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The 13 in ’13 Challenge: Rebuild Your Life in Just 13 Days

No matter how frustrated, unmotivated, or hopeless you feel, what if you could be inspired in just 13 days?

  • Achieve a meaningful goal in less than two weeks

  • Start believing in the God of possibilities again

  • Get a motivation jump start that will last all year!

Enjoy all these benefits when you subscribe to The Inspired Day.

Not only will you enjoy short, encouraging emails in your inbox, but you’ll gain exclusive access to the 13 in ’13 program. Learn principles of life change in 13 chapters of the Book of Nehemiah. You’ll read just one chapter a day and will watch a brief video that will help you apply what you’ve learned. Truths that allowed Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall in just 52 days can help you get a head start on rebuilding your life in just 13. Subscribe today and see the change beginning January 1, 2013. Best of all, it’s free–like God’s gift of salvation.


What’s for Dinner? Answer that Question Once and for All

free for subscribers to

What’s for dinner?

I used to hate that question. Either I hadn’t planned anything or I had planned to make something new, but then thought better of it. I knew that new recipe would take extra time and I didn’t have the energy. I ended up serving junk food far too often.

This pattern became a drain on my time, my pocket book, and my family’s health. I tried many cookbooks and meal plans, but ended up dreading the “What’s for dinner?” question anyway. That’s when I quit trying to be a nutritionist and chef, and put my degree in psychology to work.

What kind of meal plan would work long-term?

By studying my own behavior (and my family’s, too), I knew I needed to ask myself a different question. Rather than what was for dinner on any given day, I wanted to know what kind of meal plan would allow me to:

  • save time
  • save money
  • improve my family’s health
  • be flexible
  • enjoy making new recipes
  • share cooking responsibilities
  • be fearless when faced with “What’s for dinner?”

I discovered a plan that can work for anyone.

I was only trying to solve my own problem, but realized that the solution I had could work for anyone. Like so many solutions, it’s simple and common sense. I wrote the Once-and-for-All Meal Plan to encourage homemakers to try it and experience the benefits of knowing what’s for dinner (and breakfast, lunch, and snacks, too!). It’s free for subscribers to the Psychowith6 mailing list. Want to know more? My friend, Deb, did a great write-up of what you can expect from the book and this blog on Counting My Blessings. If you’re ready to subscribe, you’ll receive your meal plan ebook that you can read on any computer or mobile device after you confirm your email. I’d love to hear what you think! I would also love to have you share your tried-and-true recipes here–the appetizer that’s always a hit, the meal you always bring to new moms and more.


I’m Having Another One: Important Announcement

I inadvertently let the cat out of the bag for some subscribers today, so I am officially announcing the birth of my new website, If you thought I meant I was having another baby, that’s pretty appropriate. Having a blog is a lot like having a baby. You have one and when it’s really clear you don’t know what you’re doing, you have another one. That’s certainly the case for me! So I’m having another blog, but it’s going to be my only baby for now.

The News in a Nutshell

  • Motivated Homeschooler will not be updated as a blog for the time being. God may have other plans for it in the future, however, so it will be kept as is for now–kind of like not getting rid of the old kids when you have a new one. :-)
  • All past posts, information about me as a speaker, social media, and new posts will now be associated with psychowith6.
  • The new site will also be home to Not Wonder Woman posts and information, but subscribers will be able to opt-in to receive only homeschool related posts via Feedblitz. I’m really excited about that!
  • The Once-and-for-All Meal Plan ebook will be delivered to subscribers on November 1st.
  • I am praying for a lot more traffic to the new site as I spend time promoting it, which will in turn promote those of you who are bloggers, listed in my Blogroll.

How You Can Help

  • Keep praying! I know some of you have been praying for me because things have been moving so quickly since you said you would.
  • Subscribe to psychowith6 via email or stay subscribed when you receive email from me with the new site name. You’ll be set to receive your free copy of the Once-and-for-All Meal Plan.
  •  Like the new Facebook page and follow my new Twitter account.
  • Invite friends and family who might enjoy the blog to do the same and link to it on your own blog & social media networks.
  • Check out the new site. I’m so excited about the completely new format. I think you’ll really enjoy the Welcome & FAQ pages.
  • Be patient. I still have some formatting to do on the Best Of posts and others, but I think you will really appreciate them.
  • Give me your feedback. Have a suggestion, find a typo or broken link, or just wanna tell me how beautiful my new baby is? Email me at psychowith6 [at] gmail [dot] com.
I know I’m not really having a new baby, but all the same, I can’t raise up a new blog without you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement and help! Hope to see you at psychowith6

How to Find Light at the End of the Tunnel

My family entering the new sea lion viewing area at the St. Louis zoo

Tunnels are dark places that stretch on and on. Tunnels are the times in our lives that we pray to get through quickly. Tunnels are the difficult, dirty parts that make us appreciate the lighter days so much more.

No one is confused about whether or not they’re in a tunnel time of life; what is confusing is the best way to get out of a tunnel quickly. Whether you’re in a homeschooling tunnel or a dark place in another aspect of your life, I’d like to share with you the fastest way out. Follow me.

My tunnel

I’m currently in a tunnel–not the sad, frustrating kind, though I’ve been in plenty of those. Instead, I’m currently in the nitty gritty, down and dirty digging kind of tunnel. I’m working very hard in isolation to reach the light at the end. For me, that light is a major change to this blog and another I write.

My heart’s desire is to encourage other homeschoolers with my writing. I’ve been digging here and there with blogging for years, but if I really want to reach others with the light, it’s time to get serious. To gain a bigger audience, I have to consolidate my blogs, rather than split my efforts. To earn the trust of more readers, I have to provide something they need–something you and I need, too. I am in the process of completing a free ebook called The Once-and-for-All Meal Plan. I’m so excited about it because I really believe that it is the light at the end of the “What’s for Dinner?” tunnel we all find ourselves in. I believe it, because it’s been a huge help in cooking and meal planning for my family of eight.

Until the book and website are completed, I am going to be MIA. I will be working my way toward the light. When I get there, you’ll be the first to know! For now, I share with you the tips that are keeping me going and can keep you going, no matter what kind of tunnel you’re in.

How to Find the Light Fast

  1. Pray. We pray not only that God will get us through the dark days quickly, but also so that we will be encouraged. When we pray we cannot help but remember other times our prayers have been answered–other times we’ve emerged from a tunnel that was much longer and scarier than this one.
  2. Read. In reading the Bible, we find inspiration in stories of God’s people who were delivered from darker circumstances than our own. We can read the true accounts of Christian missionaries who always reached the light, even if that light was our Savior’s own radiance in heaven. Check out YWAM for some extraordinary biographies. Or read about Christians who have overcome troubles similar to what you’re going through. Google your tunnel and you may be able to find a free testimony to encourage you.
  3. Work. Wishing and worrying won’t get you out of your tunnel; hard work will. Do what you know God wants you to do in the situation and don’t stop digging until you’ve reached the light.
  4. Explain. Some tunnels require a singular focus for a time. Tell your loved ones that you are being called to dig and that you may not be as available to them for now. Ask them to pray for you and help you until you’ve reached the light.
  5. Trust. Instead of continuing to dig in, we often sit back and wonder if it will all be worth it. We simply won’t know until we’ve gotten to the end of the tunnel. But if you’ve prayed about what to do and it’s been confirmed through Scripture and other believers you trust, believe that God doesn’t have you digging for naught.

I appreciate your understanding and prayers as I dig in to writing and website building. I’ll be busy, but not too busy to pray for you.

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28)

What kind of tunnel are you in right now?


How to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Trouble with TV

A decade ago, I was addicted to television. I didn’t watch it; my kids did. I used children’s programming and videos as a babysitter. Then I read The Plug-In Drug and was convicted that I needed to make a change. With minimal protest, I was able to limit my kids’ screen time.

Grief Over Games

When my boys were little, and given my experience with TV, I had no intention of ever getting a game system. I caved under the pressure of other parents, however, who told me I really should have one. It wasn’t long before video and computer games had become every bit the nanny that television had been. My husband and I put the games away and told the kids they could only play on their birthdays. Birthdays then became the obsession. I was asked every day how long it would be until the next birthday. It was as though the games had become even more desirable!

More boys joined our family and they developed more friendships with game-playing boys. When the Nintendo Wii became popular, my fitness-loving husband and I decided that an active game system was okay. Before long, however, non-fitness games were added to our collection as was another game system. The kids found free games on the Internet and began playing with their homeschool friends online.

Tactics Tried

My husband and I tried numerous approaches to containing the time. Kids were only allowed to play after school and before dinner. Often my husband proclaimed game-free weeks or simply insisted they stop playing to go outside. But the problem seemed more complex than our rules.

For instance, we noticed that the kids had very little interest in doing much of anything else but games. Board games and other toys stayed on the shelves. When shooed outside, they counted the minutes until they could come back inside. Creative play had diminished.

The other problem was enforcing limits. As soon as we would declare a gaming hiatus, a neighbor boy would come over with his new game and his puppy dog eyes. When time was up, there was just one more level to complete. Or worse, one or more of the kids would claim they hadn’t gotten to play “at all.” There would be tears and frustration all around.

Having read PlayStation Nation, I recognized these signs of gaming addiction and they worried me. I sat with one of my Homeschool Homies this summer to discuss the problem. As a mother of four boys, she shared my concern.

Game Timers

I began researching devices to control game time for both our families’ benefit. Before I determined that these devices would not work for our situation (we have too many devices, for one thing!), I was shocked by the behavior of children of reviewers of these products. Parents recounted that their kids had learned to drop the timer device to reset it. Others had disconnected or even cut the cables! You can read the reviews of two of these game timers here and here.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that the kids tampering with video game timers have more troubles than just a gaming addiction. My friend and I agreed that our kids would obey whatever approach we used, but we had to determine what that would be. My friend had successfully limited gaming time to weekends in the past, but had found (as I did) that gaming became an obsession when it was allowed.

A New Approach

On the way home from my talk with my friend, I had yet another discussion about gaming with the kids. They already knew why my husband and I were concerned. We shared with them that gaming could become so addictive that young men would forego employment and even marriage because they would rather play. They knew how gaming could keep them from learning and building relationships with one another. I discussed the timing devices I had looked at with them and they agreed with me that they wouldn’t work.

After much discussion, the kids proposed the plan that we have been using and LOVING. Before I tell you what they came up with, let me tell you the results of limiting screen time in our home (I say screen time, because my daughter prefers to watch television):

  • Listening to audio books again (in the middle of the day!)
  • More creative play (the dress up closet is getting a workout)
  • More physical activity (the kids are swimming and jumping and working out more)
  • More time playing board games
  • My daughter isn’t watching television at all
  • More time spent with guests doing just about anything BUT games
  • More arguing (yep, you read that right. This is the next problem to address!)

Here is the kids’ taming screen time plan and why I think it works:

  • Free screen time on Thursday evenings

(when Mom and Dad have activities outside the home; everyone can play for an extended period and they look forward to a “free night.”

  • Two hours of screen time per week

The kids put two circles representing two hours on our dry erase board in the kitchen. The circles are divided in halves, representing 30 minutes each. This is the part of the system I am most excited about. The kids have time to play during the week, but they are in control of it. When our children leave home, they will have to discipline themselves this way. This approach is the best training for adult life. The kids time themselves, mark the time themselves, and even police themselves. I’m still amazed.

  • Before using time, the majority must agree to use the time and how they will use it

Our oldest isn’t into gaming, so if three of the five of the kids want to use some of their time, they can play. They must also agree before starting who is going to play what and for how long. Otherwise, you end up with the, “I didn’t get to play” situation. The kids choose how to spend time, knowing they must be prepared for any guests during the week as well. Their typical approach lately is to play an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Saturday. Had I dictated to them when they could play, I doubt the plan would have worked as well.

  • The plan is communicated to friends

Most of their game-playing friends have been told about the new system and some of them have adopted a similar approach, which is great! Because I can’t control what happens in others’ houses, however, I don’t try to control game time elsewhere. It’s not a significant problem currently.

I know families who allow gaming only in the winter, only ten minutes a day (which makes it not fun), and families who don’t allow games at all. As a family who has them, we are thrilled with this approach that allows our kids to develop self-control.

What, if any, approach do you use to control screen time in your home?


Sending Your Child to School

My 16-year-old went off to school for the first time this month.

My neighbor who knew none of my children have ever gone to school outside our home asked me:

Was it hard?

I heard myself answering, but I was sitting across from my then 15-year-old son in a restaurant last spring when he said, “I’m thinking I might want to go high school next year.”

I watched him as he fidgeted and explained his reasons for wanting to finish his education outside of our home, but all I could really see was a two-year-old holding up letter-shaped puzzle pieces and asking, “What dat?” All I could hear was this little boy insisting, “Read, Mama. Read!” I could only see an older boy who read everything he got his hands on, including his Bible. I saw a teen who questioned absolutely everything. And back in the present, I saw a young adult seeking his mother’s approval for something he felt led to do.

As I continued to answer my neighbor’s question, I saw myself weeping alone. I saw myself talking and praying with my husband. I saw my conversation with my son in which I told him honestly, “I don’t want you to go to school!” And I heard him answer, “So why are you letting me go?” I felt the ache in my throat once again when I answered, “Because it’s not about what I want, but what’s best for you.”

I kept talking to my neighbor while I watched my boy heft his backpack on his shoulder and walk toward the bus stop, wondering if he would get picked up, if he would find all his classes, if he would have anyone to sit with at lunch, if he would miss me.

And I realized that answering my neighbor’s question was like answering whether natural labor is hard or grieving a loss is hard or parenting is hard.

I wondered why I had never thought to ask God that question.

Was it hard to send Your only Son away from home, knowing what He would suffer?

I suppose I haven’t asked because I already know the answer:

Love is hard.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Have you ever sent your child to school? Do you have a homeschooling friend who sent their child to school for the first time? How can you encourage her today?

How to Customize Your Curriculum

One of the things new homeschoolers struggle with most is choosing curriculum. Even after they’ve made their choice, they doubt themselves.

Truth be told, we veterans do the same thing. I know I will even revisit the same decisions I made long ago, just to make sure I made the right choice. In the process of doing this once again, I discovered a means of customizing curriculum that has put my mind at ease.

Start with What You Love

If you have seen an approach at a homeschooling conference, at a friend’s home, or online that you just love, honor that. Years ago, I researched Sonlight as a complete solution for my family. Why? Because we are readers. My husband sells library books and we are happily buried in them. I thought Sonlight would be the perfect fit for us.

But then I saw Konos in a Box at a homeschool conference. As I looked through the fun, hands-on activities I could do with my young boys, I knew I had to use it and we did. I let Sonlight go in lieu of the activities that would make literature and learning come alive. Over the years, our relationship with Konos has matured. We moved from doing the box units to doing almost all of the units and meeting with friends weekly for related co-op activities. Last year we abandoned Konos for a year-long geography unit with our co-op and this coming year we are doing co-op a la carte with each mom choosing a subject to teach.

The shift in curriculum had led us to do less literature, especially with my youngers. The two middle schoolers are using Lightning Literature this year. That got my thinking about my long-lost love, Sonlight. I returned to their site, only to decide once again that while I loved their literature selections, I just couldn’t do their complete program. Then I realized I didn’t have to!

Take the Best of It

We are all going to be studying American History this year, using various curriculum such as: American History, Lightning Literature, Classical Conversations Cycle 3, and Answers in Genesis’s new America from the Beginning. I started with a list of Sonlight’s recommended books for American History. The book selections are what I love most about Sonlight. They would make an excellent complement to our history curriculum, but I still wasn’t satisfied.

Add it to Something Else You Love

I had found a new writing curriculum for my youngers–Brave Writer, The Arrow. This curriculum offered the best of what I loved about Character Quality Language Arts from last year–specifically, dictation and in-context grammar teaching. It also offered something more–classic literature and free writing. But here is where it gets really exciting. Brave Writer’s Arrow has units on many of the books listed by Sonlight for American History. I chose the books (and honestly there were too many to do in one year) listed by both Sonlight and Brave Writer, focusing on books I already owned.

Use Your Custom Curriculum and Continue Tweaking

I have yet to use my custom curriculum. I have done my best to plan it by day, just as a complete program would do. I have written down how many pages I have to read of each book to finish it that month (even taking into account vacation days, which is more than other programs can do!). I don’t know if it’s going to be just right as planned, but I do know that I can keep making changes until it is.

No one knows you, your kids, and your circumstances better than you do.

If you believe that you’re the problem, instead of the curriculum, you’re operating out of a traditional school mindset. Stop and consider how to customize curriculum so it fits your homeschool, while still providing the best education possible.

What kinds of customized curriculum have you created?


How to Help Your Child Memorize


Memory skills are both biological and experiential. In other words, you can be born with good or poor memory skills, but you can also learn to use them to their maximum.

Memory skills are very important to your child’s future academic success, so spend time helping them improve them. Here’s how:

Memorize with your child

Few things are as boring as memorizing alone. That’s why, even though I have strong memorization skills, I studied anatomy and physiology with friends in college.

Learn memory tactics

The book, How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week: 52 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Memory Skills, teaches multiple approaches to memorizing, one of which is sure to appeal to your child.

Harness the power of competition

The popular Bible Bee succeeds in getting children to memorize large portions of Scripture because of the competitive aspect of the activity. When the kids and I worked through the activities in How to Develop a Brilliant Memory, comparisons were naturally made, though I didn’t encourage them. While it resulted in some tears, it also motivated my kids to improve their skills. If competition doesn’t work for your family, offer a reward. That’s why competition works anyway; the reward is the placing and admiration you receive. My son memorized all the countries in Europe alphabetically to get a sweet treat and to get the appreciation of his peers.

Put it all together

Here is how we memorize in our family. We review together thoroughly and then give individuals who want one an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. The kids honestly “fight” for the right to do this. We memorize Bible books and Word Roots (using English from the Roots Up Flashcards, Vol. 1) this way and we plan to memorize many facts together next fall using Classical Conversations.

What has helped your children commit things to memory?

Making Bible Time a Favorite Subject


I wrote previously about family and personal devotions. Now I’d like to address how to motivate your children to enjoy studying the Bible for school.

I have mentioned two aspects of what we have used in previous posts: Answers for Kids and Memlok for Bible verse memorization. I’d like to share with you a few other resources we enjoy and what has been the key to making Bible time something the kids beg for.

I purchased the Family Bible Library a few years ago and absolutely love it. I was concerned because the text isn’t straight Scripture, but it offers so much more. This resource, together with Color Thru the Bible that we use to memorize Bible books, are the core of our curriculum right now.

In the past, we have enjoyed Firm Foundations (which we will return to soon) and the devotional A View from the Zoo, among many other resources. No matter which resources you choose, I believe you can make Bible time a favorite subject by employing principles that have been key to the resources we’ve chosen:

Start with Stories

There is a reason that children’s Bibles are almost always made up of exciting historical accounts from Scripture, otherwise known as stories. Even if you choose to use the Bible as your only text for Bible time, you’ll want to begin with Genesis–the book comprised of great stories.

When reading from the Bible or any other resource, I frequently look up and tell it like I would if it happened to people I knew. I use my voice and my hands to really bring it to life. If you don’t feel comfortable with my more dramatic style, let your children dramatize as you speak. My kids absolutely love acting out the stories. Yes, they get very silly, but I know they will remember what we’ve learned forever.

Ask Questions

The Family Bible Library books include comprehension questions after each story, but I often make up my own when using our texts. Vary the kind of questions from facts to opinions. For example, ask if your child would have been afraid of the giant Goliath and why or why not.

The Family Bible Library includes Bible trivia questions which my kids are crazy about. I have also used the 365 – DAY BIBLE TRIVIA CHALLENGE to get them motivated to expand their biblical knowledge. While I recognize no winners or losers, the quiz aspect appeals to my competitive kids.

Participate as a Family

Bible time is one subject that the kids enjoy studying together. While my high schoolers have and will do their own Bible studies, their participation is a review and an inspiration to the younger kids. We also love it when Dad shows up in class to join in and see what we’re learning.

Part of family participation is using materials that you learn from and love. Because I love Bible time, our children do, too.

In an upcoming post, I will share how to help children memorize–something that also makes Bible time a favorite subject for our kids.

Here is what another homeschooling family recommends for Bible time.

What do you do to make Bible time a favorite subject?

How to Make Time for Family Devotions


Although I haven’t struggled much with personal devotion time, family devotions have been very difficult for me. Here are my struggles and solutions I’ve found that you may be able to relate to.

Husband Not Home

My husband works out of town some of the time and also is frequently gone in the evenings for sports. While I prefer to have him lead and participate in family devotions, I have had to accept that we are going to do family devotions even in his absence. That acceptance has made them much more consistent in our home.

Husband Not Leading

Even when my husband was home, he wasn’t leading. I discovered there were several reasons for that.

One, sad to say, is because I would butt in when he was leading. On one particular occasion, I blurted out something I thought the kids should know and he said, “I was just going to say that.” Whoops.

A second issue that has prompted my husband to be less interested in leading is his need for reading glasses. He is frustrated that he needs them now and honestly prefers not to read. Just because I am reading doesn’t mean he isn’t leading. He listens to what I read and then takes the lead in asking the kids questions and relating his own teaching on the subject.

A final issue that prompted my husband to be less interested in leading some types of devotions is that the materials he needed weren’t at hand. I realized that as his help-meet (See Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious by Debi Pearl), I could make sure all the objects for the lesson were in place. Then he could do what the leader does best. Imagine your pastor coming to preach and being expected to find his own microphone and stand. Not very conducive to good leadership! Now I make sure he is equipped to fulfill his calling.

Devotions are Too Time-Consuming

I have tried many different types of family devotions and the ones that have worked well are short. I have shared that our family has tons of fun already, so the devotions that are designed to get families having fun together aren’t essential for us. We like to get the heart of the issue and then go about our day. What we currently use and love is Character Building for Families (Volume 1).  We are working through Volume 2 right now. I found one doctrinal issue presented that doesn’t fit with our faith, but the rest has been excellent for discussing what is most important to our family–godly character.

Devotions Don’t Become a Habit

A final problem we’ve had is that although we’ve enjoyed doing devotions together, we aren’t faithful in doing them regularly. I’ve discovered that this is because we haven’t paired family devotions with an anchor activity that we always do. I tried to schedule family devotions for weekend evenings for example. We never know what we’re doing then, however, so devotions just weren’t happening. We now do devotions at meal time. We always eat so unless we are bolting out the door immediately, we have devotion time. This video demonstrates how simple family devotions at mealtime can be.

Family devotions will likely be one of the memories our children and we cherish most–both for the fact that we learn from God and we are spending time together.

Here is another take on how to make family devotions work.

How have you made time for family devotions in your home?


Welcome! I would like to invite you to learn more about getting school done while still having fun at our new site, Psychowith6. Subscribe to Psychowith6 and get your free meal planning ebook. Or like the Motivated Homeschooler Facebook page below and get great ideas right in your news feed.

Dr. Melanie Wilson 

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