Tea Time with Annie Kate Rotating Header Image

Competition and the Homeschooled Teen


One disadvantage of homeschooling is that there is no competition.  Our teens often have no idea where they stand in comparison to other teens, so they have no idea what they are really good at.  And it turns out that Mom’s opinion about these things does not always carry that much weight.

When Miss 16 was invited to a weeklong math seminar for doing very well on a math competition, she was surprised.  When we looked up the seminar on Google and found it was for ‘math whiz kids’ she was astonished.

No matter how many times I had told her she was good at math, no matter how often I would point out that she doing very well, she always thought  I was ‘just being  positive’.

I think this is partly because we use a challenging math curriculum and because math, therefore, is not an ‘easy subject’ for her.   As my husband tells her, “All hard problems seem impossible until you have solved them.  Then most of them seem trivial.”  Neither of these situations allows a student to make a valid judgement of his or her abilities in the same way that knowing one’s standing in a class of 30 does.

I have had similar scenarios with other children.  Just because I insist on polished, proofread essays, does not mean that the teen cannot write; it just means that the teen has not bothered to proofread the essay.

There is also the other side:  Some teens think they are doing very well when actually they are not.  Again, comparison with a group of peers is missing, and Mom’s opinion just does not seem to carry enough weight.

Competition and comparison can give our teens a more realistic view of how well they are doing.  At home, they miss that, and this is one of the few significant disadvantages of homeschooling.

Of course, it is possible to work around this problem in various ways.

In our family we occasionally get our teens involved in competitions.  It helps them to stretch themselves, it helps them to gain an objective idea of their aptitudes, and, if they do well, it looks great on their high school records.  We also have them take the SAT test, but it, unfortunately, does not really reflect how well they know any particular subject.

Other families use co-ops, online courses, and other sources of outside marks.  Whatever methods a family uses is irrelevant, so long as homeschooled teens do have an objective way to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for their future.

This post is linked to Finishing Strong and Trivium Tuesdays as well as the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Weekly Wrap Up

In our life this week

We sold a few books at the homeschool book sale last week, and we bought a few.  Both financially and space-wise, we came out ahead, so that is good.

The youngest girls each got a medal in a judo tournament.  We have very few tournaments nearby, so participating was a special treat for them.

On Monday we had summery weather and went for a muddy walk, frightening an enormous flock of geese.  On the way to ‘our’ rapids, Miss 11 almost bumped into a porcupine!  Fortunately the dog did not notice it.

Our teens’ weekly catechism classes have ended for the year, and they will miss them.  They always look forward to Tuesday evenings.

In our homeschool

Miss 16 had a successful week with steady progress.

Miss 13, with a sore neck from the judo tournament and a sore head from soccer, was not able to concentrate on her schoolwork very well.  Even so, she did manage to move ahead.

Miss 11 worked hard but was tempted by two things:  the outdoors and the guitar.  Although her hands are too small to play chords, she has taught herself to play many songs using individual notes.  This week she often played until her fingers were too sore to continue.

And Mr. 18 was home all week, studying for his university exams.

In our gluten free kitchen… Sausages. Crepes. Salads. Strawberries. Ham pasta.  Eggs.  Apple crisp.  Hot cross buns.  Oatmeal scones.  Lots of vegetables.  Breaded chicken.  Chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherry pie filling.  Potato-ham soup.  And, for Easter, corn bread, cheese cake and pear pie.

In our garden

The first planting of the season was creeping thyme on our dry, sandy septic hill.  Thyme can deal with drought much better than grass can, and it smells delightful.  I spread 30,000 seeds and hope that 10% of them germinate.

Miss 11 and I started tomatoes, peppers, leeks, basil, cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias inside, and the flowers began to come up within just a few days.

The crocuses have almost finished blooming, and two weeks ago they were still under a foot of snow!

We’re beginning the spring garden clean up.  We had covered the garlic bed with asparagus plants, and now that the garlic is coming up I took the ‘asparagus blanket’ off.  We also removed dead flower stalks.  In the vegetable garden we discovered that some of the spinach overwintered successfully and is ready to eat!

Next week I hope to clean up the vegetable garden and start the early things like spinach, carrots, onions, and so on.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Phone calls with my husband who is away visiting his parents and siblings.
  • A visit from Miss 21.
  • Walking.
  • Hanging out with the kids.

Questions/thoughts I have…  How on earth did/do the wives of ocean-going sailors manage? My husband has been away a lot in the last two weeks, and that just takes the shine out of life.

Fitness… This week was so busy that I forgot to record my steps.  They averaged to less than 10,000 a day, though, and I forgot about the physio exercises most days.  Oh well.  In other health news:  I no longer need to sleep more than 10 hours a day as I did this crazy busy winter, which is a real blessing, but sometimes it seems as though I still spend an awful lot of time in bed.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Homeschooling.
  • Starting the seedlings and cleaning up the gardens.
  • Sprucing up the house by getting new pillow covers and making sunny tablecloths (with Miss 11’s help)
  • Writing out reviews and articles.

I’m reading… Mark. I finished Pure Love, a series of sonnets based on the Song of Solomon, and We All Fall Down, a youth book about 9/11.  I’m still reading The 40 Most Influential Christians, and have begun to reread Whatever Happened to Penny Candy and The Death of Adam.  The latter is one of my favorite books.

Reading Aloud… We’re taking a break from Jeremiah to read about Christ’s death and resurrection from Luke.  We’re also still working on Volume 5 of In de Zoete Suikerbol, the Kids Can Press French and English Word Book, and Young People’s History of the Church. 

I’m grateful for …. Sleep, and not needing quite so much of it.

Quote or link to share….   From earlier this week: Easter Thoughts for Every Day.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up .

Review: Say Good Bye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

Say-Goodbye to survival mode

Having been a mom for over two decades, I have experienced survival mode intimately several times. Everyone is susceptible to becoming overwhelmed—too busy and too tired to have any hope that things can ever improve—but there’s something about being a mom that seems to invite this condition.

One mom who has overcome survival mode is Crystal Paine.  In Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, she shares 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep more, and Restore your Passion for Life.  Having gone through post-partum depression, financial stress, and burn out herself, Crystal lets us peek into her world as she realized that she was destroying her own life by trying to do it all.  She learned to stop and to focus only on the best. That is truly the key to learning to thrive.

But of course, ‘focus on the best’ is not a very hands-on piece of advice.  So Crystal gives checklists for figuring it out what ‘the best’ is for us right now.  Then she gets practical and talks about goals and the value of cultivating small, daily habits that can change our lives.  Of course, since she is the Money Saving Mom she discusses being intentional with money, too.  She also outlines her struggles and solutions with regards to household management.  Personally, I think that when we’re meeting goals in all these areas, we’ve made our life a whole lot more peaceful already.

But of course, life happens.  Goals do not always get met even if we work at them, and a ‘perfect’ life can fall apart in an instant.  So, what if we feel like a failure?  Many women struggle with negative self-image and can talk themselves into feeling like losers although everyone else admires them.  In fact, Crystal tells the story of reading the blog of a supermom and wishing she could be like her; then she was shocked to discover that the supermom she envied wanted to be like her!

Life lived for oneself is not only wrong but is also very empty. Crystal encourages the barely surviving person that he or she can make a difference to others.  It does not take a lot of money or time or energy to brighten someone’s day, and it can make our own more cheerful too.

All these ideas will help us to say goodbye to survival mode, but there’s one more aspect of life that we moms often have trouble with: taking care of ourselves.  From bitter experience, Crystal points to the importance of finding time for Bible reading and prayer, of focusing on our husbands, of emphasizing friendships, and of physical self-care such as rest, relaxation, healthy eating, reading, and fun.  I would not call some of these ‘self care’, but I agree with Crystal that they are crucial to life.

Did Crystal say anything really new in this book?  Not at all, but she packaged it in her own enthusiastic, transparent style.  If you like the inspirational posts she writes on MoneySavingMom.com, you’ll love this book.

This book has meant a lot to me.  With better health, many new opportunities, and only three children now left in our homeschool, I have been trying to re-evaluate the things I do.  So, although I am not in survival mode, Crystal’s book is becoming a theme of my year as I ponder goals, habits, routines, failures, and how God wants me to serve him.

If you, like me, thrive on the occasional Christian motivational book and want to make sure your daily activities and choices are wise, you will enjoy Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.  And if you are in survival mode, you probably desperately need it.  I highly recommend this book and wish you God’s blessing as you ponder how to live your life wisely to God’s honor rather than just surviving it.


For some other views on the issue of thriving, I highly recommend Balanced by Tricia Goyer, Pilgrimage by Lynn Austin, and One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (links are to my reviews).  Balanced is a God-centered book about trusting God to know what is best for us, finding our center in Him, and realizing that the overarching goal of our life is Jesus, not all our other goals or even balance itself.  Pilgrimage brings Biblical comfort and encouragement to the hearts of women facing unwanted change.  And One Thousand Gifts shows, with heartrending honesty, that the path through despair and deep questioning is gratitude.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and is also linked to Saturday ReviewsWorks For Me Wednesday , Raising Homemakers.

Disclosure I received a free review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in order to share my honest opinions.

Easter Thoughts for Every Day

100_4084 (375x500)

I am reading through Easter week in the Bible and with Ann Voskamp, relearning with my heart and mind why Christ came:  to save us from our sins and from all the misery that sin has brought into the world.

And I want to give thanks for this, and to teach my children to do so, in words of prayer and in actions of gratitude.

So, in the midst of this broken world, full of tearful mysteries, we fill our minds with God’s Word.  That’s where the answers are, the answers to our questions about living, choices, decisions, and disasters.  That’s also where the questions are, for the Psalms give words to our struggles, those we’ve lived with and even those that we have not yet faced.  And they teach us to give thanks.

So, there it is.  The Bible, God’s Word, is a primer on living, on gratitude, and on living gratefully.

But sometimes, when we are overwhelmed and foggy-minded because of inner struggles—just sometimes—we need a summary, something simple enough to remember in the midst of Satan’s onslaughts.

Something Biblical and straightforward, like this quote on our bulletin board:

1.When in doubt, don’t.

2.Be where you are supposed to be,

when you are supposed to be there,

doing what you are supposed to be doing.

(from  Courageous Living)

Or something all-encompassing, like the Heidelberg Catechism, which pours God’s comfort and healing and truth into our lives.

Yes, occasionally we need something else, not to replace the Bible, but to show us how to hold onto it.

Because God is good.  No matter what happens. This is what Good Friday and Easter tell us: God is good, incredibly good, to us.

This post is linked to  Works For Me Wednesday , Raising Homemakers.

Review: Cartier Finder of the St. Lawrence by Ronald Syme

Cartier Finder of the St. Lawrence

Young Jacques Cartier, fishing the Grand Banks of Newfoundland with his father, was curious about the land he saw westward, but no one else was interested.  They just wanted to catch cod and go home.

When Cartier grew up and became captain on his own ship, he no longer wanted to fish in the cold North Atlantic.  Instead, he headed to Brazil to make his fortune.  He made very little money, but word of his excellent seamanship reached the ears of Count Brion-Chabot, High Admiral of France.

Brion-Chabot was looking for someone to explore the new world for France, and Cartier seemed an excellent choice. So, in 1534, Jacques Cartier dusted off his old dream and sailed across the ocean, past the old fishing grounds, with two sixty-ton schooners.  His goal was to find a waterway across the new world and to report on the land he explored.

In three separate voyages, Cartier mapped the St. Lawrence, got to know the Indians, and learned how to survive harsh winters.  He made great discoveries and enormous mistakes, claimed the land that became Canada for France, and was eventually rewarded with a pension by King Francis I.

Cartier's Voyages

This well-written, appealingly-illustrated book is best for grades 4-8.  I read it aloud to my girls (11 and 13) as part of our Canadian History studies and it was as well-received as a novel.  We have enjoyed every Ronald Syme history book we’ve read; if you find one at a second hand sale, it is probably worth getting.

This is one of the books we use in our multi-year, literature-based Canadian History course.

Other resources about this time, with links to my blog posts:

Disclosure:  We found this book at a used book sale and I am not compensated for writing this review.

This post is linked to Finishing Strong and Trivium Tuesdays as well as the Carnival of Homeschooling.