Ordinary Homeschooling: Just serve dinner.

This is a dangerous post.

If you’re like me, you’ll see the resources that our family has chosen and think “Ooh, THAT’s what I need to improve my life!” I can’t promise you that, any more than an instant pot cookbook will revolutionize your meal planning. But I can show you a few resources that have enriched us over the years. These are some of my favorites, the ones I have NEVER regretted spending money on.

My goal is to just serve dinner.

I long to spread a feast of music, art, and literature before my children. I wish I could inspire their souls with sensory excellence, but reality falls far short of my aspirations.

What our family needs is simple, satisfying nourishment for meals and for hearts and minds that don’t always realize how hungry they are. Super doesn’t really have to be extraordinary, just consistent.

Sometimes it’s frozen pizza with a side of cucumbers. Sometimes I plan ahead and put a lot more time and effort into something special. But usually, it’s a skillet meal or a casserole, something that everyone will enjoy. I might try a something new and see if it’s a hit. If it isn’t, we’ll go back to what works. I might serve a side that isn’t popular with certain family members, and make sure dessert is extra-special to help them choke it down.

Isn’t this post on homeschooling resources? Yes, it is. I have dreams of what I long to bring before my children, that they will appreciate my efforts and delight in the atmosphere I have prepared for them. I try. It never works according to plan. But when I practice faithfulness and consistency in the little things, God blesses our time together. It helps to follow the flashcard vegetables with peanut dark chocolate M&Ms and a read-aloud for dessert.

My children need regular dinner, even if it isn’t a feast.

The Peterkin Papers, their attempt at homeschooling, and a wasted cup of coffee

Unless you make your plans for the coming year when you are exhausted from the previous schoolyear, when you see how LAST year’s good intentions have actually unfolded, your aspirations may be more like the Peterkin family’s attempt at an educational breakfast. (You must read this chapter. It pretty much describes how well-intentioned homeschoolers aspire to a glorious educational experience. It seems like a good idea at the time.)

I hope you will also read the better-known first chapter of the Peterkin Papers, “The Lady Who Put Salt in Her Coffee.” The rest of the chapters are at your discretion.

Here are some of my family’s favorite resources that we have used year after year. I also highly recommend several of Betsy’s, which you will see in her post tomorrow, and Janie’s classic post on Laid-Back Homeschooling.

Fighter Verses

I could stop here. This is the one resource that I would recommend most highly to any family, homeschooling or not! There are six CDs that set Scripture to appealing songs in a variety of styles. Scripture references are included, and none of the text is changed to fit the music. God has used this set profoundly in my heart innumerable times.

Then Sings My Soul

It took me a while to realize that I was spending too much time trying to decide which hymns to sing together in morning devotions. Too many wonderful choices. So what do I have in my hand? (Exodus 4:2a?) A book that contains a lot of wonderful familiar hymns and a brief history to appreciate them more. We spend a couple weeks on each hymn, then turn to the next page. If it’s not in my repertoire, we’ll probably skip it. There are two more volumes after we finish this one, so I’m set for a while. I’ll probably take a break occasionally to spend time on a contemporary hymn we sing in church.

(Note: Several hymns have a different set of verses than what we are familiar with, so I write the hymn number in Then Sings My Soul and use the hymnal. It’s still a good resource to read the historical context or biographical sketch of the author or composer.)

Linguistic Development Through Poetry (CDs)

Five CDs of poetry and orations, beginning with short, easy, humorous poems (not Mother Goose), gradually working up to some of the greatest speeches in history. Andrew Pudewa is not a dramatic reader, but he clearly loves poetry and rightly observes that the most appealing poems (especially for boys) are ideally humorous and violent. While I wouldn’t choose some of the humanist poems and not all my personal favorites are included, listening to these regularly has been a magnificent way to develop my sons’ knowledge of poetry and great words.

To tell the truth, I tried using the accompanying book as it was intended, but it was One More Thing. Just listening to the CDs in the van has been rewarding. See this post for more poetry recommendations.

Classical Conversations

Having a big-picture plan and long-term decisions made is a relief. Betsy excels at customizing her children’s education, and I admire her for it. I have a wider range of ages, and just need to get something done. We have been quite happy with our CC community and are very thankful for the fellowship. Now that I have a son in the Challenge levels, it is even more rewarding.

RightStart Math

I hated math until I started my eldest in this curriculum. It requires more teacher involvement, but playing games takes priority over longer worksheets. My eldest son moved on to Saxon under my husband’s instruction, but the fact that I can now play with numbers in my head has been invaluable. Math games make a huge difference in any curriculum you choose!

Dangerous Book for Boys and Double Dangerous Book for Boys

‘Nuff said. More thorough review forthcoming, if I can pry the recent volume out of my son’s hands.

God’s Big World, WorldKids, WorldTeen, and WorldWatch for current events

We subscribe to the print magazines and enjoy the brief daily video. If I don’t have to assign it and they are independently interested in the content, I’m happy.

Afternoon Literaritea

This doesn’t happen every afternoon. But if, two or three times a week, somebody loads the green wooden tray with twelve-ounce mason jars filled with something refreshing and grabs the cookie jar or a bag of popcorn, and we read a fairy tale or a chapter of our current read-aloud…everyone is refreshed. It also does wonders for a cranky mommy!

Hummingbird feeder

Lithe hummingbirds have been a great source of entertainment and delight during dinner. Their aerial contests over territorial claims are a magnificent display of creation. I think we need to buy a second feeder.

In Which I Quote a Greek Philosopher

I have one last word of advice, because it sounds SO impressive to include a quote from the ancient philosopher Epictetus, a Greek slave living in Rome.

No, actually, I’m quoting it because it is true. (I haven’t actually read the source; my husband likes to quote it.)

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.” (

Things will not go as you plan. Interruptions are according to Providence, and it is wise to balance your expectations with reality and move on.

Here is one more quote. He’s talking about going to the bath, but I’m taking the liberty to make minor modifications.

“When you are going about any action, remind yourself what nature the action is. If you are going to [homeschool], picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the [homeschool]: some people splash the water, some push, some use abusive language, and others steal. Thus you will more safely go about this action if you say to yourself, “I will now go [homeschool], and keep my own mind in a state conformable to nature.” And in the same manner with regard to every other action. For thus, if any hindrance arises in [homeschooling], you will have it ready to say, “It was not only to [homeschool] that I desired, but to keep my mind in a state conformable to nature; and I will not keep it if I am bothered at things that happen.”

The conclusion of the matter.

Classical Conversations emphasizes several mottoes, but one we moms frequently quote is “stick in the sand.” Don’t overcomplicate your efforts. If you have a stick and wet sand, you can teach the basics. Find what resonates with your family’s passions and learn alongside your children.

Just serve dinner. They’re hungry, whether they realize it and appreciate your efforts or not.

Be faithful. A godly woman wisely taught me this:

“Love your children, teach them what you can, and lean hard on Jesus.”– Julie Pizzino

Also at Redeemed Reader:

*The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton
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