, and not stray from our faith/morals.
  2. We want our children to receive a Christian education and develop a Christian world-view.  We want them to learn truth, and use the Word of God as the ultimate standard for truth.
  3. We want to protect our children from immoral and ungodly influences, especially before they are old enough to learn discernment.
  4. We want our children to learn to stand up (and speak up) for their beliefs.
  5. We want our children to develop Godly morals, habits, and character traits.
  6. We want our children to have a developmentally appropriate, individualized education that is customized to their learning style, interests, talents and abilities (we want them to have the freedom to learn at their own pace/we can choose curriculums and methods that fit their needs.)
  7.  We want our children to enjoy an old fashioned, traditional childhood. We seek to preserve innocence and imagination for as long as possible, and provide plenty of time for play.
  8. We want our children to know how to read, write, and do arithmetic.
  9. We want our children to love to read, and to be read to (for longer and longer periods of time) daily.
  10. We want our children to love to learn, know how to learn, and how to do research (and we want our children to be curious.)
  11. We want to help our children prepare for real life, have real-life experiences, and develop real life-skills.
  12. We want our children to develop discernment regarding dress, music, literature, friends, politics, religion and morals.
  13. We want our children to be independent and critical thinkers.
  14. We want our children to understand the flow of history—how one event influences others—and we want them to understand how church history is interwoven throughout it, influencing it “behind the scenes.”
  15. We want to expose our children to the best in art, music, and literature…and we want them to appreciate/enjoy art, music, and literature!
  16. We want our children to grow up without becoming a part of the rebellious teen sub-culture. We want to be our children’s culture.
  17.  We love our children and want them to be with us.  We enjoy their company.
  18.  We like being able to tailor our school schedule to fit into our family’s schedules, sick days and vacation times.
  19. We want to socialize (or civilize) our children ourselves, instead of letting them be “socialized” by their secular, untrained, and often unsupervised schoolmates.
  20. We want to know who our children’s teachers are every year.
  21. So that we can encourage our children’s interests, bents, and hobbies (these often turn into careers.
  22. We want our children to be successful in the Lord’s eyes, not the world’s (we homeschool with eternity in mind.)
  23.  We want our children to develop true, deep, and long-lasting friendships with people of all ages and races, based on common beliefs and interests (not simply “you’re my friend because you sit next to me in class.)  We enjoy socializing with other FAMILIES, not just having our children socialize with other CHILDREN.
  24. To promote sibling love and bonding: we want our children to be each other’s best friends.
  25.  Because we want our children to homeschool our grandchildren.
  26.  Because God gave these children to us. We are responsible for them. They are under our authority, not the governments.

Here are a few other, far less serious reasons we enjoy the home education lifestyle:

    27. So that we can “do school” in our jammies or sweats.

28.  So that we can “do school” wherever we want to (outside—on a blanket in the back yard, in the fort, or on the patio with a dog on our laps….or inside, in front of the fireplace, on the couch, at the kitchen table…or wherever (we control the atmosphere.)

29. So that we can “do school” via fabulous fieldtrips (A.K.A. family trips/vacations OR support group fieldtrips), when the opportunities arise.

30. So that we can provide our children with lots of hands-on learning.

Read these lists over when you are feeling discouraged, overwhelmed or inadequate.  Remember, if God calls you to homeschool, HE will give you the abilities and self-discipline you need to carry it out.  Be assured, you HAVE made the right decision.  Your children aren’t missing anything God ever intended them to have.

© 2010, 2013 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission. 

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The Best of “Christmas Past”

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 19, 2012

   Wow, time has really gotten away from me this year. How can it possibly be so close to Christmas already? I have to admit, I’ve had a hard time “getting started” on Christmas this year–and here it is, almost upon us. But I’m determined to get lots of “fun stuff” done in the time remaining!!

   This week the boys and I are going to do our traditional Christmas prep and fun–baking, crafting, and so on. As per tradition, we need to make Dad his popcorn balls and homemade beef jerky, as well. If I get around to it, I will try to post about some of our crafts this year. But for now, here is a round-up of my posts from “Christmas past”: 

The “Christmas Gift” saying tradition

Teaching Children about the Symbols of Christmas

How to make “Button Trees” (an easy, last-minute craft, if you have time to head over to the craft/fabric store)  

The Importance of Keeping Traditions (an overview of a chapter from Homepreschool and Beyond.)

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of (encouragement to make the fun stuff happen this year–yes, there is still plenty of time left for the fun stuff!!)

    Christmas blessings!

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.                     



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What Your Preschooler Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 13, 2012

Two year olds:  This year marks a transition from toddlerhood to childhood. Imaginative play will blossom for your child this year; his thinking and speaking skills will grow in amazing ways as well.  Be sure to choose toys that encourage this:  Play phones, dolls, play kitchens, blocks, cars, and so on.  Duplo- sized Legos are also great for imaginative play, as well as building hand strength and dexterity.  Favorite toys at this age: Fisher-Price Little People sets, (these will be favorite for a couple of years), stack and nest cups or blocks, knob puzzles, and beads to string.

Two-year-olds need plenty of time to play outside as well—sand play, tricycles, and swing sets are popular, along with play props like balls, hoops, etc. Occasionally, bring inside toys outside to renew your child’s interest in them. (NOTE: Supervise your two-year old when s/he is outside at all times! Some two year olds still like to eat or throw sand–and two year olds are notorious for climbing where they shouldn’t.

Your child’s daily routine should be expanded again to include music (listening, rhythm band and singing), finger plays, and art experiences: painting with watercolors or tempera paint, and simple craft projects using paste or glue. A collage is a great way to start.

Many two year olds don’t seem to stop moving from morning till night.  They need our help to calm themselves.  Music and reading aloud do this beautifully.  Be sure to plan some read aloud times—at least once mid-morning, after lunch/before nap, and again before bed. Throughout the day, alternate boisterous activities with quiet ones like reading or play dough. This helps keep your child from getting overtired, and keeps emotions on an even keel.

Three and four year olds: Your child is officially a “preschooler”!  But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be drilled on his colors, numbers, or alphabet. Instead, help him learn those “preschool facts” through play and reading aloud. Continue to talk, talk, talk to your preschooler, naming everything you see, and explaining everything you do. This grows his vocabulary and his understanding.

Children this age are ready for short “preschool” schedules of their own. ” Preschool” at homel doesn’t need to take longer than an hour or two, and can be interspersed between your older children’s school work.  Include Bible stories/devotions, calendar, music, finger-plays, and story time daily; try to provide an art experience at least three days a week. You can also explore cooking and baking activities and simple science experiments once in a while.

Begin memory work with your child if you haven’t already. Simply repeating scriptures to your child over and over or listening to scripture memory songs will produce quick memorization in most children this age. We often practiced our memory verses in the bathtub, where I had a captive audience.

Introduce your child to (safety) scissors and pencils, pens, and felt-tipped pens if you haven’t already, and begin to leave age appropriate art materials out for him to use whenever he wants to. The added blessing of these activities is that they can keep your child entertained for long periods of time while you school your older children.

Games are great ways for preschoolers to learn. Use store-bought games like Concentration, Hi-Ho Cheerio, Bingo, Dominoes, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland to teach your child those “preschool facts” painlessly (counting, turn-taking, matching, and more.)  It’s easy to make your own card games, bingo games, matching games, and felt board games, as well. Remember to be patient and wait for interest and readiness when it comes to early learning. Studies have shown no long-term benefit to early formal academics, and lots of possible harm. (Remember, Homepreschool and Beyond has an entire chapter full of tips and ideas for learning games.)

Play for preschoolers: Three year olds and four year olds have more patience than two year olds do, and enjoy playing with more complicated building toys. They love blocks such as CitiBlocks, Dr. Drew’s Blocks, or the classic “Unit Blocks” (read about the benefits of block play/what children learn HERE.)  A good set of blocks might be expensive, but they will be used for many years. Even older children and adults enjoy Citblocks or Dr. Drew’s Blocks. My boys (9 and 11) still play with ours now and then–just look at the complicated designs possible on the websites above and you’ll see why.  IDEA: Combine blocks and cars or blocks and plastic animals and you’ve got twice the fun—kids will build towns, garages, zoos, and more

      Preschoolers also enjoy more complicated puzzles, games, and imaginary play. If you haven’t introduced prop boxes yet, now is a great time to do so!  Prop boxes are easy to put together from household items, and really do encourage imaginary play.

 Finally: Remember to “keep the main thing the main thing.” The main thing preschoolers need to be taught is to know about and love the Lord,  to love their family, and to obey their parents. They also need other “moral” lessons, which should all be framed within a Biblical perspective–lessons about telling the truth, being kind, being forgiving using self-control, etc etc.  These lessons are  far more important than any lessons intended to teach those  “preschool facts” that everyone seems to worry about (colors, shapes, numbers, alphabet.)

Other posts you might enjoy: What Preschoolers Should Be Learning: The Best Curriculum for Preschoolers 

The Four R’s for Early Learners (Preschoolers) 

The Goals of Spiritual Development


© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.     


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What Your Baby Really Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 16, 2012

As promised, I am continuing my series on providing the best for our youngest children. Today we will tackle the needs of young children from 9-12 months, 12- 18 months, and 18-24 months. The next post will cover three,  four and  five year-olds.

Remember, it is assumed that you are continuing what started at infancy–and at each stage before, as appropriate: Working to build a close relationship with your baby, teaching your baby about the Lord, praying for and with your baby, playing with your baby, reading to him, singing and talking to him, and so on.  This post is  simply meant to help you see what is going on with your baby, and how you can optimize their development at each stage.

9-12 months:  Crawling, cruising, walking, climbing–perhaps even talking!  Baby is learning or doing something new every day…often something that will amaze you. Be sure to keep a close eye on your baby. This is difficult, since we all have to go to the bathroom sometime! I warn you because this is the age when you are likely to walk into a room only to find your baby perched on top of the piano, as my mother did with me.

Try to keep your baby interested in the things you want her to explore. Set toys out on your coffee table so that baby can cruise around the table and play with toys from a new perspective. Babies love push and pull toys at this age—these toys help them with their balance and teach them cause and effect, as well.

Try pulling the cushions off your couch and making a “baby  obstacle course”—or putting blankets over a table to make a tent.

At this age, my babies loved push-along walkers like these. They also loved things that go: Balls, cars, etc.  There is never a dull moment at this age, to be sure, but your baby will never be more fun, either!!

12-18 months: Your baby is now officially a toddler! Baby understands more and more, and is learning how to communicate through pointing, gesturing, and making sounds. The number of words your baby will understand or be able to use is directly related to how much time you spend talking and reading to him, so keep it up!  Most babies this age will have quite a few words:  “mama”, “dada”, “bye-bye”, “uh-oh”, “all gone”, and so on.  Some baby’s first word is “NO!”  Soon he will be stringing words together to make sentences

Some parents discover that this age is the real start of the “terrible twos”, and also, of a need for (gentle, but firm) discipline.  Now is the time to begin to teach your baby to come when called, and to respond to the words “stop” and “no,”  if you haven’t already. Thank-goodness toddlers are still easy to pick up and carry away from the carnage, when necessary.

Part of the reason baby gets so frustrated is because he can understand far more than he can express. If you want to help your baby communicate more efficiently, consider learning some sign language and teaching it to your baby.  Sign language is proven to decrease frustration and tantrums, and increase baby’s abilities to communicate (many parents start doing this when their babies are tiny.)

Your baby is learning lots of new skills and wants to try them out–sometimes in inappropriate ways. Additionally, you should know that some babies have the tendency to concentrate so intently on their emerging skills that other skills are put on the back burner for a while.

Babies this age usually love alphabet blocks, stacking and nesting cups, and best of all, plastic jars and small toys for filling and dumping (dropping toys into the plastic jar, and then dumping them out.)  I used to clean out old plastic milk cartons and then cut a small slit near the top, and a larger one (large enough for hands to reach in) near the bottom. All my babies loved fitting the lids from baby food jars into the top slot, and then watching them fall through to the bottom. (Tip: Discovery Toys has some of the best toys for babies that I have ever seen.)

18-24 months: Baby’s daily routine is changing, sometimes day by day. Some babies this age are ready to give up their morning nap. Your baby’s daily routine can now be expanded to include first art experiences. Start by finger painting with pudding in the high chair and then introduce fat crayons, play dough, stickers, etc. Watch carefully that your baby doesn’t eat the art supplies!

Music is very important for toddlers. Play classical music quietly in the background during playtime, and be sure to introduce children’s music by artists such as Raffi (the Singable Songs for the Very Young collection is a great choice),  Linda Arnold (Bathtime Magic is my favorite—and yes, we’d play it during bath time!), Parachute Express,  or the Wee Sing Series (especially Wee Sing and Play), if you haven’t already. Sing to your toddler in the bathtub (“I’m gonna wash that dirt right outta your hair” from the movie South Pacific) and during your daily routine (“This is the way we wash our hands”, and so on.) Check out a whole day’s worth of singing ideas at This Reading Mama.

          Baby should love to be read to now, and have books available to look at whenever he wants them.  Babies this age love books that teach sounds (what does the duck say?), and books that include repetition. For suggestions, read my post titled, “Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers.”

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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What Your Baby Really Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 28, 2012

Every summer, homeschooling parents spend hours pouring over catalogs and planning their children’s next school year and curriculum. We lay out schedules, set goals, and most importantly, pray over our children’s lives and needs.

I can’t help but wonder: Do we spend half as much time planning for the needs of our babies, toddlers and preschoolers?  Don’t they deserve some planning time, too?

No matter your child’s age, a good place to start is by remembering the 4R’s: Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud. Keeping these in mind keeps our goals in proper perspective, helping us to  make the main thing the main thing (Relationships with God and family always come first!)

Even though it is a good idea to spend some time planning for them, babies, toddlers and preschoolers don’t need an academically-based “curriculum” (even though they are being offered nowadays!)  Work books and flash cards are not appropriate; their best curriculum is life. But the types of learning experiences they need are unique, and not always accomplished without some thought and planning. So here are some thoughts to help you plan for your baby/toddlers needs, age-by-age.

 What Your Baby/Toddler Really Needs, Age-by-Age

 0-3 months:  The goal of baby’s development at this age is simple: bonding with family and growing secure in the love and consistent care he receives. Additionally, to boost brain development, babies need to be read to, sung to, and talked to. Most of all, babies need to be immersed scriptures, praise songs and prayer.

Babies (and toddlers) are unique in that while they require their own daily “lessons” about life, the truth is, they often become the lesson for the rest of the family. They teach our older children patience and selflessness–how to put another’s needs above their own. They teach them to be loving and gentle with those who are young and fragile.

Homeschooling with a baby in tow is exhausting, but it can be done!  Plan to take advantage of baby’s nap-times for your older children’s school work.  We always saved mid-morning nap-time for phonics, math, and other subjects that require intensive “mommy-time”.

Consider streamlining your school time for a season. After all, you need your rest, too! Alternate science with history or geography, or simply read aloud to your children to cover those topics. Try doing only four “formal” subjects a day:  Bible, math, language arts, and a unit study (reading aloud about history or science.)  In addition, be sure to incorporate art and music into your daily routine, via free-choice activities or planned activities—at least two or three days a week.

 3-6 months—continue as before AND: Babies at this age are learning to control their bodies. Now that their eyes can focus at longer distances, they are becoming more interested in their environments. God designed babies to be especially interested in faces.

3-6 month-olds need opportunities to strengthen their muscles and take in the world from new perspectives. Make sure to give you baby plenty of “floor time”—time on the floor, on his belly. This gives him opportunities to strengthen his neck muscles, arm muscles, and back muscles. Before you know it, your baby will be rolling over, scooting, and then crawling everywhere.

Change your baby’s perspective by moving him from the floor to a swing, or to a bouncer seat (once he can support himself/hold his head up.)  Provide rattles and other safe baby toys so that he can learn to control his grip. Once grabbing on is learned, learning to let go is next (and often harder!)

Expose your baby to different textures. Try laying baby on carpet, a soft blanket, or a smooth, cool parachute; lay baby on her back, on her belly, and on her side for a change of pace.

Finally, be sure to take the time to enjoy your baby’s developing social skills. Respond to your baby’s coos, then wait for her to answer you—thus making your first conversations. Play tickle games, make faces at baby, and watch as baby learns to make them back at you.

 6-9 months:  Baby’s really on the move now!  Rolling, scooting, or even crawling his way into trouble.  If you want to school in relative peace, you’ll need to make liberal use of playpens or gates…and nap-time.  We gated off half our house with an extra long gate, and closed doors to keep our babies where they needed to be. Make sure your house is “baby-proof”.  We had to gate off our older children’s rooms so that the Legos and other toys with small parts were out of reach for baby.

Increase the amount of time spent reading to baby, even if you only look at the pictures and talk to baby about them. And if you haven’t already, introduce your baby to classical music, folk music, and of course, praise music. Many babies will try to “dance” while cruising (holding onto a table for balance while trying out his wobbly legs) and some may even try to “sing”.  My oldest would cry whenever there was a break between songs, then “dance” again once the music started back up!

Let your older children take turns entertaining baby, and make sure they learn all the little baby songs and ditties you enjoy with baby, so that they can share them with their own children someday. (“X Marks the Spot”The Wheels on the Bus (move baby’s arms or feet for the wipers, etc.), Open Shut Them, Jesus Loves me, and so on.

At this age, my kiddos loved their bouncy seat (the kind that hangs in a doorway.)   The “jumparoo” looks like a good modern alternative. They also enjoyed sitting, propped up in their “Boppy”.

          Finally, a  warning about television: Even if your baby is interested in the television, try to keep it off completely when s/he is in the room…even those videos designed for babies can’t compare to interaction with real people and real things. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age to two shouldn’t watch any television at all. Experts have linked television viewing to the development of ADHD, claiming it “rewires” children’s brains.

Next post: Ages 9-12 months, 12-18 months, etc. 

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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At-Home, Summertime Fun for Young Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 9, 2012

   Sorry I haven’t posted in such a long time! Life has been a little bit crazy around here. But I’m back, and hope to post more often, although I can no longer promise a post a week. I’m realizing that I’ve been spending too much time on the computer.

   Anyway–it’s summertime again, so I thought I’d brainstorm some activities that are inexpensive but will keep your kids busy and playing happily this summer. Some are for at home, and some are not, but I hope this list will inspire you to plan some fun for your kids this summer. Make the TV a special treat, not an everyday obession…save the movies for once or twice a week. Instead, have some fun with your kids!!

Summertime Fun Ideas

*Set up a tent in the back yard*OR hang a blanket over the clothesline or a swing set*

*Color with sidewalk chalk

*Paint with water outside on the cement

*Set up a snap-set side pool; add ice to play with, water toys (measuring cups, Barbie dolls, boats, duplos, etc OR set up the pool under the end of a slide, and make a “water slide”)

* Play with toys outside on a blanket

*Read favorite picture books on your blanket

* Paint/watercolor outside (set up an easel on the fence)

*Paint with chalk paint (available at all the major retailers near the sidewalk chalk/other summer toys

*Make homemade play dough

*Blow bubbles

*Play at the park

*Go on a nature walk

*Paint rocks (collect them at the beach/river)

*Go to your local furniture/appliance store and get a large box or refrigerator box; cut out a door and window/paint or color with felt-tipped pens; put pillows inside. After you’ve played “house” awhile, set up your house outside on the sidewalk. Draw ‘roads” with sidewalk chalk. Drive trikes on the road…you can be the police-lady. OR, make a whole town out of boxes; make stop-lights, too.

*Play with sand and water OR make mud pies

*Make an aluminum foil river

*When the weather is nice, spread out a blanket on the patio. Set up blocks and cars or blocks and plastic animals to play with. (There is something novel about playing with “inside” toys outside.) You can combine the blocks with sidewalk chalk to make a city or a zoo with roads, trees, signs, etc.)

*Set up blankets over a table inside, and play underneath

*Invite friends over to decorate their trikes with crepe paper, and then have a parade

*Read books about the ocean, then go to the ocean!

*Go fishing

*”Fish” inside with homemade “fishing” poles: tie yarn to a small stick or dowel; tie on a doughnut magnet; cut out “fish” from construction paper and put a paper clip on the fish’s mouth, then go fishing!

*Bath fun: Add ice to the bath, and watch it melt; “paint” on the sides of the tub with shaving cream; add measuring cups, plastic spoons, etc to bath with shaving cream and make “milkshakes”, etc

*Eat meals outside

*Have a tea party (let your girls dress-up on your old dresses or in square-dance petticoats first)

*Play soccer and volleyball with a beach ball. Even babies love beach balls and can play soccer: Hold your baby under the arms, and help them “kick” the beach ball by swinging them towards it.

*Set up hula hoops into a “path” and have your kids jump from hoop to hoop

*Set up a large sensory bin outside (birdseed, beans, sand, rice, etc….make sure your kids don’t put it in their mouths!)

*Let your kids “wash” plastic dishes in the kitchen sink

*Set up a large plastic bin with water and water-toys outside. Sponges are fun, too.

*Take your kids to vacation Bible school, or set up your own for the neighbor kids in your backyard.

*Christmas in July: Make time for all those neat projects and crafts you never got to last year, or get a head-start on Christmas by making Christmas presents NOW.

*Have your husband help your kids learn how to saw wood and pound nails into scraps of lumber (supervise carefully.)

*Go to Lowe’s Saturday “make it and take it” classes

*Enroll in summertime classes at your local craft store

*Take swim lessons

*Host a swim party or sprinkler play party

*Do “float or sink” experiments. Try to predict which items will float.

*Make Home-made ice cream: Follow your own recipe, or make “ice cream in a can”

*Learn how to jump rope, play hopscotch, and for older kids, learn how to play jacks or marbles

*Have a game day: Learn a new board game or card game.

*Make homemade popsicles or “fruit-sicles” (blend cool aid with real fruit, then freeze.)

Please share your ideas in the comments, and have fun this summer!!



© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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The True Story of Matthew and the Power of Praise

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 30, 2011

     This is a true story that took place WAY back when I was a preschool teacher.  At the time, I worked in a large daycare center, with one large classroom containing around 80 kids and 4 teachers.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent um, ornery—no, guilty.

             One of the little boys, Matthew, age 4, was a pill.  He seemed to be a study in contrasts.  He could be as sweet and loving one minute, and out of control the next.  He was very smart; we used to say he’d grow up to be a politician because of the way he would argue with us.  It seemed as if he was always in trouble.  He was wild.  He resisted naps.  He had trouble sharing toys, and he was often involved in playground scuffles (often over toys or taking turns.)  Finally he started really hurting (biting, hitting, pushing) other children.  Every day.

      The staff had a meeting about the problem.  Instead of devising new punishments or calling another meeting with the parents, we decided to try a new strategy.

         One of the teachers would be assigned to stay close to Matthew all day long.  This teacher was instructed to do two things: 1) Keep him from hurting the other children, and 2) start looking for the good in Matthew—and praising him for it.  The other teachers were also instructed to praise Matthew for any positive thing that he did.

      I have to admit, some days it was hard.  We had to become really creative to find things to praise him for.  At first, the praise Matthew got went something like this:  “Wow, Matthew, you haven’t thrown a fit in twenty whole minutes!  Don’t you feel proud of yourself?”  Or, “Matthew!  You haven’t biten anyone during recess today.  I can tell you’re trying hard to be kind to others.”  And even, “Matthew, thank-you for using your words to tell Phillip the ball was yours.  You’re really learning self-control.” 

     Within a few days, it became, “Matthew, I want you to know that I’ve noticed how nicely you took turns on the swing today.”  And even, “You did a great job cleaning up cheerfully, Matthew. Thanks for being a good helper.”

      Whenever he did something right, whenever he was kind or considerate, whenever he WASN’T doing anything naughty, Matthew got praise for it.  And inside a week, a miracle happened.  It started getting easier to find things to praise Matthew for.  He was basking in our praise—soaking it up.  After one week, he was a totally different child.  He was pleasant, obedient, and would go entire days without getting into trouble.

      This experience taught me an important lesson:  Children who don’t get enough positive attention will act out to regain the attention they crave—even if the only attention they can get is negative attention.  And once a pattern (or habit) of only negative attention occurs, the child loses self-esteem, and spirals down even farther into bad behavior–without knowing why.  In response, parents find it harder and harder to like the child they love so much.  Many times they even develop their own bad habits and behavior patterns; they continually notice the “bad” in their children and overlook the good, thus initiating a self-perpetuating cycle. 

      It’s up to us as adults to stop such negative patterns in their tracks, and help our children feel successful and good about themselves.  It’s up to us to give our children the praise and attention they need. 

      Not any kind of praise will do.  Praise has to be specific.  Praise the behavior—not the child, and name any positive character traits you see in your children.  Avoid saying things like, “Good boy,” or “Good job.”  Instead, say something more specific, such as:  “I like the way you came right away when I called you.  You are so obedient!”  Or, “Thank-you for picking up your toys so cheerfully; you are such a big helper!” 

       Non-verbal “praise” works too.  Make a concious effort to smile at your children; rub their backs or ruffle their hair affectionately to communicate that you are pleased with their behavior.  Be sure to make the praise as immediate as possible, as well; this insures maximum impact.

      Try the power of praise and see what happens.  Maybe you’ll have a “miracle” of your own.  

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.








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Valentine’s Day Unit Ideas (for Preschool and Kindergarten)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 24, 2011

  Valentines Day will be here before we know it!  It’s time to get ready now.  Here are some ideas to make your Valentine’s Day tons of fun–I’ve added more art ideas and pictures for this year’s post!  Here we go:

Homemade Valentines: (Important tip:  If you are going to have your children craft your own cards this year, be sure to allow plenty of time–especially if you are going to mail them.  Don’t try to make them all the night before you need them!)  Making your own Valentines is fun and easy.  Best of all, it gives children a way to express their love for others.   Materials you will need:  Heavy cardstock (cut to 3×5) or folded paper of varous sizes (for the card base), stickers, pre-cut hearts, small lace doily hearts, etc.  Look HERE for specific/more elaborate ideas.

Other Fun:

How Sweethearts are made (virtual fieldtrip)

 Games and other fun for older kids

 Books to read: A Friend is Someone Who Likes You, by Joan Walsh Auglund

A Kiss for Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak

 Otto Shares a Hug and a Kiss (Kathleen Morey)

(We also love Otto Shares a Tear, by the same author.)

Let’s Celebrate Valentine’s Day:  A Book of Drawing Fun, by Carolyn Loh

Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch (this is so sweet…a real tear jerker for us moms!)

Valentine’s Day Is, by Gail Gibbons (history of the holiday)

That's What a Friend Is

  Valentine’s Day Is… by Gail Gibbons 

Product Details

   Product Details

The Valentine Bears, by Eve Bunting

 A post office theme is a traditional part of Valentine’s Day.  It’s fun to make a prop box for this—including envelopes, stickers (for pretend stamps), a grocery bag with handles (mail bag), and a box with slits in the front to put mail IN, and an opening in the back to take mail OUT.  Some families make their own “family mailboxes” so that they can send “love notes” to each other year round!  A good book to read for this is The Post Office Book:  Mail and How it Moves, by Gail Gibbons.

 More Art Ideas:

-Paint with red and white, and make pink.  Talk about color mixing and name each color.

-Make heart people and animals:  Cut hearts of various shapes and sizes.  Also have google eyes, pom-poms, and felt tipped pens available.  Use these to make your heart people/animals (it’s a good idea to have your children lay out their ideas before gluing.)  These creations are only limited by your imagination; here are some pictures of some we have made in the past (below).

the legs are paper that is cross-folded.

Mr. Lion only needs 5 hearts

Alternate idea: Make Valentine people out of playing cards.  Find the Queen of Hearts and other  cards in the heart suit.  Use a Sharpie Pen to draw a nose and mouth; add google eyes.  We added pipe cleaner arms and legs, too.  So cute!

-Marble painted hearts:  Cut a heart shape our of white or pink paper.  Place the heart in a shallow box (we use masking tape to secure it to the bottom of the box.)  Mix up some tempera paint (not too thin-not too thick–preferred colors are red, pink, and purple.)  Using a spoon, dip one marble at a time into the paint mixture, then gently drop it onto the heart.   Move the box from side to side to make lines on the heart.  Repeat with the other colors, as desired.  After the heart has dried, glue it onto a larger piece of paper to make a card.

       Have fun!  ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

For more ideas, check out these links:



Posted in Art, Book Lists, Crafts, Holidays, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschool/Kindergarten: A One or Two Day Unit for Groundhog Day (Feb. 2)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 17, 2011

Books to read:

Groundhog Day, by Gail Gibbons

Gregory’s Shadow, by Dan Freeman 

Groundhog Day (Rookie Read About Holidays) by Michelle Aki Baker (all the books in this series that I’ve seen have been good.)

What Makes a Shadow (a Let’s Read and Find Out book)

 Shadows and Reflections, by Tanya Hoban

How Groundhog’s Garden Grew, by Lynn Cherry (I haven’t seen this one, but I have some of her other books and enjoyed them very much.) 


-Watch the news in the morning (on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2nd) and see what the groundhog “predicted.” Talk about the prediction, and whether or not you think it could be true.

-Record the weather for the next six weeks and see if the groundhog was right or wrong.  If he was right, be sure to explain to your children that he isn’t always right.

-Check out the website, Groundhogs at Hogheaven and look at pictures of groundhogs and listen to the groundhog’s calls.  Find out even more about groundhogs (or woodchucks)  HERE and more about Groundhog Day HERE

-Play shadow tag.   

Learn a Tongue-twister:  Teach your kids the old stand-by:  “How much wood does a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  (“Woodchuck” is another nickname for the groundhog.)

Vocabulary:  Hibernate (“Phil” is pulled from his burrow—he hibernates), groundhog, woodchuck, whistle pig (other names for the groundhog), predict, weather.

Art: -Make a pop up ground hog or a stick puppet groundhog (preschoolers can assemble these if you prepare the pieces.) 

-Make shadow art:  Fold a piece of construction paper in half.  Have your child paint (thick tempera paint works best) on only ONE SIDE of the fold.  Then carefully fold the paper together and press gently.  Open the fold to see an exact copy (or shadow) of what your child painted.

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, preschool curriculum, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Another Link for Winter/Snow Units

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 14, 2011

  Hey everyone,

     I just came across a good collection of ideas for winter/snow.  Check it out!  http://1plus1plus1equals1.tumblr.com/tagged/winter


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

The Most Important Books, Listed by Age (Part One of My Required Reading List)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2011

Introduction to the list

Why another list?

     I realize that there are tons of book lists out there—and in general, I love them. I love them so much that I included a chapter-long recommended book list in my book—one that lists books just for children ages preschool through age 8.  So why do we need another list?  Because this is different kind of list.  As much as I love the lists, and as much as I love the idea of owning a million books, I’ve recently had to accept that a million books just won’t fit into my house—no matter how hard I try (and believe me, I’ve tried!)

What’s wrong with the other lists?

     Over the years, I’ve discovered many wonderful book lists.  But many of the lists I’ve found are too long and too overwhelming.  Besides, who can afford all those books, anyway?  And who can possibly make the time to read them all?  Most families—ours included–are forced to pare down our bookshelves and our book lists to those that are most important—those that we really don’t want our children to miss (O.K., O.K., I have to admit, I still have tons of books…we’ll still read lots of books that aren’t on my list…but I do want to be sure that my children read/hear the most important ones.  I have a senior again this year, and I’m realizing that there are too many she’s missed—and I don’t want that to happen with my younger two!)

     I have also found some common problems with many of the book lists I have found:

1) Many of the lists are developmentally inappropriate—either in regards to reading level or content.

2) Many of the lists nowadays include books that I don’t want my children to read, for various personal reasons (especially the lists from the public schools and public libraries.)  I just don’t trust their suggestions.  I try to choose books that show the difference between good and evil clearly; books that show parents in a good light; books that include a good over-all moral or redemptive theme (the sinner learns a lesson/good prevails/the characters grow), and so on.  I admit that at the high school level I struggle to weigh the pro’s and con’s of many of the “classics,” and the value versus the potential harm of many books (such as Lord of the Rings.)  How do you draw the line between “fun” and “fantasy” and “occult”?  <SIGH>

3) Many of the modern lists leave out the traditional classics, replacing them with the types of books I listed above.

4) Most of the book lists I have found are limited to certain age-levels.

        So I decided that I needed to make my own list—a special kind of list.  A list of the most important books.  Not a million books—just 25 books or less per age-range.  This is my basic list—my ideal list of “required” reading for my kids.  (If I could only have 25 books per age range, these are the ones that I would pick.)  I know I’m leaving out lots of good ones–I hope you’ll share your favorites with me by adding a comment.

Why do you include a listening level AND a reading level on your lists?  And why do the reading lists overlap in age?

     Children’s abilities, maturity, and interests vary greatly within the normal range, and so it is natural that the reading levels would overlap. 

      Once your children are willing to listen to longer books, they will enjoy listening to you read aloud books that are one or two age levels above their actual age or reading level. That’s why I include a separate “listening” level.        

     Once your children are reading independently, remember that their confidence and fluency will grow leaps and bounds if you allow them to read lots of “easy books” at first—yes, even books below their actual age/reading level.

     Remember that children enjoy repetition; they will want you to read aloud many of their favorite books over and over, even when you think they have “outgrown” them. 

     Finally, remember that these “reading levels” are not an exact science.  These are just my opinions of approximate age level.  I judge the reading levels by the difficulty of the words included AND according to my judgement of the content (story-line/theme) the book.  For another opinion on the reading level of specific books, check out Scholastic’s Book Wizard Site. 

      So, here we go.  Here is my list of the “can’t be missed”, most important books for children, from infancy through high school, PART ONE (and remember, there is a much longer and more complete list of books in my book, including holiday/seasonal books, just for preschool through age 8-10 or so.)

Babies and Toddlers

     What kind of books do babies need?  Babies and toddlers need simple text and pictures, bright colors OR black and white.  They like pictures of real things—especially other babies or animals, and they need books that include repetition. 

     Even if it seems as if your baby isn’t listening at first, keep reading to him anyway.  Reading to your baby is vital to baby’s cognitive, speech, and language development.  Idea for wiggly babies: Try skipping the text for a time and just talking to your baby about the pictures—or self-“edit” the text to keep it extremely short.   Babies aged 18 month-olds and up (or so) can begin to learn to identify and point out items in the pictures.) 

Note: I put a star after the books I’ve seen as “board books”.

 1.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?*

2.  Goodnight, Goodnight, by Eve Rice

3.  Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown* (I think I have this one memorized!)

5.  It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw

6.  Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt*

7.  Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field*

8.  Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella Lindvall

9.  Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown*

10.  The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss (a first book of opposites, in rhyme, as only Dr. Seuss can do)*

11.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle*

12.  The Big Red Barn, by Margaret Wise Brown*

13.  The Discovery Toys Book of Nursery Rhymes, by Julie Lacome (out of print but worth the search; classic first rhymes and songs to sing, such as “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”; not too long for little ones)

14.  Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle*

Little Golden Books: 

15.  The Animals of Farmer Jones, by Richard Scarry

16.  Bow Wow, Meow!  A First Book of Sounds by Melanie Bellah and Trina Schart

17.  The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford

18.  The Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone

Chunky Books:  These are tiny board books that stand up in a circle.  Babies love the real pictures or animals and babies, and they are just the right size for tiny hands!  All my babies loved these.

19.  Baby’s Animal Friends (a Chunky Board Book), by Phoebe Dunn*

20.  Baby’s Busy Year, (a Chunky Board Book), by Phoebe Dunn*

 21.  Farm Animals (a Chunky Board Book), by Phoebe Dunn*

 Books to Sing:

22.  Old MacDonald Had a Farm (a Little Golden Book), by Kathi Ember

23.  10 in the Bed, by Penny Dale (a must have!)

2-3 Year Olds (the books listed above, plus):

(Note: Many children will be ready to move up to some of the books in the next section at age 2.5)

1.  Angus Lost, by Marjorie Flack

2.  Angus and the Cat, by Marjorie Flack

3.  Angus and the Ducks by Marjorie Flack

4.  A Pocket for Corduroy, by Dan Freeman

5.  Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina

6.  Corduroy, by Dan Freeman

7.  Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, (best of a series of “Monkey” books), by Eileen Christelow

8.  Gingerbread Man, The, retold by Jim Aytesworth,  illustrated by Barbara McClintock

9.  How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, by Jane Yolen

10.  Is Your Mama a Llama? By Deborah Guarino

11.  Jesus Loves Me (a Cuddle and Sing Book), by Debby Anderson

12.  Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag

13.   Mother Goose, by Gyo Fujikawa (or your favorite version)

14.  Mother, Mother, I want Another! By Maria Polushkin

15.  The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories, by Karen Henley

16.  The Big Hungary Bear, by Audrey Wood

17.  The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper

18.  The Napping House, by Audrey Wood

18.  The Very Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle 

Little Golden Books:

20.  Home For a Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown

21.  Little Red Caboose, by Marian Potter & Tibor Gergely

22.  The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown

23.  The Pokey Little Puppy, by Sebring Lowry

24.  Scuffy the Tugboat, by Gertrude Crampton

25.  The Three Bears, by F. Rojankovsky

Listening Level: Preschoolers (ages 3-5)

The Books Above, plus:

 (So, so very hard to choose!  I tried to choose classics and books that inspire the love of reading/fun. I cheated a little on this list and included multiple titles by one author in one entry. For a more complete list, see my book, Homepreschool and Beyond.) 

1.  A Child’s Garden of Verses, written by Robert Lewis Stevenson, illustrated by Tasha Tudor (or your own favorite version)

2.  A House is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Hoberman

3.  Bedtime for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, (part of a series of Francis books), by Russell Hoban    

4.  Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward

5.  Christian Mother Goose, volumes I and II, by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker

6.  Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, by Beatrix Potter

7.  Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, The, by A.A. Milnes

8.  Complete Tales of Curious George, by Hans A Rey

9.  Donkey-donkey  and Petunia by Roger Duvoisin (out of print)

10.  Harry and the Lady Next Door, Harry by the Sea, Harry the Dirty Dog, No Roses For Harry, and others by Gene Zion

11.  James Herriot’s Treasury For Children, by James Herriot

12.  Katy and the Big Snow, Little House, The; Mike  Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and others by Virginia Lee Burton

13.  Katy No-Pocket, story by Emmy Payne, illustrated by H. A. Rey

14.  Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge,  by Hildegarde

15.  Make Way for Ducklings, Lentil, Blueberries for Sal, and others by Robert McCloskey

16.  Over and Over, by Charlotte Zontolow (a couple pages of Halloween content; a book about the progression of the seasons and the holidays)

17.  Selfish Giant, The, written by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

18.  Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson

19.  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Stieg (contains “magic” in a fairytale way)

20.  The Story about Ping, by Kurt Wiese

21.  Tikki Tikki Tembo, by Arlene Mosel

22.  Wee Gillis, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson

23.  Wonderful Shrinking Shirt, The, Leone Castell Anderson (out of print, but oh, so worth the search!)

24.  Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

Another Book to Sing:

25.  Do Your Ears Hang Low? And Other Silly Songs, by Pamela Cote

26.  (O.K., so I cheated! Rather than take one out, I have to add:  Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.

 Beginning Readers

Listening Level:  Preschool through Second Grade

Independent Reading Level: First through Fourth

 1.  A Fly Went By, by Mike McClintock

2.  Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman

3.  Fox In Socks, by Dr. Seuss

4.  Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss

5.  Go, Dog, Go, by P.D. Eastman

6.  Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss

7.  I Can Read Series: Amelia Bedlia, Owl at Home, Frog and Toad (series), Clipper Ship, Little Bear (series), Mouse Tales and many others.  These are nice because they are graded for you. 

8.  “I Can’t” Said the Ant, by Polly Cameron

9.  In a People House, by Theo LeSieg

10.  I Want to Be Somebody New, by Robert Lopshire

11.  Nate the Great (series), by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

12.  One Fish, two fish, red fish blue fish, by Dr. Seuss

13.  Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire

14.  Sam and the Firefly, by P.D. Eastman

15.  Step Into Reading Books:  I Like Bugs, Eat My Dust: Henry Ford’s First Race, George Washington and the General’s Dog, and many others, also graded for you…and like the “I Can Read” series, you can find books suited to your children’s interests. 

     Part two–coming soon!



© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Babies, Book Lists, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

New Year’s Resolutions/Planning for a New Homeschool Year

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 31, 2010

         Sorry I haven’t posted for so long; I’ve been busy enjoying the season with my children.  We had a wonderful Christmas, and hope that you did, too!  This is the first year that my daughter has had her own money to spend, and she really enjoyed spoiling us all—especially me.

       I really can’t believe that Christmas is over, and that it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions/our plans for a new year of homeschooling.  Do you re-examine your school plan this time of year, while you are thinking about your other resolutions?  Your family life?  Your spiritual life?  We do.  Below are some of the questions I have been considering. 

     Let me make it clear:  I am not posting this list so that I can beat you over the head with it.  Rather, I am beating myself over the head with quite a few of the questions.  I do hope some of them will make you think….they sure make me think!!  I believe that every Mom can think of several areas that need attention/improvement. 

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (NIV)

     Here are the questions I’ve been asking myself:

-Am I walking in the Spirit, or in the flesh?  This question is top of my list, because I think it is the most important (along with examining our relationships—see below.)  I think this question is at the heart of everything that happens in our home. 

     Our Pastor has started a series entitled, “Living in the Covenant in the New Year” and it has already been a blessing to me.  I appreciated it so much because Pastor explained our new life in Christ versus “the old man” in a way that even my boys could understand.  (I’ve been trying to explain it to them for years!)

      I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the message linked above.  Also, consider reading the book, “Practicing the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence.  You can read it online for FREE.  It is life-changing…living a perpetual prayer life. 

     Here are the rest of my questions I’m asking myself:

-Am I spending enough time in the Word? 

-Am I spending enough time in prayer?  Specifically, am I praying for my children enough?  Am I consistently praying for their future spouses, as well?

-Am I speaking (AND thinking) blessings over my children, or curses?  When my children come to tell me something, do I act as if they are merely an interruption, or do I listen with care and respect (in other words, do my actions communicate to my children that they are a blessing?)

-Also, what do my children think of themselves?  What do they say about themselves?  I want to be aware of this since our perceptions become our reality…we can “curse” ourselves (as well as our children) with negative self-fulfilling prophecies (“You’re so stubborn”…”Why are you having such a tough time with this?”, <child> “I can’t read!” VERSUS “You are very determined, and you have lots of stick-to-itiveness,” “You’re so clever…I know you can do this!” or  <child> “I can read!  I know I can do it!”)

-Do I control my tongue?  Am I teaching my children to control theirs?

-Am I teaching my children the importance of controlling their thoughts?

-How is my mothering?  Am I doing the things I know I need to do for/with my children mentally/physically/spiritually?  What about discipline-wise? 

-Has my attitude been what it should be?  Do I set a good example to my children?  How are my children’s attitudes doing?  Towards discipline?  Towards school?  How can I help them improve and grow?

-How is my tone of voice?  Am I gentle with my children?  Compassionate?

-Is there enough follow-thru to provide accountability when it comes to obedience, attitude, chores, school, etc?  (This is one I really need to work on—as well as total consistency.)

-How is the culture of our home?  Have I become lax in regards to what I let my children watch on TV—or how long I let them watch? (Yes.)   Have I become lax with our computer rules? 

-What is the character of our home?  Is there peace in our home? 

-What is working/not working for us school-wise?  This is a good time of year to revisit your curriculum and make changes as necessary.

-Is my home conducive to learning?  Are art supplies easily at hand?  Are there lots of different types of books available for my children to choose from freely?  Is my “school area” organized and ready to go?  (In other words, is our home an enriching environment?)

-Am I providing enough creative play/outside play time for my children?

-Am I planning time for the “fun stuff”–and getting it done?  (Not nearly enough!)

     And, of course, most importantly, I ask myself about the 4R’s:

 -Relationships:  How are our family’s relationships with God going?  What is our spiritual temperature?  Are we sick, or healthy?   Are we, as a family and as individuals, growing in the Lord?  What do we need to change?  Are we putting off the “old man”, and becoming new creatures? 

     Am I taking the time I need to grow relationships within our family?  Am I teaching/helping my children grow their relationships with others in the family?  Am I making time to play with my children? Do we laugh together, play games together, etc (do we take time for relationship builders?) 

     Do I provide each child with enough cuddle time?  What about hugs/affectionate touch throughout the day (ruffling the hair, rubbing the shoulders, etc) to communicate my love to them?  

    Here is a Spiritual Growth Assessment from Lifeway that might be helpful to you.   

-Routines:  How are our routines working?  Do we need to make any changes, or simply work on being more consistent?  How well am I managing my time?  Am I teaching my children to manage theirs?

 –Readiness:  What are we doing too much of/not enough of?  Are there subjects/areas where we are falling short—areas where the curriculum needs to be beefed up?  (Am I providing the learning activities/opportunities that my children are ready for?)

     Alternately, am I trying to do too much?  Am I pushing my children too hard?  Am I frustrating myself and my children with inappropriate expectations?  Remember that with young children, it is important to wait for signs of ability, interest, and spontaneous learning before trying to instruct our children in academic subjects.  If you have a preschooler, remind yourself that you don’t have to work your child to death getting him “ready for Kindergarten.”  Instead, you can make your homeschool ready for your Kindergartener. 

      If you have a Kindergartener, give him a relaxed, traditional Kindergarten experience and ease into seatwork/the 3R’s only as they are ready (and never forget how much they learn through real life, hands-on experiences, conversation, and through being read to!)

-Reading aloud:  Am I spending enough time reading aloud to my children—no matter their age?  We need to continue building up our read aloud time.  One goal I have set for myself is getting my boys ready for bed earlier, so that we have more time to read before bedtime.  We are in the middle of two series:  My husband and I are taking turns reading Hank the Cowdog to the boys, and my daughter has just started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to them (this is in addition to the reading we do for homeschool.)

     All these questions boil down to three main questions:  1) Am I walking in the Spirit (and receiving His power to help me do what I know I should do),  2) Am I a balanced Mom?,  and  3) Am I making the main thing the main thing–in my personal life and my home life?

     I will prayerfully consider each of these questions over the next couple of days, and write out some goals in response to them.  What about you?  What questions have you been asking yourself?  Are you making any New Year resolutions this year?



© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More About Routines: Why They are Important

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 19, 2010

        When Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations wrote a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, she asked her readers to check out my blog and then post on her blog as an entry to win the book.  They could choose between naming some of the articles that originally inspired me to write the book (see the tab, “my articles”), OR share which of the 4R’s (relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud) they needed the most help with.  Here is the breakdown of the replies about the 4R’s: 


17–Reading Aloud



         As you can see, routines won hands-down.  Many of the mothers stated that they needed help with their routines; some even wondered if routines are really necessary.  In response, I’ve decided to write a couple of  posts that will answer these concerns (I will also write a post about the second most chosen of the 4R’s: Reading Aloud.)  Anyway, here is the first post—“More About Routines.”

         I know from experience that routines can be hard. Routines involve self-discipline…they just aren’t going to happen by themselves!  We’re starting our 18th year of homeschooling now, and we have tweaked our routines more times than I can count.  Our routines have changed due to my husband’s work days and hours, the ages of our children, our health, the time of year (in summer we play in the morning and do school in the afternoon, for instance), and more.   You’d think that after 17 years I’d have it all together by now, but I don’t…especially in regards to my homemaking routines right now.  In fact, writing this post has been convicting to me–I know what I need to do, but making myself do it on a consistent basis is another thing.  So don’t be discouraged—you’re certainly not alone.  Read on, and know that I’m working on this with you.  Be sure to check back again soon to read the next post on this topic, “establishing routines that will work for you”. 

What are Routines?

        I want you to know that when I talk about routines, I’m NOT talking about a down-to-the-minute “schedule” that becomes a burden or a slave driver to your family.  You don’t have to rush through your day, trying to meet artificial deadlines every fifteen minutes or half-hour. What I’m talking about simply a sense of “what comes next.”  Perhaps a good term to remember is a “relaxed routine.”

        A relaxed routine doesn’t mean that you don’t have any goals, though; as with everything, there is a need to find a balance.  For us, this has meant that meal times, snack time, naptimes and bedtimes are kept as consistent as possible—you might think of them as the “skeleton” of your routine.  The rest of the routine, however, is much more flexible.  I like to allow enough time to follow my children’s lead within the routine—so if the children get caught up in their play, or want to paint 4 pictures during art time, or feel like doing 3 math lessons (yes, this has happened at our house), it’s OK.  We might have to shorten the next activity, but that doesn’t throw the rest of the day into chaos. 

        It’s a good idea to have some basic goals for different times of the day—for instance, “we should have our breakfast, chores, family worship time, circle time, a preschool activity (art OR cooking experience OR science activity OR game-time OR manipulatives OR planned/creative play), snack time, and outside play time finished before 11:30 so that we can eat lunch at 12:00”.  Another one might be, “we should finish lunch, get washed up/brush teeth, and be ready for our read aloud time by 1:00 so that the preschoolers can be napping by 1:30.” 

        There are several different types of routines that you might want to put into place:  Morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, and school routines….some parents prefer to think of them separately this way, while others think in terms of the whole day’s routine.  We do a bit of both.  Additionally, I plan cleaning routines and personal routines as well.  I call our cleaning routines “standard operating procedures” or SOP for the kids.  (“Did you finish the kitchen SOP?”)

Why Are Routines Important?

        Now let’s address the question, “Why are routines important?” And, “Are routines even necessary?” 

        I believe that routines are not only necessary, but vitally important.

        Routines help children in many different ways.  One of the most important things that routines provide for children is emotional security.  Children—especially young children—derive security from that sense of “what comes next.”  This security helps children learn to trust that their parents will take care of them, and this trust enhances the parent-child bond.   This security/trust/bond is especially important to grow and maintain during the baby/toddler years…but of course, it should be a continuing part of life, all life-long, for every child. 

        Routines help children stay on an even keel emotionally, and will prevent emotional meltdowns.  This will save your sanity.  It helps your children behave better and makes your home a more peaceful and happy place to be.  Conversely:  Children who aren’t on a regular routine are often over-tired, hungry, irritable and stressed.

        Without a daily routine there could be important activities that you overlook on a day-to-day basis—even things like personal hygiene (brushing teeth, baths, etc), as well as important activities such as reading aloud, time spent with each child, etc. 

        Routines help children grow helpful habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives.  Good habits help us do the things we should do with little thought or effort.  Habits involve not only the “big picture” of our daily routine in general, but all those little things that make up our daily routine as well (personal hygiene, picking up toys, etc.)

        I believe that our very character, attitudes and manners are affected by the habits we learn (or don’t learn) as children.  Charlotte Mason wrote, “the habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

        Once a good habit is learned, little mental effort is involved in the task at hand…it’s just something we do.  It requires little thought and practically no effort.  You might say that we work on “autopilot.”  This is more help than you can imagine.  As Charlotte Mason says, “A mother who takes pains to endow her children with habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” 

        Finally, routines help young children grow their self-confidence and independence.  Once children are secure in their routines, they’ll know when its time to brush their teeth, get dressed, and so on—and they’ll be confident and ready to try those activities independently.    

        Next post:  Developing Your Own Daily Routines

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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