Monday, December 31, 2012

When It’s Time for a Change: Seize the Moment

What do I wish someone had told me when we first began homeschooling? There are no do-overs and this time with your children is not a dress rehearsal. The days will absolutely fly by, as hard as that is to believe sometimes. Take this day and run with it. Savor the moments, do the necessary, and make the time to do what’s important, kid-wise.

When they ask about tadpoles, take the time to explain and explore. If you can’t answer their questions at the moment of asking, keep a special little notepad or list on your phone of their questions. Make a big deal of recording their questions, and later, make an even bigger deal of helping them find answers.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.

—Rachel Carson

This moment will never come again. Listen to them. Ask questions about their thoughts on things—faith, their Sunday school class, their baseball coach, the dance instructor. Make sure that you encourage their ideas and efforts when they happen, before they get lost in the chaos of family life.

During the year ahead, take a picture a day of your children—just a simple photo each day or week. At the end of the year, create a photo collage to show how much they’ve grown and changed. Race across the park with them, or simply stroll around the block with them. Take a break from your planned routine and let them make a plan for the day or week ahead. Step back from studies they struggle with and launch into something that captures their interest. Whether cookies or oceans, the land down under or backyard bugs—whatever captures their curiosity, take time to fan the sparks of their interests.

Encourage them like there is no tomorrow. You do not know what tomorrow holds, but you have been given this day, this moment, to build them up and prepare them for their future. What can you do differently in 2013 to seize the moments and make a difference?



Amanda B.

Friday, December 28, 2012

When It’s Time for a Change: Use Curiosity

As a homeschool mom of many years, I know just how it feels to face resistance from a child who is bored to tears with textbooks. I had to learn the hard way that if they aren’t curious about what they are learning, they probably won’t remember what you are trying to teach them. It was a stop-sign moment when I finally figured this out. It was time to change direction—curiosity had to be an integral part of a good education, and the children had no curiosity about textbook material.

Textbooks and workbooks are learning tools from the last century. You don’t hear many children asking for more time to read “just one more chapter” before putting the books away for the day. With ready access to resources and virtual experiences, today’s children need an education that matches today’s world—one that engages their curiosity to capture and hold their attention.

“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity
killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.”

 —Arnold Edinborough

I write unit studies to capture your children’s curiosity about topics from the largest insect to the way nerve cells fire signals to each other without touching. We work hard to build on their curiosity, creating a desire to learn, explore, and imagine.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

—Albert Einstein

Is it time for a homeschooling change at your house? What will it take to make them curious about learning? Perhaps a study on popcorn or roller coasters or outer space? Today’s the day to make a move to a fascinating plan that builds on curiosity!


 Amanda B.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When It's Time for a Change: Adjust to the Journey


Remember bringing your first child home, and how you had glowing ideas and great expectations about parenthood? Before the birth of our first child, we had visions of blissful days, watching our baby smile and coo, and we made great plans for her future. When we brought her home, we discovered just how farfetched our ideas were, and how off base our plans were! J The realities of parenthood were astounding, and we had to keep adjusting to handle the journey.

Homeschooling can follow the same pattern. You start out along the homeschool path with certain ideas and expectations, and you make plans for the journey. Then, while you are busy trying to stick to your plan, your children become the individuals that you have encouraged them to be. They are miserable with your plans and curriculum, and you are miserable with the battles as you struggle to force-fit a plan that isn’t working.

Parenthood is about faith, love, adjustments, and flexibility. Here are a few adjustments that might help along the homeschooling way:

Adjustment 1: Follow your instincts. If the children are miserable, you know it’s time for a change. Consider changes in plans, curriculum, and/or schedule. Try new choices, new learning tools, or a more tailored schedule.

Adjustment 2: Adjust your expectations. They might not go to Harvard, play professional ball, or follow in the family tradition of engineering. But they WILL surprise you with all that God has packed into them!

Adjustment 3: Stay flexible. What works today might not work next year. Don’t plan past this year, but DO plan for a great journey!


Be creative as you tweak the plan. I know just how it feels to be in need of a change of course, and I’m thankful to have discovered the flexibility of unit studies. With topics from baseball to volcanoes, caves to snowflakes, they allow you to capture the children’s imaginations and watch them develop a love of learning!



Amanda B.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When It’s Time for a Change: What Are the Clues?

How do you know when it’s time to get new shoes for your children? When they complain that their feet hurt when they wear their shoes. How about new clothes? How do you know when it’s time to replace the old ones? When their clothes just don’t fit anymore—sleeves too short, shirts not long enough. How about replacing their bikes? When their knees hit the handlebar and their legs are just too long.

In other words, when something doesn't fit or they outgrow it, you replace it. You know when its time for a change by taking note of the visual or audible cues. You don’t make them wear shoes that don’t fit—you change them, without giving it another thought.

Curriculum should be treated the same way, but so often we stay the course simply because we've made the investment and it is easier than trying something different. This is the time of year that so many people have approached me with the same question, asking “When is it a good time to change the way we homeschool? The kids hate what we are doing, and so do I.”

Why don’t they like it?

It’s boring.
There are too many papers to grade.
Kids hate the books.
Moms hate the daily struggles and battles.

Don’t kill the joy of learning for these young minds. If you are getting clues that it is time to make a change, pray about the possibilities. Ask questions. Try a unit study. Photography? Cartooning? Pizza? Just one. Textbooks and workbooks and naysayers will always be there.

It is possible to store the mind with a million facts
and still be entirely uneducated.
—Alec Bourne

Go take a peek over at our Specials page to see today’s 12 Days of Christmas specials. We have made the prices very low to make change affordable and within reach. Go ahead! And then come back and let me know what scares you most about change. What are YOUR questions? I’m here to help!


Amanda B.

On the First Day of Christmas...

Merry Christmas!

As a child, I lived in a part of the country where people observed and talked about the 12 Days of Christmas. From Christmas Day to what was locally called “Little Christmas” (Epiphany), people celebrated different aspects of His nativity each day. It was a wonderful tradition to watch unfold each year, and we still observe it here at the Bennett house!

Today I am thrilled to announce our third annual 12 Days of Christmas celebration and hope that it helps you plan for the coming year, while enjoying BIG savings. Each day, new special offers will be waiting at, only valid for that day.

Today we’re going to kick off the celebration with TWO exciting announcements!

1.  The Easter UnitStudy is only $3 today--HUGE savings over the regular price of $10.95. PLUS we’ve got four MORE titles on sale today too!  Check out the rest of today’s specials.

2.  Our next Facebook Co-op will be using the Easter Unit Study, the natural follow-up to the fantastic Christmas Facebook co-op that we just finished, and is scheduled to begin March 4, 2013.

So go ahead and pick up the Easter Unit Study at today’s low price (and check back EVERY day for NEW sale items through January 6), and plan on joining us for the next Facebook learning adventure!

Amanda B.

P.S.  Don’t forget to sign up for the iPad Mini giveaway, and tell your friends! The iPad Mini will be a great tool to help your family get the most out of their USAB studies at home and on the go!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Woody the Camel – The Nature of Tender Holiday Memories

“Mom, where’s Woody?” This is a question that I have heard each Christmas for many years. One of the boys is looking for Woody, the camel they put out with our nativity set each year. They love that camel. It’s brown with a textured surface that looks like a camel’s coat. To boys full of wonder as we studied the wise men, it looked like a piece of carved wood. J  And from that, they named the camel “Woody.” 

He’s been a special part of our Christmas traditions since the first year we read
Jotham’s Journey, by Arnold Ytreeide. The whole family enjoyed that book so much, and the boys played with Woody as we moved through the story each night. They’ve got so many memories associated with him that take them back to the heart of Christmas, the focus on the Christ child, and all of the prophecies that were fulfilled. All in one simple, plastic camel that unexpectedly became a part of this tender celebration of our Savior’s birth.

 Woody’s been through the rough and tumble world of boys, so these days he’s got one broken ear and a bell that doesn’t ring, but he’s still standing strong. You never know what they’ll associate with the traditions you are developing. It is my prayer that you’ll someday have your own stories that resemble my tale of Woody—heartwarming and keeping the heartstrings all on the same page, no matter where they go.

“Hey, Mom, did you find Woody yet?”  J

Merry Christmas!

It's almost Christmas, and I wanted to take a minute to say Merry Christmas! This has been a busy season, and we just finished our annual Christmas Unit Study co-op on the USAB Facebook page with 6,000+ friends (twice as many as last year)--one of our most popular events yet! All kinds of learning ideas, crafts, and photos were shared, and encouragement blossomed. Thanks to all who joined the adventure, and keep an eye out for the Easter Unit Study co-op, scheduled to begin March 4, 2013.
As you read this, I'm putting the final touches on a very special blog series that begins on December 26th, written to help make your homeschooling journey one that is successful, simple, and captivating for all involved. Don't miss "When It's Time for a Change"--you will find it here on the USAB blog. Homeschooling can be an exciting adventure that helps to reveal the special gifts and talents of each child, and it doesn't have to be complex, dreaded, or complicated!
Before I forget, please watch your email on the morning of December 26th for details on our HUGE 12 Days of Christmas sale and a fantastic giveaway that you will NOT want to miss! This event will offer eye-popping, jaw-dropping prices, and the giveaway involves something that many homeschool moms (and kids) have on their wish lists!
And now I am heading off to get ready for a very special evening with my family, giving thanks for the clan gathered here this year! Thank you for the most amazing year--for your support and your trust. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Amanda B.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 21, 2012

Warm up to Winter!

Warm up to winter, because it’s here! Today is definitely a “hot cocoa weather” day here on the farm, and Christmas mugs are lined up on the counter. I hope that you and your crew are enjoying this holiday season, along with the new weather season. J

Today is the last day of our Christmas Facebook Co-op, and it has been a wonderful experience to watch as it unfolded. Last month, we planned, wrote, assembled, photographed, and prayed that the four-week co-op would be a special time for all. What an answer to prayer this has been! From special friends to shared laughter and encouragement, the ripples have traveled quite a distance around the globe as we celebrate the Savior’s birth. Thanks so much for participating!

I’ve been writing a new blog series, titled “When It’s Time for a Change,” scheduled to begin right here on December 26. I know exactly what it feels like to be facing the return of drudgery, as well as the overwhelming desire to make homeschooling memorable, meaningful, and fascinating. I am capturing my best tips and ideas for the days ahead in this series, and I hope you will join in the conversation here on the blog.

Our next co-op will be here before you know it, so stay tuned to catch the announcement. Sign up for e-mail blog updates over on the right-hand side of this page so you don’t miss anything.


Amanda B.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looking Ahead with Thanks!

Because of your commitment to homeschooling, I get to do what I love - create captivating unit studies that offer a new and fascinating way to learn. In the process, the USAB team works hard to help and encourage you in many ways. In the past year, USAB has:

-  Hosted four incredible co-ops for Easter, Olympics, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  

-  Published free supplemental materials that included lapbooks, Bible studies, printables, and more.

-  Held some very special giveaways! In addition to giving away USAB products, we've given away products & gift cards from:
·         ChristianBook .com 
·         Teaching Textbooks
·          Rosetta Stone
·         KitchenAid mixer
·         Plus - many cases of Hershey bars for our convention customers  

And NOW, stay tuned for our iPad Mini giveaway, coming soon!

Thanks for your trust, loyalty, feedback, and for your business. To show my appreciation, I am offering our CD set of 15 Unit Study Adventures at a never-before-seen low price. At 65% off, they include 60 weeks of learning adventures for just $1.50 a week - imagine the savings!

Quantities are limited, so if you are thinking of making a much-needed change from textbooks or workbooks, there is no time like the present.

Plan NOW to make 2013 your best year yet. And our team will be doing what we love—helping, supporting, and encouraging in this homeschool journey that we share.

PS - Let's celebrate the final week of the Christmas Facebook Co-op together, remember to make the time to enjoy these days with your family!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Welcome to Week 4!

Good morning, friends! Welcome to our Christmas Facebook Co-op, the final week!

 We 've enjoyed how you have shared your experiences during the Christmas Unit Study Adventure.
Thank you for sharing the JOY in this journey with us!

Keep visiting us as we share Week Four of the study together.
We'll have more ideas, inspiration and even some BIG news that you do not want to miss later in the week...


Amanda B.


This Week's Learning Objectives:

Understanding the nature of the relationship between Herod and the wise men
Grasping King David‘s connection to Jesus

Tracing the flight of the new family to safety in Egypt

Following the history of the celebration of Christmas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Cookies - Let's Share our Favorites!

Here's a family favorite - do you have one to share? Leave your recipe below, and we'll share the Christmas cheer!

Candy Cane Cookies
½ cup butter, softened

2½ cups flour

½ cup shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioners sugar

Red food coloring

1 egg
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add confectioners sugar and blend. Add egg, almond extract, and vanilla and mix until well blended. Measure the flour in a separate bowl and mix in salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, scraping down the bowl as needed. Divide the dough in half in 2 bowls. Add a few drops of red food coloring to one half of thed ough. Mix in the food coloring until well blended and the color you desire. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Here is the part our children like the best, since it’s like rolling play dough: For each cookie, make a rope of plain dough and a rope of red dough; twist the two ropes together and shape into a candy cane.

Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 9 minutes until lightly brown. Allow the cookies to cool on a cooling rack. Sprinkle with red sugar or confectioners sugar.

Thank you Laura Clark, for sharing this family favorite with us!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Welcome to Week 3 of the Christmas Journey!


Good morning, friends! Welcome back to our Christmas Facebook Co-op!
We enjoying all your pictures and sharing -  JOY Banners, Search for the Savior Nativity Scenes, Christmas baking, and pictures of your Christmas lapbooks! Keep encouraging us with your discoveries.

Take a peek at the creative canvases of USAB on Pinterest! Amanda shares her inspirations, ideas for crafts and projects, recipes, and favorite places on the Web. Whatever topic your family is studying, you'll find fun ideas to go along with it! It is our prayer that this Facebook Co-op will provide community, caring and creativity for us all!

As this year winds down, there is no time like right NOW to think about the upcoming new year of homeschooling--it doesn't have to be painful or boring or an ongoing battle. If you are ready for a change, we are here to help with savings, ideas, and more. 

This week we're equipping you to start planning your best year of homeschooling.  Our Specials page is packed with great savings opportunities on all USAB planning tools (many of them are FREE) and we also have a fantastic giveaway lined up.  Two families will be selected to win one family pass (including admittance to the "Real Faith for the Real World" teen track) to the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati in April of 2013. Scroll down this post to enter.


Amanda B.

This Week's Learning Objectives:
  • Continuing our study of the geography of the Holy Land
  • Tracing Mary and Joseph‘s journey to Bethlehem
  • Meeting the Shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem
  • Recognizing the many names given to Jesus in the Bible

P.S. - Mark your calendars! The time is approaching for 12 days of special pricing, unbeatable sales, and a big giveaway . . . it all begins December 26. More details coming soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tea Time Memories

When I was a child, my mother had a bright and sunny yellow teapot that was very special. When she brought that teapot down from the top shelf, we knew that we were in for a treat. 
At Christmastime, she would fill it with hot Russian tea, pile a plate with cookies, and set out her favorite tea cups. We would sip tea and make clove-covered oranges, paper chains, string popcorn, and more, filling the room with great smells and plenty of laughter.
Mom worked hard at several jobs, and time with her was precious. We knew that when that bright yellow teapot was on the table, it was a special time of sharing and togetherness.
Perhaps it's time to insert a few "stopping points" in your busy days to create some special moments - for reading, tea sipping, and story sharing? These are the moments that they'll remember and pass along to future generations. Enjoy these days! 


Amanda B.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas is for Sharing!

We hope you are making time for some wonderful opportunites to cuddle up with a cup of hot chocolate and your children and share some holiday favorites - both old and new!

Family Interest:

Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration, by Dr. James Dobson, R.C.Sproul, et al.

Even though there's a lot to do at Christmas, families still need some quiet time together! Here, for each Sunday in Advent and Christmas Eve, are devotions by James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, and more, plus plenty of hymns, questions to ponder, and things to make (such as an Advent wreath) that will build family traditions and help you truly celebrate Jesus' coming.

Older Students:

The Christmas Scrapbook, by Philip Gulley. Published by HarperOne

It's Christmastime in Harmony---and Sam Gardner is determined not to be caught unprepared for gift-giving this year! When he enrolls in a scrapbooking class, rumors begin to fly. Then a series of mishaps and accidents culminates in a holiday that nobody will forget---and a deeper understanding of which gifts truly matter.


Younger Students:
Silent Night, Holy Night, by Joseph Mohr. Published by North-South Books.

Teach your children the story behind one of the best-loved Christmas carols. Artist Maja Dusikova captures the grace and simplicity of the hymn, taking children on a journey around the world to experience the joy and wonder of Christ's birth. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.

Jacob’s Gift, by Max Lucado. Published by Tommy Nelson.

What a special message this book has for the whole family. Jacob is a young boy with special carpentry talents, and this book helps the whole family gain a better perspective on the meaning of gift-giving.

Stop by our Facebook Christmas Co-op and share your favorites with us!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Join the Journey!


Good morning, friends! Welcome back to our Christmas Facebook Co-op!

We invite you to share your experiences as you use the Christmas Unit Study Adventure. We can't wait to see what you have discovered!

Beginning Week 2 of the study today, we will meet the parents of John the Baptist, and get a closer look at Mary and Joseph and their response to the news from the angels. We will also be investigating the Roman Empire in the days of Christ’s birth, as well as the geography of the Holy Land during this time.

We'll be here to answer your questions and help along the way, as we are using the study, too.

You all were GREAT about posting your questions, finds, and ideas last week – please keep sharing! We love seeing all the ways you are using the study!  Don't miss these great freebies- Search for the Savior activityJOY Printable, and the NEW Christmas Lapbook Companion!
Don't get so caught up in the preparations that you miss the JOY of the season!  Join us on the journey, and be encouraged!


Amanda B.