Homeschooling

Christian Homeschooling is not a Formula for Success

Christian Homeschooling is not a Formula for SuccessAs a homeschooled kid born in the 1980s to pioneering parents, I was one of the first guinea pig generations. My friends and peers were steeped in Christian culture — in safe, sheltered, homeschool culture, our own personal circles teaming with prominent authors and leaders — and yet a startling number of my peers no longer embrace Christianity. Some of them picket home education. There’s a whole lot more to be said about that (a lot more) but let’s start here: homeschooling is not a formula to guarantee your child will turn out the way you want. Homeschooling is not a formula for raising Christian kids. Homeschooling is not a formula for raising any particular kind of kid. Homeschooling is simply not a formula.

The truth is, there’s no formula for raising kids. There’s no way to ensure your child will turn into the adult you envision.

There’s no parenting panacea against rebellion.

Let me say that again: there’s no parenting panacea against rebellion. There simply isn’t, no matter how strongly the Christian bookstore tries to sell you one, neatly bound and displayed so enticingly on the eye-catching endcap, and no matter how many conferences try to lure you in with the seven-step parenting workshops guaranteeing trophy children.

This is the whole, terrifying, somber, humbling truth about parenting: there are no guarantees.

(There are no guarantees for earth-side life, even. A wise woman once told me never to forget that children are on loan from God. And it’s profoundly true.)

So if we’re looking for a tidy copy-and-paste template to neatly apply to our lives, one which guarantees a particular outcome, we’re not going to find it in parenting. We’re certainly not going to find it in homeschooling. I emerged from the guinea pig generation, and I’m telling you, conservative homeschooling didn’t work the way the speakers promised.

If we’re looking for that perfect template, we’re not even going to find any such guarantee in the Bible. If there’s anything disappointing about the stories of Biblical men and women — I say this in all reverence — it’s that there are precious few formulas we can glean. It’s true. It’s actually very difficult to create familial formulas (say that ten times fast) based on the examples handed down to us in the Bible. Biblical accounts are wildly diverse, and in all honesty, often nothing short of bizarre — and I say this as a Bible-believing Christian.

So if the Bible isn’t an index of formulas, and there are no guarantees in parenting, how has homeschooling gained a reputation in conservative Christian circles as a way to somehow promise adherence to Christianity and safeguard against rebellion?

In the 90s and 00s, I spent plenty of time observing the homeschool guru circuit from the front lines. (I like to say I’ve seen it all in my time as a homeschool kid: the good, the bad, and a whole lot of ugly.) And the more I watched, the more I saw speakers and authors peddling this idea: homeschooling will save your child from the claws of culture, in a way that other forms of education never will.

As humankind has been drawn toward simple solutions to complex problems since the beginning of time, parents latched on to this idea by the droves.

And as I watched, Christian homeschool families shelled out hard-earned cash for conferences, retreats, and books outlining a path to purity and good character and uprightness. This was a path which often circumvented the radical Jesus, chasing wildly after morality instead  — as long as that morality could be modeled inside a controlled homeschool environment.

Religious homeschooling, intended to preserve religion, instead became religion — and morality replaced Christ.

Morality, the homeschool gurus insisted, will make your child perfect. Morality is key. Virtue will save us all. And so, homeschool subculture created a fantastic Morality World, complete with its own literature and curriculum and clubs and dress codes, a sort of monastic exile hyper-focused on creating the outwardly perfect child.

Like I said before, this didn’t work so well. Morality-first education delivered in a sheltered homeschool did not produce the Christ-centered generation the pioneering homeschooling gurus promised us it would. (Imagine that!)

Yet in the thirty years since I entered kindergarten, I still see homeschool celebrities and curriculum companies (and Sunday Schools!) shilling out the idea that morality and good character and wholesomeness is somehow going to change hearts.

Friends, it can’t. It never will. Jesus changes hearts. Character curriculum and good books do not change human nature. Putting morality first is not the path to redemption. Teaching our children more about mimicking a list of admirable traits than about the transforming power of the blood of Jesus is wrong.

What would  happen if we turned our eyes to Jesus himself, and not to character education? What would happen if we viewed our role as parents to equip our kids to boldly face the world, not to entirely shelter them from it? What would happen if we embraced the mystery of grace for the earth-shattering wonder that it is, rather than reducing it to human terms and claiming to understand it all? What would happen if we lived the kind of  life that Jesus (quite a radical, by the way) was personally calling us to live?

The answer to those questions might not always be found in homeschooling itself.  Really.

In fact, I don’t even necessarily see a definitive Biblical mandate to homeschool.

(Yes, I actually just said that.) I can hear the collective screech of proverbial brakes right now. I can hear some of you sputtering. I know I put off a lot of people whenever I say this, but please, hear me out. Don’t close the tab yet.

I support homeschooling. But I do not support homeschool onlyism.

I do not support the idea that if you are a Christian, you are obligated to homeschool.

I educate my own daughter at home, but I didn’t choose this path because I believe it’s the only way to educate. In fact, when I read through the Bible, I see incredible diversity.

Paul was a Roman citizen.

Moses was raised by Egyptian royalty.

Daniel got his education from the Babylonians.

Rather than only one template for life, I instead see examples of God’s glory shining through impossible situations (and, let’s be real, there are some impossibly odd people in the Bible, too.) I don’t see a formula. If anything, I see God going out of His way to make a point about there being no such thing as a catch-all formula.

The Bible’s not big on catch-all formulas.

Even when it comes to marriage — a topic that’s specifically addressed in the Bible, unlike homeschooling — the examples are wildly divergent. We all know the story of Ruth, right? [1] Ruth was told to wear perfume, wait until Boaz had drunk plenty, then go into his room, uncover his feet, and lie down. (I’m still waiting for the wholesome Ruth Generation movement to show up at courtship seminars across the country.)

And then there’s Isaac and Rebekah [2]. Rebekah watered his camels, and then when Isaac gave her a nose ring and some other bling, she knew he was the one. (Yes, a ring for her nose. Not ear. The Hebrew word נֶזֶם refers to a nose jewel.)

Go back a little further, and we have Adam and Eve. What can we find in this account to boil down into a family-based formula that’ll sell well at homeschool conferences and Christian bookstores? They were naked, she was made from a rib, and then one son murdered the other. Hardly an example of marriage and family life that will top the Christian self-help charts.

You might still be reeling from my insinuation that homeschooling isn’t addressed in the Bible. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean we are to live so apathetically hands-off that our children run wild, adrift with no moral compass. When I read the Bible, I clearly see the mandate for Christian parents to instruct children in the ways of God. There’s no arguing this: we should teach our children the things of God and our Biblical heritage. The Bible commands us to. So don’t misunderstand me: I’m not speaking against raising children in a Christian home. I’m not saying to stop instructing your kids in the foundational tenets of Christianity. I’m just saying modern Western homeschooling, as it’s represented in the modern homeschool movement, is not the only way to educate kids. (I still love Jesus; I’m just not a legalist when it comes to what kind of school Christians should use.)

I’ve been in the homeschool subculture for a long time, and sometimes the subculture needs a few reminders: Jesus’ power is not stopped by brick-and-mortar school doors. He doesn’t limit his salvation to only those kids whose parents homeschool them. He transcends centuries and languages and continents. Homeschooling is not an essential tenet of Jesus-based doctrine and theology.

We can’t have a conversation about education and Christianity without mentioning Deuteronomy chapter six. Verses five through nine talk about instructing our kids in the ways of faith; we’re told to do this “when you are at home and when you are on the road…on the doorposts of your house and on your [city] gates.” [3]

In other words, everywhere.

Not just at home.

Not just in a bubble of our own constructing.

Not just in a shelter we’ve fashioned with our own hands.

Everywhere, without fear.

The truth is, I often detect an element of fear in the homeschool subculture’s insistence that all Christian parents must homeschool. I can understand that. I see the ideals running through public school education, and I know they’re often counter to Biblical convictions.

I get that.

But when I look at the Bible, I see repeated rebukes against fear. I also see God taking broken situations like Joseph’s or Daniel’s — stories full of pain and desolation, and certainly full of the secular culture of the day — and using these situations to glorify His name in mighty, mighty ways.

Look at John 11:4 — it’s God who was glorified.

These things happened that God might be glorified.” That’s the goal of what we do. He’s the point of how we live.

Not that homeschooling might be glorified, but that God might be glorified.

Not that our particular flavor of homeschooling might be seen as superior, but that God might be glorified.

Not that our parenting might be held up as an example of excellence, but that God might be glorified.

Not that we might get the credit, but that God might be glorified.

And God is not limited by environment. He can work mightily in a lion’s den, a virgin’s womb, a donkey’s mouth, a public school classroom, a broken home, or a homeschool living room.

It’s not about our formulas and styles and philosophies.

It’s all about Jesus.

So go forward fearlessly. Live wildly and bravely, the way God wants you to, not the way the parenting gurus and bestselling authors tell you to.

“Abraham believed God,” Andrée Seu Peterson wrote, “not what well-meaning pastors or little old ladies told him about God.”

Now go, live fearlessly!

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Homeschooling

Using Children’s Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

We read a lot of books in this house. How many? Last year, we scanned most of the books my daughter read, and at year-end, counted a virtual stack of 530 books. The year before, when she was five, we catalogued 561 books. (I don’t need to sign up for a fitness program; I carry library tote bags.)

And we didn’t scan every book she read, either. We tend to mostly scan library books, and not necessarily the daily-rotating selection from our wall of overstuffed bookshelves. So one thousand is a conservative count; over the course of two years, she easily read far more than a thousand books. (Does that make your head spin? It does mine!)

How do I keep up?

I don’t.

How do I preview them all?

I don’t.

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

I’m aware of what she reads, but there’s no way I could possibly pre-read even a fraction of these books. That’s why it’s so important to teach a solid foundation of discernment, critical thinking skills, and logic — teaching how to think, and how to “rightly divide the word of truth”, as 2 Timothy 2:15 says. (And I’m not claiming to be an expert on this, either.) But as parents, we’ll never be able to preview all of life. We need to equip for life, not shelter from life.

Finding enough quality books, though, can be challenge. We frequent more than one county library system, and I’m always marking used book sales on the calendar, but I still need to know what to look for. My daughter, a fan of non-fiction, loves meaty books of facts; I appreciate good design, format and layout. (No, you can’t judge a book by its cover — but isn’t there something special about particularly pretty books?) The books we both get really excited about deliver substantial chunks of information in aesthetically pleasing packages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received free books from Candlewick Press and was compensated for my time in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

One publisher which consistently releases exceptionally well-designed and well-written books is Candlewick Press. As I was browsing their catalog this season, I kept thinking about the concept of curiosity, and how wonderful it is that even in the Information Age, books still haven’t lost the power to draw us in to new, unimagined places.

In this era of Google searches, answers are at our fingertips.

The internet can answer nearly every question we could ever think to ask.

But what about questions we haven’t thought to ask?

What about places, people, ideas, worlds, inventions, and habitats we never even knew existed?

If we were to bypass books in favor of the ubiquitous search engine, we’d get answers to our questions, but we’d miss out on a whole wonderful world of questions we’d never have even known to ask. An internet search can satisfy curiosity, but a book will ignite curiosity.

Books are life-changing.

I love homeschooling for the incredible flexibility which allows children to pursue their interests (and ask Alexa endless questions), but sometimes kids need a nudge to explore areas outside their chosen niche, too. The right book — a colorful, captivating, grab-your-attention book — has the power to

  • ignite curiosity,
  • provoke questions, and
  • uncover brand-new areas of interest.

And it’s in curiosity and questioning where the real learning begins.

Using Candlewick Press Books to Challenge a Gifted Learner

I moderate a small online homeschool community, and parents of outliers, quirky kids, and out-of-the-box thinkers often ask me,

  • How do I challenge my gifted child?
  • How do I know I’m providing my gifted child enough opportunities to learn?
  • How do I know what topics to introduce to my gifted learner?
  • How do I allow my gifted child to dig deeper?
  • How do I encourage my gifted child to branch out?

To alter a phrase from Marie Kondo, the launching point to answer all of these question can be found in — you guessed it — the life-changing magic of reading books.

A book is more than the sum of its pages.

A single book can open the door to countless other avenues for exploration and adventure.

I’ve found a number of fantastic books from Candlewick Press — about everything from Charles Dickens to the Mars rover to poetry to Johnny Cash to nature study — especially well-suited to igniting curiosity about the world around us. These books encourage kids

and more.

I love these titles not only for the fantastic subject matter, but also because they represent the potential for so much exploration. A healthy dose of curiosity, paired with all the topics either directly or tangentially addressed in each book, will allow you to follow extraordinary rabbit trails of learning for weeks. Talk about getting a lot of mileage out of a single book!

I’ll show you what I mean.

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

Using Drawn from Nature to Encourage Curiosity about the Natural World and the History of Timekeeping

This lovely book had me at hello; I was immediately captivated by the cover’s delicate, gold-imprinted details. Inside, author-illustrator Helen Ahphornsiri has filled each page of Drawn from Nature with stunning pressed-flower collages and captivating fact-filled narratives, weaving a story of plant and animal life throughout each of the four seasons. Instinctively, one might use this book as stepping stone to further study

  • flora and fauna,
  • habitats,
  • botany,
  • plant anatomy,
  • foraging and edible plants,
  • insect life cycles,
  • natural dyes from plants,
  • native and invasive species,
  • migration habits,
  • local animal life,

be inspired to go on a hike, begin a nature journal, plant an herb garden, and more. And those are all fantastic avenues for exploration.

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

But with curiosity at our side, we might begin by reading the short, accessible introduction first.

“Year after year, plants bloom in spring and fade in autumn in a cycle as old as time,” the author begins. “Animals follow the pattern of the seasons, too..”

Oh, what a concept natural rhythms arePrior to the invention of the electric light, humankind woke and slept by the light of these natural rhythms, following the cycle of seasons. Time’s passage was marked by

  • the sun’s light,
  • the moon’s phases, and
  • the star’s position.

As your curiosity continues to wander and wonder, you might begin to ask the following questions:

  • How has the advent of electricity affected human sleep patterns?
  • How has electric light affected jobs, productivity, factories, and even the times men and women go to work?
  • How does the equator affect weather and light?
  • How have people tracked time throughout history?
  • How were the hours marked in the Middle Ages?
  • Who made the first clock?
  • Were clocks ever made of wood? (Research Benjamin Banneker.)
  • How were time zones decided?
  • Who mapped out the longitudinal lines?
  • How was time kept at sea? (Research John Harrison.)
  • What about daylight savings time?
  • What is an atomic clock?
  • What is a leap second?

All this, and we haven’t even turned the page past the introduction. What a wonderful teacher the rabbit trail is!

Using What’s so special about Dickens? to Encourage Curiosity about Dickens, the Classics, and Victorian England

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

I was raised in a family where quoting Dickens dialogue around the supper table was normal fare. But how do you pass on that love to younger kids, who might be — with good reason! — intimidated by the immense size of Charles Dickens’ tales? How do you make Dickens approachable to kids? Michael Rosen’s book, What’s so special about Dickens?, is more than a biography; it’s a primer to Dickens-related cultural literacy topics. By weaving in the most beloved Dickensian vocabulary and quotes with overviews of four Dickens classics, Rosen provides kids with just enough Victorian English quirkiness — and Dickens’ genius — to make them search out one of the epic novels for themselves. (Any book that nudges people into a Dickensian world is a winner in my eyes!)

Reading a Dickens novel, says Michael Rosen, “is like being taken on a journey that affects the whole of your being.”

But while we’re waiting for the Dickens book we put on hold at the library to arrive, we can try our hand at these extension activities and research ideas:

  • Grab a book with a lot of dialogue, and try reading the different character’s lines dramatically, the way Dickens did. (page 1)
  • Make a list of all the books and stories the author mentions in this book. (No, they’re not all by Dickens. Don’t forget to check the timeline!) Which one do you most want to read?
  • Use a dictionary to look up all the words you don’t know. (I had to look up scimitar from page 16!)
  • Invent some characters and write a short story about them. (page 66)
  • The timeline contains milestones from Dickens’ life interspersed with notable historical events. Choose five — like the Corn Law riots, the assassination of Lincoln or the the Staplehurst railway crash — to research further.
  • What can you learn about life after the Industrial Revolution in Europe or England, or about the railway and brickmaking frenzy which followed? (page 52)
  • Research the history of children working in factories. What were working conditions like for children during Dickens’ life? (page 26)

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

And we can discuss these questions with our kids, too:

  • How were students treated in Dickensian schools? (pages 15 and 32)
  • In what ways might your life be different if you had been born in Dickensian England? In what ways would it be the same? (page 46)
  • If the Factory Act of 1833 were proposed in today’s time, how would people react? What changes might they make to the rules? (page 137)
  • How many references to Dickens’ characters and phrases do you recognize as commonly-used idioms? (page 128 and throughout book)
  • After reading the synopses of four different Dickens’ books, which one sounds the most interesting to you?

Now that’s enough to shake up even Mr. Smallweed of Bleak House fame!

Using Jabberwalking to Counteract Perfectionism and Encourage Curiosity About Writing and Art

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

After diving in to the prolific works of authors like Charles Dickens, it’s natural to feel a little intimidated about writing. So this is also the ideal time to switch gears and turn our attention to Jabberwalking by Juan Felipe Herrera, the United States’ first Mexican-American Poet Laureate. This book is so much fun. The title, of course, is a nod to Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem and is a call to kids everywhere (“and all those like me that cannot sit still”, adds the author) to pick up their pen and write while they walk. There’s absolutely no perfection in this process — Herrera invents words, mixes up the sizes of the fonts, and even causes the words to wrap around the sides of the pages sometimes. I love that!

“A Jabberwalking poem is not an essay or a novel or a…formula,” Juan Felipe Herrera writes. “A Jabber burble scribble poem is not even a typical poem…[it] loves to be free (wherever it lands) so it can loosen up your mind-brains to see things you have not seen before.”

What an absolutely wonderful antidote to the paralysis-inducing perfectionism which sometimes tortures gifted kids. And poet Juan cheers kids on to persevere, too.

“After four hours of nonstop Jabberwriting, after four hours of moving your Jabberhand…even — if you have misspelled everything! You, yes you! in four hours — will have an (what follows is indisputable!) ALMOST-BOOK…Yes…an honest-to-goodness almost-book.”

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

We’ll be re-reading this for years to come, I am certain. (Why can’t writing curriculums be this encouraging?) And Jabberwalking isn’t just about writing: it’s so motivating for art, too. The illustrations in this freeing book are wild and wonderful and infused with a whole lot of crazy. Here are some ways we tried our hand at this style ourselves:

  • Place your pencil on the paper, and draw an animal without lifting your pencil off the paper.
  • Close your eyes, and draw a portrait without looking.
  • If you’re left-handed, use your right hand. If you’re right-handed, switch to your left hand. Now draw a picture.
  • Fasten your paper to a clipboard, then march around the house while drawing.

And of course — don’t forget to jabberwrite.

Using Hello, I’m Johnny Cash to Encourage Curiosity About Modern American History and Music Tradition

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

When we had to tell this sweet girl we were up and moving away from our home, she’d sung enough Johnny Cash songs in her little life to know that moving to Tennessee meant being closer to the place her favorite singer once called home. It always touches me how deeply Johnny’s songs speak to her heart. She just adores the Man in Black’s music. (When she was an infant, only three singers could get her to stop crying: Josh Garrels, Enya, and Johnny Cash.)

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash looks like a picture book for young kids at first glance, but the lilting prose — written in columns, like lyrics — delivers a message that’s rich, deep, and touchingly poignant. (Although it’s a picture book, the publisher recommends this book for grades four through seven. I recommend it for adults, too!)

This is a biography, yes, but this book is also an absolutely perfect launching point to dive deeper into history, geography, and the American music tradition. The span of years covered in Hello, I’m Johnny Cash had a massive impact on American families, especially in the South. Simply by researching the significant historical events mentioned in the book — events like

  • the Great Depression,
  • the Dust Bowl,
  • the New Deal,
  • the Historic Dyess Colony agricultural resettlement project,
  • the cotton industry,
  • the Great Arkansas Flood of 1937, and
  • the plague of boll weevils and armyworms,

— you could build a fascinating year-long study of modern American history.

You could also explore the corresponding geography, looking at

  • Arkansas,
  • the Mississippi River Delta,
  • the Tyronza River,
  • Nashville,
  • Memphis
  • New Orleans,
  • Texas,

and the surrounding areas.

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

Of course, no study of the American South would be complete without digging in to the American music tradition.

“His songs gave a voice to the voiceless, capturing so many people’s heartaches, struggles, and triumphs; it seemed like he spoke to America just as America spoke to him.”

This book contains so many rabbit trails for further exploration. You can explore

and, of course, more of Johnny Cash’s songs. (Here’s a recording of Johnny Cash talking about his family’s experience during the Great Flood of 1937, then singing Five Feet High and Rising.)

Isn’t it amazing what a rich educational experience you can create simply by following your curiosity through a picture book?

Using Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover to Encourage Curiosity About Astronomy and Space

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

In 2011, the year my daughter was born, Curiosity launched into space. (That fact seems so appropriate to me.) This new book from Candlewick, Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, delivers a riveting first-hand account of space exploration — it’s told from the perspective of the Mars rover herself! And I love how author-illustrator Markus Motum chose to use so many pitch-black, star-sprinkled pages throughout. This design choice — along with the large size of the book itself — creates such a magical, immersive experience. (There’s even a two-page vertical spread for liftoff.)

Before we moved away from Florida, we used to be able to see launches right outside our front door. It was hard to leave the Space Coast behind, but this book — and the resulting exploration prompted by the book — helps keep that connection to space exploration alive.

We have enjoyed following a myriad of rabbit trails nearly as expansive as the universe itself, asking questions about,

and, of course, our favorite Space X missions, too. (You can watch SpaceX launches live!)

While we often think of education as learning information — and yes, we need a solid foundation of Truth — there is still so much undiscovered and unexplored. Curiosity is crucial. Asking questions about what we do not know drives the world forward, and opens up further inventions and discoveries.

“Most likely, the discoveries I make will lead to more questions,” writes Markus Motum as the Mars Rover, “…questions can be just as exciting as answers.”

Encourage your children to explore. Allow them space to marvel, and to be in awe.  Provide ample time to run down rabbit trails, and allow them to go off the path in pursuit of wonderment and curiosity.

After all, it’s in curiosity that the real learning begins.

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

Get 25% OFF your Purchase from Candlewick Press – and Enter to Win a Book, too!

Candlewick is generously offering a full 25% off discount! Just head over to the website, shop for favorite new Candlewick books, and enter the code CANDLEWICK at checkout. (You can also browse the full Spring-Summer 2018 Candlewick Press Catalog to see sample pages, expanded book descriptions, and more.) My favorite books from this season’s releases are

Of course, there are lots more great Candlewick titles, too.

Psst…you can also enter to win a Judy Moody fiction title from Candlewick Press, too. Click through the image or link below and fill in your name and email address on the resulting page. Giveaway ends on April 18th at 11 PM Eastern time.

CLICK TO ACCESS GIVEAWAY FORM

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool
As you forge ahead in your homeschool journey, do not fear the rabbit trail of sidetracking — embrace it.

Curiosity will serve you well.


If you found this homeschool how-to post helpful, why not pin Building Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool to Pinterest?

Homeschooling

50+ Reformation Songs for Kids (including an entire Reformation musical!)

50+ Reformation Songs for Kids (including an entire Reformation musical!) No-Prep Reformation Lessons

No-Prep Ways to Study the Reformation for Kids

Looking for last-minute, no-prep Reformation lessons to celebration the 500th anniversary? Me, too! I’m so thankful for these fun kids’ songs which make Reformation theology and history so accessible to children. Best of all, there’s no preparation required! [This post contains affiliate links.]

[We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.]

Kids’s Songs About Reformation Theology and History

In this instant-streaming, FREE Spotify playlist, you’ll find songs from the beloved Songs for Saplings series by Dana Dirksen and  Bruce Benedict’s Shorter Catechism project.

There’s even an entire children’s musical — Echoes of the Hammer, all about Luther. I just can’t say enough about this delightful, powerful, extraordinarily well-done musical!

(Don’t see the embedded playlist above? Click here to open Spotify in your web browser instead. It’s free, but you might have to sign up for a free account.)

Learning Reformation History Through Song

At least in our home, songs are one of the very best ways to learn. We love musical memory work! There’s just something about setting words to music that makes it stick. While the musical included in the playlist above gives you a longer overview of Reformation history, this Reformation Rock music video offers a quick overview. You can even print out Reformation Rock lyrics, too.

Create a Reformation Lapbook

In addition to these wonderful musical resources, our Reformation binder is on standby, too, ready to roll. (We’re big on three-ring binders around here.) Lapbooks definitely aren’t no-prep, bubt we’re stocked up on cardstock, and have our Home School in the Woods Renaissance and Reformation lapbook projects all queued up for the printer.

Although it’s getting too close to October 31 to order through the mail, you can purchase

(Not sure these paper projects would be your thing? You can see our experience with Project Passport to see if it’s what you had in mind.)

So what about you — how are you planning to mark #Reformation500? No-prep, spontaneous-prep, or all-the-prep? ;)


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some links above are “affiliate links” provided in conjunction with my participation in the Home School in the Woods’ affiliate program. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission [a small amount of money].  Please be assured, I only recommend products or services I use personally, and I will always disclose any such links. 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Homeschooling, How To, Uncategorized

Where to Buy Used Homeschool Curriculum

Where to Buy and Sell Used Homeschool Curriculum

Wondering where to buy inexpensive homeschool curriculum? Trying to figure out the best places to shop online for used homeschool books? Here’s the ultimate resource: a list of my favorite places to buy — and sell! — used curriculum and books. Let’s start with the websites.

Best Websites to Buy / Sell Used Homeschool Curriculum

Homeschool Classifieds

Homeschool Classifieds has been around for a long time. If you don’t mind having to scroll through long text lists (and then emailing the seller to see if the item is still available) you can often find things not easily found elsewhere. I’ve made many purchases through this venue; just ask lots of questions and ask for pictures of the item before you send money (always use Goods & Services, not Friends & Family, on PayPal).

eBay

My best tip? Look for buyers with 100% positive feedback — or even better, a “Top Rated Plus” insignia next to their username.  And if anything in the listing or the condition of the item seems unclear, send a message to the buyer and ask before you bid. If you’re auction-averse (I am), then just browse the Buy-it-Now listings.

Karen’s Kurriculum Korner

Karen has a physical store in Kentucky, but she also sells on Homeschool Classifieds, and often lists item on the Kurriculum Korner page on Facebook, too. If you need something specific, email her! I’ve purchased from her several times, and have had great experiences each time. (Unlike Homeschool Classifieds and eBay, of course, this isn’t a channel for you to sell your used books.)

Best Websites to Buy Cheap Used Books

Thrift Books

I feel like Thrift Books is one of the best kept secrets, but maybe it will be more well known now that half.com has met its demise. Most titles at Thrift Books are under $4, and for each order, there’s free shipping once you spend $10. What’s not to love? You’ll probably need another bookshelf soon anyway.

[Disclosure: The link above for Thrift Books is a referral link. No other links in this post are referral or affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase from Thrift Books, you’ll receive a  coupon for 15% off your first purchase, and I’ll receive a coupon for 20% off. I will receive no other compensation or product. As always, I’ll only recommend products or services I personally use and love, and I’ll always disclose such links.]

Best Facebook Groups  to Buy/Sell Used General Homeschool Curriculum

The vast majority of what’s in our bookshelves has been purchased either at thrift stores (more about that later), or in one of the many sale groups on Facebook.

Note that these closed groups are not the same as Marketplace! Marketplace on Facebook offers a framework, like Craigslist, for anyone to post an item for sale. Facebook Groups, on the other hand, are dedicated communities centered around a common interest — in this case, the buying and selling of specific categories of books. Facebook sale groups are super convenient, and I especially love how easy it is to ask questions or find out more about the condition/content of the items for sale.

What sale groups should you join? That depends what you wish to buy or sell. There are some broad groups for used homeschool curriculum in general, and other more specialized ones focused on particular publishers. Each group has different set of moderators and a different set of rules, so you’ll need to read those before you start buying or selling in that group. (These rules are typically in a pinned post or in the group’s description area, and often you won’t be able to see them until you’ve been admitted or approved as a member.)

Let’s start with the general groups designed for all types of used homeschool curriculum.

Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace

This is by far the largest homeschool Facebook sale group I’ve encountered. There are nearly ~60K members at the time of this posting! Be sure to read the rules carefully. To maintain the group at such a large size, the Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace moderators are very strict.

Homeschool Curriculum Sell / Exchange

With over ~26K members, the Homeschool Curriculum Sell/Exchange is great for shopping and selling alike.

Homeschooler Market- Buy, Sell & Trade

A very active group of ~20K members. I’ve had excellent experiences with Homeschooler Market- Buy, Sell & Trade. (This one might actually be my favorite of all the general groups.)

Homeschool Buy Sell Trade

The Homeschool Buy Sell Trade group (~17K) has rather particular guidelines, so be sure to read the rules.

Homeschool Used Curriculum Swap

I really enjoy browsing Homeschool Used Curriculum Swap. It’s  a wonderfully active group of ~12K.

Used Homeschool Books, Buy, Sell, Trade

The guidelines of Used Homeschool Books, Buy, Sell, Trade  (~8K) prohibit sale of entertainment books, allowing curriculum and educational books only. Your interpretation may vary.

Best Facebook Groups  to Buy/Sell Used Classical Homeschool Curriculum

If you’re looking for curriculum that’s more specialized or from a specific publisher, it makes sense to use one of the more niche groups, rather than sorting through hundreds of entries.  Here a few of the groups dedicated to classical curriculum.

Veritas Press Used Curriculum Buy / Sell / Trade

This is a newer group (disclosure: I admin this one) but it’s a great place if you’re looking for Veritas Press materials. If you’re looking for discussion, then you’ll want to head over to Veritas Press Homeschoolers, which I also admin.

Memoria Press Buy/Sell/Swap, Review & Discuss

If you use any Memoria Press curriculum, this group is a great resource, because it’s one of the few groups which also allows shopping and discussion in the same forum.

Classical Conversations Used Materials Buy/Sell/Trade/Share (and) Classical Conversation Exchange

Each of these two different groups is about the same size (~12K members). While both are centered around Classical Conversations resale,  people do freely buy and sell other non-CC curriculum, too. I would say the Exchange group has more of these non-CC items, which makes it a great resource even if you’re not a Classical Conversations family.

Well Trained Mind Curriculum Buy/Sell/Trade

This sale group is intended for reselling any of the many different curriculums recommended in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind. It’s a wonderful shopping spot for all things classical.

Tapestry of Grace Homeschooling Books and Used Curriculum

This group is moderated by Tapestry of Grace itself, and is fairly small (under 1K).

Tapestry of Grace Homeschooling books, Seek/Sell/Swap Spot

A bit larger (just over ~1K), this one, like the other Tapestry group, has a wealth of wonderful books, even if you’re not a TOG user. In fact, it really could have been listed under the next category, too — literature-based curriculum.

Best Facebook Groups  to Buy/Sell Used Literature-Based Homeschool Curriculum

Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum USED books Sell/Swap/Share

This is the larger of the two Sonlight sale groups, and has everything from individual readers to entire grade-sets, or cores.

Sonlight Homeschool Moms Swap & Shop

Newer than the above group, this sale community is moderated by the same team who run the Sonlight Homeschool Moms discussion group.

MFW, BP, MOH, SL, SOTW (Literature Based Curriculum)Buy/Sell/Trade

That’s a lot of acronyms! Let’s see…My Father’s World, Beautiful Feet, Mystery of History, Sonlight, Story of the World…phew! Note also, this one has very particular moderator guidelines for how to list items, so if you’re planning on selling, be sure to read the pinned post / group description first.

Charlotte Mason/Ambleside/ Living Books/USED materials for sale/share/swap

This is a wonderful resource for used Charlotte Mason curriculum. A nice-sized group, at ~8K members, it has lots of especially beautiful vintage books for sale.

But what if you’re just not into buying books online?

Best Ways to Find Local Used Homeschool Curriculum Sales

If you want to skip online buying / selling altogether, you have several options. The best sales are, in my experience, generally held in April, May and June. Any earlier or much later, and you won’t have as much luck. Keep those dates in mind when inquiring about local sales, too.

Used Book Sales at State Homeschool Conventions

Many homeschool conferences coordinate a huge annual consignment sale, often just for one night right before the conference begins. Check with your local organizations to see what’s available in your area.

Used Curriculum Sales Hosted by Local Homeschool Groups

In the early spring, I’ll sometimes email the largest area local homeschool groups in the, to ask if they’ll be hosting a sale. I’ve gotten some of my best deals at these small local sales.

Second-hand / Thrift Stores

When it comes to the book sections of thrift stores, they’re not all created equal. And time of year matters, too. I’ve found almost no homeschool curriculum locally, but when I visit my parents and browse second-hand stores there, I need  a second suitcase to  haul all my goodies home.

Location-Specific Used Homeschool Curriculum Groups on Facebook

Beyond the general “online garage sale” pages for your local area, do some searching within Facebook to see if there’s a used homeschool curriculum group specifically for your region (Orlando, for example, has several!) These can be terrific, because you can often arrange meet-ups to swap money/books, and save money on shipping.

And a bonus, because I am asked this next question all the time —

Where is the best place to buy Singapore Math books?

I’ve snagged some great deals in the general curriculum sale groups, but that does require time, since used Singapore Math books go very quickly.  eBay is sometimes an option, but since Singapore materials also holds its value so well, eBay prices aren’t really that much less than new. I often purchase new from the Singapore Math website. My top tip? Check the Singapore Math Bargain Corner. Several times, the item I was seeking was listed at a discount due to minor aesthetic damage. (And let’s be real, it would be aesthetically flawed after a week in our house, anyway. (Read more about why Singapore Math works best for us.)

What about you?  How do you keep your bookshelves filled?

Did I miss your favorite place to buy used homeschool books, or leave out a Facebook group you admin? Add a note in the comments, and I’ll add it to the appropriate category above.

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Homeschooling, How To

How to Study Art History with Kids: FREE Printable

Figuring out how to study art with kids doesn’t have to be complicated. This free, no-strings-attached printable provides art history discussion prompts you can use with any piece of art you encounter in your homeschool studies.

How to Study Art History with Kids: FREE Printable from the Oaxacaborn blog

This post contains affiliate links.

Art is important, especially in a classical education dedicated to the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness.  “An art work can be a doxology in itself”, penned Francis Schaeffer — and he’s right, of course.  But since art elicits such a subjective emotional response, it can often be hard for kids to move past the initial  “I like it” / “I don’t like it” reactions when they’re introduced to  a new work of art.   This printable list of questions will give you, as the parent instructor, concrete ways to guide conversation and provoke discussion about the art you’re studying, regardless of whether you adore or dislike the artwork at hand.

Download the FREE “How to Study Art” printable here.

Want a little more insight into how this discussion template works? I developed it to use in my art history class at our local co-op, with students from grades two through five. Naturally, these discussions function best if you have access to some background information about the art you’re studying, so you can accurately answer inquiries or direct additional independent research. You’ll probably want a book, like the approachable 13 Paintings Children Should Know (that’s one painting each month for just over a year!) or the Usborne Children’s Book of Art, but you can use digital images from the internet, too. As I’ve used this method, here’s what I’ve found. To begin, the four anchors of this approach are as follows —

  • Be curious
  • Be a detective
  • Be a thoughtful
  • Be creative

So let’s start at the beginning, with curiosity.

Be curious.

In the pursuit of any topic, but especially art history, curiosity is key. Curiosity can lead us beyond the surface into a vast, hidden world of previously-undiscovered stories surrounding the art, artist, historical period, and genre.

Ask: “What does this work show you?”

When introducing a work of art for the first time, I like to ask kids, “What does this work show you?” Depending on the age of the students, answers to this question will be either extremely literal (“it shows me a person”) or more abstract (“it shows me how hard life was in this era”.) Neither type of answer is incorrect, and any response can be used as a springboard for further discussion.

Ask: “Why did the artist create this work?”

Sometimes we’ll be able to uncover the answer to this question (“this portrait was commissioned by the king”), while other times, the reason behind the work’s creation remains a mystery.  As the instructor, you’ll want to guide this discussion. It’s is a great time to fill in the details about the artist’s life, and provide a sense of historical context.

Be a detective.

Essentially any work of art presents a bit of a mystery, and kids love to act as detectives.

Ask: “What hidden secrets can you find?”

This prompt encourages close observation of the work at hand, inviting kids to take in all the little details — figures hidden in shadows, small inscriptions on books or boxes, delicate brushstrokes indicating texture, and subtle expressions. In my experience, kids love this step, and don’t even realize how closely they’re studying art.

Ask: “What colors do you see?”

This is another favorite! Often, I make this an interactive question, by pulling out a large set of oil pastels, and ask the students to set aside every color they can find in the painting.

Be thoughtful.

At this point in the art discussion, students have gathered — through their own answers and through your direction toward truth — a great deal of information about the featured artwork.

Ask: “How does the work make you feel?”

Sometimes, the artist created the work specifically to elicit a certain response in the viewer, or to convey a specific message. Other times, the art is free to be interpreted any way at all. Regardless, answers to this question will vary more widely than those to any other discussion topic so far.

Ask: “How might the artist have felt when creating it?”

We won’t always know the answer to this, but historical and autobiographical information — and the contrast between the work at hand and the artist’s other pieces — can give us clues. Encourage children to use this type of information to support their answers.

Be creative.

In my art history classes, every discussion about art ends with some sort of hands-on project. While it isn’t always possible to transform inspiration into a tangible application — or do every project a student wants to undertake — discussing the link between art which already exists and the creation of new art is important.

Ask: “How does this work inspire you?”

While this question seems similar to “How does the work make you feel?”, you might notice the answers will probably be more centered around action, and creation, rather than emotions.

Ask: “What does it make you want to create?””

I love this question, because the answers are as unique as the individuals themselves.  Just as a lover of words may be called to sit down and write, while one who loves the outdoors might be drawn to create a new path through a rugged wilderness, art will speak to each person in a different way. An architect may be inspired to create a building; a chef, a mouth-watering meal. The answers to this question can, but don’t necessarily need to, involve the creation of art in the traditional sense — so don’t be surprised when kids answer this question in ways you didn’t expect.

Introducing the study of art history isn’t an intimidating endeavor. You don’t need any special qualifications, or even any artistic ability. All you need is a love of beauty, a sense of curiosity, and either one really good art book or a collection of digital images (the National Gallery of Art collections are immense, and many of the image pages include background information, too).

Begin your study of art today. Download the FREE “How to Study Art” printable here.

P.S. Want more resources ideal for homeschool co-ops? Join my closed Facebook group, Homeschool Co-op Teachers, an online community of like-minded parent-teachers.

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