Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!
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Relationship lessons from. . . Birdwatching?

In my previous blog, I talked about the incredible impact it makes when a teacher knows her students.  But this topic is so essential, so vital to really wrap our minds and hearts around, what I think we need is some good old-fashioned birdwatching.Bill & Paul watching birds at zoo

Yep, that’s what I said:  birdwatching.

Stick with me here, because it just might connect some dots in your life and family!

Have you ever lived with a birdwatcher?  If so, you know that they are a breed set apart.  They constantly listen for birds and watch for a flash of color—with a constant delight in each bird’s peculiarities.  They study the habits, the plumage, the flight patterns, the etc., etc. of birds.  They think nothing of tramping through the woods with a notebook and binoculars to follow an elusive birdcall, jotting notes about what they discover.  They have journals filled with specific dates of spotting specific birds, which they treasure beyond reason.  They take time and trouble to do all of this.  Why?  Because they ENJOY birds.

I know all of this from personal experience, because my husband is a birdwatcher, a man who takes incredible delight in spotting, listening to, looking up, and journaling about birds.  When we were in Australia in 2009, he had the joy of going birding with our old friend—and lifelong birdwatcher—Paul Rushworth.  I went along for the ride, and was amazed at the depth of knowledge Paul has of Australia’s gorgeous birds.  Here are a few photos—mostly from Paul's camera—from that memorable day.


So, what does that have to do with you and homeschooling?  Actually, it is quite illustrative of what it means to know your students.  Obviously, there is a huge difference between knowing the fiction books your daughter prefers and knowing her own dreams and struggles.  You understand that though you might know your son is not talkative around strangers, it doesn’t mean you know why.  Is he shy or merely quiet?  A parent who watches her children like a birder watches birds will be able to find out these things.  In fact, if we can imitate the birdwatcher in this, we will make it our aim to observe, noting carefully what our kids are doing (mind you, watch with care, not criticism).  It is through the detailed observation that birdwatchers differentiate between birds that look similar. . . it is in your detailed observation that you will be able to see beyond the outer appearance to the inner person.

What is the primary requirement for this depth of knowledge?  What secret can we learn from birdwatchers?  Here it is, in living color:  Birdwatchers know so much about birds because, first and foremost, they like birds.  

Dear one, if you are really going to learn to know and understand your kids, you need to like them.   However, this is not as simple as it sounds.  Parents, who have had children for longer than two or three minutes, know that this can challenge you to the very core of your being.

If that is your dilemma, may I write a simple four-step prescription for you?

First, ask yourself what specific things you enjoy or appreciate about the challenging child.  Second, write these observations down.  Third, look at the list several times per day.  Fourth, add new observations as you see them.

If you will focus on the good, rather than what is currently difficult, it will help you to increasingly like—enjoy, delight in, want to be around—each of your kids.

And, if you like them, it will be much easier to observe them in their habitats, their feeding, their flight patterns. . . In essence, you will be able to know your kids.

Stay relational!










Birdwatching in Australia. . .

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Little by Little

You know the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?”  Well, thank heavens, I’m not a dog.  Though this tired cliché is often used to describe what we can NOT do, I’m here to tell you that there are specific pathways we can walk in order to love learning, whether little tykes or old fogies.

So, to illustrate this point, let me share a little story.

Some months ago, my dear friend, Bernadette, contacted me from Australia to ask if I might enjoy taking art lessons with her via Skype.  She knew that I was in a season of resting, and thought it might be therapeutic.  Isn’t that amazing?  Don’t you love friends??

There was a bit of a problem with this scenario, however.  For the past 57 years, I’ve been an absolute klutz when it comes to drawing, painting, or anything requiring more than your basic stick figures.  It was more than a little daunting to think of having art lessons with a professional artist, but, since she was so positive about the idea, I thought it was at least worth trying.

So, on the first lesson, once we worked through a few technical computer difficulties, Bernie announced to me that we were going to approach my art lessons in a non-traditional manner.  Though most beginning art students spend a lot of time learning how to draw, she thought that I would be much more motivated if I could do things with color.  So, to my astonishment, she said that we would start watercolor painting in the next lesson.

Gulp.  I assumed that Bernie had missed the memo that said I am not an artist, not a painter, not talented artistically.  But, on the other hand, she was absolutely right about how excited I suddenly became when I found that I would get to play with color!

Our next few lessons focused on painting apples and feathers, in addition to looking at some beautiful art masterpieces, and talking about line, tone and color.  But, in the midst of explaining a bit about color, she happened to show me something she was doing with another class.  It was a half-finished painting of a rainbow lorikeet.

If you haven’t been to Australia, you might not be familiar with this absolutely gloriously-colored bird.  It is so common in Australia that I think most folks there don’t even recognize what a show-stopper this bird is!

Here’s a photo of a rainbow lorikeet, so you can see for yourself.


When I saw Bernie’s painting, I squealed, “Oh, can I do a rainbow lorikeet, too????”  Though I am sure it was not originally the next step in her lesson plan for me, she recognized that my enthusiasm would motivate me and carry me much further into watercolor.  And, bravely, she said, “Why, YES!”

As we were working together on painting this lorikeet a few nights ago, Bernie told me something revolutionary—at least, it seemed radically new to me.  Painting the feathers of the bird, Bernie said:

“Diana, you know, if you’re in a hurry, you can just drop a bunch of pigment onto the paper.  It’s not as nice, but you can do it.  However, if you want to get a beautiful effect, just take your time.  Take a little bit of pigment and paint a bit, then let it dry.  After awhile, come back to that same spot and add a little bit more pigment.  In this way, as you create the painting, little by little, layer upon layer, it will result in a luminescence and a reality that is not possible when you’re in a hurry.”

As I was considering today’s blog, I realized that Bernie’s brilliant approach to teaching illustrates some of the most powerful pathways for learning, regardless of the subject or the age of the student.  So, let’s consider what they are:

First, Bernie knows me.  She knows my passion for color, though we are on opposite sides of the world and quite different in our expression of color.  (She creates exquisite pieces of art that are nearly white on white, while I delight in strong colors.)  She also knows that I was feeling hopelessly inept as an art student.

Second, because of this knowledge, she modified the traditional art curriculum in order to ignite my enthusiasm and engage me in painting.  Working with my strength (a love of color) helped me to get past the obstacle of thinking I could not learn this subject.

Third, Bernie was flexible in her lesson plan.  When she saw my excitement over painting a lorikeet, she was willing to change her plans because she knew that it was an opportunity to captivate me with the subject.

Fourth, Bernie taught me to do things little by little.  Rather than requiring me to create a painting in one session, she encouraged me to work on it a bit, come back and do some more, and to take as much time as I needed.

What is the take-away from this little story?

More than any teacher on the planet, you know your kids.  You have insight into what they are passionate about, and what makes them feel inept.

More than any other teacher on the planet, you have the freedom to modify the curriculum in order to work with the specific interests of your students.  Do they love dance?  Then incorporate dance into their studies.  For instance, let them interpret what they’ve learned in history through a bit of choreography.

More than any other teacher on the planet, you can be flexible with your lesson plan and schedule.  If you see a sudden interest arising in your student, then make it a priority, change your schedule, and allow it in your lesson plan.  (Before you run away screaming, “Not another thing in my lesson plan!!!!,” let me assure you that I am going to take each one of these points over the next few blogs and flesh them out for you, so you can see that you will not be overwhelmed or have more added to your plate.  If anything, you will probably find new space in your schedule as you toss some things that haven’t been working!)

Finally, more than any other teacher on the planet, you can give your students the glorious liberty of doing things little by little.  Rather than huge blobs of multiplication tables or phonics or chemistry (which can be daunting for anyone), you can allow them to take things slowly and in increments.  This removes the huge burden of having to do things perfectly, of having to learn things instantly, or of trying to master something when you’re a newbie and overwhelmed.

Believe me, once a student gets excited, then little by little, anything is possible!


Here's my first painting of a rainbow lorikeet, thanks to Bernie's brilliant instruction. . .

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The Unexpected Scenic Route

So, I have a story.

On August 28, as we were driving to speak to a homeschool group in Ohio, my husband and I stopped at a rest area on the interstate.  There was a prominent sign for tourists at that particular rest area, describing the historic nature of nearby Route 40, which had been part of the National Road—begun as an Act of Congress in 1806, and signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson.  Well, that was enough to get my attention!  Between the history and the scenery, I was hooked.

Unfortunately, we did not have the time to meander off into the historic past on that particular day.  Instead, it was get there and get home as fast as possible.  But I did think longingly of how much fun it would be to have the time for the scenic route.

Fast forward to September 22.  While on a speaking tour in Virginia, I had a flare-up of a medical condition which required me to not only cancel two venues, but also to break our travel home into three short days of driving.  On the second day, we contacted dear friends in western Ohio, to ask if we might stay with them that night.  The gracious answer was "Yes!. . . We're not home, but come anyway!!"

And that is where my real story begins. Unbeknownst to me, Anne had already emailed me to ask if she could come on Saturday to help me unpack my boxes of books as she drove back from a women's conference in Indiana.  When she learned that we were driving west to stay at her house, she drove east to meet us there.

And then she amazed us even more by saying that she would turn around the next day and follow us back to Indiana, so that she could make good on her offer to unpack my books.  There was a certain element of fun in all this driving however—she loves the joy of fresh air as she putters in her convertible, the weather was gorgeous, the trees were turning, and her husband and sons had gone off for some "man time" together.

The next morning, knowing how much I love riding in a convertible, my husband suggested that I ride with Anne back to our house.  Anne loved the idea (as did I), so we quickly gathered our things to begin the trip.  It wasn't until we were a few minutes down the road that the unexpected gift landed in my lap.

"Diana, you know it's a lot more fun to drive the back roads when you're in a convertible.  Do you want to look at the atlas and chart a path home on a scenic route?"

It was at that moment that I realized we were only a few miles from Route 40, the National Road, the drive I had longed to travel.  And now, by God's incredible kindness and much to my surprise, I was taking that drive in a convertible on a spectacular day with a dear friend. 

I just wanted to share that with you.



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Taking the Charlotte Mason approach


“The question is not, -- how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education -- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” 

Charlotte Mason

Ever thought of that before?  What exactly is the end goal of education?  Where do you want your child to be in the end, and are the methods you are using achieving that?

Its important to stop on a regular basis and reconsider our approach to homeschooling.   Are we allowing our children to grow to their full capacity, or are we holding them back with our methods? 

Through the years, there have been some very influential people who have taken the time to reconsider the very foundations of education and to offer helpful tips that can guide us along the way. 

One of those women is Charlotte Mason. 

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived during the mid 1800's and devoted her life to improving the quality of education for children.  

She was an only child, born in Bangor, and educated at home by her parents.  When she was only 16 she lost her mother, and her father died the following year.  

Left alone, she enrolled in the Home and Colonial Society where she trained to become a teacher and actually earned the First Class Certificate.  For more than 10 years she taught school and it was during this season that she began to develop her vision for a "liberal education for all."  Her definition of "liberal" was a generous and broad education that was available for every single child, not only  those of the upper class.  

“...my object is to show that the chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses...” 

   Charlotte Mason

Over the years, Charlotte Mason developed an entire education approach.  Her method was based on a three part model of education.  She believed Education was an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.  

Charlotte defined “Atmosphere,” as the surroundings in which the child grows up. According to her one-third of the child's education was drawn from his learning environment.  

She defined “Discipline,” as the practice of good habits.  Charlotte said another third of a child's education was comprised of the useful habits that they formed at an early age.  

Lastly, Charlotte defined "life" in terms of academics.  Charlotte believed it was important to provide children with living thoughts and ideas rather than isolated facts. 

You may have heard of the term "living books."  In contrast to dry, boring textbooks, living books are books that are full of living color and details, that engage the reader, and draw him into the story. 

The heart of the Charlotte Mason approach is making learning a part of every day life and encouraging children to discover things for themselves in a way that is fun and meaningful!  

Our curriculum, History Revealed, is similarly designed to make learning purposeful, engaging, and enjoyable!

Due to these shared goals, it is quite possible to combine the Charlotte Mason approach to education with our History Revealed curriculum.  We asked our friend Catherine Levison to create an explanation for us of how the two could work together.  She kindly created a weekly schedule to demonstrate how two can intertwine.  

According to Catherine Levison: " Both the Charlotte Mason method and Diana’s approach incorporate chronological order, original eye witness accounts, art, field trips, plays and costume making, student illustrations, time lines, map work and the always important “spring-boarding” to literary books. Both approaches use hands-on learning, avoid boredom and bring history alive. Charlotte Mason parents will immediately recognize compatibility in many elements with which they are already familiar. The schedule (to view the pdf, 4-Phase schedule, CLICK HERE) shows how directly the Charlotte Mason, short lesson approach is incorporated in the History Revealed structure. CM moms ought to love History Revealed!!"


To read more about how the Charlotte Mason approach can be integrated with History Revealed click here 

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Books Galore


In thinking about some of my favorite books, I'd have to say I'm eclectic. . .at least.  We've sorted our book shelves into world history (which I finally had to break down and arrange chronologically—took me two weeks!), American history (including sections on Native American history and African-American history), Bible study aids, Christian philosophy/living, classic fiction, and a special easy-to-read-when-I-don't-have-a-brain-cell-left.  We have several series of books that Bill reads outloud to me while I'm cooking (enriches our relationship and improves our food!), some children's books (favorites we couldn't bear to part with after our kids grew up), and a whole host of how-to books on gardening, handcrafts, and home improvement. (And no, unfortunately that is not a picture of my bookshelf...I arrnaged mine for funtionalitly not beautysmiley)


I thought it would be fun to share a bit of our lives as revealed in the books we love. 

I LOVE YWAM Publishing's Christian Heroes: Then & Now books by Janet & Geoff Benge.  One title 

which particularly intrigued me was about Sundar Singh, because there is so little available on this fascinating man from India. Converted at age 16, he took the traditional approach of a traveling holyman and infused it with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Absolutely riveting!


Every time I read Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, I am challenged, inspired, and encouraged to trust God in greater measure than ever before.  And, He has never failed. . . Stretched me, yes, but failed me, no!


I mentioned several months ago reading the book "Shaftesbury: The poor man's Earl" by John Pollock.  It was such an incredible read that I wanted to set it into my list of favorites.  Social justice is as integral a part of our devotion to God as is studying the Bible—in fact, if we apply what we read, we will find ourselvesworking to serve those who stand in the greatest need.  So as we consider how to fulfill the command of Jesus to "love our neighbor as ourselves," we will find an incredible model in the life of this British aristocrat.  




When it comes to world history, one of the most enjoyable reads I have found is Winston Churchill's "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples" in four volumes.  Churchill had a way with words, both in his writing and speaking, that makes him bothmemorable and interesting. I admit, there were times when I got slightly lost in his hasty descriptions of British parliamentary politics, however, the fault is more likely in me than him!



Though I squirm from time to time at descriptions, I must admit that Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion, is one of my favorite authors.  His book, "The Rise of Christianity" is an eye-opening look at the impact of Christianity upon Western culture.  Stark was a professor for years at the U of Washington, and is now at Baylor U.  I'd love to be a student in his classroom!!


 So there are just a few of my favorite books...for a start! 


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