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Homeschooling

I received an email on March 11 from the founder of the newly formed Education Freedom Coalition asking if Knowledge Quest has already aligned, or plans to align, our materials with the Common Core Standards. The email was forceful in tone and the writer deliberately stated that any reply I gave would be shared on Facebook and on a new website that was created for this purpose – identifying homeschool curriculum publishers that have aligned or not aligned with the standards.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to speak my own mind, rather than having it shared “for me” by a 3rd party. In this case, I was not given the choice… any response I made for our company would be shared. It felt like I was being backed into a corner with only one way out – say what they (the coalition) wanted me to say. The funny thing is… even though I agree (in content, not in tone) with their stance on the issue, I didn’t like the approach or the ramifications:

a. Reply that KQ is not aligned and will never align – appease a crowd, but put KQ at risk if standards become mandatory in the future (they are not required of private schools and homeschools at this time, thank goodness!) We would either have to 1. align and go back on our word; or 2. go out of business.

b. Reply that KQ is aligned (most homeschool curriculum publishers meet and exceed standards because the standards aren’t that high and are quite vague) – risk becoming boycotted by the very customers it loves to serve. We love what we do and we love those we serve. It is an absolute joy to serve the homeschooling community!

c. Not reply – be listed as a “nonresponsive” company that is indifferent to the concerns of customers. We want to be anything but unresponsive and indifferent, especially when it comes to important matters of government control over education.

I like the whole messy situation even less now that I have replied to the email!

I stated that we would rather not be “listed” on a 3rd party site, but answer parents individually as they have questions. This reply was taken to assume (strong emphasis on the word assume, because apparently, by this coalition, one is guilty before proven innocent) that Knowledge Quest would prefer to ride the fence, stay politically neutral, and reply differently to parents depending on what they would like to hear.

Really? Both our integrity and our honesty have been brought into question, just because we said we would rather not be “listed” on a 3rd party site. Oh my, what have we come to?

We are happy to talk with anyone about this who has concerns. Standards implemented by the government affect educational freedom, especially standards mandated from the federal level. However, these Common Core Standards do not apply to private or homeschools currently. Knowledge Quest’s materials are not being forced to align to any standards at this time, which means that we will do what we have always done – provide the best resources available for history and geography regardless of what the public schools are doing. Frankly, we aren’t that interested in what the public schools are doing. We are excited about the materials that curriculum providers have made available for homeschooling families!

There was another set of standards for social studies in place before Common Core. They were perhaps even more generalized, but share these traits in common with Common Core – vague and therefore hard to implement.

We have no reason to update any of our materials at this time to align with standards that aren’t required for homeschool families. And we will continue to love the companies we love, whether they align to these standards or not. We choose our curricula based on the quality, worldview and method of the materials produced, not by a list.

The cornering, accusing and pigeonholing of curriculum providers need to stop. Homeschool curriculum providers should not be on trial over this issue. They are not the ones implementing the standards. The federal government is issuing the standards that the states choose to adopt (45 states have!). We can be thankful for the educational freedom that we currently have and the large variety of curricula that we have to choose from at this time. Let’s join together in prayer that it continues! It may change down the road the more the federal government continues to reach into areas it has no jurisdiction over. Let’s get out of the courtroom and back to the couch for a great read-aloud. Or, if you would rather stay in the courtroom, find the right one. This isn’t it.

The issue at hand is not whether a specific curriculum aligns or doesn’t align with Common Core Standards; the issue is the overstepping of the Federal Government into the arena of education, which should be handled at the state and local level.

Read Part 2 here.

Question: Um, now what do you think?

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I Might Kill My Kids!

This is the #1 reason I hear why moms don’t want to homeschool their kids. Really? I get that this is an exaggeration, but the very excuse indicates that the excuse-maker’s kids drive her crazy. Well, guess what? My kids have exasperated me on occasion too. I have even threatened them with the big yellow bus tomorrow morning, if they didn’t shape up. I can report, however, that each one of my children are still alive (smile).

What is it about our kids that makes us want to scream in frustration and throw in the homeschooling towel, or never begin in the first place? Anger and frustration can come from anywhere, but I’m going to boil it down to 3 problem areas:

1. The parent hasn’t properly trained her children to respect her authority and obey. Just as we are imperfect people, so are our children. But, our kids are teachable and trainable. We can raise them up to be respectful and obedient kids who are a pleasure to be around. Yes, it takes hard work, diligence and consistency, but it is worth it. There are lots of great books on this topic. If you struggle with children who do not obey or who disrespect you, read up on child-training, whether you homeschool or not. Parenting is the hardest job we’ll ever do, but also the most worthwhile. Teaching your child anything is just an extension of parenting.

2. The parent/teacher is being erratic or inconsistent. Kids need to know what to expect. Schedules are great tools for both teacher and student. They get everyone on the same page so they can know what to expect. Some adults really despise schedules and routines; they want to be spontaneous and free. Most kids, however, crave structure. They want to know what’s coming next. If every day is different, kids will become frustrated and more difficult to work with. Keep a consistent schedule and routine for your school days. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change things up on occasion or take an unscheduled field trip. It does mean that regular days should follow a regular order with predictable tasks and school work, if you want easy-going students.

3. The parent/teacher is stubborn and so is the child. Maybe “determined” is a better word. However, the meaning is the same. As the teacher, I might decide that something must be done and I am determined that it get done. I can have all kinds of reasons why I want the task done, such as: 1.) because I want to finish the book on time (i.e. the end of the school year); 2.) because I think the child needs extra practice in this area (i.e. math, handwriting, etc.); 3.) because I SAID SO. However, there may be more going on that might cause a clash of wills. Perhaps the child doesn’t understand a foundational principle or is sad about something or is hungry or… In any case, a clash of wills causes an eruption of emotions, usually anger and tears.

So, how can we all get along peacefully so that our school days flow smoothly and without frustration?

These are a few of the principles that we live and work by in the Johnson household:

1. We start with devotions and prayer. If one of our children has a prayer request, we can pray for it before we even begin our school day. Sometimes, a child will ask prayer for a better attitude or to get along better with a sibling. Sometimes, as the teacher, I ask my kids to pray for me… that I would be patient and kind. Prayer is a powerful force and God is an ever-present helper in times of need.

2. If someone begins to develop a bad attitude, they take that attitude to their room rather than disrupting everyone else with it. Sometimes the person with the bad attitude is me. We all need time outs sometimes, even us parents. I don’t see time-outs so much as a punishment as a time to cool down and regroup. It’s a good time to pray and catch up on Bible reading too. (Everyone in our family reads the Bible for 5+ minutes a day).

3. If a certain subject is troublesome for a child over and over again, we’ll take a step back and make some changes. Maybe we need to try a new curriculum. Or maybe a foundational skill has been glossed over and needs to be learned again. As an example, my 7yo dd was struggling in math for a month or two when she wasn’t before. It was beginning to feel like we were banging our heads against the wall. I pulled out a hundred chart and we went over the numbers up through 100 and looked at the logical nature of our numbering system that is based on 10. A lightbulb went on in her head. She kept the hundred chart tucked in her math book and referred to it as needed. Within a couple weeks, she didn’t need it anymore.

Similarly, we switched to a spelling app on the ipad for one of our kids, as the regular spelling book that we use – Spelling Power – just wasn’t working for her. Creativity and looking at a subject from a new angle goes a long way.

I’ve been homeschooling for 15 years. I am not more patient than you. I can get just as angry as anyone else. But I love homeschooling because we have systems in place that work for us. We step away from each other when we get angry; we pray and seek forgiveness; we follow a daily routine and schedule; we use the curricula that works best for each of our children. And I haven’t killed any of my kids yet!

Anything worthwhile takes effort. Homeschooling takes effort, but it is one of the most worthwhile endeavors that I have pursued in my life. My kids like it too.

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Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

Yep, the world is going downhill quickly. Some would say that “it’s going to hell in a handbasket!” But frankly, our world has been on a collision course for disaster since the fall. We might say that there has never been a time like this, but on the other hand, there were some pretty awful times in history past too. You’ve read about the Greeks, the Romans, the Assyrians… They lived in some pretty twisted societies too. So, I guess it’s safe to say that there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon spoke truth, wise man that he was!

But still, my husband and I are working very hard (in this place, America, in this time, the 21st century) to keep our home a safe place, a sanctuary, for ourselves and our children, from the wiley ways of the devil and the corrupt world at large. We cannot insulate them altogether, but our children need to know that we are standing up for them, fighting hard to keep them safe and deliver them into adulthood not too stained by the world around them.

How can we keep words and images that are displayed so freely across the World Wide Web from splashing across our computers and devices?

Continue reading Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Pt 3

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Read Part 1 here

Are you a mama bear? I sure am. If I think there is a threat to my kids, the hair bristles on my back and my eyes scan the field until I target the danger. Okay, so I don’t have hair on my back, but I can relate to that feeling of tension and defense. Can you?

When it comes to keeping our kids safe, the greatest danger right now is also one of our most prized conveniences – the Internet. Frankly, it would be extremely difficult for our family to live without it, especially with our business that relies on online sales. But we also love the Internet for school. It has become our encyclopedia, our dictionary, our photo album, our math tutor, our translator, our word finder, our stationary and our post office.


We live in a brave, new world and over the years, we have learned how to work with this beast that we have brought into our home.

Here are 4 ways to tame the beast in your home:

Continue reading Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Pt 2

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“She is clothed with strength and dignity; and she laughs without fear of the future… She carefully watches everything in her household… Her children stand and bless her.” Proverbs 31:25-28

The Proverbs 31 woman is a mama bear! She gets fierce when the safety of her family is threatened. Shhh… listen… can you hear it? Probably not, but there is a lurking evil at your door. He is a serpent and he is seeking to steal, kill and destroy. It’s time to wake up! We must protect our children.

While we may be raising the most innocent, respectful, God-honoring, parent-honoring, and virtuous children, the enemy has no favorites. He is attempting to take them all out. Not just some, not just those that aren’t well-supervised, but all. Continue reading Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Pt 1

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This graceful woman holding the baby, drinking coffee, checking email and helping with schoolwork is not me. I am not really sure, actually, if she is real or myth. Because I am definitely not that stereotypical woman who can multi-task well. In fact, when I do, I usually make a big mess of something.

If I talk on the phone while making dinner, I will either mix the ingredients in wrong OR burn the chow, neither outcome very well appreciated by my family. Continue reading Multi-Tasking vs. Time-Blocking

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Half-way through the school year… It’s at this time of the year that we can feel like we are exhausted, running on empty, just putting one foot in front of the other because that is what we are supposed to do.

That’s okay! Just because you may not feel that spring in your step or that excitement for planning school lessons doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing one of THE most worthy pursuits you could be doing. Just because you aren’t receiving accolades from your kids, your friends or even your spouse doesn’t mean that you aren’t making a BIG difference in the lives of your kids and your family. Just because your kids may not be the smartest, the pleasantest, the most organized band of children in your neighborhood or co-op doesn’t mean that they aren’t in process, taking plodding steps just like you, to learn more, cooperate better and integrate life skills, one day at a time.

These dreary winter months are a great time to WAKE up, SHAKE up and try something NEW!

Here are 4 ways to get out of the doldrums and get excited about school once again:

1. Take a field trip! Yes, it’s cold outside and it’s easier to stay in and work on textbook assignments, but that gets tiresome after a while. Bundle up the kids and head out for the zoo or a local museum or an indoor waterpark, for goodness sake. Okay, maybe the waterpark isn’t educational, but the kids may learn a little bit about physics and acceleration on the water slides (okay, that’s a stretch). Even if they don’t, at least they’ll have fun and you have shaken up the daily routine. We are going to our local science museum on Thursday. We are excited because they have a new Mythbusters exhibit about blowing up stuff, which is extremely fascinating, don’t you think?

Continue reading Wake-up! You’re Half-Way There!

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Saying “No” is a very hard thing to do, especially if you consider yourself a nice person. Nice people accommodate. Nice people serve. Nice people sacrifice. Are these the tapes that you play over and over again in your mind?

These are actually untrue statements. It’s time to rethink how we should respond when we are asked to do something, especially something of a worthy nature. Because it’s easy to say “no” to drugs, right? But it’s hard to say “no” when someone is asking you for help.

First of all, we need to realize that we are finite people. We truly can’t do everything, as much as we might think we can. Or wish we could. We are all given the same 24 hours in every day, the same 7 days in every week, etc.

Let’s get in the habit of asking ourselves these 3 questions when we need to determine whether or not we should say “yes” to a request.

1. Do I have free or flexible time to accommodate the request? Perhaps we are asked to do something during a time slot that is dedicated to another task, such as caring for our own families in some way.

 

2. Am I the only one that can do this particular task? If we are asked to set-up for an event or drive someone to the airport, determine whether you are the ONLY one who can do this, or if there are others who might have less commitments, greater flexibility, etc.

Continue reading Learning to Say No

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