Homeschooling or School-at-Home – Day to Day – MBFLP 265-2

Continuing our comparison of true homeschooling with the school-at-home model!  Let’s talk about how independent home education looks different day-to-day, and why duplicating the schoolroom experience at home is more stressful, less efficient, and a lot less fun than charting a new, freer pathway to learning and exploring together.

A Fundamental Distinction

A lot of what happens in the classroom is due to the dynamics of that situation. The teacher has to consider twenty or twenty-five students, of all different gifts or needs, coming from a range of family and educational backgrounds, but all funneled into the same classroom, same book, same tests. The whole process of extra worksheets, frequent testing, homework, and report cards happens because that single teacher can’t focus as much attention on each child as she might — and the parents don’t know what happens in the schoolroom unless she communicates it home in some way.

How much of that applies to a homeschool, where the teacher has known the students from birth, and the parents are well aware of how their students are doing because there’s a parent-teacher conference at every meal?

But there’s a lot more to be said … so listen in! 

Homeschooling, or School-at-Home? – MBFLP 265-1

Is this “homeschooling” or is it “school-at-home”? Is there a difference? 

Many families have experienced public school from a remote location this year — and some districts are calling it “homeschooling.” But most homeschooling veterans will tell you there is a world of difference between independent, parent-led education, and taking public school classes with public school curriculum, online. Hint: The location – obviously enough – is not the distinction!

In two episodes, Hal and Melanie talk about the substantial differences between the two concepts, how they operate differently on a day-to-day basis, and why that’s crucially important for your family. 


“New state figures released Thursday show North Carolina’s estimated home-school population grew by more than 30,000 children during the 2020-21 school year — a 20.6% increase from the prior year. … ”

T. Keung Hui, “Enrollment soars in NC homeschools, private schools, and charter schools amid pandemic”
Raleigh, N.C. News & Observer – 3 Jul 2021

Thinking About Homeschooling – Things to Consider – MBFLP 264-2

Are you one of the thousands of families just beginning homeschooling – or thinking seriously about it this year? Surveys say that over one and a quarter million students aren’t returning to public schools, and the number of homeschooling families doubled between April and October last year. This episode, we continue our conversation about our own decision to homeschool – this time, thinking about unexpected lessons we learned along the way, and things you may want to consider making your own decision!

1:25 – “Homeschooling is bigger in the inside”
2:15 – A different model than the modern classroom
3:50 – The efficiency of homeschooling – even with several grade levels
5:38 – Why “difficult” and “unpleasant” isn’t “better”
7:50 – What about finding the perfect curriculum
9:43 – Why “the way it’s done” in classrooms isn’t helpful for homeschooling
10:55 – But can homeschooled kids make it to college?
13:20 – Watching friends who homeschooled and others in public school
14:35 – How long should you expect each day?
15:56 – The reason you begin homeschooling may not be the reason you continue homeschooling
16:30 – Homeschooling and family relationships
18:00 – Some free resources



“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NKJV)




We’ll be speaking and exhibiting at the Chattanooga Home School Expo at Camp Jordan, East Ridge, Tennessee – July 16-17, 2021 – sponsored by the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Educators Association.

This is a live event but registration is online – CLICK HERE for more information! We hope to see you there!


Getting Kids On Board with Your New Homeschool 

Things We’re Glad We Did Homeschooling

Boy-Friendly Homeschooling

Emergency Homeschooling


Thinking About Homeschooling – How We Decided – MBFLP 264-1

One of the unexpected results of the COVID-19 pandemic is an explosion of interest in homeschooling.  Researchers say the number of homeschooling families doubled between April and October of 2020, and at least 1.3 million students didn’t return to the public school system in the fall. Are you a new homeschooler? Or are you thinking about trying it for the first time this year? This episode, Hal and Melanie are talking about how they made that decision – maybe for the same reasons you are!


“In the first week (April 23-May 5, 2020) of Phase 1 of the Household Pulse Survey, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported homeschooling .

By fall, 11.1% of households with school-age children reported homeschooling (Sept. 30-Oct. 12, 2020).  A clarification was added to the school enrollment question to make sure households were reporting true homeschooling rather than virtual learning through a public or private school.

That change represents an increase of 5.6 percentage points and a doubling of U.S. households that were homeschooling at the start of the 2020-2021 school year compared to the prior year.”

America’s public school system lost almost 1.3 million students this year, according to an Education Week analysis of state data. The loss was spread out across the nation, touching almost every demographic group and concentrated in lower grades. It will likely have academic, financial and staffing repercussions for years to come.”

Are you in eastern Tennessee or northern Georgia?

We’ll be speaking and exhibiting at the Chattanooga Home School Expo at Camp Jordan, East Ridge, Tennessee – July 16-17, 2021 – sponsored by the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Educators Association.

This is a live event but registration is online – CLICK HERE for more information! We hope to see you there!

Teens, Preteens, and Social Anxiety – MBFLP 263

One of the hallmarks of adolescent behavior is social awkwardness, often to the point of anxiety. That’s true in the best of times! Yet here we are after a year of pandemic alarms, mandates, and “abundance of caution,” and you may be finding your young people are not eager to begin seeing people outside the family again. What can we do to help our teens and preteens resume normal, healthy interactions?

Resources We Reference

Our episode reviewing Dr. Jean Twenge’s book iGen about characteristics of our children’s generation

“How the Pandemic has Impacted Teen Mental Health,” Mott Poll Report, 3/15/21

Craftsman Crate by subscription, individual boxes, or party packs

Upcoming Events (May-June 2021)

We’ll be speaking at the Thrive! Conference (North Carolinians for Home Education) in Winston-Salem, N.C., on May 27-29, 2021. We’re speaking four times on Thursday and Friday, on parenting pre-teens, helping your struggling learners in high school and college, the challenges of boys and media, and what you can achieve academically with a more relaxed homeschooling approach. And our booth is in the usual spot on the upper level of the book fair!

We’ll also be part of the Homeschooling With Confidence: Unstoppable online event hosted by Home Educators Association of Virginia ( This is going to be a different sort of online event with more interaction with the speakers and with other attendees – we’re looking forward something special with this one!

Seasons of Motherhood – MBFLP 262

There are seasons to motherhood

Ecclesiastes says that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Eccl 3:1) Yet young women are being told that they can and should do all things right now. They’re being urged to set their priorities by the culture’s values instead of their own – unless their priority is “Me first!”

In this special presentation to a mothers’ group in Winnsboro, Louisiana, Melanie offers an encouraging perspective on the opportunities and special needs at different stages of our children’s lives, and the critical contribution that a mother can make in each of those times.


Upcoming Events

We’ll be speaking at two conferences this month:

May 6-8, 2021
Teach Them Diligently – Mobile, AL

May 27-29, 2021
Thrive! Conference (North Carolinians for Home Education) – Winston-Salem, NC

If you’re there, come by our booth and say hello! And if you’d like to see us at your nearby event, let them hear from you!

Call our Listener Contact Line – (919) 295-0321

Effective Discipline for Teens – MBFLP 261


A reader writes, “I need suggestions how to discipline my 14-year-old son.” She’s finding out what we all discover – if you try to discipline your 14-year-old like he was still six, you’re likely to have a fight on your hands! So what do you do with this young person who’s growing so tall, but still needs a lot of guidance and discipleship?

It’s more than behavior management

With younger kids, a great deal of our training is behavior – “Don’t tease the cat,” “Don’t touch the stove,” “Stop hitting your brother!” Tedd Tripp points out that Ephesians 6:1 is fundamental for the younger set: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

And external behavior is important – that’s what hurts others and damages things! But as they move into the early teen years, our children need more coaching and discipleship to reach their deepest need – the condition of their heart. They need to be confronted with Right and Wrong in a larger sense than, “Honor your father and your mother.” When they realize their failing and sin, they are more likely to grasp their need for a Savior!

And when we recognize that their behavior is more than “You’re on my nerves!” but something rooted on their human fallenness … maybe we can be a little more compassionate and not as quick to react.

As they change, we should too

A lot of parent-teen relationships are strained or broken because parents don’t adapt to their young person’s changes. When they reach adolescence, they’re not kids any more! We need to understand they aren’t the little ones we’ve raised so far, but young adults-in-training. We can’t just continue the old discipline models and expect the same response. Appropriate correction for a four-year-old is humiliating, at best, to a 14-year-old.

More and more, we need to move our discipline to adult responses. What does that look like?

Well, consider what happens when we make a mistake or cause an offense as an adult. Are we sent to stand with our nose in the corner until we say we’re sorry? Does our boss or pastor or neighbor give us a sharp swat on the hand? Of course not. Instead, we are likely to experience “natural consequences.”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta The Mikado includes the chorus, “Let the punishment fit the crime!” Humor aside, that’s actually quite Biblical. Over and over again in Scripture, you see principles of repentance followed by restitution. We use this as a guide with our teens – if you break it, you fix it – whether it’s a broken toy or a damaged relationship. It’s a hard lesson, but we impress on them that being an adult sometimes means we accept responsibility for things that aren’t strictly our fault. Maybe something happened by accident, or someone took offense by misunderstanding – we still need to step up and try to make things right.

Occasionally the problem isn’t actual sin but rather just high spirits or too much energy. Maybe they really are on your nerves, and that’s most of the problem!

How did Coach handle it?

Sometimes the best correction is just to work it off. How did your high school coach handle it if you were goofing off during practice? What did your drill instructor do at boot camp if you weren’t putting your back into the job?

A bit of strenuous exertion can be a lifesaver here! “Drop and give me ten!” – a call for some push-ups is a good manly punishment for a minor but irritating infraction. You can have them run up and down the stairs, or laps around the back yard. Ask Dad for advice, since he’s probably received similar correction in his time! It’s not offensive or demeaning, but it can use up some energy and help your son focus again.

It’s not supposed to be easy or fun. Hebrews 12:11 says,

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


(continue …)

The most important part

But the most critical thing to remember is the foundation you’re laying for the long term. What sort of relationship are you building with your teenager?

Our relationship with God is more than just crime-and-punishment – that’s part of it and unavoidable, but it’s not the full relationship. If that’s all we know of our heavenly Father, there’s a lot that’s missing!

Likewise with our kids. Of course we’ll have times of conflict or confrontation, but the question will remain – what sort of relationship do we have now, and what sort are we building for tomorrow? … Tune in for practical applications! 


MBFLP 260 – Accident-Prone Kids

A reader asked, “What can you do about accident-prone kids who always seem to be breaking things?”


“Uh oh …”

We’ve all heard the dreadful sound from the next room – or the sharp crash of breaking glass – or the muffled whump in another part of the house. All kids will have moments of clumsiness, carelessness, or foolishness, that result in something getting broken or someone getting hurt – that’s just normal childhood. But some kids seem to leave a path of destruction in their wake – what do you do about them?

Let’s say up front that we’re not talking about kids who are suffering from trauma, illness, or developmental conditions that lead to destructive behavior – that’s a different situation altogether. We have friends who deal with these things on a daily basis, and they are walking a different path.

But what about your average, healthy, otherwise normal kid who you’d think would know better? How do you deal with them?

First thing …

One of our basic rules of parenting is Don’t Freak Out. We don’t respond at our best when we leap to reaction. It may help to remind ourselves that this world is not our ultimate home and all its things are passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31). All our stuff is actually God’s stuff, and we are just stewards and managers of it for Him (Psalm 24:1).

That’s not easy advice, but it’s true – right? Take a breath, and pray for perspective.

Next step, Triage the situation. Not only answering the question, “What just broke here?” but rather, “Why did something just happen?”

We find there are three basic profiles – (continued … )

Three scenarios

  1. The angry child who acts from rage or malice. This is the one who intentionally hurts someone or damages something, or the one who fails to control his temper and lashes out blindly. This is upsetting but it’s rooted in clear sinful behavior, and you can respond along those lines. Repentance and restitution are the goals here.
  2. The truly innocent child. This one honestly didn’t intend any trouble, and wasn’t inviting it by foolish or careless behavior. In other words, they aren’t to blame – something they did may have triggered a problem, but they didn’t cause it by neglect or malice.  He needs to express sympathy and concern, and even apologize; you may need to convince him that an apology isn’t always an admission of guilt! We try to see this as a multi-victim event – both the one who was injured, and the one who stumbled and caused it. Mercy is our first reaction, and then training in responsibility – if you knock it over, you need to pick it up, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.
  3. The careless child. This is the child who loses school books, forgets to close the gate, or leaves his brother’s bike out in the rain. They aren’t malicious but they are inattentive! It’s important to remember that irresponsible behavior is not the same as rebellion – our response needs to be different. Irresponsibility should bring natural consequences – like replacing a lost book with his own money. It’s appropriate to use these events to remind them to concentrate and pay attention (even while we privately admit they aren’t very good at this at the moment).

And then …

Once we understand what’s motivated the incident, we can respond in a way that will be just and will protect our relationship with the child. Our children are not cookies, so a cookie-cutter approach won’t respect their individual needs, fears, weaknesses, and strengths!

If you have a middle school student and you’re wondering why they are the way they are (you know what we mean), check out our book No Longer Little: Parenting Tweens with Grace and Hope. You can find it on our website here. 


Helping Dad Connect With The Kids – MBFLP 259

A reader asks: “How can we help dads connect with their kids?”

Moms seem to naturally connect with little ones – even before they’re born! It’s not so easy for dads, though. More than one has said, “I can’t communicate with this baby – I’ll let Mama handle it until he’s six or seven, and can understand me.”

That may be common but it’s unnecessary and really, it’s giving up precious time in your child’s life. It’s true, you’ll have a different relationship when they reach that age, but that’s true for every age – and the longer you put off your child, the harder it might become to build bridges later.

So what can be done about it?

First off, don’t let it become a source of contention between husband and wife. If she raises the issue, he needs to step back a bit and ask, “Lord, is it true?” rather than getting defensive.

Recognize that “connecting” isn’t magic and mystical – it’s just a matter of spending time and interacting with your kids.

Train yourself to be intentional about “dad time.” Hal used to de-compress on the commute home, trying to mentally close the office door behind him and re-focus his mind on his roles of husband and father when he got home. That’s not obvious when you’re working from home, though – you have to remind yourself to step away from work and notice your family around you.

Practice some self-denial. The world really plays on our natural desire for our own needs and interests. Certainly there’s a need for some rest and recuperation just to keep yourself healthy and strong! But being available for your children’s needs means your own will have to wait sometimes. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit – it should not surprise us that we don’t naturally abound in it! (continued … )

Disciple Like Jesus Did

Take your kids along when you can. The American theologian Jonathan Edwards had eleven kids and responsibility for several churches in colonial New England. Whenever he traveled to another village, he took a child along. Even when they’re very little, Dad can bring along the baby or the toddler when he runs an errand. Take the opportunity to talk with them about what you’re doing – even if they can’t talk back, they’ll grow accustomed to your voice and they’ll learn more than you realize!

Invite your kids into your work. Men seem to communicate better shoulder-to-shoulder – working together on some project. Whatever task comes to hand, ask one of your kids to join you – “Come on, let’s change the oil on the car,” or “Let me show you how to unstop a toilet.” Allow for additional time and distraction; it won’t be as efficient as doing the job solo, but it’s important time for training and relationship. What if they’re not interested? Keep asking, and sometimes, don’t give them the option – just bring them.

Jesus trained His disciples this way – He lived and worked with them, and He explained and asked and answered questions as they came alongside Him in ministry.

And don’t be shy about inviting yourself into their world, either. “Hey there – whatcha building?” “I haven’t read that book – what do you think about it?” Initiate conversations! Ask open ended questions. Assume that they can understand and respond, and see if you can draw them out.

Remember that you can’t schedule a heart’s opening – you have to be there when they’re ready to share. That means the time you invest simply being with your children and interacting with them will open doors and opportunities for deeper conversation and counsel.


Call our Listener Response Line at (919) 295-0321

Make the Most of Uncertain Times – MBFLP 258

Coming out of the bunker - making the most of these uncertain times

“How do I encourage my young men to look forward to the future?”

In part 1, we talked about the reality of uncertainty as a part of every time and every life, though the immediate upheaval is a very real and very disruptive event!  (see episode 257, “Making Sense of Uncertain Times”)

But how can we provide some practical help to young men whose plans for college, work, nnd relationships have been upended and put on indefinite hold? What can we do as parents to help them make the most of these uncertain times?

Remember the pandemic hits everybody differently. People in stable relationships with established careers may be better able to adjust to the disruptions than young men who are just at the starting point.

Young single adults may be feeling real isolation and loneliness. They may appreciate more contact with family, in real life or online. Reach out! And plan to listen – they may be missing people they can talk through their concerns with.

A new socialization problem

Encourage them to be inventive about socializing online. We have young adult friends who have organized online prayer meetings, held conference calls for fellowship, connected through video gaming platforms, and more. Some video conferencing programs offer service for small groups for free, and messaging apps like Skype and Signal can be used for several people in a call.

If your teens don’t have a social media account, now may be the time to train them how to use it wisely. Social media has its pitfalls, for certain, but it is possible to use it for God-honoring purposes. Your teens will be expected to have some social media savvy when they leave your home; it’s widely used in business and academia as well as peer-to-peer. What better time to coach your teens than right now, while they’re still at home and open to guidance?

For kids too young for social media accounts, we may want to use ours to facilitate fellowship for them and their friends.  It’s worth remembering that our online friendships may be part of our own coping mechanisms; our younger kids may not have that connection for themselves. Maybe you can set up a game meeting, a virtual tea party, or some other way for the elementary and middle school kids to interact … with supervision.

Realize that all our social skills may be rusty – your young people may need encouragement and coaching when they can resume meeting people in person.

(jump to continue … )

What can you do with this time?

Parents and people in a more stable situation may be able to provide perspective. If we aren’t in the throes of the uncertainty faced by our sons, we may be able to think of alternatives and options that they haven’t considered yet. We also may be able to point out that life doesn’t end at 25 or 30 — in fact, the most productive and effective part of their lives and careers is very likely years in the future still. A few months delay at 18 or 23 is not going to stop the world for them!

Some practical ideas to consider: Start a business. Start something online. Begin writing the book you wanted to write. Read up a subject and take a CLEP exam for college credit. None of this has to be permanent or long term, but any of them will encourage you to be active, keep thinking, and avoid just giving up!

Give them hope! Your sons need encouragement and they need the benefit of your experience and your ideas. Remind them this is a just a passing time in their lives and it will soon be past. Rather than despairing, they can make the most of the opportunities they have in these uncertain days!

Resources We Mentioned

Skype messaging app

Signal messaging app

SKRAFTY moderated Minecraft server and more

Our free College Decision Resource Pack – click here to download your copy!