Cultivate Learning

Children are born with an innate desire to explore, discover and learn about the world around them. It is a joy to behold and it is our goal to foster this love of learning and equip our children with the tools they will need to enjoy this life-long process of learning. There are several ways, that I want to do this…

Making it a Lifestyle:

Thankfully, learning is not relegated to merely the children. Learning is not only for children, but for all of us. As we actively participate in the learning process our lives become characterized by a lifestyle of learning. It is truly a family affair!

Developmentally Appropriate:

While we are all wired to learn, young children’s brains are wired differently than an older child or adult brain. Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Rudolf Steiner, Raymond Moore in addition to countless modern developmental psychologists are all in agreement that how a child learns in the first 7 or so years is fundamentally different than for older children. They learn best primarily through play and in a more holistic, experience based way.

We live in a culture that is focused on producing ‘super-kids’ and there is incredible pressure to introduce formal academics in order to give your child an edge. Not only is there no research to back up this focus on formal academics in the early years, there is considerable evidence that it can indeed harm a child and crush their ability and interest in learning.


Each child is unique. What works for one child, might not work for another. Taking an individualistic approach to education can really go a long way to engaging them in the learning process and helping them to succeed!


“Without experiences, there are no concepts. Without concepts there is no attention. Without attention, they don’t know what you are talking about.”

~Jane Healy in Endangered Minds

Making learning hands-on helps in retaining information you are learning. Finding ways to get my children’s bodies involved, especially for my boys at this young age are vital. For some children (I was one of those) this hands on, whole-body approach is needed throughout their formal schooling years.

Below I’ve collected articles and resources that have been helpful as I navigate the exciting process of cultivating a love of learning in my children and myself!

Philosophy and Science of Education

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School

This is one of those ‘wow’ books that really helped solidify my vision for a holistic approach to education and life in general! I reviewed it here.

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About ItThis is the book that got me started on my fascination with the science of how children learn. I even explored the option of going back to grad school to pursue this further… (Back in my post homeschool student, post biology undergraduate and pre-kid stage of life!) The review from amazon sums it up quite succinctly saying that this book is “a fascinating exploration of today’s much-deplored decline in school achievement….[Healy] clearly conveys the relationship between language, learning, and brain development, then explains why television viewing and present-day lifestyles sabotage language acquisition, thinking, and personal success. “

A Way to Holistically Homeschool

Thoughts on the Theology of the Child and how it relates to homeschooling and life.

Education vs. Regurgitation

Sow What? Seeds That Yield a Whole Mind

Reading Readiness

Reading Readiness Activities Download this list of ways to help your Pre-reader and Emerging reader be set to make the leap into fluent reading.

Teaching Our Children to Read, Write and Spell: A Developmental Approach. Written by a Behavioral and Developmental Pediatritian.  She explains how the brain is wired and what needs to be in place for reading readiness and decreasing risks of later learning/reading problems.

Teaching Our Children to Read, Write and Spell, Part IIWhy Johny Doesn’t Like to Read – Interesting article on the pitfalls of the whole language (meaning-based or sight word reading) approach.

Dyslexia and the Connection to Whole-Language Instruction. Many programs under the guise of ‘including’ phonics still have a lot of whole word instruction and have children memorizing lists of sight words.  This excellent article calls for a return to extensive, intensive phonics and avoiding confusing the brain with sight reading.

Reading Comprehension: Constructing vs. Extracting Meaning ~ An article which makes the case for explicit over implicit phonics instruction.

Recent research showing no advantage to early reading instruction.

A must-have for every mother of young children: 30 amazing finger plays and preschool songs right at your fingertips!


Preschool Skills Checklist

Much Too Early! Renowned child psychologist, David Elkind, addresses the dangers of pushing young children into formal academics too early.
Teaching Academics in Preschool and Kindergarten? Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician responds to the early push of academics.

Finding Balance in a Hurried World  A great article that asks some great questions as parents pursue what and how much formal academics to do with young children.

Fun and Engaging Activities for Toddlers


Kindergarten Skills Checklist

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School  An intriguing article put out by the Alliance for Childhood.

Reclaiming Kindergarten: Making Kindergarten Less Harmful to Boys Not a homeschooling article, but a fascinating look at the research involving early, formal, ‘at a desk’ academics and boys at this age.  Well worth a read if you are the parent of young boys or one of those very active girls!

Teaching Academics in Preschool and Kindergarten? Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician responds to the early push of academics.

High School

Transcripts – Simple and Effective

Learning by Doing

Laughter and Movement: Fertilizer for the Brain

Curriculum I Use

Here’s what atypical” day looks like in our home.

Here’s our Curricula for this 2013-14


KONOS  A fabulous multi-level, hands-on unit study curriculum for k-8th grade!  It focuses on learning thru the 5 D’s – discovery, dramatization, doing, dialogue and finally drill.  According to co-author Jessica Hulcy, KONOS makes “the whole idea of school and learning becomes blurred with play. Imagination just takes over.”

Spring 2013- Also using Apologia’s Astronomy alongside our KONOS unit.

For First and Third Grade:


Spell to Write and Read by Wanda Sanseri.  This is a comprehensive, multi-sensory COMPLETE phonics program that teaches reading through spelling.  I love how it fully equips the child to decode ANY word from the get-go.  The English language is more than 95% phonetic and once you have the right tools, children can read just about anything.    My time and money is limited.  I love how it incorporates handwriting, spelling, reading and basic grammar instruction into one and it spans from kindergarten up through highschool!   There is a learning curve to get started (for mom), but it is so easy once you get going.  There is also a great yahoo group that provides so much support and information. Great review here.  The only extra thing you need to order is either a primary learning log (k-2) or a black learning log (3grade+), plus an extra learning log for the parent.

Cursive First (Rationale from the book found here.)We made the switch to cursive this year and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  This program is very developmentally appropriate and provides a multi-sensory approach to learning cursive first that utilizes gross-motor movements first before moving to the fine motor movement of utilizing a pencil and paper.  The sandpaper letters that go with this set are phenomenal too!  Excellent article by Sam Blumenfeld on why to teach cursive first.

For 3rd Grade:

McCall-Crabb Test Lessons in Reading – We do these three times a week!


  1. kelly phipps says:

    Hi Heather! I am a newblet homeschool mom of one 3 year old boy and a 6 month old boy. I just read the info on your link here,, and it definitately has me thinking. My question for you is what did/do you do with this age group (pre-school)? Do you not work on ABC or 123’s at all yet? I think lots more play and open-ended art and creativity are things I need to make sure they get, but what to do about the academic parts? anything yet?

    • Kelly, I’m so sorry I missed this earlier. I didn’t focus efforts in the early years on ABC’s and 123’s. Agreeing with tons of research out there, I found it far more effective to encourage creativity, imagination and build their vocabulary. When my oldest was in the preschool stage, I did a lot to create a rich home environment – brought them into the kitchen with me. As we cooked together, they learned all of their counting as well as basic addition and subtraction skills. They just didn’t realize it. I also brought a lot of great books into my home. I’d find things that I thought would interest him and we’d do a little unit study based around it. I kept all of my notes and hope to get a couple of preschool unit studies out this next year that will work to ignite their imagination. In the context of stories and games we explored sounds {phonemic awareness} and counting, but it was not the primary focus.

      Studies have shown that one of the biggest precursors to academic success later on is the size of their vocabulary. That is built through reading lots of great books and interactions with us as parents. Encouraging them to move a lot does so much to get the wiring in place in their brains that will also pave the way to launching into formal academics/skill acquisition when they are a little bit older.

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