A few thoughts….

Apologies, this is probably one of those posts which is of interest to nobody but me.

I have come to the conclusion that home schooling is God’s way of ensuring the grass does not grow under my feet.  His way of making sure I do not become too complacent.  Maybe even His way of preventing me getting stuck in a rut.  One can’t you see, when one has to change direction constantly to keep up with the needs of their family or (in this case) with the needs of oneself.

Many, many people have emailed me over the past three years wondering how on earth I managed to school as I did.  My answer has always been that I have 6 extra hours in my day to school plan, and organise and then execute said plans the next morning.  Those extra hours, created by an insomnia I frankly wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, gifted me with time.  Time to research, time to pull together a full and yet fun home-made curriculum for my five children, time to blog about it and meet all you lovely people and time to be on the computer when it had absolutely no impact on those around me or my relationships with them, because they were, y’know, doing what normal people were doing – sleeping.

But something has changed, and that something is me.  I have changed.  I now sleep very, very well thanks to my doctor’s prescription.  I forgot to take my medicine Sunday night – the first time since the brilliant Doctor figured out what was wrong and got it sorted.  That night I was awake all night, with my mind racing, exciting me with all the possibilities of life.  In some ways it was good to have me back.  Ideas rushed through this very overactive brain of mine all night long.  The night was lit up with potential and promise.  In other ways, it was exhausting, and when I got up the next day it was with an aching head, aching body and feeling absolutely terrible.  It shocked me to realise that this was really how I had felt my entire life.  I just didn’t know any different and so just got on with it.  Now I know differently.  Now I know what it is to feel normal.  To not have aching joints, heavy eyelids, fuzziness in a brain which whizzed at top speed.  I’m not sure I even knew what it felt like to not have a dull head ache all. day. long.

But since I have slept, since that wonderful day the doctor told me she knew what would stop the racing, that she could give me that ‘off switch’ I had longed for all my life, I have felt well.  Not just well but exuberant.  I am pain-free.  There is no heaviness.  I have no need for caffeine, sugar or food to get me through the day.  Life feels, dare I say it, easy, rather than everything being a struggle.  There is, as is so often the case, a down side.  I have lost 6 hours of every day, 42 hours a week.  That amounts to almost four extra 12 hour days a week, which is an incredible 182 extra 12 hour days a year.  And it is showing in the sheer amount I am not able to do anymore.  I have thought about stopping my blog.  I have thought about putting the children into school.  I have thought about just not taking the medicine.  Something has to give.

I am very blessed to have a husband who is support extraordinaire.  I am able to garble seeming nonsense to him which somehow he unravels and makes sense of and even comes up with a few workable ideas.  He was clear.  I was not stopping my blog.  I was not sending my children to school.  And I was not, absolutely not, going to stop taking my medicine.  So what have we come up with?

The way we home school is very time intensive so we decided we needed to reduce the time required behind the scenes.  This will probably take the form of using curriculum somebody else has written.  I need to do a bit more research for this but we have decided it won’t be a one curriculum fits all.  Each child will be assessed for their individual interests, strengths and weaknesses, and curriculum chosen to suit them.  There will still be some project based learning but my guys need more than that.

If anyone has any to recommend I’d love hear them.  I have planned and bought resources up until Christmas, but after that I’m open to any ideas….


  1. Oh Claire! First and foremost (((hugs)))! I can totally empathize with the feelings of “something has to give.” Which subjects are you looking for? I love Apologia for science, and I know you have used that in the past. For history, we use Mystery of History. Math, we use Math U See. For reading, we will be trying a new unit study based on Swiss Family Robinson, called Prepare and Pray!.

  2. The science curriculum we use is Noeo Science. They have a website, it you want to research it. For math we use the Mathematics Enhancement Programme, which I think you already investigated. For history, I do one unit on Canadian history, one on an ancient civilization, and supplement it with reading and discussing Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall (think that is correct).

  3. I’m so happy you are still sleeping, even if it cuts into your time. Our family has benefited from lots of your ideas and research in the past, so I’ll return the favor with some ideas.

    I just decided to move over to Tapestry of Grace as soon as my plans run out and they don’t go through the whole school year. I’ve already bought Year 2 so that I can use some of the features now and be ready in a few months.

    I was already creating the same type of plan as they do, but all on my own. It took a lot of time to pull the resources together, decide on the chapters to read for each topic, decide on literature assignments, and get myself prepared. They have project ideas and it has assignments for four different levels of learning. But most importantly, the work is already done and I can choose as little or as much of their plans to use.

    BTW, I’m not affiliated with them in anyway. I just spent the past month reading samples and thinking it over. It was sooo much work to plan out Amber’s history based curriculum this year, and I didn’t even get a full year planned. I can’t imagine doing it for 5 more years (or for a another child possibly).

    So, that’s my two cents. Look at Tapestry of Grace.

    Oh, I do love Homeschool in the Woods, but I personally wouldn’t use them as my only curriculum for your older age kids. We are happily using their resources as part of our resources this year.

  4. Claire. I have always enjoyed your honesty and how you address problems head on, not just brushing them under the carpet and hoping they go away! So first and foremost, congratulations on working out what the problem is and what your new priorities are. It may not be of any help at all, but for what it’s worth, we use life of Fred and khan academy for maths, story of the world with lots of extra reading for history/geography and almost everything else (we don’t follow the time frame, just move on when we’re ready), and for science next year I am planning to just use library books and the internet to learn about topics following the days of creation (ie begin with light/electricity etc , then move on to weather, then geology, the water cycle and so on, again sticking with each topic as long as we want. I believe apologia science have books/journals along these lines which we may use in the future (my boys are 4 and 7). Good luck and I hope you’re able to find some enjoyment in this journey! Can’t wait to hear what you come up with. All the best, Jo.

  5. I would suggest that the children are old enough to take more control of what they are learning – not just in the sense that they do independent work but by actively seeking out resources and deciding what to learn. I’ve heard of families having monthly/termly planning meetings to discuss what the children think they’ll pursue this month, and then weekly catch ups to make sure they’re on track. The parent becomes the facilitator and coach rather than the teacher, and only occasionally directs the children to resources they might have missed finding for themselves.

    In terms of resources, I’m a big advocate of online learning tools. Khan Academy is fabulous for maths and science and I’d say all you need for these subjects if the format suits your family, and it also has a lot of resources for all kinds of other topics (although not yet fleshed out enough to be a complete curriculum), Busuu is great for foreign languages, Coursera, edX, FutureLearn and many other MOOCs have always got new and interesting courses to follow which set assignments and are more like a classroom experience.

    Recently I sat down and made a list of what I wanted to achieve in the next year, and then figured out what I needed to meet my goals. This sort of format would suit your older children, I think, and would free you up to concentrate on being more a teacher for your younger girls.

    You’ve done so many exciting projects that I am sure your children will be able to think back and choose and adapt ideas they can use to explore their new topics. Learning how to plan and direct your own goals is an important life skill in itself, so don’t feel guilty about having to take a step back. I only started learning this in my twenties, so your children will have a massive advantage over most people who are used to being spoonfed!

    Wow, sorry, that turned into an essay… I’m pretty passionate about self-directed learning!

    1. May – I love the idea of self-directed learning, but am not experienced with it, nor am I sure how to go about it. Do you have some suggestions of where I could look to learn more?

      1. The websites I listed are a good start – MOOCs are Massive Online Open Courses and are basically free courses offered by universities such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Edinburgh, London etc. I use Coursera, edX and FutureLearn but there are others. Khan Academy is less of a course and more of an online library of videos that teach you about different topics.

        Essentially self-directed learning is deciding what you’re interested in and then finding places to learn about it! If you happen to live in the West Midlands (England) then you could join the Meetup.com group I just set up for self-directed learners but I’m guessing you probably don’t.

        http://www.selfdirectedlearning.org/what-is-self-directed-learning has a nice definition and relevant resources, although it’s aimed at employers I think. Another term for the concept is autodidacticism, which is essentially just Latin for the same thing…

  6. I’ve only recently found your blog and I have no brilliant ideas, but I do have many hugs and prayers for you and your family. Blessings to you.

  7. I have discovered, over these many years of homeschooling, that seasons come and go. I have no doubt that the foundation you have set in the season you’re now leaving has set you and your children up for a wonderful season to come, no matter what curriculum choices you make.

    We have really enjoyed all the books in the REAL Science Odyssey series. Real Science 4 Kids (not the same as Odyssey) also looks good. We have only used one of their products, so far.

    I’ll ponder the rest. I’d suggest the Diana Waring history, but you mentioned that you’ve already used that.

    I can’t wait to see what you decide. Blessings to you, my friend across the ocean.

  8. Hi! ‘just wanted to say, “Do what you have to do”. I’m blessed by your blog each time I read it: gives me things to think about ; gives me comfort to know someone else ‘feels my pain’; challenges me as well. I believe it’s much better that you have to do less, because you’re taking care of yourself, which ensures that you will be here for long time to come to care for your family(and write delightful things here. :D) Whatever curriculum(s) you choose, you and your family are the only ones who have to be happy with it. Peace and blessings.

  9. Hmmmm….. I know you’ve played with Apologia science, and that didn’t seem to be a perfect fit for ya’ll. I can’t remember if you’ve looked at Mystery of History or not…….

    Life of Fred might be a good fit for math. For books I’d probably just keep them reading and talking about it.

    Science, I’m about to try out Christian Kids Explore, it looks really good from what I saw of Susan Evans using it. There’s another science I saw, and I’m trying to remember the name of it that might be a good fit for ya’ll, I’ve got one of their sample packets. I’ll see if I can find it.

    Oh, and I whole-heartedly agree and endorse your husband’s opinion that you shouldn’t stop blogging, I would be very sad if you had to do that.

    Monday was the “Not Back to School” linkie for curriculum, but I wasn’t getting a post written, so I didn’t keep track of the link, I’ll see if I can find it, and maybe you’ll see something in that.

  10. Oh, Claire, you start out this post by saying, “this is probably one of those posts which is of interest to nobody but me” and now, look at all the comments. And, I am sure there are many more who read with interest but did not comment. Your posts are always so wonderful. I am so glad (selfishly) that you decided not to stop blogging. We would miss all of these wonderful posts. I know what it is like to finally get a miracle medicine. I had that happen to me too. I lived in severe pain for about seven years and then I was given a medicine, while doesn’t take away all of the pain, it takes away about 90%, which is SO much. It makes you appreciate everything so much more.
    And, yes, I make a lot of my own curriculum, too, so I know what it is like when you feel like something has to give. I find myself getting more and more curriculum. It is okay. You all will add your own twist to it when you can and when you see fit. Oh, and it might take some time to find the right fit…do not fret about mistakes in purchases. It happens. Expect it. As far as advise on what to get…well you know what I use, so you know that I would recommend any of those. I think your guys would really like History Portfolios, because it just gently guides and gives lots of options. I, like most, use mostly Apologia series for science. I look forward to your next year, and mine, too. It will be fun.

  11. So glad that you are sleeping better. Interesting, as one of my children has a “racing” brain at night and struggles to sleep. OK, he manages to sleep more than you described but aged 5, often can’t sleep until 11. I’m hoping he will settle with age!
    Difficult to recommend curriculum as one man’s meat is another’s poison! We are loving Artistic Pursuits for art and Five in a Row is a favourite. FIAR, as you know, isn’t without preparation time! The Veritas self paced history is fun and needs no preparation time but it is on the computer. We, too, use Galore Park for English and maths.

  12. I am so glad you are sleeping! I cannot imagine what it must have been like for you. Here is our plan for this year: We are using Mystery of History II. It steers our literature, artist, and composer study. For math we are using Teaching Textbooks 6 and Algebra II. Apologia is still our favorite science curriculum. Evan will be using Anatomy and Physiology and Faith and Grace will be using Advanced Biology. We are continuing with Analytical Grammar. Evan will be completing Season I and the girls will be doing a review every two weeks. I will also be using Teaching the Essay by A.G. with the girls. As you know, we do lots of written narration, but now is the time to be a little more formal. The girls will be writing literary essays for some of their independent literature study. We will continue with See the Light for art. We are going to do Picture Smart Bible together for our devotion/Bible class. Of course, we will continue to use many living books to supplement all our studies, focusing on the Early Church and Middle Ages period. We will all be learning American Sign Language through a DVD course I found. Evan does lots of extra-curricular activities through Boy Scouts and the girls are doing some independent study of their choosing. The girls will be working on a home economics with A Girl’s Guide to Home Skills. I think I have covered everything and I am exhausted just thinking about it!

    We do history and Bible together. I have found a Fine Arts Friday, covering our artist, composer, art, and nature study, works well. Everything else is independent, unless it requires some initial teaching by me. I have to guide Evan along as he gets easily distracted;/

    Your children have such a strong foundation for learning that I am sure they will thrive in whatever you decide to do. Just pray about it and trust the Lord to lead you in the right direction.

    Praying for you and sending you hugs, my friend.:)

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