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5 Jun


The plumber just left informing me that, although he would be fixing our plumbing issues, he had to go through the proper channels. This time he was going to be sure it was done right. He didn’t know what day, but he would be back. In the meantime, we will patiently wait – looking forward to the day the nice plumber man comes back and the septic is no longer backed up into the bathtub!

Life is so full of the unexpected. At least, my life is! How often do I make plans to find they need to change – again, and again.

I used to be a pretty big planner, disappointed when I couldn’t achieve everything I had set out to do. The words of my father-in-law frequently still ring in my ears, “Becky, remember the KISS rule: Keep it simple, Stupid!”

With a large family, our lives being pretty full, flexibility is essential. To keep it simple, I daily try to focus on the most essential things in my life:

1. Take time to honor God, focusing on His will rather than my own.

2. Take time to nurture my relationship with my husband, letting him know he has my love and attention.

3. Take time to nurture my children – through a kiss on a wound, a tickle attack, a phone call, a listening ear, freshly made chocolate chip cookies…

4. Take time to encourage others as the opportunities arise.

When life gets so busy that I fail at these things, I can hear my father-in-law’s voice reminding me to “Keep it simple, Stupid!”


Sully and Skippy

17 Jan

This is Sully.  Mark and I gave Sully to Yetta, our in house photographer, for Christmas.  While Yetta is gone at work all day, Sully provides us with lots of entertainment! Today while we were deep into our English Grammar studies, the kids were just beginning to grasp the definitions of conjunctions and interjections, when Sully figured out how to open the door of his cage.  It was quite a process to watch as he swung back and forth a few times before realizing he was free.

This is Skippy.  He adopted us a few months ago.  Skippy is the most loving cat I have ever seen.  We don’t allow Skippy to come inside so he sits on the window sill, outside.  He watches us when we eat breakfast, lunch, and supper – longing to be let in.

Sully seems to be smugly aware of Skippy’s situation.  His first destination stop this morning was the very window sill that Skippy enjoys, only on the inside.  I’ve never seen a bird play hide and seek before, but Sully appeared to be having a great time ducking behind the wood trim and emerging again in full view of Skippy.

Poor Skippy, Sully was so close, yet so far!

Managing Toddlers while Schooling

16 Aug

I think one of the biggest challenges of  teaching at home is trying to keep the younger siblings occupied long enough to be able to focus on the older students.

Even families whose children go to school must deal with the same issues, as they try to help their young students with homework in the evening.

Over time, out of necessity, we found several ways to make this process much easier.

Children, of all ages, love routine.  As I planned my school schedule of topics to cover, I also mapped out my little ones’ morning.  If they still took two  naps a day, that gave me two natural blocks of available time.  But once that season passed, I found the toddlers loved to be in the mix of things. Sometimes they would be included in class, other times were set aside for their own quiet play.

For instance:

9:00 – 9:30:  Bible Class with family  (Give the little one crayons and paper. It is a good time for them to learn to sit still and be quiet –  for 30 minutes, on your lap if needed.  If you have practiced Blanket Time, this is an easy transition.)

9:30 – 10:00:  Toddlers Play Time (I kept several bins of toys tucked away so I could pull out a different one each day. The child should not be allowed to leave the designated area.  If the next older sibling is available, it is a great time for them to be given a “babysitting job.” It is a good way for the older to learn to serve. ) *btw, don’t let them leave the area without picking up their things.  It is a habit worth developing!

10:00 -10:30: A half hour educational movie. (I liked to look for something that might help them learn their letters or numbers. Remember to keep the volume low so as not to distract the students.)

10:30 – 11:00: By now the little ones are ready for some action and attention.  It is important to remember to give them your focus as well or they will demand it in unacceptable ways.  Take time to go outside, go for a walk, roll down some hills, PLAY!

12:00  Lunch (Sit down together. Give the kids a chance to talk about what they have been learning.)

1:oo  QUIET TIME!  If you have been following Not Without Aim at all, you know I love quiet time.  It doesn’t matter what age, little ones should nap, readers should be reading, if reading hasn’t been mastered yet- picture books are available, and if anyone happens to fall asleep napping (that would be me), all the better!

1:30 Back to class – quickly before the babies awake!

3:00 Time to be done!  Free! Go outside, play, explore, create…

Taking a little time to plan ahead goes a long way in keeping a step ahead of the crew.


Reality in our home, and most -I would think, is that some days it feels like discipline issues consume a lot of our time and energy.  Don’t be discouraged. This training is just as important as the academics! Without the painful process of learning self- discipline, the academics are useless!

One week til school begins…

15 Aug

It is hard to believe we have been homeschooling for around 23 years and still have 12 more to go! Wow!

If you think, by now, I have it all down and know all the answers – you are SO wrong!  Each year I wonder what I should keep doing, and what needs to change.  When August rolls around, I find myself asking Mark, “How in the world will I be able to orchestrate  seven different grade levels and maintain the responsibilities of everyday life? There is no way!” he laughs a bit and confidently replies, “You always say that, but you always find a way.” Of course he is right, it always works out.

In keeping with my goal, to read at least one book per year on education, I recently finished The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, written by Leigh A. Bortins.  I love the concept of the Classical Education and have tried to incorporate it into our homeshcool philosophy, but it is easy to get overwhelmed, finding myself unable to achieve everything that can appear to be so important.

Leigh Bortins describes such a practical, do-able approach to teaching children of all ages combined with the reality of everyday life.  I was especially encouraged that I could apply so many of her principles without changing the curriculum we  are already using.  The concepts are applicable for children in a  home schooled situation,  a private school, or a public school.

One of the ways, this summer, I applied what I had learned, was to work on some memorization with the children.  Our lunch time became quiz time.  The more we quized, the more fun it became.  Of course it’s always more enjoyable when you know the answers! My four year old would repeatedly want to be asked to name the planets.  She managed to get them down perfectly!

With seven days and counting, the rest of my week will be filled with scheduling, making photocopies, creating lesson plans, and picking up school supplies.

As a result, over the next few days,  Not Without Aim’s focus will also be devoted to school related topics.

btw, I appreciated what I learned from The Core so much I purchased one for each of my sisters as a birthday gift.  (Sh… they don’t know yet!)

No Boredom Allowed!

13 Jul

Yesterday was one of those days that everything went right!

The kids science class was going so well, I think they went half an hour over what was intended. When they were done, they all headed off to work on reading, taking notes, and making creative pages.

Hoping to give the kids some inspiration, I showed them examples of each other’s work. Well… it worked better than I anticipated! They were all busily working for the next two hours! After seeing the older kids notes, the younger crews pages started taking on a whole new look.  No longer a quick drawing with a short sentence or two, Humphrey the whale has a pull tab to jump out of his pocket with an informative list of facts!

My two youngest decided they no longer wanted to be held back by waiting for me to listen to them read.  They each picked up books on their own and started sounding out the words. I don’t think they are retaining much, but more importantly, for now, they want to be in the game and are excited to read.

Then to top it all off, my son came in to show me what he had been working on.  Similar to one a cousin had made years ago, he was creating leather journals.

Two of our goals in raising children are to instill a love of reading and love for learning. Sometimes it might not feel like we’re making progress, but yesterday the fruit was evident!




Don’t let boredom set in this summer.  Give them a little inspiration and who knows what might happen!

a win, win, win situation

11 Jul

Listening from the kitchen, I could hear the conversations taking place in the next room among the children. The older team was sending their younger brothers and sisters out to do some collecting.  They had gathered together discussing the differences between sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.  After a few instructions, the hunt began.

This summer, my 8th and 9th grade  daughter and son have the responsibility of teaching a science course to their younger siblings.  The curriculum is called Considering God’s Creation.  Filled with creative projects and coloring pages, the children have fun learning about the universe, earth, plants, animals, and so on.

Not only does this help take pressure off me, but it also enhances the course experience for the children.  One of the best ways to nail down understanding of a subject is to teach it.  As the younger children are learning, the older two are getting an excellent review in preparation for their more difficult courses in the fall.

Although  this method does not come without obstacles, the intrinsic growth by interaction,  family relationship, and practicing communication skills far out weigh the object lesson. First of all, the younger siblings don’t naturally want to give the young and inexperienced “sister and brother teachers” their attention- but what a better way to learn!  By staying close, yet out of sight, I am able to help monitor and listen for behavioral issues that need tending, stepping in, only if needed.  In addition, the “teachers” have a great opportunity to work on developing their own skills (building character all the while).  It takes work and practice to be able to hold the young students attention and present information in such a way that they understand and retain.

With enthusiasm, the kids came running back with their chosen rocks and sorted them into various piles.  They examined each one, and I could hear the ” oohs” and “aahs” from their supportive siblings as they took note of the unique characteristics of the rocks they had compiled together.

You don’t have to wait until your kids are older to try this.   Nurture the ability to learn from each other!    Every age thrives on having responsibilities and being a much needed part of the team.

Reading Contest – one week down

7 Jul

It has been a busy week of enjoying out of town guests.  We have been honored to have so many visitors!  For a time, Not Without Aim had to be set aside.  Never-the-less, the reading contest has continued. Here is a quick update.

After one week, points are starting to appear on the score board.  One son in particular has quickly taken the lead by choosing smaller books.  He has the most books on his list, but his note taking skills are lacking.  As each page is evaluated and the quiz is given, he sees the direct result of his efforts.  (exactly what I was hoping for!)



The two youngest readers need one on one help to accomplish their reading.  Since this book is a little above their level, we are taking turns reading small portions to each other.  I like how carefully each letter was formed on the above journal page!

After the lesson on the parts of a plant, we took a look at a tall zinnia and named all of the parts.

What a great time of year to study science!