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. 



Last Day for the Early Bird Homeschool Conference Special!

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It’s the very last day where you can grab the early bird ticket price for the online homeschool conference that Sean and I are putting on, along with another blogging couple. We don’t want you to miss out, so this is your last chance warning!

Would you like a sneak peak of some of the talks? Here you go!

(Ignore the very poor usage of grammar at one point. I laugh really hard whenever I think of how I worded a certain sentence in this talk. And if you don’t pick up on it, I’m not telling! HA!)

Moving on…I had a lot of fun talking about teaching your child reading, and how to help them have a love of reading.

Large Family Homeschooling – Amy Roberts 


Jesus Through Our Days – Mackenzie Monroe

Practical solutions: Teaching toddlers through teens – Jennifer Ross

Consistency: A Key Ingredient to Happy Homeschooling – Sean Allen 

Self Education: The Pinnacle Ideal of the Charlotte Mason Way – Dollie Freeman 

These are just some of the speakers you will hear, and you will also get a chance to chat with each speaker for one hour after their talk goes “live” in the private Facebook group!


When you register today, you save $5.00 of the price of the ticket! There are some really awesome bonuses available with every ticket purchased, including our brand new homeschool planner that Sean designed, a family recipe binder, a charlotte mason ebook, and more!!

Don’t forget about the other bonus offer that I’m exclusively offering! Get a ticket today, and get a $10 gift card to Deborah & Co. That offer ends today (Tuesday, August 2nd!).


To redeem this offer, just fill out this Google form here and I’ll email you a coupon code to use! 



Our Large Family Homeschool Curriculum For 2016-2017 School Year

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Here is our curriculum choices for this new school year! I’m missing a few small things, like handwriting and spelling. Some things I’m still figuring out exactly what we are doing, but I have all the major stuff! We started over a week ago, and so far it’s going good!

Our Large Family Curriculum Choices for the 2016-2017 School Year!

7th Grade

Math – Math U See and Teaching Textbooks (we struggle in math, so we are quickly going through some Math U See books to really get some concepts down, and will try going back to Teaching Textbooks in a month or two.

History – Notgrass From Adam To Us, and Tapestry of Grace. Yes, we use both. My boys love to read, and love history. We did this last year and it worked well, so we are trying it again this year.

Science – Apologia General Science. I was worried about starting this, because it’s a big jump from the elementary series. So far he has done great, and seems to be enjoying it!

Literature – Books from Notgrass and Tapestry of Grace

Grammar – Fix It Grammar from IEW

Writing – Student Writing Intensive Level B from IEW

Geography -Daily Geography by  Evan Moore, plus other map work from Tapestry of Grace and what I’m putting together. I was able to get the Evan Moore workbooks for all the children with store credit on Zulily, so it was an affordable option for daily drills.

Spelling – Building Spelling Skills by Evan Moore (and hopefully the IEW spelling program)

Latin – Latin for Children Book A from Classical Academic Press. This will be our first year to ever start learning Latin, so even though this said it is for an earlier grade I’m thinking it is the best level to start it. I don’t want them being frustrated with a really difficult program, and this looks fun to do! I’m really looking forward to learning Latin along with them! I learned just a little bit in high school.

Art – Tapestry of Grace assignments

Music – Cello lessons and Beautiful Feet Classical Music study

5th Grade 

Math – Math U See and Teaching Textbooks

Science – Science Shepherd Introductory Science and Apologia Astronomy Book – I wasn’t planning on him doing both initially. I loved the idea of the Science Shepherd being short videos they watch, with workbooks to fill in. It said it was for ages 6-11, and has two different workbooks for the different age levels. So far, it’s just right for my 1st and 3rd grader, but really easy for my 5th grader. So…we went ahead and got the latest version of the Astronomy book for him to do as well. I love all the new updates in the 2nd version of the Apologia Astronomy!

Grammar – Fix It Grammar from IEW

History – Notgrass From Adam To Us, and Tapestry of Grace Year 2.

Writing – Student Writing Intensive Level B from IEW

Geography – Daily Geography by  Evan Moore, plus other map work from Tapestry of Grace and what I’m putting together.

Latin – Latin for Children Book A from Classical Academic Press.

Art – Tapestry of Grace assignments

Music – Piano lessons and Beautiful Feet Classical Music study

3rd Grade

Math – She has used Horizons math from the beginning, and it’s an excellent fit for her!

History – BJU Social Studies and Tapestry of Grace Year 2

Writing – I was originally going to do the writing course from IEW with her, and just use the assignments from Level A. After starting it, I can tell right away it’s not a good fit for her yet. She just needs to be a little older. So I think I’m going to get the Writing & Rhetoric Book 1 from Classical Academic Press and use with her. It looks really good, and she loves workbooks!

Science – Science Shepherd Introductory Science

Grammar – Fix It Grammar from IEW

Spelling – Building Spelling Skills by Evan Moore for a daily drill, and Phonetic Zoo from IEW.

Geography – Daily Geography by  Evan Moore, plus other map work from Tapestry of Grace and what I’m putting together.

Latin  – Song School Latin book 1 from Classical Academic Press

Art – Tapestry of Grace assignments  (Artistic Pursuits will be a  big thing we do this year)

Music – Violin lessons and Beautiful Feet Classical Music study

1st Grade 

Math – Horizons grade 1

History – Tapestry of Grace Year 2

Science – She is doing the Science Shepherd Introductory course, and it’s perfect for the 1st-3rd grade level!

Reading – All About Reading Level 1

Geography – Daily Geography by Evan Moore

Latin  – Song School Latin book 1 from Classical Academic Press


This 4.5 year old girl is doing a mixture of Pre-K and Kindergarten work. She loves math, and is just ok with all her letters still. So…we let her excel in what she loves right now, and worry about learning how to read when she shows more interest. 🙂

Math – Primer Book from Math U See – so far she LOVES it!

Kindergarten workbook from Costco – I’m keeping it simple, and a scholastic workbook from Costco is going to be just fine. 🙂 She seems to enjoy it.

That’s pretty much all I’ll do with my 4 year old this year! We might add on some All About Reading later in the year if she seems interested.

That about sums up our school year! As my husband wrote in his blog post today, it’s crazy and hectic! Here is a quote from his post:

Caroline is an optimist at heart. She formed idyllic scenes of happily educated and well behaved children in her mind long before she met me. However, anyone who has schooled their children at home for any length of time knows you have to fight for those dreams and they can often feel nearly impossible to realize. To be sure, it’s an ideal and striving for, but there will be many days where it feels like it’s nothing more than a fanciful notion conjured up by artfully staged photographs or youthful naivety or both.”

You can read more of his blog post here.

It’s been a really stressful year for our family, personally. I had hoped some things would lesson by now, but so far we still feel in the thick of it all. Sean and I are searching for some direction in a few areas, and it all seems to affect our homeschooling somehow (nothing like sending them to public or private school).

I’m thankful for the big boost of encouragement I’m going to be receiving next week during the Encouragement for the Homeschool Mom, Online Conference! I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I have been discouraged, and then been able to chat with other homeschooling friends and left feeling so inspired! Our hope is that this conference will give you all that boost of inspiration and hope.

We added an extra bonus for you all. Jami and I will be sending out a 21 day devotional, giving you a fresh boost of encouragement for 21 days in a row! 

Hurry and grab your early bird ticket! There are only a few days left for the sale price!





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