Sarah’s Mom Tips – Choosing a Major & Why 13 Is the Magic Number

I have noticed that between age 11 and 14 every child begins to develop a deep interest in one or two specific areas. If we don’t discourage them they can become experts. If they don’t embrace that passion for a specific career at that point they often drift into a season of fog where they don’t feel like they have purpose. At that point many teens drift into rebellion, confusion or a feeling of being aimless and like their lives have no value.
The kids who are encouraged to dig deep into their passion as a young teen develop a healthy and confident perspective. Even if they change “majors” they will never forget the skills they learned.

One of the most important ways we can invest in our children’s talents is by NOT distracting them or diverting their attention when they are focused on a project. I give my kids vast amounts of time to pour into their passions. Even if it means setting aside my preconceived ideas about what a kid should do and learn at their grade level. This is my daughter Susannah, she’s 14, and is focused on art.


Kids forget most of the information that they do not use, but once they learn a skill it is theirs for a lifetime.
What is your child passionate about? What careers relate to it? Is it a topic that other people are interested in? If your child spends a few years becoming an expert in that area they will be able to build a portfolio, and have real life experience in that field.
As an older teen they can volunteer to assist someone who is a professional in that field and get their foot in the door. Once they show their value, they can begin to be an important part of that business, so valuable that they will get a position working in that field.
At this point, as a young teen, they need to focus on people skills, leadership skills, teamwork, and character building.
I have seen many people take this path into the business world, where they end up doing what they love, and getting paid well for it.

Sarah’s Mom Tips – Homeschooling High School Outside the Box

(Note: This information is gleaned from a post in our Facebook Fun-Schooling Mom Support Group, dated 2017)

I don’t force my kids to learn anything that is obviously irrelevant.

I don’t teach toward college.

Naomi (then 11) volunteering as a barista, she is learning to clean the coffee bar right now.

I lead them toward a specific career starting at age 13. All of my kids look forward to turning 13, because they know that it is the big birthday where we buy them professional equipment based on their current passion, hobby or interest. Most kids feel like they don’t need to think about a career until they are choosing a college. It’s a different mindset. At 13 Isaac wanted to be a chef, Anna wanted to be a baker, Esther wanted to be a photographer, Rachel wanted to be a musician. Naomi wants to be a horse trainer. I expect to invest about $750 at that point.

We have more freedom to specialize and build real skills. The biggest obstacle to developing real skills as a teen is an addiction to media. I have limited my teens to about two hours a week on games or entertainment at times. Pull the plug. It’s great that your daughter knows what she wants to do, that is what my oldest son is doing.

Anna, helping with craft clean up, after hosting over 100 kids at an outreach. Great skills! Cleaning!

I am having them build portfolios and major now (this is from a post dated 2017) in the things they would learn in college later. Film, missions, caregiving, music, art, publishing, horsemanship, dog training, cooking, childcare, leadership, teaching, graphic design, editing, administration, baking, volunteering, drama, team building, event planning, entertaining children, photography. At this point (2017) the five oldest are already working professionally or as volunteers in these areas.

Our kids have very rich lives and lack no opportunity to use their skills to be a blessing wherever we go. Just thinking about today they are working as baristas, planning and organizing activities for 100 kids, editing their own film, taking care of their siblings while my husband and I cared for my mom who is in the hospital. They are illustrating books, they are managing their money, they planned a birthday party for their little sister, did all the shopping and baking, they are hosting new missionaries in our home, they are learning Russian. That was just today.

The goal is for each one to be an expert in their field by age 18, and to have an income source to support themselves.

If they need college to further their goals, they can show a great portfolio, and pay for it themselves.

I don’t really want them to go deep in debt over a degree though. Most kids don’t have a chance to develop their skills and become specialized in anything at a young age, because so much time is taken up on irrelevant things. 🙂

Ask God for wisdom for each child, and He will guide you, that could mean teaching toward tests, college, careers, missions, homemaking or anything.

Sarah’s Mom Tips – How to Outsmart the Hurrier

Do you have a child who rushes through their schoolwork?  Here’s what I say to mine when they have a habit of rushing and being sloppy: “Take as much time as you need on your Journal today, but when you finish we will be cleaning out the garage.” 

Plan a less fun activity to follow the schoolwork, if the child rushes through it. 

If Minecraft, TV, or snack time comes after they finish schoolwork, they will rush. 

Work with human nature. 

If you have a child who is slow, you may need to do the opposite.

I’ve had great success in using rewards to motivate my kids to do excellent work in their journals. Anyone else?

If they are in a funk or a sloppy season I might tell them that they will get a prize at the end of the week if they do 30 perfect pages in their core journal. Or they might get a chance to get a $15 gift card for Amazon when they finish a Core Journal, if it’s beautiful. I’ve done that 2 or 3 times over the years.

For example we might have a movie night and that child picks the movie, maybe they get to pick out the ice cream flavor, get a new book of their choice, a special time with me, and I’ve even given cash rewards or extra game time.

I have found that these motivation tools can get a child into the habit of doing better work.

Some kids just need extra motivation, especially Followers and Explorers.

Sarah’s Mom Tips – Challenging Attitudes During School

Is your child freezing up, looking for an escape, or fighting and arguing when it’s time to do schoolwork?

When your child picks a fight or freaks out at school time, do what you can to change the mood.  You may need to change your attitude and expectations. 

Here are some ideas to de-fuse the stress:

1. Give the child a sweet and healthy snack to munch on while doing schoolwork, make this part of the routine, they will look forward to it.

2. Don’t use fluorescent lighting – it causes anxiety for many children. Natural warm lighting is much more comforting.

3. Turn off the distractions and turn on peaceful music.

4. Give your child some words of encouragement or a compliment, and avoid harsh words, criticism, and forcefulness. If you must correct the child first give a compliment, next give the instruction, then say something positive.  The goal is to keep learning time from triggering stress, fight, and flight mode.

5. Give your child a hug, cuddle, pat or scratch their backs.  Comforting touch is a powerful de-fuser and helps the child to ease into a good mood. Compliment, next give the instruction, then say something positive.  The goal is to keep learning time from triggering stress, fight, and flight mode. Children need the home to be a place of comfort, acceptance, and unconditional love.  Children need mommy to be a source of peace, encouragement, and gentle guidance.

6. Use a calm voice and be helpful.

7. Get out of teacher-mode and into mommy-mode.

8. Make the first and last activity of learning-time their favorites.

9. Smile.

10. Dump curriculum that stresses them out – there are many options that can work better, children can’t learn under stress.  Skip journal pages or workbook pages that the child is not ready for.  You can come back to them later, or do those yourself while the child watches.

Guess what? These behaviors should be a warning sign that your child is slipping into “survival mode” because they associate schoolwork with failure, humiliation, confusion, or fear. What do they fear? It could be many things.  Usually fear of failure or a fear of being humiliated if they make mistakes. Children need to home to be a place of comfort, acceptance, and unconditional love.  Children need mommy to be a source of peace, encouragement, and gentle guidance.

Sarah’s Mom Tips – How to Inspire Your Child to Learn to Read

My girls 7, 9 and 10 are all using the same Reading and Research book. It works great for all of them because the ten year old recently learned English, the nine year old has symptoms of Dyslexia and the seven year old just wants to do what the bigger sisters are doing. So she tries to keep up.

I don’t worry much about reading before age 9. The longer they play the better! When my children start asking me “Mom, how do you spell…?” That’s when I know they are ready for reading. When a child is ready to learn to read it’s so easy to help them.

When it comes to learning to read there shouldn’t be a struggle. Dyslexic children and creative kids struggle because we are trying to teach them too soon. Dyslexia Games helps prepare the mind for reading and writing without stress, and helps to teach reading in a self directed way that works for creative kids.

Still, sometimes the brain just isn’t ready for the job of reading before age 9 (for some it may be age 11, kids who learn to read late tend to be very artistic and creative.)

Sarah’s Mom Tips – Social Media Addiction

MOM Tips for getting control of your social media “addiction” so you can focus more on your kids.

1. Turn off all notification sounds that alert you to check your phone.

2. Don’t keep your phone on you. Set it somewhere where you can hear it ring if someone calls.  When you actually have time to intentionally connect with friends on social media, make sure your kids are content, then go get your phone.

3. Go directly to the groups where your friends are and skip the news feed. It wastes the most time.

4. Decide how many conversations you will join, then stop. Put your phone away.

Get more help with our How to Escape the Digital World & Enjoy Reality journal. Order yours here.

Sarah’s Mom Tips – Digital Devices

Q. How do you keep your kids from misusing digital devices?

A. When kids have Tablets and Kindles they often disappear into their own digital world.

We use devices like these as educational tools, but the kids use them together, not alone.

My kids have learned to snuggle, bond and share their Kindle. They are encouraged to use it in the Family Room, and play together. If they misuse the device it goes away.

-Sarah Janisse Brown

Fun-Schooling Themes for 2022

In the Fun-Schooling with Thinking Tree Books-Mom’s Support Group, we have a theme for every month, complete with contests, projects, and giveaways! Come join over 26,000 moms and mentors! Here are our themes:

Mom Tips: Homeschooling High School Outside the Box

  • I don’t force my kids to learn anything that is obviously irrelevant.
  • I don’t teach toward college.
  • I lead them toward a specific career starting at age 13.
  • We have more freedom to specialize and build real skills.
  • I am having them build portfolios and major now in the things they would learn in college later.
  • The goal is for each one to be an expert in their field by age 18, and to have an income source to support themselves.
  • If they need college to further their goals, they can show a great portfolio, and pay for it themselves.
  • I don’t really want them to go deep in debt over a degree though. Most kids don’t have a chance to develop their skills and become specialized in anything at a young age, because so much time is taken up on irrelevant things. 🙂
  • Ask God for wisdom for each child, and He will guide you, that could mean teaching toward tests, college, careers, missions, homemaking or anything.

Join the discussion in our Mom’s Support group here.

What is Your Calling?

What’s your calling? This matters. Do you know yourself?

While raising 15 children, and mentoring many parents and children over the years, I’ve always tried to encourage parents to focus on four different areas. These areas are: the child’s learning style, talents, passions and calling.

These four areas are each unique and important!

All four of these factors are essential to a person’s education! Yet these things are so personal that schools generally overlook them and opt for standardization because it would be impossible to customize each child’s learning experience based on their vast individuality.

As homeschooling parents we have a precious privilege and opportunity to base our child’s education around their calling!

I have not taken time yet to speak about the concept of preparing a child for their calling. I’m still trying to figure it out! What is their purpose? What are their dreams for how they will influence the world around them?

So let’s start the conversation.

A person’s calling is their drive to make a difference. There are probably countless callings, but I have decided to narrow it down to the seven that I feel “called” to nurture in my children, in order to equip them to become who they were meant to be.

Here are the seven callings. Think about what callings stir most deeply in your own heart, and then consider where your children shine! You can generally see sparks of calling in children from a very young age! Watch them play for clues!

Are you Called?

1. Called to Nurture (Parenting, Family Care, Community Care, Medical care, therapeutics, natural healing, nursing care, nature care.)

2. Called to Lead (Political Leadership, Business Leadership and Community Leadership)

3. Called to Serve (Volunteering, Religious Service, Military Service, Community Service)

4. Called to Create (Arts, Entertainment, Performance, Design, Building, Invention, Solutions, Innovative Technology)

5. Called to Equip (Education, Teaching, Training, Mentoring)

6. Called to Produce (Business, Economics, Investing, Food Production, Entrepreneurship, Product Production, Wealth, Prosperity, Provision)

7. Called to Communicate (Journalism, Advertising, Marketing, Broadcasting, News Media, Publishing, Radio, Podcasting, Public Speaking, Authorship, Social Media, Film Making, Satire, Sales, YouTubing.

So, let’s start with YOU. What are your TOP TWO callings!!! Then think about your family members. Join the conversation for a chance to win your next book!!!