Diana's Homeschool Blog

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!

Our children engaging their own education—a true story!

Writing might not be your child's passion, it might be mechanics or science or swimming. . . But whatever it is, if they engage it, they will work harder than you can imagine—and find rewards far beyond an "A" on some test.

In January, 1999, my thirteen year old daughter, Melody, entered an essay competition for the V.F.W. (Veterans of Foreign Wars). She loves to write, and, when I think about it, it seems like she always has—she began writing stories when she was just five years old! So, whenever the opportunity arose to write during her homeschool years, she jumped at the chance. 

The topic for that year's competition was "What Freedom Means to Me." Students in the U.S.A., in grades 7-9 from public, private and homeschool were invited to compete. Melody worked, reworked, and re-reworked her essay until she was satisfied. We were astounded by her words but wondered whether anyone else would be. It touched our hearts deeply and we felt that it was her very best.

One day the phone rang to tell Melody, "You've won the local competition!" That was exciting to her... but the tension began to mount. You see, she had won the local competition the previous year but had not won the district level.

Some time later the phone rang again. "You've won the district level!" Wow! That was a real victory for her... but the tension continued to mount. Would it be possible to win the state competition? No one from our town had ever won state.

"Melody? You won state!!" Shouts of joy, jigs danced in the hallway, brothers jumping up and down, deliriously proud parents... but the tension mounted to fever pitch. Would her essay be able to compete on a national level? Since we were going to be out of the country the next year (visiting New Zealand), this was Melody's last chance to place at national.

And then, the phone rang. I had had a headache and was lying down. Isaac was recovering from the flu and was reading a book. Bill was finishing lunch while Michael was out helping someone move. So, Melody answered the phone. We all heard, "Yes, uh huh, umm...." And then, suddenly, "You mean, I WON NATIONAL?????"

I vaulted off the bed, Isaac dropped his book, Bill turned in disbelief as we heard Melody jump for joy! The person on the other end of the line had just heard the news and was calling to congratulate Melody.

Never have I seen my daughter so radiant, so excited. It was a dream come true for her... and an amazing victory in our family. Immediately the thoughts came of the obstacles we had faced from well-meaning family when we decided to homeschool: "You'll ruin your children! How will they ever learn enough to get along in the world? What about computers? What about socialization? What about job skills?"

For years we fielded this kind of concerned comment, and had only our vision of what was possible in homeschooling our children to strengthen our commitment. In the past decade, there has been much more acceptance among family, friends, and community, but, nonetheless, for us there had been those remaining little doubts about the possibility of real success for someone who has never "gone to school." With that last phone call, all of those doubts were laid to rest. I know, and you know, that homeschoolers can do MARVELOUS things. . .but it's so encouraging when it happens right before your very eyes.

One more phone call came from the head of the national essay contest. Melody had stepped out for a moment, so I was on the receiving end.

"Mrs. Waring? Congratulations on your daughter's wonderful accomplishment. You are aware, of course, that Melody has won a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond?"

I dropped my teeth!

"And, we would really like to have Melody read her essay at the National Convention in August for all of our assembled members... about 15,000 people."

Gulp. Breathe. I picked up my teeth... and began to cry.

So, dear friends, wild things can happen when our kids actually engage with their education. . .when they work hard on the things that interest them most.

I thought, perhaps you might enjoy reading the essay, written by one of your very own homeschoolers, that won the 1999 National Essay Competition (now called the Patriot's Pen) for the V.F.W. Here 'tis:

What Freedom Means to Me

by Melody Waring

The year is 1942. A chill is in the air. A twelve-foot wall of powerful electrical fencing surrounds the camp. A sneering voice is calling out the roll. Suddenly an emaciated young man falls to the ground in a paralytic fit of coughing. The Nazi official laughs and kicks the man until he lies still, never to get up again. Perhaps somewhere people are happy. Perhaps somewhere people are free. Not in this German concentration camp.

The year is 1936. Behind a locked door, a woman clutches her small son desperately. From outside comes the even tread of marching. With a final, terrified glance at the bolt on the door, the woman hides in a dark corner of the room. She knows it is futile. No one escapes the secret police. No one has any freedom. Not in the Great Purge of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The year is 1955. A few miles away an orchard smolders in it's ruin. A leader of the Algerian revolt shakes his turbaned head sadly as he is led away by French army officials. He is to be thrown into a concentration camp and tortured, along with millions of other native Algerians. He and his people had struggled and revolted for freedom to no avail; all is hopeless here in sun-baked Algeria.

The year is this year. It is a Sunday morning in America and people nationwide stroll through the doors of churches. It is a Saturday evening and people nationwide are printing deluxe editions of their newspapers, voicing freely their opinions and feelings on everything from dieting to politics. It is a Tuesday afternoon and children nationwide are pouring out of their school buildings where they are taught without prejudice towards race or sex. It is because of our freedom that we do not live in the shadow of a concentration camp; it is because of our freedom that we need not cower behind locked doors afraid of secret police; it is because of our American freedom that we are not in a revolt against an overpowering authority.

Freedom: to worship unshackled, to speak uninhibited, to attend schools without being shunned, to vote for the the leaders of our nation, to stand against what is wrong, and to fight for what is right. This is what freedom means to me.

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Read the instruction book. . .

You know, I hadn't watched TV since 1992 until this past year.

Wow, what a statement! It rather resoundingly puts me into that category of "weird people," doesn't it?

However, this post is not actually about the pros and cons of TV-watching.

So, to continue. Though I don't watch TV  hardly ever, we do watch the occasional DVD. My family jokes that I only watch movies I've already seen—which is pretty close to true.

However, this post is not actually about the pros and cons of DVD-watching.

We own a flat-screen TV which we use solely for watching said occasional DVD.  We bought it on sale four years ago, after our long-lived 13-inch TV became unusable.

At last!  We have now arrived at the point.

Because we were extremely busy four years ago, we never bothered to read the instruction manual from the manufacturer.  We just hooked up a few wires and fiddled with it until we managed to get it to work with our DVD player.

When my children introduced me to the new technology of streaming movies from my computer, I was intrigued.  I had a computer, I had a flat screen TV, and, fortunately, the two were easily connected.

What we were surprised to discover was that, though we could see the movie, we could not hear the movie. 

Huh.  I would have thought that the folks designing flat screen TVs would have figured that out before they put them on the market.

But, you can't have everything.  So, anytime we wanted to stream a movie, we would dutifully hook up our little old speakers to my computer.  They didn't work well, but, at least we could hear something.

Until Saturday night.  While watching God of Wonders, our speakers decided to play only a loud crackling, hissing sound.  No voices, only hiss.

Enter the Manufacturer's Instruction Manual.

Suddenly, I wondered if the unused cables that came with our flat-screen, currently residing in my desk drawer, might possibly have an application to this situation.  We dug out the unread Instruction Manual, and began to try to decipher its techno-language.  To our amazement, we found that those cables DID, in fact, have something rather startling to offer.  When we hooked them up to the flat screen, following the diagram given, and then plugged them into the computer, the built-in flat screen speakers brought forth glorious sound!!

As it turns out, the manufacturer actually had thought through the issues and had clearly addressed each one in the instruction manual.  It was rather humbling to find out that we could have actually been listening—for four years!—to richly rewarding sound, if only we had taken the time to read it. 

Do you know where I'm going with this?

I started pondering right away about how many other areas of my life may have been much less than they could have been if only I had taken the time to read the instructions. What had I missed?  And, dear friend, what have you missed?

Because, you see, we live in an age that does not have time to stop and read and listen and learn. Culturally, we are running just as fast as we can, and there is NO time to "waste" on instruction manuals.  I'm not speaking only of technological toys, either.  It's reading the Teacher's Guide before we toss the curriculum to our kids, it's reading the garden manual before we plop that flower in the ground, it's reading the cookbook before we throw the casserole in the oven.  And, most of all, dear friends, it's reading the Bible—the most important of all Instruction Manuals, given from the Creator of each one of us—before we engage our day.

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to read Proverbs 3:13-18.  It will open your eyes to the amazing possibilities!

Remember, stay relational!



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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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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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The Daily Load

I often use the common phrase "what's on my plate," to describe the variety of tasks, chores, responsibilites and deadlines facing me. Just considering the load sometimes makes me feel defeated before I even start: "How can it all get done? How will I ever find the strength and will-power to keep going when the mountain of work looms higher than my energy level?? What about all those things that I would really LOVE to do, but can't take the time or don't have the money to do???"

Down, down, down the slippery slope to discouragement, self-pity and defeat. . . It's so easy to go there. It seems like such a reasonable way to view my "reality."

But then I open my Bible. In a slope-changing, breath-taking, bonds-breaking sentence, Psalm 68: 19 states, "Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits. . ."

He daily loads us with benefits. If I can focus for just a minute on what that is saying, on the truth it is revealing, my perspective—along with my attitude, energy, joy-level, and approach to "what's on my plate"—will dramatically change.

I've been pondering this for days. Asking the Lord to open my eyes to see some of the benefits He's loading on my plate.

Oswald Chambers wrote, "The things that make God dear to us are not as much His great big blessings as the tiny things; because they show His amazing intimacy with us; He knows every detail of our individual lives."

So, in considering both the great and small blessings and benefits of my life, I have begun a list.

I have been married for more than thirty-two years to a man who is my best friend, who has shared this journey of faith, who loves me, laughs at my jokes, and eats what I cook with great enthusiasm. (I laugh at his jokes, too. They are usually much funnier than mine!)

I have had the precious joy of knowing my three children from their childhood to adulthood, and it has expanded my understanding of love, laughter, pain, togetherness, family, sacrifice, learning, friendship—beyond what I would have ever dreamed possible. I have in-laws and grandchildren who enlarge my love and family and hope and kindness and change and growth.

I have good health. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat and clothes to wear. I live in a country where going to church does not put my life in jeopardy, where voting for government leaders is my responsibility and privilege. I have work that is meaningful and ongoing.

I have eyes to see and ears to hear and fingers to type and feet to stand and legs to walk and arms to hug.

I live on a planet where the sun warms, the rains cool, the grass grows, and the birds fly. . .Where flowers burst into gorgeous shapes and colors, and hummingbirds visit them within my range of vision. . .Where waves roll and fish jump and snow falls and spring comes. . .Where the beauty of sunrises and sunsets and storm clouds take my breath away.

I belong to Jesus because, in His great love, He reached into the prison of my darkness and set me free.

The list goes on and on and on, encompassing every aspect of life. And as I begin to consider it, thankfulness and joy and amazement and awe well up in my heart.

From macro to micro, day-in and day-out, His innumerable blessings are loaded on to us every day. I want to keep my eyes focused on this load as I continue to deal with what's on my plate.

I invite you to join me in the journey.




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