Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-UpWe really had a great family-focused weekend last weekend. On Saturday, the kids went out into the woods with Dad to mark the maple trees for easier identification this winter when they head out to tap them. We’re licking our chops just thinking about our own homemade maple syrup.
marking maple trees, Saturday with Dad

It’s chilly in the woods in October!

Sunday afternoon included a trip to our favorite produce stand to purchase pumpkins and pose for some photo ops.
Sandals? Really??

Sandals? Really??

Late Sunday afternoon included the Family Fall Fest with our church family. We enjoyed a hayride and a pumpkin decorating contest, but the highlight was that my 13-year-old daughter and I both got to spend time cuddling one of our favorite babies.
Annie with Charlotte, baby love

Oh, my heart.

All of this family-togetherness really made me long for my older “kids” (who are now adults). My eyes leaked a little as I was wishing for them to be with us.

So, it was a wonderful fall weekend. Then came Monday. And Monday was bad. This mom thought that after such a fun weekend, no one would mind getting back to the books. Instead, they were dragging. No one wanted to get started. I was grouchy because it was my one day out of the week that I didn’t have outside commitments and could focus on these two every second of they day (if needed) and hit some of the skipped subjects … but instead, they balked and whined, and I yelled, and they cried, and Dad wished he could disappear. I got to the end of the day wishing that I could really, truly, seriously, honestly have a do-over on the day.

On Tuesday, Andrew had a bracket from his braces fall off. Annie had a horse riding lesson. And I had to be at work at the library at 4:30.

Wednesday is the day we meet our socialization requirements. ;) The kids go to a weekly art class at a local studio with other homeschoolers. Then we spent the rest of the day with friends, before heading to the church for youth group with more friends. Too bad we’re such hermits, huh?

On Thursday, we have more socialization, phys. ed., and music in the form of a middle school girls’ horse riding group, and practice for the church Christmas musical.

When do we ever get school work done?!?

It seems the more relaxed I am about getting the book work done, the more book work gets done. Interesting dichotomy, no?

We try to push through the school work either in the mornings before we leave the house, or we do it later, when we return. Dad works afternoons/evenings, so we don’t have to be done before dinner time.

Friday was more like what I expected from Monday. They still did a good amount of Xboxing and Trampoline jumping, but we also got through a fair amount of bookwork with better attitudes than Monday, I got a nap, and then we had an exciting night. The kids got to watch an amazing illusionist (the new-fangled word for “magician”) and I got to babysit the illusionist’s baby girl!

So, I bookended my week with baby-cuddling and it doesn’t get much better than that when your own babies are either grown-up or are middle schoolers. It’s not always about the bookwork, is it?

Books About Homeschooling

It’s our 6th year of homeschooling and out of the past six years, I’ve spent three working for the public library, in the children’s department, no less! To say that I’ve had the opportunity to have my hands on a good variety of homeschooling books is like saying Babe Ruth had the opportunity to touch a few baseballs.

Speaking of books, when I go for a weekly visit at my best friend’s house, I usually lug a bag full of books in (or maybe just one special book) to share with her. When I discovered we could talk books together, I knew it was going to be a lasting friendship.

bookshelf friends

I’ve had the chance to see the good, the bad, and the truly ugly (and outdated). Today I’d like to share some of my favorites. Yes, I am an Amazon Associate and these are affiliate links – because that’s an easy way to link to pictures of books. Clicking on the picture will take you to the Amazon page for that book where you can read reviews by other readers (so you don’t have to just take my word for it that these are good), and often you can click on the book to read an excerpt. I love that! I want to know I’ll like it before I buy it!

Not sure where to start? Or how to turn a curriculum into an actual plan? Or how to create a schedule? Here is a clear-cut book that won’t overwhelm you with too much information too soon.
Homeschooling 101: A Guide to Getting Started.


This is still my favorite book for keeping my head on straight (homeschooling-wise … there’s not help for every problem I have! LOL!) With 330 pages, it is totally worth the cost to be able to refer back to this book over and over across the years. With sections on goal setting, figuring out which educational approach to use, developing your own philosophy of education, determining your teaching style, and identifying your children’s learning styles, you can’t go wrong with this one. (And after six years of this, I can tell you that you won’t get it all figured out the very first year, or the second, etc … can I get an AMEN??)
101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

Here is another that I’ve referred to more than once. At one time, I was certain I wanted to homeschool in a classical style. I’ve learned this is not right for my family, but I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t spent some time really exploring what it’s about (and trying it). That said, classical education IS the right fit for many families, and this is the place to start in learning what it is and how to bring it to life in your home.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)

Want to raise independent learners? Project-based homeschooling might be right for you. Learn more about this method and ideas for implementing it through this great book:
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Interested in getting a realistic, honest look at homeschooling and answers to the more emotional and practical questions you and your family have? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with these easy reads that come from the heart. These are also good to read when you hit a speedbump on your journey. I love Amy’s highway metaphor … so accurate.
The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick

The Homeschool Highway 2: Further Down the Road

I found this book inspiring and enlightening regarding preparing children for college. Is this the track my own children are on? No, but reading about the Harding Family’s experiences encouraged me to expect more from my kids.
The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve

Starting to feel overwhelmed by the burden of homeschooling? Check out this quick, easy read to discover secrets of simplifying your homeschool.
Simplify Your Homeschool Day: Shorten Your Day, Sweeten Your Time

Let’s stop here while we’re ahead. I’ve given you more than enough for one week’s worth of reading! LOL! When it comes to books, I’m slightly passionate. I hope one of these books brings you hope, encouragement, inspiration, or a roadmap … whatever it is you’re looking for.

Let me know if you have a favorite book I haven’t listed yet.
Happy homeschooling!
~ Courageous Jane

Books for Boys

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, reluctant readers, books for boys, middle school, sixth grade, 6th grade, chapter books

My son is eleven and three-fourths and in the sixth grade. He enjoys reading, but has never been one to read huge tomes from cover to cover. It’s been a challenge for me (yes, even me, a library assistant in the Children’s Department) to find books at his grade level that interest him enough that he’ll want to finish them, and still just short enough that he’s able to finish them.

He’s not a Harry Potter fan, and although he loves Rick Riordan’s series, he only wants to listen to them on CD at bedtime. Those fat books are just too much for him. (He could possibly have an issue with his eyes/brain, but we’ve never had him officially diagnosed beyond a screening, and so far he’s been capable of reading well enough to do whatever he needs to do. And he has excellent reading vocabulary, so I’m not worried. He just can’t read thick books with itty-bitty print at this point.)

I thought I’d take a moment to share a few books that have really been favorites for him in the hopes that these titles may inspire a deeper love for reading in other boys.

The first thing to know is that my son adores the Minecraft software and will happily open any book I hand him that has “Minecraft” in the title. Unfortunately, not all Minecraft books are worth the paper they’re printed on. Many are self-published by people taking advantage of the current obsession and the desire for chapter books that relate. However, we’ve found many to be lame attempts. They don’t stand up to literary standards in any way, shape, or form.

But, we have found several Minecraft chapter books that are high-quality and deserve a chance to intrigue and entertain your boys the way they have mine. By clicking on the pictures in this post, you will be redirected to the Amazon page for that book where you can read the reviews of others.*

Journey to a Different Dimension was so good, I actually wrote to the author requesting that he write more. Thankfully, he did just that, and we have book #2 …

I just ordered this today and can’t wait to surprise him with it!

A couple other Minecraft books my son has read and approved of include these:

*Non-fiction

As I said, Rick Riordan’s books, as books, are a bit too much for this boy, but the stories themselves are what he enjoys. He listens to them on audio at bedtime every night. But then I came across this gem, a #1 bestseller! Although it’s physically big (over 12 x 9 inches), the print is also big, and it’s got glossy pages with gorgeous illustrations. And it’s got individual stories, so he only has to get through one story at a time. This book is “written by” one of Riordan’s most famous characters, Percy Jackson … a kid about the same age as mine. I bought it yesterday and am eager to read it myself!

When my guy is waiting for me to find another treasure for him, he still enjoys reading these shorter chapter books from publisher Focus on the Family. One of the benefits of these adventure books is that each tells a history story (fictionalized) with recurring characters, cousins Patrick and Beth, in each book. Geared to the 6 – 9 age range, they’re good, wholesome stories with some history facts thrown in for good measure. They’re an adventurous diversion that he always enjoys.

My guy has always had a great sense of humor, so we’re always on the lookout for funny stories. This gets tricky because I don’t necessarily want him reading certain stories that encourage kids to be disrespectful. However, I do a lot of reading on my own, so I don’t always have time to pre-read every chapter book he might get his hands on. Thankfully, I put the time in early on teaching him to read with a critical perspective, evaluating personalities and the actions of the characters. We did this early, while reading picture books together, so I’m confident now that he can do this as he reads his novels.

One of my son’s favorite humor series is the “Origami Yoda” series by Tom Angleberger. It’s a great series for the 8 – 12 age range, especially if they’re Star Wars fans! However, my son is not, and he still loves these books. This is another series that would make a great Christmas or birthday present and will keep them reading through the cold weather months.

This list is a great place to start if you’re looking for chapter books that are interesting, yet not too burdensome for either young readers or those with a reading challenge. If you’d like more ideas, give me a few details in the comments section and I’d be happy to be your own personal on-call librarian!

Happy reading and teaching, Friends!

*These are affiliate links, which means I get a teeny-tiny portion of the sale if you buy through the link. So far, I haven't earned a dimi, so don't worry that I'm getting rich over here by doing this. This is a look into the real Jane ... I love to share what we love, and give you an easy way to read reviews of what I'm recommending. If you happen to buy something, I'll get to do a happy dance someday!

Before We Homeschooled

I’ve been and done many things in my past … 

Now, I, too, have a house cluttered up with the past and it’s not leaving much room for the here and now. It’s time for that to change.

This blog post by Lisa Walters over at the Hip Homeschool Moms website has inspired and challenged me and now I can’t wait to get started! 

Have you embraced who you are now, or are you still clinging to the past? Can we be both?

A Gift for You

Friends, I’m going to take a risk here … I’m going to risk losing readers. Once I share this with all of you, I’m afraid you might never come back to my page … because what I’m going to share with you is so awesome, you might feel like there is no NEED to read my page anymore or you might not have TIME to read mine.

But this is a risk I’m willing to take … because I’m a giver! :)

I want to share with you one of my all-time favorite websites, and one of their best pages ever!

I hope you’ll come back to my page and leave a comment letting me know what you think of this little gift …

Here it is … My all-time favorite homeschooling website is the Hip Homeschool Moms, and this page on their site is the best around, in my opinion! If you scroll down on that page, it will give you links to hundreds of different homeschooling blogs, sorted by homeschooling style! If you don’t find some ideas and answers for your homeschooling journey here, I don’t know where you’ll ever find them!

So, what do you think? A good gift?