Category Archives: Homeschool

Mental Matters: Homeschooling kids who hate school

By Erika Rizkallah

I don’t enjoy Mondays. Not for obvious reasons – repetitious drudgery or weekend exhaustion – but because I know five days of life sucking fights are ahead of me.

The old joke about mothers being “blessed” (cursed) by having children just like them was made for me. I hated school too. Each morning I’d think of new ways to avoid going.

My favorite was putting my clothes in the dryer and faking sick. Mom would scowl, tell me I wasn’t really sick and prove it by getting the thermometer. In those days we used the glass thermometers that you’d shake down to zero and wait forever for the silvery mercury to rise.

She was always rushing to get to work so she’d say, “I’ll be back in a few minutes to check it, now get ready for school!”

good old thermometer trick #fakesick

I’d get my clothes from the dryer and use the heat from my jeans to raise the temperature on the thermometer. Then I’d shake it down to 100 or 101 degrees.

Sneaky? Yes. Successful? Always.

Of course now I stand watch over a digital one but it doesn’t keep them from whining about invisible ailments. Headaches, stomaches and nausea are easily faked but I know the truth. My teens simply hate school. They’d rather focus on other interests.

But work must be done so I cajole or encourage and on bad days, threaten.

Most days we’re not one of those smily families working at desks or the kitchen table. They sprawl on the sofa, sit in bed or hang outside on the deck. I suppose that’s what I get for causing my mother so much grief.

I’ve given up fighting about when or where it gets done but I insist that it will. get. done.

Baking with Teta 2
Smile for mommy – hee hee!

Homeschooling kids who hate school is harder than anything I’ve ever done. But the struggle isn’t without costs and benefits. The cost? My energy and patience takes a hit. The benefit? We’ve learned how to fight fair, negotiate and compromise which is useful in the real world.

All days aren’t like this but Mondays …

How about you? What do Mondays in your homeschool look like?

Trusting God with homeschool plans

By Erika Rizkallah

Here’s the follow up to my post about the adversary trying to steal my homeschooling joy.

My husband was convinced that sending our son, Sam, to a private prep school was the best choice for him. But I wasn’t. I’ll be honest, Sam is a challenge. My pregnancy was difficult, his birth grueling and at nine months he weaned himself. I’m not kidding, he took one look at what I offered, pushed my boob aside and sat up. Done!


In kindergarten he had panic attacks at the doorway despite my efforts and those of a gentle and loving teacher. It got better in second grade but increased again after bullying incidents (by kids and a teacher) in fourth grade. By the end of that awful year I was done. I decided to trust what God was asking of me and give homeschool a try.

It was the best decision we ever made.

Sam’s always been one of those kids who hangs out on the fringes of activity. He doesn’t like many people, loud noises or chaos. He’s never been one for sitting down either.

samih at field day
First grade field day
sam with ball
watching from a distance

So I don’t know why my husband thought transitioning back again in 8th grade would be successful. I suspect it’s because he’s like Sam and avoids school activities like the plague (leaving me to deal with the drama). But he was insistent and I agreed that if it was meant to be, God would work it for good. My husband had a connection at the prep school and was assured of an “in.” He was 100% certain.

With a heavy heart and a friend’s assertion that “private schools will take anyone whose check doesn’t bounce,” we went through the application process and entrance exam. We waited for the director to call and prepared to shop for new school clothes and supplies.


But special clothes aren’t needed for homeschool and we won! I mean, God won. The school called saying unfortunately they couldn’t accept him because they didn’t feel they could meet his needs.

What that really means is that he didn’t meet their standards. My thoughts on that could create an entirely different post but I’ll spare you.

Anyway, I’ve never been so happy to have Sam rejected! The takeaway for me was this: God’s plan won’t be thwarted. I yielded to my husband’s decision and was faithful through the process, but in the end, God’s will is what matters.

We can trust him with all things.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Your Turn: What plans have you trusted God with?



Wrestling with the thief: When joy is threatened

It’s that time again. Time for planning the school year ahead of us. Generally, this is one of my favorite times a year – it’s right up there next to the fresh, earthy smell of spring . . .

(I wrote those words over 25 days ago!)

purple flower

But this year, I’m late – a little like one of those late blooming flowers that I thought wasn’t going to come up with the others. I should have known that after I published my last post, Joy Story, something would come along and try to steal it. The well known and often repeated words of Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

If anyone can recognize the work of the thief, It’s Jesus.

Anyway, right after I wrote that post about my daughter, Kat, getting accepted into the local community college, she inexplicably changed her mind and decided she might want to spend her senior year at a local college prep academy. What the heck? I was irritated to say the least; I’d spent loads of time getting her into the college, but ultimately it’s her academic future and I wanted her to have the choice. So we went through the requirements of taking a tour of the school and spending a day in the classrooms. She loved it.


But because she’s a teenager she of course couldn’t make up her mind. So I gave her a few weeks to decide. Then all of a sudden, my husband felt that since she wanted to go to the prep school our son, Sam, should go as well.

Oh. My. God.

I was crushed. I know the Lord called me to homeschool my children and I also know a traditional classroom setting isn’t the place for him right now. But my husband was insistent – he wanted him to be in “a regular school.” In his own words, “This homeschooling b.s. isn’t working for me.”

All my dreams and hopes for guiding Sam through his high school years were smashed. What’s a broken-hearted mother to do?


Oh Lord, how I prayed that somehow my husband would change his mind. Listen to my reasoning. Understand my son’s desire to continue homeschooling. But he didn’t and so I thought. Maybe God is doing a new thing . . .

Since this post is already long, I’ll tell you what happened in the next one – and I promise I won’t take 4 months to do it. Stay tuned!

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Testing Testing 1-2-3!

I was never good at tests . . . especially math.

I’ll never forget one year in fourth grade – this would be around 1977 – we took a special test. Our math teacher walked between our desks, placing a sharpened pencil and test packet – face down – on each one. When we turned it over, I noticed something different. At the bottom was a strange configuration of black lines: skinny, medium and wider ones.

I dreaded any kind of math test (still do). I couldn’t understand math well and tests made me anxious. So during that class, while the other kids answered the questions, I counted the lines over and over, convinced they were some sort of magic code I could crack in order to get the answers.

Later we learned the name of this new thing: it was called a barcode.  Our teacher told us the paper would be put into a machine and graded somehow, but I didn’t believe her.

Barcode meme1

Testing these days is surrounded by controversy, especially when it comes to Common Core. I read a newspaper article the other day that said our School Superintendent was disappointed with the state about the level of required testing. For example, in one high school, students will be subjected to 188 tests designed mainly to assess the teachers, not the kids.

Thankfully homeschool testing is nothing like that. My kids took their national  standardized tests two weeks ago (many schools use only state tests). We hired a private testing company to come to our home and administer the Woodcock Johnson III test. Our administrator is a woman we’ve used for three years; she’s child friendly, compassionate and super smart. She encourages me and the kids to keep going and finish well.

Best of all, no one gets stressed out (ok, except me the first year).

Testing is really for parents; it lets us know how our child is doing and in what areas they could use improvement.

The first year of testing was tough on all of us. I didn’t know what to expect so I worried and got myself and the kids all twisted up about it. Until something happened that I’ll never forget. I took a prayer walk and poured out my heart to God. He said, “Your kids don’t get their intelligence from you, they get it from me.”

I got schooled!

Your Turn: How do you and your kids handle testing?

Movie Mondays: One way to turn Mondays into Fun Days

My teens HATE Mondays and let’s face it, many adults do too (myself included).

Lack of sleep and overdoing it on the weekends contributes to the energy drain and lack of attention I was seeing at the start of each new week. Finally, I had to let my frustration over the bad attitudes go. I decided to give us all a mental break and institute Funday Monday.

And you know what? It worked.

Now I choose one movie – that relates to something we’re studying – and we gather together in our family room, dressed in comfy clothes (usually pajamas). After all, what’s the benefit of homeschooling if you don’t enjoy learning together?

This semester one of our classes is World History and right now we’re focusing on the fall of Rome as we lead into the Middle Ages. So far we’ve watched Centurion . . .


and The Last Legion.

last legion

Bloody? Yes. Brutal? Yes. But wasn’t that reality? The movies themselves haven’t turned out so bad – they weren’t blockbusters and the special effects are sketchy – but we’ve all enjoyed them.

I want my kids to understand the world and atmosphere Jesus lived in. I want them to understand that despite the filth, violence and depravity, our savior managed to live a sinless life. Honestly, it amazes me that of all the times in history in which to be born, God chose this. Or that. “Whatev” as my kids would say.

In the end, all that matters is that we get it. And get to spend our morning having movies, popcorn and some amazing discussions about the world we live in.

Your turn: How do you make Mondays more fun?

Homeschool Help: Encouragement for Uncertain Times

As I sit enthralled by the television coverage of Ebola, and watch frightened parents take their children out of school I can’t help wonder “What if…?”

What if this becomes a common occurrence? What if American parents decide that public school isn’t safe anymore?

What if they don’t know what to do next?

I know how it feels.

If you told me five years ago I’d be homeschooling my children I would have said you were nuts. I would have said that I wasn’t qualified or patient enough. And to be honest, I simply didn’t want to.

Until I had to.

When my oldest child endured a cyber-bullying attack in her first year of high school everything changed. We not only removed her, we made the difficult decision to homeschool all three of our kids.

You know what? It’s been the biggest adventure and best decision our family’s ever made, which brings me to the point of this blog.

Homeschool Zoo

My goal is two-fold: I want to encourage nervous parents who feel they can’t homeschool and I want to have a place to showcase fun photos, resources and books that help me along the way.

When God gave us the gift of our children, he equipped us with the love and practical knowledge to do what’s best for them. If you’re thinking of homeschooling, I hope I can help you overcome the fear of it and strengthen you for the journey ahead.

I hope you enjoy this space and visit again soon!