Show Me . . . Your Favorite Christmas Decoration!

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For more information about our new “Show Me” Series, go here.
Welcome to our “Show Me” series! Your link-up can be just a picture, or pictures with explanation. Or just explanation if you’re like me when taking the picture and actually getting it uploaded might mean you’d miss out!
The goal of this linkup is fun, though some might have a homeschool bent. If you you don’t homeschool, please feel free to participate anyway and show us how that “show me” theme pertains to you and your home! And if we can share some tips and cool brainstorming ideas along the way — EVEN BETTER!

This week’s theme is “Show Me . . .  your favorite Christmas decoration!”

Click below and join us, and checking out everyone else’s posts!

Bring on the Girl Power! (Mid-Year Change of Plans, PART 4)

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As I mentioned in the last post, we have decided to change up our homeschooling experience and going to continue with the idea of World Geography, but using literature to do it. We’ll also be focusing on “girl” books – either role models or lead female characters.  This all comes from my girls’ request that we study more “girl stories.”

From what I can tell online, there doesn’t seem to be any “female-focused” homeschool curriculum – except for the “homemaking” lessons. At best, I found a few “Women’s History Month” programs.

I feel like I need to put my own personal caveat in here. Please note this is MY personal feelings and beliefs. I am a “to each their own and to what God has called them to” kinda a gal. I have loved the opportunity to be home with my gals like I have. I also love the career that I now have, especially since it allows me to work from home and successfully build a fulfilling career. I do realize that not all women feel they are called to stay at home. I respect that God has called us all to different things. At the same time, it is evident that there is still a discrepancy for women – there are not enough of us in leadership, in the sciences, in technology sectors. I believe we all have to work to our strengths exactly where God has planted each of us to better our world and create more balance and opportunities for all. Finally, as a homeschooling mama of two girls, I feel it is my duty to prepare them as best as possible for whatever it is God might call each of them to, whatever that might be!

So after a deep long search, here are some of the best resources I’ve been able to find to support our “Homeschool Girl Power” plan! My focus has been to find good female biographies of strong female role models (taking care to evaluate them compared to our beliefs – no promoting trashy popstars just because they are girls), and also great “living books” and classic books with leading female characters.

(This year, we’ll be using the concept of studying world geography to organize our studies. So, we’ll be reading stories of females from around the world!)

A Mighty Girl  – MY FAVORITE RESOURCE!
American Heritage Girls
Secret Keeper Girl
Girls of American History
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls
Time for Kids: World History Month
National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Women’s History Museum
Girl Museum
SheHeroes
SciGirls

I’m sure there are more, please feel free to share!

Mid-Year Change of Plans, PART 3 (Bring on the Girl Power!)

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As you read in the previous post, homeschool this year really hasn’t been clicking for us.

In November, my oldest kept asking, “Where are all the girls? Why are we only reading about boy missionaries? Can’t girls be missionaries? Why are all these stories about boys?”

Wow.

I really had not noticed, but it was true. Sure, there was an occasional female in a story, but the examples in the books were primarily of boys. The missionary stories (the early ones – female stories come later in the year) were of males. And here is my 8-year-old just BEGGING for female stories, and female role models!

And no, I’m not trying to be all feminist crazy here, but isn’t my oldest right? Where are all the girl stories?

And so, I went in search of a female-focused homeschool curriculum. Not just a “Women’s History Month” or a random biography here or there, but a FULL curriculum that revolves around women’s stories and places through history.

And guess what? It really doesn’t seem to exist! (Please, if you know differently, let me know!!!)

Which of course, started me freaking out. I simply don’t have time to create the wheel from scratch! And yet, how could I do this without doing it all myself??? And what about the “world geography” focus we were supposed to be learning???

Thank you God for Facebook! I was able to get some great tips and other homeschooling mama’s calm me down. And this is when I started looking at the idea of notebooking and unit studies.

Notebooking Resources
Notebooking
How We Homeschool – Notebooking by Heidi St. John
Lapbooking Made Simple
Notebooking Fairy
Fifty Things to Put in a Notebook
Master Lapbooking List
Delight Directed Learning
Homeschool Share
Unit Study Database
EasyFunSchool Unit Study Index
Free Homeschool Unit Stories

So, after doing hours and hours of online searching I think we’ve come up with a plan. We are going to continue with the idea of World Geography, but using literature to do it. We’ll also be focusing on “girl” books – either role models or lead female characters.

Here are our first experience with this – reading Pippi Longstocking and studying Sweden! Next up, we are working our way through Heidi and learning more about Switzerland!

For science, I found this fabulous deal on Educents for The Human Body Detectives, and along with some great books that I have been collecting through thrifts stores and general book hoarding, I think we’ll really be able to do some great study work on the human body. I’m still working on ideas to really learn nutrition, etc correctly (not just the dumb food pyramid we grew up with), but I think the human anatomy stuff will last us quite a while.

Stay Tuned for for the final portion of this series, Part 4 of Mid-Year Change of Plans!

Mid-Year Change of Plans, PART 2

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First Hints Your Homeschool Plan Isn’t Working

  • Mom is stressed, non enjoying homeschool, dreading doing school each day.
  • Kids are listless, and not wholeheartedly diving into the lessons.
  • The kids keep asking, “Can we do something else?” and the mom says “No, we don’t have time because we’ll fall behind on what we HAVE to do.
  • Homeschool is no longer fun and interesting.

Clearly, when homeschool is no longer a delight but drudgery, it’s time to mix things up.

First, analyze what things DO work!

There is no reason to fix what’s not broken, right????

Teaching Textbooks is really working for us this year. Both girls are doing it now, and doing well.

Life of Fred is awesome. We love it in this house, and do it three times per week.

Our Math Fact Songs daily are working great, along with our Math Wrap-Ups. The girls are really getting their math facts drilled into their heads. So far, we are covering addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Division will be added sometime in the Spring.

SpellingCity.com is sorta working. It works when the girls decide to be slightly interested in spelling at all. Right now they just don’t care. I’m still working on that.

The grammar lessons that I am putting together are working. They are a ton of work to find and organize all of the resources I’m using, but the girls are truly learning and learning the grammar well. As long as I stay on top of it, which is always an issue!

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Learning Action Verbs by Creating an Action Verb Path!

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Playing Pronoun Games (from Scholastic Teacher’s Express)

Other things that are working: Homeschool Co-Op. I’m not completely thrilled about Co-Op, honestly. Frankly, it’s a really long drive, I was assigned one too many classes to assist in, and I go home completely exhausted each week. BUT, the girls love it. They are getting really good classes there – Spanish, science, PE, art, etc. So, we’re going to keep with it for another semester. Ballet is also working for us. The girls love to dance.

And then we had some random things we did that they liked. Here is one of us trying a science experiment I saw on Facebook – a “dancing raisins” experiment:

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Ask The Kids!

At this point, we asked the kids, “What do you like about what we’re learning?” “What do you like about what we’re doing right now?” The only thing mentioned from the MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum were the missionary biographies. Notably, nothing else was mentioned.

Then we asked them, “What would you want to learn about?” “What do you want to study?”

I know, it’s not rocket science, right? Up until this year, they were so happy just to learn, they really didn’t care what. This year, they are starting to have opinions. Strong ones.

First, of all, they wanted MORE science. “Real Science,” as my youngest put it. Lots more science. I started to ask what kind of science, and they even had thoughts about that – they want to learn about how the body works, and about nutrition. More reading of real books. More “real art” (again, from my 6-year-old) not silly craft projects. More focus on girls (more about that later). And holy heck, they want even more math. !!! Are they kidding me???

Clearly, this was a conversation that was long in coming.

Stay Tuned for Part 3 of this series, Mid-Year Change of Plans!

Mid-Year Change of Plans, PART 1

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So, this year in the My Father’s World plan, we are supposed to do the “Exploring Countries and Cultures” year.

What I Like About This Curriculum:

  • It’s based on the family group learning together, which I’m a huge fan of.
  • It focuses on World Geography.
  • Also focuses on the biographies of missionaries and missionary work around the world. We have LOVED these stories, and I think this is a unique and novel approach.

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What I Dislike About This Curriculum

  • Just about everything else.

I have fought it, and fought it and fought it. I love My Father’s World, the company, the concept and the organization of it. It’s been absolutely perfect for us, until now.  I thought it was just me, but my girls started acting un-enthused for school. I thought I was going crazy, until I saw others also mention it on Facebook. It feels disjointed and choppy, my girls hate the science portion and think it’s lame. And the worksheets (country pages) just feel like worksheets for worksheets sake. We have spent the last few months going through the motions forcing this down our throats AND IT IS NOT WORKING.

Which of course started my entire freakout!

I always swore I would NOT be one of those homeschool moms. I was going to do my mountains and mountains and mountains of research in advance and be sure of everything I’m using before I buy it. (Yeah, I know. I can here you guys laughing all the way from here!)

Absolutely nothing this year has worked according to my plan. My old way of doing homeschool up to this point, DID NOT WORK NOW. And frankly, I don’t know how to homeschool (for me!) any other way than what I was doing! All my grand designs were going up in smoke.

Hubby was willing to do whatever I said we needed to do. And isn’t that frustrating, when he isn’t willing to be the bad guy? LOL

I timidly mentioned to him that our homeschool plan wasn’t working. That it felt choppy and disjointed and uncomfortable. Even those online who say they liked this year’s program admitted to heavily supplementing it. I felt discombobulated and disorganized and completely outta control.

I said this timidly, because I knew what this was going to mean. This was going to mean spending money.

But, when I told him that I needed to change things up, I think he felt relieved. He wants homeschooling to work for us, he wants for his wife to not be stressing about homeschool so much, he wants to come home to a wife and kids who are excited about what they are learning every day.

His “permission” to change, gave me the opening I needed to be willing to put this curriculum down and find another way to do school.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this series, Mid-Year Change of Plans!

Learning About Sweden!

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As part of our experiment with “notebooking/lapbooking,” we are learning about Sweden!

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We did find two books at the library,and I found a few “world music” type CD’s that had a lot of traditional music from different countries.

Here are a few resources I’ve found:

From the Library

National Geographic Countries of the World: Sweden
Sweden (Enchantment of the World. Second Series)

Website Resources, Printouts, Videos, Etc.

A Moment in Our World – Sweden Unit Study
Memphis in May 2013- Sweden Curriculum Guide
SWEDISH TRADITIONS – WSRK Shark News
90 Seconds In: Stockholm
Swedish Traditional Dance
Sweden tribute – Traditional Music
Lucia – a Swedish tradition (Christmas)
Christmas in Sweden
Signade Juletid – A Swedish Christmas

Book/Literature Ideas!

Read Pippi Longstocking! Fabulous book. We created our own book review of it here.

Activity Ideas!

- Make Swedish Meatballs for dinner!

- Learn about Disco! Have a dance party to ABBA music! (“Clean” videos of “Dancing Queen” here and here.)  My girls had a total blast with this! We danced to the music (I have the Mamma Mia Soundtrack because I used to be a musical theatre geek) and then we watched these videos on YouTube so they could see real Disco moves to the music!

Field Trip Ideas!

- Go to IKEA! Really! Eat in their cafeteria – order the Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes, eat some of the pastries, and buy some lingonberry jam! (You can also make this more educational and learn about the company and the company founder.)

- American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia, PA

 

Pippi Longstocking – Our Homeschool Book Review!

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Pippi Longstocking was one my absolute favorite books as a child, and now my girls adore it as well. Can you believe it was actually considered controversial when it came out?

We are also using this time to learn about the major parts of a story: plot, title, author, main character, and setting. As they get more comfortable with these, we will add theme. 20141210_111654 We are also learning about paragraph structure as we start writing our book reviews. First, we brainstormed on the things we liked, and then I also gave them a few sentence prompts to get things going.

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Kid Reviews:

Oldest’s (age 8) Review:

Why I Like Pippi Longstocking
“I liked the book because she was super strong. Her monkey’s name was Mr. Nilsson. Her horse’s name was Alfonso. Her mother was an angel in heaven. Her father was a cannibal king. She is very funny. My favorite part of the story was that she was a good friend.”

Youngest’s (age 6) Review:

Why I Like Pippi Longstocking
“I liked the book, Pippi Longstocking, because she is very funny. I like Pippi Longstocking because she was a good friend. I like Pippi Longstocking because her father was a cannibal king. My favorite part of the story was when Pippi celebrates her birthday.”

 

My Review of Pippi Longstocking
Personally, I had the best time reading these books with my girls. They’re funny and silly, and I had a blast doing the voices of the different people and just being silly along with the book. There were also some moments where I stopped the story, put my mommy hat back on and we talked about why what Pippi was doing was not necessarily “ok” to do (trying to make sure the girls don’t get any ideas!). It was one of those books that we didn’t want to put down at the end of each chapter. There are a few more books in the series that I would love to take the time and read with my girls, but those will have to wait until perhaps this summer, because my book pile is growing by leaps and bounds. I highly recommend this book to everyone; I think boys will get into it as much as girls.

And here are our “final” notebooking pages!

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Online Resources:
Homeschooling Rocks! Pippi Review (with lots of links)
Pippi Worksheets
Astrid Lindgren’s World
Pippi’s World
Mrs. Lucy’s Teaching Fun – Pippi Longstocking
Pippi Longstocking – A Mini Unit
Astrid Lindgren

What Have We Been Up To!

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I know I haven’t been posting much, I’ve been SO overwhelmed with everything here!

This move was NOT an easy transition, by any meaning of the word. The house we are renting was left in a terrible condition by the previous tenants and we had to fight the landlord for months to get things fixed. (And I am not even exaggerating about the state of this place.) Which made things worse, our landlord’s first language is not English OR any of the other languages hubby and I have any of the slightest knowledge in, and most of our early discussions about this were done via email while the landlord vacationed for the summer overseas. We all know that can lead to a lot of misunderstandings! When we finally got to meet him, we realized that it really was more of a cultural and language communication issue, and we all got along well. They are happy we are being so picky about taking care of the house (though I will maintain that not having dried dog pee in all of the carpeting isn’t being picky, but I digress) and we are happy he finally agreed to pay for all of it. But, that basically destroyed MONTHS of my summer. The actual unpacking was a complete breeze compared to that.

Which also ruined my homeschool plans. Because I spent all of that time dealing with repairs and cleaning, I did NOT spend it planning out my curriculum and organizing it like I like to each year. Which has led me to learn some very important things:

1. I need to plan and organize everything in advance, for my own sanity. — I just do not work well, figuring things out as I go. I’m sure this is my residual Type A tendencies,

2. Trying to plan at night while I’m homeschooling by day is a terrible idea. – It just leaves me totally stressed out. I will TOTALLY get this done in advance this year.

3. A HSLDA membership will never ever be an “elective” for this family. — Yup, we had our first run-in with the local school board within weeks of moving here. A new law was passed just a few months ago, but PA is one of the MOST regulated and complicated places to homeschool in the US. And yes, the superintendent’s office (at least in the county we are in) constantly tries to push for more information and more oversight than they are legally allowed to have. Which was our experience. I am so thankful that I was able to have the research and the documentation forms that HSLDA provides, and that I can call them if I ever need to. And yes, after my experience, our HSLDA info is laminated and in my wallet at all times!

But beyond all that, we’ve kept pretty busy:

First of all, meet the newest member of our family. Her name is Elsa (yes, after the movie). Isn’t she beautiful?

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Elsa Cat

We went berry picking at a U-Pick-Em farm. I love these places, and now they’re only ten minutes away!!20140809_125530The girls took swim lessons. (We’ll go back to this in late Spring).20140807_180324We joined a Homeschool Co-Op Group, and take classes with them once a week.

20140930_121828 We visited family in Alabama and went to my 20 year reunion. (Roll Tide.)

20141011_114744Hubby had a BBQ – ribs lesson.

20141011_120221 20141011_125635I found a great Living Social deal for a membership to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (Science Museum). We are so excited about this and have great plans to really take advantage of this place in the future!

???????????????????????????????20141025_134327Of course, we participated in Halloween. Our neighborhood gets way into it, but I enjoyed staying on the “Happy Halloween” side of things.

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Girl Power!

We are trying to start a local American Heritage Girls troop.20141026_115115 Then, of course, THANKSGIVING! We had several guests this year and had a total blast!

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If all that wasn’t enough for you, the girls are also taking ballet classes (which I don’t have pictures of)! Oh, and there are few other field trips I forgot pictures of as well.

And finally, we got the tree up and the presents purchased and hidden, and we are ready for the holidays! It’s time for me to relax!

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Homeschool on the Road

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So, this week we have been visiting family and I have been getting to attend my 20 year high school reunion. (AAAACCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How did I get so darn old???????) :)

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Which has necessitated us bringing out homeschool work with us on the road.

Now, many might say – “Take a break, enjoy yourselves. Don’t worry about school work.” And I’d really love to agree with that.

But because of our activities, Co-Op, my work, and our need to deal with PA’s strict reporting requirements this year, we really can’t just take off whenever we feel like it. I need to save those times for when I have to take days for my work events, sick kids, or my own sick days (which I do have, living with a weak immune system). So, school came with us.

I packed ONE bag of school stuff. I was surprised by how well it fit!

 
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Be prepared and just accept that something important is going to be forgotten. This all might have fit so well because I forgot the two folders of “worksheets” that were also supposed to make it in this bag. Doh!

Such is life, right?  So, making lemon-aid out of lemons, we are focusing on getting all of the reading done. Spelling has been done through SpellingCity on the tablet. Math is done on my laptop, when I’m not working. We’ve been listening to math facts songs on our iPod. (Great to harass the kids with on the long drive – Mom and Dad singing them at the top of our lungs in silly voices, Ha!) Big craft projects and those sorts of things will be ignored, we’ll be getting through the basics of what HAS to be done and that’s about it. Worksheets and whatever we can’t live “without” will be combined into next week’s folder work. Most of it will most likely be ignored completely.

At least in our house, “vacation” means we’re getting to do some field trips!

When picking field trips, we try to pick things that we can’t get near our home. Sure, we could go to the zoo, or the local kids’ science museum. BUT, we couldn’t visit a estuary or take a boat tour through a delta to see marine/river habitats! These are local resources available to my hometown area that are pretty unique, and hard to see anywhere else.. AND, they are related to our science topic (ecology, animal habitats, etc) for the year!

Delta Safaris
5 Rivers – Alabama’s Delta Resource Center

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Weeks Bay Estuary

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And take advantage of any local festivals!

Fall Into Fairhope

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So, be sure to check out all the resources at your destination, but don’t forget to see what you might be able to check out during the journey as well! From our car, we pointed out a lot of signs that related to things we studied last year when we were focusing on last year. (“Hey kids, did you see that sign said the birthplace of Daniel Boone?”) We didn’t stop on this trip because we had a 17 hour drive ahead of us, and we were on a pretty tight driving schedule. I do look forward to checking out all those places in the future, though!

But we don’t want this sudo-vacation to be all work and drudgery! So, look for the fun parts as well, after all, isn’t that part of the perks of homeschooling?? We’ve spent time with family, the girls are getting spoiled by grandparents and doted on by everyone, we’ve renewed our love of all fried seafood (I’m sorry Yankee-ville – you just can’t cook seafood the way God intended it to be done), and true Southern sweet tea. (Nectar from heaven, I tell you!) We stopped half-way on our trip to see dear homeschooling friends that I only get to know from online and now our girls are all “besties.” (Don’t you love that age where playing together for an hour makes you BFFs?) We’ve been having a family adventure and enjoying each other. And that’s really important because that can get lost in the stress of the day-to-day nonsense of life. Even for us crazy homeschoolers who are around each other all day long.

Our Homeschool Mission Statement

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Since I discussed Creating a Homeschool Mission Statement during my Preparing for Convention series, I thought I’d actually share with you what Hubby and I have decided on. This has been reviewed and updated for this year. (And is based on “Defining Your Homeschool Mission: It’s More Than Your Why“) It still serves us pretty well, but we refined it a bit.

Our Homeschool Plan

Our Goal

That our children become well-rounded, well-educated, interested individuals – who have the ability to investigate their own interests and be productive, independent, successful adults (however success is defined by them). We want our children to have strong Christian hearts and spiritual knowledge, as well emotionally and spiritually healthy.

“Our mission isn’t simply to pursue knowledge, but to pursue God’s wisdom and prepare our children to become God’s effective servants. We want our daughters to grow confident in Christ and the unique role that God created them to fulfill for His greater glory.” (quote that I loved enough to steal to use for ourselves.)

Verses That We Base Our Homeschool Plans On

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. — Proverbs 22:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. — Proverbs 3:5-6

 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? — Mark 8:36

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. — Deuteronomy 6:4-9

What Are Our Non-Negotiables?

  • They must be challenged and be on a “college-ready” path, whether they go or not.
  • College itself is flexible, advanced training or education of some sort is not.

How Do We Evaluate Our Efforts and Results?

  • Their joy in learning. Learning can and should be fun, and more is retained when they enjoy what they are doing.
  • Their curiosity and desire. Education should serve as a vehicle to whet their appetite for more knowledge, and give them the vehicle to further that knowledge.
  • Successfully learning, retaining lessons. Not regurgitating information but truly understanding it.
  • Personal relationship with and love for Christ. Deepening knowledge and understanding of the Bible, exploration of applying that understanding to their own lives, and sharing that love with others.

What We Look For in Curriculum

  • Christian-based education.
  • Family based curriculum and learning together as much as possible.
  • Focused education decisions for each child. Dividing topics that are age appropriate, changing curriculum for each when necessary.
  • Should encourage the love and joy of learning, not on “teaching to the test,” or “Common Core Standards.”
  • Flexibility of time and curriculum and interests.
  • Ease of program on teacher. Minimal preparation needed. No personal need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Spending time with girls and as a family.

Have you created a Family Mission Statement, or  a Homeschool Mission Statement/Plan? I’d love for you to share it with us if you have!

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