on homeschooling again: strong curriculum, weak mama

I mentioned Monday we are starting a new curriculum for this year- we decided to go with the Bob Jones University Distance Learning program. We went with the full curriculum for our 3rd and 4th graders, and we went with the Phonics DVD package for our 1st grader, and we are going to supplement hers with Horizons math and individual workbooks for Bible and Science. :)

If unpacking the boxes was any indication of what is to come, it will be a bit... overwhelming. :)

You really seem to get what you pay for though {the video program was $850 per child}- each of the boys have a ton of textbooks, supplemental materials, reviews, and tests.

Here's a glimpse of 4th grade work:

Each set came with a hard drive that contains a full year of video lessons. The lessons are taught by teachers, but the format is so much different from a traditional classroom. Each lesson seems closer to a really informative PBS show, and all of my kids watched all of the 4th grade previews we showed them without any prodding. They wanted to watch them, and that was a good sign! :D

The reviews for their DL program were really, really good, which was so helpful to us since we don't know anyone who has used this program before. The textbooks are all colorful paperbacks- they seem to be very interesting to look at too!

Here's the 3rd grade textbooks:

We also got all of the books that we'll need through the year for literature:

And Bella's phonics, handwriting, and reading look very thorough as well. She will also watch a lesson each day on a DVD. They were again, very highly reviewed, so I'm excited to see how her reading improves in the 1st grade.

And that my friends, is a stack of tests and answer keys on the right there. Phew. ;)

But my favorite part, other than the video lesson, is this:

Each day is already planned out for you in one place- what worksheets they need, how long the lessons are, and what's required of me to do. This is so helpful, because I've never been a teacher/organized kind of person. It hurts me to think about sitting down and lesson planning every subject for a year for 3 children. ;)

I'm more of the I'm excited to buy school supplies and oh, let's do coordinating pencils and scissors kind of girl. :)

But here we are. Honestly, I'm kind of feeling that dreadful feeling you get right before you go to the dentist, where you know you just have to push through it, because you know it's necessary and it's all going to be worth it in the end. Homeschooling is just not easy or natural for me. But that's okay. It doesn't have to be. 

schoolwork sorted and ready to go
I can do it, because the Lord has led us here this year, even though full-time homeschooling wasn't in our original plan. And this is where we're supposed to be for now.

I know if he calls me to do it, I can do it through Him. No matter how much I'm not a teacher, or how disorganized I am, or how impatient I am, or how I'm just not good at this.

No matter how imperfect I am, He says to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Can you believe it? His power is made perfect in my weakness. Not in how good I am at this.

enjoying our traditonal last day of summer breakfast!
That's just like our Father though, isn't it? Shining His glory, showing His strength in what seems impossible to man.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It's a promise I'm clinging to this year like a mad woman.

Here's to a new season of weakness. 

Do you feel like homeschooling is a weakness for you? What has helped you through?

What's your best advice for newer homeschoolers?

Any tips for using the BJU curriculum? I'd love your thoughts!


  1. Wow! What probably impressed me the most was the daily planner. I'm not a home-schooling Mom...but if I'm ever called to be, that would be great!

  2. I loved your honest post and I have found myself in the very same overwhelming spot with new baby and a full year of homeschooling ahead of me! Since I've now got another new baby on the way, (number 7) we went with "Easy Peasy", (All In One Homeschool) for our 5th, 1st, and pre-K children. It's all on-line, fantastically in-depth, Christian, and most of all, FREE! Also, just a tip, we almost went with BJU a couple years ago but a friend who was using the DVD's said after awhile the DVD's just took too long to sit through. Her kids would put the DVD on fast forward just to get through the lessons. I think she ended up going with just the books thereafter. I pray it will be a wonderful successful homeschooling year for you and your family!

  3. Thank you so much for your post today! I started homeschooling six days ago for the first time after 8 grades of public school for my older and 2 grades with my younger. I have been feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. So to have my pastor's wife and your blog tell me the same thing today, is just what I needed.

  4. I was homeschooled all my life , this brings back memories :) and now I'm starting to homeschool my 5 yr old as im having our 4th baby in 2 weeks ! Love this post !

    - Hannah Hargis

  5. I just started homeschooling my 2nd grade daughter this year. I also went with a DVD program (Abeka) I chose Abeka because I had several moms who use it with success, as well as the fact that the Christian school my daughter was attending used that curriculum. As a "firt-timer" in homeschooling, I wanted to make the transition as easy as possible. Abeka also has everything laid out for you in the lesson planning, so I was just as stoked as you were to see that!! :) I'm interested in the Bob Jones DVD program as well, so please keep us updated on how your kids enjoy it! :) Also, I have a 3 year old who will be doing pre-k next year, probably from home with us...so I admire you and your multi-tasking homeschooling efforts!! :) Can't wait to glean lots of ideas from you on how you manage 2 different grades. :)

    1. I've both homeschooled and now taught in a Christian school for three years using Abeka's DVD program as well. I can only speak from the experience I've had but we love it! Its very thorough and includes all the books and materials. And when I used it to homeschool my daughter with the videos it was around $400 for everything.
      I am a firm believer that every family has to do whats best for their child/children. My husband and I both attended public schools for all of our education, our daughters have been homeschooled and attended private Christian school, and my husband now teaches at a public school (& Im at our girls' private school teaching).
      I wish you a wonderful year with your children this year! May the Lord bless you as you follow His leadings for your family:)

  6. I, too, am a homeschooling mom of 5. We have a 6th grader, 3rd grader, and 1st grader (plus a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old). We also use BJU online (just like the DVDs) and have been doing so since K5 for my oldest (so this is year #7). We love the BJU curriculum and our test results each are incredible because of the thoroughness of the curriculum. I hope you love it as much as we do! Our children sit at desks in our dining room so that I can supervise their progress and make sure they are paying attention. We started off letting the children work in their rooms, but quickly found out that I need to supervise. :) Don't be overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff"...it's all tools to make everything simple for you and for your children. Everything's there! The lesson plan is amazing and so incredibly helpful. Blessings as you begin!!

  7. I just love your blog. Every time I stop by ... I am encouraged! I have always been excited to see your homeschooling posts. I have been on the fence for a couple of years about homeschooling. I am still trying to decide what God would have us to do. I am always looking for encouragement... knowledge... advice... and "real" posts about this amazing subject. Thanks for being a light.

  8. Hey Mandy- We are still in the "deciding" phase... I was a public school teacher/coach before being promoted to full time mom (woop woop!) My husband is still a teacher.... But we may home school :) You'll do great!!

  9. I don't have any advice to offer, but have to say kuddos to you for following the Lord and homeschooling even when it isn't what you feel like you are gifted to do! The Lord will honor that and He hears those prayers! Many Blessings on a successful year :)

  10. We also use BJU, but not the DVD's, we just purchased the books and worktext. I also love that they have your days all planned out and from my experience without using the DVD's they kiddos grasp the material just as well and the days go much quicker.

  11. This program for your kids seems like THE perfect one in this season of your life especially with the new addition of your cutie patootie (he looks great in orange BTW). All the best to a great school year....remember that one of the MANY benefits to homeschooling is that when life interupts everything you can drop it all and then pick it up and move on when it works for you! Relax, pray and just go for it! Blessings.

  12. I've been homeschooling for awhile now, and you're looking a lot more organized than I am, lol. We tried the video lessons, but I only have two kids, they hated watching separate videos and, basically, feeling like they were isolation for hours each day. We eventually dropped the videos and I taught them the lessons instead. This year, I combined their lessons, and I'm teaching the same thing on different levels of difficulty for their different grades. We've saved a lot of money doing that -- about $2,500.

    All that being said, I've got a lot more free time than you do. What works for couldn't possibly work for you, especially with a newborn in the house! I wish you success with the videos. I know people for whom they work very well. My oldest daughter is just really needy. She needs as much human contact as she can get.

  13. I am homeschooling this year with My Father's World for my first grader and an online curriculum for my 3 year old. He is not that interested though. Homeschooling for me is one of those things....when you have a good day your on top of the world and ready to tackle the next 15-18 years but on bad days you worry that you're not teaching the right thing or enough or your children are not listening to you, etc, etc. My experience is the more people that you can talk to about it who are having the same challenges as you the better off you are. You feel like you're not alone and you realize that most homeschoolers have moments of doubt. I always try to remember why I'm homeschooling. I mean some days 6 hours+ of alone time sounds really, really nice:o)

  14. I used the dvds last year, though I didn't make it past week 7! They were back in school after I decided for the second try that homeschooling just doesn't work well for our family. I felt that the program itself was good (I'm just not so great at implementing it!). I think the dvds helped keep it interesting and took some off of my plate for sure. But like anything, too much can be too much. So then it's up to mom to teach a lesson or shake things up a little (again, not my thing!). I agree with you- the lesson plans were really neat! Setting everything up was overwhelming to me. I did join a bju distance learning support group on yahoo and that helped me a LOT. Any questions I had were answered by people who use bju distance learning. If you haven't heard of it, I would really recommend looking it up. I was overwhelmed to tears before I found that group. To me the dvds were helpful, though mom still needs to keep on top of everything and make sure all that info is sinking in! I wish you a good year and I hope you like the program!

  15. Hi Mandy,
    May God richly bless you as you begin this year of homeschooling with a newborn in tow! I am due with my 11th any day, and I currently have 6 grade levels running in our homeschool. Over the years God faithfully showed me time and again that He is the ultimate teacher - to me and my children. We mostly use Abeka, some in video and some traditional instruction, and the danger with such structured curriculum is that one can get lost in a three ring circus trying to do it all. The tragedy in this, I've found, is that God tends to get lost in it all. A true devotional Bible time gets shortened or missed because the schedule calls, or assignments loom, or worse, Mom's stress/shortness/lack of joy does not allow us to rejoice in this calling - and the kids know it. Although I do love the curriculum and all that is covers, I have learned to give it all over to The Almighty every morning...discouragement, feeling inadequate, stress, pressure...and allow Him to bring the learning that needs to happen come to pass. In the end, what a failure it would be to raise yet another generation of sharp, intelligent academics that rely on their knowledge more then on their Creator! Or, young men and women know their Bibles well but aren't biblical... you are so right! Continue to release all and keep your hold on His promise: His daily grace and His strength is all you need to raise (and educate)this army...Blessings~Cindy

  16. No tips as I am just two weeks into homeschooling for the first time. My daughter is in K-5 and we are using Abeka, but not the dvd's. I've given us the liberty to completely skip the stuff she already knows and focus on what she needs and enjoys at this point.

    Hope you love it!

  17. Thanks for being honest. I home schooled my oldest for kindergarten, with the Abeka dvds and LOVED IT. Then we moved and ended up sending our girls to 1st grade and K4 at the neighbor Christian school which uses Abeka. However, we felt we needed to bring them home this year, and as much as I knew it would be the other option with where we moved, it's been a BIG adjustment to homeschool this year. I decided to use Abeka Academy again. Online streaming for my 2nd grader, and the dvds for my K-5 girl, because I also have a 3yo son who's still potty training and a now 3 month old. My husband is a physician, a surgeon in training, which tells you he's not home much, so felt this Abeka program fit our needs this year, for me as a "new" homeschooling mom. So your post HIT HOME. Praying YOUR year goes well! My friend uses BJU also.

  18. You know, I was homeschooled for 7 years and I've been homeschooling my own kids for 7 years now and I still feel overwhelmed and clueless every year. I get nervous when I think about starting the year and I question myself every step of the way. It is hard work! I have 5 kids, too, and the amount of work is staggering. I cling to the Rock, though! I know if he has led me to this momentous responsibility, He will continue to lead me though it!

  19. Yes, I am a weak homeschool Mama. We actually had our 3 school age kids in private school last year (we have 5 total) and had an awesome year. It was just the "break" I needed to be renewed. We actually planned originally to send them for two years, but the Lord began tugging my heart in Feb. about bringing them home. We did and it's been great. Not easy, or problem free, especially with a two year old, but I know God was in us bringing them home.

    It's funny cause I NEVER planned on homeschooling...but then God...well I did a post about it...http://www.4pinksandablue.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-we-homeschool-part-1-because-of.html. It will make this comment shorter if you just read it for yourself from there!

    Love your post and your blog!

  20. I don't have children yet (but will be getting married in 10 days, so children may be on the horizon!), but I have been seriously thinking about homeschooling for a while now. My faith is quite young, so I can't say that my faith is the biggest factor in my choice to homeschool, but I do know that the educational system in my province (Alberta) leaves much to be desired. For example, there was a teacher in Edmonton who was fired last year for giving a 0% to a highschool student who did not hand in his work. There is a definite lack of authority, accountability and standards in Alberta's public education system. They are more concerned about making sure students' feelings aren't hurt. There doesn't seem to be much difference between the public system and the Catholic system either, other than mandatory Religious Studies class.

    So yes, while I want to teach my children to have high moral standards and to have a stronger faith than what I grew up with, I also just want them to have a stronger educational experience in general. Which means that if they want a passing grade, they must do their work and put effort into it. I want to know that my children are learning and aren't merely being babysat.

    My biggest worry, though, is that I will be a weak homeschooler, and I won't be any better than the teachers at public schools. I'm afraid that I'll be overwhelmed, and I won't be able to give them a high quality education. I'm also afraid of all the backlash I will get from my highly materialistic family. They think if I'm not getting paid for it, it's not worth my time. I know I'll get a ton of cracks about my decision a few years ago not to go to teacher's college because I could see the writing on the wall that it wasn't the right career for me. I'm starting to see how counter-cultural I'm becoming because the status-quo just isn't good enough anymore.

  21. It is such a blessing to homeschool. God doesn't call the qualified He qualifies the called. Sis you are right where God wants you right in His hands teaching your babes. And that is a special blessing. I homeschooled for about three years and never felt qualified, which is normal. But God used those three years for good. He has already planned out everything for you. I used some BJ and currently my girls are in private school at our church and they are using BJ and I love it they love it. It is one of the best curriculums out there. A few friends of mine used that same curriculum you are and they loved it as well.

    Some advice I can give is prayer. He is the only one to see you through it. You can do it mama!!

  22. We did BJU when I was homeschooled. We did the HomeSat version where my mom recorded classes on VHS from a satellite feed. Our high school classes were live each day and I could email the teacher and get answers but my mom did all the grading and we didn't turn anything into BJ. We loved it! Now, I am teaching a 3/4 combo class at a small private Christian School and I am using BJ for Science, Social Studies, English, Reading, and Spelling. A lot of your books are the same ones I have! Being on the other side of the curriculum as a teacher now, it is overwhelming by how many books there are for each subject. But I am finding it is pretty easy to get a hang of and my lesson prep time is minimum since I just have to read what they already created! I hope you enjoy using it. We're in the same boat for teaching it this year :)

  23. Homeschool does not come naturally to me either. I also run my own business from home so it's a struggle to juggle homeschool, home, extra activities for kids AND a business with a new baby. So I really need homeschool lessons that are mapped out for me. I may have to look into something like this for next year (as I already have this years stuff and it's very eclectic, LOL! Mostly A Beka though).

    My advice to new homeschoolers - take it slow and makes changes to suit your family. Don't feel like you have to imitate public school and start at X-time and end at X-time. Really take the first year to figure out your kids' learning styles and have fun with it. Join a homeschool group (online or in person or both!) for support. It's not always sunshine and rainbows. Don't get discouraged, don't beat yourself up. I was just worrying that we weren't "doing enough" and then today while we were doing weekend cleaning/chores I found a crumpled paper in my daughter's room. She's only 8 and had written a whole paper on what she thinks "government" means and what a President does, etc. We haven't really spent a ton of time in history or social studies (we focused mostly on grammar/phonics and math last year). I was blown away. I asked her why she didn't show me and why she had crumpled it up. It basically looked like a little research paper.

    I also found a poem she wrote that was amazing, also crumpled. I encouraged her to share these things with me. It's sticking, even if I don't always catch it!!!

  24. Hi! I'm overwhelmed at the choices for homeschooling. How did you decide?

  25. I don't know one homeschooling mom that hasn't been overwhelmed, felt inadequate or like she is falling so far behind she feels like she isn't doing a satisfactory job of educating her children. On days when book work is just not happening, nothing is going right, child after child keeps getting sick, or you yourself are sick...just read books aloud (or have dad read to the kiddos when he gets home) and watch educational documentaries. You would be amazed how much children learn snuggled up next to mom or dad reading on days when there is no way the bookwork is going to get done. On sick days, educational documentaries are our friend. Our family limits entertainment tv for this reason. We don't deny them tv entertainment, but it is just limited. During the school week, if they want to watch tv, they are going to learn. And it works. It also opens up a discussion about how Christians "may" (depending on your views of creation) differ with timelines in these documentaries. You can share your beliefs right there with your children...while watching the tube. You can cover nearly every subject with read alouds and tv or dvds. Not an option for everyday, but if you can't fit a science experiment in that week, maybe it's time for a science RockNLearn dvd. Do you have to take care of a sick child and the rest of the kiddos need to learn grammar? How about SchoolHouseRock? There are even math dvds children don't mind watching like Mathtacular or Teaching Textbooks (starting in 3rd grade).Because so many of us grew up in the public school system, we may not even know that the public school system as we know it is not very old at all. Before this system in the early 1900's, if children were educated, they were taught by private tutors that were not "experts" in every field. But the tutor would educate THEMSELVES first on any information they didn't know, then teach it to their pupils. It is only recently that our society says a teacher should be a master at what they teach. There are times when you may want to learn from a master teacher, but FIRST we need to seek the Lord's guidance. The lessons we try to teach our children are often very formative with us. If you pray about it and feel God is still calling you to teach a harder subject you aren't comfortable with, there is a reason. Your children will be watching how you react to a difficult situation. We may be called upon to have trust in the Lord, patience, and perseverance, not matter what the outcome. Another thing to consider is: what do we really want our children to know? That is the question. For me, #1 is Loving God and Loving their Fellow Brothers and Sisters on Earth. #2 is a Joy of LEARNING. Not being a master in every subject, but being given the tools to learn how to learn whatever they need or want to know. We are part of a nationwide group called Classical Conversations. Some people say it is just shoving info in children. It may be that way for some, but I take a very laid back approach. We just have fun with amazing songs, motions, pictures, easy crafts, etc. My children are learning "how" to learn using this approach. Some day, if they want to learn a language, they may make up a song, or motions, or use visual ques, or make up a game to help them memorize info. Once you understand the tools to help you learn how to learn, you can learn anything. So much of a public school day is discipline and shuffling. It takes very little time to actually teach a small group of children something. Even though you may not get done a fraction of what you intended on a certain day, your children are still learning. And through being together, you are teaching them to be each other's best friends, learn patience, kindness, understanding, and probably a whole slew of virtues I'm forgetting. Always seek God's will for your family. Wherever he leads you to is what you are supposed to do- homeschooling, public, or private school.

  26. Hi, Mandy,
    I came across your blog again today and recognized it as one I've really enjoyed in the past. I was looking up some homeschooling ideas and landed on this post of yours...and oh, can I sympathize! How glad I am that when I am weak He is strong! Our family also uses the BJU curriculum. Though I know it's not for everyone, it's worked well for us through many of the "uncertain" (um...crazy) times of family life (surgeries each year, big moves, living and schooling in our church basement, death of our son, working with our special needs daughter, etc.) as well as on the days that allow for more of a predictable routine. I've found it helpful to remember that it's all still tools for me to, with God's help and wisdom, use our not use for my children. I have to be flexible! You are exactly what your children need in a mother and, since God has called you to this larger involvement in their education, in a teacher! And what a beautiful and creative one you are! Since this curriculum gives us sooooo much to work with, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and guilty if we don't do it all. Now, maybe there is some over-the-top organized mom who is able to do every craft and extra page, but that's just not realistic for most families (with more than one child especially). But I know for a fact that the curriculum wasn't designed for us to do everything. (In fact, my husband and I had the privilege of working there and even got to help make and be in a lot of the courses you use). Use whatever is going to be a help to you, and let the rest go. We speed up some classes (I know firsthand they can be dry and slow sometimes), have no workbook page days (gasp), and sometimes skip a lesson completely (am I a bad mama or what!)...because that's what helps rather than hinders the overall training and character development of our children in our current schedule. I'm so glad our great God tailors his molding of me as well and doesn't require me to do every "assignment" that someone else does or thinks I should do!
    So, do you have any updates or tips you can pass along to others of us concerning what has worked for you so far? I love getting others' helps on scheduling, organization, fun with the school room/area, character-building, etc. Do you do any joint classes with your 3rd and 4th graders? We may be adding more school-aged children to our family soon (through adoption), and I'm especially interested in hearing how mamas have worked with close-in-age children for schooling purposes.
    Thanks again for your honest and humble helps! Blessings to you on your journey! ~Jen

  27. This is my first year homeschooling my daughter. She did attend Kindergarten in public school. I caved under the pressure of my mom and other family members to enroll her in public school. God had laid homeschooling on my heart ever since she was 2. She will be 7 in December. It has been going well. Due to medical conditions, I am unable to work but I've found that when I completely dedicate myself to being my husband's helpmeet and my daughter's teacher the way God intended for women to be, things fall into place. Just a quick question, are you following a classical education curriculum?


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