Special Replay: Homeschooling Through the Winter Blahs

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

How to Homeschool Through the Winter Blahs: The Homeschool Sanity Show Podcast

Do you feel blah once Christmas is over like I do? The tips on this episode will encourage you!

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The Organized Homeschool Life or on Amazon. Join me on Facebook. I hope you’ll join us for accountability.

Teaching Tip of the Week

The teaching tip of the week is Shining Dawn Books’ Nature by the Season: Winter. This preschool/kindergarten curriculum will help you and your younger learner appreciate winter and have fun learning. With 40 Nature Walk ideas and colorful worksheets, you’ll find yourself warming up to learning this winter.
Click here to view more details

Organized Homeschool Challenge of the Week

The Memory Keeping Challenge

How to Homeschool Through the Winter Blahs

I turned to the bloggers of iHomeschool Network.

Reasons I'm Thankful for Winter free printable

I’ve created a free Thankful for Winter printable for you and your kids.

There are plenty of free options for getting into the word at biblegateway.com.

If you are still struggling with your attitude to the point that you suspect you’re depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or counselor. I did an interview with the Fletchers for Homeschooling in Real Life on depression.

I have a winter workout for kids and 6 workouts you can do at home on Psychowith6.

Be sure to check out my post of 6 more crazy-easy crockpot recipes for fix it and forget it homemade meals this winter.

I have a really fun study on Mr. Popper’s penguins on Psychowith6 that you could try. The iHomeschool network bloggers have lots of great ideas for you. I’ve also pinned some good ones on my winter inspiration board on Pinterest.

Start a new fun study. Gena Mayo’s 20th Century Music Appreciation is a great one. I bought soft fake snowballs for the kids for this purpose.

Action Steps

If we will change our attitude about winter, take care of ourselves and the kids physically, and do something new, we can definitely homeschool through the winter blahs. Make a plan right now and let me know what you’re going to do on the Homeschool Sanity Facebook page.

Next Week

How to Teach Kids to Declutter

Have a happy homeschool week!

The New Thing for Maintaining Homeschool Enthusiasm

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Is it hard to be enthusiastic about homeschooling this time of year? It usually is for me and it’s hard to be enthusiastic about life in general when the winter blahs set in. This is the Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where I’ll share an idea for maintaining your homeschool and life enthusiasm–an idea that’s already changed my life.

Why We Lose Our Homeschool Enthusiasm This Time of Year

January doesn’t drag me down the way it did in my childhood. I grew up in South Dakota where the cold and snow had a profoundly negative effect on my mood–an effect I didn’t understand until spring when I felt like someone had changed my batteries. Winter where I live now involves regular breaks from the cold and gloom. The occasional 60-degree days keep me going.

But winter isn’t the only thing that can make us meh about homeschooling. It’s also back to the regular routine. The excitement of Christmas break is over. There is a lot of school left before spring. So what do we do?

I used to make curriculum and routine changes for the new year. And these changes helped. But soon the enthusiasm I had for those changes waned too, and we were all fairly bored, hoping to muddle our way through to spring. The seasonal change can make symptoms of depression worse. (Help a son or daughter with depression.)

The Power of Novelty

If you can relate to any of my experience, you may be someone who enjoys novelty as I do. In fact, research suggests that many of us with attention-deficit traits are high in novelty seeking. But it turns out that God created all of us to seek new experiences. When we encounter something new, we get an increase of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine not only improves symptoms of depression but helps us learn. There are clear benefits of novelty, but we also benefit from the structure of a homeschool routine. I’ve discussed this on the podcast many times. If we tried to homeschool in a completely unpredictable fashion, we’d be stressed and our kids would be unhappy.

So, how can we enjoy the benefits of both novelty and structure? Recently our local Christian radio station mentioned a woman whose resolution is to do something new every day this year. Wow! I was instantly sold on this idea, but I had no idea how life-changing it would be from the get go.

Let’s break it down. Something new. In Isaiah 43, God proclaims that He is doing a new thing. If God does new things, why shouldn’t we? We can enjoy newness in curriculum and schedules and our school space, but as I pondered this woman’s resolution, I realized that newness can be so much more.

New Activities

We can try new activities–especially once. It’s low commitment and easier to fit one class or activity into the schedule than a six-week class. I signed up for a one-time, online Native American cooking class and an in-person bookmaking class with a friend this month. I found these activities by searching for class offerings in my area. With YouTube and free online classes and apps, you could try dozens of new activities with your kids. If you find out they’re not for you, you’ve still benefitted from the novelty.

New Options for Activities

We can also try new options for an activity we already enjoy. I like to cook, exercise, and go out to eat. I made scalloped potatoes and ham in my Instant Pot and was astounded that the potatoes need just two minutes cooking time! I am signed up to do a free workout at Row House this week. It’s a gym with a guided rowing and strength training workout. I have been to two new restaurants since starting this challenge. I liked one of them a lot and had a delicious dessert at the restaurant I wasn’t as crazy about.

If you love music, listen to new genres. Like foreign language learning? Try out another language for free on an app like Duolingo. Enjoy art? Try a new technique.

New Places

We can go new places. I started walking outside in colder temperatures this winter for the first time. I am cold phobic, but friend Barb Raveling told me that I just wasn’t dressing warmly enough. She was right! I’ve maintained a positive mood by walking outside even when the temps are in the 30s. This positive experience got me to agree to play tennis with my family in these same cold temps. And I loved it.

When I thought about doing something new daily, I realized that my walks are always in my neighborhood. I started searching for walking trails that aren’t far from me. I was surprised to learn that there is a walking trail in a park I’ve been to dozens of times. But my jaw dropped when I walked the trail and discovered the beauty of a flooded mine. Check my story highlights on HomeschoolSanity on Instagram to see it.

I looked up the popular attractions near me and I’ve been to most of them during my 20+ years of homeschooling. But there are some I’ve missed that I can’t wait to check out. There are also many events I’ve never attended. And even before I was seeking out new experiences, I have wanted to take time to go to new hole-in-the-wall places, new shops, and new parks. Now I will make the time to do it.

You can play a sport you already enjoy in a new location. Take a new route to church or co-op. See what Yelp recommends for your area and check out a new place.

New People

Doing something new can also mean new people. The same old activity feels fresh when someone else joins you. My husband agreed to go with me to Row House early in the morning this week. He has never worked out early before and I’n excited to have him join me. Friends of ours who have never played pickleball would like to join us this winter. It will make it a new activity for us, too. I just read about a couple who restored a 305-year-old farmhouse and has been inviting people over. Their guests have raved about feeling welcomed and connected. I realized that inviting new people over for dinner would be a blessing for all of us through the ministry of hospitality.

New Attitude

But new doesn’t have to take up more of your time or money. It can also be an attitude. I used to dislike shipping books to customers after my kids were employed elsewhere and couldn’t help. Then I started playing funny shows that I’ve already seen while I shipped. The laughter became associated with shipping and now I enjoy it.

As I walked along the trail that had been right under my nose all these years, I wondered what else I was overlooking. I was reminded of the sign my late sister-in-law had that now hangs on my wall. It says “Some people live like nothing is a miracle and some people live like everything is.” My sister-in-law was the latter and I want to be, too.

You’ve done the laundry a million times, but have you ever done it while praising God for the blessing of family and clothing and laundry machines and hot, running water? Have you done it while singing your heart out to your favorite praise song? Have you gotten up and danced? Have you turned it into a game with your kids? If not, that can be your new attitude. Are there things you’ve been afraid to try? It can be as small a matter as being willing to try anchovies or as major as speaking or performing in public. Either way, your new attitude will slowly chip away at your anxiety, giving you a new enthusiasm for life.

Daily, Weekly, Seasonally

That’s the new–new activities, new options for old activities, new places, new people, and a new attitude. But what about the every day part? A couple of my friends said it would drive them crazy to come up with something new to do every day. Me? I love it. It’s a challenge which also motivates me as a strong-willed person. I have something to look forward to every day, which improves my mood significantly. I have a list of options on my phone that I add to daily. If one option doesn’t work out, I have plenty of others to choose from.

But you don’t have to do something new daily to enjoy the benefits. What if you had a goal of a new activity every week? If you choose that approach, my advice is to plan it early in the week or early in the weekend, so you’re more likely to do it. Or have a set day of the week for the new activity with backup options.

Yet another approach is a seasonal bucket list. I recommended creating a Christmas bucket list on an Instagram reel and advised posting it where your kids could see it. I took my own advice and posted mine on the fridge. My kids who were home for Christmas are 17 and up and they were all interested in the list and wanting to check off the activities. They were more excited about it than I was! Whether you do something new daily, weekly, or seasonally, get your kids involved. They will look forward to it, be more enthusiastic about school, and will make memories with you that you’ll all treasure.

I have some guidelines for my approach. I won’t count new clothes, books, or exercise routines in the usual places. You’ll want to create your own guidelines. I plan to do something new every day in 2023. I don’t know if I will continue in 2024, but I may not have to. I’ve already noticed a new curiosity and enthusiasm for life that I think will be a lasting result of this challenge. I would love to have you join me. I’m posting in my Instagram stories daily with the hashtag #neweveryday. I would love to see the new things you’re doing and be inspired by your ideas.

If you’re interested in a new curriculum, a new approach to productivity, or a new organizing plan, I can help.

Grammar Galaxy, A Year of Living Productively, The Organized Homeschool Life

Have a happy homeschool week!

How To Protect Your Homeschool From Hijacking

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Right before Christmas my HomeschoolSanity Instagram account was hacked. You may wonder what that has to do with you. This is the Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where I explain what happened and how my experience can help you protect not just your social media accounts but your homeschool and life from hijacking.


Finding a math curriculum that works for your family can be a challenge! With CTCMath, all of your kids from K-12 can learn at their own pace with one family subscription. That’s right! With a CTCMath membership, you have access to all grades and lessons, which means your children can work at whatever level is best for them. Whether your kid needs to catch up, keep up, or move ahead, with CTCMath they can finally understand math and work at their own pace. CTCMath is offering listeners a half-price discount plus a bonus 6 months when you register for a 12-month membership. Yep. That means you have access to a complete online homeschool math curriculum for all your kids for 18 months!

Protect Your Homeschool Life from Hijacking

If you clicked on my stories for Homeschool Sanity for Instagram during Christmas week, you may wonder why I’m obsessed with cryptocurrency, bragging about the Mercedes I bought with my profits, and using a lot of y’all’s in the captions. My account was hacked. There appeared to be no way for me to get it back. Instagram does not have email, chat, or phone support. Instead, a broken autoresponder was my only option for restoring access, and much to my disappointment, I did not get a Christmas miracle of suddenly getting it back by the 25th.

How I Was Hijacked

How did this happen? I wish I could say that I did everything right. But I did not. In fact, that’s why I’m sharing this episode. Because there are a number of things I did wrong. I made some embarrassingly stupid moves. I’m sad to say it isn’t the first time. It was the first time I lost a social media account to a hacker, yes. But not the first time I’ve made choices that made it easy for the enemy to hijack my life. I have learned a lot from these experiences, however, that I want to share with you in the hopes that your social media and your homeschool will be safe from hijackers.

Unmanaged Emotions

The first reason my Instagram account was hijacked is because I had emotions I hadn’t managed. In my case, it was guilt. I had contacts with two people the day my account was hijacked who wanted money from me. My family and I had been generous with them in the past. I owed them nothing. In fact, they have a history of manipulation. But because they are still poor, I felt some guilt about not helping them. Later that day a woman, who had wanted to sell me makeup in the past, direct-messaged me on Instagram. I looked at her request that I vote for her as an ambassador as well as the fact that I had never purchased makeup from her and guess what I felt? Guilt. If I had done some truth journaling or some chatting with my husband about the guilt I was feeling earlier in the day, it would have been managed. I never would have been vulnerable to this request. Guilt isn’t the only unmanaged emotion that can result in a hijacking, though. Fear and anger are two others. Moses let anger at an Egyptian who was beating a fellow Israelite lead him to kill the man. He then had to leave Egypt in fear for his life. We can all think of foolish things we’ve done out of fear and anger that were not managed properly.


The second way I opened myself up to the hijacking of my Instagram account is that I was distracted. I was helping my son make Christmas cut-out cookies and what was I doing? Looking at my Instagram messages. Had my phone been put away first, I wouldn’t have lost my account. Or had I looked at the message and set my phone aside until I could focus, I wouldn’t have been hijacked. We can be following an exercise and eating plan that works, when staying up late to watch a show causes us to sleep in and miss a workout.  We can be talking to a family member and trying to read at the same time, resulting in a loss of connection. Distractions make it easy for the enemy to get to you. King David was supposed to be with his army in the spring. Instead, he was watching a married woman bathe on the rooftop next door. As a result of this distraction, King David’s reign was hijacked.

Ignoring Red Flags

The third way I opened myself up to hijacking is that I ignored the red flags. The requests this person I supposedly knew were as fishy as a salmon pan left in the oven overnight, yet I went along with them likely because of my guilt and distraction. I honestly still can’t believe I did it, but I wanted to get the request over with. Sometimes we ignore red flags and get hijacked because we are in a hurry. Whatever is the quickest, easiest way to get a time demand out of the way is typically what we choose. That’s what I chose anyway. I wanted this person to leave me alone so I could get to the cookies. We notice the negative influence someone is on us or our kids, but we blow it off. We see the anxiety that watching or reading the news creates for us, but we rationalize it. We have a bad feeling about the co-op we joined, but we tell ourselves we have no other options. The hijacker didn’t have to explain why things seemed so fishy. I explained it for him. My account security is keeping me from voting for her. That’s what I thought. Why would I ignore that red flag? One reason is because I forgot God’s warning in 1 Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I was like Hezekiah in 2 Kings who showed the Babylonian envoys the treasure. Not smart.


The fourth way I opened myself up to hijacking is denial. Even though the signs that I’d been hijacked were undeniable, I denied them. I just forgot my password. That’s all. I’ll get right back in. Only I couldn’t. Denial is based in fear and pride. I was afraid to face the fact that someone in Nigeria had just taken over my account. I was too proud to admit that I couldn’t quickly fix it. I was like the Israelites who refused to enter the Promised Land until they were rebuked and punished by God. Then they tried going in without Him. It didn’t go well. It didn’t go well for me either when I panicked and initially thought that text messages I received were from Instagram trying to help me regain access to my account. Instead, they were from the hacker. We are in denial when we ignore the signs that our husband has become distant, our child is struggling, or our debt is increasing. The answer isn’t to keep trying to solve the problem on our own. We need help!

Recovering from Hijacking

After trying to regain access to my account for several days with no success, I gave up. I created a new account and started telling people to unfollow and block my homeschoolsanity account. Giving up is the first step in being free. It’s what I did many years ago when I couldn’t get my eating under control. I admitted to God that I couldn’t do it. That’s when He took over. Admitting powerlessness is the first step in 12-step programs. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It only means you can’t fix it in your own strength. The day after I gave up, I heard from a connection who learned about my account problem. He sent me this message: “You have to know someone.” He pledged to help me after the holidays. That was great news for me. But what about you? What if you don’t know someone who works for Instagram? What if you don’t know a counselor, a doctor, or a loan officer? The thing is, you know Someone better. Giving the problem to God will either result in success the way you define it or success the way He does. You cannot fail. Deuteronomy 30:1-3 reads: “When all these things come upon you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you call them to mind in all the nations to which the LORD your God has banished you, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey His voice with all your heart and all your soul according to everything I am giving you today, then He will restore you from captivity and have compassion on you and gather you from all the nations to which the LORD your God has scattered you.” Even when we’ve been hijacked as a the result of our own foolishness, God will help us and restore us.


After being assured that help was coming, I figured there was no harm in using the automation to try to regain access to my account. I went through the steps as I had so many times before without success. But this time, boom. I was back in control of my account. I quickly took steps to ensure the hacker could not regain access. When we recover from any kind of hijacking, that’s what we have to do, too–fortify our lives so we can’t be hijacked again. We want to manage our emotions, avoid distractions, pay attention to red flags, and ask for help from the One who can restore us. After I was logged in, I realized a blessing from this experience. The hacker had direct-messaged many of my followers, asking them to vote for me as an ambassador. Most of these people said yes. They didn’t even know what I was wanting to be an ambassador for! But they said yes. They were kind and generous with their time. I pray I can be as kind and generous with mine going forward. If you use social media, I would love to have you follow me at homeschoolsanity on Facebook and Instagram. Either way, I’d love to communicate with you via email. Go to homeschoolsanity.com/subscribe. Thanks again to CTC Math for sponsoring the podcast. Have a happy homeschool week!

3 Reasons to Give Up on Your New Year’s Goal

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

What a weird headline for a New Year’s blog post, right? Give up on your goal before you even get started? You may have a goal that doesn’t fit the criteria below, and if that’s true, carry on! I wish you well. But if you can answer yes to any of the three questions I have for you, consider giving up the goal now.

1. Is the Behavior Required to Meet Your Goal Unsustainable?

You can stick with that low-carb diet, the twice-a-day workouts, and the all-day school schedule in the short-term. But how long will it take before you hate the process and give up?

If what is required to meet your goal isn’t something you can live with long-term, you will not only give up on your goal, but you’ll have a harder time achieving the goal in a more reasonable fashion later on. Overly strict dieting has been linked to weight gain, not loss, for example.

If you can admit right now that going without sugar for the rest of your life is not something you can live with, ask yourself what is? Could you exchange one soda or treat a day for something else you enjoy that has less sugar? Modify the rules for achieving your goal until you can say yes to a long-term commitment, or give it up right now. You’ll be better off.

2. Does the Goal Come from a Place of Self-Loathing?

If you are disgusted with yourself–your eating, your shopping, your time management–you’re likely to choose a punishing path to get yourself to your goal. To make matters worse, you’re unlikely to give yourself credit for changes you make. You’ll tell yourself you should have been doing the right things all along, kicking yourself for past mistakes.

This type of goal tends to come with a lot of internal name-calling: “You’re gross! You’re lazy! You’re pathetic!” It’s like hiring a harsh coach to get us on track. Initially, just like the unsustainable program, it will work. But we will soon be sick of the mean coach we’ve become. We know this coach doesn’t really love us, so we will cut her loose. We give up the goal and feel like even more of a loser.

If you know your goal of filling one trash bag a day with your stuff doesn’t come from a place of self-love, could you focus on 5-minute tasks that make your life easier? Become an encouraging coach focused on helping yourself take baby steps, or give up the goal right now. You’ll feel better about yourself.

3. Does Your Goal Require Extraordinary Willpower That You Haven’t Had Before?

If you have to white knuckle it, summoning willpower that has never been available to you in this area of your life, you’re likely to fail with the goal. If you have a strong desire to shop for curriculum you don’t need, for example, you can exercise self-control in the short-term. You’ll delete the email, unfollow curriculum groups on Facebook, and tell friends you’re happy with your choices when they talk about their latest finds. But then you’re listening to a podcast and hear about something completely new and amazing. It won’t do any harm to check it out, right?

Like a goal that requires unsustainable behavior, you’re likely to give up on willpower goals quickly. When the excitement of New Year’s fades, when you’re tired, or when the unexpected stresses you out, your willpower will fail you. Even when we ask God to give us more willpower, we will quickly find our reserves have run dry.

If you know your goal relies on your own willpower, ask God to change your desires instead. Meditate on Scripture and read Sidetracked in the Wildnerness. If you don’t want unnecessary curriculum, a second helping, or the dopamine hit you get from social media, you won’t need more willpower. The added benefit is you will recognize how much God loves you right where you are and how powerful He is to help you. If you won’t trust God with your goal, you’ll be better off giving it up now–at least until you’re ready to wave the white flag and ask Him to take over.


My prayer is that God would get the glory as you find yourself transformed by the love of God this year.

If you have a goal of getting organized or being more productive this year, my books The Organized Homeschool Life and A Year of Living Productively will give you a sustainable plan.

Melanie Wilson is the host of The Homeschool Sanity Show and the author of Grammar Galaxy language arts curriculum.

How To Gamify Your Homeschool

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

A homeschool mom wrote to ask me where my episode on gamifying your homeschool was. The problem is I don’t have one! But I thought it was a fantastic idea. This is The Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where we talk about making our homeschooling more like a fun, motivating game.


Finding a math curriculum that works for your family can be a challenge! With CTCMath, all of your kids from K-12 can learn at their own pace with one family subscription. That’s right! With a CTCMath membership, you have access to all grades and lessons, which means your children can work at whatever level is best for them. Whether your kid needs to catch up, keep up, or move ahead, with CTCMath they can finally understand math and work at their own pace. CTCMath is offering listeners a half-price discount plus a bonus 6 months when you register for a 12-month membership. Yep. That means you have access to a complete online homeschool math curriculum for all your kids for 18 months!


You might have heard of gameschooling. There are some excellent online influencers who share games for teaching just about every topic. I’ve shared games for teaching language arts as well as holiday games. I’m a huge fan of games as a break from traditional teaching. Kids love them and depending on the games, we parents do too. Not only are games fun learning, but they can create family memories you will cherish.

I incorporate games into Grammar Galaxy as well. I particularly like active games because they’re a welcome break for active kids. The fun involved in a game releases dopamine in the brain which aids in retention of the material.

Language Arts Board Games

Free Grammar Games

Free Vocabulary Games

Gameschooling: The Waldock Way

Gameschooling: My Little Poppies

Gameschooling: The Mulberry Journal

Gameschooling is great. But there is more to gamifying your homeschool than simply adding educational, fun games to your curriculum.

Gamifying Your Homeschool

Gamification means adding game principles to your homeschool life so that you and your family are more motivated.

Let me share an example to explain. Imagine that you were invited to play a card game. There are many rules: you must play certain cards for points but there are other cards that will cost you points. You begin trying to play to earn points. But you forget and play some cards that cost you points. There aren’t any written rules to refer to.

After some time goes by, you ask how you’re doing in the game. Are you ahead, behind, winning, or losing? You’re told to just keep playing the game and you’ll figure it out. New rules seem to be added to the game every turn that cost you points. When you make what you think is a play that will earn you lots of points, you’re told that you can’t make that play now.

My kids have had me play a card game just like this. I reminded them of this game over Thanksgiving and asked them for the name of it. They couldn’t remember. Maddening! I hated the game and never wanted to play it again.

Sometimes our homeschooling is just like this. Our kids do some schoolwork. They feel good about it. But they made some mistakes. They didn’t show their work. They didn’t put enough effort into it. And we let them know. We make them redo the work. We may even give them extra practice work if they didn’t understand a concept.

Or they did very well. They did the work so quickly that we worry we aren’t challenging them. So we ask them to do more advanced work. We ask them to read more or to move on to another subject. We might even add a curriculum to their workload.

The same process can happen with chores. Didn’t do them well enough? Do them again. Get extra chores added on. Do them well but fast? You can handle more chores.

Are you getting the picture? Our kids may feel like they’re playing a game where the rules aren’t clear but what is clear is that there’s no way to win. That isn’t motivating. For anyone.

So how can we fix this to properly gamify our homeschools?

First, the rules for winning at school and chores need to be limited, clear, and preferably posted. We aren’t motivated by a game that tells us to “play cards,” so our kids won’t be motivated to “do school.” They need to know exactly what must be done to earn credit.

If you’re worried that what I’m sharing contradicts with getting kids to take initiative, please don’t. When kids know exactly what is expected of them, they’ll be more likely to take initiative to learn or help more.

But for that to happen, the rules have to be limited and winning has to seem possible. If there are so many rules to remember that I don’t know who to do first, I’m going to want to quit the game before I even get started. If our students have so many assignments that they can’t remember them all, they will feel defeated before they begin.

In addition, winning has to seem achievable. I have started to play video games where the high scorers are listed as motivation for us to compete. I just have to play once and get a paltry score to realize that I will never reach that level, nor would I want to spend the time necessary.

When we have students who are underperforming, our tendency is to want to fill up their lesson plan with work to help them catch up. What happens instead is they feel hopeless and don’t want to even try. Instead, we want to help our kids see that they are winners in school and life. We want to do what we are good at–even if that thing requires time and effort.

In my How to Motivate Any Student class, I share that the first time I played on a part-3 golf course, I hit a flag with my ball on the drive. I was convinced I was a great golfer, and I wanted to keep playing. That was true even though golf is a time-consuming game. We see people spending consider time and effort developing skills in all sorts of areas of life, most likely because they initially believed they had some talent or ability in it.

We can give our kids that initial confidence by making the work easy enough and quick to complete. We know this when it comes to habits and life changes for ourselves. We know we can’t run a 5K without first walking and jogging short distances. We won’t be motivated to organize if it’s going to require weeks and hours of effort. That’s why we work in short, timed bursts.

To use that gamification strategy of making winning possible for our kids, we may have to do some experimenting. Keep cutting down the workload or reducing the level until your child is agreeable. Grammar Galaxy‘s mission steps take just 10-15 minutes each to complete. Some homeschool parents are concerned that this just isn’t enough time. But what happens when you require just 5 minutes of reading a day or 10-15 minutes of language arts a day is kids think it’s doable, so they’ll start. They’ll keep reading because they enoy it. They’ll want to do a second and even a third step in their mission because it was easier than they thought.

Third, a gamified homeschool requires visible progress. Imagine playing a board game where you can’t see how close you are to winning. You have no idea where your marker is. Sometimes our homeschooling is like that. We’re just “doing school” and not even a calendar date indicates the end of the work because Mom feels we need to continue into the summer. I am not suggesting there is a problem with schooling year-round. I AM saying that kids need a finish line to be motivated. I’ve mentioned before how my kids became super motivated to finish their work at the end of the school year when they had a list of everything needed to do before having a long break.

Quarterly Checklist

Have a chart posted in a visible spot (like on the refrigerator) that shows progress in books read, math lessons completed, or chores done. Research shows that without any rewards (even without praise), public progress charts improve performance.

Kids also need to know that their work is meaningful and can’t be minimized in an effort to get them to do more. Here’s what I mean. The games of Sorry and Candyland can be so frustrating to play specifically because all your forward progress can be wiped out in one turn. Homeschooling shouldn’t feel like that for our kids. To that end, we should avoid having them redo a whole curriculum. Instead, we might consider switching to a new curriculum or adding supplementary work to shore up the learning. The only reason I would ignore this advice is if your student is on board with redoing the curriculum. We also don’t want to add chores for a student who finishes work quickly and thoroughly.

The final thing a gamified homeschool requires that I’ll discuss today is the unexpected. If you knew you would never win or would win at Solitaire every time, you would not want to play. Variety is the spice of life and it’s what makes games fun. I’m a big believer in routine. We do our best work and are likely to be well rested with a predictable schedule.

But we all need some spontaneity too. Instead of having a regular game day, you could announce that you’re going to spend the afternoon playing board games. Cut your student’s workload in half after assigning it. Go on a surprise field trip. Watch educational movies instead of doing the scheduled lessons. Do fun science experiments. Invite friends over to play. Do your school routine backwards. Even have kids put their clothes on backwards if you like. Put one of your students in charge for the day. Use shopping and cooking as school. Turn your chore list into a randomized game. Roll the dice and do the chore with that number. List some topics your kids are interested. Roll the dice and study the subject that comes up for the day. Have slips of paper with surprise activities or breaks in a jar and let your child choose one when the mood strikes. You can also use a randomizer app on your phone for this purpose.

As long as these surprises don’t become routine, kids will feel like they are playing a game in being homeschooled. Of course, learning is its own reward. But some of our habits can minimize the natural motivation of homeschooling.


When we make the rules for winning clear; when winning seems achievable; when kids see visible progress; and when they regularly experience the unexpected, we have gamified our homeschools and will likely have more homeschool sanity.

Thanks again to CTC Math for sponsoring the podcast.

Have a happy homeschool week and a very merry Christmas to those listening this third week of December.

Motivating Learners With Dr. Lyle Lee Jenkins

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Is your student less than motivated when it comes to reading or math? This is The Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where Dr. Lee Jenkins shares creative ideas for motivating learners.

Hey, homeschoolers! As a psychologist, mother, and now a guide for homeschool parents, I have a great interest in motivation. Before I introduce my guest, I want to thank my sponsor for this episode: 5000 Blankets.

Sponsor: 5000 Blankets Movie

It’s incredible what can happen when you transform your heart to serve the people around you.Catch 5000 BLANKETS exclusively in theaters for two days only! December 12 & 13. Tickets at https://www.fathomevents.com/events/5000-Blankets

Motivating Learners with Dr. Lyle Lee Jenkins

I was happy to have Dr. Jenkins join me for the podcast to share creative ideas for engaging our kids in the learning process. Lyle Lee Jenkins is an author, speaker, consultant and a recognized expert in improving educational outcomes. The author of How to Create a Perfect School, All About Henry, his newest release How to Create a Perfect Homeschool, and 15 other books, Lee has spent the last 50 years learning from world-class experts while working as a teacher, principal, school superintendent and university professor. Lee’s speaking career has taken him across the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Asia, and he has taught online courses to educators from more than 25 countries. His mission is providing innovative solutions for the most perplexing education problems.

I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did. We discussed:

    • Tips for motivating reading
    • Tips for motivating math
    • Why Dr. Jenkins talks about the “perfect” homeschool

Resources for Motivating Learners

Find links to Dr. Jenksins’s books at HomeschoolSanity.com/Motivating Learners Email Dr. Jenkins at Lee@LTOJ.net.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Aesop’s Favorite Fables Have a happy homeschool week!

Thanks again to 5000 Blankets for their sponsorship.

Why You’ve Fallen Behind In Your Homeschool Plan

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Have you fallen behind in your homeschool plan? Do you want to avoid looking at your lesson planner because it’s so depressing? If that’s you, I have good news. This is The Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where we’ll get back on track.

Sponsor: 5000 Blankets Movie

It’s incredible what can happen when you transform your heart to serve the people around you.Catch 5000 BLANKETS exclusively in theaters for two days only! December 12 & 13. Tickets at https://www.fathomevents.com/events/5000-Blankets

The Planning Fallacy

Now the good news: There’s nothing wrong with you! You’ve just fallen victim to a human thinking error that’s characteristic of some of the smartest people. It’s called the planning fallacy. It means we tend to underestimate how much time projects take, even when we have experience that has taught us better.

So you tell yourself you can get the science experiment part of your curriculum done in half an hour, even though they’ve taken you at least three times as long in the past. Why are we irrational this way? Because we also have an optimism bias—especially when it comes to our own abilities.

I’ve been watching a baking show, a baking competition in which bakers make elaborate baked goods in a very short amount of time. Even though a baker will admit to never having made the recipe at home under the time limit, she hopes that she will for the competition. She hopes. It’s a kind of magical thinking that we’re all guilty of at times. You’ve never made it to co-op in under ten minutes, but you hope you will today—somehow.

Why do we have this optimism bias and this magical thinking about the future? Researchers have a number of theories:

First, we use the best-case scenario in our planning. For example, we tell ourselves we can get to church in six minutes because of that one time when every light was green.

Second, we plan this way because we want to believe that our scenario will happen. We avoid the disappointment of admitting that there is no possible way we can complete two foreign language curricula in one year.

Third, we honestly don’t remember how long a similar project took. We think the math lesson took ten minutes to complete when it actually took 20.

Fourth, we emphasize the differences between the current project and a past one. Yes, science experiments took forever last year, but now you’re organized. And your kids are more mature.

Fifth, long-term deadlines promote poorer time estimates. We do worse in realistically planning for a full school year than we do for this week.

Sixth, we focus on the variables that we can control, forgetting that much of the most time-consuming parts of our day are unexpected and out of our control. We don’t know that our printer will stop working right when we go to print the lab worksheets or that the dog will get out of the yard as we’re about to start the art lesson.

How to Overcome the Planning Fallacy

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting depressed. Maybe we should scrap our homeschool plan and just see what happens? Depending on your homeschool laws, you might not have that choice. Or you know that you get far less done without a plan. So you’d still like to plan in such a way that you don’t fall far behind. How can we do that?

First, instead of using a best-case scenario, let’s use a worst-case one. In a study of college students who used this strategy, researchers found that the students did even worse than their worst-case scenario. But at least they were closer! If this is challenging for you to do, try doubling your time estimates. If you’re anything like me, you’ll push back against this. “There’s no way it’s going to take four hours to get a science experiment done!” Then split the difference. Plan on three hours and if you have time left over, you can catch up on other subjects or have some down time.

Second, we can admit to ourselves that we can’t do everything we want to do this year. But the good news is we’ll have something exciting to look forward to next year! It might help you feel less disappointed to make a list of the great activities and curricula you’ll take on another time.

Third, start timing your activities. Don’t rush through the science experiment. See how long it really takes you on average.

Fourth, consider the similarities between your current plan and what you did last year. If you still have a tendency to start school later…if your kids still dawdle over the lesson…if you don’t like dragging out the supplies any more this year than last, think again about what you can realistically accomplish.

Fifth, consider planning for the short-term if you’re a yearly planner. Plan for the quarter, the month, the week, or even the day if you feel more in control of your time. One way to increase your motivation for completing the plan is to use the free quarterly planner I’ve created. When you and your kids finish their work for the quarter, they get the rest of the time off. This worked like a charm for my kids!

Finally, think about the obstacles that got in the way of your homeschooling last week. Was someone sick? Did the washing machine leak? Was a family member or friend in need of help? One of the best ways we can accommodate the unexpected is to have margin in our plan. Just as the margins of a page have nothing on them, our plan or schedule should have spaces where nothing is there. We can keep an hour of our day, a day a week, or even a week a month unplanned to manage those times when we get behind. The key to making this work is not to treat the unplanned time like a tax refund. What I mean is, we shouldn’t put our schoolwork off, thinking that we’ll just use our unplanned time to do it. Even though the time is unplanned, we should treat it as reserved for emergencies only. If nothing comes up, we have time to relax or have some spontaneous fun!

Although it’s human nature to overestimate what we can accomplish and then be disappointed, we can do better. We can estimate using the worst-case scenario. We can plan some of our activities for next year. We can time our activities to have better estimates. We can consider the similarities between our ideas for the future and what we’ve done in the past. We can plan for the short-term and put margin into our plans. 

Thanks again to 5000 Blankets for their sponsorship.

Have a happy homeschool week!

How To Get A College Degree Debt-Free

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

If your student wants to attend college but doesn’t want to be loaded down with debt, I have a treat for you. This is The Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where guest Kara Walker shares uncommon but practical tips for saving money on a college education.

Hey, homeschoolers! I absolutely love chatting with homeschoolers. That’s just one reason I wanted to interview Kara Walker. Kara graduated from college debt-free, and is now on a quest to help other students do the same with her podcast, “Money and Mental Peace,” and her online course “The Debt-Free College Blueprint”! She is a twenty-something Christian entrepreneur, amateur snowboarder, and recovering over-achiever. Kara enjoys goal-setting, budgeting, and living a debt-free lifestyle, and wants to help YOU do the same!

Kara is absolutely delightful. If you have a college-bound or finance-interested teen, have them listen to this episode with you. You won’t be disappointed.

College Degree, Debt-Free Resources

Dave Ramsey personal finance courses

Dave Ramsey podcast

Modern States Study Guides

Homeschooling for College Credit

Money and Mental Peace – Kara’s website and podcast

How we manage college

Have a happy homeschool week!

Special Replay: How To Level Up Your Gratitude

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Hey, homescoolers!

I’ve written and spoken about gratitude a lot because it’s important. God’s Word reminds us to give thanks 173 times. Giving thanks is the Lord’s admonition to His people, but even secular leaders recognize the benefits of expressing gratitude. Gratitude journals are all the rage.

But I had an experience recently that helped me see that my gratitude needs an upgrade. What’s exciting about this recognition is not that I have another reason to feel guilty. On the contrary, I have another reason to be encouraged. And so do you!

In this episode, I want to share some ideas for taking our own and our family’s gratitude to the next level. And it doesn’t require you to go on a foreign mission trip.

Before I share those ideas, I just want to say thank you. I have been so blessed to have you listen to this podcast, to chat with me at Great Homeschool Conventions, and to write and tell me that my work makes a difference in your life. It’s easier to keep running this race with your encouragement. I thank God for you and I pray for you.

Last month, my son woke us up to tell us that our basement was flooded. We thought he meant that some water had come in along one wall. That had happened before and my husband had a plan for solving the problem. So I was shocked when I walked downstairs, only to have my feet sink into sopping wet carpet. Water had come in from every wall, leaving only the center of the rooms dry. Our sump pump had failed in the midst of a heavy rain. We didn’t know that the pumps have to be replaced regularly. If you haven’t replaced your pump, let our experience be a warning to you.

Before I entered our sopping wet basement, my gratitude list would have sounded something like this:

Lord, I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my home. I’m thankful for my business.

I’ve matured enough in my faith that I wasn’t grumbling to God about the mess the water had made, but it was definitely a damper on my day. I became hyper focused on solving the problem. More rain was in the forecast later that day. I was ready to turn to Google for help when I felt the sense that I needed to stop and let my husband help me. Because my office is in our basement, I was feeling that I needed to be in charge. But I heeded the call to stand down. I just worked on cleanup.

Then my husband announced that our plumber was coming in a couple of hours to install a new sump pump. That was very good news! But the rest wasn’t. “I asked how he was,” my husband said, “and I could tell something was wrong. He has cancer and starts chemo in a few days.” I wasn’t shocked because of the large number of people we know who have been diagnosed with cancer or a recurrence in the last two years. But I was in awe of how the Lord used our flooded basement to give us the opportunity to minister to a man at just the right time.

Yes, I was grateful that we suffered so little loss with the water damage. I was grateful, too, that the flooding hadn’t occurred after installing new carpeting. Instead, I had been wanting the carpet replaced anyway. But what I was most grateful for was the love of our God. He loves our plumber so much that He used a heavy rain combined with our failure to replace a sump pump to bring him to our home, where we could pray for him and witness to our faith. What’s incredible to me is that He didn’t just work this together for our plumber’s good but for ours.

God is more than able to use every circumstance to make His plan a reality. I’m so grateful that He is trustworthy! His will will be done, even if we make a mistake. Even if someone we love makes a mistake. What a comfort!

I decided after that experience that I needed to upgrade my gratitude. I needed to go beyond making a list of all the standard-issue reasons to be grateful. I needed to start looking for how God was going to use the disappointments, the disasters, and even the dumb things we do for His glory and our good. Then I would thank Him for His love and care, even in advance of seeing them in reality.

Here is how I’m going to do that. I recommend that you and your children join me.

First, make a list of every worry, disappointment, and upset that is troubling you now.

For each entry, thank God that He is going to make you more like Jesus through that. He is going to use the circumstance as fertilizer to grow the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Who doesn’t want more of that fruit? I know I do. Thank God that He will give you wisdom. He promises to give us His wisdom when we ask in James 1:5.

Next, knowing that You will grow, thank God that He is going to use the circumstance for your good and the good of those you love.

Even though you don’t know how or when, even if it’s not in the way you prefer, you know that He will do this because He promises us this in Romans 8:28.

Finally, thank God that He will be glorified and His plans will be fulfilled.

Every situation will be used to demonstrate the power, the love, and yes, sometimes the patience of God. We agree with God that His ways are higher than our ways.

We can also level up our gratitude by putting it into action.

We can and should spend more time in prayer and Scripture reading–especially more than we spend time reading the news and others’ opinion. We can worship God in music, spending time in nature, creating, serving, and giving. Our love for Him overflows into worship.

We can remind others that God is at work. He hears our prayers but is waiting for the perfect time, when we and the people we love are most ready. We can preach to ourselves and others that this is not our home. Even if this life is not as we wish, we know that our eternal life offers more than we could ask or imagine. We can offer a listening ear and a hug to those who are waiting on God, offering the comfort we ourselves have received from Him.

And finally, we can share the Gospel. We can witness to our faith in the One who raised His Son to life and will raise us, too. We can share the real reason we suffer that has little to do with a person, politics, or particulars. Our sin led to a decaying world full of suffering–failed sump pumps and cancer. But God provided the solution to sin. I’m so thankful that solution isn’t dependent on you or me. Then we’d be sunk. Instead, we know the end of the story and it is victory. In that we place our hope and we rejoice with gratitude.


We are human, so when you walk onto sopping wet carpet, your initial response is unlikely to be gratitude. But if you stop and consider how you can become more like Christ, how God will work it together for good, and how God will be glorified, you’ll be likely to put your gratitude into action.

Next week my guest Carol Barnier and I will discuss how to help distractible, struggling readers. Have a happy homeschool week!

How To Change Your Parenting In The Teen Years

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

A homeschool mom wrote to ask me if it’s true that you shouldn’t expect the same kind of obedience from your teens that you do from younger kids. This is The Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where I address how to change our parenting in the teen years.


Finding a math curriculum that works for your family can be a challenge! With CTCMath, all of your kids from K-12 can learn at their own pace with one family subscription. That’s right! With a CTCMath membership, you have access to all grades and lessons, which means your children can work at whatever level is best for them. Whether your kid needs to catch up, keep up, or move ahead, with CTCMath they can finally understand math and work at their own pace. CTCMath is offering listeners a half-price discount plus a bonus 6 months when you register for a 12-month membership. Yep. That means you have access to a complete online homeschool math curriculum for all your kids for 18 months!

How to Change Your Parenting in the Teen Years

Conflicting advice around parenting is so confusing, isn’t it? If you have teens and wonder how to parent them, my first encouragement is to trust your judgment.

Our parenting shoudn’t change around disrespect. This is a soap box I climb onto all the time and with good reason.

Use a coaching approach. My next response to this question comes from a video series by Reb Bradley (See Parenting Teens with the Wisdom of Solomon). He was on this podcast in the first year talking about requiring first-time obedience. I have a different approach to first-time obedience, but I agree with Reb that parenting teens becomes more about coaching than dictating.

While we want to have a coaching approach, this doesn’t mean that we abdicate our authority when it comes to dangerous or immoral behavior. I wouldn’t allow my kids to drive when they’re under the influence or let their girlfriend sleep over because that’s the choice they’ve made after coaching.

Coaching also takes your child’s personality and circumstances into account.

Coaching is a response to your child, not a set program. If something isn’t working, try a new approach in a collegial, experimental atmosphere.

When I had six young children, strangers warned me of the nightmare of teen years that lay ahead of me. I did have some challenges with a strong-willed child that I’ve talked about before, but all in all, these years have been a joy. The young adult years have been a joy, too.


One final encouragement I want to give you is to surrender these children to the Lord. They are His. Believe that He wants the best for them even more than you do and you will have peace. Your teens will sense this and will respond accordingly.

Have a happy homeschool week!