6 Tips For Attending A Homeschool Conference

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We just came away from the Nashville Teach Them Diligently Convention and I’m reminded once again of why it’s so important to attend homeschool conventions!

Even though we were only there as vendors I left encouraged as a homeschooling parent myself! There is something about the environment there, you see swarms of other families walking through the vendor hall and you know they are on this crazy difficult, yet super successful journey of educating their children at home. You suddenly rouse from your little cocoon shell and realize how many other families are out there on the same path as you.

We know in our heads that other families homeschool, and we even have friends around us. But when you are suddenly around hundreds of other families it changes things. Your spirit is lifted and it gives you hope to keep pressing on!

Life is really busy but I’m still attending our local homeschool convention this weekend as parents, not vendors. I need the encouragement and the fresh breath of new air. I want to feel the books in my hands and chat with other moms across the table.

After watching hundreds of moms walk by our booth, I started seeing what moms looked calm and put together, and what moms were super frazzled. Here are some tips I have to share based on people watching! 🙂

Sean and our two boys at our Character Badges booth! 

1. Don’t bring your young children to convention!

I know this isn’t possible, but try to leave them with family or friends! Take this one weekend to come and be encouraged without needing to deal with toddlers crying and fussing. I felt so sorry for the moms who had 3 young children with them who were unhappy. I’m definitely not of the mind set that my children go everywhere I go. I think it’s healthy to have some time as mothers to recharge for the new homeschooling year ahead.

If you have a young baby you need to bring, try to use a baby carrier instead of bringing a stroller. The aisles are normally crowded and it slows you down a lot. I love my Tula baby carrier!

2. Ditch the purse!

Bring a backpack to wear instead of a heavy purse. Or bring a cart to pull around that you can keep a small bag with just your essentials in, and then you can put all your new purchases there.

3. Bring a notebook.

If at all possible, attend the speaker sessions and write down thoughts! By the end of the weekend you will have ingested so much new information that your notes will be very helpful as a refresher when you get home.

Sean speaking on the Not Now Parenting talk for Character Badges 

4. Take pictures on your camera

I bring my phone along and snap all sorts of pictures of books throughout the weekend. While I wish I could buy every single book I wanted, we all obviously have budgets and limitations! I take pictures of books that I think I might be able to get at the library, or if it’s an item I want to research more. Instead of taking the time to write the title down, I just snap a quick picture.

5. Bring along sticker labels with your name and address.

There are so many giveaways at homeschool conferences! I know I gave away a $50 gift certificate to Deborah & Co. at our booth and had lots of ladies enter! It’s so smart to print off sticker labels with your name, address, email address and maybe your phone number on there. Then you can just peel it off and quickly enter!

Our Deborah & Co. booth!

6. Take a look at the whole map and plan out your day.

Figure out where you want to start in the vendor hall and have a plan. You are going to miss booths unless you start at one end and go clear through to the other end. Our booths were at the left hand side of the wall and we had people come up at the very end of convention saying they had just gotten over to our side! Make sure you at least quickly walk through the whole convention hall so you can discover new businesses! I found a new geography program that looked interesting because I quickly walked through the aisles and it caught my eye.

If you don’t have a conference near you, or childcare just isn’t available to you this year, make sure you still fill your tank. We put together an online homeschool conference last year and there are some amazing messages still available for you to listen to!

You still can receive access to all 12 sessions and receive the free homeschool planner! We had a physical copy printed out of the homeschool planner at the convention we just attended and everyone loved it that came by and looked.

I hope these tips helped and that you receive some fresh encouragement this spring!


Mere Motherhood – Why Every Mother Needs This Book

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This post is sponsored by Circe Institute 

I love to read encouraging books for mothers. Because life is busy I often find myself just skimming through books, and I don’t take the time to read a book from cover to cover.

There are the exceptions though. It’s the time when I open up a book and I find myself instantly lost in the words on the pages, and I just can’t put it down! The last two books that were like this for me were The Life Giving Home and Teaching From Rest.

It’s happened again. And it’s a book that I haven’t heard much talk about, so chances are that you are not aware of what you are missing out on.

And that would be a shame.

Because the longer time goes on, the more I truly see how desperately women need encouragement. We need to be reminded of what really matters, and what we can let go of.

So here goes…the reveal of the book you must read!

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins is written mainly to homeschooling moms, though others might find it refreshing as well. Cindy is one of the pioneer homeschooling moms having started her homeschool journey in the 1980’s. This book tells her life story of raising her 9 children, and the sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth sailing road she walked on.

Cindy does not spend page after page exalting all the good things she did for her children growing up. Instead she gives you a look into their real life, what actually happened as she learned how to be a homeschooling mother and how to raise 8 sons (!!!) and 1 daughter. Her humbleness is what really stood out to me. You can tell she wants other mothers to learn from her mistakes and life lessons.

Morning time and the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling is talked about quite a bit, so if you are strictly a textbook homeschooler you should be aware of that before you order the book.

Cindy raised her children in the conservative homeschooling movement the same time I was growing up. It was so interesting to read through some of her thoughts on issues that were hot topics 20 years ago. They still are topics discussed today, but I think some families have learned over the years not to be so strict in their interpretations of these issues. Cindy does not expound page after page on these issues, but what she does say is so pointed and truthful.

Cindy talks about grammar problems, morning time struggles, puberty issues with boys, the struggles of fixing up an old house, moving from house to house, how they learned from books, giving birth 9 times, and multiple other topics of interest to the homeschooling mother!

If you read through this book, make sure you have a highlighter in hand and a notebook to jot down thoughts. I’m using a Webster’s Color Crush planner and notebook.

If morning time is something you want to start doing in your homeschool day, or you just need new ideas, her little handbook on morning time is good to grab! It gives specific ideas on Bible time, poetry time, singing, Shakespeare and more.

If you need more ideas on morning time and what it even is, I wrote about it here.

You can order Mere Motherhood from Circe Institute. Enter below for a chance to win a free copy! USA residents only please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway








Finally! The Writing Program That Is Working For Our Family!

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I think every homeschooling family has areas they’re strong in and areas they’re weak in. For our family, English is our weaker subject. I’ve tried several different programs, but I’ve found a lot of them to be expensive, which makes trying out new ones, well, expensive. 🙂

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by the Institute in Excellence for Writing booth, and longingly looked at their products but walked away feeling overwhelmed by it all. That all changed however, the day we went to a convention in Nebraska with our Character Badges business and I had the chance to hear Andrew Pudewa speak in person, and also talk with the amazing salesperson at the booth.

The Student Writing Intensive course from IEW has been such a blessing for our family! Our 5th and 7th grade sons are using it, with great success! Check out why in the post.

Somehow I managed to walk away from hearing Mr. Pudewa speak on spelling feeling renewed in all areas of homeschooling. He’s a very engaging speaker and I was disappointed when the talk ended! I immediately left and went to visit the IEW booth, and there met the sales lady who walked me through the different programs. Kudos to her – she did an amazing job!

This year we are using the IEW level B writing program. I was originally going to use it for our 3rd grader as well, but after looking at it more closely I decided she wasn’t up for it quite yet. So our 5th and 7th grade sons are doing it together, and it couldn’t be a more perfect fit.

A daily week of using IEW looks like this….

The first day they watch the DVD where Mr. Pudewa is teaching. The setting is a live classroom, so you watch him interact with students. He can be incredibly funny, and my boys have been known to go back and watch parts over again just because they want to hear the funny parts more than once!

It will change as we get further into the curriculum, but for now the rest of the week they learn how to pick out key words from each sentence, give me an oral narration, and then write the story out again using the key words they had written down. The rest of the week they have reinforcement paragraphs to work on.

IEW Writing Program for middle age school children. This has been the best writing curriculum ever for my homeschooled boys!

I really love all the helpful checklists which are great for not just my boys to follow along, but for me to instruct them in.

Institute in Excellence in Writing level B.

Also included in this set are DVD’s where Mr. Pudewa teaches the homeschooling mom how to teach the lessons. I’ll admit, I’ve only watched 2 of these sessions and we have just kept going without me staying on top of watching the DVD’s. I think they’re great, but I just don’t have time right now.

So what do my boys think about this? We all know that boys are known for not liking to write. 🙂

My 7th grader is in love with the program. He really enjoys all the different aspects of it and rarely complains about doing it.

My 5th grade son normally groans when I say it’s time to do writing, but after he gets going he usually does a good job without any difficulty in following the instructions. Writing just isn’t his thing, (unless you ask him to write about the civil war all the time). 🙂 Overall, I’m pleased with how he has done as we have tried other writing programs that have not been nearly as successful. He told me he loves the videos as he enjoys Mr. Padua and how he teaches.

IEW writing program

Never fear dear mother. At first glance this program can look overwhelming, but once you dive in and get started, it’s really not as difficult as you think! Be as involved of a teacher you want. If you are a large family homeschooling mama, you might be more hands off, because you are off chasing the baby and trying to keep the toddler out of the toilet while your older children are actually learning from someone besides yourself for a change. 🙂 Enjoy the break as Mr. Pudewa instills in your children a love of learning!

To find out more, go to the IEW website and browse by subject. You can find the exact writing program I talked about here.

*Disclaimer – I received these products free of charge to review. I was not paid for this review, and all thoughts are strictly my own.


How I’m Finding Balance In My Life

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Sometimes you just have to do something drastic in your life. That’s the point I came to this year, and it honestly wasn’t even very drastic. But I desperately needed some balance, because (insert surprised look here) there really is only 24 hours to a day!

I felt like I was attempting everything and achieving nothing. I gave an ounce of energy to homemaking, or to homeschooling, or to my marriage, but it never felt like enough. This blog has really not been kept up like it should, simply because I didn’t feel like I had the emotional or physical energy to write (thank you dear reader, for hanging in there and being patient!).

How I'm finding balance in my life. As a busy homeschooling mom, I needed some things to change! Here is what I did.

So what did I do that changed everything?

I put my children in a one day a week homeschool co-op, where they attend by themselves.

That translates into me being home for 6 hours without my 3 older children. 6 hours a week people. It’s not that much, but it has been an enormous help.

Before this I was at the point that I was literally crying everyday. I just felt like I could never keep up, and homeschooling was the most difficult thing. I love homeschooling, but there was a lot of stress surrounding it for several different reasons. It’s always a challenging year when you have an active toddler, and Sophia is by far our most active toddler!


(Minutes after this picture was taken, she was trying to eat the Loving Family people!)

Now I have this six hours a week to focus on working while they are gone, and doing some school with my first grader alone. It’s amazing. I work as hard as I can, making a to do list and working through it while they are gone.

I’m finding that I’m more focused on the other days, because I know I have that one day a week set aside now for these other tasks, so I don’t have to worry about trying to cram them in. My older children will get the fun science experiments, my oldest will receive help in math that he needs, my middle two children are learning how to use a computer in ways that I never would have thought to teach them (does anyone else think to teach a 10 year old how to make a slideshow and set up a Google Document?).

Yesterday I throughly enjoyed homeschooling. At the end of the day I was tired, but happy with what we got done.

Are you struggling in finding balance in life? What could be changed about your life to slow things down?

Struggling with fixing meals? How about creating a very simple 7 day meal plan that you use over and over again. Stop trying to think through what you are going to make each night, and just keep it some basic, favorite meals that your family likes!

Is it hard to keep your house clean? Box up extra toys, and just put them away for awhile if you don’t want to actually get rid of them. Leave out only a few toys and see if the house stays cleaner.

Are your children fighting all the time? Stop and pray with them, talk to them about how God wants them to love each other, and consider getting a set of Character Badges to encourage them in good behavior!

Character Badges is a creative child training program

Does your marriage need a pick me up? Don’t merely survive for years on end, make it a priority to get away for a weekend if at all possible. Even though Sean and I went to California recently for a business trip and not a marriage getaway, it was the best thing every for our marriage! Just a few days away where we could actually talk without getting interrupted, and plan out where we were going with our business and family.

Are you struggling through that first year with the baby, feeling like you can’t get up one more night with the baby? There isn’t an easy solution to this one, besides letting go of a lot of expectations. Make it a priority to get an afternoon nap in, something easier said than done with a larger family! I always give myself more grace that first year, to let them watch a DVD while if I desperately need a nap.

Do you feel like you have nothing to wear that you like? Create a simple wardrobe (use this Modest Clothing Checklist post for ideas) and have a few core pieces that you like. Save up to purchase some basic items that you will use over and over again, and hit the thrift store as well!

Or maybe you just need a boost of encouragement? The 2016 Homemaking Ministries Online Conference is offering a flash sale for tickets for 5 days only, and they have some pretty awesome bonus offers! I’m really looking forward to hearing these ladies talk about finding balance in your home! I’ll be speaking on finding balance as a work at home homemaker!

If you grab an early bird ticket, here is what you receive.

    • Full access to the conference (Normally $29.95)
    • A bonus course on Goal Setting (has 6 video sessions that are PACKED with info) – by Jami
    • A bonus “Goal Setting Workbook For Greater Balance & Purpose in Your Home” which includes 19 pages to walk them through making and creating smart goals.
    • A bonus pack of items including: laminated bookmarks, a lamented to do list, several Scripture art prints, goal planning sheets, etc.
    • Digital: they will receive access to the conference in October (which includes the private FB group), the bonus video course which they can access immediately, digital versions of the workbook and bonus items to print again and again!

  • Physical: You will physically be mailed an amazing pack of resources including: A Christian tote bag, printed and spiral bound conference notebook with bonus articles, the workbook printed out on premium cardstock in a binder, and the bonus items printed and lamented.
  • These bonus packages are set to ship out the first week in October so that all attendees will have the pack in hand by the conference. 



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