Save Your Sanity! Tips for the Homeschooling Mom


If you’re new to homeschooling, or still in the stage of considering having a go at it, the prospect can be daunting. You look around at other homeschooling families, and they seem to have it all together, but we all started at the same spot you’re in right now….

The first thing to keep in mind is that relationships are more important than academics. Your kids’ hearts are more important than their grades or achievements. You are the most qualified person to be in charge of your child’s education, because you love them more than anyone else and want the best for them. Be confident!

In addition to these tips, we’ve put together a packet of Homeschool Helps, including planners, graphic organizers, record logs, and templates to help you on your journey! 

Keep a record of all the books you read for school, not just the textbooks / curricula. This is especially important if you’re a Charlotte Mason or Unit Studies family.  Read aloud to your children…no matter their age. The snuggles are priceless, and the books will often lead to soul-searching conversations with teens. If you’re not sure where to start, check out The Read-Aloud Family.

Learn about the different homeschooling styles so that it’s easier to search for relevant tips. You can learn about different homeschooling styles here.  And if you don’t finish the full curriculum, don’t stress over it. There’s so much overlap in the grades that missing some lessons at the end of the year doesn’t really matter. What matters is finishing the year, taking time off to rest, and enjoying time with your children.

There is no one right or wrong curriculum. Take some time to decide what you want your children’s education to look like and find the curriculum that works for your family. And remember, there will be hard days — this is not an easy task, but it is totally worth it. {Fifty Reasons to be Thankful for Home School (on the Hard Days)}

Seek community. You are not on your own in this homeschooling journey! A helpful, inspiring homeschool community can do wonders for your morale. If you don’t belong to a homeschool community, there are many options available. You can join a local association, co-op, or even an encouraging online homeschool group.  At SchoolhouseTeachers, the Mama’s Corner has regular get-togethers to foster community!

Don’t be scared to change if something isn’t working. That’s one of the great things about homeschooling- you can change to suit you and your kids’ needs. You can change schedules, curriculum, topics, routines, anything…and it will all be just fine.  Remember your WHY.  Why did you start homeschooling?  What’s your ultimate goal here?  In A Parent’s Alphabet, we lay out several reasons, from A to Z, to help you refocus.

For high school students, follow your state’s graduation requirements. There are usually multiple tracks – one for college-bound students and one for general education – and it is of the utmost importance that you follow them if your child is college-bound. You can learn more about transcripts and requirements here.

A vision is so important and so grounding. I recommend mom finding a personal vision for school. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hint, Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie, and certainly anything by Ruth Beechick.

Sometimes you just get a little bit down, or off-kilter.  When that happens, and it will, look to Words of Encouragement for New (or Weary) Moms.  You’ll find yourself bouncing back in no time!

Maybe you just have too many things going on at once.  We know…we’ve been there, too.  In Prioritizing Your Life, you’ll find a free downloadable e-book to help you sort things out, find more time in the day, and settle in a bit.

Every mom, homeschooling or otherwise, can use a bit of pampering in her life!  Like they say on the airplanes, if you don’t put your oxygen mask on, you can’t save someone else.  Or in this case…when mom’s burnt out and ready to give up, nothing is getting accomplished.  Find your zen in Pampering for the Homeschool Mom.

A schedule is your servant, not your master, but schedule is a wonderful tool to help you accomplish your homeschooling goals, and just because you have a plan for each day doesn’t mean each day will go according to schedule. You will have interruptions, accidents, spills, and people dropping in. But you can take control!  See how Flexible Scheduling Can Work for You.

The initial excitement of homeschooling is important. It helps plunge you into a whole new way of thinking and living. Over time, however, and as you progress, the excitement sometimes wanes and the demands of homeschooling can become overwhelming, exhausting, engulfing.  Remember to focus on Personal Wellness and Homeschooling for long-term success!

Homeschooling is a full time job. Act like it. Just because you don’t have to drive anywhere doesn’t mean you can’t have special school hours where nothing else gets scheduled. Guard your time you set aside, whenever that time is. All the other things can be scheduled around the few hours you need to get school time accomplished.  See how you can manage the Hardest Part of Homeschooling, when it’s not the kids.

You really can leave grade levels and school metrics behind, and build an interest-led, completely personalized homeschool experience for your children based in your unique family culture.  Finding a mentor, another homeschooling parent to talk to regularly, is a huge boost!  Need a hand up?  See 5 Homeschooling Mentors You Need to Follow.

When we fill our well up, we’re doing our family a favor. When we take care of ourselves, we have a better self to give. We are more present, we probably check our phones less often, and because our needs are met, we enjoy our time with our children. The time we give to ourselves matters and can help us to let go of any resentment and anger.  Pick up strategies for prioritizing at A Home School Mom’s Guide To Self-Care And Keeping Anger At Bay.

Whatever you are great at, whatever makes your heart happy, whatever your child/children do well with —do that first.  It may seem counterproductive to start with the one subject or thing that where you are actually on target or ahead when you feel like you are behind in everything else, but it usually results in more cooperative and happy kids.  See other things to try When Your Homeschool Moring Is Giving You The Blues.

Finally, don’t forget to fill up your tank!  Whether it’s with a cute shirt or kitschy homeschool gear, a treat that relaxes you and brings you joy, or simple inspiration, find something that speaks to you and remember the old adage — when mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!


You’ll definitely want to check out…

 homeschool coffee

38 Ways to Teach Writing (that are FUN!)

teaching writing

Writing is an integral part of the language arts classes taught at Sparks Academy. We offer four levels of instruction, each building upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college! But maybe you don’t want a full class….how can you make writing fun at home?

Literature Studies & Living Books

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool. Scroll down to snag pre-made bundles of novel studies!

Literature Units for Middle School

Virtual Classes
  • My Side of the Mountain & Wilderness Survival
  • Serafina and the Seven Stars & the Biltmore House
  • Serafina and the Black Cloak & Appalachian Folklore
  • Serafina and the Splintered Heart & Writing a Ghost Story
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Alex Rider & Spies
  • Ranger’s Apprentice & Creative Writing
  • Theodore Boone & Understanding the Legal System

Literature Units for High School

  • Oliver Twist & the Industrial Revolution
  • Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism
  • The Things they Carried & the Vietnam War
  • Five People You Meet in Heaven & Human Impact
  • The Chosen & the Zionist Movement
  • Things Fall Apart & the Colonization of Africa

Online Classes

Another fun option for teaching writing is through the language arts classes Sparks Academy! There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1, High School 2, High School 3, and Level 7. (The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Writing Projects & Activities

Writing Units

Writing Activities

Maybe you just need help with writing feedback for your student? We’ve got you covered!! Use the form specifically for the Good & Beautiful or any other curriculum.

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51 Ways to Teach World History with Literature

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

world history

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach World History through literature, here are 51 units to try….and don’t discount audiobooks, too! They’re a great addition to a busy homeschooling day!

Another fun option for teaching history is the World History class offered through Sparks Academy. This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

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  • Motel of the Mysteries & Archaeology
  • Island Boy & Ancient Hawaii
  • Encounter & the Tainos
  • A Loyal Foe & Wars of the Roses
  • Around the World in 80 Days & International Eats
  • Number the Stars & the Holocaust
  • To Kill a Mockingbird & Racism
  • House of the Seven Gables & Witch Trials
  • The Night Witches & Women in Aviation
  • The Lookout Tree & the Great Acadian Upheaval
  • Animal Farm & the Russian Revolution
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose & Josef Stalin
  • King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table
  • True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
  • Flashback Four: Pompeii Disaster
  • Someday We Will Fly
  • Zlata’s Diary & the Slavic Wars
  • Treasure Island & Pirates of the Caribbean Sea
  • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
  • Red Stars & Russia in World War 2
  • The Long List of Impossible Things & Post-War Germany
  • A Tale of Two Cities & French Revolution
  • The World Made New & Early Explorers
  • Kane Chronicles + Egyptian Mythology
  • Percy Jackson + Greek Mythology
  • Heroes of Olympus + Roman Mythology
  • Magnus Chase + Norse Mythology
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream + Celtic Mythology
  • The Golden Bull + Mesopotamian Mythology
  • Call It Courage + Polynesian Mythology
  • Mansa Musa + African Mythology
  • Tristan Strong + African-American Mythology
  • Charlie Hernandez + Hispanic Mythology
  • Aru Shah + Hindu Mythology
  • The Storm Runner + Mayan Mythology
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon + Chinese Mythology
  • The Dragon Pearl + Korean Mythology
  • Coyote’s Daughter + Native American Mythology
  • Race to the Sun + Navajo Mythology
  • We Were There with Byrd at the South Pole
  • We Were There at the Normandy Invasion
  • We Were There at the Battle for Bataan
  • We Were There with Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusades
  • We Were There with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea
  • We Were There at the Battle of Britain
  • We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma
  • We Were There with Caesar’s Legions
  • We Were There with Charles Darwin on H.M.S. Beagle
  • We Were There with the Lafayette Escadrille
  • We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge
  • We Were There on the Nautilus
  • The King’s Fifth
  • Red Falcons of Tremoine
  • Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
  • Red Hugh of Ireland
  • Calico Captive
  • The Story of Eli Whitney
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • The Lost Kingdom
  • The Secret Garden
  • Heidi
  • Girl of the Limberlost
  • The Winged Watchman
  • When the Dikes Broke

Charlotte Mason History

If you’re more of a simply-Charlotte-Mason style family, check out the Homeschool Garden sessions. These easy to implement sessions are planned out and ready for you to place in your schedule wherever it fits best.  I could spend several hours trying to dig up resources, but they have already done the work for me (and really, who has that kind of time anymore?).  They have a variety of subject sessions, plus five different Advent studies, and you’re sure to find a few that intrigue your family.  One of the best parts about these units is that everything is included – there are no other purchases required. See inside a sample session here.

Want to give it a go? Use code FRIENDSANDFAMILY to take 50% off any one session (not bundles) at The Homeschool Garden.  Where it asks, be sure to tell them Yvie sent ya!  😊

You can find all of the above novel studies in the five unit bundles below! (Sample units are in blue.) Enjoy the journey, and remember….DO THE VOICES!!!

45 Ways to Teach US History & Geography with Literature

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

us history

Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach American History and Geography through literature, here are 45 units to try….and don’t discount audiobooks, too! They’re a great addition to a busy homeschooling day!

Another fun option for teaching history are the US History and Government/Constitution classes at Sparks Academy! This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

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  • Casualties of War & Vietnam War
  • No Promises in the Wind & the Great Depression
  • Out of the Dust & the Dust Bowl
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham & Civil Rights
  • Dusty Sourdough & Alaska
  • The King of Mulberry Street & Ellis Island Immigration
  • Paper Son & Angel Island Immigration
  • The Red Menace & McCarthyism
  • Johnny Tremain & Faces of the American Revolution
  • Sounder & Sharecropping
  • World War II Code Talkers
  • Flashback Four: Hamilton-Burr Duel
  • Within These Lines & Japanese Internment Camps
  • Flashback Four: Titanic Mission
  • Flashback Four: Lincoln Project
  • Freedom Summer & the Summer of 1964
  • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
  • The Great Gatsby & the Roaring Twenties
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond & Salem Witch Trials
  • The World Made New & Early Explorers
  • Stitching a Life & Jewish Immigration
  • We Were There on the Oregon Trail
  • We Were There at the Battle of Gettysburg
  • We Were There at the Boston Tea Party
  • We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush
  • We Were There with the Mayflower Pilgrims
  • We Were There with the Pony Express
  • We Were There with the California Forty-Niners
  • We Were There with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys
  • We Were There with Jean Lafitte at New Orleans
  • We Were There at the Oklahoma Land Run
  • We Were There on the Chisholm Trail
  • We Were There at Pearl Harbor
  • We Were There when Washington Won at Yorktown
  • We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo
  • We Were There at the Opening of the Erie Canal
  • We Were There at the Battle of Lexington and Concord
  • We Were There with Lewis and Clark
  • We Were There when Grant Met Lee at Appomattox
  • We Were There with the California Rancheros
  • We Were There at the First Airplane Flight
  • We Were There on the Santa Fe Trail
  • We Were There at the Driving of the Golden Spike
  • We Were There at the Opening of the Atomic Era
  • We Were There on the Nautilus
  • We Were There with Lincoln in the White House

You can find all of these in the three unit bundles below! (Sample units are in blue.) Enjoy the journey, and remember….DO THE VOICES!!!

18 Ways to Teach Science through Literature

science nature homeschool

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach science through literature, here are 18 units to try….

science literature pin
  • Fever 1793 + Epidemics in World History
  • Willa of the Wood + Basic Foraging
  • Shouting at the Rain + Severe Weather
  • Nick & Tesla + Nikola Tesla / Electricity
  • N&T Robot Army Rampage + Introductory Robotics
  • N&T Secret Agent Gadget Battle + Spy Gadgets
  • N&T Super Cyborg Gadget Glove + Robotics
  • N&T Special Effects Spectacular + Making Special Effects
  • N&T Solar Powered Showdown + Solar Energy
  • Misty of Chincoteague & Horses
  • Hugo Cabret & Clocks / Time
  • Caroline’s Comet & Astronomy
  • Fuzzy Mud & Microbiology
  • Hatchet & Outdoor Skills
  • Legacy of Flight & Airplanes / Flight
  • The Science of Breakable Things & the Scientific Method
  • Frankenstein & Human Anatomy
  • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

Another fun option for teaching science is the Physical Science class offered through Sparks Academy! This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Using Living Books to Homeschool

When you were a kid, did you learn more from textbooks or from reading books just for fun? I definitely learned a lot more from historical fiction than from any history textbook!

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school). But, by using living books in your homeschool, coupled with family-style learning, it can be so much more FUN and rewarding.  Plus, when you use living books in your homeschool, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What is a Living Book?

Living books are reading material that pull you into a subject and get you emotionally involved with the characters (a la chapter books), so it’s easier to remember the events and facts.  These books literally bring the event(s) they are talking about to life with storylines and imagination! When is the last time a textbook made you feel alive and invested in what was being studied? Probably never.

Living Books….

  • Allow the reader to visit another era and experience the culture or history.  During the ‘Rona, one of the books we read together was Fever 1793. We like to take our read-alouds and turn them into learning units, like this one, to reinforce concepts learned in the story.
    • TIP: If you’re using read-alouds as a base for school, it’s helpful to read multiple books about the same event. Having different perspectives helps students to learn critical thinking skills.
  • Put the reader into the book.  This allows your children to experience different cultures and places that they may not otherwise see. The more detailed the descriptions, the more vividly your child will relate, and it is through learning about and relating to other cultures that we break down barriers. 
    • TIP: Cultural literacy is learning about other perspectives, including across genders, world regions, and historic eras. It is helpful if you have some background knowledge to incorporate the protagonist’s perspective — so if you are going to read a book set during the Civil War, do a bit of research on the Civil War before reading the novel. It will help bring the story to life!

Benefits of Family-Style Reading

Reading together as a family helps to encourage a lifelong love of reading and literature. Whether you begin when your child is a newborn or as a teen, there are so many positive effects!  

Note to parent: If you do not start reading aloud until your child is a teen, there will be a transitional time as they become accustomed. Do not give up!

Tips for Using Living Books as Read-Alouds

1. Do the voices

Sure, you might feel goofy at first, but nothing gets children engaged in a story faster than having a different voice for each character! Through the years, we’ve had many a good laugh as mom tried to pull off several accents, with varying degrees of success. But you know what? They remember the stories!

2. Let them be active

Legos, play-do, and coloring books are great quiet activities to keep hands occupied while ears are listening. It never hurts to pause and ask a few questions, but you’ll probably find that they are more engaged than you think.

3. Read from many genres

Mix it up, with historical fiction from multiple eras, contemporary fiction, and the occasional non-fiction.

4. Keep a home library

Yard sales, Facebook groups, and consignment stores are a great place to scout used books. Even if your child is a toddler, when you find a classic piece for a few years down the road, go ahead and snag it. A good home library will encompass many different topics and genres, including both fiction and non-fiction books.

5. Read every day

Whether you read for five minutes or an hour, set aside some time each and every day to read.  We get it…busy days mean shorter reading times.  But it’s too easy to get out of the habit, so make it a priority!  If necessary, use an audiobook to do the reading in the car.

6. Pass the book

If your children are old enough, take turns reading. Keep it age-level appropriate and for short lengths of time. When my children started reading aloud with the family, they read one paragraph at a time, then a page, and then a full chapter.

7. Read at level AND below level

As an adult, do you only read collegiate-level and above books? Neither do I. Sometimes it’s nice to settle in with a fun book, regardless of the target age range. For struggling readers, this can help them feel more successful, too, as they build those skills.

8. Use picture books.

In the non-fiction realm, picture books are an excellent way to help illustrate and explain difficult concepts… I’m looking at you, science! But also understand that not every book needs pictures. Not having pictures in a book allows children to stretch their imaginations and come up with those mental images.

Choosing Quality Books

As with everything in life, there is yin and yang. When choosing living books for read-alouds, or as a base for studies, keep in mind that not all books are “good” books.  “Good” books…

  • Have realistic characters. They are flawed. They live in the real world. But they often learn to overcome their flaws during the story.
  • Teach a moral lesson. Whether through acceptance or overcoming, the protagonist learns some sort of character lesson in the story.
  • Are engaging. These are not dry reads, but intriguing plots full of details that will keep the reader hooked and involved.

“Bad” books…

  • Are not real world. In these books, everything is awesome. Or horrible. There are no real-life events. Or they are overly moralistic.
  • Are poorly written. With poor grammar and speech (we’re not talking about the use of dialects, which can add to the authenticity), these books do more harm than good for your student’s mastery of language arts.
  • Have poor characters. They are boring, self-absorbed, and do not learn anything through the story.

Using Living Books to Study Core Subjects

Sparks Academy

The language arts classes at Sparks Academy utilize five to six novels each year to teach history, geography, character, and literary concepts. Each of the four levels builds upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college!  There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1High School 2High School 3, and Level 7(The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.