Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s less: Chatting with Shawna Wingert

Just because it's different, doesn't mean it's less Chatting with Shawna Wingert  The Homeschool Sisters Podcast [Episode 6], not the former things, special needs, special education, homeschool, homeschooling, homeschooler, podcast,

The Homeschool Sisters Podcast #6:

Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s less: Chatting with Shawna Wingert

In this episode, the sisters chat with one of their most favorite people: Shawna Wingert. Shawna is a writer, speaker, author, and homeschool mom to two amazing boys with special needs. Do you ever feel like your homeschool doesn’t or can’t look like the homeschool next door, or the family at church or co-op, or even all the families on the internet? Shawna joins the sisters to remind you that it’s OK, and that just because you have to do things a little differently, that doesn’t mean what you are doing is less.

Listen to the podcast:


Click on the above image to listen to the episode!

Links from the episode

Books from this episode

When A Flower Doesn't Bloom

Be sure to follow Shawna

Shawna writes at Not The Former Things and you can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

You can also find Shawna on the following sites:

… and many, many more!

Make sure you don’t miss an episode

Here are several ways that you can tune in to see what Cait and Kara are up to:

We would love if you could leave us a review on iTunes.

Do you have a question or topic you’d love to hear Cait and Kara talk about?

If so, send us a message or leave a comment. We love to hear from you!

Be sure to follow The Homeschool Sisters

You can hang out with Cait and Kara on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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My Big Picture Planning Page (and how I use my bullet journal for homeschool planning)

My big picture planning page

Written by Kara S. Anderson

Recently Cait and I were chatting for an episode, and I mentioned my Big Picture Homeschool Planning Page.

(Doesn’t that sound super official?)

Cait said it was genius, and I wanted to tell her the truth – that like all things I do, it was pretty much an accident.

Because I am not a Pro Bullet Journaler. At all.

I love the idea. I love the method, and I love my bullet journal. I love the little pieces of Washi tape, my book darts, and I love the dotted pages – I must have a journal with dots.

And I love all my weird pages and that I finally have a place to put ALL THE THINGS. (Besides my brain.)

But the truth is, pro bullet journals seem to follow more of a plan, and I am just making it up as I go along, which is how I came up with my Big Picture Homeschool planning page.

Why even do that?

My Big Picture Homeschool planning page happened because I really like ideas. I am not as good at execution, but I love knowing I have something in my back pocket.

I also have the habit of jumping into things that look cool, filling my Amazon cart, and getting all excited about something only to have it fizzle pretty quickly like one of those sad July 4th snakes.

So my Big Picture Homeschool Planning Page does two things:

First, it gives me a place (besides my cluttered brain) to record thoughts and ideas and projects and such that I come across on a near-daily basis, because Internet.

Second, it gives me the opportunity to wait. I don’t have to make a snap decision, or spend money today. I don’t even have to add another library book to our holds list.

Instead, in the course of my day, when I hear about something cool and homeschool-y, I just write it down and let that business percolate.

When I want to use one of those ideas, books, etc., I move it to my Monthly Homeschool Planning Page.


Your big picture page is an organized list, right?

It was once. Long ago. Now it’s kind of a mess.

Soon, it will be time to migrate to another journal, though, and that’s when my favorite part happens! I get to start over. (I love starting over with a fresh journal).

So I’ll migrate the stuff that we haven’t done yet then and reorganize the list and try to make it pretty.

Here’s where I will also admit that the current page has lots of colors of ink, and I just have the top of the page marked with a torn piece of Washi tape. I do have these pages recorded in my index, though, which means I can find them in about a second.

And yup – I said PAGES. My one page has grown over the past month as I started thinking about the school year ahead. Ack!

So what about that school year ahead?

My approach to planning for the upcoming school year seems to change every year. Last year, I decided to divide our year into 4 chunks, and that was good. I planned just one quarter at a time, but had a general framework that stayed the same.

But this year, I am going to plan even less upfront. I was listening to a Julie Bogart periscope where she talked about planning one month at a time and that pretty much blew my mind.

Because in truth, my kids are a bit older now. I don’t have to act like I know what I am doing every second or risk them flushing Matchbox cars down the toilet while I try to plan.

I can look at them and say, “I’m going to spend this afternoon doing a little homeschool planning,” and they will find things to do until they get hungry.


So what’s next?

So here’s the best part of bullet journaling, right? Anytime you get an idea, or realize something isn’t working, you can just change it.

This alone has made me fall in love with this system.

So in the next month or so as I finish filling the pages of my current journal AND we start a new school year, I’m making some upgrades.

  • I will continue with a big picture page
  • I’m going to add a books page and with a system for marking which ones I want to read-aloud, which ones to strew, which ones to get on audio, etc.
  • I’m going to add a field trips section
  • I’m going to add a projects section

But here’s the best part – YOU don’t have to wait to do all of those things. You can do it RIGHT NOW. Lucky.😉

Head on over to my site to grab your FREE Homeschool Bullet Journaling Printable. Yeah! Free! It will walk you through all this business step-by-step, and get you all set up for the BEST school year ever.

You got this, sister!


Here are several ways that you can tune in to see what Cait and Kara are up to:

We would love if you could leave us a review on iTunes.


If so, send us a message or leave a comment. We love to hear from you!


You can hang out with Cait and Kara on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.

So hit me – what questions do you have about bullet journaling and homeschool planning? How do you do your planning? Let’s chat!

Here are 6 of the sisters’ favorite books

here are 6 of the sisters' favorite books

Here are 6 of the sisters’ favorite books

If you’ve been following our podcast, you already know that we are readers. We love to talk about our favorite books and we share them in our posts. This week, we are sharing them for real. We are giving away six of our favorite books!

Here are 6 of our absolute favorites…

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin

history mysteries

History Mysteries: Curses, mummies, ghost ships, spies, disappearances and other awesome cases to study as a family by Kara S. Anderson (ebook)

Homeschooling: What to Do When You Want to Quit by iHomeschool Network, with chapters by Kara S. Anderson and Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Simplicity Parenting:  Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne

… and here’s how to enter:

This giveaway is for US residents only (sorry!). The winner will be announced on Monday, August 22, 2016. You can enter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are 6 o fthe sisters' favorite books (and we're giving them away) pin

This post has been part of the August 2016 iHomeschool Network back to school gift baskets giveaway. Please click the image below to check out all of the other giveaways:

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You don’t have to do it all: Getting started with homeschooling

You don't have to do it all Getting started with homeschooling

The Homeschool Sisters Podcast #5:

You don’t have to do it all: Getting started with homeschooling

In episode 5, Cait and Kara reflect on the early years of homeschooling. They share tips and tricks for those just starting down this path, and impart their favorite piece of advice- that you DO NOT have to do it all, especially your first year. Listen as they chat about deschooling, finding your tribe, and how your house will never be the same, but in a really awesome way. Do not worry if this is your first year. Your sisters have got you covered!

Afer you have finished listening to this episode, we’d love it if you could leave a comment sharing what advice you’d give to a new homeschooler. What tips and tricks do you have? What lessons have you learned? What do you wish someone had told you when you first started on this journey?

In honor of this fifth episode, Cait and Kara have started something new. At the end of each episode, the sisters will be sharing something that has been making them happy lately. When you are finished listening, we’d love to hear from you: What is something that is bringing you joy right now?

Listen to the podcast:


Click on the above image to listen to the episode!

Links from the episode:

Books from this episode:

Make sure you don’t miss an episode

Here are several ways that you can tune in to see what Cait and Kara are up to:

We would love if you could leave us a review on iTunes.

Do you have a question or topic you’d love to hear Cait and Kara talk about?

If so, send us a message or leave a comment. We love to hear from you!

Be sure to follow The Homeschool Sisters

You can hang out with Cait and Kara on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Stop Counting Raisins: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home

Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies

Mom! You gave her twenty-six raisins and I only got twenty-two!”

Flabbergasted, I turn to meet his eyes. “Did you just count the raisins?”

“But you gave her more,” he whines, eyes filling with tears.

“You are crying about four raisins.”

“But it’s not fair!”

“What are you supposed to say when someone gives you something?”

He pauses for a moment, frowns, and grumbles a barely audible “thank you” before adding, “but it’s still not fair.”

I take a deep breath and remind myself this is not about the raisins.

Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches}.jpg

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of the parenting experience. Still, counting and comparing before uttering a thank you is not the kind of parenting experience I am looking for.

And I know I’m not alone.

These sibling squabbles always remind me of a quote by Louis C.K.:

The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to seee if you have as much as them.

We drill our children in manners, pleases and thank yous and excuse mes, but how do we cultivate true gratitude in our kids? How do we get them to look in another’s bowl to be sure that person has enough?

How do we get them to stop counting raisins?

My little friends are in an ungrateful pattern right now, and I’m tired of it. While I certainly do not claim to have all of the answers (please see raisin-counting story above), I am happy to share the strategies we’ve been trying over here.

Stop Counting Raisins: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home

{Advice from the Trenches}

1. Simplify

Whenever our little world feels off track, I simplify. If you’ve been listening to our podcast, you already know that Kara and I are huge fans of the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. This is one of a handful of books that I re-read regularly. It is a breath of fresh air and an easy way to reset our family life.

Do your children have too many toys sitting unused and unappreciated? Too many clothes? Books they never read? Grab some cardboard boxes, fill them to the brim, and deliver them to someone in need… together! Sure, your kids may grumble at first but you’ll be teaching them important lessons.

2. Focus on gratitude

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve ended my day by focusing on a “highlight” for which I was grateful. These “highlights of the day” were often super simple: a peaceful cup of coffee, time spent with a dear friend, a stranger’s kindness. I don’t know whether I read about these highlights in a long-forgotten book or if I made them up myself, but I continue to pick a highlight to this day, decades later. (If you like this idea, be sure to stay tuned because Kara and I have added a new ending to our podcasts!)

Make space for gratitude in your day. In the past, we have maintained gratitude journals. During the holidays, we enjoyed a Just So Thankful Jar.  Teach your children to write thank you notes early and often.

Cultivate Gratitude

3. Model

Children are sponges. If you want to raise grateful children, you must practice gratitude yourself. Make sure you are using your manners. Serve others, give freely, say thank you. Share what you are grateful for with your children. Explain why you are thankful for them!

If you are deep in the throes of sibling squabbles and unkindness, give them a little incentive. Last summer, our family embarked on a simple yet effective Family Kindness Project and the results were amazing!

4. Teach children how to save, spend, and give

This year, my husband and I read a thought-provoking book titled The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money. It gave us a lot of food for thought about raising children who know how to maintain a budget and give generously. Soon after reading the book, we implemented a weekly allowance system where one-third of the amount is for spending, one-third is for savings, and one-third is for giving. The change in our children was immediate. They quickly learned the value of a dollar, and they have started to research and donate to their own individual causes.

Give together. Donate to favorite causes. Volunteer as a family. If money is tight, give your time. When I was a college student, living on couscous and popcorn, I made it a point to donate blood every eight weeks. I continue to give regularly to this day- it is such an easy way to change a life.

More recently, our family has enjoyed gleaning together. We gather at local farms with other gleaning volunteers and collect leftover produce to deliver to local soup kitchens. It is a fun way to get involved in the community and lend a hand, even with active youngsters in tow!

If you are looking for more family-friendly service ideas, check out the website Doing Good Together!

Louis C.K. Quote

5. Read fantastic books

There is so much power in a story! I rely heavily on storybooks as teaching tools. A carefully curated stack of read alouds can serve as a stepping stone for fantastic conversation and learning. Over the years, our family has enjoyed read alouds focused on being thankful, kindness, mindfulness, and more!

6. Be patient

This is probably the most difficult part, but remember how your mom always told you that Rome wasn’t built in a day?

She was right.

It is normal for siblings to squabble. Developmentally, it is typical for children to focus on the self rather than others. Things will change. Keep up the hard work and teaching and modeling and giving and, with time, you will see a change.

Eventually, they will stop counting raisins.

cultivate gratitude

Gratitude-infused links:

Related books for adults:

cultivate gratitude 1

Related books for children:

Don’t miss an episode of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast!

Here are several ways that you can tune in to see what Cait and Kara are up to:

We would love if you could leave us a review on iTunes.

Do you have a topic you’d love to hear us talk about?

If so, send us a message or leave a comment. We love to hear from you!

Come hang out with us!

You can hang out with Cait and Kara on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

1 cultivate gratitude

What sparks joy in your life? Share here!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell us: Do your kids count raisins? What has been the highlight of your day so far? What brings you joy? How do you cultivate gratitude at home? Share here!

Worry is Like a Car Alarm: Homeschooling Worriers

Worry is Like a Car Alarm Homeschooling WorriersTHE HOMESCHOOL SISTERS PODCAST #4:

Worry is Like a Car Alarm: Homeschooling Worriers

Let’s face it: Who can focus on math with a mind full of worries? In this episode, Cait and Kara discuss what it is like to homeschool little worriers.

Are you parenting a World-Class Worrier? Do you have a child who asks BIG questions in the middle of the night? Are you homeschooling a child who struggles with fears? Please know that you are not alone. Your sisters are in the trenches with you and in this episode, they share tips, tricks, and resources to try with your little worriers.

Listen to the episode:


Click on the above image to listen to the episode!

Links from this episode:

Books for parents of worriers:

Books for children:

Additional resources:

who can do math when they are worried

Make sure you don’t miss an episode

Here are several ways that you can tune in to see what Cait and Kara are up to:

We would love if you could leave us a review on iTunes.

Do you have a question or topic you’d love to hear Cait and Kara talk about?

If so, send us a message or leave a comment. We love to hear from you!

Be sure to follow The Homeschool Sisters

You can hang out with Cait and Kara on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

When a LOVE of reading unfolds slowly

When a love of reading unfolds slowly

Written by Kara Anderson of Quill and Camera

I took a picture.

Not one to share, not even one on my phone or camera because lately that doesn’t always go over so well. (Growing up and all that.)

But I took a little mental picture and deposited it in my brain bank.

Because it was good and special and important.

And I wanted to be excited, so I told two friends.

I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but reading for fun didn’t necessarily happen right away for my girl. But today she is curled up reading Socks on the couch, and it makes me so happy …”

I said “happy” but I probably meant part happy, part relieved – you know how those things go when you are homeschooling.

The thing is, my child has never been a reluctant reader. If anything, she has always been eager, and ambitious when it comes to books, which is, of course, its own kind of problem.

She wants to read the biggest books. She wants to read the books she’s been hearing about from her brother and older homeschool friends – Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

She wants them to be as quick and easy as they are for her older brother.

(Last year, that older brother won third place in the library summer reading program contest, but more on that in a minute.)

And so for a while she has been grabbing those big books and trying – trying to speed through them like a little reading machine.

Things would be good for a while, but then the frustration would hit, and for a minute she would forget about the other options available – audiobooks, reading a book together, the 40 billion other books out there that don’t weigh as much as our car …

So I would try to gently remind her.

When she listened to The One and Only Ivan she cried, but she also told me through those tears, “Mama – it’s just such a good book.”

Later she borrowed it from the library and read through it.

Once, she saw it in Target and remembered only the good things – that she had enjoyed it; that it had been sad, but good.

It’s been challenging for me as her mom to see her so ready for BIG stories, but not quite ready to tackle reading them.

It’s been something different as a homeschooling mama.

Because of course we have those extra worries.

Should I be working on phonics or some business?

Does she need glasses or a medical evaluation?

Did I ruin her forever making her listen to a read-aloud she didn’t love? I mean, I can’t think of one, but it could have happened, right?

So seeing her on that couch was a nice feeling – a peaceful feeling.

She just needed time.

She needed an easy, fun series of about 400 books about baking and crushes and friendships.

Because she read five of those, and they helped build her confidence.

So she grabbed Socks and Ribsy off our shelves, because she knew she was ready.

And that should be the end of this success story, right?

But no.


Last week, I got a phone call from the library.

Apparently, my girl is still a few books short of meeting “her summer reading goal!

This is a goal set by the library for participants in the summer reading program.

I have to tell you that I love our summer reading program, but I sort of hate prize-based summer reading programs in general.

I hate the cheap trinkets and I can never keep track of the charts and if I’m being honest, I kind of don’t love the whole idea of rewarding kids for reading.

I’m not a jerk – I get that these programs are intended to keep kids reading in the summer months, but I guess I’m one of those people who wants kids to read because reading is fantastic, not so they can get a mini beach ball and a coupon for a Subway sandwich.

Still, we sign up for our reading program because the events are wonderful. They bring in speakers and stage elaborate games and challenges. They do the kinds of art projects you see on Pinterest, but don’t do yourself because collecting 200 just-silver crayons is not an actual thing average people can do.

And so it’s great, and it’s always been great, and up until this year, my kids have ripped through the “reading requirements” in a couple of weeks and I’ve given it almost no thought.

Until that phone call. That damn phone call.

That damn phone call that I’m not telling my kid about – that’s for sure.

Because yes, I could hand her a couple of picture books and help her log them, and then take her to collect her velcro wallet and whistle on a string and sheet of stickers.

Or I could let her keep discovering the joy of reading on our couch, and toss the reading logs and just buy her a Subway sandwich, not that she wants one.

I told our friend Library Dave (from the other library – it’s complicated) about my predicament and he declared that he wouldn’t go back to that library ever again.

I understood his point of view, but I also quickly remembered the joy my daughter had gotten earlier that day taking part in the library’s Chocolate Olympics event.

She did well and shared the spoils.

Sometimes in this life you have to decide it you are going to be full of righteous indignation or chocolate.


If I think about this business too long, I start to think about what my friend Kortney said about what might happen to kids like mine in a public school setting if they didn’t meet those reading requirements according to the pre-set timeline.

I wonder if my child would have felt pushed this past year, and just read the junk she needed to, learning the whole time that reading is simply a means to an end.


So thank goodness for homeschooling, and how it allows our kids’ loves to unfold in their own time. Thank goodness for freedom and long summer days, and Beverly Cleary and the fact that we’re just a little bit rebels.

Do you think anyone is going to remember that the summer my youngest became a voracious reader was the same summer Mom threw away all the reading logs?

Probably not.

But I’m going to remember her curled up with Socks.

Because I have my mental picture, and my girl has her books.

I think we’re going to be OK.