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The Key to Successful Homeschool 


The key to accomplishing A LOT in your homeschool is actually staying HOME. 

When my children were younger we were always on the go - fun field trips, park days, and getting out "just because". 

Now that  Anna is in 7th grade, the work is getting HARD (more on her Challenge program in the next few weeks!) and we must stay home the majority of our time to give this beautiful program the justice it deserves. 

*This post contains affiliate links.

This week we spent A LOT of time at home.

Confession: Staying home is hard for me. I am a social person and thrive on being involved and out in the world a lot. I am coming to see, however, that our homeschool runs most smoothly when I lay this desire aside and focus solely on the task at hand: homeschool. 

And, to be honest, it used to seem like a "sacrifice" to me, but now it's just what we do, and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Here's what our week looked like: 

Anna - Challenge A

Anna's days are quite structured, but the Challenge A program allows for HER to design and maintain that structure. (I am planning a series of posts about Challenge because you need to know what a great blessing it has been for our family.)

Basically, she has six "subjects" she is studying this year: Math, Latin, Rhetoric, Geography, Science, and Writing. Outsiders look at the program and wonder where the reading, grammar, and history come into play. I assure you; everything is so interwoven that it's all there.

Plus (and this is the most important thing) - God is at the very center of every subject.


1. Ok - so cooking isn't one of her formal subjects, but she loves it! This week Anna made Red Velvet Whoopie Pies for all of us. She makes good use of this whoopie pie pan from her granddaddy, too!

2. I had the joy of observing Anna's Challenge A class for the morning on Tuesday. One of the most impressive parts was science. Each child had researched the week's topic (bats) and prepared a report and sketch for the group, which they presented and fielded questions about. The children are learning how to take notes, ask good questions, and fine tune their presentation skills. Next week they begin systems of the body - I'm excited about that.

3. A big part of the Challenge Program are the discussions that occur between the parents and children. I have been reading Anna's two rhetoric books, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door and It Couldn't Just Happen. I LOVE the conversations that are happening about our faith and so many other things. In class, the children do more discussing and debating - and they are learning that in order to defend your own point of view you MUST be able to listen and understand the opposition's point of view.

4. Anna memorizes catechisms each week, which are essentially statements that help in defending their faith. So far she has memorized over 40 of them. I'm telling you - this is GOOD STUFF.

I had a chance to speak with the Challenge B tutor for next year and I do believe we will continue with the Challenge program next year. We've hit upon something that really WORKS, so I'm not going to make any changes!  

Grant - Foundations at Home Work

While we follow the Foundations manual and focus on the memory work each week, there is still a lot of room for that creativity I feel is so important during these younger years. 

Anna works through her Challenge A assignments in her school area upstairs, and Grant and I have school downstairs. A few times during the day we will meet for read-alouds, a science experiment, and Bible work. We've gotten into a good rhythm, but it took us a while to get there!

1. Saxon Math is always one of the first things on our schedule. This week Grant learned about multi digit subtraction (with regrouping) and division with remainders. I put a few problems on the white board and he said, "Oh cool!  Are we going to do these big subtraction problems? I LOVE these!" I assure you, he must have inherited the math genes from his father, because this statement would never have left my mouth at his age!

{Have you seen my video about Why We Use Saxon? I feel just as strongly now as I did when I made this video. Saxon is thorough, challenging, and not for the feint of heart.}

2. The artist for the week was Rembrandt. We printed a page from Notebooking Pages and watched a video about him online. Grant also created his own "Guild Drawing".

3. Science this week was the 4 states of matter - solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. We did an experiment turning milk into rubber that was fun. 

4. We are nearly finished with our read-aloud, Shoeless Joe and Me. We had several cold mornings, so we read aloud in front of the fire. 

5. Math memory work consisted of how many pints are in a quart, quarts in a gallon, etc....  At CC Grant's tutor had shown them this great drawing and Grant remembered it exactly and drew it for me each day. 

Other Resources

  • Ephesians 6 Copywork - I created this free download because I am leading our CC community in memorizing this chapter. We've been working on it diligently at home and will also be using this free Bible study I found. 
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges - we watched this on MLK Day - I never knew about Ruby Bridges and her story is moving - perfect for kids, too! 
  • The Story of Inventions - Grant has been reading the story of Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin aloud to me this week. 
  • 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess - I actually read parts of this aloud to the kids, although it's really for me. This is an interesting book about one woman's decision to eliminate the excess in her life. It's perfect for our NO SPEND MONTH! 
  • Pleygo - ANOTHER set arrived this week. This has been such a wonderful subscription for Grant. If you have a LEGO lover you really might want to consider this LEGO rental service. 


I think that's it for our week... as I type this Anna is at the skating rink with a friend, Grant is playing football in the backyard with a buddy, and the French Dips are in the crockpot - just waiting on my hubby to get home for dinner. 

These quiet moments are rare and I treasure them!  

How was your week? Please link up and join us! 

*And don't forget -- #collagefriday is on Instagram, too - just  use the hashtag #collagefriday!

If you'd like to link, you can do so in a couple of ways:

  • Enter your link below. Be sure to link to your post with photo collages and link back to this post (or include the Collage Friday button on your blog).
  • Share your photo collage(s) on Instagram, FB, G+, or Twitter - use the hashtag #collagefriday so I can find you!

Reader Comments (22)

We are very happy with how we homeschool, but the one thing I can see that your children have and mine don't, and I think would be quite useful, is the group sessions with other learners. I think working alongside others is very motivating for children, but we don't have similar groups where we live.
I'm so glad you've found what works for you!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I love how homeschooling can be such a unique experience for each family. Right now we are getting NOTHING done at home! We are most productive when I load up my bag with books, folders, pens, pencils, scissors, tape and glue and we hit the road to either the local coffee shop or the library. There magic happens. At home ....not so much these days. I know this is just a phase and I know that come spring, we will find the magic in being home again. But right now, for us, we are trying to get out as much as possible! I sure do miss learning by the fire.....

Enjoy your cold winter days at home. They sound just lovely!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I love how you laid the week out in your post Mary. We had a good HS week too. Some weeks, so so, but right now good...and like you, we have been home a lot with no spending. There is a calm about it for sure.

Enjoy the weekend!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermelissa newell

I have been preaching this over and over - HOMEschool. Yes, there pretty much have to be outside activities but I have spent years and sweat over getting our extracurricular in one afternoon or just keeping it all in the afternoon. And my children are social - I could stay home no problem :) What a wonderfully productive week - full of learning and FUN - whoopie pies and LEGO learning! Thanks for encouraging. Staying home is often what homeschoolers don't want to hear!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

I'm not a great home body either - my son would definitely rather be on the go all day too.

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStef Layton

I like when we have educational places to go. It is the busy errands that drive me nuts. Run to the store, run to Dollar General, pay the bills, run get dog food. I try to coordinate things all on the same day but it seems we are running around all but a couple of days a week. That being said we both have discussed the fact that if we stay home too many days in a row we get a bit stir crazy. Another great week Mary. :)

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

These past 2 weeks I just threw our plans out the window between sickness and other stuff it just wasn't happening.

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTicia

It looks like another great week. I agree, staying home makes for much more productive homeschool days.

I am glad that CC is working so well for you. It is great when we hit a groove and things just flow, isn't it?

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMary

We're homebodies here. We are out two mornings a week, and that's often too much for me. My more extroverted child needs that time out though, so I bear it with gritted teeth, remembering that mine are still young and our schedule is still more flexible :-)

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Ray

I love reading this amount of detail about what your respective children are doing, Mary. Even though our homeschool styles are quite different at the moment, I always find inspiration here. Thank you for hosting!

I'm a home body which is why all the medical appointments for Mason really stretch me - some weeks we are at 3 or 4 just for him. Thankfully the hospital is getting better at combining appointments so we spend a really long day there to do several things instead of just 1 doc at a time.

I love reading about your week Mary! It's neat to get an inside peek at CC as your family enjoys it.

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTristan

I am just the opposite from you. I am a homebody and have to really make an effort to get out of the house. A nice balance is best for us, as I have some extrovert children. It does look like you had a great week and are thriving with your CC.

I agree that staying home works best for us too, but I have to confess we are having too much fun right now exploring our new area to stay home much :) I'm passing along your blog to a friend who is interested in CC for her children. keep up the good work!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ Forever, For Always

Great post! Boys will watch a couple of your videos.Love hearing about your productive week. And I'm totally on board with staying home! I'm happy there 24/7. Joe would be happy to be on the go 24/7. Ben's happy to be wherever we are! :-)

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKim Green

You just make Classical Conversations sound SO appealing! However, I KNOW it would not work for my family right now, since I watch other little ones in the home, and I know that's OK. The BEAUTY of homeschooling is its FLEXIBILITY and the FREEDOM it offers for the family!!!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWonder Mom

Looks like you've got everything running smoothly. I always say, "You can't homeschool of you're never home!" I get a little frustrated when we have a lot of appointments! I'm a homebody!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Staying home - yes, yes, yes! We are so productive and learn so much simply by staying home. I do struggle with this though since I have preschooler too. I am trying to find a good balance to get him out for some of the fun preschool experiences, but also be home so my 10yo will be able to get his work done.

You've given me much to think about this year as I read about your changes. I am seeing my 10yo move into the logic stage and I want to up the rigor in our homeschool to match his stage & questions so as to continue to quench his thirst for knowledge.

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyne

I'm new to Collage Friday so just wanted to say hello!

I've been planning science for next year and when I saw your picture of 'It Couldn't Just Happen' I realized I had that on my shelf and it would be perfect for what I'm planning (she says as she smacks her forehead!).

Hoping your weekend is blessed!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTonia

My kids are currently all in Foundations, so I am very excited about your upcoming Challenge post!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTammi

Amen sister (on the staying home to learn). My daughter is only in the third grade but running around really just eats into our homeschool time. We did that in preschool and kindergarten but once we hit first grade that was it. I couldn't take it and also homeschooling and taking care of the home. It was just too much. She's learning a lot in school and I don't want to mess with a good thing. I tweak the classes to make them work for us (BJU press) but they're well done and she loves them. Her father has a mid week day off and that is field trip day, run til you're exhausted day, have a blast day. The rest of the week days we stay home unless we have appointments and weekends are spent in church activities.
Thank you for stopping by, by the way. That was very sweet.

January 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterK Quinn

I found the same pull as my older children moved into what would traditionally be their junior high years. All of those outside freebies-- good, fun stuff-- was suddenly a distraction rather than a needful thing. These days, I struggle oil balance the desire to take my littles out and about for those field trips and experiences, while keeping my high schoolers home and able to engage in their learning. Such a full season!

January 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHeather @To Sow a Seed

YOU. Are. So. Right. Staying home is the one thing that is totally messing up our days. We have had so many appointments I'm not sure how to fit everything in. At times, it seems all that happens is reading. My daughter read an entire book in one day because of all the appointments we had!

Please keep posting stuff about Challenge...I haven't seen much about this anywhere. I'll be sending a friend to check out your challenge info. I still have 1.5 years before we are into challenge but I've been considering being the Challenge tutor...

It's nice to see your awesome week. You are such a great encouragement for us newer homeschoolers!

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