Category Archives: Homeschool

Fifty Years of Blessing

This is my 11-year-old’s first publication, recently sold to Encounter Magazine. It’s in celebration of my parents’ upcoming 50th anniversary. So proud of my son and thankful for my parents’ marriage!


On July 18, 2015, Grandma and Grandpa had their 50th anniversary celebration. Although their real anniversary is December 21, we had their party at the Sanders Family Reunion since we were all there.

We all gathered on the steps of the Edgewater Plantation antebellum house while Grandma and Grandpa rode to the party facility that was shaped like a boat. They were driven up the long drive in a horse and buggy, with a sign that said, “Just married 50 years ago.” After a feast of catfish, boiled shrimp, hush puppies, and fries, we toasted their 50 years. We ended the evening with joking, laughter, and dancing.

Over the years, I’ve watched Grandpa love his wife as Christ loves the church, and I’ve seen Grandma submit to her husband as to the Lord. I plan to model my life and marriage after Grandma and Grandpa because of their faith in God and commitment to one another.

My To-Do List for the New Homeschool Year

Now that August has rushed in and the new school year looms large, I desperately need my homeschool checklist to ward off panic mode. I thought I’d share my list in case it might help you out as well. Don’t forget to put that wonderful little checkmark by each item as you complete it!  free-school-clip-art-123786


___ Join/renew membership to HSLDA.

___ Get assessments/portfolios done from last school year. In Columbus, Home on the Rock can help you prepare for notification. For non-Ohioans, check with HSLDA for your state’s requirements.

___ File/store last year’s school stuff.

___ Sort out old curriculum. Sell/give away what you won’t need again (Consider using Ebay, Craigslist, or The Homeschooler’s Curriculum Swap). Store what you will need in future years. Don’t forget to look through what you bought at those used curriculum sales in June so you don’t buy it again.

___ Order curriculum. My favorites are Rainbow Resource (free freight for $50!), Amazon (free shipping on most orders over $35), and Ebay (compare prices before bidding!).


___ Prepare your letter of intent to home school and intended curriculum lists for each child. Here’s a form for Ohioans. (Again, check HSLDA for other state’s requirements).

___ Check the superintendents list or your local school district webpage so you can plan when to send your notification packet. Make sure you get the right address! Plan to send the packet by certified mail 2-3 days before the school district start date. Don’t forget to keep copies for yourself.

___ Clean out school room/desks/bookshelves/computer areas.

___ Buy school supplies for the year (while they’re on sale!)

___ Set up school space.

___ Prepare record-keeping materials (Homeschool Tracker, grade books/programs, lesson plan books/programs).


___ Clean the rest of the house.

___ Prepare lesson plans for the first couple weeks of school.

___ Print worksheets, projects, etc., including copies of notification materials to keep with you until your letter arrives from your school district.

___ Run errands.

___ Do grocery shopping.

___ Do laundry.

___ Make lists of daily schedules for each child.

___ Make a chore chart for the children.

___ Remember to send your notification packet by certified mail 2-3 days before school starts for your district!

Happy schooling!

Cover Reveal: The Trojan Horse Traitor

I’m excited to unveil the cover for The Trojan Horse Traitor, my YA fantasy novel about homeschooler Levi Prince, set to release in late 2015 from Hallway Publishing.


Here’s the blurb for The Trojan Horse Traitor:

Left on Castle Island by his parents to attend Camp Classic, Levi Prince finds himself at the center of an enchanted world of amazing abilities, cloudy motives, and wicked beings that will challenge his very spirit. He begins to form friendships, but life at camp becomes more confusing as questionable activities and uncertain agendas bring about conflict that tests his character in ways he never expected. Finally, faced with a friend’s betrayal, Levi is forced to confront true evil. Will he find the courage to stand his ground, and to become the hero he was always meant to be?

Whitewashed Giveaway

I’m giving away 3 paperback copies of Whitewashed, my Christian suspense novel about 18-year-old homeschooler Patience McDonough. For more information about Whitewashed, please visit my On the Brink page.FC---Whitewashed (3)

While you’re here, please take a minute to check out my blogs. On the Homeschool page, you’ll find information about my other novels and some free study guide downloads. On the Pastor’s Wife page, you’ll find my tips for the rookie pastor’s wife.

On the left-hand column, you’ll find a spot to sign up to receive my latest blogs straight to your inbox. You can also follow me on Facebook  and on Twitter.

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of Whitewashed! This giveaway runs from May 25th through June 22nd. After you visit my Facebook page and/or follow me on Twitter, be sure to return to this page and mark “I visited” on the Rafflecopter box to complete your entry!

Or, if you want your copy of Whitewashed now, follow this link to Amazon. Whitewashed is available in both print and ebook.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Coming in February: Colorblind



Guess what? I just signed the contract for Colorblind, the second book in my On the Brink Christian suspense series!



Here’s a blurb about Colorblind:

Eighteen-year-old homeschooler Christy Kane has always been her daddy’s princess, and her dream has long been to use her musical talents as children’s music leader for his nationally known mega-church. Her first day on the job as music intern, the media shatter her world with news of her daddy’s affair with the church preschool director. Christy feels like God betrayed her as surely as her daddy did.

When her mom sends her to Buckeye Lake, Ohio, to help Aunt Jo, a relative Christy didn’t know existed, with her School of Music and Dance, Christy’s problems only increase. She’s expected to spend every day in the rebuilt Pier Ball Room, which sits on Buckeye Lake itself, and Christy is terrified of water. In addition, she and a handful of semi-talented volunteers who have underlying antagonisms she doesn’t understand are expected to prepare a professional-quality performance for the Grand Reopening of the Pier Ball Room on August 7th, with the added pressure of knowing Aunt Jo will lose the ball room if they fail.

Christy finds a diary written by Lillian, a girl who lived in Buckeye Lake ninety years earlier. Christy is intrigued by Lillian’s world in 1920s Buckeye Lake, when thousands came to play at the amusement parks and dance in the ball rooms. But soon Christy’s interest turns to concern as events from Lillian’s diary happen in Christy’s world, ninety years to the day after they occurred the first time.

Between her shattered family, her uncertain future, and her bizarre present, Christy doesn’t know where to turn. Will God rescue her?


If you haven’t yet read Whitewashed, the first On the Brink book, pick up your copy on Amazon today. FC---Whitewashed (3)



Whitewashed Is Now Available

My new adult suspense novel, Whitewashed, has released! It’s available in both paperback and Kindle editions through Amazon, as well as in paperback through Mantle Rock Publishing. Here are the buy links:

Whitewashed in paperback on Amazon

Whitewashed in Kindle on Amazon

Whitewashed in paperback on Mantle Rock

FC---Whitewashed (3)


Here’s the blurb about Whitewashed:

Eighteen-year-old Patience McDonough has a plan. Despite her parents’ objections, she will attend Verity College in Hades, Mississippi, and live with her grandparents. She’ll complete her degree in record time and go on to become a doctor. But things at the college are strangely neglected, her class work is unexpectedly hard, Grand gets called out-of-town, and Poppa starts acting weird—so weird she suspects he has Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has to work extra hours at her student job inputting financial data for the college—boring! But soon her job gets more interesting than she’d like: she finds that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and that something creepy is going on in the Big House basement. She discovers secrets tying her family into the dark beginnings of Verity, founded on a slave plantation, and she is forced to question the characters of people she has always trusted. Finally, confronted with a psychotic killer, Patience has to face facts—her plans are not necessarily God’s plans. Will the truth set her free?

The Gift

My son sold the following story to Encounter-The Magazine. It will appear in the Fall, 2015.

The gift. It was a small thing in one sense. She did stuff like this all the time. But it wasn’t a small thing. It is mine only because of her kindness.

It was just another Wednesday night. I was going to a program they had at Southside Baptist Church where they taught music for free. We drove into the German Village area, where most buildings are made of brick and the streets are so thin that you can barely fit one car and yet people still park on the street. We pulled into the parking lot a few minutes early as always. I got out of the car and grabbed my old student violin. I walked across the parking lot and down the concrete steps into the church. Inside the cacophony of sounds hit me as always. I heard banjoes being tuned and guitars being strummed, mandolins being plucked and violins being bowed. I put my case down on the pew and opened it. I pulled out my old violin. I tightened my bow and walked into the back room where lessons were held. Inside the room sat three or four different people, including Mary, an older lady who had been coming for a few months. She always brought a different violin. I grabbed a chair and sat down. I noticed a violin case sitting in the middle of the room.

“Go ahead and play it,” said Mary. I set down my student violin carefully and opened the case. I took off the cover and took out the (3)

“It’s beautiful,” I said, and it was. The body was slim and perfectly formed. The neck was a little wider than some, but also thin. The varnish was a deep, rusty red, and the back had the stripes that I’ve always admired on the good violins. I took up my bow and began to play a sweet sad tune called ‘Ashokan Farewell.’ The violin had a tender sound in my hands as I played. Each note sounded so much more beautiful than on my own violin.

After I finished Mary spoke. “This is a Hoff violin. It was factory made in nineteen hundred. It was pretty badly damaged when I found it. I pretty much had to glue it all back together.” Mary smiled at me. “And it’s yours.”

I was shocked. This was completely unexpected. It was a work of art. It was an impossible gift. It was so generous of her to do this for me.

“Thank you,” I said. It was all I could say. “Thank you so much.”

Now several years later I still play that violin, though I now play it under a Doctor of Music in a classical setting, rather than at a church in a group of beginners. Even today I’m still astounded by her kindness to me, giving me the violin. It’s a gift that I didn’t earn, a free gift. It was one the greatest gifts of my life.

Of course, there is a greater gift that I was given. Another gift I didn’t deserve; another ridiculous and wondrous gift. A gift that cost much more. A gift that cost the life of the Man who gave the gift. A Man that didn’t give me a temporal gift, but an eternal gift. A gift of eternal life with Him. It is the greatest gift of my life. It is the greatest gift.images (1)

Meet My Character–Patience McDonough

This week I’m participating in a blog hop tour, an opportunity for authors to introduce a character from their recent or upcoming novels. I was invited by Carrie Anne Noble, winner of this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Young Adult category. I met Carrie at a writer’s conference last year. Carrie’s YA fantasy, The Mermaid’s Sister, will be released February 24, 2015, by Skyscape Publishing. I can’t wait to read it! You can pre-order The Mermaid’s Sister on Check out Carrie’s blog at at

And now…meet Patience McDonough.FC---Whitewashed (3)

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?  Patience McDonough is a fictional character.

2) When and where is the story set?  Most of the story occurs at Verity College in a fictional town called Hades, Mississippi, in June-July, 2014. The historical parts occur at Heaven on Earth Plantation (which becomes Verity College) in June-July, 1864. 

3) What should we know about him/her? A life-long homeschooler, eighteen-year-old Patience is completely impatient. Despite her parents’ objections that she’s earned the grades to go to school anywhere, she’s decided to attend Verity College and live in Hades, Mississippi, with her grandparents. She plans to fast-track her degree and become a doctor ASAP.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Patience’s big plans are threatened from the beginning. Besides her horrible first day, she finds that Verity is really rundown, just as her parents feared. Poppa acts so weird she fears he has Alzheimer’s. Patience has to work a ridiculous amount of hours inputting data from Verity’s ancient paper files into their new computers (their first ever!). She quickly falls behind in her schoolwork, something she’s never done before in her life. On top of that, she suspects somebody of stealing millions from the college. Oh, and a psychopath wants to kill her.

 5) What is the personal goal of the character? Patience wants to become a doctor like her grandpa McDonough, one who cares for the whole person, not just his/her physical symptoms.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? Whitewashed is the first novel in my three-book On the Brink YA suspense series that follows three homeschooled friends as they step out into adulthood. Check out the On the Brink page of my website to read more.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?  Whitewashed released February 15, 2015, from Mantle Rock Publishing. It is available on Amazon in both Kindle and print formats.

I’ve invited Tamera Lynn Kraft to continue the blog hop tour:

Tamera Lynn Kraft writes Christian historical fiction. She’ll be telling about her novella A Christmas Promise, published by Pelican Book Group and available at, and

You can contact Tamera online at these sites: Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.comFacebook:

Crown of Righteousness: A Short Story

images (1)Josiah’s chair clattered to the floor, and he shot from the kitchen like a stone from a sling. He reached the far side of the yard before the screen door popped against its frame. Too upset to heed his dad’s calls, Josiah raced down the path through the woods. Shadows deepened with dusk, but he didn’t slow. He knew this path so well he could find his way in pitch darkness, but how many more times would he follow it? A writhing, churning ache began in the pit of his stomach.

Minutes later, his chest rising and falling in violent heaves, Josiah tore into Uncle Peter’s yard. He raced down the path lined with Aunt Mary’s tulips, thriving despite her death the previous spring. Soft mooing came from the barn behind the house. His feet pounded up the blue-painted wooden steps illumined by the circle of light pouring from the kitchen window. Without knocking, Josiah burst through and halted beside the small table where Uncle Peter and Baby Sarah sat eating supper.

“Well, hello, Josiah.” If Uncle Peter was surprised he’d crashed in on them, his face didn’t show it. Instead he smiled, stood, and pulled out the third chair—Aunt Mary’s seat. “Join us.”

Sarah banged her spoon on the high chair tray and grinned, her small teeth gleaming. “’Siah!”

Josiah couldn’t help but smile at his motherless little cousin. “Hi, Sarah.” He patted her blonde curls, still damp from a bath.

“Hungry?” Uncle Peter crossed to the stove and lifted the lid of a pot filled with macaroni and wieners.

“No, sir. Thank you.” With what felt like rattlers coiled in his gut, there was no way he could eat. Besides, he wouldn’t take their little bit of food, especially not now. Josiah sank into the seat beside his cousin, who’d just turned one a few weeks before. He sighed as his dad’s announcement at their own supper table replayed in his mind. “Peter’s losing his place.”

He caught his uncle’s eye. “What are you going to do?”

Uncle Peter put the lid back on the pot and moved to the table. His broad shoulders drooped as he sank into the chair, but he smiled at Sarah, who rounded her blue eyes at him and squealed “’Siah!” again, as though to inform her daddy of Josiah’s visit.

“Yes, Sarah. Your big cousin came to see us.” He kissed her forehead then scooped some macaroni onto her spoon before answering Josiah’s question. “We’ll be fine. We’re moving in with Grandpa, aren’t we, sweet girl?” He looked at Sarah again.

The baby jabbered something about “Papa” and let out a giggle.

Josiah felt a hot stinging behind his eyelids. It wasn’t right. First Aunt Mary and now this. “They can’t do it.” He gestured toward the spotless kitchen and the happy baby. He couldn’t keep the anger from his voice. “You work hard. It’s not fair.”

“Josiah.” The single word was a warning: it wasn’t the proper time to discuss the situation, not in front of little Sarah.

Josiah released a long breath and mumbled, “Sorry.”

Uncle Peter’s smile softened the rebuke. “Why don’t you come and help me with the cows in the morning? Grandpa’s driving over to play with Sarah.”

The little girl gurgled something at his words, and Josiah nodded. The writhing snakes in his stomach would just have to stay there awhile longer. But he was going to figure out a way for Uncle Peter and Sarah to keep their home.

imagesJosiah straggled from bed as the sun peeked over the horizon. He scrubbed at his gritty eyes. Had he slept even an hour? Before bed, he’d talked with his dad about Uncle Peter’s dilemma, but that hadn’t helped. Josiah still burned to make the bank see things his way.

He threw on some clothes and snagged a piece of bread on his way out. His parents had agreed he could help Uncle Peter this morning instead of caring for his usual chores. Josiah emerged from the path into his uncle’s yard just as he walked from the barn with the Widow Thomas. Josiah moved behind a tree and peeped out at the pair.

“Here you go. I hope this helps.” Uncle Peter handed the woman a good-sized pitcher.

Her grin revealed gaps in her teeth, and she reached up a gnarled hand to pat his cheek. “Thank you. You’re a good man.”

Uncle Peter smiled and dipped his head. “You’re welcome, ma’am. Glad to do what I can.”

She hobbled away cradling the pitcher to her chest.

Josiah shook his head. How many times had he witnessed such a scene? Maybe if Uncle Peter didn’t give away milk to anybody who needed it, he wouldn’t be losing his dairy farm.

The rattlers in Josiah’s stomach began to bite as he watched his uncle go back into the barn. Josiah stalked after him. He passed through the cool, bright milk house to the milking parlor and peered around for his uncle. There he was, hooking up his favorite Jersey cow to the milking machine.

Josiah waited in silence until he finished then said, “Why’d you give her free milk?” He heard the accusation in his voice and added, “Sir.”

Uncle Peter’s sigh joined the gentle wheezing pulse of the milking machine. “Because she needed it. God’s Word says to help the widows and orphans.”

“But what about Sarah? She’s an orphan.”

Uncle Peter’s look speared him. “She has plenty of milk. I see to that.”

Josiah grunted then whirled to snatch up a shovel. “How can you keep a home for her if you give away your profits?”

“I won’t turn away someone in need, Josiah.” Uncle Peter’s voice was firm. He turned to check the Jersey.

Josiah crossed through to the nearest stall and began scooping manure. The acrid, earthy scent reminded him this place wouldn’t be his uncle’s much longer. “What if you ask the bank for more time?”

“I’ve already had a couple of extensions.” Uncle Peter spoke softly to the cow and patted her brown flank. “There’s nothing more they can do for me.”

Another snake bit Josiah’s stomach, and the poison spread through his veins. “Nothing more they will do, you mean.” He tossed the shovel into the corner with a clank that made the cows kick and low.

Uncle Peter shot him a reproving look. “Anger does nothing but produce bitterness, Josiah.”

“Maybe my anger will make the bank see sense.” Josiah stomped toward the barn door.

Uncle Peter crossed to him in three long strides and took hold of his arm. “It’s not worth fighting for, son.” He pulled Josiah closer and bent to meet his gaze. “God didn’t promise me ease on this earth. He didn’t promise I’d be rich or that I’d always have this place, much as I love it.” He gestured around the barn. “He didn’t promise I’d never have sorrow.” Tears filled his eyes.

“That’s what I mean.” More bitter poison coursed through Josiah. Aunt Mary never should have died so young, and with a baby, too. “How could God let all this happen to you? You’ve always served Him and helped people and done your work.” His throat clogged. “It’s not fair!”

Uncle Peter hugged him close, and Josiah cried until he’d soaked the front of his uncle’s work shirt. Some of the poison in his heart seeped out with the tears. Finally, sniffling and hiccupping, Josiah pushed back to search his face. “How can you just stand there and take it? One blow after another, without getting mad?”

His uncle’s sad eyes met his. “It hurts, Josiah, I won’t tell you it doesn’t. But I can’t forget what the Word of God says in 2 Timothy 4:8: ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.’”

Josiah thought about the verse a moment. “So because you get a crown of righteousness in Heaven one day, you shouldn’t be upset when God lets you lose everything?” He shook his head, lips pursed. “I just don’t see how you can do that.”

Uncle Peter stood to his full height and rested a hand on Josiah’s shoulder. “It’s not easy, but it’s a lesson we have to learn. To fight God for what we think is best, to struggle for what’s passing away, that’s pure foolishness. Wisdom says to let God be God and simply obey His Word. Trust Him to know what’s best to fit us for Heaven.”

“But what about here on earth?”

Uncle Peter’s smile barely lifted his lips. “Life isn’t about getting the most stuff and having fun all the time. It’s not about being comfortable either. It’s about being made holy.” He gave Josiah’s shoulder a squeeze. “Remember God’s plan for a person is that they’ll be like Him.”

“Without anything to show for it?”

“Oh, there’ll be plenty to show for it. We’ll get to spend eternity in His presence. That’s a pretty good reward, don’t you think?” Uncle Peter raised both eyebrows at him.

Josiah blew out a breath. “But what about you and Sarah?”

A peaceful look settled on his uncle’s face. “Don’t worry about us. God’s taking care of us, even when it doesn’t look like we think it ought to.”

Josiah felt the snakes in his belly shrink a little, and the poison eased its grip on his blood.  “I guess so.”

Uncle Peter gave him a full smile. “Well, I know so.”

Josiah saw the sincerity in his uncle’s eyes and nodded. “If you can trust God in all this, then I’ll try to trust Him, too.”

Uncle Peter gave him one last hug and headed for the milking parlor. Josiah followed.

Penny-Pinching Homeschool

download (2)Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how homeschooling fits the family budget. Here are some ideas on how to cut costs and still operate an effective homeschool in the Columbus, Ohio, area.


  • Buy used. HOTR (Home on the Rock) and CHEO (Christian Home Educators of Ohio) publish information about used book fairs on their websites. Try Amazonebay, and for good deals. Some sites like and post swap boards to facilitate trading or buying/selling materials.
  • Use the library. The Columbus Metropolitan Library system has many resources available. If the nearest branch doesn’t have what you need, request it from another branch. They’ll bring it to your location—free!
  • If you buy new, shop carefully. Rainbow Resource often has the best prices, but shipping can ruin your budget, so make a complete, one-time order. If your total is $50 or more, shipping is free. Some curriculum companies have free shipping months (often April).
  • Don’t forget to check out my free downloadable study guides for In Grandma’s Attic, Milly-Molly-Mandy, and The Horse and His Boy on my Homeschool page.

Field Trips and Extracurricular Activities

  • Join a homeschool group. Homeschool organizations provide lots of information about money-saving opportunities. Groups like HOTR and CHEO usually cost less than $50 per year but include a 10% discount to the Home School Legal Defense Association. Some, like HOTR, have small-group cooperatives meeting around the city. You usually pay a small fee for expenses but get a great return on your investment. You and your children get to socialize with other homeschooling families. Kids can take classes with other kids and different teachers. Group field trips provide discounted access to local attractions. You’ll likely learn about unexpected opportunities—like the mom who teaches piano cheap or the one who will tutor your child in math if you’ll tutor hers in Latin. You might even find someone willing to swap or lend curriculum.
  • Take advantage of the free stuff. Many Columbus attractions are free or very inexpensive. And, of course, educational.

Columbus Free Stuff:

Slate Run Farm
Columbus Museum of Art (Sundays only)
Ohio Craft Museum
Riffe Gallery
Ohio Statehouse
Thurber House (weekdays only)
Orton Geological Museum
Shrum Mound
Longaberger Homestead
Park of Roses
Topiary Garden
Chadwick Arboretum
Columbus Parks and Recreation (costs $1 per badge per person)
Anthony Thomas Factory Tours ($2 per adult, $1 per child (ages 3-18), under 2 is free; admission fee may be used toward purchase)

  • Ask for the educational or field trip rate.  Just by filing a field trip form in advance and bringing your notification letter, your family can visit the Columbus Zoo for only $5 per person if you live in Franklin County ($7 if you live outside Franklin County). COSI offers an educator’s family membership for $95 per year. The Ohio Historical Society offers a family membership to educators for $50 annually that allows four adults and all family members under 18 to visit OHS’s 60 historic sites at no charge. Kelton House offers an Underground Railroad Learning Station Tour for $4 per student and a Kelton House Historic Tour for $2 per student. Columbus Children’s Theatre has discounted tickets in their Thrifty Thursdays plan. Catco is Kids (Phoenix Children’s Theatre) offers School Performance Matinees with tickets for $5.
  • Use coupons. You can often find great deals on-line, in the phone book, or at travel plazas.
  • Give useful gifts. Give your son karate lessons for Christmas. Ask Grandma to buy BalletMet tickets for your daughter’s birthday.

Don’t let your tight budget discourage you from home education. Columbus has so much to offer that you’ll find your penny-pinching homeschool works out just right.