Rebecca Spooner spends her day homeschooling, planning in her beautiful traveler’s notebook and tries to seize every moment and share her chaos so that the readers feel right at home. Her blog provides Homeschool encouragement, curriculum reviews, free printables and more.
About a year ago I posted a video about Why we were not using The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) and it exploded. Nearly every week, consistently and without fail, I receive at least one hate mail e-mail from someone. They are long, they are well-thought out, they are barbed with insults and condemnation. Nearly every single day I get notifications of new comments on my YouTube video about this, both good and bad, this isn’t going away.
Over the past year I have watched. I have seen this issue divide, I have heard both sides, I have seen the community and TGTB groups, I have followed the threads and gone through the comments. My reasons “why” God drew me away from this curriculum have solidified, they have better words and more logic, and I have such a clear idea of how to communicate that and why I must. I must share this article not to beat a dead horse, or to tear Jenny down, but because there is confusion.
Disclaimer: Let me be clear that this article is not written for people who are LDS, it is written to Christians who are currently using The Good and the Beautiful or considering it and trying to understand the controversy. These are obviously my opinions and convictions and experiences, I do not claim to be God or the Holy Spirit for you and you ultimately have to make your own decision in the matter. The purpose of this article is to help people who are truly seeking for an answer as to why there is so much debate about this to understand the issue more fully.
I never wanted to take on this debate. I didn’t even fully understand the LDS faith myself nor what making that video would mean. But I feel strongly that I cannot stay silent on this, for the sake of even one person who may be debating this and truly in their heart wants to know what God has at least been showing me about the curriculum.
Today, I am going to break down, very clearly, my reasons. If you truly desire to know the answer, pray before you read this, ask God to speak and help you discern what He is saying. Don’t take my word for it, turn to Him.
Why I, as a Christian, do not use or recommend The Good and the Beautiful:
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not Christian
This just begins to scratch the surface on major issues that go far beyond denominational differences.
This is the #1 argument I get from the LDS community: LDS are Christians as defined by Wikipedia. Sure, according the to the world’s standards, the word “Christian” doesn’t mean much. But according to the standards of the New Testament church, the warning in Revelation that nothing was to be added or taken away, this is deception, false.
2. There is incredible deception in the LDS faith
They are changing their name:
from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to the Church of Jesus Christ. They don’t want any differentiation from their faith and Christianity. It began as the Church of Latter Day Saints.
There is deception rampant in the groups:
In any post where anyone posts any concerns about the roots of the author, hundreds of people hop on (many many of them Evangelical Christians I might add) to say there is nothing to be concerned about. Meanwhile the LDS community (which is huge in the groups) hops on and says we are all the same. It is a Christian program, as is LDS. Like pentecostal to baptist, we all have our differences and LDS is just a denomination. Take a look at a few of the comments on my video from TGTB community:
Even LDS are deceived
In some of the comments on my videos I have shared some of my findings on LDS.org as part of my argument that we are not the same. I was shocked to find time and time again that professing LDS believers said “We don’t believe that!” This is a huge red flag to me and further proof that this is a faith built on deception.
The rebuttal that I hear from the Christian community is: “There is no LDS content in The Good and the Beautiful curriculum. Evangelical Christians, Catholics, etc. all came together to approve this had nothing that contradicted their faith.”
Let’s move on to the next point.
3. Spiritual influences and strongholds
Do you believe that there is a spiritual world, with spiritual forces, demons and angels, and spiritual influences and strongholds that you can’t see in the invisible realm? Do you believe the Bible is true?
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
It really comes down to whether we believe what the Bible says or not.
The enemy deals with deception, the lines become blurred, he preys on our insecurities. The draw to this curriculum is powerful, why?
• Because we feel so insecure about doing it all and doing enough and this curriculum is in-depth and all laid out, we are drawn to it because we first hear the whisper: “You are a failure, you are messing them up.” And we believe it.
• Because of the hype: everyone is using it and the power of herd mentality is real. What are we missing out on?
• Because of the spiritual influence: Jenny Phillips isn’t just a practising member of the LDS church, she is a large, influential leader in the faith. She reaches thousands of people through her music and leadership and has great authority in the LDS church and spiritual influence. Part of the draw, the pull towards this curriculum, is the fact that the enemy deals in deception and there is an actual spiritual draw to the curriculum, the enemy is using this to confuse Christians (see point 4)
• Because of our friends: homeschoolers are passionate about their curriculum and the pull to “sell” what we are using is strong. You probably heard about this program from a friend who told you it was changing their lives. Which brings me to the next point.
4. Christians are being deceived… and you and I may have a part in it
I see moms all the time who go and ask in the groups and communities: “I saw Rebecca’s video and I am now having second thoughts.” The community pounces on it, “DO IT, there’s nothing in the curriculum, it’s amazing!” etc. etc. etc. all whilst hopping on my back with rumours and false accusations of greed and their rule on my motivations to do it. I can’t really blame anyone, they don’t know me or really care and they are just doing what we homeschoolers do best, selling their success!
But that mom who is questioning, who doesn’t really know the differences, starts to think, “Oh, I didn’t know LDS was just a denomination of Christianity!” They buy it you guys, hook line and sinker. I have watched it happen over and over again in threads:
Mom considering it: “I don’t really know much about LDS”
People in the group: “We believe some different things but so do all denominations, we are Christians just like you.”
Mom considering it: “Oh” she says. “Wow, I guess I don’t really know much about the LDS beliefs”
And you or I may have had a part in that.
I left the Good and the Beautiful for my kids, for the spiritual influence, for the families who are being deceived and confused. The more I have pondered my decision, the more I realize it is so much more than what meets the eye which brings me to point number 5.
5. This is bigger than the curriculum…
I know these are strong statements, I know that this may make you angry, some of the most hateful comments I have received have been from Pentecostal, Baptist, Evangelical Christians who hate me for standing against this because they LOVE the curriculum and don’t want to be convinced otherwise. They see me as someone who is fighting against the homeschool peace and joy they have found and it makes them angry.
I was one of those people my friends. I fell deeply into this, I wanted SO BADLY to believe that there was nothing wrong with it, that I wasn’t called to that standard, that people were reading into it too much, etc. “You’re just being religious,” I thought to myself. I dismissed them, I pushed against it. And then I researched LDS, I saw the insights on Jenny’s blog, I saw the quotes and pictures were heavily influenced from LDS sources, I understood what she believed and the worldview that went into this and I just couldn’t ignore it any longer.
It isn’t the curriculum… it is the culture. The culture of the Facebook group where everyone tells you we are all the same, there are no differences between LDS and Christians. The spiritual influence that this is bringing over our kids and homes, and the confusion and deception it is causing amongst homeschool families who aren’t grounded in their faith who are being led astray because some well-meaning Christian mom determinedly preached to them that there was “nothing in the curriculum.”
The fruit that has come since leaving The Good and the Beautiful
I knew that when I left the Good and the Beautiful there would be drama and negativity. I knew I would be bashed and misunderstood. I maybe didn’t understand the extent of the battle I was being drawn into, but I knew God was with me and so I stepped onto the field, blissfully unaware of how that one video would change my life.
But what I did not expect was the fruit in our homeschool–the blessing of stepping out into God’s calling on our lives. The Good and the Beautiful curriculum recommends 45 minutes to an hour of working in their LA course book a day, their History takes about that long as does their Science. I have five children, in my desire to “do it all” I had lost sight of my original vision and intention for homeschooling. We were spending 6-8 hours a day doing school (go watch my Day in the Life video with The Good and the Beautiful on YouTube, it’s intense!). Yes, my kids were growing quickly but was that my goal and purpose? We had no time for anything else, no time for nature studies, no time for Bible and morning basket and art and picture studies. We were a slave to curriculum that I was in love with.
Since leaving we have moved into eclectic homeschooling that is still evolving to be honest. We have a Spirit-led homeschool where no day is like the last and God is consistently drawing us into more homeschool freedom. We do bookwork just a few hours in the morning and have our afternoons to discuss, drink tea, explore the world around us, and follow our interests and passions. A deep sense of rest and peace has settled on our home, regardless of how much we get done in a day. I am free.
I still hear the lie from the enemy rise up: “You aren’t doing enough. You are messing your kids up. They are going to be behind. You need to add more.” But I know that lie too well to not recognize it for what it is. Every time it comes I speak God’s truth over my life, that He has started a good work in our lives and the lives of my children and He will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). I walk in confidence not based on the amount I do or the curriculum I do nor even the results I can see, but in what God has called me to do and following His voice day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
My calling: rise up
Friend, I know this is hard to hear. I will never forget a message I got from someone on Instagram who had purchased The Good and the Beautiful last year based on my recommendation. A few months later I came out with the infamous video and she confessed to me that she was mad–she didn’t want to hear it, she wanted to defend what she was using because she loved it. But over the past few months God worked on her, spoke to her, and she decided to switch. She wrote to thank me for my boldness and strength to say what I said and follow God. For her, it is worth it. For you, it is worth it. For the person who is not sure, it is worth it.
To say I am strong enough to stand against all the hate, that it doesn’t hurt, is just not true. On my own you guys, I am not strong enough. But I know that God has not called me to take a stand just to abandon me. He is with me.
When I first made the full live video on Facebook (which is why on YouTube I am not looking at the camera, I was looking at my phone) I smiled quite a bit though the video. People were super offended by that, they thought I sounded flippant and cruel, like I didn’t care. But here’s the real reason I smiled, I was shocked by the sense of God’s presence. I wasn’t alone, the hate and cruelty couldn’t hurt me. I spoke and each barb that was thrown it was as if I was protected. The video ended, the weeks after were harder than I ever could have imagined. I stopped responding to comments, I stopped going on my computer and phone, I cried, I sought Him again and again, He sustained me then and He will sustain me now.
What about you?
Once again I step out because the time has come. It is my prayer that you will see my heart.
To the people who say this was greed or a decision for money (because I have received HUNDREDS of comments and emails about that and just saw it posted in a thread the other day): I was asked to write curriculum for Jenny. She was a sponsor of mine and I was paid for the promotions I did. I actually made more working for The Good and the Beautiful than other companies I have worked with. I lost money and I lost business by making that video so nothing could be further from the truth. I did not leave to write my Bible curriculum, though that was what I decided to do instead of writing for The Good and the Beautiful.
I have no hate for the LDS community, I disagree that they are Christians, but I could go and have coffee with one of them and talk about curriculum and homeschool routines easily and genuinely...
I wanted to write a post to help explain what Build Your Bundle is, how it works this year, how you can save the most money, my favorite bundles, and a free printable to help you plan your shopping. Don’t forget that I am a contributor to the sale with my two brand new courses (Total Time Management for Kids and Start a Blog + YouTube channel for kids) which means I make a percentage of the sale if you click on my link.
The way it works this year is last click which means if you want me to get the credit, you have to click on my link last PLUS I have an exclusive giveaway for people that support me and shop my link! The DIY printers bundle is valued at over $300 with a laser printer and ink, a rolling cart, AND a binding machine and combs and covers so that you can print and assemble and store all your amazing purchases. Stay tuned for that at the bottom of the email.
What is Build Your Bundle?
Build Your Bundle is a homeschool sale of epic proportions. It only comes up one time each year and it is entirely digital. All the courses and curriculum you will see are PDF or online version which means: no shipping or hidden fees! It also means that you don’t have the physical copies which is a no go for some people (but also why I put together this amazing giveaway, to help you turn your digital products into physical copies!)
What’s different from last year?
If you have shopped the sale before, there are a few key differences to point out this year, that make it (in my opinion) better than ever. In the past, products have been divided into premium products and the rest based off of retail value. You used to have to put together bundles based on the value and were limited to how many products you could add. There was also a deal if you bought 2 bundles. But this year it’s been completely restructured to just be based off of value.
SO… you can either purchase the premade bundles (no buy 2 get 1 this year, the prices are just lower and better for everyone and also less complicated to shop). Or you can build your own bundle, with any products you want, and get a percentage off based on how much you add.
In the past, you got better value from the premade bundles but this year you can just go crazy, add everything you want to your cart, and save based on how much you spend. Here’s the breakdown:
Where to start?
Check out some of my top picks in my Wishlist or view the lists organized by age range below! PreK-Kindergarten Picks
Check out this planning worksheet to help you figure out the best deal and work out your savings on paper. Don’t forget to come back and click on one of my link before you purchase and then enter the giveaway below!
*NEW: Contest open to the US plus now open to Canada as well. If someone wins in Canada, they will receive a $300 Amazon gift card instead as the prizes are not possible to get here at anything near this price. <3
Homeschooling is not cheap. The more kids you have, the more supplies and books you need, the more strain it can put on the finances. But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are so many ways to save money and homeschool on a budget! Let’s talk about some money saving homeschool hacks plus an AMAZING giveaway and homeschool deal at the bottom, so stay tuned!
Homeschooling on a budget Hack #1: The Dollar Store!
The dollar store! There are so many amazing educational goodies that you can find at the dollar store! Everything from curriculum to school supplies to coat supplies, incentives and more! I save HUGE money shopping there instead of our local office supply store and I can fill an entire basket for just $30!
I had so many requests to show what I use for this that I put together a video of my Dollar Store Homeschool Haul. Check it out and let me know the craziest thing you’ve found at the dollar store!
Top 20 Dollar Store Homeschool Supplies | Dollar Store Homeschool Haul | Homeschooling on a Budget - YouTube
Homeschooling on a budget Hack #2: Repurpose Content!
Not all homeschool curriculum companies allow you to photocopy curriculum, but many of them do within your own personal family. This is a great way to repurpose content so you can use that same book for multiple kids, but it isn’t the only way!
If the copyright does not allow for photocopies, you can still use the same content for multiple kids by cutting up your book and putting the sheets into page protectors! My mom was the queen of this and we would use one unit study or book for the entire family. Reusable curriculum!
Another great way to do this is to have your kids write their answers in a separate notebook and in that way have the same book available and untouched for other kids or to sell when you are done with it.
Homeschooling on a budget Hack #3: Buy used
There are so many local homeschool groups (search homeschool and your city on Facebook to see what comes up) that often sell used curriculum, there are used curriculum tables at most homeschool conventions, plus there is used curriculum on eBay, and in larger homeschooling buy and sell groups on Facebook.
Buying used curriculum can help save money and possibly shipping if you can find it locally.
Homeschooling on a budget Hack #4: Buy digital
Many curriculum companies offer digital or PDF versions of their curriculum that are sometimes cheaper and other times give you the licensing to be able to print off multiple copies for multiple children. Other than printing rights, this can also save quite a bit if shipping is expensive to where you live or you are ordering curriculum from another country.
Homeschooling on a budget Hack #5: Shop sales
Most curriculum companies have sales at strategic times throughout the year, May is a common time of year for sales, there are often back to school specials, convention specials, online coupon codes, Black Friday specials, and more. If you aren’t in as much as a time crunch, you can take the time to snag what you want when it is a lot cheaper.
Homeschooling on a budget Hack #5a: Shop the BIGGEST sale of the year
This is basically a sub point of hack number 5, but I am SUPER excited because the biggest homeschool sale of the year is your big chance to get curriculum up to 90% off retail price, all digital to save on shipping and much of it allowed to be shared within your family and printed multiple times for siblings.
Build Your Bundle is open just 1 week each year and will be closing May 22, 2019 so this isn’t something you want to wait for. Not only that, but I am sweetening the deal by offering an exclusive entry in an AMAZING giveaway valued over $300 to give you everything you need to print, bind, and store your printable curriculum to someone who purchases using my link!
There are multiple ways to join but the biggest amount of entries is for actually shopping the sale with me! There are additional entry options available PLUS I have some other amazing announcements including:
1. Daily Live shopping chats where I will help you choose a bundle or group of bundles to suit your family PLUS a $25 Amazon giftcard will be given away during each live (on my Facebook page, nightly at 6pm PST/9pm EST)
Set your alarms, LIVE every night until the 22 at 6pm PST/9pm EST for customized shopping help!
3. There is a bundle of bonuses that you will get with a purchase that includes a 50% off code to my Structuring Your Homeschool Day. That means you could get that amazing 2 week course about looping, scheduling, morning baskets, curriculum, and more, for less than $5!!!!!
4. I have put together a blog post with more information on the Build Your Bundle sale, as well as all my top recommendations and what I purchased! Click here to view it!
Enter to win
*Contest open to US only. I am a fellow Canadian you guys but I can’t get these products for less than 3 times the cost here in Canada! It is just not feasible here. SO sorry!
As I walk around with my little (or large) family, the question inevitably comes up: “Why aren’t you in school?” My kids always look to me, as if they are looking for permission (though I am convinced that to the well-meaning individual it looks like they are unsure why they aren’t in school) at which point I nod. “We’re homeschooled” they announce with a smile. The mood shifts, the conversation becomes a little less smooth and a little more jolting. I watch as the person on the other side of the counter tries to process this information and find something politically correct to say. All the while the wheels are turning, ‘WHY?’ they wonder to themselves. The reasons why are different for everyone, but here are 50 of the more common reasons that people choose to homeschool their kids today. Or learn more about the pros and cons of homeschooling.
Why do people homeschool? Here’s 50 reasons!
1. More one-on-one time
2. Working at their child’s pace
3. Dissatisfaction with the level of education in public school
4. To instil their values/morals
5. To focus on love of learning rather than rote learning
6. Bullying in the school system
7. Concern for the direction with the public education system
8. To be closer to their children
9. To suit work hours better (ie. shiftwork or transfers)
10. To focus on a child’s special needs or learning struggles that aren’t being met in school
11. Can’t afford private school and not happy with public school
12. To educate “outside the box”
13. They feel called to it (faith based reasons)
14. They have a gifted child that is being overlooked or not challenged
15. More flexibility
16. They don’t want to miss days with their kids
17. Tailoring education to their child’s interests and gifts and learning style
18. World-schooling (freedom to travel)
19. More opportunity for the child to get work training sooner (alongside their education). Apprenticeships, early college, etc.
20. Safety (no school shootings)
21. Conflicts with teachers/administration
22. No homework, free evenings!
23. Helping a child regain their confidence
24. Joining a network of people who share your same values and goals, like-minded
25. Learning with your children (grow and learn together)
26. To develop life skills
27. To develop character
28. To facilitate closer relationships between siblings
29. No disconnect with learning (you know where your child is at and what they are learning/struggling with… you don’t have to worry that they are being missed)
30. To give your child a space where their learning is based on THEM not a national average
31. Freedom to cultivate natural learning opportunities
32. Creating an environment of learning (books, learning resources, school area)
33. Create an atmosphere that is positive, personal, and safe
34. Kids grow up recognizing that home is not just for eating and sleeping, it is also a place of learning. Learning is a way of life!
35. Kids take ownership of their own learning
36. Building self-motivation and independence
37. Less time to “do school”
38. Better test scores/college preparation
39. Building empathy and respect (working with a variety of ages)
40. Eat healthier (make your own lunches, not processed quick lunches)
41. Kids can get proper sleep
42. Freedom to schedule your own time (stay out late on a school night!)
43. Kids learn how to manage their time
44. Access to learn about anything–anywhere!
45. More progressive thinking: no more conveyer belt education
46. Kids can be “socialized” in a chosen environment with positive influences
47. Children are free to be themselves
48. No one knows/loves a child more than it’s parents. The parent can offer the connection, support, and love behind the lesson to further understand the child.
49. Children don’t get sick as often (no more lice!)
50. Children aren’t bound to a label or limitation imposed on them
*Update: after consideration and reflection and prayer, I have decided to not continue with The Good and the Beautiful for our family. There has been a lot of personal attacks directed at me over this decision and the reasons behind this decision. I will leave this post up to help give a review of the content but if you would like to know the reasons behind my decision, you can watch the recorded video on my YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/tyfeqJR7bD4
With 5 young children to homeschool, to say my time is limited would be a massive understatement. I spend most my days hopping from child to child, hoping that I am fitting everything in and barely having time to have a break to eat something or go to the bathroom. They all need me… all the time. I have tried group studies, I have tried all-in-one curriculums, I have tried teaching them all together but none of it works for us. There are constant interruptions from the kids who get frustrated with waiting for me and I can feel my anxiety levels rise every time I’m interrupted yet again. After identifying my children’s learning styles, I realized that there is just no way I can persist in trying to group them into one homeschool approach that is torture for half of my children. I HAD to adapt and personalize our studies. Which meant: more of me and more time.
When values and reality collide
As I have learned more about the different homeschool styles, I have found a new set of values that I admire. I love the idea of unschooling, project based learning, Montessori and Charlotte Mason. In my head I have this grandiose vision of what homeschooling can look like and I want it! But every time I try to put it into practise I hit a wall. Because (rudely), my kids don’t really care about my version of a “perfect homeschool”. Some of my kids require more time, some require less. Some cannot sit still for the life of them, and others learn best by listening to me read. I try–and fail to impose my will, to make one thing work… and yet here I am.
Finding curriculum that combines my values with my intense shortage of time and my children’s individual needs is, well, impossible. Frankly, I am tired. I am bone weary of trying to make my kids listen or make a curriculum work or being disappointed that it isn’t working–again. Until I found The Good and the Beautiful. We have been trying this program out for a few months and I have been BLOWN away! It brings in so much of the approach that I admire (Charlotte Mason, hands on, experiential learning) with an open-and-go style. I don’t have to prepare or research. All I have to do is follow the lesson plan. I can’t even tell you guys how much I have missed the structure and peace of mind that comes with a lesson plan!
So what exactly are we using?
It all started with LA. We took the placement test and found where our kids should be placed (shocker, right? My kids aren’t working at their “grade levels”). My preschooler is 4 years old. Though she will be starting Kindergarten in the fall, she is not ready at all. My philosophy is to not push my kids, but rather to take my queues from them (for the most part). She is SO keen to be a part of our homeschool experience. Although I know she could wait, we decided to try the Pre-K program with her and just do it with no pressure or expectation. We will likely repeat it again through the summer if we need to. It has a course book, 4 flip books, as well as a bunch of games to play to reinforce the lessons. She LOVES it! She gets the first 30 minutes of my homeschool day.
My 5 year old is thriving in the Kindergarten program. She begs me to do her course book each day. I work with my 5 and 8 year old at the same time, alternating between independent work and helping them. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but it helps me get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time. The program is incredibly in-depth, building a strong foundation of spelling, reading, and writing skills all in one open-and-go program.
My 8 year old is working in the level 1, even though he should technically be in grade 3. For me, it is far more important to build a foundation and confidence than get bogged down with levels. His reading is improving drastically, even in just the few short month’s we’ve been doing it. He loves that the handwriting has coloring and drawing and enjoys studying the art in his course book and is building his art appreciation.
My ten year old son is working in the level 4 course book right now. His favorite is the art aspect, though he doesn’t mind working in his regular course book either. He is fairly self-motivated and he can do nearly all of his work independently (which is a lifesaver!). He saves his challenging words to work with me, I quiz him on his geography cards and he often has poetry or something assigned to read to me. But otherwise he generally works on his own so that I am free to work with the other kids.
We’ve also been trying out a science unit this month on the Human Body and it is so much fun! Every lesson has hands on experiments built in, coloring, reading, and extended activities and books to use with it. If I don’t have the supplies for the experiments on hand, we can easily skip it and do our lessons mostly through reading together. Though I do find the experiments make a huge difference as far as retention and mastery. The kids have all been really enjoying the science unit. We alternate science with history and do them as a group lesson with all the kids as part of our morning basket.
In case you weren’t aware, the all or nothing in me really likes to just dive in so we are also trying the history program. I LOVE it! The audio recordings are so well done and the read alouds are high quality literature to read together. The kids are creating their own student binder with sheets they have coloured or projects they are working on and they all love the lesson content!
Why are we sticking with it?
So many of you guys have been asking me to do a comprehensive review of this program, and more details are coming in the next few months: live videos, inside pictures, the whole shebang! I wanted to make sure before I started sharing about it that it was, indeed, a good fit for our family. Now that we have been using it I really can’t say enough about it! What really sets it apart is the quality of the materials, the values written in to every lesson, and the open-and-go ease for homeschooling. As a Christian homeschooler, I haven’t found one single reference or point of concern as it is denominationally neutral (using the King James Version). The books and reading materials are amazing, and it is an incredibly affordable option that covers all the bases for families! The LA program alone incorporates phonics, reading, writing, spelling, literature, grammar, punctuation, art, and geography! The only thing you have to add to make The Good and the Beautiful your complete curriculum provider is math, and they have that coming too!
What level would you want if you won?
Have you ever wondered how your husband feels about homeschooling? Me too! Until I found this article written on my desktop one night. My husband had stolen away my computer and written a thoughtful little piece about his thoughts on this whole homeschool journey. We were only a few years in when he wrote this, with still a long, wild journey ahead of us! If you’re feeling brave, ask your husband his thoughts and post them in the comments below! Let’s find out what the men are really thinking as they watch the chaos of our lives…
How do they do it?
Men, let’s talk about how our wives do it. I mean, really: kids grasping at her every second, needing her help, whining at her feet. I’m a police officer and it is nothing compared to what my wife does. You see, I’ve embraced the fine art of mentally blocking out most of my adorable children’s crying and whining, even when it is genuinely needing my attention. But my wife has this innate ability to sort out the important cries from the ‘suck it up’ ones and is completely tuned in to them like a radio frequency. It doesn’t matter what conversation we are having, how important it is, where we are in the middle of a show… she can tell who is crying, what they need, and has prioritized it on her mental ‘docket’. By the time she is getting up to deal with it, I am left wondering what happened and how I missed it (but more importantly, how long will it take so we can get back to the latest Forever episode).
Every once in a while I sit back and marvel at the ‘hamster-in-a-wheel’ pace my wife runs at. It seems nearly impossible to get my little road runner to stop and notice me as she puts out emotional fires, deals with tantrums, teaches the kids, makes meals, and taps away at the computer. She often gets up at 5:30 am just to fit everything in. I will admit, I don’t help out much with the night time “festivities”. When baby needs a bottle or someone had a bad dream, I manage to use my special “fine art” to tune out their cries. I hear Rebecca’s footsteps, the beep of the microwave as she heats up a bottle, the sound of her changing a diaper or soothing a child… and then I roll over and fall back asleep (secure of her capabilities of course). But I do try to do what I can on my days off or between shifts, making meals, tidying up, watching the little ones so she can teach the older ones.
Let’s talk how I really feel about my wife homeschooling…
I must say, homeschooling is real source of pride for me. I often brag at work about the fact that my kids are getting the best education possible. In my line of work, I have seen things in schools and dealing with children that make me so incredibly thankful to know my kids are not submerged in that culture and environment.
I must admit that I’m quite settled with the idea that my wife is busy with the kids and not going out spending our money on Starbucks, Walmart or the mall. When she wants money to spend on “the kids” I usually concede, however I am learning to pick up on the tricky justifications. It seems you can buy almost anything with the tagline “it’s for their education dear”. I have been shocked by more than a few bills in the mail for books or school supplies as we both learn how expensive home education can be and how to better budget/plan our needs.
But seriously guys, if your hard working homeschooling wife is frustrated with something, if a curriculum is not working out, then support her. Having control over your kids education means you need to take responsibility. Things WILL go wrong and it sucks. Realize the error, don’t dwell on it, move on and give her the support. Honestly, I think there is no satisfaction like knowing you wife is totally devoted to the learning and cognitive development of your children. I mean, wow! She birthed them, raised them, feeds them with her own body, trains them and educates them. To me, that IS beautiful. Not the make up, not the clothes, not the special eye liner thing, not the hair straightener thing, and definitely not your weight.
Confessions of a Homeschool dad
I don’t do a whole lot of homeschooling, Rebecca does 99% of it, I sometimes help with a fun activity or experiment. This is largely due to my job and shift work but I do wish I could do more. You see, I have a curse that I can’t get out of. The curse of working outside the home. Working shift work, on call, overtime. Everyday I coming home and I’m greeted by my children with such love and enthusiasm. Everyday, I see them grow up and little by little I feel regret that I’m missing precious moments that I will never be able to get back. Everyday I hear about their fun projects or field trips or things they learned and it fills me with a little bit of bittersweet sadness that I am not a part of it.
But I feel at peace knowing that Rebecca is there with the children. Marriage is a wonderful thing; when two are one. I am a good police officer because I have a wonderful wife who supports me and I try to support Rebecca by helping out around the house and doing what I can to support her not only as my wife and mother of my children, but as a homeschooler as well.
When I first started homeschooling 6 years ago, I loved the idea of Montessori (especially for younger elementary grades). Montessori is a homeschool approach that blends the idea of strewing child-directed-learning with hands on learning through play. Basically everything in your home is chosen for a purpose to be of high educational value, so that even through play your kids are learning independently. You can learn more about what this style looks like here or take the homeschool style quiz. Most Montessori classrooms are INSANELY beautiful, with little wooden learning trays strewn about the room (take a look at my Montessori Pinterest board for inspiration), but getting started can be a fortune! While I am a sucker for things that are pretty, I needed a solution that was functional and affordable so I had to change my gears.
DIY Montessori Hack
To make my own system, I have looked into Ikea’s Trofast system but felt like it would take up too much precious wallspace and that the pricetag was too high. I have seen some awesome learning trays available on various education websites but they don’t ship to Canada. I have looked into cafeteria trays (staples.com of all places!) but could not figure out how to store them without making some sort of special shelving. Then I was going on a hunt through the garage and came across a few unused shoe racks. Score! You may have already seen the shoe rack I set up our block center on, however I am now using the other one near our reading corner for all our activity trays. It takes up next to no space, it holds 8 trays nicely and it cost me nothing! I had a few plastic baskets from the dollar store and went and grabbed four more along with some smaller baskets to go inside to separate various activity segments. Check out the video below to see exactly how this $16 activity tray design is set up!
Cheap Homeschool Organizing Solutions - YouTube
For our pens and pencils and supplies, I needed something that was simple and could be moved around the house so I got creative. I found these planter boxes at wayfair.ca and they are adorable and transportable (win-win). You can find them in Canada for about $33 or a slightly different version in the US for about $40.
Here’s the reality you guys, homeschooling can be as expensive or as cheap as you make it. There are so many creative solutions you can find at garage sales or dollar stores if you think outside the box. It may not be as pretty as what you see online, but it can be just as functional. If you’ve been interested in Montessori but the price is holding you back, research DIY Montessori trays and activities and just dive in!
Let me paint a homeschool scenario you might be familiar with: you are sitting around the table going over your spelling list with your child. You watched them make several mistakes so you are having them rewrite those words multiple times. They are overwhelmed, emotional, and crying as they scribble on their paper giving you the very least they have to offer. You feel frustration rise as you see their messy scrawl, feeling a sense of hopelessness that they are so disengaged and their spelling doesn’t seem to be improving. If you weren’t aware, the traditional homeschooling approach to Spelling is essentially the rule of three R’s: repetition, repetition, repetition. Around and around we go, hoping that the simple act of writing the same words over and over will finally stick so that our kids can be proficient writers, all the while questioning if we are doing something wrong. If you get nothing else today, I want you to walk away with 1 simple phrase that can be a total game changer:
There is a better way to approach homeschool spelling that is natural, easy, and engaging (plus it actually sticks)!
Have you ever noticed that we sometimes need permission to let go of some of the pressure we are holding onto? Permission to break into new territory in our homeschool? In a culture of following the herd it is exceptionally hard to take a different path. It feels abnormal, we feel alone, it feels unfamiliar and I think we need to take a minute to address that truth. Unchartered territory is scary. Tweaking your homeschool to make it unique to you means that there is no proven path to follow. You might make mistakes, or worse, you might be judged for your non-conformity. If this describes you today, take a breath and a few minutes to acknowledge what is holding you back. Then think about your child and what you think is best for them. Decide here and now if veering off the path of safety is worth it and then join me in the vast ocean of the “flexible homeschool experiment”. Now that we are all on the same page, let me share with you a different way to teach spelling that is, in my opinion, superior and in my kids’ opinions, much more enjoyable.
Understanding your child’s spelling stage
We often talk about math skills and reading skills and the natural process and brain development of a child, varying from home to home and individual to individual. However, these same principles apply to spelling as well. We cannot expect our children to write the written word until they have a foundation of understanding. It is a process that develops over time at the pace of your child, not the pace of a curriculum. The easiest way to understand these developmental stages is to watch this video by Dr. Holinga:
5 Developmental Stages of Spelling - YouTube
In short, Dr. Holinga talks about five spelling stages that your children will move through, regardless of what curriculum you are using.
This is the stage before they are reading and writing on their own, think preschool age. They are scribbling and drawing and learning pen control. They are beginning to build the foundation of reading by being read to and understanding that English is written left to right, beginning to learn their alphabet and understand that letters say a different name, etc.
This stage is around K-grade 1 for most children, though it can vary greatly. Children begin to put together the connections of letter sounds and how those fit into words. We aren’t too worried about spelling at this point, even praising the fact that they spelled eat like eet, showing that they are beginning to understanding the different phonograms.
3. Skill Development
This is often the longest and most frustrating stage for parents and students alike. As children progress in their reading, they begin to discover all the “rule breakers” of the English language. Things that don’t make sense phonetically. Their phonetic awareness essentially clashes with their understanding of spelling. This is when we start to step back from phonics and start to just let the natural process of reading (reading reading and more reading) reinforce the different spelling combinations. This stage often lasts through late elementary and as homeschoolers, is where we start to feel like we are hitting ur heads against the wall. Persevere friend!
4. Word Extension
In this stage we start to work on bigger words and syllable connections. This is the stage where we are dropping letters and adding letters in.
5. Derivational Constancy
This is the advanced spelling stage where we zone in on vocabulary-spelling connections. They begin to see patterns with various root words and rely on their mastery of the other stages. This is where Latin or Greek can come in helpful, or start working on medical vocabulary (which is largely based off Latin) so they can begin to see the connection between spelling and meaning.
A homeschool spelling approach without the battle
There is no question that repetition is key, especially in the skill development stage of learning. However, what if we could do repetition in a way that was engaging to our kids and building connections with things that mean something to them? Rather than just teaching them a list of words, we teach it though interesting passages that tie in the very concepts that they are learning. I’ve talked about teaching spelling through copywork a lot on my blog, but the reason for that is that it works! The more we can engage our children in the lessons, the more we can attach those tricky concepts to something that is easy to remember and retain–the stronger the foundation. Not only that, but it is more enjoyable for our kids and less of a battle.
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This has been such a game changer for our homeschool. Though I’ve been using copywork for a long time, I was struggling with finding passages for each child that targeted their unique spelling struggles and development. With Spelling You See however, there is no more guesswork. I choose their books based on their level (there’s a simple placement test you can do on their site) and it gives me passages that are uniquely tailored to the stage they are in. I just open and go! It is a better way to teach spelling for them, but it is an easier way to make sure that strong foundation is being formed for me (win-win).
Multipurpose homeschooling: it’s a thing
Here’s the best part, reading, spelling and writing development are linked, right? As our children progress in one area, they often find breakthrough in another. This has been beautifully played out with my two middle kids this past year. My son is 8 years old, technically in grade 3 but working more at a late grade 1/early grade2 level. In contrast, my 5 year old is in Kindergarten but working more at a grade 1 level. After taking the placement test I decided to put them both in the same level (A) and it has been magical. While it is a bit easy for my 8 year old, it has been instrumental in the breakthrough I’m seeing in his reading while building confidence at the same time (another win-win moment). I caught these cute little video snippets of the kids reading their spelling to each other (NOTE: level A is more about dictation to help build the phonetic stage (auditory phonemic awareness), all the other levels have copywork passages combined with dictation).
Read and Spell with Spelling You See - YouTube
Spelling You See Review: Learn to Spell AND Read! - YouTube
How to get your hands on this homeschool spelling curriculum
The curriculum is called Spelling You See and you can snag it on their website. You can also find them on Facebook.
Before I began homeschooling I was blissfully unaware of how difficult it would be to teach my children to read and write. I could not have possibly grasped how hard it would be to find a program that both worked for me and my kids and built that strong foundation. I have hopped from program to program in my search for what will work and consequently seen gaps form in what my kids know. Time and time again, I hear my same story from other homeschool moms on the same journey. The reality is, traditional phonics has been overcomplicated with a combination of either rule memorization (understand every application of every sound combination) or sight word focus over sound focus. Over time, these approaches can work, but they require hours upon hours of repetition, memorization, flashcards, and drills. It is not an enjoyable process for either child OR teacher, which can backfire when our kids suddenly are disinterested in reading. Our culture over-emphasizes the system over the child’s reading experience.
What if there was a better way?
Going back to the basics
I was discussing this problem with a curriculum publisher, who strongly feels that phonics is not as complicated as we make it out to be. She began researching phonics and reading programs throughout history and stumbled upon Florence Akin’s “Word Mastery” from 1913 and Lewis B. Monroe’s “First Steps in Spelling” from 1874. She discovered that there was a logical simplicity that had been lost in the modernization of our current-day programs. After comparing the two, she concluded:
When we master the basic letter sounds and build words, then discover syllables and turn them into sentences, children learn to navigate the exceptions along the way and a gentle, natural process takes place. Pure traditional phonics is not
complicated. It does have a rhyme and reason. Yes, the English language contains elements from a variety of languages that create intermittent oddities, but the oddities are rare. It is quite logical, and learning to read should not be overwhelming. I am determined to challenge the stigma of phonics being a “heartless drudgery” or “bitter pill” to be swallowed.
A day with the public school system
I recently was watching my niece and nephews and going over heaps of school work they had been assigned during their absence from school. I was struck by the boring, drill-based approach to teaching reading. List after list after list of words were expected to be read, with no connection point–no point of reference for the child to attach these words to. While many schools still bring in basic phonics, they rely heavily on what they perceive to be the faster route by having children memorize sight words to rapidly advance their reading vocabulary. But even more striking than the approach, was the attitude towards reading. Now, to be clear, my nieces and nephews are much better at the art of listening and obeying than my own kids. They did what they were supposed to do without the whining or pushing my own kids might try on me. But there was no light in their eyes. They were doing it for the sake of a teacher, not based off interest or sparking discussion or bringing a sense of accomplishment.
Phonics is not dead
With any approach, belief, or value there are extremes and education is no exception. There are schools and home educators who completely ignore phonics, instead believing that once sufficient reading vocabulary has been achieved, fluency will be acquired and decoding is no longer necessary. On the other end you have programs such as Logic of English, with massive textbooks that teach mastery of every sound, every combination, and every rule through flashcards and long, in-depth lessons. But in the middle you have the average parent who is unwilling to put their kids through drudgery and is determined not to kill their child’s enthusiasm and natural interest in reading. What is the middle ground?
Build a foundation
The mysterious publisher I referenced above sent me a copy of her Foundational Phonics program to check out. There are two books in the series, Letter Mastery and Word Mastery. The books have been newly revised and re-printed and bring in the simple effectiveness of phonics programs of old with a more interactive, hands-on approach that can be catered to multiple learning styles.
Letter Mastery has 26 chapters, each one with 13 pages that can be done at your child’s pace. Each chapter has story ideas, hands-on activity suggestions, drawing activities, building words with flashcards, handwriting practice, coloring or circling, and poems or readings from various sources (the Bible is used as some of the readings throughout). As you progress through the program, it advances to reading three letter words based on the sounds you have learned. It is a full-year program that can be done to reinforce reading skills in struggling readers or teach reading from the ground up for advanced preschool and kindergarten learners. In the picture below, the top picture shows one of the pages near the beginning of the book, the bottom picture shows a later page.
Word Mastery has 16 chapters, which if you did a chapter every 2 weeks would last you through the year. Each chapter is about 20 pages, though some are much shorter and some are longer based on the concept that is being taught. For example, special C sounds (c=s and sc=s) are shorter chapters whereas vowel friends (such as ea, oe, ow, ought, ai, ugh) is much longer. The idea behind this program is simply to work at your child’s pace rather than do “a lesson a day.” This second book in the Foundational Phonics series begins with three letter words and takes children all the way to reading fluency (see the picture below). It does this through a series of copywork, reading and marking vowels/syllables/words, and reading passages together. In the comparison picture below you’ll see the top picture showing how the program starts in chapter 1 versus the more advanced reading happening towards the end of the book.
The pictures in the books are vintage graphics and the overall feel is less “busy work” and instead giving our children a feast of rich literature and simple, understandable lessons that build upon one another. The program is much more affordable than many of the other phonics programs that are currently on the market and can be an feasible and enjoyable solution for early readers, emerging readers, and struggling readers alike. There have been some amazing results with homeschoolers who have used this with their kids with dyslexia as well!
For more information, read the full story behind the program or check out the shop. If you want to see inside the books and get a feel for the program and see it in action, don’t miss my Facebook live on Tuesday, January 23rd, at 12pm EST/9am PST on my Facebook Page: Homeschool On (please note, I’m in the process of re-branding so you will now find my Facebook page at facebook.com/homeschoolon instead of Hip Homeschooling). There might even be an extra prize for tuning in!
Do you think phonics is still important?