Nov 29, 2016

FREE Christmas Devotional Booklet

I am so excited to share my latest project with my readers and homeschooling friends!

I have put together a FREE e-book of one of my favorite traditions that will be available DECEMBER 1st!!!
  • It's a Homeschool Christmas Devotional book for short and sweet, daily homeschool lessons during the holidays, 
  • OR a Devotional Booklet for any family that would like to implement family Christmas devotionals as part of their yuletide celebrations.

What are Homeschool Christmas devotionals?

Each year at Christmastime, I used to feel over-whelmed at the thought of continuing a full home-schooling schedule. 

But then, I found that if I combined an old family tradition of nightly Christmas devotionals with our daily "Table Time," I could still be consistent with covering some learning basics.

This idea also enables me to simplify our daily lessons, help my children build their testimonies of Jesus Christ, and allows us to enjoy the festivities and lovely feelings of this very special time of year.

The booklet will have SEVENTEEN devotionals that you can use between December 1st and December 23rd. That is enough devotionals for 5 days a week from the beginning of the month until Christmas Eve.

This new resource will come directly to the email boxes of those who subscribe to this blog. 

To do that, fill in the "Subscribe" box on the right sidebar.

How do the devotionals work?

There are several options for each day's devotional-- and the beauty is that each family can choose what to include in their own devotional, and what they don't need. But the options are there for them!

For our family, I like to include:
  • A scripture for copy-work (handwriting practice)
  • A Christmas carol to sing together
  • A beautiful piece of artwork to study and discuss or replicate
  • A short story or poem to read aloud
Another great thing to add is a chapter book that the family is reading aloud together throughout the season. (See the booklist of suggested Christmas read-aloud books at the back of this booklet for some ideas.

I hope you will enjoy these devotionals as much as our family does. Don't forget to subscribe to this blog in the right sidebar to get yours on December 1st!

Lots of love,
Mama Rachel

Oct 13, 2016

Why Focus on the Liberal Arts?

For years, I have worked to give my children a humanities-centered, liberal arts education. I thought that this video gives a good explanation of why it is so important to me:

Excuse me while I go listen to some Handel and Brahms.

With love,
Rachel Keppner

Aug 16, 2016

And So, It Begins

First Day of Our Homeschool

Where we live, the public-schooled kids have been in school since the end of July, and even the charter school where my seminary kids attend began on August 1st. You could say that the school year is in full swing around here!

And, so, after a summer full of planning, we have jumped into a new school year.

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

I think the question I get asked the most these days, is "How do you teach all of the different ages of kids in your house?"

My knee-jerk response is "Not easily," but when I think about it, I recognize that an effective system has formed for us over the years. Here's how we tackle every age from high school senior down to pre-school:

1) Foundational Years

Through my personal experiences over the years, I have become a firm believer that young children need only a few things to learn effectively: a secure and happy home, time to be outside and/or playing, lessons in faith, working together with the family, and being read to.

I consider the foundational years to be between birth and six to eight years old-- the age of accountability. I know many children who are quite gifted, and can learn many academic or musical subjects at an early age, but to me, the priorities of learning faith, work, and play are the MOST necessary for little ones to successfully navigate the world and all the learning that is to come as they grow older.

There are many child development experts (1) and studies (2) that agree with my assertions, but I won't go into great depth on this subject right now. (See the links accompanying the footnotes below.) That's another post for another day. For now, just trust me when I say that I have come to this conclusion after many years of trying to do too much, too early with my little ones.
These are my littles, enjoying their new, fun, school-time-only toys and activities.

2) Exploration Years

Around kindergarten age, I do begin to add in handwriting for my children-- even before they can read on their own. I have found this to help with the process of learning to read, and because of the law of the harvest, I find that children need TIME to learn and practice legible handwriting.

I came to this conclusion rather painfully, thanks to my older "guinea pig" children. Some of them flourished and excelled at handwriting, due to their personal interests. However, my older boys really struggled-- and some still struggle-- with their handwriting. Now that they are adults and teens, they find their babyish handwriting embarrassing, and getting them to write anything by hand is a real struggle. 

This is one area where unschooling was a big failure for us-- at least for our boys. The experience taught me that there truly are some areas where the Law of the Harvest can not be ignored or forced.

Our children between six and fourteen years old join us for what I like to call "Table Time." This is where we do our foundational learning for the day. I follow Charlotte Mason's beliefs that lessons should be short and rich. My goal is to spread an "education feast" with a wide variety of subjects and types of learning. 

I use many of the LDS Church's free and available resources, which makes planning Table Time a real breeze. And I am all for SIMPLICITY!

Our "Table Time" goes as follows:
  • Prayer
  • Scripture Recitation and Memorization (We use the seminary scripture mastery scriptures.)
  • Copywork (This is where the kids copy down the scripture we are memorizing.)
  • Reading aloud of a scripture story. (We use the Church's scripture readers for this.)
  • Poetry reading by Mom (This term's poet is Robert Louis Stevenson.)
  • Reading aloud of a classic book.
  • Swedish Drills OR a Dance Party, depending on the mood. ;-)
And then, we do some learning in our weekly subjects. For example:
  • Mondays are History (American History this year)
  • Tuesdays are Music Study (This term's composer is George Friedrich Handel)
  • Wednesdays are for Art Study (This term's artist is Jean-Francois Millet)
  • Thursdays are for Nature Study/Science
  • Fridays are for Shakespeare (Edith Nesbit's Stories of Shakespeare is great for reading the stories. I am a Shakespeare purist, but there are some themes too vast for younger children. We DO watch a Shakespeare play on video once a month. See this link to find family-friendly versions of the Bard's plays to watch.)
Math is then done by taking turns on the computers, using my two favorite resources:
  • CTC Math- This is a very affordable subscription (non-Common Core!) website that teaches math concepts and gives the students math exercises. As a homeschool parent, I have a LOT of control on the back end, which I really appreciate. I am not paid to promote them at all-- I can't rave about them enough!
  • XtraMath- I use this for my younger kids. It is FREE, the lessons are short and it is just good, old-fashioned math drilling.
As big as this list may seem, we are actually pretty much done each day by noon! 

Some days, we may want to take longer reading aloud in our current book, and so that can flow over into the afternoon hours. Also, the kids twelve and older have extra assignments for their history and science that they work on independently in the afternoon.

Our Scripture for memorizing and copywork

3) Scholastic Years

I consider this stage of learning our High School years, and students can begin work at the high school level from the age of twelve to fourteen. (Girls usually start early, and boys usually start late.)

I'd like to go more into depth on homeschooling through high school in a later post, but for now, I'll just say that they mostly work independently. They do counsel with my husband and I about their educational path, and they are accountable to me as their mentor, school counselor, and teacher.

New Beginnings

It is so nice to get back into the routine of a new school year! I hope all my readers have a great new beginning to their school year, as well.

Happy learning!


Jul 23, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

(Image source unknown)

There are many approaches to homeschool.

There are even many ways to homeschool using the Charlotte Mason method.

It is my understanding that most sane Charlotte Mason-ish moms use prepared curriculum outlines like they have at Ambleside Online.

Or they use the beautifully organized planner at Simply Charlotte Mason.

But me?

Let me just put it this way: I am incapable of doing ANYTHING the "easy" way.

It is just not in the fabric of my being to do so.

I am the queen of customizing EVERYTHING.

I tweak things, I adapt things, and I mess with things until they are unrecognizable from where they began.

Maybe it's the stubborn, bratty little girl inside me, but I simply can't leave well enough alone.

So, guess what? I have been creating our homeschool plan all summer, and I'm STILL planning.


I could not leave well enough alone, and am in the throes of making The Simple-- well, Difficult.

You can always count on me!!!

What the heck is my problem?

Here are my issues with following the simple and straightforward:
  1. The resources at Ambleside Online are really mostly amazing, and I know that many women have put countless hours into organizing everything-- especially for the younger grades.

    That being said, there are also many things that I just can't assign to my kids. Being LDS (Mormon) and doing all I can to raise my children in my faith, I cannot in good conscience read anti-Mormon books to my little ones.

    Now, I could skip those passages that specifically refer to my faith, but if that is the viewpoint of the author, my trust in the resource is gone.

  2. Another thing: most of the books recommended in the upper grades are all about Christian missionaries and are not the classical resources I was really hoping my kids would learn. While the younger grades all have rigorous academic work and books, the upper grades seem totally devoted to reinforcing Christian beliefs, and leave academics to the past.

    I have NOTHING against strengthening the faith and beliefs of my children. Goodness knows how much my youth need it! But as LDS members, we already have so many resources available to us as members for teaching and reinforcing our beliefs, that I already have it covered.

    I need a list of the classics and great works of ancient and modern thinkers which will challenge and enrich all the great things that my kids learned in the earlier years. And I have not yet been able to find the list of books that fits what I want my teens to leave our homeschool knowing.

  3. I have MANY children. I refuse to plan for each one, grade by grade.

    That's crazy talk, right there.

    If I were to plan according to grade, I would run stark mad from my house to register them all in Montessori or other charter schools tomorrow.

    I know my limits, and I will be COMBINING all the lessons I can, thank you very much. Interestingly enough, I will be following dear Charlotte's example by splitting my kids into three lovely, manageable levels. She called them Form 1, Form 2, and Form 3. I have my own names for them, but I will share those in a future post. ;-)

  4. There are many, many resources out there, I know. My choices are not limited to those I have listed above. Frankly, I guess I must have "trust issues." I just want some things very specific for my kids.

    That, and I have OCD. Oh, so much OCD...

Adventure Is Out There!

So, what am I doing, then?

I'm so glad you asked!

I am starting from almost-scratch.

I am taking the things that worked for us last year, and I am adding to it. I'm tweaking it. Messing with it. Jumbling it up, and throwing out the things I don't like. I'm adding the things I miss and some new things I always wanted to try.

I am stepping onto the "road less traveled," and it gives me a little tingly thrill of excitement to imagine the adventure ahead of me!

I thought you might like to join me, so I plan to blog weekly to share a bit of what I'm doing.

In the end, I plan to make everything available here on this website. Heck, it might all turn into a book, if I get my act together.

Thank you for sharing in the journey with me!

Ambitiously yours,

Mama Rachel