A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer To-Do's

So far this summer has been a busy one for my family. Now busy does not always equate good, but in this case our busy summer has been pretty good. It's also been pretty productive. So I guess you might say it's been really good. A summer that has enabled us to relax as a family and get a few things crossed off the never-ending to-do list.

I won't bore you by blabbing about every little thing we've done. But I will encourage you to think of all the ways this summer has been a blessing for your family (since the whole intent of this blog is to encourage my fellow homeschooling mothers).  How have you enjoyed simply spending time together, doing something you don't do during the cooler months of the year? Any items on your to-do list that you have been able to cross off? And what about any extra surprises that have blessed you, big or small?

We've had some big surprise blessings, some little surprise blessings, made terrific memories, gotten a lot of things done that have been wait-listed for a while, relaxed and enjoyed the warm summer days, and rejoiced in the wonderful ways God chooses to answer prayers.

Summer can be a very busy time, rushing here and there, participating in every summer reading program and camp available, participating in VBS and youth trips, and perhaps continuing to homeschool. Not a thing in the world wrong with any of the above; our family participates in them all! We just leave room for the Lord to lead on a daily basis, and we have found that we don't miss out on many of His good and perfect gifts that way.

Happy Summer To-Doing!

Day 194 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Schoolhouse Crew Review ~ IXL is an online site offering more than 2,000 skills in the math realm from pre-K to Algebra. IXL allows multiple students from the same family to use the website, and has a place for parents to see how well their child/children are learning. Basically, skills are divided by grade and students work their way through problem sets and upon completion of a set of problems, rewards are earned. Questions answered correctly lead to more difficult problems. When a problem is answered incorrectly, the student is given the correct answer and has the option to move on to the next problem or to see a detailed explanation of how to solve the problem correctly. You may want to read that last sentence one more time, because that, my friends, is what makes IXL a program worth using in our homeschool.

Problems in each set are unique, so the student won't see the same problem again and again. And each explanation is specific to each missed problem. These two factors makes IXL an online math program that my children enjoyed using. It isn't too easy, and it isn't too hard. It moves them along quickly when they grasp a concept and helps them without leaving them feeling "dumb" when they get a problem wrong.

IXL has multiple choice, fill in the blank, multiple correct answers, word problems, and interactive questions. This is great for students who do not want to see webpage after webpage of the same thing. It also covers a variety of math skills in a variety of formats, and that is a plus when it comes to math. After all, no decent high school math program only has FIB or MC, right? And college math certainly won't be confined to simplistic formats. As a mom to three high schoolers and one middle schooler (and one in college), I find myself thinking all the time about college preparatory course work. IXL fits the bill for our family's needs.

Each student has their own profile page, where they can see how much time they have spent working problems, how many skills they have mastered, which awards they have won, and what kind of progress they've made. I like that my kids can see how they are doing at any given time. I think it provides a sense of accomplishment and encourages them to keep on working hard.

Another aspect of IXL that I really like is that many of the problems sets can be done quickly. So if they only have a few minutes before they have to head out the door, they can still get one or two sets done. And if they have a longer amount of time, they are able to complete more sets with a short break in between each set. And for my older students, they are able to choose a higher level of math where the skills are listed individually. So if there is any area they really want to strengthen, they can do that. If there is something they feel a bit "wobbly" about in regard to upcoming standardized testing, they can focus on that specific need. IXL makes it easy, lends itself easily to success, and allows students to excel in math (hence the name IXL!).

Parents have their own page so that they can check out their child's progress, see how long the child spent working on math, view a pie chart containing mastery of topics, view any missed problems, and even make sure they are meeting state standards (which really does matter in many states). Parents also receive emails detailing student work, so they don't actually have to log into to see how each student is doing. For me personally, receiving the emails is just plain nice.

Now let me just say that this is not a program our family would use as a stand-alone math curriculum. I'm not even certain that would be the intent of the program in the first place. But it is a fantastic way to improve any child's math competency in a fun way.

There is a convenient "User Guide" tab located at the top of the home page that answers pretty much any question you might have. I really appreciated this when I first logged in to And honestly, using this website was a breeze. Set up was very easy, and so is our day-to-day use.

Over all, IXL is an easy to use website that really does a great job of making math practice simple and fun. I highly recommend it.

In case you missed it scattered throughout this review, the website is
Pricing info is $9.95/month (add additional students for $2/month) OR
$79/year (add additional students for $20).

(Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this weblog post are solely my own.)

You can read what my other Crew mates had to say HERE

Lord bless you and your family as you enjoy the summertime!

Day 193 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Day to Celebrate Dads

As a mom who has been homeschooling for a L-O-N-G time, a product reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, contributing writer to a few different homeschool publications, author of a Bible study for homeschooling mothers, and owner of this blog, you can imagine how much of my time is focused on "the Mom". Today, however, is all about dads!

A world without fathers would be a terrible place, wouldn't you agree? Our strong and capable leaders, our providers and our shoulders to cry on, our comforters and our biggest fans; that's what dad's are, both to their daughters and to their wives. We often become so busy with our own day-to-day lives as homeschooling moms that we forget how much dads mean to us. We forget how much they do for us. And we forget how blessed we are that God in His infinite wisdom gave them to us. It's a beautiful sign of His perfect love that dads roam this earth. We need them, and today is a great day to let the dads in your life know they are needed.

So today take time to celebrate dads, and of course to thank your ABBA Father.

Keep praying for the men in your life, and have a blessed Father's Day!

Day 192 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew Product Review ~ Creation Illustrated

Many within the homeschool community have heard of Creation Illustrated magazine. It's a tried-and-true resource for Christians that has been providing quality reading material for many years. Needless to say, I was very happy when I received a full year's worth of issues in the mail! Yea, I did a happy dance...

Before I tell you all about this wonderful product, and share how my family used it in our homeschool, let me give you a little history. Creation Illustrated has been published quarterly by a homeschool family for 19 years. Each issue is divided into 3 sections: Nature, Scripture, and Living. Topics are carefully chosen to provide mental, spiritual and physical enrichment. Beautiful photographs adorn the pages of Creation Illustrated, and Bible verses complement the photos and articles throughout. The magazine is printed on high-quality paper and is made to last for years to come. This isn't a read it once and toss it out publication; readers can enjoy each edition for many years to come.

Contained within the pages of Creation Illustrated you will find treasures of uplifting articles, gardening tips and activities, a youth nature photo context, character-building lessons, children's stories, recipes, shorter articles on creation stewardship and creation highlights, and a fantastic instructional guide that makes using Creation Illustrated in your homeschool a snap!

Here is an explanation of how we used Creation Illustrated in our homeschool:

The Spring 2012 issue has an excellent section on hummingbirds. My 16-year-old daughter has an interest in bird watching and she used this magazine to renew her interest and add to her bird knowledge. My 17-year-old daughter enjoys photography, so she used the wonderful photographs to apply new techniques and ideas to improve her skills and abilities. My 14-year-old daughter loves smoothies, so she took advantage of the 3 smoothie recipes found withing the pages of Creation Illustrated. My 12-year-old daughter enjoyed the story "Bunny Surprise". She loves learning about animals and this story by Ellen Dana was perfect for her. And my favorite was the article "Bloom Where You Are Planted" - it was a great source of encouragement to me as we face great changes in our lives due to my husband's recent layoff. This one issue of Creation Illustrated covered Home Ec (cooking), Photography (an elective for my 17-year-old), Science (the hummingbird article), Reading/Nature Study (the story "Bunny Surprise"), and encouraged me in my role as a wife and mother.

Other editions I received include articles about the wilderness, fragrance, the creation week (in a multi-part series), light in the forest, poetry, the night sky, migration, nature walks in winter, deer-like animals, Aspens, Saguaro National Park, and a whole lot more.

These magazine are keepsakes, treasures to be enjoyed again and again. When I was a little girl, I remember my grandparents had a stack of National Geographic magazines that they would read and re-read. As Christians, they had to ignore some non-Christian beliefs presented in the magazine, and they used each issue as a springboard to pray for those who need Christ all around the globe. Creation Illustrated reminds me of my grandparent's stacks of National Geographic, and I will keep copies of this magazine just as they kept theirs.

To learn more about Creation Illustrated, visit their website at or call 1-800-360-2732.

Pricing for subscriptions is $4.99/issue (listed on the magazine cover), $19.95 for one year, $37.95 for 2 years, or $53.95 for three years. Add $5 US dollars per year in Canada.

Back issues are also available at their website.

You can read more reviews HERE.

I hope you consider making Creation Illustrated a part of your family's homeschool.

(Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this weblog post are solely my own.)
Lord bless you this summer!

Day 191 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Click on the banner below to read the Schoolhouse Crew's reviews of all sorts of terrific homeschool products!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Reading

Many homeschooling families take advantage of summer reading programs, mine included. While all five of my children are readers and don't need much extra incentive when it comes to reading for enjoyment, they have all benefited from summer reading programs. There is just something about seeing a list of book titles written down that brings a sense of accomplishment to a young person.

The summer months are also a great time for the homeschooling mother to do a little reading. Plenty of good choices, both fiction and non-fiction, are available. As Solomon said, there is no end to the making of books. But are you sure that what you are reading is choice material? Even Christian books can be less than the best. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay says this in her excellent book For The Children's Sake, " must be said that certain Christian books are in fact not so. For instance, some go beyond biblical teaching and, like the Pharisees, burden the people with weighty rules and regulations." I agree with her statement, and I try and choose reading material that does not burden me with excessive laws. After all, the New Testament tells us in Galatians 5:5 that it was for freedom that Christ set us free, and warns us not to be burdened once again by a yoke of slavery. If what I put into my mind (i.e. the books I read) causes me to feel burdened by rules and regulations, then perhaps I need to reevaluate what I'm reading and make sure it aligns itself with the Word of God.

I am a strong-willed, Type A, Irish woman. It is ridiculously easy for me to succumb to a legalistic approach to life. On a very regular basis (as in daily!) I must "correct" my way of thinking and make it submit to God's way of thinking. And the way that I think bears weight on the way that I live. As a homeschool mom, there is no escape from my children and they are watching everything I do. Like it or not, the call to homeschooling means living a very visible life of faith...or a very visible life of legalism. In light of this understanding, I often "prune" my bookshelves and get rid of books/magazines/curriculum that are legalistic. Even if there is truth contained within the mass of "law", is it really worth my time to dig for it? Or should I just abide in Christ and allow His grace to govern my life? I was saved by believing in Jesus as the Living Son of Almighty God, accepting His sacrifice for my sin. Should I now try and live out my days under a system of law and works? Absolutely not! Christ's grace is a free gift, but it is not a cheap gift! To trade it in for legalism must break the heart of God.

I encourage you to read alongside your children this summer. And I also encourage you to choose your reading selections carefully. Remain in His grace and fight against a spirit of legalism. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you day by day. And rest in the Lord's great love toward you.

Keep cool this summer and enjoy living in God's lavish grace!

Day 191 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, June 8, 2012


Now that my family has returned from our trip to sunny Florida, I'm back in full swing as a busy homeschool mom. While we don't homeschool year-round, we are still doing school work and focusing on areas that need extra attention while we have a less structured summer schedule. Things like SAT prep get a lot more attention from the end of May through the end of August. While this summer routine of more relaxed learning is normal for our family, we received some news that is, well, not normal. News that can easily make me say, "Hmmmm....wonder what's next?"

Just before our family left for vacation, my husband lost his job. The company he worked for has suffered some severe economic hardships and has filed for bankruptcy. I pray they are able to keep the company afloat somehow, and that all the good men and women employed there are able to keep their jobs. In this season of our lives, however, God has chosen a different path for my husband.

While we really aren't sure what is in store for us next, we are very certain of Who is in charge. His plans for our family cannot be thwarted, and there is no place we would rather be than in His hands. Yet we still covet your prayers as we seek His will and follow His leading ~ your prayer support is appreciated more than words can say!

So instead of worrying and fretting, I am actively trying to adopt an attitude of wonder and thankfulness. When concern about medical issues for our children crops up, I recall God's promises to us in His Word and thank Him for all He has done and is doing in our lives. After all, there really is no benefit to worrying and fretting only leads to evil (according to the Bible, which is my standard for living!). But having an attitude of gratitude and choosing to trust in God when I am afraid leads to peace and blessings uncountable.

My encouraging word to you today is to choose to praise God no matter what circumstances you find yourself facing. Thank Him and trust Him moment by moment. And rest in the fact that He loves you with an everlasting love.

Lord bless you today!

Day 190 done :)

Jan L. Burt