5 Ways Your Kids Are Learning While Playing Video Games

I married a gamer.  Since gaming is ‘Love’s hobby, it’s something the kids have always been interested in, and it’s been a natural activity for them to bond over.  Unfortunately, I feel as if I’m constantly apologizing for the fact that my kids spend an hour most days taking turns playing computer or console games with Daddy.

I’ve decided that the time for apologizing is over.  While there’s always a chance that they’re picking up negative habits or beliefs from slaying pixelated zombies or conglomerate monster-things (and we are pretty careful about the types of games we expose our kids to–though interestingly enough no one seems to think we should abandon Bible reading when the kids role play David killing Goliath or Solomon threatening to cut the baby in half to determine its true mother), the more I’ve watched and listened to them gaming with Daddy, the more I’m convinced that gaming, like most other hobbies, has many benefits.


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DIY Vision Therapy: 12 Exercises You Can Do At Home

If you read my last blog post, you know that we found out that our youngest needed vision therapy, but the price tag was beyond what we could afford.  Immediately after that revelation, I took my kids to gymnastics, where a former-OT friend informed me that she had been given a whole binder full of vision therapy exercises during her time working in a low-income school in South Africa.

We’ve now been doing vision exercises about 3-4 times a week for 9 weeks, and little Pookie has gone from only sounding out single, large words written in magnets or on the white board to eagerly reading Biscuit books for bedtime.  (In case you missed the last post, he’s been able to sound out single words in this manner for more than a year, but he just wasn’t making any progress.)  While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, I figured it can’t hurt to share some of what we’ve done with other parents who might find themselves in a similar situation. Continue reading

turning back time (in a way)

Somehow, I find that I’m often restless.  Perhaps I can blame it on my mom–she was constantly rearranging the furniture of one room or another as I was growing up, so life seemed full of excitement and change.  At any rate, I feel like I have reinvented our homeschooling life in one way or another countless times in the last two school years.

I’ve gone the furniture angle.  We started with one small work table and switched to using individual desks.  I rearranged our work space in the front room two or three times to increase efficiency.  This past winter I even switched our work space to the family room at the back of the house by the kitchen, combining play space with work space and moving our living room furniture to the front room where (ideally) it makes for a more formal, cleaner-looking entry (except when the kids colonize it as their fort-building space).

I’ve gone the curriculum angle.  We’ve switched writing curricula, math curricula, history plans, spelling materials, Spanish tactics…  Frankly, I’ve discovered that I’m a bit of a rebel when it comes to curriculum, and I can’t seem to use anything as-is; I find myself always adjusting techniques or cobbling a few resources together into something that better suits us.  Perhaps I should bill it myself as “confident and adaptive” rather than “unwilling or unable to follow established plans.”

I’ve gone the scheduling angle.  We used to start promptly at 9:30 with a snack and read-aloud.  That time has gradually moved later (and later), since I hate to interrupt productive, happy playtime.  I’ve also adjusted the content of our days, spending a full week on science followed by a full week on social studies, testing out alternating subjects on various days, lengthening or shortening our lessons and work time.


The older they get, the more I find myself prioritizing moments like this, thankful that we have the time to enjoy a gentle rain and to let imaginations run wild.  Perhaps it’s because the older they get, the more I realize that simple things like this won’t always bring them such raw joy, and we’d best make the most of the present moments and the joys they offer.

Last fall I felt like I was simply trying to crowd too much content into our lives.  I was burnt out from trying to plan math and history and writing and grammar and science and Spanish and art and…  You get the idea.  Even with many of those subjects being only once or twice a week, it was a lot of juggling–particularly since for most of it I’m either creating my own curriculum or heavily modifying existing materials (and, like a perpetual first-year teacher, I’m always preparing new material).  I felt like I wasn’t really doing any subject especially well, and worse yet, the kids had lost some of their joy for learning.  There was no way I wanted to quench that spark so early in their educational careers!

After pondering what had made learning together so magical when the kids were younger, I decided that it was mostly because it was instigated by their interest and thus had their complete buy-in.  I realized a few other things as well: first, I tended to get restless and need change every month or two; secondly, if I changed our subjects of study every couple months, we could cover fewer subjects at a time and still rotate through a full complement over the course of a year.

Thus, my six-week block scheduling began in January.  In a way, this is like turning back time, reverting to the priorities I had when they were preschoolers: following their lead and being willing to shift focus as their personal goals shifted.  (It sounds odd to think of preschoolers as having personal goals, but if you watch carefully, they’re always working on some skill–even if they themselves don’t realize it.)

I started by soliciting ideas from the kids of things they’d like to study; near the end of each block, this process is repeated.  If they run stuck on ideas, I make suggestions–which they often tweak.  Sometimes the kids choose separate topics–Liddy wanted to draw and learn about animals while Asher was interested in math and the geography of South America and Australia–but in general, I try to limit us to about four topics and combine as many as we can.

It’s working.  Both the kids and I are still facing each day with excitement over what we’re going to do, even though we’re nearing the end of a semester (or trimester, since I tend to think of summer as its own academic time), when we’d usually be rather blah.  In fact, each evening the kids are eagerly asking what our work will be for the next day!

While I do keep a review rotation going so we don’t completely forget our parts of speech or basic math, most of what we do is kid-driven.  And as soon as we so much as start tiring of what we’re studying, we discover that it’s already time to think about what we want to learn next.  Hooray for excitement and motivation and learning and joy!

12 DIY activities for emerging readers (plus three free online resources!)

Little Pookie surprised me the other day by walking up to his letter cards on the wall (as mentioned in my literacy activities for pre-readers) and pointing to “c” then “o” then “t”–which were not posted in that order on the wall—and saying their sounds. When I asked him what that made, he said, “Cot! Like I had at Grandma’s!” While my older two did this same thing—spontaneously sounding out words—it took me off guard coming from Pookie because he STILL can’t tell all his letters apart. (I know, he’s barely three-and-a-half, but the older two had them down by two or two-and-a-half!) Nonetheless, since he has pleased-ly been looking for words to sound out since then, I guess it’s time to haul out my early literacy activities. In honor of this auspicious occasion (what’s more exciting than your kids learning something new and difficult?!), here’s my go-to list of activities for early readers–in no particular order.  I hope someone finds them useful!

  1. Word Bingo – I made my own bingo cards with simple—and similar-looking—words. Including words like “pen,” “pin,” “hen,” “win,” “hat,” “hit,” etc. forces new readers to look closely at each letter of the word, ensuring that they are not simply guessing based on beginning or ending sounds or the shape of the word. And who doesn’t like playing Bingo?  I’ve made four sample PDF WordO Boards you can download–two with simple, three-letter words, one with initial blends and one with ending blends.  (By using the “cover all” rule, you can practice more words, and they won’t notice if you make the card 4×4 for a shorter game.  Otherwise, lengthen your traditional row/column based game by making your board 7×7.)
  2. Surprise Words – Early readers are typically thrilled with their new ability, eager to display their prowess. I’ve had great success at encouraging their skill by leaving words around the house for them. A pair of words spelled on the fridge with their letter magnets has a seemingly irresistible pull, drawing the new reader over to puzzle out their meaning.
  3. Word Families – This was a little silly, but it was fun. I paged through some magazines and cut out people, arranging them into families of various sizes. I then glued each person onto an index card and wrote a simple word on each card. Each family had one word ending (or “rime”), so the kids could match the families based on which words rhymed. (Matching rimes rhyme!) For example, the “At” family had hat, cat, fat, bat, and sat in it. The “Ig” family consisted of pig, big, and wig. Matching the words to their families allowed the kids to see that words that were spelled the same often sounded the same and also allowed them to work on their fluency at reading common letter combinations.
  4. Name Match – Hunt around your house for a variety of small objects with easy-to-sound-out names: a cup, a hat, a pen, a doll, a toy dog or cat… Write the name of each object on a piece of paper, and see if your child can match the object to its name.
  5. Spelling Stories – This is a fun activity to do if you have letter blocks or magnets. I would start to tell the kids a story, stopping every sentence or two to spell out a new word for them to read. So, for example, a story might begin like this:

    Once upon a time there was a [spell out “cat” for child to read]. Now this [point to “cat” again] was a black-and-white stripey [point to “cat”] whose name was [spell out “Sam”]. One day our [cat] friend named [Sam] was going for a walk in his neighborhood. It was a lovely spring day, and he was enjoying the warm air and the smell of damp earth. Suddenly, in the middle of the sidewalk, [Sam] spied something. It was small and [spell out “red”].

    You get the idea. The more suspenseful or silly the story, the more eager your readers will be to participate, so keep the comedy going and the intrigue high!

  6. If you're not feeling artsy, use clipart and print your puzzles on cardstock.

    If you’re not feeling artsy, use clipart and print your puzzles on cardstock.

    Spelling Puzzles – I owe this idea to the authors of Reading Reflex, a book I happened to get from the library as my older kids were learning to read. They suggested creating word puzzles. I used blank index cards laid horizontally. I wrote each word, spacing the phonemes so they could be cut apart. On each card, I also had a picture to match the word. Then, I cut the card so the picture was on one slice, and each phoneme had its own slice. Using the picture as their clue, my kids were able to assemble the matching word by sounding it out. Be careful that your words are decodable for early readers! You can begin simply, with three-letter words, and progress to words with beginning and ending blends (like “clap” or even “plant”).

  7. Word Building Games – Drawn from a vaguely-remembered activity I assisted with as a fourth grade classroom aide during college, this word building helps kids to focus on each sound of a word. In order to play, you create a list of words that are all one letter different. Then, gather your necessary letters and tell your child the first word. After that, make sure they only change one letter—don’t let them build from scratch! Leaving the word intact forces kids to distinguish the precise difference from one word to the next. If you want to add difficulty, you can have them add a fourth letter to their words or change two letters at a time.
  8. Partner Reading – For early readers, the act of reading is exhausting. Each letter must be translated into a sound, each sound remembered as the next one is added, and the whole string of sounds blended together to create a meaningful word. That’s a lot of effort! For this reason, my early readers delighted in partner reading. As I read aloud to them, I would choose a word or two per page that could be easily decoded. Even contributing “and” or “it” to the story can be satisfying for newbies; as a child becomes a stronger reader, he can be in charge of every “the” in the story, or simply assigned to more and more words per page. This method also serves to eliminate the need for early-readers, which my kids (and I) found stilted and painfully boring.
  9. Add magnets to make this a fun fridge activity or take it on-the-go with a magnetic tray!

    Add magnets to make this a fun fridge activity or take it on-the-go with a magnetic tray!

    Spelling Cards – I made a series of cards with a picture on one side and a corresponding word on the back (on cardstock, so the word doesn’t show through!). My kids enjoyed trying to puzzle out how to spell each of the words with letter magnets, checking themselves by looking at the back of the card. Once again, I started with simple three-letter words and increased the difficulty as they became more adept.  I’ll have to see if I can find the file to upload for this one…

  10. Treasure Hunts – This was definitely a kid favorite—they still enjoy treasure hunts! If you haven’t ever done one, it’s simple: Select a treasure to hide. (Ours was often our afternoon snack, but anything will do.) Hide your treasure, and then hide a clue to finding the treasure. Hide another clue and another…and then give your child the last clue you write. So, for example, you give your child a clue that says, “On Sue’s bed.” On her bed, Sue finds a paper that says, “In the tub.” In the tub is a paper which says, “On the T.V.” There she finds a clue that reads, “In a pan.” Finally, she discovers her treat inside a pan in the kitchen cupboard. These are great for rainy days, especially if you make sure to keep the kids running to opposite sides of the house (or upstairs, then down, then back up) with their clues. As your kids get better at this, you can make more complicated clues or find more devious hiding spots to increase the challenge.
  11. Labels – As your reader gains more competence at sounding things out, you can increase their reading vocabulary and phonic knowledge by posting labels on things around your house. “Lamp” may be a fairly simple word to sound out, but lots of words—like “light” or “knife” or “coat”–can spark helpful conversations about how letters work together, giving your kids a boost into more complex phonics. Besides, the more words your child has puzzled out and sees regularly, the more words they will be able to read easily in stories.
  12. Internet Resources – The internet has a wealth of resources on every topic, but here are a few of my favorite freebies for use with kids at the beginning of their reading journey.
    • Starfall – While this website has a plethora of varied content (and at a surprisingly reasonable rate), the learn-to-read material is available for free. After you have mastered the individual letter sounds (doable via interactive animations and short games for each letter on one portion of the site), you can move on to the phonics section. There, short, animated phonics storybooks, games, and songs gradually teach more phonemes. These were too intense for my kids at the very beginning (Reading four words per page for five pages in a row!? Whew, exhausting!), but may work better for older (or more patient? More motivated?) readers. Even so, my kids enjoyed some of the more difficult stories once they were more competent readers, and they have silly seasonal stories with fun interactive features. In addition, the site has more content for kids who are at higher levels of reading competence.
    • Progressive Phonics – This website has dozens of truly silly leveled readers, available for free download. Begin with the Alphabetti books for a young reader still working to distinguish every letter, or start with the Phonics Beginner books if your child is already confident in all their letters and sounds. The best part of these books (besides the stories that will have your kids giggling) is the fact that they are made for partner reading, with kids reading only the big, red words on each page—perfect for beginners! Many of these books also have matching downloadable activities, if you’re looking to extend the lesson.
    • Teach Your Monster to Read – This super-cutely-animated website—free of charge via the Usborne Foundation—is perfect for your just-learning reader. Letter sounds are taught via games—your customized monster has to herd sheep into the correct pen or choose the correct letter for each sound to rescue the princess. From there, you move on to sounding out simple words. While the super-sensitive mouse in-game and the fact that each activity has to be repeated three times (with slight variation) to move on were initial deterrents, the gradual addition of more game options and the fun animations kept my kids going. One minor drawback here is the British accent of the narrator. This might cause confusion for some (For example, “o” ends up sounding more like “aw” than the American standard “ah”), but my kids adjusted okay. (Perhaps it’s because we’ve had to get used to wrapping our ears around southern accents!)

why i love homeschooling (part 2)

In case you missed it, you may want to read the beginning of this three-part blog, “Why I Love Homeschooling (Part 1)”.

This past year, I witnessed firsthand the chaos of my sister’s school year. She has three school-aged children. Each day in their household was a flurry of dragging everyone out of bed at 6:30 and herding them through morning prep in order to get out the door and dropped off firmly before the 7:30 bell. (The bus came by at 6:45, which my sister thought was just too early.) At the end of the day, her kids bounced off the bus at 3:00 full of news, and she juggled listening to the trials and triumphs of each. Each girl needed help with homework and had assigned reading to complete. Once all the necessities were scheduled into the evening, there were only two hours of free time remaining each day. At the beginning of the year, each of the girls was involved in one weekly extracurricular activity. When the first semester of activities ended, my sister heaved a sigh of relief that only one girl wanted to be involved in anything the following semester. Life simply seemed too harried if their limited free time was spent dashing around town ferrying girls to and from activities.

At home, we have an abundance of time for playing.

At home, we have an abundance of time for playing.

This past year, I homeschooled. I had two children completing schoolwork each day. They woke up whenever their bodies were ready—usually around 7:00—and once everyone was stirring, I gathered them for a leisurely breakfast. Since they have always been so eager to play first thing in the morning, I let them. After about two hours of hard-core playing, they were ready to have a snack and settle down for work. Unlike the public school, which runs for seven hours a day and involves an hour of homework each night, we completed a full complement of courses in about two hours a day, four days a week. (And we made it through about two levels of the three Rs!) Each of my kids spent one morning a week in their own class at Community Bible Study, and the older two kids were involved in soccer (separate teams) both in the fall and spring. In the spring semester, Peatie also participated in a choir which met weekly. This fall each of the older kids will be enrolled in two weekly activities (separate, so they have time away from each other) besides our attendance at Bible Study each week. Even with five days of toting kids to and fro (six counting Saturday games—or seven counting Sunday School and church), we still have epic amounts of time for playing around the house, biking, exploring local parks, and generating tons of crafts.

Over the course of this past school year, I listened to my sister bemoan her kids’ schooling experience. The kindergarten teacher’s tempestuous personality left the class unsure of her expectations from one moment to the next. While the first grader had a pleasant teacher and an amiable class, the third-grader’s teacher cried frequently, spent one day a week allowing the kids to do whatever they wanted, taught science only occasionally as a reward for good behavior, and told the students that they needn’t worry about spelling and accurate math wasn’t terribly important. At the end of the year, my sister was relieved to have her kindergartener and third-grader moving on; she felt her third-grader had actually lost ground academically over the course of the year.

This past year, I homeschooled. My kids knew their teacher well and knew exactly what was expected of them. They knew what would particularly grate on me in my grumpier moods—and I also gave them permission to politely let me know if I was overly prickly. (I was surprised at how delighted they were by this permission and how carefully and rarely they executed their pleas for less grump.) There is no question in my kids’ minds as to whether learning is important. They know that both of their parents value their intellectual development, and they know that we expect their best effort.

In fact, because we value our children’s development so highly, we pour ourselves into considering the pieces that will help our children’s growth. As parents, we have the opportunity to use our children’s education to instill in them the values we feel are most important. We don’t just want rote memorization—though that can be helpful in some instances—we want a passion for learning and the skills to execute it. We want creative thinking and persistent problem-solving. We want collaboration and compassion. Because of this, I can devote time to critical thinking and computer programming games, encourage my children to try hard things and make mistakes, challenge them to devise their own solutions and work together to solve problems both during work and play, share my delight for Greek and Latin roots as a way to better understand our language, get the whole family involved in service projects, let them putter on the computer to develop their own sense of how it works and how to use it to meet their ends.

But that’s still not all I love about homeschooling!  Part 3–my final installment–is coming your way!

hands-on history: ancient mesopotamia – sumer

As we wade through history, I’m doing my best at a regional/chronological progression—a bit like a mastery-spiral approach.  I’m attempting to spend several lessons exploring one particular period of a culture, then circling around to see what surrounding cultures were doing at the same time.  After we circle around a region for a while, touching on the same cultures again and again over time, we can take a break to jump to far-flung regions of the world and see how they were developing during the same time span.  It sounds logical, right?  Well, we’ll see how it goes.

After learning about prehistoric humans and the transition to farming and city life, we moved on to study ancient Sumer.  Here were the highlights of our study:

  • Overview
    • We got an overview of Sumerian life and historic contributions by reading in our Usborne Ancient History Encyclopedia.  This University of Chicago interactive website also provides a fun look at life in Ancient Mesopotamia and how archaeologists work.
    • We did some map work and pondered the many contributions of Sumerians using this mom-made worksheet: First Civilization -Sumer.
    • We read Ludmila Zeman’s illustrated version of Gilgamesh to get a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of folks in ancient Sumer.
  • Ziggurats
    Our ziggurats were very colorful!

    Our ziggurats were very colorful!

    • We did some ziggurat research and reading, primarily by wandering around this website.
    • We pondered ziggurat construction using wooden blocks to show how a ziggurat looked.  We also talked about how cities gradually became raised tells (or tels, as I always saw it before now).
    • We made our own ziggurats out of card stock. If you want to do the same, you’ll need some graduated squares.  (I used my paper cutter to make squares of 8, 6, 4, and 2 inches.  You’ll need to use two sheets of standard-size paper.)  Your budding ruler-user can make a line ¾ inch from the edge of each side.  You’ll slit each corner and fold on the lines to make a ¾ inch high square platform.  (You may want to make your top layer only ½ inch high–like the one on the left–to make the folding easier.)  My kids chose to decorate their papers first—colorful ziggurats are much more exciting.  We simply used tape to hold the corners together and secure one layer to the next.  If you wanted to be really detailed you could add a pair of stair-stringers–only upside-down, fitted into the steps of the ziggurat–with a piece across them to create a ramp on which to draw a gazillion tiny steps going up the side.
  • Cuneiform
    • We read about cuneiform. I did a bunch of cuneiform research and condensed my findings into kid-sized bites.  (You can enjoy the fruit of my labor via the link below this section.)  For our first round, we read about cuneiform and inspected the examples of how it changed over time.
    • The kids thought it was pretty fun to translate the cuneiform message.

      The kids thought it was pretty fun to translate the cuneiform message.

      We translated cuneiform. I used a cuneiform-style alphabet I found online (on this teacher’s blog) to make a page for the kids to decode.  (This is also included in the PDF packet linked below.  The message reads: “Cuneiform means wedge shaped.  The Sumerians invented writing.”)  To make this a bit simpler because my kids are young, I had each of them decode half of the message.  They thought they were pretty cool, “translating” cuneiform symbols to read the message.

    • We wrote our own cuneiform. Using the cuneiform alphabet sheet from the last activity, each of the kids wrote their name in cuneiform.  Then I had each of them pick three words to depict, creating their own cuneiform-style symbols.  They drew a simple image for each word, changed it to all lines and wedges, turned it sideways, and further simplified it, imitating the real changes to cuneiform writing.  (The worksheet we used is also included in the link below.)
    • Our finished clay tablets and our very-authentic-looking stylus

      Our finished clay tablets and our very-authentic-looking stylus

      We made clay tablets. I was going to have the kids dig up clay in the yard for uber-authenticity, but it happened to be thunderstorming when we got to this lesson, so thankfully I had air-dry clay as a backup.  Since we were also unable to look for sticks to use as styluses, I substituted those no-roll triangle-shaped crayons, which worked respectably.  Each kid chose one or two cuneiform symbols to inscribe on their clay tablet.  It’s harder than it looks to get those lines and wedges—the kids had a hard time remembering to make sure the point of the crayon was down rather than the flat side and understanding how to press the crayon down to make a line without squashing the whole crayon into the clay.  They practiced once or twice before making the final product.

Here’s a PDF of my packet for Cuneiform–background reading, translation, and invention.

how i became an accidental homeschooler

I homeschool my kids.  I still cringe to say it, still word it as “teaching them myself” or grimace apologetically when people ask where my kids go to school.  The area in which I grew up–where we lived until recently–was NOT a homeschool-friendly community.  Despite having been homeschooled myself in third and eighth grade (and loving it–though my mom didn’t dare do it long-term), I still shared that negative view of “weird homeschoolers.”  And then I became one.

How, you may wonder, does one unsuspectingly turn into a homeschooler?  Well, here’s our story, for what it’s worth.

The agony began early, when Peatie was three and folks started questioning why he wasn’t in preschool.  (He has a fall birthday and he’s tall, so people thought he should have been in school before he actually could have been.)  At that point, we took the time to peruse preschool options, ultimately deciding to invest no more than a year in preschool.  You can read about that agony in this post from 2012.

Just after his fourth birthday, Peatie was standing in the laundry room while I loaded the washer.  “Mommy, what’s wol?” he asked, pointing to the word “low” on the dryer–which he had just sounded out, backwards, but completely unprompted.  In addition, Peatie was very curious about numbers, and he had begun making up his own simple story problems in play.  At that point, a new conversation arrived in our household: what do we do with a child who’s developing basic reading and number skills all on his own a year-and-a-half before kindergarten?

At the same time, I began hearing stories from parents of the first wave of full-day kindergarteners.  Their kids were coming home tired and cranky.  They needed alone time and play time, but they were given an hour of homework each night.  Teachers informed the parents, “Your child WILL read by Thanksgiving!” without regard for individual readiness.  Children who had begun reading and loving it were quickly burnt out by the boring required reading they were assigned.  Classrooms had no toys, and children spent most of the day doing seatwork; the only recess was combined with lunchtime.

Still, the parents encouraged me to put my kids in preschool.  “If your child doesn’t know how to sit quietly and work on worksheets, he’s not going to do well.  They’ll make him sit out of the special classes like gym and art.”

I began to have misgivings.  Peatie showed every indication of sharing his father’s inattentive-type ADHD; potential academic boredom mixed with a full day of seatwork surrounded by over-stimulating decorations and two dozen wiggling peers would probably not produce a positive experience for him.

In the midst of this mental agony, I had a couple moms approach me and say, “So, I hear you’re homeschooling.”  They took me completely by surprise, and I denied the accusation.  I was in no way homeschooling; I was merely not sending my kids to preschool.  We did nothing remotely resembling schooling at our home.

But the seed was planted.  As ‘Love and I continued to agonize, the idea of homeschooling kept coming up.  I checked out several homeschooling books from the library and began looking for information online.  After a lot of reading and researching and pondering, I was sold on the idea–at least for the younger years.  ‘Love was still unconvinced.  Having never experienced homeschooling himself, he had no positive associations to combat the negative ones.  He did agree, however, that we could see how the kids progressed during Peatie’s final “preschool” year and even do a trial year of homeschool in kindergarten.

That was two years ago.  At this point, Peatie would be finishing public kindergarten and Goobie would be ending her preschool career.  In the past two years, ‘Love has become wholeheartedly enthusiastic about homeschooling.  That’s not to say we will never consider sending our kids to school, but for our family at this time, homeschooling is definitely proving to be the best option.

In the past two years, I’ve added dozens of other reasons for loving homeschooling to my once-short list.  Those, however, I’ll save for another day.