Hate history?

Ditch the textbooks and make history come alive!


Ditch the textbooks and make history come alive for your children!

Do you hate History? Did you watch the clock tick off each minute as your teacher droned on? Did you suffer through dry readings, memorize meaningless dates, and answer pointless review questions? Do you dread subjecting your child to the same boring process?

If so, I’m sorry. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way!

While in college I have a vivid memory of sitting in the library studying with some friends  for an upcoming test for World Civilization. We were reviewing English history during the 1500’s.  My friends were struggling with dates, names and seemingly unrelated events.

I wasn’t struggling. The reason… in high school I had read a series of historical novels set in the courts of England. Nothing boring or dry there. There had been romance, court intrigue, religious conflicts, betrayal, heroes and villains. I’d cried for Queen Catherine as she watched her marriage and family crumble because she couldn’t produce a male heir, and was horrified as her daughter, Bloody Mary, turned her reign into one marked by revenge, fanaticism and bloodshed.

I wrestled with the issues that caused England to break from the Catholic church and was fascinated by the complex and fragile allegiances that were formed to consolidate power. The characters I met were complicated individuals who were forced to make decisions that would affect whole countries, individuals often beset with self-doubt and questions. I found myself caught up in their dilemmas wondering what I would do, what they should do…and rarely finding a satisfactory answer. (more…)

Shakespeare Resources

Great tools to help you introduce Shakespeare to your kids.

Helps for teachers and parents who want to introduce Shakespeare to their students.


In a previous article I made the case for teaching Shakespeare to your students. If you haven’t read that article you can find it here.

Or if you are interested in background information that is helpful when teaching Shakespeare you can check here.

As promised, here are some resources I recommend

This is a wonderful resource. Brightest Heaven of Invention by Peter J. Leithart will give you all you need to teach 6 of Shakespeare’s plays. This is a Christian guide and one I refer to constantly.

I go back to this book each time I teach Shakespeare and each time gain something new. Teaching Shakespeare by Rex Gibson is a great resource to keep on hand.

Any of the Shakespeare Set Free series by Folger’s Shakespeare will walk you through teaching three Shakespeare plays.  The plays are chosen because of similar themes, and provide a natural contrast to one another. Highly recommend these.

Again, I’m a big fan of Shakespeare’s language, but if this is your first venture into Shakespeare, or if you have younger students, the No Fear series can be a great tool. These books have the original Shakespeare on one page, and on the opposite page is a modern English translation. Once students can follow the plot and understand what the characters are saying, they can read the original language, understand the new vocabulary, and appreciate the plays complexities with more confidence.

It’s never to early to introduce your children to the works of Shakespeare. Babylit board books are AMAZING. I’m a huge fan. They are board books based on great works of literature. There is a Romeo and Juliet one that is a primer on numbers. This one, inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fairies primer. The illustrations and quotes are fantastic. If you need a creative baby gift check out all of the  Babylit books.

This series is written by a school teacher, and is for ages 7 and up. The books are written in rhyming couplets and introduce children to the plays in an accessible way. These books are also suitable for putting on a ‘theater’ production with small groups of children.

These tales are another perfect introduction to Shakespeare. Long considered classics in their own right, Charles and Mary Lamb vividly bring to life many of Shakespeare’s plays.  These paraphrases retain the beautiful language and the drama of the plays. These can be read aloud to younger children, but I find kids need to be in mid to upper elementary school to truly enjoy these re-tellings.




Mistake #5 of our series, 5 Homeschool mistakes you don’t know you’re making.

Why using rewards can sabotage your efforts.

Do you use rewards for learning, you could be sabotaging you effortsDo you have some sort of reward system in place for chores?  Do you reward yourself when you lose a certain amount of weight or work out every day for a week? Do you pay your kids for good grades, or take them for ice cream if they read a certain number of books? When my boys were playing baseball, I knew a parent who paid their kids if they hit a home run. Perhaps you give your child a treat if they finish their veggies, or a reward when they finish their math.

Rewards are an odd thing. We’ve probably all used them at one time or another. You’ve probably read articles about using rewards to help establish new habits or change behavior.  The thing is, offering rewards can actually sabotage your efforts, and they should be used with caution and intention.

I’ve always been leery of rewards and have seen a great deal of negatives when rewards are overused. Let’s examine a few instances to see the danger.

The chore reward system, there are lots of these. In some kids put up stickers as they do their chores and earn a reward at the end of the week. In others, kids start out with a certain amount of money and if they don’t finish their chores, money is deducted from their ‘allowance’. In still others parents post jobs they want done with a dollar value attached and children can choose which chores they want to do to earn spending money. You can probably come up with many more.

In our house, every member of the family did some of the work, because we are a family. There were regular chores the boys did every morning and on the weekends there was yard work or cars to wash. I didn’t pay the boys for these things because they are part of the family and once they were old enough, they took on some of the responsibility and work to keep things going.

When I knew one of them was trying to save money for something (usually another musical instrument) I might offer to pay them for some work, but that wasn’t the norm.

I think I tried the pay system once or twice but abandoned the idea quickly because it led to an attitude of entitlement. It seemed that those systems quickly sent the message that they should be reimbursed for every contribution they made…and that wasn’t going to work for me. (more…)

Shakespeare’s England

Great background information to inform you study of Shakespeare

Lots of great information here to help when teaching ShakespeareUnderstanding a few things about the era that Shakespeare lived can make reading his plays simpler and more meaningful.

Shakespeare was born during the rein of Queen Elizabeth 1, or the Elizabethan Age. For an actor and a playwright, this was a boon. Before this time actors were at the bottom rungs of society. Most assumed actors were cheats and scoundrels, and public theaters rarely lasted long.

However, Queen Elizabeth enjoyed the theater and great advances in the Arts were made during her reign. She was the last ruler of the Tudor dynasty and she was a force to be reckoned with. She had beaten the Spanish Armada, a feat that had seemed impossible at the time, and had emerged as a dominant power in Europe and the New World.

Within England she was a patron of the arts, and they were thriving. The Renaissance had arrived in England and with it incredible advances in art, science, scholarship and literature. (Italy had started the Renaissance, or rebirth, of Europe over 100 years earlier.) For the first time actors and playwrights were financially thriving and gaining respect and status.

This was also the era of the Reformation, a time of Religious upheaval that had many groups breaking from Catholicism and loyalty to the Pope.  In England this movement began when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and founded the Protestant Church of England. This was done because the Pope refused to allow Henry to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boelyn, Queen Elizabeth’s mother. The Reformation took on different characteristics in different countries in Europe. In England it caused a great deal of unrest and violence, both before and after the reign of Elizabeth. However, during her reign, their was relative peace within England. (more…)

Why Shakespeare?

To teach or not to teach Shakespeare that is the question.

Don't let your fear of Shakespearre keep you from enjoying and teaching it. I admit, I’m one of the nerds who loves Shakespeare. I was introduced to the Bard in Jr. High in a drama class, and was asked to compete in a Shakespeare Festival performing a soliloquy from King Lear. While I’m sure my performance was sadly lacking, I was able to watch performances by some very talented students, and I was hooked.

In high school I had excellent English teachers (Thank you Miss Irwin) who furthered my appreciation. Then, the summer after high school, I had the good fortune to travel and study in Europe. During that summer I visited Stratford (Shakespeare’s home town) studied Hamlet at Cambridge, and saw several productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was glorious and I was officially a fan.

Perhaps your experience with Shakespeare was a little less positive, and frankly, if you never have to read or see another play you’ll be perfectly content. You are certainly not alone

But, as Hamlet would say, “There’s the rub.” You’re homeschooling now. You’re responsible for your child’s education…and Shakespeare seems to be on everyone’s list of subjects that should be tackled. But why? Perhaps if you understand why Shakespeare and why a play, you’ll be motivated to give it another chance. And, at the end of this article, I’ll link you to a few excellent resources to help you in your endeavor.

Shakespeare deals with enduring themes that remain relevant to every new generation of readers. The emotions and situations that are explored are at once familiar and recognizable across time and cultures.

If you are human, the characters, plots, and themes are relevant. The plays explore family relationships, love, power, morality, politics, wealth, and death. Emotions such as hate, anger, despair, jealousy, courage, and wonder are examined and expressed with passion and empathy, (more…)

The Habit of Thought

What we think about when we are free to think about what we will - that is what we are or will soon become. ~ A.W. Tozer

At the start of a new school year we focus on creating a workable schedule, buying the best curriculum, and writing up lesson plans. As the school year progresses, we discover that curriculum choices and schedules are only a small part of our challenge as teachers.

Rather than struggling with curriculum, most parent/teachers struggle with their student. At one point or another we all hear:

  • “But why do I need to know this?” (Be sure to read that in a super whiney voice to get the full effect.)
  • “I just can’t understand math.”
  • “I hate to read.”
  • “Why do we have to write evvverrrry day?”

Dealing with the whining and complaints can be exhausting and leave parents feeling like they are failing at the educational task. It would be a mistake to think that the issues inherent in this sort of grumbling will be solved by switching up the school day, or making learning more ‘fun’.

The underlying issue here is a failure on the part of the child to self-regulate, or to see what needs to be done, and to have the internal fortitude to get on with doing the work with a positive attitude. Developing that ‘internal fortitude’ or positive attitude toward work, is going to be far more important for your child’s long term success than any of the academic skills you are working on.


Why Geography?

Raising globally aware children should be every parents goal.

Why we need to raise geographically literate children.We live in a crazy and exciting time, the world is changing… daily. When I wrote up my Philosophy of Education, and looked to the future, one of the things I wanted to impart to my kids was a concern and interest about life outside of the United States.

With advances in travel, communication, commerce, and the internet, the world is literally, at our doorstep. As Steve and I sought to prepare our kids for the life God has for them, we felt a critical part would be helping them to develop a global perspective.

Now, I am very grateful I was born in this country, and have had the privilege of raising my children here. I think knowing our history, understanding our government, and expressing gratitude for our freedom is a vital part of our role as homeschoolers.

I also think it’s vitally important that our children know that we are only one part of a diverse and fascinating world. I was very concerned as the boys grew that they would be proud of their country and heritage, balanced and tempered by a concern and appreciation for other cultures and people. I wanted my children to be geographically as well as culturally aware. We spent time pouring over globes and maps. We spent time reading stories about people living in other parts of the world. We learned the history of far away places, and learned about other religions. We tried ethnic foods and did projects on various countries. We talked about what daily life would be like if they lived somewhere else. My hope was that all of this would translate into responsible adults who had a concern for the world beyond their borders.

Now part of giving our kids a global perspective is very practical. Many jobs of the future will include an ‘international’ component. (more…)


For the Children’s Sake (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009)

Have you ever met someone and felt an instant connection? Conversations with that person resonated with your soul, and gave voice to thoughts that were somewhat vague before, but were clarified and sharpened by the friendship? That is the way I felt when I first read this book. This is a book for everyone who wants to be influential in the life of a child.

My journey as a parent and as a homeschooler was enriched and refocused often by this book. After my first reading I sought out copies of the original books by Charlotte Mason which further added to my vision.

If you want your children to have a rich education, to love to learn, to develop character and nurture a close walk with God, I can’t recommend this book enough. Some of the resources recommended are now dated, but the precepts presented are timeless and worthy of reflection.  Many resources modeled after the work of Charlotte Mason are now available for both teachers and parents.


Busting The Myth Of The Perfect Homeschool

And Embracing The Imperfect Journey That Will Nourish Your Child's Soul.

Great article about embracing the everyday, ordinary moments.I was scrolling through some past newsletters and came upon this paragraph. In the article I was talking about the value of going on field trips, I’ll let you read it before I go on.

Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.

A key to successful homeschooling is realizing that not every day is going to be exceptional. Most days, your kids will fight, lose their book, or complain that they hate to read (or write, or do math, or all three). Chances are good that tomorrow your kids won’t suddenly morph into Super Homeschool Child who wants to do extra Saxon lessons, read Plato (in Greek) and act out a Shakespeare play. Most of the time, you’ll just plod along, doing what comes next and hoping to catch up with the laundry.

And that’s okay!!!!!

There will be those amazing moments (not whole days…but moments) when your child makes a key connection, finds a book they can’t put down, or ask a particularly insightful questions and you’ll think…’YES! We are getting somewhere.’ Those moments are sprinkled in and keep us going. But if you are expecting those special moments to be the norm, you are going to be disappointed and you are going to be stressed. (more…)

On raising and educating children…

“If you expect what is good, and are not shocked by the reality of the faltering footsteps toward it, you will be well on your way to leading.”  Susan Schaefer McCauley, For The Children’s Sake

For the Children's Sake (wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishing, 2009), 57