A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Kids I Homeschool...

This post is purely a mother's pride, so if you'd like to learn a little more about three of my children, read on! I'll start with my daughter Savanna, who makes amazing things out of polymer clay. One of her more recent clay creations is an adorable Captain Jack Sparrow charm that she made for a YouTube contest. Here's a pic of the little Jack ~

He's pretty awesome, isn't he? You can see more of her work with clay at her website ~ ~ and from there you can visit her YouTube website which has a TON of instructional videos. Her most popular videos have been viewed over 15,000 times! If you are interested in using polymer clay for art in your homeschool, check out Savanna's video tutorials.

Next I'm going to talk about my son Gage, a sophomore at Wheaton College (a fantastic place known as the Harvard of evangelicals). He has worked hard to overcome some calf injuries, and had surgery last fall after his Achilles tendon ruptured. Gage has also faced other health issues that threatened to derail his sports dreams. But if you look at the Wheaton wrestling roster photo below, you'll see him smack dab in the middle of the team (middle row, fourth from left). He's got his best Johnny-bad-boy wrestling face one, while wearing a "Jesus is Life" t-shirt. How awesome is that?! ?

And now I'd like to share some of my daughter Alexandra's photography skills. She recently started her own small business, and already has several shoots booked. I think her work is pretty terrific, and I am so glad she has a hobby that she truly enjoys. You can see her Photoshop website HERE.  Check out the picture below ~

Pretty nice, eh? And the use of her initials in her business name is pretty witty, too. She kept it short & sweet, easy to remember ~ A&B Photography. You can find her on Facebook at

That's all the mommy-bragging I'm going to do today...thanks for letting me share so unabashedly about three of my fantastic kids!

Lord bless you as you homeschool for God's glory!

Day 228 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ A Cry From Egypt

Hope Auer, the author of the book A Cry From Egypt, is a homeschool graduate who began work on this project when her family was studying ancient history. Her writing progressed from an interest in Egyptian history to a full-blown book. And she continues to work on future books ~ A Cry From Egypt is the first in Ms. Auer's Promised Land Series.

The book contains a preface, 16 chapters, a research section, and a preview of the second book in the series. The artwork in the book, as well as the cover, were done by Mike Slaton (also a homeschool graduate).

A Cry From Egypt deals with the time period just prior to the Israelite's exodus from Egypt, at the end of their long era of slavery. But the story line isn't about Moses, Aaron and Miriam. The setting is in Moses' day, but the tale is not his story at all!

I began reading the book right away, before giving it to my children to read. I typically try and read whatever they are reading, since you can't be too careful when it comes to works of fiction. Even the stuff you find in your local Christian book store can often seem like a secular book with a few Bible verses and references to God thrown in. I was pleased with the content in A Cry From Egypt, as it really is the kind of book my children can read without me worrying what they'll be exposed to. While I am sure people of all ages will enjoy the story, I felt it was better suited for younger readers in our family. I am a self-proclaimed book-a-holic, and I began reading to my children before they were born. We often read books aloud as a family, and my children were listening to Tolkein, Shakespeare, Dickens and the like from their earliest years. I realize that we are odd ducks, and most people don't enjoy such rigorous reading material from a young age; but in our case, we found this book to be a very fast read that didn't always have a strong grip on my kid's attention span. Let me end this personal disclaimer with one important note: if my daughter produced this work of fiction, I would be tickled pink. Ms. Auer has done a wonderful job, and I am very impressed with her diligence. (To see more about her writing, and to learn about the world of publishing, see her website ~

The main character in the book, Jarah, is a young Israelite girl who has grown up as a slave in Egypt. Her consistent personality, combined with the imagery used in the book, make her believable. (Solid character development are a hallmark of Hope Auer's writing.) The outlying characters have just the right amount of detail provided, while the main cast of characters have real depth. The author does a good job of focusing on the major characters once the plot begins to thicken.

I don't want to give away what takes place in this book, but I can tell you that Jarah faces struggles, danger, and even opposition within her own family. Ms. Auer makes certain to include a variety of circumstances that probably did play out during this time in ancient history. For example, Jarah's mother worships the Egyptian gods, while her father worships the One True God. That is a scenario that likely happened within Israelite families. She also explains how the ten plagues were directly related to different Egyptian gods ~ which is something many young readers may not already know. And she really does a great job at keeping the main point of conflict going, even while each of the plagues brings about it's own source of rising conflict. The book ends with a solution to the primary problem, while creating an interest in the next problem looming on the horizon...

I would like to add that I am grateful that A Cry From Egypt is not yet another fictional account of the life of Moses. Truly, you never once think this book is about him - which is pretty amazing since it's a book about the exodus! You really see things from the perspective of a hard-working slave-girl and her family as they try to make sense of the only life they've ever known being turned upside down.

My daughter's have studied ancient Egypt in-depth during previous school years, so I used this as literature. But if we were studying this time period, I would have used it as a part of our history studies. Historical fiction is a great way to spark interest and enhance learning about any era of history. I think this book would make a nice addition to a study of the ancient world, or to a study of the Israelites prior to the exodus.

Published by Great Waters Press, the book A Cry From Egypt sells for an advance reader price of $12.95. You can order it HERE. And you can learn more about Great Waters Press at

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members have to say, click HERE.

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

Be blessed as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 227 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, September 17, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Ever take a road trip with the family and hear that question from the back seat? I think we ask God the same question at times. And His answer (to me, anyhow!) seems to be a gentle reminder to enjoy the journey instead of racing to the destination.

Homeschooling is indeed a long, drawn-out journey. It's days seem to stretch on into infinity, with no end in sight. We can get tired...tired of preparing dinner while grading math papers; tired of last-minute errands to find supplies for science experiments; tired of people asking us about "socialization"; tired of staying ahead of all our children in all their subjects for all their grade levels....oh yes, we can get tired.

But it helps to remember that the journey itself is the real blessing! We will look back with fondness on these days ~ and we will look back with tears on the day we hand our children their diplomas, or the day we say good-bye to them on a college campus. The tiring days are the days that truly matter.

The last question we should ask God is, "Are we there yet?" Instead we ought to be thanking Him daily that we are able to spend this precious time with our children. And as for being continually tired, I have often told myself that I would be plenty busy and plenty tired doing SOMETHING ELSE if I weren't a homeschooling mother. And I can't think of anything I'd rather be I embrace my tiredness and choose to enjoy this season of life.

May the Lord richly bless you as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 226 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, September 14, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Family Time Fitness (Core Physical Education, Level 1)

Physical education is often neglected in the homeschool setting. This may be due to financial or time constraints, lack of available options, or even the fact that many of us are, well, a little bit on the lazy side. Regardless of the reason for the neglect, physical education truly is an important part of a well-rounded homeschool experience.

Enter Family Time Fitness!

I received the pdf download (otherwise known as an eBook) of their "Fitness 4 Homeschool Core 1 Curriculum" for this review. It is suggested for use in grades K-8, but I used it with my high-school daughters as well as my 7th grader. They do have products designed for the upper grades, which I am sure are excellent resources based on my experience with this level.

The download itself came in multiple modules; there was actually a whole lot more than I had anticipated! (260 lessons in all) There are plenty of regimens that would adapt to suit any homeschool family's needs. Each lessons provides 25-45 minutes of physical activity. An additional outdoor activity is given at the end of every lesson and can provide another 15-30 minutes of exercise. This is all moderate to vigorous activity - of course, you should consider consulting a physician for any concerns you may have prior to starting any fitness routine.

The objective of Family Time Fitness is to complete one lesson each school day (5/week). The lessons can be done even with limited space, which is often the case for homeschooling families! The child or children should read each lesson and then complete the activities, but a video is available to demonstrate how to do the exercises. This helps the students become more self-reliant, and perhaps they will carry daily physical activity into their adult lives.

You begin with an "easy" lesson (and I use the word "easy" jokingly - it's meant to be easy but it wore me out!). The kids and I gathered supplies (a jump rope for Core Lesson 1), opened the pdf, watched the demonstration videos (on mute, since my girls didn't care for the music), and finished up about 30 minutes later. Next time was Lesson 2 - and it took a little more preparation. We didn't have access to any cones for this lesson, but my girls did their best to make it work with what we had on hand (dodgeballs don't make good cones, but it was pretty entertaining!). In this lesson the "Musical Statues" game was my favorite. Trust me, this is a fun way to have P.E.!

Obviously I can't review every lesson - there are 260 in all! - but I can tell yo that they build upon each other. And they get easier to do, mainly because I don't feel quite as "wimpy" as I did on Day 1, but also because we no longer have to watch all the demonstration videos. Oh, and we have been trying to adapt the "Outdoor Activity" for use inside...we have some neighbors who aren't always supportive of our decision to homeschool and we try to avoid anything that might give them cause to call the authorities (yes, two of our neighbors have done that, sadly). I have also had the kids do the "Outdoor Activity" later in the evening, which gets them the exercise they need and satisfies the neighbors!

So, I have explained how Fitness 4 Homeschool works, and I've given you an idea as to how we use in in our family. But I would really like to share my 12th-grade daughter's thoughts about the Family Time Fitness program and it's "fit" within the homeschool community.

     "This is a great idea! A lot of homeschool families are inactive, and a lot of them are overweight. Family Time Fitness gives homeschoolers an easy way to exercise, NO EXCUSES! They don't need a gym membership, and they don't even have to leave home. This fills a big void; homeschool families should buy Family Time Fitness - but then they should actually USE it!!"

This comes from a young lady who regularly goes to the YMCA, has another gym membership in addition to the Y, goes running (as in several miles) with her father, and is a figure skater and a skating coach. She understands the value of physical fitness. Consider her counsel and seriously think about adding Family Time Fitness to your homeschool day.

As an aside, several of the poses and cool down stretches are based on yoga. I am not an advocate of yoga, but I do recognize the value of the stretches when used as a part of this curriculum. I think you can use the stretches without advocating all aspects of yoga.

To read what other homeschool families have to say about Family Time Fitness, click HERE

To purchase Family Time Fitness - Core Physical Education, Level 1, click on this DIRECT LINK.

The price is $57 - and that is an excellent value for the sheer volume included!

Other products available include High School Strength Training, High School Health, Online Health Class, and much more.

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

Have a fantastic homeschool day!

Day 225 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Importance of Finishing What We Start

We can't do everything; we shouldn't try to do everything. And we all know that. Beyond the enormity of "everything", we shouldn't do all the things that appeal to us. Not all of us understand that.

If you are called to homeschool, then by all means do it well. Work at it with diligence. Continually seek the Lord for His guidance as you educate your children. Do the same with your marriage, in your daily walk with Jesus, in areas where you know the Lord has clearly called you. I really believe that homeschooling moms have this figured out, and are doing a pretty terrific job with our children overall.

But some of us, or maybe even all of us to some degree, can get excited about a new idea - then we take off running at a full sprint to make the idea a reality - and often we run out of steam and fail to finish what we started. This common problem has a simple fix. Well, two simple fixes.

The first fix is to STOP!!! before taking every idea and turning it into a reality. Ladies, not every idea we come up with is worth pursuing. Some are well enough, but aren't God's will for us during this busy season of homeschooling. And, quite frankly, some things that we want to "improve" or "change" are just fine the way they are. We may want change for changes sake, but perhaps things are fine just the way they are.

Have you ever become so excited about a new idea that you start working on it fast and furious, only to burn out quickly? And if it's a project that needs to be continued, you may even find yourself "dumping" the project onto others since you're burned out. But what if you tried a new approach ~ pray about it first, and pray longer the more excited you are about the new idea. Don't make a move until you know beyond all doubt that it is the Lord's good and perfect and pleasing will for your life. This is not as much fun as jumping in feet first every time something new catches your fancy, but it is a better way to live. You will trade some of that excitement for a whole lot of peace and contentment.

And when you get a green light from the Lord, you can move ahead with confidence, knowing that He will equip you with every single thing you need to get the job done. All that, without taking anything away from your role as a wife, mom, homeschooler.

It's important to finish what we start; it sets a good example for our children. But when we find ourselves frequently unable to finish what we have begun, it may be time for a reality check. Are there any areas you need to evaluate today?

Be blessed as you make wise choices with His loving guidance!

Day 224 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Math 911

I take homeschooling seriously ~ really seriously. A subject of enormous importance to me is math, especially at the high-school, college preparatory level. It's nothing to mess around with, avoid, or ignore. Every single high school student, home educated or not, needs a solid four years of high school math. Umm, did I mention that I take this seriously?!!?

You've heard me say this before, and I will say it again because it bears pretty heavily on my review of Math911;  my son attends Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college that is ranked as an Ivy League school. For my son to even be considered for acceptance as a homeschooler, he had to take the ACT, SAT and two SAT II subject tests. One of those subject tests was in college math. In the end, his hard work paid off. Not only was he accepted into Wheaton, but he was one of a handful of freshmen who did not have to spend a few hours of their first day on campus taking an extensive math placement test. So as I have been using Math911 with my three high school aged daughters, I have been considering it's value in relation to preparing homeschoolers for college.

I have tested this math program, and I can honestly say it has NOT been found wanting! Created by Professor Martin Weissman, a math teacher in his 49th year, Math911 teaches math mastery in a way that isn't discouraging. While the graphics may seem a little dated to the average teenager, my children considered it's academic value to be more important.

Here's an overview of how Math911 works. The program itself is a download, and when you visit the website ( you first access the free Standard Version (yes, I said FREE!). This is a complete Introductory Algebra course. You can also purchase the Premier Version (which is what I received). This version includes Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, Statistics, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. It's all included in one price ($49.95 - but keep reading because there is discount information later in my review!) and it includes free lifetime updates, free tech support, access to additional math courses with separate grade reports for multiple users, and even allows mom and dad to use Math911 to refresh their math skills. Access to the Premier Version is completed by entering a few codes that will be emailed to you upon purchase. So the first step is to download the free Standard Version, try that out and see how your teens do using it, and if you choose to purchase the Premier Version then you will enter the access codes by clicking the "Upgrade" button. The program is easy to use by clicking the desktop icon, and my daughter's are able to access their individual levels on their own.

I'm sure you can tell that I appreciate that this is a quality program. I also appreciate that it's ease of use, the way it reinforces the positive and down-plays the negative, and the customer support is fast. There is a personal feel with this company, which I love. The goal truly seems to be to help young people master the scary subject of math, and Mr. Weissman's love of the subject shows in his work.

Math doesn't have to be burdensome, difficult or despised. For students who think they'll "just never get it" Math911 offers an encouraging solution. For parents who wonder if they can teach high school math well enough to help their students get into college, Math911 provides the solution they need as well. I can't say there was much of anything that I disliked about this program, and the minor one or two hiccups I found in using it were ridiculously minor as compared to adjustments I've made with curriculum during my 14-years of homeschooling.

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

To read what others have to say about Math911, click HERE.

To make a purchase, visit

The Standard Version is FREE.

The Premier Version is $49.95, with unlimited access for multiple users.  However, if you enter the discount code "homeschool" upon checkout, then the entire program is yours for $9.95.

Lord bless you and your family as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 223 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Homeschooling My High Schoolers

Did your pulse rate jump when you read the title of this blog post? Be honest - did you feel even a twinge of anxiety? Does the mere thought of homeschooling all the way through high school, for lack of wording, freak you out?

No worries, fellow homeschool moms. It freaks all of us out, and it's perfectly normal. In fact, if you were to tell me that no aspect of being totally responsible for your children's college preparatory education in all it's confusing facets worried you, I'd wonder if you weren't actually a robot.

The upside of the anxious feelings that go hand-in-glove with high school education is that it causes you to take seriously the business of homeschooling. And for some of us, we've been taking things easy for far too long. Let that nervousness drive you to ask yourself the hard questions that will make you a better home educator in the long run.

Whatever you do, don't stick your head in the sand and convince yourself that it will all simply "work out somehow" when it comes to your child's high school education. That's not Biblical! God is a god or order, not disorder. He has very specific plans for each one of your children, and while His plans are not cookie-cutter (i.e. ~ the misnomer that every young person must attend college), they certainly aren't willy-nilly either.

Let me clarify a bit. If you have a son, that young man will likely wed one day. And he will be the breadwinner for his family. You job is to prepare him for that role. His future may or may not include a college education, but it will almost certainly include the need to get and retain gainful employment. The education you provide for him during his high school years lay the foundation for his future. It's a very important stage of his life, and as the person responsible for his education, homeschooling mothers need to take it seriously. Yes, it is hard work. But it's important work, and it's worth while work. I cannot think of one thing I regret when I look back over my son's high school years...except that I didn't work harder to provide him with the best possible academic preparation for college.

I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of a college education for our daughters. I firmly believe the Lord will clearly guide every homeschool family that is willing to ask (and receive!) His wisdom. He knows the good plans He has planned for all our daughters, and He will show you exactly what path to take. I have four daughters, with three of them currently in high school. As I prepare their school work each week, I am aware that they aren't all headed in the same direction. God has specific plans for each of them, and He shows me how to prepare them as I seek Him continually.

So my best advice to you is to pray ~ a lot. And to take these years very seriously. God will honor your hard work, and He will answer your prayer for wisdom...and for endurance! One other piece of advice I will offer is to plan ahead. Examine your state's graduation requirements (often these vary from one school district to another). Our state requires two years of foreign language, two years of science with labs, and a course on Kansas state history - so I make sure each of my children has at least two years of a foreign language (two studying Spanish, one studying Latin), and two years of science with labs using curriculum like Apologia (and yes, we actually do the experiments & I keep a log of the time spent on each experiment; that is our lab time at the end of the year) or ACE Biology (video driven, but still counts as a full high school lab), and a thorough study of state history. These are just a few examples of ways that I take high school education seriously. I could share many more, but I think you get the idea.

You can do this - don't let that twinge of anxiety intimidate you. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength, after all, and nothing is impossible with God. So dive into your student's high school years with a prayerful heart and a willing attitude, and you will find success.

Lord bless you and your high school students!

Day 222 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Running For My Life by Lopez Lomong (BookSneeze Review)

Some books make you say, "Wow..." And that one little word says it all about the book Running for My Life by Olympic athlete Lopez Lomong. Born in Sudan, given a name that literally means "fast", kidnapped by guerrilla soldiers at the age of six - and that's just the first chapter!

The story of Lopez Lomong's journey to America, and eventually to the Olympic games, will move you. Through smiles and tears, this book allows you to experience life on the other side of the world, and to see the America we take for granted through new eyes. It may even change your life.

I hope you consider reading Running for My Life. It is very easy to read, flows nicely, and is written by a young man who has one of the most positive outlooks on life that I have ever encountered.  I cannot say enough good things about it.

On my 'Page Turner Scale' of 1 to 5, I give this book a 5.

(Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze for review purposes.)

Day 221 done :)

Jan L. Burt