What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluations

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me. A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction? SAY WHAT?!

During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to FL law, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above.

We are so fortunate in our state to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article to read more. I feel so strongly that the portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing has its place. I have my girls test every year in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well. 

Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare. Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Let’s Look at the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessments

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension.  You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning.

Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare.  You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it.

During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the Florida law ask me to.  I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly State of Florida will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test

As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

How to Deal With Losing Animals on the Homestead

It is hard losing animals you love and care for. The sad truth is, it’s inevitable on the homestead. We hope that this blog post helps when you wonder how to deal with losing animals on the homestead. For us, many of these animals are also our pets. Recently we lost our precious Leo. This loss was particularly hard on Kate, as we lost another cat named Charlie only a few months before. To add insult to injury, one of our hens was also taken the same week that Leo disappeared.

Homestead Animals Have Jobs

Here Benny and Charlie taking a break from rodent patrol by napping together next to the hay roll

Many of our animals on the homestead have jobs to do. Our barn cat, Benny, guards the barn from rodents. He is great at this! He is a little bit more cautious than Charlie and Leo were, because Benny doesn’t roam too far from the chicken house or the barnyard. Perhaps his feral mother taught him to be extra cautious. We adopted Benny and his mom at the same time. His mom did not stick around, but Benny did, and over the months became much more sociable. Today he is the sweetest, most loving cat we have ever owned. Charlie was also a feral cat, but he wandered a bit farther than Benny and he, like Leo disappeared without a trace.


We have had hens taken by hawks, fox, and coyotes. Over the years, we get used to this, and we understand that no matter how much we try to protect our animals, sometimes predators outsmart us. It is never easy to lose an animal. To my daughters, all of our animals are pets and every time we lose one, we all grieve. It is particularly hard on our youngest, Kate, who is still grieving over the loss of all of her animals. Each time we lose another, the grief of them all is renewed.

Grieving is Necessary

We all know how attached kids can get to pets. We have had memorials for Beta fish, baby opossums, beloved guinea pigs, baby birds that we’ve found as well as services for our hens and cats. When a child loses a pet for the first time, they don’t know that the feelings will be so strong, and they don’t know to expect grief. This is a big emotional load for a young child to deal with, not just the first time, but every time.

To a child, and to many adults who love their animals, losing a pet can feel like the loss of a human loved one. Pets are more than just animals to children; they are companions, good listeners, and even physical comforters. Pets can fill an emotional need for children like nothing else can. Feelings can range from anger, sadness, depression and despair. We lost Leo in early January, and we are all sad, however, Kate still falls into despair at times.

Honest Conversations

Allowing your child to have a ceremony can be helpful, and talking honestly with them about their feelings is important. For me, as a mom, I try so hard to not give the “adult response”, but to find my inner eleven-year-old who lost her dog one winter in Upstate NY. I grieved for that dog for months, maybe years. When Kate and I can talk about all of that honestly, I think it makes her feel like she’s not so alone. It doesn’t take away the heartache though; only time can do that.


Unfortunately, so often on the homestead, our animals disappear without a trace, and so no formal burial can take place. We try to remind Kate of all the fun times that she had with her animals, especially with Leo. We remind ourselves that some pets are with us for a long time, others for only a short time. Remembering Leo as a joyful cat who lived his life at 100 mph almost always makes us smile.

We made Kate this poster of Leo to help her remember all the fun times she had with her beloved kitten. It hangs in her room next to her bed.

And Then Another Animal Comes Along

Meet Jesse Covenant

Just when you think you can’t get any sadder, sometimes God gives you a gift. This little guy wandered over to our neighbor’s house. She called to tell me that she found Leo. When I got there, my heart sank; it wasn’t Leo. But, it turns out this guy was a stray who had obviously been wandering alone for quite some time. I brought him home, surprised Kate and her sister when they got home, and the rest as they say “is history.” For now, this guy’s only job is to live inside and bring joy to our healing hearts. He’s adjusted well, after his surgery, many naps, and proper nutrition. Kate has even taught Jesse how to walk on a harness!

Our Journey Toward a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

The story of our journey toward a gluten-free lifestyle is one that has many subplots, complete with suspense and fascinating characters along the way. I won’t write the entire novel here, but I’ll give you the highlights instead.

Our Daughter Was Sick

When our second daughter was born, she had some serious issues which no doctor could pinpoint. Some of the more severe symptoms she had was not sleeping, dark red circles under her eyes and lots of fussiness which mostly came at night time. She was exclusively breastfed as a baby, and even nursing her did not help her sleep. As our daughter grew, her symptoms did not change, and she began to withdraw. She had what I call the “checked out look”, you know that dreamy stare that doesn’t actually focus on anything?

When our daughter Kate was born, her sister was only 17 months old, and although I was busy caring for my two babies, I took every.single.spare second to read and research so that I could find an answer to what was wrong with my daughter. I felt like this was on my shoulders because the practitioners on our ever-growing list of People Who Could Possibly Help was getting us nowhere.

Autism Spectrum Disorders and Dental Work

The more research I did on why babies didn’t sleep and had dark circles under the eyes, the more I came across issues related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The more I read about Kate’s symptoms and ASD, the more I read about the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle (and dairy-free, too). As I delved deeper into this rabbit hole, the more I learned about metal toxicity and how it relates to ASD and allergies.

It was then that I began to realize that perhaps it was the mercury that was chipped out of my teeth and replaced with composite fillings a few months before, that affected my baby. I had some old amalgam fillings that needed replacing when I was pregnant. My dentist decided to wait and do this as soon after my baby was born as possible, so I had these fillings replaced when Kate was only four or five weeks old. Since she was still breastfeeding, she too, was poisoned by the mercury that went through my body, and, into hers via my breastmilk.

Research is Key

At that time I was not aware that there are dentists who take mercury removal extremely seriously, and that there is a proper protocol for mercury removal. Since I did not know this, I went to my regular dentist who removed these fillings from my molars and as she was doing so, I remember swallowing chunks of my old fillings thinking to myself, this can’t be good. 

It wasn’t until months later that I learned of the damage that mercury can do, particularly to a growing brain. Kate also had some exposure to toxic metals via a flu shot that I had when I was pregnant, and by all the vaccinations that she had at birth and until she was 9 months old.

Diet Changes and ASD

Another thing that kept coming up in my research was the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). This diet that has helped many children who are on the spectrum, and has helped many adults with leaky gut syndrome. Learning about leaky gut was a big aha! moment for me, as I had always had gut issues, ever since having surgery for an intestinal issue when I was two days old. It also made sense to me that anything that I was ingesting was going straight into my daughter, given that she was exclusively breastfed.

The first thing the SCD teaches is that you should cut out all grains. Wheat/gluten is a big culprit in causing gut issues, and so as I continued to try to find a practitioner who could help us, I cut out gluten, grains, many carbs that I was used to eating, and sugar. If you are imagining that going cold-turkey with this was probably hard, you’d be wrong. It was excruciating. I’m not gonna lie. And, I had a fairly healthy diet to begin with. I have always been into natural health and I knew the list of no-nos on Dr. Andrew Weil’s list, but it was still hard. So hard, that I have a very vivid memory of standing in my kitchen one weekend sobbing uncontrollably because I had to cook everything from scratch. Everything. Every. Little. Thing. No packaged anything for us. Plus, I was beyond sleep-deprived, and was caring for two babies, who now both had issues. (I had also continued to breastfeed my oldest daughter when I brought Kate home and she suffered some effects of this too.)

Eating Gluten-Free Today is Easy

The year we journeyed toward the gluten-free lifestyle was 2006, and back then, we couldn’t just run to our local grocery store and buy gluten-free items. I think there was one brand of rice bread at the store and not only did it taste awful and fall apart when you tried to use it, but it definitely wasn’t allowed on the SCD.

If we wanted any “baked goods” I had to make them out of almond flour. We bought almond flour in bulk, 25 pounds at a time, from a company who has since changed its name.  It would come in a giant box in a giant bag and we’d repackage it in ziplock bags. I desperately missed bread, muffins, pastries, and crackers, but I found alternative ways of making these via the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I had to learn to love cooking and baking. (I faked it then and I still don’t like it!)

Healing Began

The last doctor we saw around the time we went full-force with the SCD was a pediatric allergist. We opted for one blood draw, instead of the prick tests, and although this doctor made us feel ashamed for bringing our daughter the hour’s drive only to put her through the blood draw, he still agreed to do it.  He kept telling us that we had a “perfectly health daughter” . Imagine how smug I felt when he called me on a Saturday morning, to tell me, “get your daughter off of all forms of gluten ASAP because she is highly allergic“. Thankfully, I had already learned that removing gluten could help, and we had been off of it for two or three weeks at that point.

Cheating and Proof

As we waited for Kate’s allergy reports, my own testing proved that Kate truly was allergic to wheat, as I suspected. One day I ate about one-third of a piece of Pizza Hut “personal pan pizza” while shopping at Target. Can you picture how small that is? I was starving and I had been on the SCD for about three weeks. Disclaimer: I never did the SCD intro diet; I went straight for the second stage. I just didn’t see how I could maintain strength while nursing two babies and not getting any sleep and by eating only gelatin and broth. I do know that the intro diet is a very important stage in healing though.

The fallout from that cheat was horrible. While Kate’s symptoms had not entirely disappeared, she was doing a little better in terms of not looking so “checked out” and the circles under her eyes were a bit lighter in color. After this one “cheat” her symptoms came back with a vengeance, and I did not cheat one tiny bit for the next 26 months.

Big Improvements

After about eight to ten weeks, we saw big improvements in Kate’s behavior and in her skin, her eyes and her circles under the eyes. It was as if the fog she was in was cleaning. By that time, we had found a doctor (and a dentist) who understood our issues. We thank God for both of them. The doctor we found is a DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) doctor.

Our dentist is a member of the IAOMT board, and both of these practitioners taught us so much about the immune system and overall health. I believe that our DAN! doc saved Kate from an autism spectrum diagnosis. I believe that if we had not followed his protocol for repairing her gut and mine (and our immune systems), that events would have turned out much differently for us.

We Still Live a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

After a few years, I was tested for Celiac Disease. My results came back right on the border of “yes” and “no”, smack in the middle. My doctor took that as a yes, and it did explain why, after being off of gluten for a while, I gained weight (I had always had a hard time keeping weight on), and felt healthier than I had in years.

Today my girls and I still live a gluten-free lifestyle. About two and a half years into the SCD, I also introduced grains to my diet. I can handle these now in moderation. I tried eating wheat again a few years after doing the SCD, and it just didn’t really give me warm-fuzzy feeling I thought it might, and it made me constipated so I went back to the gluten-free lifestyle. This turned out to be a very good thing for me, because I have Hashimoto’s and was also reated for Lyme disease a few years ago, (thank you, mercury). Living a gluten-free lifestyle helps with any auto-immune disorder.

Both of my girls understand the health benefits of the way we eat. Kate has eaten tiny pieces of bread so she knows what “regular” bread tastes like, and when we go to church and receive holy communion she now consumes the “regular” host instead of the g/f one and she does just fine. Sometimes if we eat out, my girls will order French fries (these should usually NOT be eaten if you are living a gluten-free lifestyle, because of cross-contamination), but that also seems to be just fine for them in moderation.

Today, I still bake with almond flour, but not as regularly as before, and now that the SCD has improved our guts, we can eat other grains which allows us to be able to walk into pretty much any grocery store and buy gluten-free things like bread, muffins, crackers, and granola bars. We still prefer homemade things because of the high sugar content of many of these gluten-free packaged foods, but it’s nice to know that they are available to us if we want them, and it definitely makes living the gluten-free lifestyle a lot easier.

Start a Blog in 2018

Have you ever had dreams of working from home? Today, we’ll show you how to start a blog in 2018 and realize your dreams of working from your kitchen table in your pajamas! Here are a few things you need to know before you get started.

You Can Make Money Blogging

The blogging industry is growing, and has been over the last decade. I began blogging “for real” in 2009. By “for real” I mean, I started a blog with Word Press, hosted it with a super hosting company, and set it up to build my homeschooling consulting and evaluation business. As the years went by, my readership grew and the opportunities for affiliations with companies became more abundant. Today, the opportunities are bigger than ever before, and blogging has become a career and a great way to support yourself and your family.

Find a Niche

What will your blog for 2018 be about? Ask yourself these questions: What are you interested in? What are your strengths? Have you had any amazing and cool experiences that you want to share with others?

I have many interests and a few things that I am great at, and have lots of experience doing. My blog capitalizes on these things. You won’t find me doing makeup tutorials here, or discussing current style: these just aren’t my strengths, although you can sometimes find me binge-watching my favorite beauty bloggers on youtube. Find your strengths and interests and turn them into a business!

Use The Right Tools

This is very important and something I learned by experience. I began my blog by using WordPress, by hosting it with a terrific company, and by investing time and dedication to building it myself. As the years went by, and as my girls started to grow up and demand more of my time, I didn’t really keep up with Word Press. It is really like learning a new language, or at least it was for me. Don’t be intimidated though because once you get the hang of it, it’s easy; but, like any language, if you don’t continue to use it you lose it.

Write Good, Quality Content

This might seem like a no-brainer, but to keep your visitors coming back to your brand new blog for 2018, you want to offer them something that is useful and relevant to their lives. Post often, and be sincere. I love reading and listening to personal stories. I think most people do. If you are relatable, and give your readers quality stuff, you will already be set up to grow and expand.

When I started my blog in 2009, I wrote good, quality content. As life’s demands and other priorities took over, I stopped doing this. Yes, I still shared good information, however, it was not my own information; mostly, I’d just link to something else. Which was still good for my readers, but not really going them anything personal.

Keep Your Blog Updated

After a few years I realized that my blog was looking a bit outdated. The header was old, the theme wasn’t that exciting anymore and I wanted to refresh it. Knowing that I once was able to use Word Press to create a great-looking blog, I dusted off my password to the cpanel and decided to start updating. What I thought was going to be a relatively quick and easy thing to do, was more difficult than I thought. I needed a refresher. Many refreshers. And now, I was teaching online (full-time at this point), and continuing to homeschool my girls.

Hindsight has taught me that once you begin a blog with Word Press.com you should never, ever, move your blog to a different platform. Never! I was pressed for time, and wanted what I thought would be the “easy way out” so I moved my blog with all of its great content over to Weebly. Weebly has a drag and drop feature and the themes were easy to use and super modern-looking. Their customer service is fantastic, and I thought I had done the right thing.

My original homeschoolinflorida.com blog is still hosted with Weebly and will be until I feel ready to redirect that URL, so you can see it here. 

It looks nice, right? It is, except for one thing: monetization.

Monetize Your Blog

You must monetize your blog, if you want to make money, and the best way to do that is to begin with Word Press. Using Word Press has many other perks, too such as giving you great analytics and other things that I may write about in a future blog post but for now, just know that there are multiple ways to do this and I am still learning about all of them. The possibilities are incredible!

If you want to learn the details of how to monetize your blog, I encourage you to take the 30-Day Blogging Fast Track Course with blogging experts, Heather and Pete Reese. They even post their monthly income on their website so that you can see that it is not only possible, but very probable for you (and me!) to make that kind of income, too.

If you are not ready to sign up for the 30-day course, Pete and Heather also offer a totally free 5-Day Crash Course. I actually took this one first and was hooked, which prompted me to sign up for the 30-Day Fast Track Course. And did I mention it is totally FREE? Not only is it free, but it is jam-packed with amazing information. You won’t believe what Heather and Pete offer for zero cost. I promise you, it is just a snipped of the information contained in the 30-day course. And the best part is, after you sign up, you have access to everything for two years so you don’t have to worry about digesting it all at once (or taking notes!)

My Blog Evolved and Yours Will Too

After prettying up my blog with Weebly, I realized that I wanted to get back to regular posting, more writing and sharing of tutorials and things that I have experience with, so that I can help and reach more homeschoolers. Ultimately though, I found myself wanting to turn this business blog into a hybrid of sorts, and share some more personal things about our homeschooling lifestyle in Florida. This is why you see me blogging here at Our Happy Medium. almost ten years later!  You can read more about our vision for our new blog here. 

This time, I hired a web developer to help me get set up with Word Press again. If I had done that the first time, I would never have moved my site to Weebly, and things would have been a whole lot smoother for me. If you would like the contact information for Micah, the super-awesome, ultra-patient web developer who not only helped me, but actually taught me how to get going with Word Press again with a brand-new beautiful, and easy-to-use theme, I am happy to share his information. Just email me at Terri @ ourhappymedium.com.

Main Things I Learned by Taking the 30-Day Blogging Fast Track Course

  • Blogging is a HUGE business right now
  • The sky is the limit in terms of how much money you can make
  • Travel Blogging is even bigger
  • There are multiple ways to monetize your blog, all you have to do is choose the right ones that fit you and your blog style
  • Blogging helps you meet, and build relationships with, people from all over the world
  • There is no time like RIGHT NOW to begin
  • There are hundreds of support groups for bloggers, including one devoted solely to Word Press help

Why You Need New Year’s Resolutions for Your Homeschool

Why do you need New Year’s resolutions for your homeschool? I’ll be honest: I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, several years ago I resolved not to participate in the seemingly pointless, tradition of sharing with friends all the ways I was going to make my life better in the coming year. What a set up for failure, right? I mean, all these ads and sales for healthy foods, supplements, weight loss products, exercise equipment is enough to prove that resolutions don’t last; otherwise all these things would be in your face all year long.

But today I’m not talking about exercise and diet resolutions; I’m talking about resolutions for your homeschool. Are there changes you’d like to make? Things you’d like to do differently? Do your kids have ideas about what they’d like to add to their schooling? Now is the time to regroup, recharge and resolve!

Making New Year’s Resolutions for Your Homeschool is Important and Here’s Why

  1. It allows you to take stock of things. mid-year (or right around mid-year depending on your schedule) is the perfect time to take stock of things. Revisit your mission statement. What has worked so far? What hasn’t? Write the successes and failures down.
  2. It provides a chance to involve your kids in the creation of their education. Ask your students to answer these questions too. Kids can participate in these discussions at any age. In our home we have “team meetings” and discuss things like this. I have found these discussions to be very eye-opening and my girls bring more ideas to me than I ever would have thought of myself.
  3. It gives you a road map of where to go next. If you are anything like me, you want your kids to have wonderful experiences. Isn’t that why we homeschool after all? Jot down all the field trips you want to take, all the places you want to see, all the things you want to do aside from the actual academics and make a list. Plan these out on your calendar for the first part of they year.

Writing these ideas down together with your kids really helps provide a starting place. I am a big fan of lists. I like to make lists, I like to cross things off of my list, and I like to take about list-making. Sometimes though, I get caught up in my pretty lists and forget about why I started making them in the first place. Here’s how to avoid that trap.

Keep it Simple

Don’t do anymore than is suggested above for now. Start with the suggestions above and make three lists of resolutions for your homeschool:

  1. What Has Worked So Far
  2. What Needs to be Changed
  3. Things We Want to Experience in the New Year

Celebrate the things wrote down on your first list! Remember them. Write all these down somewhere else and save it. Refer to it often! See our post about sticking to the plan (or not!) here. This is what I’m talking about! We need these reminders. Don’t forget them!

Look closely at what needs to change. Don’t be afraid to admit it or do something about it. No homeschooler ever hasn’t changed things up. Most importantly, be sure to find out why those things didn’t work. Ask your kids for ideas if you are not sure. So often I’ll think that something I have planned will go over well with my girls, only to find out that their interests are different or that they’d rather try it a different way, in their own style of learning.

One of the biggest advantages that we have as homeschooling families is our freedom to be flexible. For us, this means having the flexibility to take off for a few days to see snow in another state, or to ditch the math lesson halfway through when friends call to see if we can join them for a hike.

In the beginning of our school year we make a plan for at least the first three to four months and jot down what field trips we want to take. We always include some to the theater, the orchestra and the ballet. What types of things are your kids interested in? Find ways to expose them to these things. There are so many opportunities for us as homeschooling families! We love it!

That’s It!

When you finish your list of resolutions done this way, you will feel renewed and inspired, not guilty and worried about failure! Share with us one resolution you will make this year, whether it be a personal resolution or a resolution for your homeschool. We’d love to share ideas and inspiration!

While I was writing this post, Kate decided to add her own resolutions to our whiteboard list. A homestead can always use more land and more animals, can’t it? Oh, and cake, Yes, cake, too.



Five Most Important Things Every Homeschooler Should Know

These are the five most important things every homeschooler should know. It helps us to come back to these things often as a reminder!

You Probably Won’t Stick to “The Plan”

We homeschoolers have so many inspired ideas when we first begin! Who doesn’t love a new adventure, with a shiny new schedule to go along with it?I promise you, you will go “off course”. You will “follow a different path”. You will get “redirected”. It’s all okay. It’s necessary, and it leads to new adventures and new opportunities.

Consider this fictitious day. Does it resonate with you?

* 8:30 You and your children begin the day with stretching, exercise and/or prayer time. Everyone is smiling and well-rested. The bigger kids help make smoothie bowls for breakfast at 8:30 am while their younger siblings clean up their toys. Breakfast is followed by journal writing and free reading. Your group history lesson begins at 10:00 followed by a snack (which the kids prepare themselves) and a short free-play or free-time session for everyone until exactly 10:45, which leaves just enough time to fit in some handwriting practice before it’s time to involve the kids in preparing a healthy lunch.

* 11:30 Lunch We want to take advantage of all the teachable moments that we can, so involve the kids in every aspect of daily life. The children will take on the lunch prep, and the younger children are learning about knife skills. We are also going to have an opportunity to incorporate some math and reading into it!  Sometimes we plan to cook special ethnic dishes if they correlate to the learning of the week, however, today’s focus is on a Paleo-style menu.

* 1:00 Team-work clean up. After lunch everyone pitches in to help clean up. The dishes, counters, table chairs and floor is cleaned to shining. Household work for a homeschooling family is a family affair. Mom does not do it all. 

* 2:30 Read Aloud Time. Since the kitchen is now well-cleaned it’s time for everyone to help fold and put away the laundry that was started first thing this morning.  The favorite part of the day is now when the whole family snuggles together on the sofa to read aloud from a current favorite. Vocabulary is discussed, and the kids each do a retelling, so that mom can assess comprehension.

Remember: This is a Fictitious Schedule!

* 3:15 Art. We know that one way to help our kids internalize the learning that has taken place today is to have the kids work on a painting, sculpting, or other art activity related to the lessons of the day. This is all done in a neat and organized fashion. Art supplies are located in the bin with the pretty label, and the kids clean all of these up afterward and put them away themselves.

* 4:00 Math. By this time the clock is ticking ever-closer to dinner prep time, and our shiny new schedule tells us that math must be done.  Math lessons take place exactly from 4-4:50.  Mom works with each child individually for 15 minutes, and then the children continue with practice on their own.4:50-5:15 Mom does grading and planning for the next day while the kids have play time. Mom needs to check journals, handwriting, history and math so she sends the kids outside to play.

At this point, today, Mom is not finished with her grading, and has not even looked at plans for tomorrow, but the kids are already asking when dinner will be ready.  Mom doesn’t know, because she hasn’t planned for dinner and her day with her perfect, fictitious children has not gone as planned; the house is a mess, the kitchen tables and counters covered with paint and glue and glitter, and she can hear one child crying in the next room over her math lesson.

Mom sighs, feeling defeated.  How is this going to work? That evening she starts drafting a new plan.

Can You Relate?

Can anyone relate?  Personally, I have planned, and re-planned, typed up and handwritten, discussed, and prayed over, plans just like this until one day I realized:We probably won’t stick to the plan. And that’s okay. Your kids, too, will be okay.​ Read that again, homeschooling moms and dads! Send yourself a text with these words. Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Use this quote as your copy work for the day. Remember it. This is the number one most important thing for homeschoolers to know.

Following a Daily Rhythm is More Important Than Following a Daily Schedule

It is fine (and good!) to have a road map for your homeschool. Knowing your destination is important and necessary, and you can reach this destination even if you do miss a day, or weeks’ worth of math lessons for example.  Sit down and think about what types of things you want to accomplish for that particular month, quarter, or even year.  Write them down in broad ideas.

​For example:

My second grader will be able to read short chapter books and retell the story through writing.  He will have mastered double digit addition and subtraction.  ​

What is a Rhythm?

​A rhythm is like a schedule, in that following it helps everyone know what will come next.  It’s important for both the homeschool teachers and the students to know what comes next, however, you don’t have to be tied down to an exact schedule.  Remember, you decided to homeschool for a reason, and one of those reasons may have been that you wanted a different environment for your kids; including a different schedule.Having a rhythm helps you remember that as long as you have a broad sense of what you want to accomplish that day, week, month, or even year; but happen get off-course because someone got strep throat, or a sprained ankle at soccer practice, or you had company down from up North, you will be more likely to be able to go with the flow of whatever life throws at you.  And remember, on days when you feel like you can’t get it all done (or any of it done), simply sit down with your kids and read aloud.

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

I’m just going to be blunt.  If you try to duplicate the public (or private) school system in your home, you (and your children), will burn out quickly and you will probably change your mind about homeschooling. I have seen it happen many times. Remember: you chose to homeschool for a reason.  You might want to write these reasons down and keep them where you can see them and be reminded regularly.  So often we lose sight of the reasons why we are educating our own children. If you are not sure anymore of the reasons why you chose this lifestyle, perhaps a homeschooling mission statement would help you clarify? 

Homeschooling is a lifestyle, because homeschooling families do not live like other families whose kids go to either public or private brick and mortar schools.

Generally, some of these differences include:

1. Homeschooled kids are exposed to “real life” situations earlier and more often than their non-homeschooled peers.  This is what homeschooling families call “real world learning” and isn’t this what our schools are trying to prepare kids for?

2. Homeschooled kids are often more mature in social situations and have a larger vocabulary than their peers who are not exposed to these real world situations.

3. Homeschooled kids spend more time with their families, and are exposed to, and participate more in the household activities. All these things and more, help prepare our children for the “real world”; a world that is made up of more than a group of same-age, often same-sex peers.

What About Doubt?

When you doubt yourself, please go back in time and remember all the reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place.  Write them down.  Go back to your mission statement and remember what your homeschool goals are. If necessary, change them. Hold a family meeting and revise and revamp.  Talk with your core support group, or sign up for our low-cost mentoring program.  Get it out of your head, and move on with revitalized purpose, or with a new plan, but above all, talk about it! You are not alone.

It’s Important to Celebrate Success

You will also look back on each year and marvel at how much your kids have grown.  Also, you will notice the importance of not only academic growth, but social and emotional growth as well.  You will bear witness to your kids becoming amazing, empathic, self-assured people.  Each success, whether it be mastering the division of fractions, or providing a listening ear for a friend in need, will be a celebration of the success of the lifestyle you are living. Don’t discount these seemingly small successes! 

It’s Important to Celebrate Failures

On the other hand, your kids will fail too.  Failures are also reasons to celebrate. That sounds counter intuitive, right?  What I mean is, each time your child fails at something, it is a learning opportunity. We must let our kids fail at certain things, and not rescue them. For example, let’s say your high schooler has an important assessment coming up. This student has procrastinated and has not done his best work and now the time is running out.  Do you run to his aid? Or do you allow him to suffer the consequences of poor time management? Each lesson learned this way, is a success and a good prep for not only future college work, but for life in general.  Don’t discount failures! They are successes in disguise.

Please revisit this list of the most important things that homeschoolers should know often. It will re-inspire and sustain you. Share it with all of your friends. All of us fall into the homeschooling doldrums every know and then. Remember these things can help lift us up! 

Cat-Lovers Ultimate Gift

Calling All Cat Lovers – Here’s the Ultimate Gift!

When I saw this adorable hoodie on Amazon, I knew that it would be the ultimate gift for Leo, our cat, and Kate, our cat-lover. Leo is actually still a kitten at about seven months old, but he is getting close to full-grown. There is no doubt that he considers Kate his “mommy” because she has carried him around like a baby since he was the size of her muck boot, and he follows after her (and the rest of us) like a faithful dog.

Today, our weather was cool again, by Florida standards, and since it is quite possible for us to be wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts on Christmas Day, we decided to take advantage of the weather and gift Kate and Leo with this hoodie today. If you, too, have a cat who loves to snuggle and be held, or if you know someone who does, look no further. This is the gift you need!

This hoodie is extremely cute. The hood comes complete with little cat ears, paw prints on the front pocket, and pom pom tassels for your cat to play with. The sweatshirt itself is soft cotton material, not too thick, and the pocket is fleece-lined, which can be taken out in case your cat gets too hot. Kate immediately loved this when she opened it and put it on because the material is very soft and not too thick.

Here’s Leo’s first reaction to his new ultimate cat carrier/sweatshirt/kangaroo pocket.

The True Test

Leo seemed to like being carried around in this pocket while Kate walked around outside; in fact, he did not want to get out out of the pouch even after about an hour of riding around in it. Now it was time to really put this carrier to the test, or was she putting her easy-going cat to the test? Either way, Kate discovered that she could also do her outdoor chores while Leo watched and played from the pocket.

Leo’s Review

I suppose there isn’t much more to hear except the sound of purring. Listen closely after the buzzing of the bee goes away, and you will hear Leo’s purr of approval.

Kate’s Final Review

For over an hour Kate walked around outside with Leo in the pocket, she mucked Biscuit’s stall while Leo stayed in the pocket, and she rode around with me while we spread the mucked poop on one of our pastures. Leo will generally ride along with us anyway, but we think he enjoyed riding in the pocket even more than just sitting on the seat next to us in his cat-dog style. After this initial test, Leo had fun playing in this pocket on and off throughout the day, and I am just guessing that first thing tomorrow morning, when Kate goes out to feed her horse, that Leo will be purring loudly from his fleece-lined womb again.

Kate and Leo both love this hoodie so much, that Kate decided to give you her thoughts on this awesome, adorable, ultimate gift for cats and the owners who love them.

Additional Info

Kate is twelve-years-old and is a typical sized kid for her age. Meaning, that she wears size 12 pants and isn’t quite big enough for a ladies’ size small shirt or hoodie yet. The one we ordered her was a size small (they are only adult sizes) and after reading the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see that most people suggested buying a size up. I did notice that there are a few different sellers on Amazon selling these hoodies, but I am not sure if they are all from the same manufacturer. This one is perfect! It is called the Petgaroo Women’s Sweatshirt. I hope that information helps you!

If you have any questions, or if you purchase one of these adorable hoodies for your cat and your cat-lover please leave a comment below and let us know!

Homestead Maintenance – Fencing

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Every homestead will generally have a great deal of fencing. Fencing types range from four-board horse fencing to woven wire fencing for livestock, to poultry fencing for chickens and fowl. Whether it is designed to keep animals in or predators out, maintaining fencing is an important task that should be on every homesteader’s to-do list. One thing is for certain; a broken fence will not mend itself! Let’s take a look at the different fence types, what they are used for, and what you should keep on hand to make repairs.


Four-Board or Board Fencing

Four board or board fencing is typically used in pastures for horses and ponies. When first erected, this type of fence is pleasing to the eye and very safe for the animals. Board fencing is usually erected using four to six-inch round, treated wooden fence posts or treated 4×4 or 6×6 timbers and 1x6x16-foot fence boards nailed to the posts.

Due to the nature of the material, it is very common for the posts and timbers to twist over time and for the fence boards to warp, sag and buckle. As the fence begins to age, nails may pop out of the posts and the boards may become weak and broken. Nail pops can be a hazard to the animals in the field, especially horses that enjoy scratching themselves on the posts. Broken boards are an invitation for your animals to get out and do a bit of exploring to see if the grass really is greener on the other side.

Paint the top of the wooden fence posts or timbers with a good heavy barn paint or roofing tar to keep water from wicking into the post and rotting prematurely.

Now, pop in a CD of Desperado by the Eagles and get out there and ride (or walk) your fences to inspect for wear and damage. Bring along a good hammer and some nails just in case you find a board that needs some help getting reattached to its post. A spool of baling wire is also helpful to make expedient repairs to any broken boards you may come across until you can get back and replace it.


Woven Wire Field Fencing

Wire field fencing is probably the most common type of fence used on the homestead. There are many different types with varying spacing between the wires and thickness of the wire itself. Let me just say this, buy the best fence you can afford. Cheaply made fencing will become brittle and rust quickly . You will spend more time and money in the long run repairing and replacing it than if you had bought the good stuff in the beginning.

Wire fence is typically nailed to wooden posts or timbers using galvanized metal staples. These are great fun to install, especially if you like to smash your fingers. One of the problems with wire fencing is that it loses the tension and becomes loose. This usually happens when horses or cattle lean against the fence or push on it trying to get to beautiful green grass in your neighbors field. Once a wire fence becomes loose, it is now a potential hazard for horses to get their hooves entangled in, and it is much easier for coyotes or foxes to dig under a loose fence.

Walk your fence at least once a month with a good fencing tool. and a pocket full of staples. We use a Channellock 10.5 inch fencing tool. Inspect the fence for breaks in the wire and tie some surveyor’s flagging around those spots as a marker for future replacement. Make sure there are not any loose wires sticking errantly out of the fence as you can be certain a horse will find it and scratch itself on it. Or worse yet, poke it in the eye. You don’t want to be putting your vet’s kid through college. Ask us how we know.


Poultry Wire Fencing

Chicken wire or poultry fencing is without a doubt the most aggravating type of fence to work with  In addition to being hard to work with, it is generally very thin wire and does not last for decades as do the other types of woven wire fences. But let’ s face it, it’s cheap and it does the trick to keep our beloved chickens corralled. This is what we use. 

Inspect your chicken wire daily and very carefully. Chickens and fowl are a tremendous asset to any homestead and they are also on the menu for many predators. Coyote, fox, raccoon, possum, snakes and hawks will all be more than happy to dine on your hens if given easy access to the chicken yard.

Keep a roll of wire and a wire cutter at the chicken coop so you can make repairs while you are there collecting eggs. We can’t tell you how many times we have noticed a rip in the fence and tell ourselves that we’ll get to it later, and later finds us repairing something else on the homestead we forgot to repair before!

Your homestead fencing represents a huge investment in money and time. Protect your investment by taking time today to gather the supplies you’ll need so you’ll have them on hand when it’s time to do your maintenance checks.

Gifts You Should Purchase for Your Homeschool

Keep It Simple – Say NO to Junk

This post contains affiliate links. Using these links will take you to the best deals we can find for you, and will not cost you anything extra. We earn a small percentage of your purchase price, paid by the companies we affiliate with. Using these links does not, in any way, change our opinions of the products.

Let’s face it. We all have those relatives that just won’t listen when we ask them to send our homeschooled kids educational toys for the holidays. There have been years when we thought about banning our parents from sending gifts and instead asking them to simply send gift cards or better yet, Amazon cards, so that we could spend the money ourselves. But we didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So we didn’t. And now we have more junk than we really want. Add to that the fact that we moved into a much smaller house a few years ago and now we just want to shout, “please send the good stuff!”


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