Day 5 - Rely on the Simple and Uncomplicated

Day 5 - Rely on the Simple and Uncomplicated

Rely on the simple and uncomplicated. Do what suits your family best. You know all of those absolutely jaw-dropping buffet spreads and fresh pine swags and elaborate gift wrapping designed specifically for each member of your family, including the goldfish? Skip 'em. Unless you just love to put on the spread and the decor, do what your family loves and will enjoy. Everything else elicits the opposite of easy Advent ideas that don't overwhelm. 

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Day 2 - Find a Church. . .

Day 2 - Find a Church. . .

Find a church that has a Christmas Eve service or other Advent services and events. You don't need to own an Advent wreath and candles if your own church lights and celebrates every week leading up to Christmas. Just make very good use of the time you spend together and that shouldn't be overwhelming at all, even if the kids can't remember which Advent Sunday it is by the time you hit the church parking lot. This isn't a homeschooling subject! Enjoy the experience.

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5 Days of Easy Advent Ideas That Won't Overwhelm

5 Days of Easy Advent Ideas That Won't Overwhelm

Do you feel it, too? That unmistakable pressure to do, be, and go at Christmastime? What if we could just all take it down a notch and listen, quietly, to what God is saying and showing us this year?

What if we could choose a few simple, purposeful activities that are easy and not overwhelming, but that bring a sense of wonder and focus to our Christmas celebrations this year? 

That's the goal this week as I publish each post in our short series. For our family, Christmas can come and go in a fretful blur and leave us exhausted and also empty, when we should be feeling filled up with the realization that this is the gospel! Here He is, the Word become flesh! 

I'm going to go out on a limb here - I'm certain God did not design our feasts and celebrations to be overwhelming and leave us feeling totally spent. I'm certain His heart is for us to feel more by doing less. More of Him, less of us. More Christ in me, less me trying to do my Christmas thing.

How about it? Ready for 5 days of Advent ideas that enhance and don't exhaust?

We're not doing this series alone. Join all of our blogging friends at the iHomeschool Network for a week of excellent 5 Days of Christmas posts. Click the link right here to be taken to a whole list of what everyone is writing about over there!

Sex Talk for Parents, Couples, Teens, and the Rest of Us

We've spent a significant amount of time and energy around here on the topic of sex, sex education, and talking to our kids about sex. This week's episode features author and speaker Sheila Gregoire as we discuss the purity culture, the homeschooling movement, and how the messages we're sending our kids reach far into adulthood, for better or for worse.

We thought it was time for a big sex round-up post, giving you all the resources you might need in one convenient place. Our heart is to give you solid tools and leave you encouraged and prepared to dive into the more complicated conversations with your spouse, your kids, or the people you minister to.

Not seeing the post round-up in your email? Click through the post image above!

Affiliate links included

Teens, Tweens, Toddlers - How to Manage Multiple Ages and Homeschooling

It seems like a lifetime ago, but when we started homeschooling, our oldest son was four. We also had a two-year-old and a newborn, and as life went on, we added another baby about every other year or so. Pretty soon we had a big group of eight kids from 15 down to the baby, and I felt like I was drowning every day.

I have learned and implemented a lot of management techniques over the years.

Sometimes the things I try work and other times I have to scrap the whole shebang just an hour or two into it. Quite honestly, my current frustration is teens who see the systems, know the systems, and ignore the systems. Systems, it seems, aren't the stuff of which relationships are made.

I'm not so good at relationships. I'm very good at projects. For all the homeschooling moms out there who love to while away the afternoon with a cup of coffee and a long conversation on the couch, I'm the homeschooling mom who would rather organize paperwork and cook dinner. I'm the one to whom administration and organization come naturally. I'm the one who is socially inept most of the time, so if you want to throw a party, I'll get it all up and running for you. Just don't ask me to host. Ha!

I'm working on the relationship part, and I love reading books by homeschooling moms who are relationship rock stars.

Are you needing help knowing how to not drown while homeschooling?



How to not go completely under? I can do that. In fact, I have a whole site dedicated to helping you figure out how to homeschool older kids well while managing little ones, too. It's called Preschoolers and Peace, and it's been around a long, long time.

Help is here!

I also have two eBooks that might come in handy, particularly if you want to cut to the chase and not have to poke around the site for the info you need. The first is called Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling Older Kids With Success While Loving the Little Ones at Your Feet (affiliate link), and it covers everything from home management to kid management to schedules to food to school ideas.

The other is Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Day (affiliate link). I was struggling getting to all of the subjects we wanted to cover, such as Scripture memory, art, writing letters, etc., and so I implemented a group time around our kitchen table that includes all the kids. It's been the anchor to our homeschool for the past 15 years!

Here's to thriving in our homes!

-Kendra, who is off to focus on some relationships here . . .

9-Year-Old Boys and Homeschooling and Moms

I have an almost-9-year-old boy. I've raised three of these creatures prior to the current one, and as he pulls his typical 9-year-old antics, I remind his disgusted/annoyed/frustrated older sisters that this is perfectly normal. 9-year-old boys are disgusting/annoying/frustrating.

Case in point:

Big sister said, "Take those out of your ears or you'll ruin them."

He replied, "That's the point."

I am confident that his goal was not to actually ruin the pencil or his ears, but as soon as sister made a comment, he felt the need to put her in her place and communicate that he is above the need to worry about a mere pencil/eraser/ear drum.

Also, get aload of these fingernails:


But most of us moms-of-9-year-old boys can look past the smell and the muddy shoes and the constant activity. Most of us see a future right around the corner that all too soon includes careful clothing selections and Axe Body Spray. No hurry.

What we struggle with as homeschooling moms of 9-year-old boys is some variation of this:

Hiding under the bean bag because, math. Poor kid. I asked him to do his two pages of math and it was surely a sign to him of the coming apocalypse. 

I'm sure the big question here for those of you moms who are currently homeschooling a 9-year-old boy is, "So what do I do when he collapses on the floor because I dared to present him with school work?"

A few tricks that have worked for me:

  • Turn on some motivating music. The day of the pencil-in-the-ear, we listened to the Star Wars playlist from Apple Music.
  • Give work in short bursts, followed by activity or "brain breaks". Favorites here are jumping jacks, sprinting up and down the stairs, running laps around the yard, and getting to use the bathroom. Just kidding. But no, really.
  • Liberally use the stop watch on your phone. My boys in those middle ages love to be timed, whether it's a math workbook page or emptying the dryer.
 Homeschooled Boys: Why Apple made a stopwatch on every iPhone.

Homeschooled Boys: Why Apple made a stopwatch on every iPhone.

  • Allow food. A bowl of peanuts, a handful of carrot sticks, and yes, even that gum you and I were never allowed in school. I get it - they wanted to preserve their flooring - but in our home, gum often allows a student to focus on the task, much like doodling or knitting or coloring helps us adults to focus on a speaker or podcast. 
  • Remind them that you are their teacher, and as such, they do need to get their school work done. But when they've finished, let 'em go! Give them the freedom to play/exercise/read/whatever.

Need more good resources all about boys?

Did you know that other parents struggle with the 9-12-year-old boy group, too? Our friends Hal and Melanie Young over at Raising Real Men have a whole "boot camp" (encouragement/major cryfest/boost) just for parents tackling this stage of life.

You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining theHomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

The Lifegiving Home

This post contains affiliate links.

We generally don't talk a lot about homemaking on our episodes of Homeschooling in Real Life, but we do mention family culture and we certainly talk a lot about creating a home that makes kids feel safe to live transparently. We definitely do talk a lot about pointing each other to Jesus, too, don't we? 

Sally Clarkson was one of the first homeschooling moms I (Kendra) listened to and read almost 20 years ago when we started homeschooling. She was an encourager, a passionate lover of Jesus, and a gentle voice who reassured me in my dark moments. In particular, I remember a story she told in one of her early books about being frustrated with her kids as she heard them goofing off down the hall, until she discovered that they were actually oohing and aahing over their baby sister. That was confirmation my Type-A self needed to hear.

Sally's the big sister I never had. She might be the mentor you are yearning for, too.

Right now in the Fletcher home, a thousand plates are spinning and threatening to crash at the slightest provocation. My heart is desirous of creating a home that doesn't feel like a freeway collision, but my flesh is weak, friends. When Sally's book, The Lifegiving Home, arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I knew this was the right time to read it. I read what I need.

The Pinterest pressure is off, though. I was leery of that, you know. I don't need another idea screaming at me in the face and revealing what I loser I feel like. I'm pretty good at doing that myself. So then, this, which Sally and her daughter Sarah wrote together:

"We want to show women (and men, if they're interested) how to create a space that supports vibrant, productive living and supports growth of body, soul, and spirit."

Yes. Me, too! I want to create a home that is all of those things. A place that feels like a refuge rather than what I currently feel: the place where all my work is and that I can never escape all the work. And maybe, if I create a place of rest and refuge and beauty for Fletch and me, all of that will spill over onto our kids and seep into our souls, don't you think?

I'm still reading The Lifegiving Home, so I can't tell you how this story ends. But I can tell you that it's a lovely winter read, perfect for the days I'm anxiously awaiting the almond blossoms next door and a warmer breeze and flip flops every day. 

One more thing? Don't try to be Sally. Don't try to be us. Just be you. God created your home to be a place that reflects the unique ways He has gifted you, and that's a beautiful truth.

Nothing is required for the making of a home except a heart that loves God, an imagination fired by His Spirit, and hands ready to create.
— Sally Clarkson

More from Sally Clarkson:

The Gift of a Journaling Bible: One Grandfather's Legacy of Love

Are you familiar with journaling Bibles? I began seeing them appear on Instagram and thought, "Wow! How lovely! I could never do that . . ."

Many of my artist friends are journaling and drawing as they read and study their Bibles, but I didn't begin to think about how a grandparent or parent could leave a legacy until recently when we were having lunch with friends. Their 12-year-old daughter had just been handed her own copy of the Bible, beautifully illustrated and annotated just for her by her grandfather.

First, he created a personalized list of verses he prays for her:

He wrote all about the hand of God and traced his own hand right on the page:

He illustrated stories and wrote out his prayers for his grandaughter in the margins:

He added personal touches, like an outline of his own foot!

It's a beautiful gift, isn't it? 

I'm past thinking I have to be an artist to leave a legacy of love in a journaling Bible. What matters most is a heart for the gospel and a desire to see it lived out in our children's and grandchildren's lives.

Find your own journaling Bibles (affiliate links)

You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining the HomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

5 Terrific Christmas Advent Devotionals

This post contains affiliate links.

Looking for a terrific Advent devotional this Christmas? We've mined the best of the best - our family favorites - for you. After 22 years of parenting, we have some definite favorites!

5 Terrific Christmas Advent Devotionals


Starting with the youngest in the family, we love Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Adventure for Little Hands. It's a perfect Advent study for the little ones because each lesson is short and to the point. If you aren't into pulling out all the crafy stuff, you can also get the printables. Color, cut, and go!




If you have a heart to get past all the crazy stuff that comes with Christmas and seek Jesus this advent season, then Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles migh be the devotional for you. It begins, centers, and ends on the gospel - the good news - and leaves us breathless with gratitiude and wonder.




Our hands-down family favorite from year to year is the Jotham's Journey series. Fast-paced, engaging for most ages (from 4-year-old to adult), chalk full of Christmas truth, and tender, each book in the Jotham's Journey series will leave you wishing Christmas was right around the corner again so that you can read the next one!

Jotham's Journey
Bartholomew's Passage
Tabitha's Travels
Ishtar's Odyssey


If you want a hands-on approach to a Scriptural study of the Bibilcal account of Christ's birth, we think you'll love Grapevine Studies' Birth of Jesus. Draw your way through all of the events surrounding Christ's birth. Beginning in Nazareth, you will introduce your students to Mary and Joseph as they learn the news that they will be parents to Jesus, the Messiah!






If your home is filled with teens or college students, young adults, and you, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas is a book that will help you dive deep into the meaning of the gospel. Compiled from the sermons and writings of Christians such as Timothy Keller, Randy Alcorn, Francis Schaeffer, John Whitfield, and Martin Luther, this is a book that will point you to the one who gives us reason to breathe in the middle of the holiday rush.

You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining the HomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

10 Terrific Family Devotionals

On a recent live hangout we did with Rachael and Davis Carmen of Apologia, Fletch mentioned that he hasn't always been a dad who really gets deep into Scripture with our kids, or who has been consistent with family devotions. I love that he was transparent with this, because there are valid and tangible factors that play into that, as I'm sure there are for a lot of dads who work outside the home.   

Family devotions can and should look different for every family. Your dynamics are different than ours, and God delights in how creative He is with each of us. There's no one-size-fits-all here. 

Keeping that in mind, here are 10 family devotionals that we have loved over the years. Sometimes we read them all together after dinner, sometimes Kendra reads them to the kids after breakfast, and often, not every one of us is around to hear what's being read. God works with that, and we're never left lacking. 

Affiliate links.

The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones - Great for younger kids, The Jesus Storybook Bible puts Jesus at the center of every major Biblical event. The readings are just the right length for sleepy kids who can't grasp a whole lot of depth but who can fully understand that the only real Bible hero is Jesus.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Sally Lloyd-Jones - Short and easy, these daily devotions by Sally Lloyd-Jones often had me teary. I would take pictures of the text and send them to friends who needed to be reminded of the gospel, and though written for a younger age group, I reminded my junior higher that she could get a lot out of them if she were willing to tune in.

Long Story Short, Marty Machowski - Written for a variety of ages (junior high and down, I think), Long Story Short is also a gospel-centered devotional that will remind us all that Jesus is the redeemer from Genesis to Revelation.

Old Story New, Marty Machowski 

Exploring Grace Together, Jessica Thompson - Jessica Thompson has been a guest on the podcast before, and we love how she reminds us all that as parents, we desperately need redemption, too. Exploring Grace Together is great for a K-6 crowd, and tells stories that mirror the circumstances they may be dealing with themselves.

Grapevine Studies- Draw your way through the Bible using stick figures! Grapevine Studies have been a good all-ages devotional for our family, and everyone has their own style when it comes to illustrating the passages we're reading from.

Practical Happiness: A Young Man’s Guide to a Contented Life, Bob Schultz - Not just for boys, Practical Happiness is an excellent book covering topics that both kids and adults can relate to. We found ourselves in rich discussions after each chapter.

Draw To Learn the Book of Proverbs - The Notgrass Company publishes several books with the title "Draw to Learn . . .", and all of our kids loved these. A verse is presented with instructions on how to illustrate it. Really fun to see each child's creativity.

Grandpa’s Box: Retelling the Biblical Story of Redemption, Starr Meade - Grandpa's Box contains treasures that illustrate Biblical truths. The story and themes kept our elementary kids' attention very well.

A Year With Your Children in the Bible, Jim Cromarty - Now out of print, you can find a used copy for a great price. Spend a year in the Bible with your kids; you won't regret it!

Letters From Listeners: Homeschooling Older Kids For the Very First Time

Hey HIRLers! We are receiving more mail and questions from you than ever, and we think it's great! Enjoy this week's letter from listener Brandi. Some affiliate links included.

This is my first year to homeschool. My kids were in public school prior to bringing them home and they are currently 5th and 8th grade.

My question/concern: I am researching the heck out of curriculum for next year and am really having a hard time finding subjects (mainly history) that are not part of a series plan. If I want to use something for my to-be 9th grader next year for a high school credit, it's part of a 4 part series and not a stand alone. What about us who haven't homeschooled our kids from the beginning and started a series from the very beginning? I feel like my kids do not have the back history of events enough to jump in mid-sequence. I'm pretty laid back and not rigid about my curriculum choices, but this has my head spinning a bit. Maybe I'll just go have a cup of coffee and think about this later.

Any thoughts or suggestions would make this mama smile.


Hey Brandi-

Congrats on bringing your kids home! That's a huge step away from convention and we know it's not a choice you made lightly. We're happy to help in any way we can.

If you're talking specifically about history, then I can recommend a few resources. High school freshmen in the state of California where we are do not have a history requirement. If that's your state, too, then you could use that year to do a world history refresher. Khan Academy has great history videos and covers all of world history. They also have a survey of American history, if you feel that would be a better place to start. Their stuff is free, so have at it.

If you want church history woven into world history, we heartily recommend The Mystery of History. You can get the audio version and cover a lot of ground just by listening over the course of that freshman year. Bonus: it's great for both of your kids' levels, so they can learn together.

I wouldn't worry a whole lot about jumping into the middle of things unless that just leaves your students entirely perplexed. Most of us have so many "holes" left in our scope and sequence from our own traditional schooling, and we have been able to fit the pieces together and learn what was needed when it became important enough to us. 

The main thing here is to help your students regain a sense of wonder. What you want to see happen is an awakening of that love of learning they had when they were younger, before school probably snuffed out the little spark. Maybe it didn't; I'm making assumptions. Either way, what you really want to see develop over the next few years of homeschooling is an ability to teach themselves and to learn anything and everything they can. That may mean scrapping what "should" be done this year and allowing them to direct their learning based upon the things they're truly interested in. Obviously, there are subjects they must cover at some point, but as you're easing into a whole new way of learning, let their delight direct you!

Hope that helps,


A Biblical Curriculum We're Loving This Year - Apologia's Who is My Neighbor?

Before I tell you why we're loving Apologia's Who is My Neighbor (And Why Does He Need Me)?, I think it's important for you to know that this is NOT a sponsored post. We were not asked to review or write it. I have included affiliate links, though, because they do help us cover some site expenses. Thanks.

Last year at the Teach Them Diligently convention in Dallas, I took some time to browse the vendor hall, specifically looking for a study that I could do with my 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. We were coming off of two solid years in Community Bible Study, where both of them had learned to study Scripture in an expository manner. I wanted something just as meaty, but choosing something that would fit the bill for their ages and me (I want to learn, too!) was a tall order.

I had seen Apologia's What We Believe Series before but I had never seen this particular volume. Given the fact that they are prime ages for copious sibling disagreements (read: they argue a lot), I picked it up and pretty quickly knew it could be a great fit for us.

While not a line-by-line study of Scripture, this worldview text teaches about Jesus' ministry, what we're called to do as believers, and how loving our neighbor plays out in the real world.

What I love:

  • Apologia isn't afraid to go deep with kids. The Biblical discussion is broad and well-rounded. Just when I'm thinking about something I'll add to what the author is teaching, it appears in the text. 
  • It's about as grab-and-go as you can get. You can take the time to see where the text is going, but you don't have to. You can literally grab the book and start.
  • It comes with level-appropriate workbooks that accompany the text. This is really big for me; I just don't have time to pull extras together. No need! The kids' books include crossword puzzles, copywork, lapbook-style mini books, Scripture memory, coloring pages, and more.
  • If you choose to follow the daily plan (a daily plan! Yay!), you'll get through the study in a school year. If you choose to skip portions, as I occasionally do, you haven't missed the major facets of what is being taught. In typical Apologia fashion, there's so much there that you can pick and choose. 
  • The fictional story that carries the whole text is beautifully written. Following a Chinese family immigrating to San Francisco, neighborly love and kindness are poignantly woven throughout, and my kids beg me to keep reading every single time. They are genuinely concerned for the fictional family!  
 Appropriate copywork for the 7-year-old 2nd Grader

Appropriate copywork for the 7-year-old 2nd Grader

 He loves it, too!

He loves it, too!

Increase Your Science-Teaching Mojo With These 4 Tips

This post was graciously written by Paige Hudson, guest on our newest episode, I Love Homeschooling But I'm Not a Good Teacher. Affiliate links included.

Often just the word “science” can strike the fear into the heart of homeschool mom. Many fear that because we disliked science or didn’t understand the subject, there’s no way that we could ever be a good science teacher.

But this doesn’t have to be the case! You can teach science, even if the thought of science textbooks and dissections makes you want to gag.

Here are four tips to increase your science-teaching mojo! 

Tip #1 – Do lots of hands-on.        

What kid doesn’t prefer to do a hands-on project over reading about a subject in a textbook? After all, doing it is way more fun than reading about it!

Adding scientific demonstrations, experiments, nature study, online dissections, and even science fair projects serve to ramp up your student’s interest in the subject. Plus it gives your child a chance to see the principles he or she is learning about in action!

Doing science instead of reading about it in boring book will serve to make you look like a super-star science teacher. 

Tip #2 – Read oodles of great non-fiction and living books.    

There are a multitude of options available to help you study science beyond the standard textbook.

Non-fiction books like the Let’s Read and Find Out series allow you to dig deeper into a subject at a level that your student will understand. Living books like the Sassafras Science Adventures and the Burgess Bird Book create excitement and adventure around science facts for your child.

Reading from these resources makes learning scientific information tons of fun, which will cause your student to think you rock at teaching science. 

Tip #3 – Watch tons of science video.    

Videos from Magic School Bus, National Geographic, BBC, and more bring a visual tie-in to the principles your student needs to know. Plus, watching a movie is a great break from the standard routine.

Letting your child watch movies for science one day will definitely increase your cool-science-teacher factor. 

Tip #4 – Get the right curriculum.    

The right curriculum supports your weak spots and adds to your strengths. It will provide the guidance and direction you need. No one curriculum fits every homeschooler, so don’t be afraid to look at all the options before you decide which one will work for you. And if it turns out that after several months, it just isn’t working, don’t be afraid to pitch it for something new.

Having the right curriculum on hand will serve to give you the confidence you need to be the best science teacher you can be. 

In a Nutshell    

Add in some hands-on, some great books, and some videos. Support those with the right curriculum for your situation and you’ll have a recipe for some major science-teaching mojo! 



Paige Hudson is an author, speaker, and homeschooling mom of two. She discovered her love of science early on which developed into a passion for sharing the subject with homeschoolers and students. You can also find her sharing tips and tools for homeschool science education at her blog, Elemental Blogging, and at her company’s websites, Sassafras Science and Elemental Science

The Homeschool Post

Our Top 7 Books of 2014

  affiliate links below

affiliate links below

Books that inspired us, made us laugh, made us think, showed us a bit more about God, and engaged our children, here on our list of top seven books we read in 2014. Fletch has openly admitted that he's not much of a reader, so the list is Kendra-heavy. But if we had a top ten podcasts list? Fletch's list would be the whole post!


Live in Wonder is a book that will help you engage in the art of conversation, with your family, your friends, your co-workers. 
Live in Wonder Journal accompanies the book in a thoughtful way.


New Morning Mercies is Paul Tripp's new devotional, and it has been a wonderful treat for me. I recently wrote about it on the Preschoolers and Peace site: My Favorite Devotional of 2014 (and It's Not Just For Moms).

Wonder - Our daughters and I started this one when we knew we'd be in the car a lot this fall. A boy born with a severe facial deformity, a loving family that seeks to protect and defend him, and a world that tries to come to terms with a different definition of "normal". The girls are 15, 13, and 11, while I am 44, and we all were deeply touched by Wonder.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is Crystal Paine's (Money Saving Mom) treatise on getting control of the life that's making you feel as if you're drowning. Even though I'm already an organized person who loves to chase balance, I found nuggets in Crystal's book that helped me pinpoint the most important ways to spend my time and shave off what needed to go. 
Miss Buncle's Book - What happens when the most unlikely person to write a book about the whole town writes a book about the whole town, and it becomes a bestseller? Written in the 1920's, Miss Buncle's Book was nothing but a pleasure to read. 

My Escape From the Auto de Fe - I've read literally hundreds of chapter books aloud to our kids over the past 20 years or so, and I'm always looking for interesting, engaging historical fiction that stands the test of time. My Escape From the Auto de Fe was a new title for us, and it quickly rose to the top of the list of really great titles to read aloud. The Spanish Inquisition, Christians escaping, and plenty of adventure!

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is the 6th book in a series of murder mysteries set in 1950's England. The heroine is a spunky 11-year-old girl who loves chemistry, her father, and their dilapidated English manor home. If you want to start at the beginning of the series, pick up a copy of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

David and Goliath - I'm a big Malcolm Gladwell fan, and was particularly interested in his newest title, David and Goliath. Are underdogs really behind the 8-ball, or is there something working in their favor when what seems like the impossible comes true?

So, that was actually 9 ;)

What are your favorite books of 2014? 

5 For Friday: Help Me Teach!

From around the web, here are five articles and blog posts that accompany our latest episode, I Love Homeschooling But I'm Not a Good Teacher. We think you'll find them very encouraging this weekend:

50 Ways to Teach Your Child to Read - Allison McDonald

Teaching a child to read may be easier and more organic than you think. Allison McDonald of No Time for Flashcards gives us 50 ideas for just how to do it.

Old Tricks and New Ideas for Teaching Writing - Erin Macpherson

Teaching writing is an intimidating prospect for many of us, so if that's you, take a look at Erin's ideas to make you a more confident teacher of writing.

100 Posts of Encouragement for Homeschool Moms - Pam Barnhill

Pam has a real gift of encouraging homeschooling moms. Need a dose of "you can do this!"? Settle yourself in and read these encouraging posts. Then take a deep, deep breath.

Recovering After a Rough Morning in Your Homeschool - Jen Dunlap

Maybe the morning was tough. Maybe the afternoon, too? Jen offers practical idea for getting your homeschool back on track.

Run Your Own Race - Angela Hoffman

"We all learn at different rates, we all have life throw different things in our path from time to time.  If in fact, you truly are behind…again please don’t stress, it’s just time to make a new plan.  A plan which is right for your family and your circumstances."

5 For Friday: Homeschool Organization 101

From around the web, here are five articles and blog posts that accompany our latest episode, I Love Homeschooling But I'm Totally Disorganized. We think you'll find them very encouraging this weekend:

Help for the Unorganized Homeschooler - Marianne Sunderland

"Because who needs to hear how awesome we homeschool bloggers are without also hearing how we fall?" We love Marianne's transparency and very helpful post!

Super Homeschool Mom Fallacies: Organized - Shannen Espelien

Shannen's approach to homeschool organization is realistic and personal. Can you find your keys when you need them? Then you've got an organizational system in place that works for you. Can you improve in some areas? Of course, as can all of us, but keeping up unrealistic standards based on the things we perceive to be going on in someone else's home is not healthy for anyone. Take heart, disorganized homeschooler! 

100 Thoughtful Ways to Organize Your Homeschool Materials - Sara Dennis

100 ways? Yes! 100 ways! In a list compiled to give us lots and lots of ideas, surely we can each find one to implement that might just save the day!

Incremental Approach to Catching Up - or - How Copperswife Digs Herself Out of a Hole - Cheryl Linebarger (Copperswife)

Catch your breath, catch up, take a break, get ahead. Cheryl of Copperswife does a great job showing us how she takes a bite-sized approach to getting things done.

5 Essential Ideas for Homeschool Organization - Kendra Fletcher

Where to begin? Start by making a list of your top five non-negotiable activities and then go from there.

5 Essential Ideas for Homeschool Organization

Is this the season to get organized? We're tackling homeschool organization on the newest podcast episode in the I Love Homeschooling But . . . series: I Love Homeschooling But I'm Totally Disorganized.

But what if you're starting from square one? What if you don't even know where to begin? I get this. Even though I consider myself sort of naturally organized, I'm very familiar with the feeling of being stymied. Of sitting in the middle of the laundry piles, the dishes, the school books, the toys, and wondering, where do I even start?

Start with 5 essential ideas, but not my ideas, yours. 

Figure out what your "Rock List" should be. Remember that old Sunday School illustration where you fill a jar with sand (all of the non-essential activities of life), then try to fit in the rocks (all of the essential activities)?  The rocks don't fit that way.  But if you reverse the order - rocks, then sand - everything fits just perfectly.

Sit down with pen and paper and write down the essential activities that have to be done daily.  I made a massive list of items that I had on my plate, big and small, and then began to put each item into the "Rock" column or the "Sand" column.  While this was a helpful exercise that saved my dwindling sanity, everything was about to come crashing down and demand redefinition . . .

I had a miscarriage. I was pregnant two months later.  I had a baby.  I was pregnant five months later.  I had that baby.  I was in the PICU with him seven weeks later.  And the Rock List suddenly became a burden.

That's when I trimmed the rock list down to just five: feed kids, run laundry, educate kids, love husband, nurture my spiritual life.

Did toilets have to be cleaned? Yep. But not every day, and that was certainly a job anyone over a certain age could learn to do so I could take it off my plate. Run errands? Yep. But again, not every day.

Can you define your top five non-negotiable activities? Your top five non-negotiables don't have to be anything like mine; they should be between you and the Lord. That's the beauty of living in the freedom of Jesus!