Q&A: My Son Is Being Picked On … What Do I Do?

by Hal and Melanie Young | 10/1/2015 | 0 comments

A reader asks, “I am looking for some advice to help my son deal with children who are unkind. He is 6 years old and in 1st Grade now. He is a very bright and kind child. He is having difficulty learning to stick up for himself. He tells me that he is not brave…
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September 29th, 2015

What A Man’s Gotta Do

by Hal | 0 comments

My wife, weak from the stomach flu, came out of the bathroom where she’d been hiding out—hiding by my request, I should say.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, shakily. “I feel like I shouldn’t have left you out there to do that.”

RRM Man's Gotta be a Father Gumby

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September 23rd, 2015

Depressed Parents, Depressed Kids

by Hal | 0 comments

“It’s a fallen world.” How often we find ourselves saying that! But it’s true that every person will have times of disappointment, loss, trials, or failure – it comes with being human. The question for each of us is, “How do I deal with this?” And sometimes, we may find ourselves in a dark place emotionally and spiritually. What should we do about that?

MBFLP - Depressed Parents and Kids



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September 15th, 2015

Homeschooling High School? Sure, Why Not?

by Hal | 0 comments

Can I Homeschool High School?

Do you ever ask yourself that? And maybe doubt how you’ll answer?

Many years ago, we started homeschooling our first child, thinking we’d do it till he hit high school. Once we started, though, we found so many benefits to homeschooling we didn’t want to give it up! Now we’ve graduated three, and all have gone to college on scholarship – one even studied a year at Oxford, and no one in college admissions ever blinked at our homeschool transcripts (or ever asked, “But did you finish every page of your 5th grade math book?”)

We’ve found that high school at home is definitely possible, and today is even easier than when we first tried it. You can find online classes, tutoring programs, and self-study resources for nearly any subject (we even learned to speak Mandarin Chinese as a family – and none of us had experience when we started).

UHRN-Homeschool High School Why Not - After

We talk about it in episode 96 of our podcast – CLICK HERE!

Here are three key facts to keep in mind:

1. You can do it! Even if you struggled as a 14-year-old, you’ll bring a grown-up mind to those subjects this time. You won’t be worried about finding a date for the prom or whether your shoes are cool enough, and often, you’ll find yourself learning things you missed the first time. Don’t be shy about growing in knowledge right alongside your students – it’s fun, and we can almost guarantee you’ll be better educated yourself after teaching your children.

2. Start at the end and work backwards. Remember the senior level classes are built on earlier coursework (you can’t do Algebra II until you’ve finished Algebra I, right?) so think about what your student should know when they graduate, and plan backwards to make sure they have the foundations they need as high school freshmen. If you’re not sure what the end of high school might look like, Google the admission standards for your state university and graduation requirements for a public school diploma. And if you look at your 10-year-old and think, “This child will never make it to college,” don’t shortchange their high school as if they don’t matter–you’ll be surprised how much your kids grow and develop the last few years, and their plans will likely change.

3. Trust God and go ahead! “I am God, and there is none like Me,” God said, “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.” (Isaiah 46:9-10) Only God knows exactly what your child’s future will be. Don’t fret and stagger because you can’t predict your student’s college major when they’re 12 years old (they’ll likely change interests a dozen times before then). Aim for a broad education that challenges the whole child – academically, spiritually, and physically, too. We’ve never looked back at the things we learned and said, “Well, that was a total waste!”

That’s our strategy in a nutshell. The most important principle, though, is to always remember homeschooling is really about discipleship. Your kids will experience so much change, uncertainty, doubt and fear as they move into the teenage years – don’t you want to be there to answer their questions as soon as they arise? When you teach your own, you re-gain 35 hours a week to interact with your student – and avoid so many distractions and detractions that come in school culture. In fact, homeschooling high school may be the most important years to do it!

Hal and Melanie at Science Museum 150 Yours in the battle,
Hal and Melanie


Thinking about high school? Worried about coursework, grading, creating a transcript? Join us September 17 for a free webinar with Lee Binz of The Home Scholar, “The Homeschool Parent’s Guide to High School Grades, Credits, and Transcripts”.  Attend live and you’ll also get several downloadable resources, too!  [ Click here to sign up or for more information! ]

Copyright 2014. Used with permission. All rights reserved by authors. Originally appeared August 6, 2014, in The Homeschool Minute™, an E-Newsletter published by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Read this family education magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices. For free homeschool information visit ConsideringHomeschooling.info.

September 13th, 2015

Review: Grape Stuff BBQ Grill Mats

by Hal | 0 comments

Labor Day doesn’t mean the end of summer – it means the start of tailgating season!

Of course, here in the so-called sunny South, there’s a lot of good outdoor time to come, and for many of us, that means time with the grill – in the backyard, or at the stadium. Our friend JoJo Tabares sent us a sample of these grill mats from her company, Grape Stuff.

Grape Stuff Grill Mat

No More Aluminum Foil! No More Skewers! 

One of the limitations of grill cooking is how to handle items which can fall through the grating. Sometimes you can grill shrimp or fruits and vegetables by slipping them on skewers; other items like fish are simply too fragile, and require extra hardware to cook outdoors – if even possible. This product overcomes that problem!

Grape Stuff Grill Mat 01The package comes with two 16×13-inch sheets of a black, stiff-but-flexible synthetic fabric. If you plan to use it at home, you might trim it to size with scissors; since we were on vacation and not our “home” grill, I opted to leave the sheets full size and just curl up the edges where needed. It’s a very tight weave, tight enough that I’ve heard you can even cook eggs on it — though we didn’t test that.

Instead, we cooked a batch of diced squash and onions – not our usual grill fare!

First, the fabric transferred heat well, though not 100% – there was definitely a hot band at the edges, where the excess hot air was slipping around the sheet. Instead of roasting like an open grill would do, the fabric allows the grill to act more like a griddle. I found the vegetables didn’t stick to the sheet, but they could scorch, if I wasn’t careful. The sheet greatly increases the contact area so you may want to turn down the flame a bit or just be sure to keep the food moving as it cooks. A little bit of fat or vegetable oil might help too.

Grape Stuff Grill Mat 10We also tried it with a batch of pork chops to see how meat behaved. Surprisingly, this was a little more tricky than the vegetables – the fat from the meat doesn’t seep through the fabric, but instead runs to the edge. That means you need to be sure the fabric doesn’t hang over the edge of the grill. I curled up the back edge and positioned the sheet so the front edge had a gap to let the fat drip into the fire and not my shoes.

One nice feature is you can mix items on the grill without concern. We often cook onions and hamburgers together in the pan, and you can do the same on the grill with these mats. And you can orient your bratwurst and hot dogs however they fit best, not worrying about properly bridging the spaces in the grill.

I wasn’t able to get sear marks on anything while using the mats; the illustrations on the package show grill marks on both chicken and vegetables, so I may have been doing it wrong. [Disclaimer: I’ve never used foil on the grill so some of these observations may not be surprising to readers!]

Besides the cooking, the grill mat simplifies clean up. I have to confess, with our grill’s many years of use, it has a permanent patina of sorts and you wouldn’t be able to see the difference for this test. Using these mats from the start with a new (or newly scrubbed) grill would prevent the usual baked-on buildup – and unlike aluminum foil, I don’t think this material would tear or wear out.  This would be a great help for picnic or tail-gating situations, where you can just wipe off the loose residue with a paper towel, then roll up the grill mats to carry home in a plastic bag — much easier than managing a bulky, greasy grill in your car!

Cleanup is easy – we just used dishwashing liquid and a dish brush in the sink. The fabric sheds water so the mats can be dried off and put away immediately. The material will probably crease – it’s delivered flat and unfolded from Grape Stuff – so I’d recommend rolling it for storage, if you don’t leave it on the grill for next time.

The biggest advantage? Instead of having someone inside cooking the things we couldn’t cook on the grill, it can all be cooked out on the deck looking at the lovely view! Grab a set for your cookouts this fall here.

[Disclaimer: We received a free sample of BBQ Grill Mats from Grape Stuff in exchange for this objective review.]

Hal Cityscape Web

In Christ,


September 9th, 2015

Faithful At Work

by Hal | 0 comments

Blog - Faithful At Work - FB

Does your Sunday morning faith go to work with you on Monday?

Maybe in our quiet moments we plan how we’ll respond if we end up like the apostles in Acts 5:29 – “We ought to obey God rather than man.”

But most days, the question is simpler – and sometimes more challenging: Am I working like a Christian today? Am I walking in faith when I walk into the workplace?

We humans have a tendency to complain, a temptation to slack off a bit, a desire to hurry up and get to the weekend – whee! But while we enjoyed our day off this Labor Day week (ironic, isn’t it?), it might be good to remember a few things God tells us about our work—and our attitude about it:

Blog - Faithful At Work - Pinterest

  • Actually, work is a good thing. When God created Adam and placed him in a perfect, sinless world, He gave him a job to do. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) The frustration and disappointment we often feel was a result of Adam’s sin, not the whole idea of working. In all labor there is profit (Proverbs 14:23)
  • It’s a blessing to find satisfaction in our work. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)
  • God expects us to be honest in our business dealings. This should be obvious and there are plenty of verses about integrity. Still, when I worked with industrial instrumentation in manufacturing plants, these passages jumped out at me in my specific employment:  Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight. (Proverbs 11:1) Honest weights and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are His work. (Proverbs 16:11)
  • Good work has its rewards. Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men. (Proverbs 22:29) The hand of the diligent will rule … (Proverbs 12:24)
  • Laziness just leads to your own suffering. Haven’t you found that short cuts usually add work in the end?  The lazy man will be put to forced labor (Proverbs 12:24)  He who has a slack hand (as opposed to the diligent man) becomes poor. (Proverbs 10:4) Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty (Proverbs 20:13) Drowsiness will clothe a man in rags (Proverbs 23:21) If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  • Our plans are always secondary to God’s plans. Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
  • Ultimately, we’re all working for the Lord. Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
  • And He’s an awesome boss! “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Jesus, in Matthew 11:29-30)

Hal Young Sugarloaf Web 150x150In Christ,





We talked about this on our podcast this week … CLICK HERE TO LISTEN! 

We also give a whole chapter on this in our book, Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys. Have you read it? You can order your own copy below!

September 1st, 2015

Talking to Teens About Ashley Madison, Josh Duggar, and The Rest

by Hal and Melanie Young | 0 comments

Teens And Ashley Madison

Years ago when Bill Clinton’s scandals were news, I hated to listen to the radio in the car because I constantly had to be ready to turn it off or explain awkward things on the way to homeschool P.E. If you have teens, though, there’s just no way to turn off the constant stream of news about the adultery hook-up site, Ashley Madison, and the Christians who’ve had their sins exposed through it.

It’s not something most of us want to talk about with our kids, but it’s a great opportunity to talk turkey to our teens about important issues. It might be something that will even come up in our church. So, what do we need to tell them about it? How do you even bring this up?

Just do it. “Hey son, have you heard all the stuff about Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar? Ashley Madison is a website where people contacted other people who wanted to commit adultery. Hackers got into their system and have exposed the names of people who signed up. Unfortunately, there were some well-known Christians on that list, like Josh Duggar.”

Kids have a very sensitive hypocrisy meter. They are idealistic and they want people to be what they seem to be. Situations like this can really challenge their faith. We need to remind them that if every single Christian is faithless, God is not.

Ashley Madison and Your Kids

And there are a few things we all need to learn from this:

Sin is dangerous. It ruins lives and not just the life of the sinner. Josh Duggar’s sin has betrayed and hurt his wife, his children, and even his extended family. Because of his public profile, it’s taken away from the witness of any Christian in the eyes of the world. When we give in to sin, we endanger ourselves and the ones we love.

Don’t ever believe it when temptation says, “No one will ever know.” The Lord warned us against hypocrisy in Luke 12:

He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

The Word tells us to “repent and believe.” Repentance is to be sorry for sin and to hate it and forsake it because it’s displeasing to God, as the Catechism for Boys and Girls puts it. Although temptations will persist until we go to be with the Lord, if we’re truly repentant, we don’t go chasing after sin, and we don’t make sin our lifestyle.

Sexual sin is a slippery slope. The early temptation is just to look at a few pictures, to click on a link, to think no one will know. This kind of sin is addictive, though. It causes a hormone cycle in the brain that makes you crave more or more intense stimulation – from bad to worse. The first sin leads you to more sin. Before long, you might find yourself doing things you never imagined you would. Stay away from porn. It’s a gateway sin (and it’s a drug, too).

If you’ve got a secret sin, confess it. The temptation is to hide our sin, but Proverbs 28 warns us, He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

“Son, if you find yourself in any kind of sin like this, if you’ve been looking at porn, for example, come to us and confess it and let us help you get out.”

Trust God, not men. Men fall. People sin. God, though, is always faithful. He’s faithful to keep us from sin, too, if we’ll submit ourselves to him:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen. Jude 24, 25

That’s pretty encouraging and it’s the answer to all of this. He can present us faultless, through the blood of Jesus Christ. “Son, that’s the only answer to all of this – Christ. Flee sin and believe in Him.”

Have you talked with your teens about this stuff? How did it go?

Your friends,Hal and Melanie SugarLoaf Web (c)2009

Hal & Melanie





August 31st, 2015

Hope For Homeschooling With A Newborn

by Hal and Melanie Young | 0 comments

A reader asked on our Facebook page,

“I’m so frustrated. I have three boys: 5, 4, and 2 and a two week old little girl. My teacher husband just went back to work and I feel like I’m drowning. I’m exhausted and I feel like I have no control in house so I find myself yelling. I really dislike yelling so I give myself a pep talk teach morning that I will do better today. I pray for patience each morning but I feel like a complete failure. Our new baby is fussy and the boys are taking advantage of the time I have to spend feeding her or trying to calm her down and they are WILD. I try to provide structured activities but it hasn’t helped. To top it off, I’m getting pressured by both my “against homeschooling family” and my “perfect homeschooling friends” about my five year old who doesn’t read or write his name yet. I feel like such a failure every day. I expect them to show God’s love yet I’m being a horrible example. I don’t even know what to do.”

Overwhelmed with Young Children

Dear sweet mama, it’s going to be okay. Having three or four littles was so hard for me! I felt like everyone needed me every second. This isn’t going to be forever. I wish I’d known how quickly it would all pass. Before long your oldest will be able to help you out by making sandwiches and rotating the dishwasher and helping to entertain the others.

If family and friends are critical, ignore them for now. They may have forgotten what their house was like when they had very little children. When you’ve been homeschooling ten years and you’ve got teenagers to help out, you can look like one of those organized, put-together families, too. Right now, give yourself some space! 

Don’t let people put unrealistic expectations on your children, either. Five is very young for a boy to read or write, and it’s a stressful age to even try to get them to. Just tell your friends, “He’s doing great in school” — which he is, if he’s working at the right developmental level. It’s none of their business. Homeschool moms who interrogate their friends about what their kids are accomplishing are likely just trying to show off or make themselves feel better.

Overwhelmed with a Newborn
You’re still recovering from childbirth – embrace it! You have a newborn, sweet mama! You need time and rest to rebuild your strength. 

Build your own nest. Get comfortable in a recliner or rocker with everything you need for the baby at hand. Put up some baby gates to keep everyone nearby. If family or friends call, tell them you’d love it if they’d bring by a meal. :-)  Take care of yourself and those babies!

And take it easy on the schooling for now.  When you’ve got a baby that young, it’s still too early to be doing formal school or having any expectations at all other than getting through the day. So here are some ideas to make life easier —

  • Get yourself some educational videos for the kiddos to watch. We loved the Moody science videos. They’re both calm and fascinating and there are a bunch of them! Click here to check them out. 
  • Try some audiobooks. Our guys loved the Sugar Creek Gang when they were little.
  • Get one of those mini-trampolines so they can get their energy out without you having to get up.

Go ahead and take the time you need. Read your kids lots of great picture books and stories. Snuggle. Survive. It will get better!

Do you have any tips for surviving the newborn days? 

~Melanie, mama to eightMelanie Young Science Headshot 300px wide Close Crop

For more help and encouragement, download these workshop favorites below: Homeschooling a Houseful and Homeschooled from the Beginning: Teaching Your Children. They’ll reduce your stress and give you practical ideas!

August 25th, 2015

A Question of Honesty

by Hal | 0 comments

Dealing With A Dishonest Child - blog
A mother emailed us recently with a serious concern many of us have faced. Writing about her 11-year-old son, she explains,
Our oldest lies. He lies about his involvement in incidents. He lies about anything that might paint him in an unfavorable light. We catch him exaggerating at times to make himself look better. We talk about conspicuous honesty. We’ve read Bible passages. My husband and I have modeled honesty very carefully. We’re even very careful not to use white lies. We don’t know what to do to help him. We believe deep down he’s a wonderful person. I don’t think he understands what an issue this is … [and] he thinks we’re picking on him when we catch him in his lies. He seems more upset that he’s been caught than he feels ashamed about lying. How do we help him?

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August 24th, 2015

Planning Your New Homeschool Year

by Hal | 0 comments

Planning … it doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? When we look back at our more than two decades of homeschooling, though, we see that the years we planned well were much more productive than the years we flew by the seat of our pants.

It’s not that hard, really. The most important thing is to figure out the pace you need to keep up to get your goals accomplished this year. To do that, open up your curriculum and read the notes to the teacher in the front, you know, the part we automatically skip over. That’s the part that will often tell you how much you need to do each week!

Even if your curriculum doesn’t tell you, just take a look at the table of contents. How many lessons are there in a year? Are there tests in addition to that? A typical school year is 180 days, that’s about 36 weeks. If there are something like 30-36 lessons, tests and activities, you need to do one per week. If there are 60-70 or so, two per week. If there are 150 to 180, you’ll need to do one per day. See, just divide it up!

Once you know how much to do each week, you are pretty much set. You don’t want to plan each individual day’s activity until the week before you need it since you won’t know until then which days will be busy with doctor’s appointments or commitments. When you plan the days the week before, though, you’ll know which day is better for projects or experiments and which days are better for self-directed work.

Of course, you don’t have to plan ahead. You can just open up the books each morning and “do the next thing.” We’ve done that, too, but sometimes you can have some unpleasant surprises when April comes and you realize you’ve somehow gotten too far behind. Don’t despair, though, it’s amazing how quickly you can catch up when you cut out the fluff and just put your head down and do it. We’ve been there, too!

MBFLP - Summer Cover

If you’d like to hear more discussion about how we’ve approached planning, CLICK HERE and listen to episode 89 of our podcast Making Biblical Family Life Practical, “Planning For Your New School Year.”

And if you don’t even want to think about planning because you feel like a homeschool failure, here’s help. CLICK HERE to listen to our podcast on how to pick up the pieces and get going again!


Copyright 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by authors. Originally appeared August 5, 2015, in The Homeschool Minute™, an E-Newsletter published by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Read this family education magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices. For free homeschool information visit ConsideringHomeschooling.info.

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