Monday, June 15, 2020

2019-20 Homeschool Year In Review

Our 2019-20 Homeschool Year felt as if we spent the entire year, homeschooling in crisis. First, we were living with my brother, then we moved to our new home, and lived under lockdown throughout the global pandemic. Honestly, my goal was to simply get school done. Don’t get me wrong, we did what was required of us. However, I didn’t elaborate or dive deeper into various topics, because we just didn’t have the time or resources. Trust me, it’s not how I expected this year to turn out.

I’m thankful the Lord allowed my girls the opportunity to work hard and complete our main Sonlight curriculum sooner than I expected, because everything else was removed from our schedule. It wasn’t ideal, but we made the most out of what we had. For this reason, I’m so excited for our upcoming 2020-21 school year and pray we will have more time for extra projects, crafts, field trips, and more!!

Below, I’m going to share some of the curriculum we loved, some of my least favorite curriculum, and our current summer plans.

Sing, Spell, Read & Write. Hands down, one of my very favorite curriculums, is Sing, Spell, Read, & Write!! I’m going through it for my 3rd time and I enjoy teaching it so much. This year, Matilda worked through the Kindergarten program which went through the books “All Aboard” and “On Track”. There are six readers and more short books which kids get to color themselves. My daughter is so proud of the fact, she has finished reading her very first books by herself. It’s exciting to watch her love of learning and reading blossom before my eyes. I can’t wait for us to continue to use it next year as Matilda continues to learn to read on her own.

Sonlight. Honestly, working through Sonlight Core C was exactly what I needed this year. There are several reasons why this curriculum was a great fit for us this year. The curriculum is preplanned and comes with a teacher’s guide to help me know what need to be done each day. Also, I was able to order all the books we needed for the entire year. This was very helpful, because even though we moved I already had our books and just brought the with us so we could read no matter what. Finally, it’s a curriculum I have previously used and the familiarity helped me to be able to know what was expected of me and plan accordingly. What a blessing!!

From the time I started homeschooling my girls five years ago, I have always used “Math-U-See” for our Math curriculum. On the flip side, last year I heard a lot of great things about “Beast Academy” and decided to look into it for the girls as a way to work on mental math. We tried out their online program and my oldest daughter loved it. However, when we implemented the books at the beginning of our school year it didn’t go well at all. After a few frustrating weeks we finally switched back to Math-U-See. Maybe in the future we could use their online math program again, but for now we’ve put it on hold for now.

We homeschool year round, so we won’t take much time off for “summer”. Last week, we finished our main Sonlight curriculum. We will still need to finish on math, science, and other review books throughout the rest of June. Then my Mom is coming to visit, so we’re going to take ten days off to spend time with her and start our new 2020-21 school year on July 13.

Not to mention, to celebrate our new school year, I’m doing a back to school series throughout the entire month of July!! I have some fun things to share with you, including our new 2020-21 curriculum choices. I’m so excited!!

Now it’s your turn!! Please leave me a comment and let me know:
 What fun activities do you have planned this summer? 

Monday, June 8, 2020

My 2020 Cultivate What Matters: Powersheets

For several years, I have been using the Cultivate What Matters: Powersheets Intentional Goal Planner. At the end of last year, with so much hope and excitement for the new year I ordered my 2020 One-Year Powersheets. I couldn’t wait to dive into the prep work and see what God had in store for me in the first year of this new decade. Back in January 2020, I had every intention to share my new Powersheets with you. Unfortunately, life got away from me and I’ve only just had a chance to write this blog post.

Maybe you’ve had a crazy year too and desperately need a refresh. If so, you can visit the Cultivate What Matters website and check out their 2020 6-Month Undated Powersheets Intentional Goal Planner. It is the perfect time to grab one of these, because it will help you live out the rest of this insane year with purpose.

Honestly, from the beginning I thought my word of the year should be LOVE, but as I thought through all my options I wanted something more significant and trendy. Why couldn’t my word of the year be something like Shine, Flourish, or Centered!? However, God has other plans for me and quickly began to reiterate His word of the year for me through songs, Bible verses, and more.

I kept praying and finally decided to embrace what God had in store for my life during 2020, as I landed on the word LOVE. Plan and simple. God wanted my focus to be on love. Loving Him and others. Being loved by Him. To love and be loved.

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 
 - 1 Corinthians 13:13

Also, in case you’re wondering, here are my goals for 2020.

1. Being loved by God and love for His Word
2. Love and cherish Jon
3. Genuinely love my girls
4. Write my book and share my story
5. Being healthy and teaching my goal weight

Lara Casey and her team at Cultivate What Matters have a lot of resources to help walk with you as you work to accomplish your goals each year. Lara has written two books (which I will list below) and she also has a podcast called, "Cultivate Your Life with Lara Casey". I've been listening to this podcast and I appreciate Lara's honesty about how life hasn't always been perfect, but God is making her mess into her message. Her passion is undeniable, so I hope you will check it out!

Finally, I have included a list of helpful, motivating books. I included Lara's books and a few others that have really encouraged me this year.

"A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living" by, Emily Ley
“Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life” by, Lara Casey
"Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy" by, Emily Ley
"Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose." by Lara Casey

Friday, May 29, 2020

10 Things I Learned This Spring

I’m so excited to take part in “What I Learned” hosted every quarter by, Emily P Freeman: an author, podcaster, and co-founder of Hope*Writers an online community for writers. I’ve been in lockdown/quarantine since mid-March. As a result, this spring 2020 I want to shift my focus slightly as I process the “10 Things I Learned during Covid-19” instead. I hope you enjoy this special twist and can relate to some of the things I’ve experienced this past quarter.

10 Things I Learned during Covid-19 

1. I love puzzles. 
It’s true, I love puzzles and I’ve always wanted my own puzzle table. At the end of last year, my dream came true! My brother-in-law, Josh, gave us back an old table of ours which I quickly decided would be the perfect puzzle table in our homeschool room. Now, we’ve been in lockdown since mid-March and we’ve put our puzzle table to good use. To date, we’ve finished 8 quarantine puzzles, which has helped us exercise our patience and perseverance with each and every puzzle. My sister-in-law, Hannah, even helped me finish a 1,000 piece puzzle in just one afternoon.  

2. Laughter is the best medicine.
Laughter has truly been the best medicine throughout this global crisis. The memes have been hysterical and bring me joy when I don’t feel overwhelmed and like I can’t do this anymore. We’ve also been listening to some hilarious songs, which help me not to feel so alone. Click the links below to check out their music videos now!!

3. Where is all the toilet paper?
Honestly, I never thought this would be an issue. However, shortly after the United States lockdowns began, all the the toilet paper started to disappear. There has never been a time in my life when I could not find toilet paper. Yet, this global pandemic has everyone spooked and suddenly all the toilet paper was gone. I prayed over our toilet paper and that it would be enough for all of us until I could find some again. I’m thankful, because the Lord answered my prayers and helped me to find a new package of toilet paper before ours ran out at the house. Praising the Lord for His goodness in our life!!

4. I’ve been craving comfort foods. 
Not knowing what groceries would be available at the store, made it hard to meal plan. I tried my best to stick to some simple staples which I had on hand. Overall, I’ve just been craving comfort foods like crazy: chicken pot pie, lasagna, noodles and sauce, Chinese food, and so much more! Not the healthiest foods, but I’ve tried to make do with what I could find.

5. Our 14 days of self-imposed quarantine was the worst. 
At one point this Spring, our family need to be in a 14 day quarantine and it was so hard. It was the most challenging for the kids, because we stayed home day after day, not going to the store or for our daily walk. I tried my best to have a good attitude, but by day 10, I felt like I was going to go crazy! I was just as moody as the kids and longed for a break. God protected us from the Coronavirus and gave us strength to finish strong. I couldn’t not have done it without Him.

6. We’ve finished lots school. 
We started our 2019-2020 school year later than normal. However, as a result of almost 2 months in quarantine we’re almost done with school. I’m very thankful for my girls hard work, which has allowed us to get so much homeschool done with just 2 weeks left!! Additionally, Hannah, was home a lot and she had fun teaching art to the girls. On top of everything else, I’ve even had time to plan out our curriculum for next year. What an answer to prayer!!

7. Zoom calls with our family has been priceless. 
It took a while for me to get on the Zoom bandwagon. However, last month Jon’s family decided we should do a Zoom call, so we could all be together. At first it was hard, but once my girls went to bed it was fun to spend time with family and “be together” with one another for a little while without the global pandemic looming overhead. As a result, we enjoyed it so much, we have decided to do lots of Zoom calls over the past few weeks. They’ve been such a blessing!!

8. So many packages.... 
Haha!! I almost didn’t want to write about this one, but it’s so true. The amount of packages being delivered to our house has grown exponentially since the quarantines began. Anything you can think of...diapers, wipes, school curriculum, necessary components for science projects, and so much more!! Seriously, it’s become such a regular occurrence, my girls will get upset if we don’t have any packages delivered that day.

9. I miss church.
We’ve tried our best to participate in online church, but it’s been challenging with the kids. It’s take awhile, but recently I’ve realized just how much I miss church. The gathering of believers, worshiping God, and growing in my love of God through a Pastor’s teaching. I’ve missed this so much and I can’t wait until God’s local church can meet again once this global pandemic has ended.

10. God is here! 
I’m not alone, because God is here. He has been faithful to Be with us each and everyday. I couldn’t do this without Him. He even worked out each and every detail for Jordan and Hannah’s wedding. He blessed them with the most incredible wedding and it was truly a testimony to God and His goodness. No matter what life looks like right now, remember God is with you. You’re not alone, because we’re all struggling to navigate this “new” normal right now.

Now it’s your turn, what have you learned this Spring?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Remembering Grandma Vivian

“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” 
- Isaiah 40:7-8

This month, my Grandma would have been 92 years old. Honestly, it was hard to celebrate Mother’s Day and remember Grandma’s birthday all in the same week. It doesn’t seem like she’s already been gone for two whole months.

I miss my Grandma so much.

Back on March 10, 2020, my Grandma Vivian Bartholomew passed away at age 91. It was such an emotional week, because I had to say goodbye to my Grandma, Covid-19 lockdowns began in the United States, and it was my birthday. What a whirlwind. Thankfully, my Mom called on Sunday night asking if we wanted to say, “Goodbye” to my Grandma and give her my love. I went first and through tears gave my love to my Grandma. It was hard to see her struggling to breathe, but I knew she needed me to show my love to her in her final hours on Earth. Then I brought my phone into the family room, so all of my girls could tell their Great Grandma they loved her and say goodbye too.

I’m so thankful I was able to see Grandma one last time.

As a result, of the current Coronavirus pandemic my family hasn’t even had the opportunity to have a funeral service for Grandma. My Mom and her sister, Estelle, are waiting for the current crisis to end before celebrating Grandma’s life.

One of my favorite memories of my Grandma, happened back when I was in high school. My family traveled to visit my Mom’s Mom (Grandma Vivian Bartholomew) who lived in Springfield, Oregon. While we were in town, we also had the opportunity to spend time with my Mom’s sister and her family.

One day, I had been at my Aunt Estelle’s house and we were all getting ready to go somewhere together. Maybe the mall? I can’t remember. As we opened the doors to my Grandma’s car, my Aunt Estelle’s dog jumped inside the backseat of Grandma car.


My Grandma doesn’t like dogs and was mad he was in her car. She swore and insisted we get the dog out of her car. I was in shock!! I had never heard my Grandma say a bad word. Unfortunately, I was too shocked and dumbfounded to be of much help getting dog out of Grandma’s car.

Sorry Grandma. 

Even as Alzheimer’s Disease wrecked havoc on her mind, Grandma remained sweet, kind, strong, loving, gentle, and always reading a book. I’m so thankful to Grandma and her love of books. It’s truly a lasting legacy, which is being passed down generation to generation and won’t be easily forgotten. Just like their Great-Grandma, my girls are always reading books. I have so many precious pictures where my Grandma is reading a book or the newspaper to one of my girls.

Thank you Grandma for loving me and my girls so well. I love you so much and miss you terribly!!

Click here to read my Grandma’s obituary.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

God’s Faithfulness in Isolation

“ The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18

For the past 14 days, we’ve been in a self imposed quarantine.

That’s right.

There was a possibility my family was exposed to Covid-19, so we decided it would be wise to quarantine ourselves for 14 days. Which included staying in our house and not going to the store or anywhere else where we could possibly pass this on to more vulnerable people. The days were so long and began to run together unlike anything else since the social distancing and initial lockdown began in mid-March.

We’re praising God, because none of got sick and we’re all healthy!! What an answer to prayer!!

For months, I’ve been nervous and worrying about this global pandemic. However, knowing this threat had reached my house was almost more than I could bare. It was hard for me to sleep, just waiting for the inevitable to take place. Even when I was overwhelmed, God was with us. I’m here to testify to His goodness as He gave me strength for each and every day.

My poor girls have been stir crazy. For the first ten days, we didn’t do anything except homeschool and other activities inside our home. In the finals days of our self-quarantine, we let the kids ride bikes and play in the driveway while we watched to make sure they stayed at our house. Yesterday, my girls couldn’t wait to ride their bikes all over the neighborhood and burn off all of their pent up energy over the past two weeks!!

As a result of our isolation, we’ve already finished 7 puzzles in just 6 weeks. Don’t judge us, but some 1,000 piece puzzles we finished in just one day. It’s a nice distraction when there isn’t much else to do.

This extra time also gave me a chance to plan out upcoming 2020-21 Homeschool Year. Jon even ordered all of our curriculum for next year, which was a huge thing off my To-Do List! Additionally, I’ve been organizing like crazy and trying to make room for all of our new books. I’m so excited about our new school year!!

As a result, we’ve received tons of packages.

One day we got excited for the boxes to arrive, we left goodies for the delivery man who has been working hard during this time of crisis. We all yelled, “Thank you” through the screen door. Truly any amount of human interaction was life giving to our weary souls.

In the final days, I had to go to the store, so I put on my mask and gloves to run to the store. Honestly, I felt silly wearing everything, but I didn’t want to spread germs to anyone else if I could help it. I felt ridiculous in my white mask and black gloves trying my best to not touch my face until I got back in the car and could sanitize my hands first. Life is so strange right now.

Off and on throughout our self-quarantine, I’ve been scared. However, God was with us. The Bible says, the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. It was our theme verse over these long days at home. I’m thankful God will continue to be with us until all the worldwide lockdowns come to an end. Life might be crazy right now, but He is still God. He has not changed.

Praying this encourages you while we all continue to wait for this crisis to pass.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Launching My Monthly Newsletter

For weeks, I have been working on something new for all of you!! I am thrilled to finally share this news publicly. At the end of this month, I'll be sending out my very first Monthly Newsletter!!

Like I said above, my newsletter will be sent out at the end of each month. It will be an email filled with encouragement for your soul, delicious recipes, and other fun things I won't share anywhere else. Trust me, you don't want to miss this!!

As a result of social distancing, many of us are feeling isolated and alone. I want to offer you some extra encouragement during this time and a chance to have a break from the daily grind of life. I'm so thankful, God has given me the opportunity to pour into your lives in this way.

To Sign Up...

To sign up, visit my “Living a Changed Life” blog. Scroll down to the white "subscribe" box on the right. Enter your email and you will be added to my list of subscribers. Then at the end of each my you will receive my monthly email newsletter!! Sign up now, so you don't miss out!!

I'm so excited to stay connected with you in this way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Homeschooling Q & A...Part 1

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, life has changed drastically. This must be so hard for those of you who are at home “crisis schooling” right now. The homeschool community is here to help you in anyway we can during this time. Last week, my sisters told me their children's’ schools have been canceled until September when the new school year will hopefully start again. I was devastated for my niece and nephews. On top of everything else, my sisters had lots of questions about homeschooling. I answered their questions and told them I would support them anyway I could as they navigate school at home. As a result, I decided to share all of these incredible homeschooling tips with you too. I hope it is helpful as you try to figure out your new normal with your kids being home all the time.

In case you don’t know, I’m Jen Newsham a homeschooling Mom of 5 girls!! I have been homeschooling now for almost 5 years. My oldest Olivia is in 2nd grade, Sophie is in 1st grade, Matilda is in PreK, and my twins Evelyn and Zoey are almost 2 years old. Long before I had children, God called me to homeschooling. Click here to read more about our Homeschool Testimony now.  I'm excited to connect with you!!

Finally, if you have additional homeschooling questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can. If I get a lot of questions, I will share them as well in a Question & Answer...Part 2.

Homeschooling Q & A...Part 1 

What time do you work on homeschool each day? 
We do Bible time and Reading with the twins, but then during nap time from 1-3pm, I do book work with the big girls. So Math, Language Arts, Science, and Handwriting. It’s too hard to try and help the big girls when the twins need my attention too. It’s what works best for us at the moment

How many hours a day, do you work on school? 
For the most part, I do school for roughly 3-4 hours per day, but it’s broken up into different periods of time. Bible time in the morning for 20 minutes. Book work from 1pm-3pm while the twins nap, such as math, language arts, science, and handwriting. Reading school books and the girls Read-Alouds from 7pm-8pm right before bedtime. Also, once or twice a week my sister-in-law teaches the girls Art for an hour or two. This is what works for us right now, while the twins are still so little.

Do you stager the kids work so you aren’t trying to help everyone at once? 
Olivia, Sophie, and Matilda work together on our group subjects like Bible, Read-Alouds, and Science. During nap time, we work on individual subjects and their “book work”. We do math first, because Olivia and Sophie can work independently while I help Matilda. Overall Matilda’s curriculum is the easiest, so I try to get her done first so then I can focus on helping the big girls with language arts. I have educational games and activities set aside as “school toys”, which Matilda can play with quietly when she’s done with school. Finally, Olivia and Sophie take turns waiting as I help them work through their spelling and everything else.

Do you do every subject everyday?  
No. On Monday through Friday, we work on Bible time, Language Arts, and Reading. Then we break everything else up, so Monday, Wednesday, Friday is Math. Tuesday and Thursday we work on Science and Handwriting. Once or twice a week, my sister in law teaches Art. Do you follow a lesson plan for Bible time or just read out of the Bible to them? I read the Bible or listen to it on my phone on the Bible App. Then we practice our memory verse and sing fun kids worship songs on my YouTube playlist. Then we pray. We keep it simple, because the twins are with us. Right now we’re reading through Matthew and do one chapter at a time and then talk about it together. I also created YouTube playlists with Kids Worship Songs, so we can sing our Bible verses and dance to Vacation Bible School songs. I've listed them below and you guys are welcome to use my playlists with all kinds of songs..Educational, VBS, and Disney Dance music.

**Jen's YouTube Playlists** 

What do you do with your twin girls when the big girls are learning? 
It can be a struggle, because my twins want to do whatever the big girls are doing. As we work together, I let the twins use colored pencils to draw. I also have puzzles, Lincoln logs, and board books they play with during school time. The Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring Activity Pads are great too. Honestly, if the twins wake up early I have them watch Cocomelon on YouTube or another show which holds their attention for a little while until I can finish. I understand it's not ideal, but sometimes necessary under certain circumstances.

Additional Resources 
A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of “Free Homeschooling Resources”, which I hope will help you as you teach your children at home. There are fun story times from Space, art tutorials, exercise, lego stuff, worship, and more. If you have other online resources which you’re using right now, please leave me a comment so other parents can use it as well.


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