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let your light shine

Technically, summer is not over.  And in all reality, summer never really ends completely in Florida. Right?!  It seems like just yesterday we were closing our books for  a few months to enjoy summer break. Yet, here we are starting a new school year. How does it always happen so fast? I savor and linger and the days still fly by with lightening speed. This year our children will be in 5th grade, 2nd grade, and pre-K. It is our fourth year homeschooling. I've learned so much from the past three years and made some changes for the year ahead. I feel like there is an ongoing learning process of trial and error as we teach our children.

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One thing I seem to forget each year as I am planning our first day back to homeschooling, is that the kids aren't really thrilled to be back to the school routine. And honestly, I can't blame them. We've all had so much fun staying up late,  sleeping in,  swimming, playing, visiting, and doing fun non-routine activities. I think it is really hard for our children (and me) to say goodbye to the carefree days of summer break. After a few days back to homeschooling, we all realize that it is good for us to add some discipline back in our schedule; and there is still plenty of time for playing. This way of life allows much flexibility to our days (like starting at 9:00 or later) and there can be some positive aspects to routine.

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Our morning started with a big breakfast, followed by devotional time, and cleaning up the kitchen. When finished, we headed into the school room. This year on our first day we started with a fun activity. Each child answered some questions about themselves and then they shared with each other. We have one child who wants to be a soccer player, another who dreams of map making, and a third who would love to be an animal doctor.  They each shared one thing they were good at and one thing they needed to work on. I loved when our 4 year old said she was good at painting, but needed to work on "attitudes." I love her sweet spirit. Our school day ended with tie dye, which we have done annually since our first year homeschooling. The kids look forward to this every year. We finished just in time to head out the door to soccer practice. All three children are playing soccer this Fall, so we spend a lot of time at the fields.

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To be completely real, our first day wasn't as smooth or joyful as I would have hoped. As I mentioned before, everyone wasn't excited to be saying goodbye to summer, and there was some complaining and irritability. There were times during the day that I felt a bit defeated. Before school that morning, I wrote let your light shine on our chalk board. These four words were ones that I wanted to define our new school year. As the day progressed, I didn't see the light; instead, I felt frustrated and impatient.

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I have had time to reflect this week. I realized that every year, the first day "back to homeschooling" has been challenging.  Day two is always much easier and we begin to have a much better rhythm and flow. Once again, I was reminded of my need for grace for myself and our children. I need to let go of expectations that I sometimes create for all of us. I need to remember that transition can be hard for adults and kids alike.

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As I look back on the day through the images I captured, I see the day with fresh eyes. I see the relationships between our children, I can hear the conversations we shared during the day, and remember memories we made.  I see the light. I see the light of Jesus throughout our home. Sometimes, His light is so subtle, yet it is so beautiful when we really take the time to see it. My prayer for our children is that they will not only let His light shine through them, but that they will take time to see His light every day.

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A thousand times I've failed. Still your mercy remains. And should I stumble again. Still I'm caught in your grace Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame. -"Inside Out" Hillsong United





homeschooling. a journey of faith.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.Let me walk upon the waters. Wherever You would call me.Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith will be made stronger. In the presence of my Savior. I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves. My soul will rest in Your embrace. I am Yours, and You are mine. -from Hillsong United, Oceanshomeschooling 13 ginger unzueta I get emails and comments frequently asking questions about our homeschooling experience. These include everything from our curriculum choices to when I get my "own time" and everything in between.  As we are finishing our third year of homeschooling, I am here to share a bit about our experience. I am not here to say that our way is the right way or that everyone should be homeschooling, but will share with you why we have grown to love this way of life for our family.

“The beauty of home education is that it gives a family more time together–time to solidify relationships, to communicate values, and to focus on each child’s individual needs in a consistent and unhurried atmosphere.” -Kimberly Hahn & Mary Hasson

When my husband and I made the decision in 2011 to home school our children, we were without doubt that God was calling our family to this lifestyle. I say lifestyle because it is so much more than just school.  It is a way of life. It is a way of looking at the world and learning and living together.  Every experience during our day is a learning experience for our children. We have loved the slower pace of life homeschooling has given us. As the quote above says, we  now have more time to focus on family relationships and values.

When we started schooling at home our children were 7, 5 and 2.  We have continued to see the relationships between our children grow in unforeseen ways during these three years.  I am keenly aware that our children are getting to know one another in ways some siblings may never have time for. We are so grateful to continue to see their bonds and love for each other grow. They have learned to play together, regardless of their ages. One question I am often asked is if my children always get along.  Of course not.  They are children after-all, but they do get along most of the time. They have a beautiful relationship that I thank God for.

I love that I have been able to be such an integral part of their education.  This includes helping decide what our children will study and how they will study it. This also includes being a physical part of that learning daily.  This week my son realized he could now read chapter books and he sat down and read an entire book after lunch. As I watched him, I was filled with so much joy, witnessing his confidence and new found love of reading grow.  He started to learn to read in 2011 when we began this journey. During his pre-kindergarten year we used a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I have not pushed him, but let him excel at his own pace. It is such a gift to experience this with him. We had many frustrating days we had to get through to get here, but it is such an example of perseverance and determination for both of us.

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“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”  -John Holt

One of the valuable lessons I have learned during this time is that there isn't a "right" way to homeschool. I have met many families thriving with this lifestyle, yet not one of them are doing it the same way. I love that! As each child is unique, so is each family. We have switched and tweaked different curriculum over the three years. While curriculum is important,I feel like there is so much to be learned outside of it, especially while children are young.

I believe wholeheartedly that children should be given ample freedom in their day to explore without continuous time schedules or planned activities. They seem to thrive when they can spend time doing things that interest them. My oldest daughter loves baking and I have started to give her opportunities to explore this love. My son is fascinated with drawing, maps, and reading facts. My youngest daughter has a love of painting that continues to blossom with each week that passes.  All three of our children play soccer and the older two children attend choir and Awana (a youth program) at our church.  We have limited our outside activities as we want to continue to enjoy this slow pace and not fill our free time with commitments. This has been instrumental for our family. All of us are happier having time to do the things we enjoy outside of a schedule. Some days this means we take school outside and picnic and explore. Others we have play dates and visit with friends or family.   While others we have to attend to errands or other responsibilities that do arise.

This brings up something very important. When you decide to home school, you do give up having those hours of the day free from children. This means that if you are like me, with a husband who travels often, or at work during the day, you will be grocery shopping or doing other errands with kids in tow.  Just two weeks ago, we had to stop school to go to Sears and Home Depot to compare clothes dryers after ours died. Obstacles, doctor appointments, and the such arise. This is a reality. We have been blessed to have a college student to help, one morning a week the past few years. This has been very helpful, but most often, our children are with me when we need to get household errands done. When we began homeschooling, these things seemed to be more challenging, but as the kids have gotten older and I have learned ways to manage these outings best, it is very doable. Time with children passes by quickly and I realize in a few years my oldest will be able to babysit. It seems like just yesterday she was in her pre-school years.  It is so important to remember that each phase of life is just that, a phase. Children change and grow at this crazy rapid rate. In the short three years we have home schooled I have already seen how their ages change our family dynamics in many ways.  My older children, now 10 and 7, are both very helpful. I really try to soak in each of these phases of life.  I feel like our days are filled with ample "alone time" for me, for them, and for me with each of them.  Ultimately, I love the togetherness we share through this way of life. 

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I am asked all the time what  a "normal" day looks like.  I am also asked what our youngest child does while the older two are doing their studies. These are great questions and ones I had myself before we began this journey.  First of all, our days vary.  I would like to say a typical day starts at 9:00 am with everyone awake, fed, and in the school room, starting handwriting, but that would be untrue.

Many days our son is up before the girls. On some of these days, I begin to work one on one with him while they sleep. This is very beneficial, because once he is finished for the day, or at a point he needs a break, he can play with our youngest daughter, while I work with our oldest. Our children are 2 1/2 and 3 years apart, which has worked out really well with our schooling. There are subjects we can actually combine for the older children, which is a wonderful advantage; and they can also help their younger sister with learning activities or just play.

Like I said before, our youngest was only 2 when we began schooling at home.  We decided that she would not attend preschool and would be at home learning and playing with us.  I can not imagine our days without her at home. There were times when we first started that we had to wait and do some of our work in the afternoon while she was napping. There were also mornings we had to completely stop school and go outside and play because it was too challenging.  She has always had an interest in art, coloring, cutting, exploring. I have encouraged her from day one to join us at the work table.  This wasn't always "convenient" or quiet, but with persistence she has learned to be a wonderful part of the classroom.  Honestly, our days aren't always perfectly smooth, but I don't expect them to be. I love this time with my children and cherish it in ways I never imagined.

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Our learning environment may look like a typical classroom in many ways, but it is also very different. Some days we are in our designated school room while other days our classroom is the back porch.  We have schooled in the kitchen, the park, Mimi's house, etc. There are days when the weather is so beautiful that we leave our studies and head out to explore or play.  I love that we can start our day whenever it works for us and that our weeks are very flexible.  As I mentioned before this is a lifestyle not just a school choice.  The book studies and table work are only a small part of our learning together.

“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.” - John Holt

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I am often asked how long we will home school.  We don't know what the future holds and continue to pray for God to lead us in parenting our children. I do know that, we cannot imagine another way of life right now.  I have found such peace in this way of life and my heart has been so full. We will seek God first always and see what He asks of our family in all things.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie Ten Boom

Many people, who are unfamiliar with homeschooling, always ask about the socialization of our children. I love how Mary Kay Clark addresses this:

“Don’t worry about socialization. Wherever people congregate, there is going to be interaction, socialization.” Where is it written that it needs to be in schools? -Mary Kay Clark

As I close today, please know you are more than welcome to email me any time with your own questions on homeschooling. I know that the friends and mentors I had as we began this journey continue to be invaluable.

I can share with you over and over again, how this experience has been such a blessing for our family, while others may have had complete opposite experiences. I do not believe this is a way of life for everyone. I share these experiences, so that others who feel they are called to home school their children, can also be encouraged.  I  know that the schools where we live are wonderful and filled with amazing teachers. My husband and I both attended these schools and most of my children's friends attend these schools. I know they have amazing opportunities that we miss, but we feel that the benefits for our family are greater than anything we are giving up. There have been times on this journey that have been challenging, even lonely, but each time we have gone to God in prayer and He has always provided what we needed.  Not only have I grown as a mother through teaching our children, but my faith in Jesus has grown in abundant ways.  This journey has taught me about obedience and living a life that God has asked of me.  That doesn't mean it will always be easy or convenient.

Today in church the guest speaker, Bobby McGraw, spoke after leading our youth for Invasion weekend (a weekend for the youth of our church). He spoke about living in obedience and  living a  life that works.  The first point he made was that our life should be "controlled by the Father's desires."  We often try to compare ourselves on earth to look or be like everyone else, but trying to fit a mold doesn't work. If we are committed as a family to what God wants, we can fully experience the blessings from Him in an amazing way.  I do not mean material blessings, but that He will provide what we need, according to His will.  "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."-Philippians 4:19

We are trying as a family to be obedient to God and pursuing to honor Him in all we do (not just in homeschooling), which translates to being different in today's world. We strive to live and teach our children to be the opposite of what the world teaches. Life is not about self satisfaction or self gratification, life is about sharing God's love with others and learning how He desires to use us for His purpose. This does not mean we will not fail along the way. We most certainly will. We are striving for these things, but we are also learning to live and give grace to ourselves and others.

For our family, this calling is so much more than a choice of how we will educate our children. We are doing more than educating our children by having them home on a daily basis. We are nurturing and investing in them for the sake of Jesus.

As parents, we all have to find what works best for our family. I will forever be grateful that we listened to God's call to change our path three years ago. It was scary and unknown, but it has been filled with many blessings. 


My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control.Consume me from the inside out Lord.Let justice and praise become my embrace. To love You from the inside out. Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame. And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise. From the inside out, O my soul cries out.  -from Hillsong United,  the Inside Out.



cherish this day | august

This  week we began our new school year which marks our third year of homeschooling.   After having done this for the past two years we were all excited to get started again. I have found that as much as I appreciate and LOVE the long, lazy days of summer, I do enjoy the routine of school as well.  And, as I told our children, since we live in Florida and we home school, summer is really not over. We have many more days ahead of playing outdoors and we keep our school schedule very relaxed. I am by no means a homeschooling pro but I will say that I am so much more confident and relaxed in my choices as we start this new year. I have been able to see all the benefits and lovely way of life this choice for schooling offers us.   That is not to say there are not hard or frustrating days, but I am much more at ease in handling them.

This year our children will be in 4th grade, 1st grade, and pre-school.  It will be our third year using Sonlight Curriculum. This curriculum works well for me and our children. I love that the lesson plans are made for you and I can then make changes if I chose.  This will be our second year using Singapore math for our older children.   We are starting a new Science Curriculum which I am loving so far called Nancy Larson Science. I am using one unit and making it work so that all of our children can learn and grow with it.  We are also trying something new this year with our schedule.  This year we will do our Math and Science combined on one day and History and Language arts on another day.  We will repeat this through the week. Then we will do handwriting, Bible study and reading all five days.  For my preschool aged daughter I am working on introducing letters and doing a lot of hands on learning with her. She loves to create things so I am trying to incorporate this into her learning. I will use a very relaxed style of learning with her as I want her to love to learn.  I plan to include her in reading time and other areas as well to expose her to what her brother and sister are learning. I have been reading a book called The Three R's, which I have enjoyed getting ideas from as well.

I really love that through homeschooling parents can pick curriculum and learning tools based on their children's interests and learning styles. I talk to so many other mothers that do things completely different and it works awesome for their family. I love that!

Our first day of school began with homemade waffles and the start of our new Bible Study called...Who is God?  (And Can I really know Him?) After breakfast we worked in the school room for a couple of hours on our daily lessons.   We took a break for lunch and our afternoon reading and quiet time.  Finally, we tie dyed.  This has become an annual first day of school tradition which the kids LOVE.   The day ended with porch play in our pajamas and popsicles.  I'd say it was a wonderful first day.  I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to spend this time with my children daily. Its such a blessing to see them growing together in the Lord daily.

Please be sure to stop by the Cherish this Day Blog and see all of the amazing images from our group.



our little artist l a mother's heart

"every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures"    -Henry Ward Beecher our three year old has fallen in love with painting.  every morning while her big brother and sister do their school work she paints.   i love to watch her as she colors her canvas.  she concentrates, she sings, and she even dances as she makes her art.   it is serious work to her and she always asks me if her work  looks pretty.  some mornings she does many pictures, while other days just one is enough.   i was happy to capture her in her element yesterday morning.  this is her at three--an artist painting what is inside of her soul.   i cherish these moments with all of my heart.


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a brand new school year | homeschooling 2012

today we began year 2 of our homeschooling journey.  we now have a 3rd grader, kindergartner, and an almost 3 year old.  i was so excited to get started this year and learned a lot during my first year. i was able to see what worked for us and what didn't in terms of curriculum, school space, our schedule and much more. over the summer i worked very hard on a special project. we have a room in our house that we used for storage since the time we bought the house.  it has a great built in desk, bookshelves, and a full bathroom with access outside to the lake.   after a year of cleaning off my dining table at the end of each day i thought it would be nice to create a school and creative spot for our kiddos. i know we will still school in many places around our house, and even outside of the house, but it is so nice to have a space to go to together to create and learn.   my vision was to create a place that could encourage and inspire our children. i wanted to have a place that would remind them to DREAM, never give up, and create a lot.  i wanted a place to remind them of the love of their heavenly Father.  i wanted to fill the room with reminders of our love for each other and our appreciation and love of life.

the room is almost complete (i have a few more items that i ordered that have not arrived, but for the most part i am finished)...and i thought since it was the first day of our 2012 school year, i would share my project.  i hope you enjoy a sneak peek into our school day. i am so grateful God has given me this time with my children.  i am so blessed to be able to teach them daily and watch them grow in Him.  i will never take these moments for granted.

" i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"   Philippians 4:13

blessings, ginger


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