Homeschool Resources, Part I

Because you asked. At least, a number of people have asked in the past, and every time there’s a school shooting, more friends write to ask about homeschooling. Below is a short list of resources we’ve used. None of them are affiliate links, so save yourself some money and check them out from the library, or buy them used or whatever.

General Homeschooling

The Well-Trained Mind 

Better proselyting material for the gospel of Classical Education doesn’t exist. Do you  want to give your children a well-rounded education in the humanities, in particular western civilization? Is appreciating great works of art and literature important to you? Poetry memorization, Latin, good handwriting? This is the starting place.

Bonus Points: It has lists and lists of recommended resources, books, and materials for carrying out the ultimate classical education.

The Read-Aloud Handbook

This one  probably belongs under language arts, but I’m putting it here. It should be required reading for anyone who has anything to do with children. Even if you already understand the importance of reading to children, buy it and read it.

Bonus Points: It also contains a goldmine of book lists for every level, from preschool through high school.

The Core Knowledge Series

Not to be confused with Common Core, this series is really awesome for providing a skeleton of what to cover in each grade level, in order to give a solid foundation of cultural literacy and general knowledge in every subject. Having googled it just now, it looks like it has expanded into a full blown school program. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, you can just check out “What your [insert grade level] Grader Needs to Know” from the library to get a feel for what it is. They’re lovely. My Mom made us memorize poems from these Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes from these books, and I’m so happy she did.


This is whole Christian curriculum program that lots of Protestant families love and use. I love and use the booklists in the catalog. Maybe it’s a dirty trick, but after having purchased their used materials online, I’ve found that they’re hit and miss for us, especially in the religion sector. The earliest materials emphasize the Nicene Creed, and just a touch too much Calvinism. Sorry friends. Mormons gonna Morm.

Protip: If you want to try out Sonlight and don’t have several hundred dollars lying around, go to They’re like a delightful cross between Fight Club (being clandestine and scrappy) and Craigslist (being online and secondhand). What could go wrong?

Fluent Forever

This, like Core Knowledge, started with a book and ended in all sorts of fun stuff. Polyglot language nerd Opera singer Gabriel Wyner applies the methods of SLR, or spaced repetition learning, to the rapid acquisition of languages. The method is fascinating, and can be applied to a lot of stuff besides foreign language. It’s worth checking out!


That is the short list of general homeschool reference books. One of the hardest things in homeschooling is deciding what you won’t do. There’s so much to do, and it’s OK not to do it all. At least, that’s what I frequently tell myself. Good luck!


Should I Homeschool? An Addendum

7. Academics

This is the one is also a toss-up. Homeschooling children usually are “ahead” of their public school peers. They score much higher on standardized tests, etc., etc., but those aren’t entirely fair comparisons, because a homeschooling parent is usually deeply involved in the child’s education, and stable and privileged enough to be so. The same parent would see to it that homework gets done and studying happens in traditional school, I think. Public school children run the gamut, from children with involved parents to children in group foster homes to abused and neglected children. So all the studies comparing homeschooled children (usually upper- or middle-class kids with educated parents) to the whole of public school  put homeschooled children in a very idealistic light, both academically and behaviorally.

The truth of it is, no education is perfect or comprehensive. The primary characteristic of homeschooling is that you can do more in less time. Both parent-teacher and child have more control and initiative in the process. At some point, this brings us to a crossroads, where we can either do the whole “school experience” of middle school, high school, etc., or just graduate at 14 and get on with college. There’s a benefit and cost to both.

This is where we are with our oldest. She has applied to a school. It’s a nice school, with small classrooms and watchful teachers. She is friends with several of the kids there and they have a French program that is  on par with her skills. The opportunity cost is that math and language arts will be an entire year (maybe even two years) of review for her, and much of history and science will be, too; we’ve already covered human anatomy and Ancient Egypt. She will get to experience richer Physical Education and Art and Drama programs, but she will be learning very little in her core subjects. She will be somewhere where predatory children or teachers have ample opportunity to give her grief. She could fall prey to the nastiness of gossip, cliques, and all the various ways middle schoolers try to distinguish, and therefore socially stratify, themselves.

She’s a reasonable, level-headed young lady, and my faith is in her rather than the vigilance and honor of the faculty and students I do not know. She has been in semi-weekly extracurriculars, in classrooms without me, since kindergarten, and they’ve gone well. They could go well here. Or they could not. There’s only way to find out.

Blessedly, she is pretty philosophical about this. Either she’s not telling us what she really wants, or we’ve spent so much time discussing opportunity cost that she doesn’t know–she likes the idea of going to this school but she also likes the idea of finishing high school early so she can get to her dream job as a NASA mathematician faster. No, I’m not sure how I managed to produce an aspiring mathematician–probably has something to do with my physicist husband.

In the end, the planning and decision making for this is an ongoing council process between me, child, husband, and God. And, as with every other major decision in life, “naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.”

Should I Homeschool? And other questions that will ruin your quality of life.

The plain truth of it is, every choice comes with an opportunity cost. The time you spend learning to play the sousaphone is time you sacrificed from your quest to become the world’s most celebrated underwater basket weaver. The choice to marry one person (hopefully) means sacrificing the opportunity to be romantically involved with every other unattached person on this earth. Everything we choose necessitates the relinquishing of something else.

And thus it it with the choice to homeschool. Having experienced homeschool and public school and having mothered homeschoolers and public schoolers, here is what I have learned. The goal here is not to sell you on something, but rather, to provide insight to a lifestyle choice that will garner you more side-eye than you know what to do with.

1. Family time

Homeschooling wins this round. The number one benefit to homeschooling (for me, as both former student and current teacher), is time with family. The world is busy enough. College, jobs, extracurriculars, and another million things are howling for our time. When our family time is built into our daily school we get two birds with one stone–family togetherness AND basic education. If and when extracurriculars take the kids away in the afternoon, they’ll still have had chores, learning, and playtime with me and their siblings. And that is everything.

It trumps a 35-40 hours school week every time.

2. Quality over quantity

Transferring back into school from homeschooling was always hard. The primary difficulty was feeling that my childhood was being wasted on waiting for papers to be passed out, waiting for everyone to be quiet, waiting for the teacher to stop lecturing us on behavior expectations, waiting for everyone to make a *straight* line (with hands to yourselves!) waiting, waiting, waiting.

Then half the work was busy work–it was repetitive, boring, tedious. It was made to be time consuming for kids who understood the concept so that teacher had time to help the kids who didn’t. And if you didn’t….she ran out of time to explain to you. Either way, it didn’t pan out well for me.

In homeschool, we usually finish by noon, and we definitely cover more than public school. Besides being “ahead” by 1-2 years in core subjects, the kids have French, Religion, and Violin. It’s more efficient, and doesn’t waste their short childhoods DMV style, with an endless flow of paperwork.

3. Blame Game

This one could go either way, to be honest. If your child is struggling in school, you have the luxury of blaming the teacher, the curriculum, the administration, the other snot-nosed kids, the snot-nosed kids’ snot-nosed parents. I’ve heard hours of rants from friends hating on these things, feeling their child is having issues academically or socially because of factors beyond their control.

In homeschooling 100% of the responsibility rests on YOU. Kid is acting up? Kid can’t read? Kid refuses to  wear shoes? Can’t blame it on “schools these days.” You are the school.

Sometimes I wish I could blame someone else. But mostly, I’m happy for the responsibility. I know exactly what’s happening with my kids at school, and that brings relief beyond words. This leads us to….

4. Safety

The chances of someone randomly walking into your house and shooting everyone are WAY WAY lower.

The chances of one of my kids being molested by a teacher at home? Zero.

The first time a boy promised to punch me in the face was first grade. First time I was inappropriately and painfully grabbed by a boy was third grade. Fifth grade, seventh grade, and EVERY YEAR in high school contain similar trauma. Three times in high school the offender was a teacher or coach. And I’m not special. I don’t know any girl who doesn’t have similar stories. There is sibling rivalry in homeschool, but nothing comparable to the nasty that goes down in school. Keeping my kids home sidesteps a lot of unnecessary horror.

This is what comes to my mind when people bemoan homeschooler’s lack of “social school experience.”

5. Normativity

School wins here. As soon as people find out you homeschool, you are either deified as a perfect saint of a mother, or villified as a crazy control freak religious zealot. Some people manage the trick of believing you can simultaneously be both. Homeschooling mothers have their own special brand of the virgin-whore dichotomy, y’all.

I’m neither. I’m a mother who is trying her best. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes, by the grace of God, I don’t. I need to print business cards with an FAQ on the back that I can pass out every time someone asks me why my kids aren’t in school.

Bonus points: We make teachers and administrators really insecure…unless they’re the elusive *super-educator.* Then we just do the secret handshake-high five.

6. Socialization

If you put aside bullying, sexual harassment, and the many sometimes-unhealthy social constructs of modern education, school can be a great place to make friends and hang out. I’m not even kidding. Most of my kids’ friends are public schooled, and they’re just delightful. The thought of them going to school together makes me smile. If only it could just be at our house.


It does concern me.

Once upon a time in high school, I was on campus after school alone.

I heard raised voices, and, walking into the central courtyard of the school, saw a boy slap a girl across the face. Hard.

HEY! I yelled. I had no other words.

He looked straight at me and said, “Shut up. Go away. This doesn’t concern you.”

Then I looked at the girl and asked her if she was OK.

Of course she was. Of course she was. She was fine. I needed to go away and mind my own business.

And I did. Sort of.

I didn’t think I had much of a choice; I was alone, a 115 pound 13 year old without a cell phone, wishing I could save a girl who was unwilling to be saved.

This wasn’t the first time something like this happened, and it most certainly wasn’t the last. The words of the boy have stuck in my mind, in part, because they are a lie that gets told over and over and over.

Shut up. Go away. This doesn’t concern you.

It does, in fact, concern me. That girl is my sister. That boy is my brother. Those people are children of God.

There is a lie is repeated over and over again, not only in dire and violent circumstances, but in much more seemingly innocuous ways.

How I choose to live my life doesn’t concern you.

How I spend my time doesn’t concern you.

What I’m going through doesn’t concern you.

It does if I love you.

I’m not suggesting I (or anyone) is entitled to know everything about you. We’re not. The world is exhibitionist and voyeuristic enough without anyone being entitled to pry into your life. That being said, everything you say, do think is, in fact, of concern to everyone else, starting with those closest to you, and rippling out across the entire human race.

Because you matter, and, to one degree or another, everyone is impacted by your choices.

A neighbor of mine relapsed into a lifestyle that rendered her unfit to care for her child. I didn’t know her at all, and her decisions “didn’t concern me” until the day her child climbed over our fence and into our lives, culminating in 18 months of foster parenthood for us.

That woman’s personal decisions concerned me. They concerned me so much I lost sleep over them, and shed tears over them. You can’t expect me not to judge her choices, not to be concerned with her moral decisions, when every day, including two of her child’s no-mother birthdays, our family carried a small but immensely consequential consequence of her actions.

We’re told again and again not to judge, that other people’s decisions and actions are their own, that their choices don’t effect anyone but them.

And none of it is true.

“Don’t judge others.”

Don’t pass judgement on their worth as human beings?

Yes. Don’t do that. The debate on anyone’s individual worth begins and ends with Who their Father is, and What Christ did for them. The worth of every last individual on this earth is infinite, and to decry that is to decry the soul’s creator.

Don’t pass judgement on people’s actions?

Only if I don’t regard them as legitimate human beings. Which I do.

I’m not advocating for capricious cattiness, or sinking one’s life into a cesspool of snobbery or negative feeling towards others, but I do believe that thinking critically about the moral value of actions, even those not taken by ourselves, is important.

Regardless of how high school boy reached a point in his life where he thought it was acceptable to hit a girl like that, regardless of what factors contributed to my neighbor’s drug relapse, their actions have meaning and impact. Their actions are consequential because THEY, the doers, are consequential.

We can talk all day long about why a boy would hit a girl, or what a difficult past would lead to drug abuse, but that doesn’t change the bruises on the girlfriend’s face, the trauma of neglect and abandonment faced by a motherless child. Those choices, regardless of what precipitated them, are wrong.

Most people can agree that these decisions are wrong. We feel pain on behalf of a neglected child, pain on behalf of a battered teen. We care about these people, and so are willing to pass moral judgement on the action, while (hopefully) not passing degrading appraisal on the value of the wrongdoer.

But what about other choices?

If you’re not a woman, abortion issues don’t concern you.

If you’re not a woman seeking an abortion, abortion issues don’t concern you.

If you’re straight, gay marriage doesn’t concern you.

Of course it concerns me. We share a world together. Your life and well being, your capacity to create and destroy, to shape the world around you concerns me and every other living person–because it will have in impact on me, and every other living person. In fact, considering all the proxy work waiting to be done, your actions concern every human being who has ever walked this earth, because it impacts what you can or cannot offer to countless others, both living and dead.

Everything you and I think and do, how we spend our time, our behavior in public and private, creates our human offering to the world–strong or weak, kind or cruel, charitable or self absorbed. Every choice we make matters, and is not of equal value to its alternatives.

Our choices matter because the people our choices impact matter. Our choices matter because we matter.



On the Feminine Divine

Some of my earliest memories involve learning the Plan of Salvation from my mother.

She also taught me about my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

My feelings when she taught me these things were calm and happy, with a strong dose of (non condescending, non-sarcastic) DUH.

Of course that’s how things went down before we were born.

Of course I have a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

I never felt Heavenly Mother’s absence. I have never felt longing for Her, a Heavenly Mother shaped hole in my soul. So….when I read about my sisters who do, it gives me pause, and makes me reflect on why I don’t feel this all-consuming ache.

So. First, let me back up and explain how we roll here.

For most of our marriage, husband and I have both had a cell phone, but we use each other’s phones indiscriminately. Last summer when one cell phone broke, we decided to only use one for a while, since the only time we’d need two would be to call each other, and 90% of the time, when we need to do that, he’s in his office next to his office phone.

Husband linked up the phone texting to his computer, so that we both see all texts that come through, so that he could text from our phone’s number via his computer. He ignores texts from my friends, especially if it looks like they’re divulging personal information to me, and I ignore texts from his church calling (most of his calling business is confidential).

We have full access to one another’s social media, e-mail, etc. This isn’t a matter of control and oversight; it’s a matter of convenience–if one is away from internet and needs information, the other can dig it out for him or her.

A lot of people are upset, disturbed, or thrown off balance by this discovery. They think cell phones are personal. They think e-mail is personal. They get flustered if I answer Dave’s phone or if he answers mine. This is funny to me; what do they think marriage is?

To marry someone is to sign up to become one flesh. To work together, ultimately becoming perfectly united in heart, mind, desire, and work.

Once, early on, we were arguing about something, and husband paused, looked at me earnestly, and said, “but we’re on the same team.”

That broke it. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about, but I will always remember that moment. It was a golden moment of truth that cut through whatever pettiness we were navigating.

We’re on the same team.

We are striving to be one.

Few things annoy us more than when our children, associates, salespeople, ANYONE tries to triangulate between the two of us. We are one, or, at the very least, striving for unity. We are more interested in the other than the self, and more interested in our union than than the other. Our union is paramount.

On the rare occasion when someone makes a romantic overture towards one of us,* a well-meaning Military Doctor suggests anti STD measures “just in case,” or, anyone, in any offhand way, suggests or presumes dissolution, disunity or infidelity, it feels blasphemous, a slight against something profoundly sacred to us. This marriage of ours is more important than our careers, personal achievement, church service, our children’s success, or anything else on this earth. And you’d just casually assume it’s negotiable? Who do you think you are?

I’ve always felt this way about marriage, even as my parents and several beloved aunts and uncles divorced. I’ve always planned on a marriage like this, and by some unspeakable blessing, I’m married to a man who feels the same way.

When you call our number, you’re as likely to hear from me as from my husband. Unless you’re talking to me about lady problems, or to him about accepting or rejecting a calling, chances are the other person knows about the conversation and relationship. If I tell our children no, husband upholds that. If he tells them no, I uphold that. He makes good on my promises and obligations to others, and I make good on his. We are together on one mission here.

This is why I have never felt the absence of my Heavenly Mother. Wherever my father is, there She is, too. This is something I have thought and felt for as long as I can remember. If I am close to Him, I am close to Her by definition. If I feel lost, far from Him, unsure of our relationship, this naturally extends to Her, too.  They are constant; I am fallible, mortal, wavering. Manipulation and triangulation is impossible in a perfect marriage, in a perfect union. If my prayers ascend to my Father, they are just as surely heard by my Mother. When love and blessings descend from my Father, they are just as surely from Her. And if the Divine Commandment is for our marriage to become eternal and perfect, then Theirs already is.

Two weeks ago, I was going through a session in the temple, and there She was. This was no vision or theophany, just a sudden sharp realization that She was there. In in all the beauty and glory of the temple, She was there, as baldly obvious as Heavenly Father. I wasn’t even looking for her, and suddenly I realized She’d been there. As I thought of every ordinance available in the temple, I saw where she figured into every one. It was jaw droppingly obvious, another DUH that fell on my lap a solid 25 years after my earthly mother’s early teachings.

No, you don’t get the specifics of this. Go yourself, and learn on your own time.

The saddest thing about it is, so many who feel loss and longing for Heavenly Mother deliberately avoid the temple in the belief that it is sexist, when in fact, it is there that my fears and insecurities in gender injustice have been healed and sealed up, where I have felt closest to both my Heavenly Parents, and with every passing visit, I get to see and know just a little more about who She, and more importantly, They, are.

If you wanted to get a hold of me, you might as well call my husband. We’re learning marriage, and pretty close to one another.

If you want to get a hold of your Mother, you might as well call your Father. They’re perfect at marriage and perfectly unified.



*This, fortunately, has almost exclusively come from the inebriated and/or mentally ill. Most people are get that you don’t do this.

I didn’t buy it. I already had butter.


Feminism: Hello, I’d like to offer you a year long subscription to feminism.

Me: Go on.

Feminism: You can have the personal satisfaction of fighting for justice and equality in the world.

Me: What does it cost?

Feminism: I can offer you a low introductory rate. But first, tell me, what are you paying for your current subscription?

Me: All my might, mind, and strength. My time and talents. Ten percent of my income.

Feminism: Well, we can surely beat that. For only twenty minutes a day of Internet Moral Outrage, you can be a feminist!

Me: I’m actually trying to avoid moral outrage right now. It gives me hot air, if you know what I mean.

Feminism: Oh, but think of all the good you can do! The glory of feminism is that it gives you (and everyone else) permission to be exactly whoever and whatever they want to be!

Me: ….I needed permission? My current subscription declares that my free will is self-evident, divinely endowed, and immutable. I *already* don’t need anyone’s permission to be whatever I want.

Feminism: Yes, but don’t you get tired of people pressuring you to be one thing or another, rather than your true self?

Me:……Um, no. You can ask my parents. Or my fifth grade religion teacher. Or my high school ex boyfriend. Or that English professor determined that I should discover my inner goddess in the wilds of the Gila. I can be infuriatingly noncompliant.

Feminism: OK, OK, so you’re so terribly privileged you don’t feel pressure to conform and you do what you want. Whoopdie-Doo. Surely you feel the need to liberate others, to help them embrace their true selves and break free of social pressure to comply with outdated and oppressive expectations?

Me: Yes! That’s why I’m an advocate for prayer. And personal revelation. Self-knowledge, self-esteem, and courage to embrace one’s identity all come amply from  God.

Feminism: Oh, well, that’s all very well and good, you know, but not everyone believes in God.

Me: If they won’t have butter, feminism is a passable margarine.

Feminism: I’m choosing to ignore that. Let’s talk relationships. You need me to stand up for yourself! To maintain your own autonomy and identity and independence! We’re not going to have any of this co-dependent June Cleaver nonsense anymore.

Me: I most certainly agree. But independence is just more margarine. There’s this lovely thing called interdependence. And it’s HAWT. Like melted butter.

Feminism: ….it sounds like codependence.

Me: Nah. It’s like independence except happier. And stronger. And way less lonely, if you know what I mean. Also, you don’t have to be constantly worrying about whether you’re getting enough autonomy, or carrying too much emotional labor–honesty and trust take care of so much of that. Also, I’m hungry now.

Feminism: Whatever. Let’s talk about rape. You need feminism to teach men not to rape.

Me: Erm…This is also covered in the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, modern revelation, Medieval codes of chivalry, and this delightful 18th century pirates’ code of conduct: “If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall be shot.”

Feminism: Yes, but those were all dirty patriarchal narratives set up to objectify women, dehumanize them, put them on a pedestal, or commodify them.

Me: *speechless at the blithe nature of such an enormous blanket statement*

Feminism: Don’t you feel a responsibility to stand up for the downtrodden, the oppressed?

Me: Yes!

Feminism: So join us in this cause of social justice!

Me: …and grace?

Feminism: What?

Me: Justice and grace? Or mercy, if you will. You need both.

Feminism: Yes. Grace and mercy for the oppressed.

Me: No, it has to be for everyone. I need mercy and grace for everyone. Including the oppressor. Otherwise, the fight for justice becomes a zero-sum game, a violent power struggle where everyone ultimately loses.

Feminism: I knew it. You have too much internalized misogyny to be one of us. I hereby reject your application.

Me: …..I didn’t apply? But seriously, I still love you. You’re well-intentioned and sometimes helpful, and I think those pink knit hats are adorable. Until I remember that they’re supposed to be uteri, which makes your neck a metaphorical vagina, and then things just get weird. Like really, maybe you should stop dressing up as giant anthropomorphic lady parts.

Feminism: Like I said, internalized misogyny. And don’t tell me what to do! I’m autonomous!

Me: Oh, okay. Sorry.

Feminism: Don’t apologize! Women apologize too much because patriarchy.

Me: Right. Sorry about that.