Tag Archives: Classical Homeschooling

Veritas Press: Self-Paced History – Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation {A Review}

Veritas Press

Homeschool history has reached new heights in our home over the past few weeks, as we’ve had the privilege of reviewing the ‘Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation’, one of the online courses on offer from Veritas Press. This program has energised our learning more than anything else for a long time, and I’m excited to tell you all about it!

The online program is complete in itself, with no supplementary material required, besides a stunning set of the 32 Middle Ages, Ren & Ref Flashcards that correspond with the lessons and are intended for the purpose of reviewing the course content. We also used them to order the 32 significant events chronologically for the time period.

About Middle Ages, Renaissance and ReformationSelf-Paced History

Veritas Press follows a classical Christian approach in that it teaches history chronologically, and aims to keep Christ at the centre of your child’s learning.

Here are some of the main features of the program:

  • The age range is intended for Grades 2nd-6th.
  • The self-paced program is designed to do over a full year at the student’s own pace and contains 160 lessons, with 5 lessons for each of the 32 important historical events
  • The 32 flashcards cover the period from St Augustine to John Knox and are used along with the memory song within the course and for the purpose of review.
  • The program mainly uses actors to present history with realistic backdrops that are relevant to the time period.

VP Collage 3.1

To give you a sampling of what is covered, here are the first 8 of 32 significant historical events (40 lessons) that we have managed to complete so far:

  • Augustine Converts to Christianity
  • Barbarians and Vikings
  • St Jerome Completes the Vulgate
  • The Council of Chalcedon
  • St Benedict and Monasticism
  • Justinian the Great
  • Mohammed and Islam
  • Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne

We’ve looked ahead on the lesson list and are especially looking forward to learning about William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings, St Francis of Assisi, and the Renaissance. To be honest, I can hardly wait myself!

VP Collage 10.1

Historical Literature

There is an optional literature component, with historical fiction titles to include in your history studies (two different levels). We did not complete this component for the purpose of this review. But as we have many of the titles listed, we took the opportunity to enhance the learning experience and bring these books out off our shelves.  Adding in the historical literature would be a great way of furthering your child’s learning of the time period.

VP Collage 2.1

 How the Program Works

This online program utilises a number of different ways of presenting the course content:

  • Actors dressed in period costumes present most of the course content with realistic backdrops in a style that is engaging and informative, and although the content is fairly in-depth, it’s also age appropriately presented.
  • A memory song is used to cover the chronological component, as well as reinforcing the key dates, people and events of the 32 main historical events (lyrics can be viewed and/or printed).
  • Games and activities are dispersed through the lessons, often using multi-choice questions to review material.
  • Other activities are used at different times, such as word searches, mapping, spelling, timelines activities and others.
  • There are end of lesson tutorial quizzes every 5 lessons (graded) and a shorter assignment/quiz at the beginning at the next group of 5 lessons (ungraded).
  • There are 8 supplementary activities (completed offline) over the full course, the first of which my daughter completed on ‘monastic manuscript’.

VP Collage 4.1

In true Classical style, the course is heavy on memorising important dates, which was sometimes a stretch for my 3rd Grader (particularly in the beginning). But gladly she didn’t find the memorising monotonous or too overwhelming.  The great thing was that every lesson and quiz reviewed previous lesson content and reinforced what my daughter had already learned.

Functionality and Ease of Use

The program is very easy to navigate with only a few buttons or options to click. Each lesson needs to be completed before the next slide is unlocked, and you can pause at any time. If needed, there is an option for further help and support, but we didn’t need to use this.

Middle Ages, Ren & Ref Flashcards

The flashcards have all 32 historical events covered in the course, with a summary on each side containing the key information and dates for each – from ‘St Augustine Converts to Christianity’ through to ‘John Knox in Scotland’. The flashcards are not absolutely necessary to have, but are certainly a great option to add to the enjoyment of learning, as well as being useful to review the lesson content before the graded tests (resulting in a better grade).

They’ll also be great to have in future when we’ve finished the online component of the course and just want to review this period of history.  The flashcards are sold separately.

VP Collage 9.1How We Used It

We aimed to use the course 4 times a week, but because my daughter enjoyed it so much, we did 1-2 lessons a day, 4-5 times a week. Each lesson took about 20 minutes (less time for the quiz lessons).

As my daughter was initially not used to online learning, or to tests and grades, she needed some supervision to start with, but quickly picked up how it works and what to expect each lesson.

There was no option to skip ahead of the current lesson, as they can only be unlocked once the previous lesson is completed. So my daughter simply worked through each slide within each lesson, with little supervision from me.

VP Collage 11.1

My Thoughts on ‘Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation

This really is an outstanding online history program. I was impressed at how history was presented age-appropriately, despite there being some fairly graphic events that occurred during the time of the Middle Ages. I especially liked the consistent connections made between historical events and Church history.

The music accompanying the slides throughout the course follows the theme of the Middle Ages, or is suited to the place of interest for each lesson (eg. Arabia).

A Note on the Age Level:

I’m of the opinion that the content itself is better pitched at an Advanced 3rd Grade student, or 4th Grade up, as it covers history at a depth that may be beyond younger students and some of the activities (eg. spelling longer words) could be a stretch. To complete the course for 2nd and 3rd Grade students, a parent could possibly sit through the lessons and explain some of the more difficult concepts and help with date and event memorising. But to really get the most out of it, I would recommend waiting until your child is just that little bit older.  You may also like to view the sample lessons to determine whether or not your child is ready.

VP Collage 5.1

I can see how this self-paced history course would be a popular choice for Classical homeschooling families.  But I believe this would also be a great fit for homeschooing families of all educational philosophies and methods.

I highly recommend this comprehensive, engaging, and enjoyable course to all homeschooling families who love history and want to take their learning experience to a new level.

Pricing and Links

[For System Requirements, see Veritas Press FAQs]

VP Collage 7.1

Two slides of the memory song, which puts the 32 historic events to music.

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Best ‘Ancient’ and ‘Middle Ages’ Historical Reads {Elementary Level}

Best Ancient and Middle Ages Reads

History is by far our favourite subject, and I’m always on the look-out for great titles to add to our homeschool library. We are working our way through Ancient History at the moment, and gearing up to study the Middle Ages in a few months time.

This list below has some historical fiction, and I’ve also included titles where the historical setting paints a wonderful picture of what life was like during that time period. I’ve also included some really great biographies.

If you click on the link, you will likely find the approximate age level and also some reviews on the content itself. I haven’t read all of these books myself, but have read reviews online to determine whether they meet the ‘living book’ criteria for our family. I’m fairly confident they are good picks, but make sure you read reviews to determine if they’re the right fit for your family. Many of these will be on the next round of our 4-year history cycle, particularly those that have philosophies and worldviews that are much different from our own.

Ancient (5000BC to 400 AD)



The Middle Ages (400-1600)



I hope you find some great reads here.  If you’re about to take a break from school for the summer, you might just be able to inspire your elementary aged children to keep learning through the break. 😉

If I’ve missed any great titles, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.




Favourite Homeschool Curriculum for Elementary Ages

Favourite Homeschool Curriculum pin

In our 5 years homeschooling, we have used a number of approaches and curriculum options. In the beginning, I went for a complete package in its entirety from Sonlight. But over the years, I’ve customised more and more, as I’ve gotten to know each of my children more, I’ve found my own rhythm in managing our little home school, and I’ve also continued to evaluate and prioritise our learning goals as a family.

The following are my favourite curriculum choices, some of which we’ve yet to purchase and others that we regularly use. I’ve also included some that we won’t be using anytime soon, but I still consider them great choices.

I’ve spent many hours over the years researching and looking for the best fit for our family, so I hope my searching benefits your family also.


Story of the World (4 volumes) –is written by a Christian author (although not a Christian curriculum) and takes a chronological approach to presenting the history of the world. The volumes progress in difficulty, and it is intended you start with the first volume and work your way through the subsequent volumes in chronological order (which is the Classical approach to history). We love the narrative style, and the accompanying student workbook has just the right variety and amount of work and activities to bring history alive and help with your child retaining what they have learned.

SOTW Vol 2

Mystery of History – is a chronological and Christian text of complete world history, also four volumes, and weaves world history and bible history together into a complete story. It is also Classical in style, and seeks to tell the story of God as revealed through history.

M of H Vol 1

Homeschool in the Woods – is by far our favourite place to purchase complete lap books/project packs (on CD or downloaded), and are comprehensive enough to use on their own, or to supplement other history programs. The products range from composer and artist packs, world history, US history, and incredible timeline resources. I strongly encourage you to take a look at the samples and consider adding these incredible resources to your homeschool.

HITW Old Testament (3) sm


WinterPromise – have a number of themed programs (amongst other subjects), and also some smaller downloadable studies on their sister site, Spirited Autumn Hope. The one I want to mention is Children Around the World, which has a unique way of understanding geography through looking at how children of the world live. It is more than just a geography-based program, and includes activities and learning ideas, timeline activities, and a Prayer and Personal Involvement Journal that encourages your child into faith and action.


Geography Songs: Sing Around the World – has the countries of the world set to some catchy music to learn them, with an accompanying book and markable world map. This is still a favourite of ours.

Geography Songs

Globalmania – is a free downloadable course to learn the countries, capitals, major cities, mountains, rivers, and more. It is a full-year curriculum, designed to be completed in 7 months, and utilises online games and activities as part of reinforcing what your child learns.



Apologia ‘Who is God series’ – this has been our favourite discipleship resource so far. This series gives a solid scriptural foundation to the Christian faith, using real life illustrations and a student workbook, and achieves exactly what it sets out to do. Because of our values and theological emphasis, we still add in other resources to give a balanced approach to our discipleship program.

Who is God

Homeschool in the Woods – Also mentioned above under history, Homeschool in the Woods do Old Testament and New Testament Activity Packs which are a fantastic hands-on learning experience, with great content as well.

HITW Old Testament (5) sm

What’s in the Bible DVDs – From the Creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer has put together these fantastic DVDs that introduce children to every book of the bible. The content is comprehensive but not too overwhelming for children. We just love these!

Whats in the bible

ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS (including Spelling)

Writing with Easethis has been one of our mainstays since the beginning, and we love the living and ‘whole’ literature passages chosen to learn comprehensive, narration, dictation and copywork.

Writing with Ease

Handwriting Without Tearsanother mainstay in our home, I now have two very different learners loving these books and asking to do them. These books teach handwriting from Pre-K through to 5th Grade, both manuscript and cursive, and early on children use a slate board, playdough, wooden pieces, music, and other multi-sensory methods of learning their letters.


All About Spellingour favourite spelling program, All About Spelling uses the phonics method and also a multi-sensory approach to learning spelling (tiles, writing, and colour-coded flash cards, and phonograms CD-Rom or app). It never feels like work for us, and it’s one of the favoured subjects in our house to learn because it’s so hands-on and the results are evident immediately.


Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessonswe’ve just started this bumper book with my pre-schooler, who loves the time with me and loves to run her finger across the line. It is so detailed that you only have to read what’s there (although I find a cut a few corners). So far, this little experiment is working well!

Teach your child to read


Math-U-Seewe have stuck with this program simply because it covers everything so well (using the mastery approach) and comes highly recommended from all my favourite curriculum sites. It has a teaching DVD, teacher’s manual, and student workbook. It’s my eldest child’s least favourite subject and I’m not sure if any maths program would achieve a different result – she’d much rather be doing something arty or reading! For now, I’m confident that it will be our choice of program and cover all the bases we need.


Life of Fredcurrently on our wishlist, the Life of Fred series is written by a retired maths teacher who wanted to bring maths alive to children through the story of a genius child named Fred. Some parents use them as standalone maths curriculum, but based on reviews I’ve read, we’ve going to use these to supplement our current program. It is recommended to go through the entire series from the start, even if your child is at a higher level. I’ll keep you posted on what we think of these once they’re in our hands.

Life of Fred


Apologia Young Explorers SeriesWe are in our third year of using these books and are continually impressed by how great the content is, and how much our children enjoy using them. They are written from a creation science perspective, and take an immersion approach to science, focusing on one subject in depth for the course of the year (eg. astronomy, zoology). The Notebooking Journals are optional, but in my opinion they make it into a ‘whole’ curriculum for the year.

Apologia Young Explorers


See the Lightthis is a hands-on, art technique DVD series, teaching the basics, blending, proportion, texture, and much more. The CDs can be purchased individually or as a complete set.

see the light

Artistic Pursuits – we love this approach to learning art, through art history, art appreciation and hands-on skills. We have sometimes jumped around with the lessons, if there is one that particular week that goes along with our history (eg. Greek pottery). A little pricey, but a really unique and beautiful resource.

That’s about all I have space for in this post – if we’re talking curriculum I could go on for a while! Please let me know your favourite curriculum and resources – I’m an open book!

Artistic Pursuits


PS.  Here’s a full run-down of what we are using for the 2014 year (January-December)

Our 2014 Curriculum sm

Read some of the other Favourite Curriculum Choices of the TOS Crew:
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Maestro Classics {A Review}

Maestro Classics review

Maestro Classics is a company that produces ‘Stories in Music’, a series of CDs that introduce children, ages 5-12, to classical music through stories.  The stories are engaging and educational and the music is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which Maestro Classics claims as being the ‘greatest recording orchestra in the world’.

The production and quality of these CD’s speak for themselves and they have previously won over 50 awards from top children’s reviewers.  The music is composed and conducted by Stephen Simon, and the stories narrated by Yadu (Dr Konrad Czynski).

About the Product

I had the opportunity to review the digital download versions of ‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’, and ‘My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music’.

Each CD (or MP3 download) has narration set to classical music, and other listening selections, designed to give your child a love for classical music and story-telling.  Maestro Classics write these three benefits of listening to stories in classical music, and I wholeheartedly agree:

  • Expand listening horizons;
  • Develop listening skills and accumulate musical memories;
  • Encourage adults and children to listen to music together.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (duration 51:14 minutes)

Mike Mulligan

‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’ is a timeless classic by Virginia Lee Burton.  The story of Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel MaryAnne is beautifully set to an orchestra and Irish pipes, with music composed and conducted by Maestro Classics own Stephen Simon.

Other selections in this include learning about the author Virginia Lee Burton, and how a composer creates a musical score.  After listening to how the music was composed, we listened again to identity and listen closely to the different instruments and sounds.  There is also a song to learn and sing along to.

The CD and download version also contains a24-page activity book with biographies, the words to the sing-along song, sheet music to the ‘Mike Mulligan’ song, information on the Irish pipes, and puzzles for children to do.

This CD/download is recommended for ages 4+.

My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music (duration 48:45 minutes)

My Name is Handel image

‘My Name is Handel’ is dedicated to the life of composer George Frideric Handel, with excerpts from his biography woven through some of his most famous pieces of music, ‘Water Music’ and ‘The Messiah’.

The narrator tells the story of German composer Handel who, while living in London, composed a suite of dances, hired a boat and musicians, and headed down the Thames River to surprise King George I.   The music became known as “Water Music,” one of Handel’s best-loved compositions. This section of the CD forms the largest component, at 38:09 minutes, with the remainder including short selections on the story and a sing-along song.

The CD and download version also contains a 24-page activity book with a biography of Handel, the history of the harpsichord and organ, words to the song, puzzles for children to do ,and other historical information.

This CD/download is recommended for ages 7+.

Who Would Enjoy ‘Maestro Classics’

Maestro classics selection 1

Classical music is well-documented and widely understood to be a significant tool for stimulating brain development.  Maestro Classics provide an entertaining and educational way of bringing the life in classical music into your home, perfectly coupled with story-telling.

If you are looking to bring opportunities into your homeschooling to develop musical appreciation through classical music and story-telling, this is by far the best resource I’ve come across to introduce and cultivate a love for both.

We listened a number of times as a family, and found that our younger children were not as interested at this stage (under 5) as they lacked the ability to sit still and listen for more than a few minutes.  My 8 year old however, enjoyed both these downloads.  So the suggested ages for both were our experience also!

Supplementary Material

Maestro Classics have also put together a well-thought out list of free Curriculum Guide’s to accompany each of the CD’s, with learning ideas for all subject areas: History, Science, Geography, Language Arts, Art, Music, and Math.

They also link up accompanying lapbooks which I’d like to try, sold by ‘A Journey Through Learning’, which you can find on their website under Educational Materials.

Pricing and Further Information

Pricing is as follows:

For further information, visit:

Don’t forget to look at the other great titles available – we are already looking at ‘Swan Lake’ as our next favourite. 🙂

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How We Use ‘Story of the World’ in our Christian Home

how we use SOTW in our Christian home

One of the challenges of studying Ancient History as a Christian family, is that there is a lot of aspects in this period of history that are not of a Christian or even a moral worldview, such as worship of gods, gladiators, violence, and a lack of mercy and value for human life.

I’m glad we waited until my daughter was 8 to look into Ancient History, as she now has some firm foundations and we can now look at history through that lens.  I wouldn’t recommend starting much younger with this particular text unless you have really covered the foundations of your faith and you are also willing to put some effort into bringing a Christian worldview and perspective into your study of ancient history.

Is using ‘Story of the World’ right for you?

As I contemplated whether ‘Story of the World’ was going to be the right text for us, I realised that history has happened, with all its triumphs and tragedies, greatness and despair, achievement and loss, the good the wonderful and the very ugly, and I can’t just not teach history because of the ugly stuff.

I want my children to have an understanding of history from the very beginning through to present day, where they can see the hand of God moving through His people, bringing life and redemption, and also what happens when people go their own way and depart from living in relationship with God and in harmony with His created world.

‘Story of the World’ is not a Christian curriculum, although written by a Christian author, but the text does not set out to bring you back to the Truth.  What it does is report and present history in a factual yet narrative form, and does not comment on it as such.  So it’s up to you as the homeschooling parent to guide your children’s hearts and use it as a learning opportunity.

How we Approach Studying History

Here’s the basic approach we take in our history studies using ‘Story of the World’:

  • The Bible is the only book that is true.  The Word of God is foundational to how we see and understand the world.  I try and weave scriptures through our studies, and always bring us back to what is true.
  • We look at each chapter and I will often stop and pause during the reading to clarify things, or we might discuss how people were living that was contrary to God’s law (eg. Hammurabi’s law of ‘an eye for an eye’ versus what Jesus taught).
  • We talk about how even in the Old Testament we see that only a single generation might have passed since God delivered His people, yet still the Israelites lost their way again, time and time again.  How much more does this happen when a people group continue for generations without any knowledge of a living God?
  • We discuss consequences, moral law, grace, mercy (or lack of), and whatever else comes up that I can bring us back to foundational truths.
  • We supplement using various books and activities that reinforce our Christian worldview.
  • There are certain parts we read in the text, do minimal activities such as mapping and writing, but don’t focus on.  Parental discernment is a important factor in deciding what gets focused on and what gets little attention.  I have a sensitive daughter – your boisterous boys might enjoy parts that we gloss over.  🙂
  • I repeat often that the ancient world was the time period that the bible was written in.  Particularly with the New Testament, we talk about the Greek and Roman cultural world, and the world in which Jesus came when He came to ‘seek and save the lost’.  We talk about who (and what issues) Paul and others were addressing in their letters to the Early Church.

how we use SOTW - bread making

I foresee that other volumes will present their own challenges also.

Volume Two will give us a wonderful opportunity to study early Irish history, the Renaissance, the age of exploration and discovery and the Elizabethan Age.  This period also has some great poverty and sickness, the plague and the Great Fire of London, ongoing wars between European countries, Mary I and her slaughtering of Protestants, and some of the worse methods of torture and death during the medieval period.

Once again, parental discernment and some planning will help you navigate your way through what you focus on or gloss over, and how you bring your children back to the foundations of their faith.

So there are a few things to get you thinking about as you study this time period, and others, in your Christian family.

I see the opportunity to present history from a factual perspective (as much as is possible when every writer has a worldview they write from), and in doing so, I can introduce my children to some of the things that have happened in history but via the lens of our Christian worldview.

If you’re also of a Christian worldview and are using Story of the World, I would welcome your thoughts and ideas on how you make it work in your home.

You might also be interested in:

“Mix It Up May” – taking a break from our regular curriculum

MIx it up May

We’re almost halfway through our school year, and although we love the curriculum we’ve chosen for the year and have no plans to change anything permanently, I thought we’d take about a month to do some different things.

The last thing I want is for our learning to become monotonous and dull.  Before we get to that point, we’re going to side-step a bit in our main learning areas, and come back to our familiar programs a little more refreshed.

My preschoolers are happy enough with our learning times, so I’ll keep our current hands-on approach with them.  It’s fairly simple at their ages.  I’ve also started ‘Teaching Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons’ with my almost 5 year old, and am finding it really fantastic so far (it’s only about $12 for a bumper book of 395 pages – great value too)

My oldest child is 8 ½, and it’s her program of learning that we’re mixing up a bit for the month.  Some of these things we’ve already begun at the time of writing.

Our Plan for May


Instead of Story of the World (Ancient History), we’re going to focus on these areas of history:


We normally use Writing with Ease and All About Spelling, but for May will look at only using ‘Story Starters’ for some creative writing.  My daughter already does enough copywork practice daily with her Handwriting Without Tears.  I’m also going to encourage her to write in her journal each day, and we’ll be keeping up with the writing in ‘Who is God’ and her nature journal.


We’re currently doing Math-U-See and I like the confidence it gives me that everything is covered very thoroughly.  Maths is not our happiest subject, and I’m not sure that any different curriculum would produce better results where that is concerned.

The left-brained vs right-brained theory asserts that some people are more dominantly creative (right-brained) or dominantly left-brained (analytical).  Scientists don’t all agree that the notion actually exists (I did a test for fun – I was equal!).  Whether the theory stacks up scientifically or not, I’ve certainly noticed that my 8 ½ year old finds areas of learning that have a creative and artistic component much easier than those that are more logical and methodical.  Even a word search can be an unhappy experience.

Her struggle with Maths isn’t so much her lack of natural ability as much as it’s the discipline of working through something methodically, and sometimes it’s also the time it takes to do it.

Instead of trying to make Maths more creative this time, I’m going to try and work on strengthening the areas she’s weaker in.  Here’s my plan for this month (and maybe beyond):

  • Critical Thinking Activities, book 1 and book 2 (K-3, and 4-6) – to use the left side of her brain more.
  • SchoolhouseTeachers.com – has a variety of short videos, including some applied maths, which I think will give my daughter a different way of seeing things.  There are also elementary maths lessons listed by grade that we will revisit for some revision.  Sometimes it helps to have a different teacher or method to explain the same concepts.  I’m hopeful this will be effective!
  • Yahtzee and card games.
  • Xtra Math – a free online resource for addition and subtraction practice.


We’ve just finished Apologia Zoology 1 (Flying Creatures), so before we launch into Zoology 2 (Swimming Creatures), I’d like to review what we’ve done.  We’ll do this by doing a Flying Creatures lapbook, and going through our Notebooking Journal and tidying up any loose ends we didn’t finish.

We also still have a Supercharged Science subscription, so will look at some of the other experiments at my daughter’s grade level.

Fine Arts

We have yet to purchase all the books on our wishlist, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get these on our bookshelf soon!  Here are my favourites:

We have Maestro Classics downloads that are new into our hands (‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’, and ‘My Name is Handel’), so we’ll keep enjoying those and I’ll have a review coming to let you know what I think of them!

As for art, we rarely have to be very intentional about doing enough of this as it’s one of our most favourite learning times.  I’ll most likely make use of the ideas I’ve filed away on Pinterest, and until we can purchase ‘See the Light’, we’ll keep finding creative ways to develop new skills and enjoy ourselves.  Schoolhouseteachers.com also has some Art Technique Lessons we might do (by Brenda Ellis from ARTistic Pursuits).

If you’ve tried mixing things up halfway through your school year, I would love to hear some things you’ve tried.

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Our Simple Homeschool

our simple homeschool pin

The pace of life around here has changed lately.  We’re enjoying learning so much more, there’s less busyness, and we aren’t going out as much as we used to.  Life and homeschooling has become much more simple, even though all our children are actively learning through the day.

I’m beginning to embrace this season of life so much more than when I was trying to juggle too much.  The homeschool life just requires me laying down all my immediate wants and desires, if I’m to do this well.  This is my ministry, and will be for some time. And if I’m really thinking long-term, my greatest desire is really to raise wholehearted children.  Everything else can wait.

Homeschooling also demands a different way of looking at learning, relationships, and priorities, just to name a few.  It’s taken some years, but I think I’m finally free from trying to do public school at home, and now think more in terms of becoming a family that learns and grows together.

So on that note, here are some highlights from this week in our homeschool, in all its simplicity, mess, delight, unfinished tasks, and freshly doggy-eared books.

Our Simple Homeschool (2)

The kids are rolling out dough for our unleavened bread.  We studied the Exodus account of the Israelites leaving Egypt inStory of the World’ chapter 14.

Our Simple Homeschool (3)

For lunch, we cooked up our bread and made some hummus.  Just for fun we had our lunch spread on the floor.  We read about Passover and also made some charoset.

Our Simple Homeschool

My daughter is starting to make candy rock crystals, one of the experiments in SuperCharged Science.

Our Simple Homeschool 1 (2)

Our Simple Homeschool 2

We did some finger painting outside from a simple print-out from Meaningful Mama.

our simple homeschool collage

The girls had some free time Friday afternoon, and did some art in their activity books.  My 8 year old has The New Zealand Art Activity Book, and my 4 year old has Do You Doodle.  Both of these are really fantastic.

Our simple homeschool 5

We’ve taken 2 soil samples from our garden and will be doing an experiment from our Apologia Flying Creatures chapter 13 on what lives in each.

Our Simple Homeschool 1

A happy scene when I went to gather us all for lunch.  Sibling relationships is something we are intentionally working on at the moment.  I don’t just want them to tolerate each others company, I want them to love each other!  The small victories make me smile.

Tonight we are watching Anne of Green Gables for our Friday Family Night… on video tape might I add, on loan from a homeschool friend.  So the kids have also had a lesson in how to work a video player.  Like in the olden days.

Have a great weekend, and I hope you are enjoying every small and wonderful moment with your children.


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Reading Aloud Together

Reading Aloud Together

I’ve had the privilege this week of writing for Lindsey at ‘The Road to 31’ on ‘Reading Aloud Together’.  Lindsey writes on similar things, including homemaking, natural living, homeschooling, and faith, and much of how she lives resonates with me also.

I’ll be writing each month on her beautiful space on the internet which I’m so looking forward to doing.  I hope you’ll stop by and leave me a note there. 🙂

I would love you to take a read of this one and let me know what you think. 

“Reading aloud together is quite simply one of the best things you can do in your homeschool.  It’s where language is learned.  It’s where memories are made and relationship fostered.  It’s where a love of learning is cultivated.  It will leave an imprint on your child’s heart of being close with Mum or Dad, while discovering together the hidden treasure that lies within the pages of a book.”…


Have a great week friends,


{Linked up at Teaching what is good}

Tips for Using Story of the World

Tips for using SOTW collage

Our main history spine for this year is “Story of the World (Volume One): Ancient History”.  So far we are really enjoying working through history chronologically, and learning about the world in which biblical history is woven through.

The text is written in narrative form, and the student workbook consists of review questions, narration exercises, map work, colouring, crafts and activity suggestions, and more.  Although ‘Story of the World’ is complete in itself, supplementing with other activities is what’s really bringing it alive for us.

Planning and Using ‘Story of the World’

Here are a few tips for making ‘Story of the World’ a memorable and smooth experience for your homeschool:


  • Plan ahead each week what activities you’re going to use from the Student Workbook, or organise others as this an important part of reinforcing the lesson content and making history fun.
  • Supplement to cover all different learning styles that your children may have (kinaesthetic, auditory, visual) or where you want to reinforce a particular area of the topic.
  • Use notebooking pages for competent writers, either in addition to the narration in the student workbook (which are usually only two or three sentences long) or instead of them.  The pages we print from NotebookingPages.com are a beautiful addition to my daughter’s work folder, and also encourages her to write nicely.

Using it

  • Read the chapter and have your child complete the colouring page while they are listening to the reading.
  • Look at your timeline chart or book, once you’ve finished reading, and reinforce what time period the day’s chapter was covered.   Add in important dates and people.  I like to bring in biblical history, even if it’s just a mention, so as to tie everything in together.
  • Complete review questions, narration and mapping immediately after you’ve finished reading the text, as this is the time when your children will retain things well.
  • Watch a couple of short clips on the chapter’s topic.  For Volume One, I like Discovery Channel (which I always watch beforehand).  This helps to break up the writing activities.
  • Invest in one of the suggested Encyclopaedias – Kingfisher or Usborne.  I recommend you read reviews on both.  We have opted for the Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World.
  • Use supplementary books if possible.  You may be able to obtain some from your library (but make sure you read them first).
  • Make use of The Story of the World audiobooks, narrated by Jim Weiss which are well worth the investment if your child does well with learning by listening.
tips for using SOTW notebooking

Using beautiful pages from NotebookingPages.com for our narration and copywork.

I often see things online that I might use another time for supplementary activities, so just pin them to my Pinterest Boards (I have one for each of the four volumes). Pinterest is a great way of filing things away for future use.

We also have a number of supplementary titles, which include books that have some great activity ideas.  You’ll find that list here near the top.

One of the things I have brought in during our history times, is to add in a perspective on history according to our worldview as Christians.  We discuss Egyptian gods, other religions and beliefs, and the cultural world that the Old and New Testaments were written in.  There are opportunities presented in this history text that can open up these learning times with our children.  I’ll write on this another time.

Tips for using SOTW making bread

Making Egyptian flatbread and cooking outside in our cob oven

As we currently work our way through Ancient Egypt, we are getting set to make our own paper beads, Egyptian mural, perfume, date candy and mud bricks.  So many fun things to look forward to!  I know for myself that unless I plan ahead and schedule these activities in, the activity books will stay shiny on the shelf and we’ll forget to use them. So I encourage you to do the same, plan when and what you will do in advance, and prepare the materials you need ahead of time as well!

I’ll cover how I include my two younger children during our history another time.

Do you have any tips for using Story of the World in your homeschool?

tips for using SOTW mud bricks

Making Egyptian mud bricks.

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Our WholeHearted Homeschool: LIVING

Our WholeHearted Homeschool Living

“Christian Parenting is a journey.  The destination is clear – raising godly children – but the roads to get there are not always clearly marked.  We have God’s perfect road map, the Bible, but He has not taken a divine highlighter pen and marked the single route that leads to where we want to go.  He expects us to study the course map and chart a wise course to the desired destination” – Clay Clarkson, “Heartfelt Discipline”, WaterBrook Press, 2003 (as quoted in “Educating the WholeHearted Child”, p269)

What better way to end this series than to write a little on how we keep the vision alive in our home according to our uniqueness as parents, and the order we create for our learning environment.

Together my husband and I are committed to homeschool, which is a blessing in itself, and we also have a fantastic support network of like-minded relationships and families who we can share the triumphs and trials with.

Without weighing in on the varying theology of husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers, I’d like to simply offer to you here the strengths that my husband and I both bring to our homeschool, and subsequently to our home.

The Ministry of Fatherhood

Here is a little of the ministry that my husband brings to our family:

  • A heart after God
  • Generous with his time and abilities
  • Leads with his heart
  • Affirming of our children’s uniqueness
  • A gentle and kind heart
  • A humble and faithful servant
  • An adventurous and fun-filled spirit
  • A safe place for me to fall
  • A listening ear and a guiding voice
  • A peacemaker

The Ministry of Motherhood

Here is the ministry that I bring to our family:

  • A heart after God
  • A desire to build a home ‘with heart’
  • A ‘big picture’ perspective
  • A determined purpose
  • Creating a safe, nurturing and loving environment for our family
  • An unbridled ‘fierce’ love for my husband and children
  • A desire to know God’s design for us
  • A passion for the story of God told through the generations
  • A compassion for the lowly of spirit

Keeping It Real

I do clearly want to add, we have our hearts set on the vision the Lord has given us for parenting and for our home.  But don’t let me paint a picture of perfection with these words above!  Every day we make mistakes.  We are in need of God’s grace and mercy, just as our children are.  The important thing is to be real and transparent with our children, ask forgiveness from them and from the Lord, and stay committed to working out our relationships with each other.

Keeping It All together

I have kept order in my home with different degrees of success throughout the time I’ve been a mother.  The times where things have been going well, have been where I have a plan and my children know  the plan and what is expected too.  I’ve tried homeschool structures and approaches with greater freedom, and those at the other end of the scale.  I’ve come to realise that for our family, we need some shape and order, where it doesn’t restrict learning and life, but where the flow of life within our walls is steady and somewhat predictable.

It doesn’t mean that we have to set a rigid timetable, or that we miss learning opportunities because we’re sticking hard and fast to a schedule.  But we’ve more or less found the right balance of flexibility that keeps an atmosphere of peace and we continue to move forward in our learning goals.

wholeheart living

Quick Tips On Keeping Order

Here are my top 5 tips for keeping order in the home, which I’m planning to focus on this year:

  • Plan meals ahead of time, and if you do schoolwork at the meal table, clear everything away for when it’s time to eat.
  • Keep the mornings free of answering the phone, e-mails and texts, and dedicate that time to learning.
  • Write up a timetable with blocks of time, and communicate to your children what is happening each day.
  • Listen to your ‘warning bells’ and that of your children’s, and determine if and when you need to adjust your load to keep peace and stability in your schooling.
  • Cultivate relationships between siblings if you have more than one child, and set time aside each day for different pairs to spend time one-on-one.  Let love be at the foundation of their relationships and not just ‘agreement’.  You will be setting them up for life.

Building Support

There are all manner of reasons why families homeschool, and all manner of different kinds of families.  I enjoy the colourful homeschool community in our city, and learn so much from these ladies.  Having a support network for your family, and also for you as the homeschooling Mum, is so essential to longevity and refuelling our tanks.

Your support network might be made up of homeschooling families, church or other communities of believers, extended family, and like-minded friends that love you and back your decision to homeschool.  Form authentic relationships with others, and sow into one another’s lives.

Finally my friends…

I hope there’s been something in this series that has sparked vision and inspiration in your heart towards your ‘wholehearted’ homeschool this year and beyond.

I encourage you to get “Educating the WholeHearted Child” into your hands, and jump into the river of wisdom and insight from two of the most loved and respected veteran homeschoolers, teachers, and parents you’ll discover anywhere.  I’m truly indebted to this couple and hope one day I will get to meet them.

There is no set prescription for success in homeschooling – there is the truth that the Lord is with you, and will honour your faithfulness to dedicate yourself to raising your children to love and serve.

I pray you will catch a vision for wholehearted learning, and find the path that suits your precious family.

Wholehearted homeschool

NB.  These essentials are not laid out in this manner in Clay and Sally’s most excellent book, ‘Educating the WholeHearted Child’ nor are they a summary of the books content. But rather this is what I’ve understood from reading their approach, and have used their words of wisdom and insight to develop our family’s own ‘wholehearted’ approach to our homeschooling.

You might also be interested in the other posts in this series:

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