Category Archives: Large Family Living

Classroom Reveal 2015-2016

Before I take you on a tour of our schoolroom, which I prefer to refer to as “the library” I will introduce you to the cast of characters here at CandL HomeLearning.

  • Curly, our oldest son, will soon be 17 years old. He’s a Junior this year, but he’s also enrolled in a class at the nearby Community College for Dual Enrollment.
  • Larry, our second oldest son, is 15 years old. He’s a Freshman this year, and he’s excited to rise to the challenge of taking accelerated courses.
  • Mo, our third oldest son, just turned 13 years old this summer, and he’s looking forward to tackling 7th grade head-on and so far he’s risen to the challenge.
  • Li’l Bro, our youngest son, turned 10 years old this summer, and he’s ready to be a 4th grader. He’s still trying to figure out where he fits in best, whether tagging along with his almost-twin sister or wanting to be with the big boys too.
  • Li’l Miss, our oldest daughter, is 9 years old but just 4 months younger than Li’l Bro, and she’s excited to continue learning in 4th grade this year.
  • Li’l Bit, our youngest daughter and the baby of the family, is 5 years old, and she couldn’t be more excited about being a Kindergartner this year and being “in real school” with her brothers and sister.


These wonderful T-shirts were designed by Mo and Li’l Miss, and we’re really happy with the way they turned out after ordering them custom on-line. Some of the biggest kids decided they’d rather not wear them on the “same day” as their siblings, but they were gracious enough to pose for a photo for me.

As my students enter our library, which is where 75% of our bookwork, as I like to call it, is done, they can see our rules at the top of the door. They are as follows: Continue reading


Bucket Filling at Home

I am often late to the party, but it’s never too late to make a change for the better as they say. I have been reading for more than a year on various teacher blogs about bucket filling. I try to foster this type of environment in our homeschool and in our home, but I will admit the last 21 months and if I’m being completely honest even before that, the Prez and I have often been surviving and picking up the pieces instead of laying down a solid foundation.


After several very tough battles within our family, various children in various therapies, and just a general feeling of hopelessness mixed with sadness over all that’s been lost, the Prez and I are determined to foster a much more positive vibe in our home. One of the ways we are doing that is with a bucket system. Continue reading


Disney World 2014: On Our Way

I never blogged about our trip to Disney World in February 2014. Now that my blog is all spruced up, I am going to blog … about whatever I want. Since the Prez and I have been talking about going back to Disney World next February, I have been perusing our photos. So, on February 5 and 6, we finished up the packing and loading of the camper for an afternoon departure on February 7. All Disney trips require some staging of the camper: past photos on the walls; Disney-themed toothpaste; band-aids, and spaghettios; and of course Disney movies!Disney2014.1We knew we would stay overnight halfway down, and we found that Georgia rest areas have designated camping spots WITH dump stations and electricity! Continue reading


Turns Out I Don’t Have the Friendless Gene


Read that again. It packs a lot of power in 16 rather simple words, doesn’t it? How often though do we find ourselves trying to go it alone. Trying to be strong. Trying to look like we have it all figured out. Or have it all together. Or know what the heck we’re doing. Or we tell ourselves we should have it all figured out or know what the heck we’re doing, because after all, we reason, we must be really messed up if we don’t have it all figured out or can’t go it alone or can’t put on the image of being strong.






First Day of School 2015

This is our 6th year of homeschooling. Our oldest son Curly is in 10th grade, and I am going to wax on about him for a moment because I rarely do. When we began this journey, he was starting 5th grade. Now I realize his high school years will be over in the blink of an eye. He recently took the ACT for the first time and he scored in the upper 20s! We are all so proud of him, and this was just a “practice” for him. He is very determined to score a 30 next year, and he did say I could put in print that he scored a 32 (out of possible 36) on the English portion. We might have had more than a few heated discussions over the years about the importance of his language studies, but even he admits it has all been worth the hard work.


I’m beyond proud of how hard this young man works and the man he is becoming more of every single day. He loves the Lord and has such a servant heart about him. The Lord could not have placed a more capable, trustworthy, diligent, respectful or loving young man as the oldest child in our family.

Today marked our first day back to school and our first school day ever in the year 2015. I thought it worthy of a post, plus I figured my few readers might be wondering if I was ever coming back. I did toy with the idea of shutting this blog down, but I do love to write and for now this is my platform. I have come full circle in this homeschooling journey especially as of late when I was striving to determine along with my husband the Prez what would be the best decision for our son Mo regarding his schooling. A wise mother and veteran homeschooler told me years ago: “All you really need to teach your children at home is your Bible and a library card.”

And all these years later, I have to say she is right. In truth, all you really need is your Bible, but I will readily admit I love books and my kids do too. This evening, my husband gladly fixed breakfast for supper because I asked him if he would,  so I could take Mo on a little date to the library. He has been asking me to take him for days, and really, what Momma can deny a 12-year-old boy a trip to the library? He chose three books, one he needs for his new on-line language class, and two for pleasure. One of those pleasure reading books is 800 PAGES LONG. Oh, how I’ve missed seeing this boy of ours so excited over reading. 800 PAGES. He was like a kid in a candy store at the library tonight, and what Momma doesn’t love an hour of time alone with one of her children when she has six to spread herself between. Here he is reading his new science text: Apologia General Science. My heart swelled seeing him rocking in the glider under my favorite blanket that he loves to curl up under too! LOVE.


Today, the 3rd graders (and our little PreK tag-a-long) worked on mostly our tutorial classes, which start back on Thursday. Continue reading


Merry Christmas!

To all my friends near and far, friends that I’ve known for years and friends that I’ve just found, to family both near and far, to family we will see this Christmas and to those we will miss, I wish you all a Merry Christmas from our family to yours! And to those who have sent us your beautiful cards, please know I took this task off my to-do list this year.



Why We Don’t Capitalize the Word santa

Insert the groans. Not another post from some ultra-conservative Mom of many about why she and her family don’t play along with the man in the red suit game and the little doll that sits on a shelf. I seriously don’t even get that. I clearly missed that boat.

First, I’m WAY FAR from ultra-conservative. Seriously way far from that.

Second, I don’t capitalize the word santa even though my iPhone tries SO VERY HARD to make me.

Third, our family made the break with the red suit lie many years ago when we brought our first daughter home from China, and we have never—not one time—regretted it or felt our kids had a less-than Christmas.


I could list many reasons, but honestly the ONLY reason for us to make the break is this: IT IS A LIE. A BIG FAT LIE.

For some background: both my husband and I were raised in Christian homes where santa was experienced. We had the nativities, the lights, the tree, and santa. We have many fond memories. My husband’s favorite Christmas memory is the year he was given shiny black boots. He was 4 or so, and he and a neighbor friend met up outside, and so the story goes the neighbor friend must’ve gotten new boots too. The Prez ended up knee-deep in a snowy, mushy, muddy mess and when he was pulled out the boots didn’t come with him. Needless to say he was in some trouble, but I think once the boots were retrieved all was well.

For me, its hard to pick one stand-out. I think for me it was waking up with all four grandparents there to see me and my older sister getting our presents. I remember one year I had asked for this larger-than-life hot wheels garage, and there it was under the tree along with brand-new matchbox cars! I was elated and can still see that garage with orange plastic pillars and cardboard walls.


I don’t know one day what our children may remember about Christmases in our home. I hope they remember good times spent with extended family celebrating the birth of Jesus and making memories with those we hold most dear.

Now I will attempt to tackle why the big lie is not a part of our Christmas celebrations ever.

1. Gifting gifts to our children from santa requires either telling them the truth when they begin to ask questions or lying to them.

Let’s face it. Some kids just put 2 and 2 together, and they will ask. Our 12YO began asking the questions around age 4. And yes, we lied to him to keep the “magic” alive. I will never get over that fact. We lied to our son to propagate a lie.

I can’t even form anything else to say here that I can put on the blog. It is so huge to me as the parent of kids who have been traumatized in so many ways, but everyone doesn’t have that perspective I realize.

2. Not all good children, including four of ours, are visited by santa on Christmas Eve.

I would daresay there are as many children in the United States who find out the hard way—because santa skipped their house due to economic constraints of the parent(s)—that he isn’t real as those who find out from a friend or a parent or walking in on santa activities late at night on Christmas Eve.

What can I say to this? I hear teachers talking about how awful it is that druggie Mom isn’t getting santa gifts and I hear friends bemoaning the fact little Johnnie’s friend told him the truth because his family couldn’t afford to buy fancy gifts from a fake image. Folks, no matter the reason, why propagate a lie at the expense of a little child who has learned early on that it is all a LIE. It doesn’t matter the WHY—orphan, single mom spending money on drugs, single mom working three jobs just to pay the bills, parents who choose not to do santa—but it does matter that the lie is forced on innocent children.

As for our four from China, they all KNEW—even the “baby” who happens to have also been the youngest at adoption at age 23 months—santa was fake and didn’t actually bring gifts to all of the good children in the world. Two of them spent their first four and five Christmases in a Chinese orphanage. I will tell you that fact folks will RIGHT your perspective on the big fat lie. In China, everyone knows he is fake, even the families who celebrate him tell their children it is just a story and the gifts are from them. I like that much better actually.

3. He is an idol to many, and while we aren’t really even getting it done in our own home regarding the real reason behind Christmas, we’re darn sure not gonna add another distraction to this season.

There isn’t room in our home or hearts for two big guys at Christmas. Why do we as Christians do the gifts? I’m not even sure myself, but if I’m going to do them I definitely want them to be a symbol of the Christ who came as a baby and was welcomed with gifts from afar. We do three gifts as well as a symbol of the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

Life has been so hectic with the surgeries and just hard stuff around here that we aren’t reading an advent book, we aren’t doing family devotions and gasp … we haven’t  regularly in a long, long, long while … and who knows when we will again because its not my place to question … but we also aren’t propagating a lie about a man who doesn’t have reindeer who fly and live in the North Pole along with a plump wife and little people with pointy ears.

I will just conclude with this question: what if your insistence that those of us who don’t “do santa” are ruining your child’s Christmas also meant that you were adding to the trauma of a child who learned a long time ago that your santa  didn’t care enough about them to pay them a visit even though they tried to be good in spite of going to bed hungry, afraid, alone, cold and helpless with NO ONE earthly to care for them. Just think on that.


Another Detour: Bringing Our Boy Back Home

Life is a roller coaster, isn’t it. I like a roller coaster on occasion, but I don’t attempt those really intense ones.

Except life can feel like I imagine those twisty and curvy and loop-de-looping roller coasters feel. Last year, I shared in-depth about a decision that had been made to send two of our sons to public middle school at the beginning of this school year. We were optimistic and hopeful and willing.



Just when we exhale and think now I can take a deep breath I get a text saying, Our son has been suspended.

Yeah, I got that text. I was in a meeting of sorts and my phone rang with the school on Caller ID. It rang only once, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Except it was. They called the Prez though and reached him, so I didn’t hear back. Then the text from the Prez came through and I thought, “Well there’s a first time for everything.”

The writing was already on the wall before the suspension. When we were seriously considering sending our boys to the local zoned public school, I did what anyone would do right? I went to Go*ogle. I remember thinking when I found a site where people could rate schools that it couldn’t be that bad.

One reviewer said: When I moved here I thought Little House on the Prairie but what we got was Dangerous Minds without Michelle Pfeifer.

Sadly, I have to say I feel EXACTLY the same way now and I was hoping for Little House on the Prairie as well. In addition to the very low academic expectations at the school, the environment seems to be volatile and on top of that if your parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, etc. didn’t go to the school … well, you’re just a nobody.

Our boys have no friends there. From day one, our 6th grader was told, “We have been friends since 1st grade. We know each other and we don’t know you. Did your grandparents go here because ours did. He’s my 1st cousin and she’s my 2nd cousin and on and on and on.”

We went  to the Open House and met the teachers and passed the already-formed groups in the halls. We went to the Fall Festival in September and NO ONE except a couple of teachers spoke to us. Have you ever been to something like that where there are hundreds of people and its crowded and you feel incredibly lonely? I knew right then how our boys feel every day at the school. They have told us it feels like this in so many words, but then we experienced it. Our 8th grader does have a few kids who seem nice enough to him, but they call him “Ninja” which he really dislikes. He is the only Asian or non-white child in his entire grade.

Have I mentioned how unfriendly the environment is? Oh and the Prez signed up to be on the PTA and you know how many times he’s been to a meeting? NONE, because they said they didn’t need anymore help. YEP. We don’t have the Serenity Fair School bloodline (yes, I made up the name but you get the idea). He kind of joked when he signed up to be a PTA member and paid the annual dues that he doubted they would accept him into their group, but he was hoping to get involved. Saddest part is he would be a great asset to them, but we aren’t in in the inner circle or the outer one for that matter.

One of the reasons our 6th grade son accepted the invitation to meet another 6th grade student the size of an adult man in the bathroom for a fight was to try and put the bullies at bay. He said the two days he was back before Thanksgiving break did prove to be less volatile for him and that the bullies were surprised he stood up to them. He was beaten up pretty good though, and seeing your child with bruises all over their back from punches and kicks from an adult-sized kid when your son is small for his age? It HURTS. Bad.


Can you imagine walking into a new school as a middle schooler and the groups have been formed since kindergarten. To say they have had an uphill battle socially is an understatement. Our 6th grader also isn’t typical neurologically. Finally, after many years of wondering, I was asked by his therapist if I had considered he might have Aspergers. I have suspected he does for years, but when I have asked doctors and others they have assured me he didn’t have the markers or enough of them. It all makes so much sense now, and honestly it is a relief to know why he has some unique struggles in certain areas that frustrate us incredibly. But even more so, they frustrate him.

Our boys have big hearts and they really tried, but in all honesty they never had a chance at the school. I feel the same way about the surrounding community. It is very closed and if you don’t have roots here, you are an outsider. Period. You imagine moving to the country and finding friendly faces and welcoming arms, but in all honesty this is the most standoffish place I’ve ever lived in the South. It is very strange, but at the school it is even more apparent.

At the end of the day, one of the major reasons we chose to try public school was for the boys to experience school in a classroom outside the walls of our home. We also hoped they might make some friends, but that isn’t going to happen. As I type, I reflect on our hopes for them this school year and they’ve all been dashed. I know middle school is hard no matter where you are, but I did have this ideal that this little school in the country with 50 students or less per grade would be a nice transition for them back into public school. Boy, was I ever wrong.

In addition to the mounting social issues, the academics at the school are very inferior. Our 6th grader is incredibly bored and no, there isn’t a gifted program. Our 8th grader has been challenged in some areas, but he could be expected to do much more. They are in science rooms where the lab tables collect dust and house outdated textbooks. They have to share textbooks, so they can’t bring them home to study.

When my husband asked at the first parent-teacher conference why they aren’t doing labs in middle school science, he was told by the coach (I mean, teacher) that “I’ve requested supplies and equipment, but apparently there is no money for it.”I daresay our 8th grader has learned absolutely NOTHING in science this year, compared to  the science text we use in our homeschool, which is very in-depth and hands-on and engaging.

Oh, I could go on and on and on about how the academics pale in comparison to what they were doing, but what is the point? At the end of the day, my husband who made the ultimate decision to send them to school is very disappointed on many levels and he asked me to bring our 6th grader home in January. A big part of me doesn’t want to and I told our 6th grader I wasn’t sure I could do it as he is very resistant to my authority at times, but the thought of him getting beat up again in the school bathroom makes my stomach very upset. How can I leave him there to fight alone against the bullies?

He has had at least 10 teachers for his science and social studies class. Why you ask? Well, the permanent teacher was on medical leave when school started, so they hired a long-time sub. She was there until right before Thanksgiving. She was the ONLY bright spot in his day, and he misses her terribly. She was his homeroom teacher as well as science and social studies. She took interest in him and made some accommodations for him that made his day much more livable. But she’s gone. And since then, he has had multiple substitutes. I don’t even know what to think. Why don’t they hire a teacher??? But instead, each week it is somebody different including the mother of the kid who beat him up in the bathroom. Yep, you read that right. I can’t even comment further on that.

I know this post is super negative and I’m sorry for that. But this has just been building up and our 6th grader will be coming home for good when school finishes for the semester on December 19. He doesn’t even know we’ve made the final decision, but today I woke up and thought this is why I’m here. These kids are my mission field. He is worth it. So with my husband’s 100% support and our son also asking desperately to come back home, we will have 5 students again in our homeschool. Our 8th grade son has asked to finish the school year at this school, and we fully support him in that request. He has said he has no desire to go back there next year, and so it is very probable he will be home schooled again in the fall of 2015.

I have no idea what the future holds and I have had to majorly adjust my expectations and plans for our spring semester of school, and we are making plans for specially tailored coursework for our 6th grader, which will involved a private on-line school, but at the end of the day you just gotta do what you are feeling led to do. And trusting your gut can go a long way as well.


Adoption in Hindsight

November is National Adoption Month, and around the web you may have seen many posts, tweets, status updates, and campaigns promoting adoption. Most of those are about the children who wait, and this is GOOD.

This post though isn’t about that.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who is at the end of her rope.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who feels utterly and hopelessly ALONE.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who has children in circumstances that rip this Momma’s heart in places she thought would be fatal … until she realized her heart had been ripped there.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who has given her all and yet … it isn’t enough.


I used to be much more involved in efforts to advocate for adoption. All out. No matter what. At all costs.

I honestly used to think adoption was the only answer for children who have through no fault of their own found themselves without the presence of their parent(s).

Hindsight as they say is 20/20.

In looking back and thinking about all our family has been through the past 6 years and 2 months since the adoption of our first of what would be four adopted children, I am challenged to share honestly about life as the mother of six children—two by birth and four by adoption.


Our family has been immensely blessed by adoption and our family has also been immensely challenged by the individual struggles and traumas our adopted children have endured.

This post will not be about our children’s traumas or their struggles. I cringe when I see some of the personal information that is all too often shared, and I shudder at times when I think of what these children may feel when they one day realize their adoptive mother or father has shared very private information in the name of education or awareness or {gasp} as some form of self-serving therapeutic release. Continue reading