How Morning Time and Reading Aloud Saved Our Homeschool

February 26th, 2016

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of bringing our daughters home and I’ve been reflecting on what we’ve accomplished, how our family is different, and all that the girls have learned and experienced over the past 12 months.


Without a doubt, morning time and reading aloud saved our homeschool over the past year.


When our girls came home in March of 2015 they knew no English and we knew no Lingala or Swahili.  We had several adoptive families of older children tell us that the girls would be fluent in English after about four months home.  Not only did we have a hard time believing that, but four months seemed an awfully long ways away on Day 1.  We survived day by day and often hour by hour.  There were major fits and meltdowns during those first 10-14 days but then we turned a corner.  The girls began to communicate with simple, new words, we spent a great deal of time playing outside, and we began to develop a new routine. I came up with a Morning Time schedule and reading aloud was a huge part of that.  Surprisingly, the girls’ attention spans grew quickly.  The girls were 7, 5, and 5 when they came home. Our other children were 12, 10, 7, and 6 months at that time.  We go to a liturgical church and our children worship alongside us so it didn’t take the girls long before they were sitting quietly next to us for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings.  We also have family worship at night where we sing, work on the catechism, and read scripture together.  All of these things played a role in helping the girls, including Baby Annie, learn to sit and be attentive for lengthy periods of time.


I didn’t have any instructions on how to incorporate our new, non-English-speaking children into our homeschool.  I had grandiose ideas of beginning a kindergarten-type teaching plan with them and having Eliana caught up to “her age/grade level”  in no time. Boy was I delusional.  It didn’t take long to realize none of my girls were even capable of holding a pencil let alone trace a letter or draw a circle.  I was stumped…until a little voice in my head reminded me to stick with what I know.  Reading and recitation. I made a few little lists of goals and began chipping away.  Before I knew it we were settled comfortably into our new Morning Time routine.  On a normal day our morning time went something like this:



Bible read aloud (We are working our way through a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan.)

Hymn Memorization (We wanted to teach the girls our service hymns so they could begin to participate more in our Sunday morning worship services even though they couldn’t read yet.)

Poetry or Shakespeare

Read Aloud-Chapter Book


Here’s a list of some of the books we’ve read aloud over the past year:


Little House in the Big Woods

Little House on the Prairie

Farmer Boy

On the Banks of Plum Creek

On the Shores of Silver Lake

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Magician’s Nephew

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Where the Red Fern Grows


Paddle to the Sea

Beatrix Potter

Winnie the Pooh

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Dr. Suess (a variety, of course)

…and far too many pictures books to list.  A few of these were audio books we listened to on road trips but most were simply read aloud for about an hour a day during morning time.


What we witnessed in our daughters was an intensely growing love for good books and great stories.  Their vocabulary increased daily, they begged for one more chapter, they wanted to do “more school,” and we began to grow together as a family.  After Morning Time, the boys would go off and begin their other subjects independently while the girls and I would move to the kitchen for “Table Time.”  This is where I taught them songs to help them learn more necessities like the days of the week, months of the year, and how to count to 20.  It was amazing how quickly they could memorize new things, as if I should’ve been surprised by that.  Several years in Classical Conversations allowed me to see just how much our children were capable of in the realm of memorization and recitation.  Friends who went a month or so without seeing our family were always amazed at the progress each passing week and month produced.  Sure enough, by the four month mark the girls were fluent in English for everyday conversation and communication.  We still struggle with pronouns and prepositions but there’s almost nothing they don’t understand.


What surprised me more than anything and has left me feeling the most inadequate and ill-equipped are the large gaps in their education that I don’t realize are there until they make comments about how “we live on the moon” or ask questions like, “Mommy, are elephants real?”  I have completely taken for granted the vast amount of information our children acquire simply by being in our home and in our family from birth.  I’ve never been a “big box curriculum” kinda girl, but I’m seriously thinking about going in that direction in the fall for the girls simply to cover a lot of ground without having to do all of my own planning. Either that or I’ll finally take the bull by the horns and dive into Ambleside Online once and for all and simply continue on our read-lots-and-lots-of-books path.  The past year has helped me to see just how rich an education one can obtain simply through great literature; whether it be a classic or a well-written picture book.


One of my all-time favorite podcasts is from Quiddity (the Circe Institute’s podcast) where Sarah Mackenzie interviews Andrew Kern on the topic of Teaching From Rest.  I’ve listened to it at least a dozen times and it encourages and inspires me more and more each time.  As we move gracefully through each day I remind myself that each one of my children are souls to be nurtured, not products to be measured.  When I feel like I’m not moving fast enough with the girls’ education or I feel the urge to help them catch up quicker, I then ask myself, “Catch up to whom??”  We homeschool for many reasons but the one that sticks out to me most in our current season of life is that we have the ability to meet our children where they are individually.  Would you be surprised if I told you all seven of our children are very different from one another?  Of course not, because they’re all individual people.  I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of life that we’ve taken over the past year and I hope this post can serve as a help for other homeschool families in the process of adopting, especially if you’re bringing home school-age children and plan to continue homeschooling.  It’s a beautiful thing to be able to watch each and every new discovery and revelation through their eyes.


Even something as simple as seeing their first change of seasons has been incredibly miraculous and mystifying.  I never thought about the fact that my daughters had never witnessed nor experienced fall, winter, and spring before.  Living on the equator they had one season:  Summer.  There was summer in the rainy season and summer in the dry season.  It was so fun and organic to answer questions about why the trees were all “dying” as the leaves turned and fell to the ground leaving barren branches and cold days.  I’m so excited to experience their first spring with them as these seemingly dead trees slowly come to life again in the next month or so.  We’re going to plant a garden and get new chickens and have all kinds of accidental science lessons. Adoption and homeschooling can both be hard roads to travel at times but the rewards far exceed any and all of my hope-filled expectations.  On the hardest days I remind myself that His mercies are new every morning and on the best days I get beautiful glimpses of what our home and family will look like in five, ten, and fifteen years as we continue on the path set before us.  We are in pursuit of simplicity and love, all for His glory.

The whole gang

The whole gang

We LOVE Little House

We LOVE Little House


Annie's favorite book is Mrs. Wow Never Wanted a Cow.

Annie’s favorite book is Mrs. Wow Never Wanted a Cow.

Everyone loves reading to Annie.

Everyone loves reading to Annie.

Charlie Michael is our newest little bookworm and will arrive sometime this summer.

Charlie Michael is our newest little bookworm and will arrive sometime this summer.

Last but not least, my blog will be getting a much-needed makeover very soon and I will no longer be “Made To Organize.” I think it’s about time those banner pictures were updated, don’t you??  New domain reveal coming soon!



Our Beautiful New Reality

September 4th, 2015

I’ve been blogging in my mind for weeks now.  About a month and a half ago I began to feel myself coming out of the fog.  It was a familiar place in which I lived for about four months after the girls came home.  You see, we packed up and sold our house of almost ten years less than a month before our girls came home.  We downsized from our 2,000 square foot brick ranch to a mobile home.  We have some dear friends who have a large farm and are letting us live in a double wide on their property rent-free while we get out of debt.  Our adoption put enormous financial stress on us over the past three years and we have a lot of debt to pay off.  Most of it was accumulated before we began our adoption, but needless to say, nothing got paid off over the last three years and then we acquired more during our trip to bring the girls home.  It was all worth it and now we’re excited to be walking in our beautiful new reality.  We have seven children in a three bedroom mobile home out in the country and we’re absolutely loving it. All of our neighbors are our best friends.  The kids have acres and acres of woods to explore and trails to hike.  We can see every star in the sky on clear nights and we’re purposefully living a peace-filled simplified life.  Downsizing our home while upsizing our family has forced us to purge and get super organized.  Every room in the house presents an organizational challenge and its been fun figuring out ways to utilize every nook and cranny.  Josh put my clothesline up and Annie went back into her cloth diapers a few months ago.  I suppose that was the first sign that I was coming out of the fog.  I began to make bread again and put meals in the freezer.  I started hanging clothes out to dry just because I enjoy it.  The kids and I make regular trips to places like Target and Costco without any drama, if you don’t count the stares and sometimes inappropriate remarks and questions.  I find myself forgetting that I have seven children and that seven children is far from the norm. Annie is a year old and began walking at 11 months; our earliest walker by far.  She is still our sweet little sunshine.  I can’t even count how many times a day the big kids tell her how cute she is and how much they love her. I decided to try a new schedule for this school year.  Six weeks on, one week off, repeat.  The first six weeks leads us up to our beach trip next week.  We’ve had an excellent first six weeks.  Here’s a glimpse into our day: The kids wake up by 8am, make their beds, get dressed, and come to the table for breakfast.  We start school around 9am with Morning Time.  Morning Time consists of Bible reading (we’re currently doing a “read through the Bible in a year” plan), Shakespeare, poetry, some memory work, and whatever read aloud chapter book we’re in at the moment.  We read Little House on the Prairie in August and all of the kids wanted to keep going with the series so now we’re half way through Farmer Boy.  It’s such a joy to hear the girls ask for one more chapter.  Their understanding of English after just five months home is astonishing to say the least.  They’re doing exceptionally well.  In August they learned the days of the week, months of the year, counting to 20, and are now working on recognizing the letters of the alphabet and numbers 1-20.  Eliana is working hard on learning to read.  She is basically at a kindergarten level and the twins (5 1/2) are at a preschool level with basic coloring skills but no ability to trace letters on a page or hold a pencil well.  It’s so very different teaching children who are school age but so far from being ready for age-appropriate tasks.  It’s also a great relief to know that classical education will work all of that out in time and we don’t have to rush to “catch up” to anyone.  I’m so thankful I can stay home and educate our children.  It’s hard to believe I have two middle schoolers this year.  Joshua is in 7th grade and is doing Omnibus online through Veritas Press.  Jesse is in 6th grade and is completing his last year of Classical Conversations’ Foundations program (at home).  He is basically reviewing all three cycles this year and will join Joshua in Omnibus next year.  Owen is in 3rd grade and continuing on in Classical Conversations.  It’s amazing to hear him recalling all of this cycle’s memory work already.  He’s been hearing and learning CC memory work since he was two.  What a joy to see my big boys progress into the logic and rhetoric phases of learning after building this incredible foundation through CC.  Joshua and Jesse are also taking an IEW writing class once a week and that’s going really well also. The boys are all still enjoying and excelling with Teaching Textbooks math and Phonetic Zoo Spelling. I’m going to start Michael Clay Thompson’s Grammar program with Jesse, Owen, and Eliana soon, if I can ever remember to order it!  I also want to get the first volume of Story of the World so we can add that to our Morning Time routine.  After Morning Time the boys separate to do their independent work and I move to the dining room table with the girls.  We work on learning a variety of new things as well as handwriting for Eliana, coloring, cutting, play-doh, preschool crafts, etc.  I look so forward to fall and the holidays.  I truly began to feel like I would never actually have a Thanksgiving or Christmas with all of my children on the same continent, let alone in the same house.  We are so incredibly blessed and are doing our very best to live our life simply, with joy and gratitude, and always for His glory. So, that sums it up for now.  All of the pictures we’ve taken over the past five months are on my phone so I’ll need to transfer them onto the computer so I can post some pictures.  Everyone has grown this summer–water and sunshine does it every time!  :)



Geography Flashcards

June 29th, 2015

This is an updated post related to my geography cards.  I have created geography flashcards to correspond with all three cycles of CC but only the PDF download of each set is available at this time.  I have seven children, including a baby, and simply don’t have time to devote to making and shipping completed sets at this time.

Most important thing to note:

**Each card is labeled with one location, but there is nothing referencing a cycle or week anywhere on the cards because I don’t want to infringe on any copyright laws and get CC corporate on my hiney.**

Second most important thing to note:

**All proceeds will go toward paying off adoption expenses.  We finally brought our daughters home three months ago after a 2 1/2 year wait.  The grand total for our adoption was $140,000**

I must tell you, I originally planned to sell the download for $10.  It took me weeks to finish these, they’re in color, labeled, ready to print and use.  But then I started to think about the fact that you still have to print them, fold the labels over (each map and label are side-by-side so you’ll fold each label over to the back after you print).  You may also choose to glue the entire thing to a 3×5 index card for better durability, and if you’re like me, you’ll laminate the finished product!  Therefore, I’m only asking$5.

These cards may also be printed in black and white or gray scale to save money.  We have an InkBoy near our house and they do $.01 black and white copies if you bring your own paper.  But I must say, the color adds a lot to the cards.  The only color is the water and the small location on each card.

sample picture of cards sample picture of printed pdf France001 France002 France003

One last thing:  How to purchase.

You can pay using the donate button on the right side of the screen.  Please use the memo/comment box in Paypal to note the email address you would like me to use when I send your download and which cycle you’re purchasing.

Please feel free to contact me via email with any questions related to the cards or our adoption.

God bless!

Mother’s Day 2015

May 18th, 2015

The Best Mother’s Day EVER.


Mother's Day 2015