Project Sanctuary, Granby

While our visit with friends in Colorado Springs was a highlight of our vacation, our purpose for going to Colorado was because we had been offered a free family retreat by a phenomenal organization called Project Sanctuary.  On the morning of the 6th, Aimee and I went to breakfast at a place I’ve never been before: Kneaders.  YUM!

Over breakfast I had the opportunity to share my heart with her about the possible upcoming adoption.  I typically need to talk things over to make sense of them while Matt typically lets things stew quietly in his brain.  Thankfully Aimee was willing to listen to me ramble while we ate breakfast.  I left that time with Aimee more encouraged that God was in this situation and that He knew the plan.  Aimee encouraged me that God knows this child already, and He knows me.  If it is His will for us to be united, He would make it happen.  If not, God would clearly let us know before we got too far in the process.

That this point in time we still knew very little other than that it is a little girl and we were definitely open to hearing more information.  The past two days had been amazing.  We loved spending our time with the Joneses, and it had passed without any new information coming in.

We had heard that there were possible delays on the roads we had to take so we left fairly early.  Our farewells weren’t too hard since we knew that in a few short days we’d be back to see them again.

Half-way to our destination at a gas station I sent my friend Kari a text.  I let her know that I hadn’t heard anything further and a brief conversation let me know that my text to Virginia hadn’t been received.

I worried that this would make it seem as if we weren’t interested but there was nothing I could do about this.  It was Thursday and we were about to arrive at our retreat location and I didn’t want to talk about this in front of all of the boys in the car.

We arrived at Snow Mountain Ranch to a gorgeous scene of snow everywhere.IMG_4466 Before we knew it Carson was dressed and playing outside in the snow!  This is a view from one of the bedrooms. IMG_4468 From the same bedroom window you can see the snow slowly sliding off the roof.  IMG_4467On the day we arrived, we unpacked, had dinner, and got to know our retreat volunteers and organizers.

Friday:  The first full day was a day of action.  We took a hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Breathtaking:


Hayden and this volunteer hit it off immediately based on their mutual love of skateboarding and snowboarding.


Parker found a stick and created a game: he’d throw the stick into the deep snow several feet ahead of him and then dig for it. Fetch, anyone?


The first settlement this area.


So much gorgeous snow!

_JEN7516 _JEN7527 _JEN7540 _JEN7541 _JEN7542 _JEN7556 _JEN7563 Instead of being a fluffy place to land, this plant collapsed and swallowed Parker whole!_JEN7569After our hike through this park we had lunch at a ranch before going fishing.  IMG_4488 IMG_4499IMG_4505Parker was one of only two people to catch a fish… his was too small to keep.

While we were out for the day we had no cell service and we really focused on spending time with our boys.  We had a blast and made memories that we treasure.  I do admit that while I was fishing I was thinking about the baby and what our life could look like in a few short months.  Hope was building and I was already getting attached to her.

That night we were so tired that we only stayed for a very short time of the planned game night.

Sunday morning: 

We needed to do laundry.  Desperately.  A family of six traveling across the country needs to do laundry at least every other day and it had been three.  I dropped the family off for breakfast and headed to the on-site coin laundry hauling my computer with me.  I wrote a letter to the birth mother introducing our family to her.  I didn’t have an email address to send this to, but I got the letter formulated just the way I wanted it and headed back to the family retreat with a car-full of clean clothes.

While sitting in our very first session of the morning I got the text of my dreams: The mother contacted me directly and gave me permission to call her later that day to talk about adoption.  Oh my GOSH!  I was sitting in the front of the room during a session and I had to try to keep a straight face!

It was so difficult to mask my emotions and to pretend that my life hadn’t just taken a very exciting turn.

I knew we were at this retreat for a reason and the session we were in at that moment was a marriage enrichment session… we have a fantastic marriage but we are always looking for ways to make it better and stronger so I put as much focus as I could into our session.

Later that day I got to speak to the mama in person.  Our conversation went really well and when we hung up I was beyond excited.  I have so many details of that conversation that I treasure but that are private, but let me just tell you that when I relayed the conversation to Matt, he was immediately in!

One thing I told the mama is that we would give her a definite answer in one week as she was already 30 weeks along and deserved a quick answer.  That was the 8th.  On the 11th we knew and gave her our 100% ALL IN answer.

The next few days of the retreat we had more incredibly helpful session: PTS, financial health.  We did a family art project, karaoke night, they offered free massages, and the kids did a PJ movie night while the adults were taken to town for a fancy dinner.

This retreat was fantastic and I highly recommend any veteran family fill out an application for it.

Obviously, our time there was made even more special by the excitement of hearing about our little girl, but even without all of that going on, the retreat is a phenomenal experience!

Tomorrow I’ll post a little more about our Project Sanctuary Retreat!


This morning Matt and I signed in front of a notary the documents necessary for our SC background checks!  Those are in the mail and we are praying that the results are ready in just about two weeks!

We have raised about one-third of what we think we’re going to need to cover our adoption expenses.  If you’re interested in keeping track of where we are, click HERE for our YouCaring account (which is similar to a GoFundMe type of account).



Posted in About my faith, adoption, family, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Colorado Springs, revisited

Living in Colorado Springs was a grande experience.  We loved it from the the day we arrived in 2007 to the day we drove away in 2009.

Matt and I have wondered if we would feel the same way about Colorado when we visited or if it was just a season in our lives that was not to be replicated.  Now that we’re back from spending 10 days there I can say that we definitely love Colorado.  Mountains, snow, cool breezes, not to mention, memories of the good times we had there and friends we met in Germany who are now there!

As soon as we pulled onto Fort Carson on November 4th I posted something on Facebook about how “we left our hearts here” back in 2009 and then realized that could be taken the wrong way to those we love in Texas.  While I am the first to admit that I was not happy at all about getting orders to move to the center of the sun, I am now very happy with where we are.  Our lives are great here at “The Great Place” and for the time, I don’t want to be anywhere else.

BUT, let it be known that Hamrick people love the mountains.  There is a beauty in them that we are naturally drawn to and we someday hope to live near them again.

Here is a brief tour of our old stomping grounds.  I didn’t take a picture of our old house because there were kids playing in the front yard and I thought that might be a bit inappropriate.  Not to mention, we were driving slowly, with a cargo container on the roof, and we have Texas tags.  They could have tracked us down and beaten us up if we were caught!  I did however, snap a picture of the street sign.  Good times on Light Fighter!

In the collage above you’ll see a variety of pictures from our time with the Joneses.  We arrived in COS on my birthday which meant I got to pick the restaurant for dinner: BirdDog BBQ.  I had been looking forward to that for years and they didn’t disappoint!

Aimee had a delicious Heath Bar Ice Cream Cake at home for dessert!  The next day we knew without a shadow of a doubt that my four handsome men, though amazing travelers would need a way to release some energy. They remembered a skatepark and it was the ONE thing on their list of must-see places, so we made sure to hit that early.

It was pretty chilly, so I didn’t get out my real camera but I did manage to get a few videos of Parker.  He kept trying to get out of the bowl by himself and from a distance he looked like a Whack-a-Mole.  We had so much fun watching him that we tried to get it on video…


Where we were on the adoption at that point.  Day 2:  Nov 5.

Hayden had overheard Matt and me talking about it in the car the day before.  I had told him to keep this from his brothers just in case it wasn’t something we were going to pursue.  Any chance he could catch me alone he’d ask for updates… he was so excited, so eager.  I could tell it was on his mind all the time and I hoped it was something we could go forward with for many reasons, but for one, because he’s such an amazing big brother and he’s been wanting another sibling since Parker was about two.

Aimee and I had briefly talked about it, but there was still so very little that I knew that most of our time was spent catching up and watching “the babies” play together.

There’s something so precious about having friends you can talk to after a long separation and it’s as if there was NO time passed between visits.  It’s also nice to have friends who let you stay with them and monopolize their washer and dryer!  The time with the Joneses was precious.

Today’s update on our Adoption Process:

Yesterday was a crazy busy day!

Five physicals done and three finger printing appointments done!

Matt’s physical was done Tuesday.

Secured (READ: paid) the attorney in Virginia so we have officially selected her.

We have done all that we can as of right now before baby comes.  Our Home Study people will tell us what’s next, but as far as I know everything is in their court!

Our sweet birth mother told me that the baby is very active!  :)  Super excited to hear that!!

Our fundraiser: YouCaring



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Adoption Update #1

I am torn between wanting to share with you today about our trip to Colorado and the update on where we are in the adoption process.  Since I’m limited on time, I’ve decided to stick to the adoption update.  I’ll have more time to write about our actual trip later.

I will, at least, show you our first sightings of the mountains on my birthday.  When we saw these mountains we had just heard about the baby.  We had received a text from Kari that told us of a mother who might be looking for a family.  That’s it.  Kari didn’t know the gender but she asked if we we wanted her to ask for more details.  Of course, we said yes!

IMG_4399 IMG_4403

Yesterday we received word that all the documents we’ve emailed were received.  Everything looks good on the TX end so far.  They were surprised that we had everything sent in so quickly.  I wonder if they’re not used to working with military families… we have to have all of that information very handy!

We have our official Home Study home visit scheduled for very soon.  They said that two weeks after that date we’ll have a rough draft of the Home Study for review!  If the FBI, SC and TX background checks go quickly there’s a chance we could have our final draft, official documents, ready three weeks later!  That’s still a month before baby is due!  Praying for all the details to work out.  Reminding myself that I can only control me… I can’t control the government!

Yesterday had my first real phone-consultation with the VA attorney and her paralegal.  Sounds like we’ll be a good fit and they told us that from what they have heard of our story so far, they not only see no red flags, it sounds like it’ll be smooth to the end.  Even the hospital the baby will be born at is considered very adoption friendly!

This morning I made our appointments to have our fingerprints done for our FBI background check. Still need to get a password from the home study case worker for Hayden’s FBI background check so we can make his appointment, but we should be able to get his fingers printed this week, as well.

Your prayers, emails, messages, and hugs are so very appreciated!  The scriptures I’m reading in my HelloMornings study are confirming all that we are doing.  Soon I’ll write a post just about the ways we feel God has His hand on this but for now, I must get ready for PWOC!  I love Tuesdays!

Here is our YouCaring Fundraiser in case you want to see how far along we are in the process!

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family | 4 Comments

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo

The pictures I have from the Cadillac Ranch are the last pictures I have of Matt and me before we knew about our little girl.  (Gosh, I’m praying that everything works out because in our hearts, she’s already ours.)  These pictures are fun and I can’t help but remember the girly heart I was drawn to.  Normally that kind of stuff doesn’t catch my eye, but Matt and I spent several minutes trying to get a selfie with the heart in the background.  The wind and our height differences made it a comical scene, but we eventually managed!


Before I leave the topic of our in-process adoption, let me give you our update:

Since our Announcement Post we have received one-tenth of our financial goal of $10,000!  Thank you to every single person who has given toward this!  Matt and I have submitted many pages of paper-work to our Home Study case worker and I am currently stalking my email to see when she replies that she got them. We were given a changing table, car seat, bed for Parker (as he is being displaced from his), and an oak file cabinet which is now serving as a night stand for the new room-mates.  Last night was Bailey’s and Parker’s first official night as roomies!  Sometime today we are going to turn the toddler bed Parker was in back into a crib.  All four of our boys have used this crib and it is very sentimental to us!  I remember vividly putting it together in our “ducky” nursery.

I have been in communication with the mama and she’s excited to see how things are coming along.  At 31 weeks she’s having a hard time sleeping.  Oh, don’t I remember those days!  I will be very limited in what I share about her to protect her privacy, but I figure anyone who has ever had a child will relate to this exhausted feeling!  Have I told you lately that she’s my hero?

Just in case you missed the link to our YouCaring page, here it is. Feel free to share it and remember, there is no pressure to give.  We are trusting that what ever comes in will be sufficient.

Changing topics completely:
A year ago a friend told me that one of her “Texas must-see” attractions is The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.  I had never heard of it before but I loved her willingness to get out and see Texas even though she’s like me: a fall and winter (SNOW) girl.  She had decided to make the best of the state we’re in and she inspired me to do the same.

When we planned our route to Colorado we knew we’d go through Amarillo, so we made sure it was on our list of things to see.

On the morning of my birthday we drove a short distance to this cow pasture, pulled over, entered the turnstile gate and proceeded to walk toward ten Cadillacs planted nose-down in the dirt.

Not much to see, but it was weird, and Carson was THRILLED to find four not-quite-empty spray paint cans, so he went to town.

Here are the pictures from the event:

_JEN7450 _JEN7455 _JEN7467 _JEN7473 _JEN7476

The paint is so thick on everything!  _JEN7474

I photobombed Matt!12190864_10153849368679474_4997089935336825020_n_JEN7459 _JEN7471

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Hamrick Family, party of 7.


We’re adopting a little girl!!!

Our story is beautiful and perfect.  I love every tiny detail and every single moment of our story.  It all started with this picture of me holding my friend’s new little one on August 18, 2015:IMG_4591
One of our friends took that picture of me holding this cute little one and texted it to both Matt and me with the saying: “Pink looks good on Jennifer.”
Matt wrote back:  “It does indeed.”
I assumed he missed the hint, which was that I needed to have a little girl to dress in pink, and that he was agreeing that the BABY looked good in pink.
I wrote to him, “I think she’s talking about the baby girl!”
His response was, “I know.”

For a few hours I stewed over that, wondering if it could possibly mean that Matt was interested in pursuing adoption.  We have wanted to for over ten years, and I had decided that I would wait for him to bring up the topic.  Later that day he told me he’d been thinking of it for a few months and that he felt it was time.

A week of research left me 100% sure that we were not going to be able to afford a normal agency adoption.  I grieved.  Matt grieved.  And then, we were at peace.

Here’s what I wrote to two friends who knew we were looking into adoption; August 28th:

We want a daughter, but we know we aren’t supposed to pursue the normal methods.  We are, however, open to someone approaching us and asking us to adopt their baby girl.  I even told my sweet doctor this week that should anyone come in to her office with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to call me!  I was only sort-of joking.  We are pretty much 99.9999% sure this isn’t going to happen, as we know there are so few instances where it does, and we’re okay with that.  I’m at peace with this, and for the first time in my life, I am content either way.  We do know of several families where this has happened, but we don’t expect it or count on it.  We are expecting that we will never have a daughter to raise, but if God sends one our way, we’ll be ecstatic.

I will save that picture forever.  It is a moment in time where God healed something in me and provided me the opportunity to seek His will in something that otherwise, without Matt’s blessing, I would have never sought.  I would have always wondered.

Your prayers are coveted as we go forward with the “waiting” for something we aren’t even expecting.

And for a couple of months we just left “little sister” on our prayer board that is on our fridge.  The board we wrote that on was given to me at that very meeting and on the day I had that picture taken of me holding my friend’s baby.  I chose a pink one on purpose.

Sunday, November 1st we had some friends over to celebrate my upcoming birthday.  We were lovingly teased about needing to get ‘started on that girl.’  My response was, “We’re praying for it!” and I pointed to my refrigerator:


And here is where our story starts moving at warp speed.  Hang on to your seats!

November 3rd we left Killeen to head toward Colorado for a family retreat.
November 4th I got a text from a friend in Virginia telling me about a lady who was looking for a family to raise the baby she is expecting.
November 8th I got to talk to the birth mother.  I loved every second of that conversation.  Matt and I were 100% sure this is right for us.
November 10th I selected an attorney in TX and an attorney in VA (where the baby is going to be born).  We got the prices and fees and it is something we can do. It’ll stretch us and we have set up a fund for those who want to help us.
November 11th, I contacted the mother and told her we are 100% in. That afternoon I got my first ultrasound pictures!!
Monday morning (the 16th) I have a phone-consult with our VA attorney and the mother will be going in soon for her first appointment with them.  I have already begun paperwork for our home study.  (NOTE:  Home studies usually take 3-5 months.  We don’t have that long!)

9 weeks from now Matt and I will likely be the proud parents of a little girl!  She’s due January 21st!

There are so many details and precious stories along the way that we are treasuring in our hearts.  Beth Moore would call them God-Stops: ways God is making Himself undeniably present in the situation.

Here are some stories I’d like to tell someday but for now, I’m going to be pretty busy for the next 9 weeks, and then, if all goes well, several months after that!

  • I’m sure you have questions.  I’d like to write a post that lists them (so please submit them) and I’d like to answer the ones we feel comfortable sharing;
  • How the boys feel about having a sister; (Hint: they’re smitten)
  • About her first blanket and baby clothes, including the outfit the baby is wearing in the picture that got this entire process started;
  • About the scriptures I was reading throughout the first week we were made aware of the possible adoption;
  • About all the “coincidences” with dates/timing/etc.  So many WOW moments.
  • About the phone call with the birth mother and what we talked about.  Not the intimate details, but a few parts will make you see God’s hand in this and how perfectly we’re matched;
  • About how we’re used to being so very transparent in our lives but now that our lives are going to be intermingled with the birth mother’s, we need to be very intentional with what we share and what we keep to ourselves… that’s hard for me.  I like to share everything!
  • About her name and what it means.

So that’s that!  Like I said, submit your questions to me and I’ll formulate a new post in the next few days answering the most common questions I get.  I’ll answer what I can, and if I can’t share, I’ll let you know.

I’m sure there’s one question on your mind that I’ll briefly touch on:  there is always a chance this might fall through and yes, we’re aware of that.  Our hearts are already attached and we are fully aware of the fact that the mama has the right to change her mind at any time between now and seven days after she’s signed consent.  Yes, we’d be out the money we’re paying, and yes, our hearts would be broken.

But, we believe God is in this and that should something like that happen, we are more than willing to trust Him.  We want the best for this little life.  If being with us is the best for her, we want to be her mommy and daddy and brothers.  If being with her birth mother is best, we will hurt for our loss but we will trust the Lord.

One piece of comfort I read last night was that when a birth mother has selected a family  and she feels connected to them, and a friendship develops, there is almost no chance she will change her mind.  I have spoken with the birth mother almost every day and I am praying our relationship will be good.  Sure, there are going to be boundaries in place, and you can rest assured we’re being careful and intentional about what our semi-open-adoption is going to look like, but I am thankful that I genuinely like this young woman.  I’m actually growing to love her more and more.  She’s my hero.

If you are interested in helping us reach our goal of $10,000, you can find our link here:

Help the Hamrick Family adopt their baby girl!



Posted in adoption, family | 17 Comments

TX-CO – Birthday Trip!

Today is my birthday and I am super excited because I get to spend it in Colorado!  Matt and I are mountain and cold weather people and it has been too long since we lived near mountains.

Not only to I get to spend it in Colorado, I get to see Aimee, Cory, and Kayla!  Icing on the cake!

We started our trip yesterday and I have a story I’ve wanted to share from the very beginning of our trip but it was too special for a simple Facebook post.  I decided that here, in Dehart, TX, while Matt is behind the wheel, I’d write a quick blog post to share it.


I had the pleasure of going to PWOC yesterday morning, though I did leave class early so we could get on the road.  Back at home, Matt had been getting the house ready for our trip and loading the car.  Parker had been searching for a few days for his missing iPod and was getting more and more pitiful as the hours passed.  Our kids each have an iPod which they use to listen to music and Adventures in Odyssey, but on long trips I turn on their apps and they are allowed to indulge in semi-unlimited screen time.

Parker knew he was about to embark on a long trip without his iPod and was none-to-happy about it.

The night before I had put up a $3 bounty for the person who found it.  No joke, Matt pulled out a flashlight and started looking!  (Maybe he was more concerned about the peace and quiet that iPod would bring than the $3… not sure.)

Yesterday, as I was working on last minute preparations (powering down the Big Mac, unplugging appliances, etc.) I upped the bounty to $5.  Still no luck.

Just before we loaded the car I brought everyone to the living room and sat them down.  I told them that we were going to pray, first and foremost for safety during our trip, but also that we would find Parker’s iPod.  I explained that sometimes God answers prayers like this in our favor, and sometimes He doesn’t.  My intention was to have our family go as a group from room to room looking with combined eyes.  The entire house had been searched by 6 people individually.  I figured we might have a different result if all 6 of us searched together.

After Parker’s sweet prayer, I assigned Carson to the love seat, Bailey and Parker to the recliner, and asked Matt and Hayden to lift the couch while I looked underneath.  Carson had the nerve to say, “I’ve already searched this loveseat several times,” so I responded, “I know.  But God is able to put it there as a direct answer to Parker’s prayer, so please check again.”

I turned so that Matt and Hayden could lift the couch.  As soon as they lifted it Bailey yelled, “THERE IT IS!”  Right there, under the couch that had been looked under a dozen times.  Matt and I made eye-contact and in that look we communicated many thoughts: were both so grateful for the Lord’s immediate answer to our little man’s prayer.  We weren’t shocked that He did that, but beyond thankful that He did.

When we stopped our yelling and screaming “I can’t believe it was under there!  I’ve already look there!!!!  ME TOO!!!!!” we prayed a prayer of thanks, and then for the safety of our trip, and then we took off.

A few points along the way:

*  We drove through skunk spray and Parker yelled out, “Oooohhhh.  Something farted!”  That was pretty cute!
*  We’ve listened to hours and hours of podcasts and the kids watched Kung Fu Panda 2.
*  Matt found the Buddy Holly museum and of course, we stopped for pictures with the glasses and statue.
*  Dinner last night at Outback Steakhouse was in honor of Matt’s diploma arriving in the mail.  He recently graduated from The Command and General Staff College. (Also referred to as ILE.  He graduated with an A average… I might be proud.)
*  I was able to get a 2.5 mile run in at the hotel last night.  Got my 10K steps!
*  This morning I was rested enough to wake early and sit in the hotel’s 2nd floor living-room area and spend time doing my HelloMornings quiet time.  Lovely time and it set my heart in the right place for the day.

*  Just had to stop by the Cadillac Ranch… just to say we’ve been there.

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*  We just crossed the border into New Mexico and were promptly hit by a massive tumbleweed.  No damage was done to our vehicle.  Hehe.

Our destination for today is the Jones Haus.  Two days from now we’re off to Granby, CO, to YMCA of the Rockies to attend a family retreat offered by Project Sanctuary.  Looking forward to these next 9 days more than I can say!


Posted in brothers/boys, family, friends, Texas, travel | 3 Comments

Homeschooling My Way, Part 3

Before I begin the WHAT and HOW of homeschooling my way, let me introduce you to WHO I’m homeschooling.

Hayden is now in his first year of high school.  9th grade, BABY!   Carson is in 7th, Bailey is in 6th, and Parker is officially in Kindergarten.  The tally is:

High School: 1
Middle School: 2
Elementary School: 1

It’s a fun life!

Here we are a couple months ago, teacher and students:


Glancing back at a few of my previous posts on homeschooling I notice this one fact:  Homeschooling is very fluid.  It changes all the time.  What I do now will look different from what I will be doing in six months.

I really want potential homeschooling moms to know this one fact:  You do not need to have the perfect curriculum for every subject picked out before you start homeschooling.  I dare say, even if you think you have the perfect everything picked out, you will find after a while that something isn’t quite so perfect.  A few of the things I raved about in the past two posts like this are things I really no longer recommend.

Here goes!

Before I go too far, though I want to say this up front.  I believe homeschooling can be done at a bare-bones cost.  I do not believe you have to spend a lot of money to do it well.  There are so many resources out there that can make homeschooling a reality on any budget so please know that before I tell you about anything we’re using.  Here’s a really good place to start researching if you’re on a tight budget.  The author is a real-life friend of mine!

I have a very casual method of teaching at this stage.  We spend thirty minutes to an hour in real one-on-one education each day.  His subjects include:

  • Handwriting – Handwriting Without Tears
  • Math – Saxon Levels K & 1 in this first year.
  • Learning to Read – How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  (If I  find that he needs more in-depth reading education I’ll use All About Spelling and All About Reading.  I won’t use those unless necessary because they are more time-intensive on the part of the teacher and frankly, my first two readers excelled without it.  My third reader definitely needed it.)
  • Games – Yes, we play a game every day.  Usually Go Fish or Dominoes.  This is a way I get my Parker-time in and he gets his mom-time.
  • Reading – Someone reads a book to Parker each day.  Just for fun.
  • Keyboarding – Keyboarding Without Tears – teaching finger placement on the iPad before moving the keyboard.

Upper Grades:

  • Keyboarding – Keyboarding Without Tears
  • Spanish – We go to a Spanish class once a week with a Spanish speaking homeschooling mom; Hayden is using Rosetta Stone because this will grade him objectively; Carson and Bailey are using DuoLingo (which is a free program you can use on a computer or a smart phone).  I am also using it and currently have a 104 day streak I’m protecting at all costs!
  • PE – Soccer, skateboarding; I have very active boys so physical education is never an issue
  • Math – When Parker came along I needed a way to give up some of my teaching responsibilities and Math was the subject to do that with.  We have loved Teaching Textbooks ever since so, even when we were trying to get out of debt, this is where we spent money.  We chose to do the other subjects on the cheap.
  • Bible, History, Writing, Grammar, Language Arts, Literature – Sonlight.
    1. Hayden: Core 100
    2. Carson and Bailey: Core F that we found used and purchased at a great price. If we hadn’t found it at a great price, we would have stuck with Story of the World and library books as a supplement.
  • Science – Apologia: it was recommended along with Sonlight.
    1. Hayden is using 150: Exploring Creation with Physical Science;
    2. Carson is using G: Geology, Physics, and Origins;
    3. Bailey is using F: Health, Medicine and Human Anatomy.
  • More Bible:  My kids STILL love Adventures in Odyssey!

Up until now I have never used a set curriculum before in large part because of the cost.  We homeschooled throughout our get-out-of-debt journey and we prioritized what we wanted to spend money on. When our oldest was in the 7th grade we started thinking about what his high school years would look like.  The result of my research was that Sonlight teaches children the way I want to teach them!   In fact, it teaches them the way I have been teaching them.  The creators spent time putting the best literature together and writing lesson plans… it matches my philosophy of teaching perfectly!  My ultimate philosophy of education is that kids can learn anything from books.  I want them to love reading and to love learning. 

So after discussing it, we decided to purchase our first Core of Sonlight ever.  Our first boxed curriculum!  (And in case you didn’t know this, there is a Sonlight tradition called “Box Day!”  It’s the day each year when the family receives their boxes and the kids get to dive right on in!  SUCH a fun day!  My blog post about our Box Day 2015 was featured on their blog!  You can see us at by clicking here.)

If I could give you a basic crash course in SonLight it might sound like this:

Grades (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) aren’t placed on the levels, but each level is given either a letter or a number.  Younger grades are labeled with letters starting with A and they progress to H.  The higher levels are numbered 100-500.  The reason grades aren’t assigned is because each level (or Core) is designed to be used for a span of ages, which is simply awesome for families who want to save money by using the same core for several students in a similar age category.

There are three odd Core labels:  B+C; D+E, and W.  All three of these take two cores (B and C, for example) and smash them into one full year.  So someone who purchases Core B+C will get half of B and half of C, and an Instructor Guide.  Same with D+C and W.  W is a combination of G+H.  Sonlight has World History in two cores, covered in two years, Cores G and H.  Since we were jumping on the Sonlight train late, we did Core W, which covers all World History in one year, taking half of G and half of H.  Our reason for starting with W is because that would put Hayden at using Core 100 in the 9th grade.

Here is an example of how to use a Core with a variety of ages:  last year bigs used Core W at the same time but in varying degrees.  Hayden, being in 8th grade at the time, had to do all the assignments.  Carson (6th) had to do some, while Bailey (5th) had only a few to do.

I mentioned that Sonlight pulls together high quality literature and uses great novels to teach history and language arts.  Here is an example of that from Core F: for history I am reading to them Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze and Eric Liddell while in literature they reading (independently) Mission to Cathay.  While these books are set in different time periods, they are all set in China. The creators have tied everything together with study questions and writing assignments, covering everything from history to grammar using the same literature.  We are learning so very much about Chinese history and culture from what we’re reading.

So, this covers what we are doing now.

Because we’re using Sonlight I can much more easily answer the question, “What curriculum do you use?”  Just remember:  you can homeschool without buying a set curriculum and you can do so on a tight budget.  If you are interested in Sonlight, check out their money back guarantee.

Until I update you again…

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Does my homeschool need a name?

It does, but this should not be a stressful thing.

Homeschools need a name for various reasons.  Some states require it and if you are going to graduate your student from your homeschool, you will need to have an official name on the transcript.  One of my very favorite resources regarding homeschooling is one I found just this year (2015).  Lee Binz*, The HomeScholar, instructs homeschooling parents to create a name for their homeschool for use on transcripts as well as for college applications.  She has a few tips on the best kinds of names to pick and, while I don’t want to steal her thunder, let me tell you that you should put very little effort and time into this aspect of your homeschool.

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When we started homeschooling we had no idea we’d do so forever.  We were living at Fort Jackson and had just gotten word that orders were in the works for a PCS, which could have had us moving during the school year.  That was a problem because our oldest at the time was due to be in Kindergarten and, at the time, was a very timid little guy.  Homeschooling for that year sounded like a great way to overcome that hurdle.  South Carolina had a requirement that I be under a homeschooling organization and they required our homeschool to have a name.  We were at Fort Jackson, so we settled on Jackson Academy.  Simple as that.  Here we are many years later and we just kept on going, and we’ve kept that name.

So, there you have your answer PLUS a bonus tip.  Yes, your homeschool needs a name and you shouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to come up with one.  If you want to read more about my purchase of The Total Transcript Solution, click here.

Lee Binz has no idea I’m sharing this with you and I get no kick-backs from doing so.  I just like sharing what I have found that works!  Let me know if you have any questions!
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Will you homeschool through graduation?

Many people really believe that homeschooling is fine for elementary school, but that homeschooling in high school is absolutely insane.  Many incorrectly believe that the parent must know the topics that their student is learning better than their student.  Please let me be clear: when my son has a question in algebra, he does not expect me to know the answer.  However, there are resources for help in every single subject that you can find.  I am not going to list these for you, but I do want you to know that it is most definitely possible to homeschool your student through high school even if you don’t understand everything they’re learning.

I took chemistry in high school and I can tell you right now that when it comes to Hayden taking chemistry, he will not look to me as his source of information.  This does not scare me away from homeschooling, though.

The following resources are just a few I’ve found that have encouraged me in my homeschooling high school journey.

Sep 2015

  • Should You Homeschool High School? When the Fun and Games End. Lee Binz –“”Can we do this?” “What about college?” “Will they be able to earn scholarships?” And the ever popular, “How on earth will we teach Calculus??”I wish I could give you a well-reasoned answer to why we continued homeschooling through graduation. The truth has likely more to do with inertia than conviction. We loved homeschooling. We felt it was exactly what God wanted us to do, and it had worked well so far, so… we continued.”  ~Lee Binz
    (Jennifer here, I love this excerpt!)
  • Homeschooling High School for the Freaked Out Parent – Lee Binz
  • The Total Transcript Solution – Since I’m recommending The HomeScholar here, I thought I might at least tell you which of her products I purchased.  I currently have a student in 9th grade  and I found myself worrying about transcripts.  Thankfully I was introduced to The HomeScholar’s  website and there I watched a free video on transcripts.  Based on what I heard, I decided that it would be worth purchasing the entire package for transcripts, especially since she had a money back guarantee.  I was very pleased with what I purchased and loved that it came with a 20 minute phone consultation with Mrs. Binz.  Before the call I prepared Hayden’s transcript for his upcoming four years and she gave me her tips and suggestions.  I was encouraged beyond explanation after this call.
  • Homeschool Through High School –  “Don’t be intimidated by secondary education. You can homeschool through high school if you have a plan!” – Sarah from the SmallWorldatHome  ~  I love her thoughts on several topics regarding high school!  Please check her out!
    These are just a few but I’d love to add more.  If you find some that I need to know about, please mention them in the comment section.

One blessing of homeschooling a high schooler is that he or she does most of the work independently.  I do spend about the same amount of time grading/correcting/reading his work than I did working with him when he was in the younger grades, so I haven’t found myself with a ton of free time on my hands now that I have a high schooler, but I am enjoying this stage in an entirely new way.  It has been so much fun watching this transition… now that we’re in it, homeschooling high school isn’t nearly as scary.

Lee Binz has no idea I’m sharing this with you and I get no kick-backs from doing so.  I just like sharing what I have found that works!  Let me know if you have any questions!
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My Philosophies

phi·los·o·phy /fəˈläsəfē/ – a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior

My philosophies of homeschooling, education, and reading greatly impact the decisions I make in our homeschool.

I’ve shared these ideas in several blog posts but have never pulled them out to stand on their own.

Here are the six main areas I have very specific thoughts on: 

  1. Education
  2. Reading
  3. Preschool Education
  4. Early Elementary Education
  5. Middle School Education
  6. High School Education


  • I do not place my childrens’ education at the top of my priority list.  In raising my children to adulthood, my main concern is that they become Godly men of character.  I firmly believe that if they have a Godly character they will be good husbands, good fathers, good employees or employers, they will be honest, fair, just, and they will have a love of learning.  People with great character tend to be willing to learn new things because they can honestly admit that they don’t know it all.  SO… if I raise Godly men of character, they will reach adulthood with a willingness to improve their own minds, hearts, and in turn, their eduction and finances will fall into place.
  • I do not purport that what or how I am teaching my children is the best way or the only way, that children should be taught.  I am, however, confident that I am teaching them the best way I know how to and in a way that I sleep soundly at night knowing that they are getting a well rounded education.   This is not to say that other forms of education are not well rounded… what I am saying here, on my own blog, is that I am comfortable with what I have taught my children and that any kind of education they could receive would come with holes.  The holes in my kids’ education might be different than the holes in the educations of children who receive other forms of schooling, and I am perfectly comfortable with that.  P.J. Jonas of Goat Milk Stuff explains it so well and said it in a way that I can agree with:  “Teaching our children to think is much more important than getting them to memorize tons of facts.”  If you want to see what Henry Ford or Albert Einstein thought about this exact topic, please read the blog post of P.J.’s that I linked to.
  • Our homeschool is not “school at home.”  If you were to enter my house on a weekend you might not be able to tell we homeschool.  We don’t have a school room and we don’t expect our days to have the flow of a school day.  While this is okay for some families, it wouldn’t work for ours.  In Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, Sonya Haskins explains this so well.  I urge you to read her book.


  • I love to read.  I love to see my children reading.  I believe kids can learn anything by reading so one of my main goals as a teacher is to get my students to a level of reading that will enable them to pick up a book on a topic that they are interested in and glean what they want to from it.  I think my Gardner-Webb University Professors will sing for joy at my next statement:  I am trying to develop life-long learners.  I want my children to choose to read throughout their adulthood.  If I can get them from non-readers, to readers, to lovers-of-reading, I’ll count my job well done.  So far, my three bigs have developed a love of reading and they frequently choose to do so on their own.
  • The age at which a child becomes an avid reader is less important than THAT he becomes an avid reader.  I fully believe that it is better to delay reading instruction if a student is showing clear signs that he or she is not ready than to push through and create in the child a dread of reading.  With Bailey, I tested this philosophy (and my own patience in the process) and I found that I was right.   I learned how to read at a young age and my first two readers learned easily and loved it from the start.  This made it difficult for me to go at Bailey’s pace.  I wanted him to pick it up as early and as easily as his brothers did, but my overall goal, to have him LOVE reading, seemed immeasurably more important to me than when he mastered the skill.  SO…  I waited.  I slowed down.  When I was frustrated with how slowly he was progressing, I forced myself to remember that making him feel like he was bad at reading, or that he was disappointing me, was not going to help me achieve my end-goal.  Over the course of several years Bailey has not only grown in his mastery of the skill but has become a lover-of-reading.  I am now confident that my way works, and I will have even more patience with Parker than I did with Bailey because I know this:  protecting a child’s love of reading is far more important than getting him or her to master the skill by certain age.  This may be one of the most foundational philosophies in my entire bouquet of philosophies because it impacts every single subject we cover.  I know that it’s not a philosophy I would really be able to put into practice were I still in the classroom because of the nature of classrooms… everyone needs to meet certain goals on a certain time-frame.  This is one reason I love homeschooling for our family: because the time-frames match the student; the student doesn’t have to match the time-frames.

Preschool Education

  • I regularly receive requests for my opinion about what curriculum I recommend for preschool.  I want to be very careful here, because I know a lot of people value formal preschool and the benefits of early education.  What I will say is that I HONESTLY believe preschoolers can learn everything they need in the two simple actions of playing and being read to.  (In case you missed it, that was my philosophy on preschool homeschool.)  Play with your preschooler and they’ll learn. Read to and with your preschooler and they’ll learn.  I do not think a curriculum is necessary for you to teach your preschooler so I don’t recommend a single one.  That is not to say that there are not great ones out there.  In fact, I’m positive that there are great ones out there.  But I believe that the preschool years are designed for play and exploration and I do not spend a dime on preschool homeschool curriculum. I also believe that children have 13+ years of school ahead of them and only 5 designated for just being a kid.  I say let them be a KID!
  • Now, in the interest of full transparency here, all four of my children have gone to a public preschool for one or two years of their lives.  That sounds so very contradictory to the previous paragraph, and for that I do apologize.  The reasons for each child varied: When my oldest when to preschool at age 4 it was to prepare him for “real school” which we were going to be utilizing.  We had no intention of homeschooling, and Hayden was so timid that I wanted him to have a year of “practice” to get him ready for the real thing. For Carson and Bailey, they went to preschool four days a week, just in the mornings.  Matt was deployed and this gave me a small break, and a chance to teach Hayden all by himself.  Parker went to preschool three days a week for three hours, giving me the time to focus on a few subjects that required the older boys to really concentrate.  During that season I found that I was letting Parker watch TV while we needed to focus on school and I decided would preschool was better than watching TV.  Sure, I could have come up with something for him to do, but honestly, that was right for us at the time.  (Begin shooting flaming arrows now…)

Early Elementary Education

My philosophy of early elementary education is to cover the basics:

  • Teach them to read (but the age at which a child learns to read is less important than developing his or her love of reading);
  • Teach them math in concrete ways so that later they can understand the abstract mathematical concepts;
  • Teach them that history is the story of people and make it interesting.
  • Science is great, but I admit I’m not a great science teacher… Co-ops would be a great idea for supplementing what I haven’t covered, and replying on occasional unit studies and investigating nature is easier than it might sound at first.
  • Handwriting is more important than I first thought, but it’s not the main thing.

Middle School Education

  • My thoughts on middle school education are slim.  I was trained in Elementary Education and so I really never studied the specifics about middle school grades.
  • We pretty much continue what we’re doing in their subjects from 1st grade through 7th.
  • In the 8th grade we give them a year of “practice high school” work.  This gives the student a year to stretch those muscles; to learn how to manage time; to figure out just how much more work a year of high school is than what they’ve been doing; to begin thinking about grades.*
  • *We don’t do a lot of grading until high school level.  Really, we only do grades in Math in the elementary years.

High School Education

  • I’m pretty new to this high school thing so please bear with me if this changes over the next few years but basically, I see these years as the years to prepare for college.  We are assuming all of our children are going to go to college and will require them to work in our homeschool as if they are.
  • Grades are kept for transcript purposes and we grade for mastery.  (That means we do the work over and over until they learn it.)
  • I believe (as Lee Binz, the HomeScholar says) that we can create a transcript to reflect our school and that we don’t need to change our school to fit onto a transcript.
  • Work ethic is huge: they need to turn work in well and on time (the latter is something we struggle with in our homeschool).
  • Using the HomeScholar’s The Total Transcript Solution and a college preparation high school plan we are going to work through what is required to enter college over these high school years.
  • I’ll add more as I learn more, but for now, this is it.

There you have it!  These are the foundational beliefs in our homeschool, educationally speaking.  Overall, I think it’s pretty simple and, while I am not discrediting any other philosophies that exist regarding education, we are pleased with the results we’ve seen homeschool so far, basing what we do around these particular ideas.  Time will tell…


We read, and we read a lot. I read to them and they read independently.

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