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Needing Encouragement

Beth Mellot has been homeschooling for 19 years. She has graduated two children and has one more in 9th grade. Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, discovering field trips and putting together curriculum. By far, her favorite thing is spending time with her kids and watching the "light bulb" come on. Beth serves on the HAHA board as Co-Director of Activities. 

September 22, 2020

Life is Messy! Keep Your Focus on the Important Things

May I be real with y’all? I’ve homeschooled for 20 years and I still don’t have it figured out. Some days are better than others. And then there are THOSE days – you know what I mean - those days when the world seems to oppose you and your well-planned lessons; those days when everyone runs out of socks (or underwear) at the same time.

In fact, just this week, we had one of THOSE days. We had a tight schedule. We had only so much time to get our lessons done before my son’s ZOOM class and then a quick lunch before he had to head off to work. We had just sat down at the table and cracked open the books when we looked outside to discover our heifer wandering through the yard and down into the neighbor’s woods. What ensued was nothing less than chaos.

Mind you, we’ve had cattle before but this one is just plain WEIRD! She’s super spooky and won’t let you near her so we knew we could not just walk up to her, toss a rope around her neck and lead her back into the pasture. To make matters worse, if we left the gate to the pasture open, our goats were sure to get out.

Long story short, the goats got locked into their stalls in the barn, food was put out for the cow and the pasture gate left open. Eventually “Miss Steak” wandered in for her food – when she was convinced it was her idea! Then we had to run out and close the gate, release the goats and turn the fence back on. Needless to say, it was not our most productive day of school! (It actually took us the rest of the week to catch up)

We can’t always predict what will happen each day, but we do get to choose how we will react to the curve balls life throws at us. Many years ago I found an article that spoke to my heart so much that I wrote down part of it and hung it on the mirror of my dresser so I would read it every morning to remind myself of what was truly important. I came across it the other day and felt to share it.

"Enjoy the children and cause them to enjoy you. Give them your time, your attention, your laugh, your approval, your touch, hugs, reading, silly funnies, rolling on the carpet or yard, pushing in the swing, or pulling in the wagon. But most of all, let them bask in your smile until they need it like they need their next breath. Cause them to feed on your fellowship, to relax until they are sure you care only for their good, that you live to enjoy their company and would not be happy without them." ~nogreaterjoy.org

Perhaps you think they go too far and that’s ok. But for me, it was a daily reminder that relationship was the key ingredient to creating a successful family – and homeschool. With all the distractions, commitments, and chores we need to accomplish each day, let us not forget our relationships – with God, with our husbands, and with our children. They are the key foundation of life.

July 1, 2020

An Open Letter to New Homeschooling Parents

To all of you brave parents who are embarking on the adventure of homeschooling for the first time. I am so PROUD of you! You are not choosing the easy road, the comfortable road, or the normal road. Instead you are choosing what you feel is best for your child. And you are to be commended. Not simply because I believe in homeschooling, which I obviously do, but because you are sacrificing YOUR time, effort and convenience for the good of your child. Parenting is not for the faint of heart and homeschooling is simply an extension of that. Do not be surprised, or dismayed, if this year starts off a little uncomfortable. Both you and your child are entering uncharted waters. It’s OK to feel a little off kilter. Just keep in mind that the majority of homeschool households do NOT look like traditional brick and mortar schools (it’s fine if yours does, but don’t panic if it doesn’t.)

I have been homeschooling for 20 years with my youngest one entering 10th grade. If I were to offer 7 nuggets of wisdom it would be:

  1. Focus on the present. Try to avoid overwhelming yourself by looking too far into the future. (Obviously, this is easier to do with younger children than with highschoolers.) For the first 8 years of our homeschooling journey, I planned for one year at a time, saying to my husband, our children, and myself “We’re homeschooling this coming year. After that, we’ll see.” Had I known at the beginning that we were going to homeschool for 23 years, I would have been too overwhelmed to focus on the present. Keep your focus on the doable. And on those days when focusing on this school year seems too much, simply focus on today.
  2. Remember character lessons are ultimately more important than academics. There were days when we needed to focus on “conflict resolution” more than fractions. Although it was frustrating for me, my children did indeed learn their fractions but they also learned that empathy and the ability to apologize and forgive were more important life skills.
  3. Start slowly. Consider starting off slowly and easing into homeschooling: perhaps have them do a few worksheets that are a grade below them. This may seem counterproductive but it will help your child review as well as giving him/her a sense of accomplishment while at the same time allowing you to assess where their strengths and weaknesses are. (See the HAHA website: and scroll down to you find the FREE RESOURCES.)
  4. Make school a priority. I quickly learned that I needed to make their school work a priority in my life. Otherwise, I got distracted with laundry, dishes, cleaning, responding to emails, and just life in general. And if momma is distracted, then everyone’s distracted.
  5. Focus on building a routine. It will allow your child to anticipate what is coming next. Our family routine has always been: get up and brush your teeth, come downstairs for breakfast, take care of the animals (or chores like emptying the dishwasher, washing your breakfast dishes, etc.), get yourself a glass of water & meet me at the dining room table by 8:30a. While they are taking care of the animals/doing their chores, I am throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine or getting ingredients together for lunch and/or supper. Once my children are at the table, I must drop whatever I’m in the middle of and join them. My children always worked best having their individual subjects on a routine as well. Some children work better being able to switch things around to keep them from getting bored. Don’t stress – this is something you will figure out together.
  6. Remember you are not so much teaching as tutoring. That sounds strange, but hear me out. “Teaching” is what happens in a brick and mortar building where one person is in charge of 20-30 students. (God bless them. I know I couldn’t do it!) The teacher has to manage her time and the pace of her lessons to fit with the majority of her students – leaving those who understood the concept easily, to feel bored and those who haven’t grasped it yet, to feel left behind. YOU have the advantage of offering a more focused approach. Our elementary math book took two weeks to teach fractions. At the end of that time our daughter was still struggling. I was able to go back and redo those same lessons, over and over again until (after a month and a half!) the light bulb came on. Since she was our first, I figured I had just ruined her school year and put her too far behind to ever catch up. But, lo and behold, the next concept was graphing and she whizzed right through it. Who knew? She eventually graduated on time – with honors no less.
    Tutoring actually takes less time because you can go at your child’s pace. A good rule of thumb that I’ve found is to do focused schoolwork for 15 to 30 minutes per grade:

Kindergarten: 15 -30 minutes of sit down work focusing on math, tracing letters, spelling his/her name. Other learning can happen out of the chair, such as digging in the flowerbed and finding insects. Playing with water and watching it evaporate. Feel the difference on your skin between standing in the sun and standing in the shade. And READ to them – often – and about anything and everything.
Then with each grade, increase the sitting time by 15 -30 minutes. By high school, they should be spending 3.25 to 6.5 hours a day on their schoolwork. Personally, our school time fluctuates almost daily but always manages to fall between that range. (Sometimes we need to stay on a subject/topic for longer than I expected and other times we whizz right through it quicker than I anticipated.)

  1. Enjoy this time with your child. It may only be for this year or it may be for longer, but homeschooling allows you to get to know your child in a way nothing else can. Enjoy getting to know the little person God has blessed you with. You won’t regret it.

Blessings on your new endeavor!

June 1, 2020

The Stress of Lesson Planning

Each spring, as I’m planning next year’s curriculum, I am temporarily thrown into a “tizzy” (as my grandmother would say). What if I’m missing something? What if I teach subject X and what my child needs is really subject Y? My child wants to dig deeper into Science but I was never good at that in school – how can I possibly teach him what he needs to know?

Questions and doubts assail me from every side as I desperately try to remember how I combatted them last year – and the year before that – and the year before that. This is a battle I’ve been fighting for 19 years. It HAS gotten better, easier to remember my purpose and goal, easier to correct an oversight but, especially in the beginning, the doubts and fears were overwhelming.

Are you there, too? Are you afraid you will damage your child permanently? After all, that’s what we’re told will happen (they won’t be socialized enough, they won’t learn the correct things, they will be a drain on society). And yet … something inside still compels us to take the road less traveled. So how do you overcome the fear of failure?

I believe there are several parts to that answer.

1st – stay close to God. He will give you ideas and direction for He promises, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (James 1:5)

2nd – find a more experienced homeschooler and talk about your fears. There’s a good chance she has dealt with those same terrors. As Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “…there is nothing new under the sun.”

3rd – be open to change. Sometimes a new curriculum is just the change you need; or perhaps it is simply a new way of doing things. I always found myself doing spelling first because it was the easiest and math was last because I always got attitude. Changing things around and saving a fun or easy subject for last seemed to give my kiddos a reason to get through their math lessons.

4th – evaluate your progress. Those irritating assessment tests do have some value – they give us an idea of where we are. And once we recognize an area of lack, we simply address it. I remember when my youngest took his 5th grade test. He did fine on everything until he got to English mechanics. He was horrified when he got his results telling him he scored at a late 2nd grade level! It took quite a while before I was able to convince him that his score reflect on ME and not on him since I had forgotten to teach that. Years later, when he took his 8th grade test, he was relieved to discover that he actually tested above grade level.

5th – stay close to God. (Hey wait a minute, woman, you already said that - look back at #1!) Yeah, I know. You are correct. I am repeating myself; but honestly, when it comes to our children, we all need every bit of help we can get. So I deliberately “bookended” my advice with God: let Him be the beginning of your search for wisdom, allow Him to direct in the midst of it, and seek His blessing at the end.

April 1, 2020

New Year’s Resolutions – Revisited

Well, today I (finally) got around to reading my new devotional – which started the first of the year! Yes, I’m three months behind – please don’t judge; I feel guilty enough as it is. However, I’m not writing to confess my shortcomings but rather to profess God’s goodness.

The devotional was about New Year’s Resolutions – something with which I have a love/hate relationship. I love the idea of starting something new. I hate being disappointed in myself for failing. This devotional spoke to that very struggle.

In summary, the author reminded us of how children learn – in particular, how they learn to walk. It is a gradual process. First, they learn to sit up, next to scoot, then to crawl and finally, they’re walking! This process takes roughly a year. And even though that sounds like a long time, when you look at it developmentally, that is HUGE progress.

Then the revelation hit me: God is more concerned with my progress than my quickness; He is more concerned with what I follow through and complete than in my grandiose plans.

Life Lesson: It is better to change my diet slightly and stick with that change for the rest of the year than to make a huge change in my eating habits but be unable to maintain it. Likewise, it is better to make small, manageable changes to our homeschool and finish the year strong than to make major changes that ultimately disrupt all our efforts.

So I’ll challenge you with my devotional’s ‘Faith Step’: “Take your first steps today in the three areas you have decided to grow. Don’t try to do too much. A year of baby steps adds up to a lot of growth if you stick with it!”

Lord, show us the baby steps we need to take to be better mothers and teachers to our children. You have given us these specific children, and likewise, out of all the parents in the world, you have chosen to give them us as parents. They are ‘little blessings’ which you’ve put into our lives. It is an honor and a privilege to be a parent. Give us the strength and the wisdom to be the parent they need us to be. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Needing a little encouragement in your homeschooling journey? Check-in here once a month for a new article from a veteran homeschooling mom! 

February 1, 2020

February is synonymous with Valentines’ Day. Who can think of February without thinking about roses, chocolates and romance? Like most other holidays, Valentines’ Day seems to sneak up on me. I have good intentions but somehow seem to never get around to buying cards or making dinner reservations. Then I wake up that morning with the realization that I’ve done it again – I’ve just overlooked another Valentines’ Day. But really, it’s not my fault. After all, it’s not religious. It’s just another commercial holiday created to drive up the price of flowers and candy during the dead of winter. Is it really necessary? I mean, romance is great but it is frequently practical. After all, who has time to plan a get-away or even a dinner date? Not me. Lately all my thoughts have been about deadlines. Some of my own making and some imposed by others. You see we are attempting to remodel a bathroom. Our daughter and son-in-love bought a fixer-upper this past summer. They replaced wiring, plumbing and windows, removed carpet, sanded and painted. All the living spaces are now habitable and they are working on the spare room and office. I’m so proud of them.

But that is only half of the story. You see we spent several days with them this past summer helping run wiring, repairing concrete and drywall, priming and painting. They seemed to have passed the “remodel bug” to us. We came home determined to get this bathroom, which I’ve hated for 26 years, under control. It has been a work in progress ever since.

Now understand we live in an early 1900’s farmhouse. So we gutted the room only to have our suspicions confirmed: nothing was square, nothing was plum and all the supports (studs, floor joists and rafters) were 24” on center. Basically a remodeler’s nightmare – especially if you don’t know what you’re doing! So we hired a plumber and a carpenter. It looked like we were starting to make progress when it was discovered that our newly ordered shower had a manufacturer defect. Back it went and we were forced to reorder another one – which put us a month behind as this all happened during the holidays. Then there was the difference of opinion between my husband and myself in regards to how we wanted the bathroom to look. It wasn’t a stream that divided us but an enormous chasm. Our children remodeled an entire house and I was concerned that our marriage wouldn’t survive a bathroom!

Today things seem to be looking up. The reordered shower is scheduled to be delivered on Friday while the plumber is here and I’m beginning to feel as if I can breathe again. But, in reality, you really don’t need a bathroom remodel to threaten your marriage. Sometimes, as homeschooling moms, the demands of housekeeping, chauffeuring and schooling can become so all consuming that the needs of our husbands can get tossed by the roadside. Not intentionally, mind you. But, if you’re like me, you can only store so much information before your “hard drive” locks up or gets corrupted. Then things tend to get forgotten or misplaced: that shirt your husband needs for his big meeting doesn’t get ironed or that meeting between your husband and your pastor doesn’t get put on the calendar and gets missed.

There are many ways in which life can overtake us, overwhelm us or even sidetrack us. Frequently these things cause a rift in our relationships. And THAT is why Valentine’s Day is so important. It reminds us to take time out of our crazy life and show our husband that he is important to us. You can’t afford to go out to a fancy restaurant? Go to Chick-fil-A or MickeyD’s. Or better yet stay home. Pop some popcorn, make hot chocolate and watch your favorite movie. Whatever you do, make sure your husband knows he has your full attention. When he knows your heart is for him, it will be easier for him to understand, and even empathize with you, when you get overwhelmed.

I understand. Marriage is work – hard work at times – but the rewards are well worth it and extend way beyond us to our children and community.

And, you know, just because society doesn’t make Valentines’ Day religious, doesn’t mean we can’t. Let’s make this Valentines’ Day the day we start to really live I Corinthians 13:4-8a “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

December 1, 2019

Beth Mellot has been homeschooling for 19 years. She has graduated two children and has one more in 9th grade. Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, discovering field trips and putting together curriculum. By far, her favorite thing is spending time with her kids and watching the "light bulb" come on. Beth serves on the HAHA board as Co-Director of Activities. 


Help! The Holidays are coming!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was in fact … the holidays (my apologies to Charles Dickens.) Christmas – the season of joy; the season of peace. Right! To me is was the season of unending stress: Christmas cards, Christmas shopping – for everyone and their brother, finding the perfect tree, decorating inside and out, baking all kinds of cookies and desserts, wrapping presents, grocery shopping for Christmas dinner AND keeping up with those pesky lesson plans. “It’s not fair,” I told my husband, “It’s impossible to do it all in just four weeks – four months, perhaps, but not four weeks!” It seemed like I failed – every year – and I was tired of trying. Christmas had lost its “magic” and I had become a slave to the commercialization of the season. Instead of anticipating that time of the year, I dreaded it. The wonder of the Virgin Birth, the awe of a holy God becoming a tiny baby, had been overshadowed by agendas, demands and constant stress. Something had to change!

Away with the cookies, away with the cakes; on Ebay, on Amazon, easy it makes. Ok, so I’m not a poet, but you get my point. Instead of doing everything I should do, I began to do those things that I enjoyed doing. So Christmas cookies went by the wayside. I admit, at first I felt guilty. Would I be scarring my children for life if I did not do the whole Christmas cookie thing? But you know what? My children did not lose out one bit. My sister-in-law and a girlfriend began to invite them over to their houses to help make cookies – which freed me up to do some shopping. And that shopping happened with technology (I didn’t even have to get dressed until it was time for the kiddos to come home!)

I also decided that if the public schools could have half-days, well doggone it, so could we. So I started easing up on the intensity of our lessons about two weeks before Christmas. Instead of pushing through to the next unit, we paused and reviewed all that we’d covered thus far. We finished our experiments, art projects and writing assignments. Then we cleaned up our supplies, and lo and behold, the house felt more like Christmas and less like a disaster area.

Then I started to use the days between Christmas & New Year’s to implement some of those activities that we never seemed to have time for. You know, all those things I thought would add some spice to our studies but which we never seemed to get around to because I was so desperately trying to keep up with my lesson plans. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this!) So the word searches, the puzzles, the games, and the light reading took over this week, which allowed me to count the days while keeping the munchkins busy. Win, win I’d say.

So maybe you enjoy the whole Christmas cookie thing. Then by all means keep it. Just don’t let society decide what you should do. Take some time, right now even, and ask God what can go and what should stay. After all, He knows what will work best for your family. And He knows that if YOU are stressed, it will be difficult for your children to find the “magic,” the wonder and the awe in this most Holy Season. Trees, decorations, gifts and food are all wonderful but the truth is that Jesus really IS the reason for the season. Let’s make it a point to keep that truth in the forefront of our plans this year.

Let’s model that awe and wonder of the babe in a manger, and rejoice with the angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14, NIV)

November 1, 2019

Beth Mellot has been homeschooling for 19 years. She has graduated two children and has one more in 9th grade. Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, discovering field trips and putting together curriculum. By far, her favorite thing is spending time with her kids and watching the "light bulb" come on. Beth serves on the HAHA board as Co-Director of Activities. 


May I be honest here?  Homeschooling is NOT what I thought it would be.  In fact, it is NOTHING like I imagined. I had that famous Norman Rockwell picture of a happy family around the table (minus the turkey, of course) etched in my brain.  And I wasn’t going to settle for anything less.  Imagine my surprise when the grumbling and arguing began – on our first official day!

“Can I go outside now?”  We just sat down at the table, what do you think? 

“I hate math!” This is your first day of Kindergarten, how can you possibly know that you hate Math?

“I’m hungry.  When can we eat?”  You just finished breakfast; it’s physically impossible for you to be hungry!

“You gave him more crayons than you gave me!”  I thought you hated Math?

On and on ad nauseam – so much for my ideal homeschool day.  What have I done wrong?  I wondered.  Maybe I’m not cut out to do this; or perhaps my children are even less disciplined than I believed; or (gasp) maybe they would be better off in public school!

Does any of that sound familiar?  Are you doubting the choices you have made?  Do you feel as if you are hampering your child’s future by staying the course?  

Be assured, my friend, your doubts are normal.  I do not know ANY homeschool mom who has not asked herself those questions – sometimes on a daily (or even hourly) basis.  And asking those questions is important because it proves you care about your children and want the best for them.  Just don’t stay in the “pit of despair.”  Give your self a chance to cry, or scream into your pillow if you need to, but don’t think this moment in time is the defining moment of your life – even if it feels like it.  And don’t believe for one minute that you are not up to the task.  (I used to lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and I still managed to graduate two children with our last one in 9th grade.)  

So let me encourage you from (almost on) the other side. YOU CAN DO THIS! 
You are what your children need and you, with God’s help, are enough.

And on those days when doubts assail you and your heart feels daunted by the task, remind yourself WHY you chose to homeschool.  Our reason was simple – my husband and I know God told us to do this.  And I went back to that reason time and time again.

So will you allow me to be bold and suggest that the reason you homeschool should be YOUR reason – not your neighbor’s, not your pastor’s, not even your in-law’s, no matter how well meaning they are? The reason needs to be yours.  Period.  You need to own it.  For it is the lifeline you will need to hang on to during those difficult days.  

But be encouraged because there WILL be good days, too.  I promise.  Maybe not today, but that is ok.  Hang it up for today if you have to.  Tomorrow will bring a new perspective and new chances to try again.  And, as Jeremiah reminds us, tomorrow will also bring new mercies from above – for His mercies and compassions are new every morning (Lam 3:22,23  KJV)