AFHE Home Blog Encouragement Homeschool Help Uncategorized

Homeschooling Under Hardship

“Sylvia, you are going to have to learn to share the load.”

I had just poured out to the counselor how I wasn’t sure how I was going to homeschool our four children while running the household and maintaining my 30-hour work week. My husband’s health was improving, but he wasn’t well yet. I was overwhelmed with the thought of all the things that needed to be done in a day, already feeling like a failure before the school year even started.

The counselor, honest and kind, sat across from me and told me I couldn’t do it all.

I cried.

A year before this conversation, our family looked fairly typical in the homeschooling community: dad went to work full-time, mom stayed home and took care of kids and homeschooled. I worked part-time but mostly for extra-budget things like vacations, and only ten hours a week. I taught co-op classes, was involved in church, and had started slowly working toward a degree in nursing.

My husband, Kevin, had dealt with anxiety issues for most of his adult life, but it was managed with a low dose of medication and created little interference. At the end of 2017, a car accident and a series of extremely stressful work situations took their toll on him, and he began having up to ten panic attacks a day. It finally became apparent that he needed to leave his job in order to address his health crisis. At the same time, a part-time job at my church matching my skills opened up. Within a short period of time we turned into a  family where mom worked two part-time jobs and dad was home sick … and summer break was coming to an end.

After I cried with the counselor, Kevin and I sat down and made a plan where he taught two days a week and I taught two days a week (he worked from home the days I taught, I went to work the days he taught). He wasn’t able to drive long distances, but he could go to the grocery store around the corner. He made dinners a couple nights a week. On days he felt really bad, we let things roll. We went to counseling. He found a better medicine. Things improved a little at a time. Eighteen months later, we have learned a few things about homeschooling in hardship

1. My expectations are my worst enemy

I had a picture in my mind of what homeschooling and homemaking should look like. I began to feel overwhelmed when I couldn’t make the picture match my reality. What I learned is that the flexibility of homeschool was a huge gift in our crisis. Dad could teach school, we could have evening class (or Saturday!), and I could modify curriculum or even stop a subject for a while. I know a family who dealt with a serious health emergency by taking a break from school completely for a season. I have the freedom to make school work with our whole life, not dominate it.

2. Grieve the losses

It’s all right to be sad over things that aren’t the way you want. My youngest child was seven when I went to work. She’d cry and cling to me as I’d leave. In the beginning I was  defensive, but then I learned to say, “I miss you too when I’m gone. It’s hard to be away from you.” I had to put my own schooling on hold. My husband wants to be well. These are sad things and we’ve cried over them.

3. Gratitude allows me to celebrate

There are things in my life that are good. When I get too grumpy, too overwhelmed, or tempted to turn to bitterness over how things are, gratitude realigns my heart. I’m grateful for a husband who does the hard work to get better. I’m grateful for a household full of love. I’m grateful for the other families I’ve found who are surviving really tough things who understand what it feels like to walk through the fire. I’m grateful for a God who never leaves me. I’m grateful I still get to teach my children.

4. Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others

Here’s the honest truth: I am TERRIBLE at this. If we were on an airplane and the cabin depressurized, my first inclination would be to help everyone else put on their masks until I collapsed. In life, if I fall apart because I neglect myself, no one gets help.  I’m learning that it isn’t selfish to say no to a legitimate request because it’s more than I can do. It isn’t wrong to sometimes use my precious free time to do something I want to do instead of something someone else wants to do. It’s okay to take a nap, delegate a task, give 85% of myself to an activity instead of 100%, or spend money on an item that makes my life easier. Balance means we all get a turn receiving care, and that includes me.

5. Suffering is a teacher, not a punishment

We live in a fallen world and lots of things are broken, which means suffering happens to all of us. Walking through it has solidified my trust that God is good and He sustains me. Suffering is not caused by my lack of faith or disobedience. God does not sit in Heaven shaking His head at my fragility and failure. My circumstances are not something God is doing to me, but something He is walking with me. In it, He has gently shown me my own pride, rebellion, idolatry, and lack of faith, which points me back to His goodness and grace.

6. The long-term crisis is not less valid than the big emergency

We are in this stage now. I call it the slow burn, the fatigue that’s caused by stress over a long period of time. Maybe there was a major event, but the long-term grind can be just as exhausting. I’ve found that those with long-term illnesses or those grieving the loss of a loved one have much to teach me about endurance. I work hard to continue to talk about it, to ask for help, to acknowledge when it is hard, and to reevaluate and change if necessary.

You are not alone

If you are in the middle of hardship, you are not alone. I found out that there were many families around me who homeschooled as they dealt with situations that disrupted their plans. Because they were willing to talk about their challenges, I was brave enough to share my own. This may be my new “normal” life, but I know I have others who walk with me in it. And while I will never say I’ve enjoyed the experience of suffering, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from it.

Sylvia Miller lives in Phoenix. She and her husband, Kevin, have the privilege of co-discipling their four children through homeschool. Sylvia works part-time and is going to school verrrrrry slowly with the goal of becoming a nurse in the next eight years. She finds joy in flowers, people-watching in airports, and phone conversations with friends.

Questions about homeschooling in Arizona? We’re here to help!

Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) is the statewide homeschool organization here in Arizona. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit run by a board of directors made up of couples who are all homeschooling parents ourselves.
602-235-2673 ext. 1

Homeschooling in Arizona

Arizona Homeschool Groups


AFHE Home Blog Legislative Updates

Protecting Child Safety and Homeschool Freedom

by Allison Gentala, AFHE Board Member and Director of Government Affairs

On March 24, 2020, HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) Senior Counsel Darren Jones published the blog post Harvard Summit to Discuss Regulating Homeschooling. AFHE has received numerous questions from our members and the Arizona homeschool community about this summit to be hosted by Harvard University’s Child Advocacy Program, with concerns about the potential impact on homeschool freedom. On behalf of AFHE, I’d like to provide some background as well as action you can take.

Child safety is crucial

AFHE believes every child should be safe and free from abuse. Abuse of a child should always be reported. It’s the law. Under Arizona’s mandatory reporter law, all parents must report to law enforcement and state child safety officials if they have a reasonable belief that their child is being or has been abused. Additionally, all adults are mandatory reporters for children for whom they have temporary custody or care (e.g. teachers, physicians, Sunday school teachers, etc.).

Learn more about reporting child abuse in Arizona at

Parental rights protect children

We believe parents have the right to be the primary decision-makers for their children. Therefore, we also believe parents have the right to make educational decisions for their children. Regrettably, abuse occurs within every education option. However, research shows homeschooling has the lowest rate of abuse among the various education options studied. Limiting or regulating homeschool freedom has not been shown to have any correlation to improved child safety.

Find research and more at

About the summit

AFHE has been aware of the summit at Harvard for several months. We have been in ongoing communication with state homeschool leaders from across the country as we seek ways to best protect homeschool freedoms here in Arizona.

The agenda for the summit is clear. The individuals hosting and speaking are already working aggressively across the nation to promote regulatory policy state by state. Many of these speakers are connected to an advocacy group with the express purpose of regulating homeschooling.

Truant families are not homeschool families

AFHE has been monitoring the actions of this group for quite a few years. Their tendency is to paint truancy abuse cases as a homeschool issue. In some cases, an abuse suspect may claim they homeschool in order to avoid added charges of truancy, but that doesn’t mean they were in fact homeschooling.  In Arizona, we have a legal process for a parent to homeschool their child. Only those who have filed an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool with their County School Superintendent’s office and who provide instruction to their children in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, math, science, and social studies are legally homeschooling. This separates homeschool families from families who have truant students.

Learn more about Arizona homeschool law at

Three ways you can help protect homeschool freedom


Our volunteer government affairs team is on-site at the Arizona State Capitol weekly during each legislative session. We attend stakeholder meetings and interact with legislators throughout the year.

AFHE members receive a legislative update every session and have the opportunity to affect important legislation through action alerts when necessary. Your membership and tax-deductible donations supports a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the Arizona homeschool community and preserving the freedom we currently enjoy.

Your support makes this important work possible!


DONATE – Make a tax-deductible donation to AFHE


Be sure to get out this November and vote for candidates who support parental rights and school choice. It’s not unusual for the academic world to entertain radical anti-family and anti-freedom notions. Electing committed men and women who respect the freedom of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children is crucial.

One helpful resource for researching candidates is the Voter Guide from Center for Arizona Policy, which will be published closer to the election.


Pray for wisdom and discernment for all involved … for our elected officials, leaders, legislators, and for those who work to protect homeschool freedom.

“Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and reverence. 1 Timothy 2:1-2


Together, we can protect and preserve homeschool freedom in Arizona.



AFHE Home Blog Encouragement Homeschool Help Uncategorized

Having Conversations About Today’s Tough Stuff

Having Conversations
About Today’s Tough Stuff

with Dr. Kathy Koch


Watch this encouraging talk by noted child development expert Dr. Kathy Koch,, for a practical and encouraging discussion about ways to help your children deal with their thoughts and feelings during difficult times. This talk was recorded live on Facebook on March 24, 2020.

Having Conversations About Today’s Tough Stuff

Children’s thoughts and feelings are always important. In times of confusion and crisis like we’re going through, they matter even more. How do we make it more likely that our children will come to us with their questions and feelings? Dr. Kathy Koch will share ideas for how to respond to help your child feel heard and safe, and provide some ideas to help you and your children navigate uncertain times.


About Dr. Kathy

Dr. Kathy Koch (“cook”), is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas, and the cofounder of Ignite the Family, based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Through her speaking, she has influenced thousands of parents and children in 30 countries. She is also a popular radio guest and an author of six books. Dr. Kathy earned a Ph.D. in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. She has loved Jesus for years and her faith and desire to serve and glorify God is the foundation of her ministry.

Learn more about homeschooling in Arizona

With more than 38,000 students being homeschooled in Arizona, and more than 2.1 million students nationwide, this parent-led, privately funded education at home model has proven to be an effective and successful option for many families across the state. We’ve put together a handy blog post answering ten frequently asked questions about homeschooling in Arizona. You’ll find helpful links, resources, and more!

AFHE Home Blog Getting Started Homeschool FAQ Uncategorized

Ten Questions About Homeschooling in Arizona

With more than 38,000 students being homeschooled in Arizona, this parent-led, privately funded education at home model has proven to be an effective option for many families across the state.

Perhaps you’re considering homeschooling your child. We’ve put together answers to ten frequently asked questions to help you as research and learn more.

#1 – What is homeschooling?

Arizona state law defines a homeschool

Arizona Revised Statutes §15-802 G 2
“Homeschool means a nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent, guardian, or other person who has custody of the child or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.”

Homeschoolers are parents or guardians who assume full responsibility for educating their children at home and must provide instruction in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, science, and social studies pursuant to ARS §15-802.

Student Classifications

There are six general classifications of student in Arizona: Public School, Charter School, Virtual Charter School, Private School, Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA contract student), and Homeschool.

Especially for at-home education options, there can often be confusion about whether a student is a homeschooler. While the schoolwork may take place at home, neither virtual charter school students nor ESA contract students are classified as homeschoolers according to Arizona Revised Statutes. Homeschooling is a legally defined option that is distinct from all other education options in Arizona. 

Arizona Revised Statutes §15-802 (a) states: “Every child between the ages of six and sixteen years shall attend a school and shall be provided instruction in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.  The person who has custody of the child shall choose a public, private or charter school or a homeschool as defined in this section to provide instruction or shall sign a contract to participate in an Arizona empowerment scholarship account pursuant to section 15-2402.”

In the infographic to the left, we give a brief overview of each of the Arizona Education Options and the student classifications available in our state.

Learn more at AFHE.ORG/AZ-LAW

#2 – What are the advantages of homeschooling?

Homeschooling has many benefits including the following:

  • Parents are able to tailor a course of study to their child’s individual abilities, learning style, needs, interests, and future goals.
  • The flexibility to customize the pace at which the child moves through material is beneficial for concept mastery.
  • The one-on-one tutorial style of learning is highly effective.
  • Parents are able to choose the worldview through which their children are educated.
  • Learning together provides an even greater opportunity for building strong family relationships.
  • Parents have the opportunity to address character issues consistently.
  • Students often have more time to pursue areas of interest.
  • Class sizes are MUCH smaller.
  • High school students can get a jumpstart on college education or career preparation.

Homeschooling is more than an education option. It is a lifestyle of learning and discovery!

#3 – What’s required to homeschool in Arizona?

Ages 6 to 16. Parents may elect to delay formal education until their child is 8 years old by noting so on the affidavit (must still file the affidavit at age 6).

No minimum days required. Attendance tracking not required.

At least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, science, and social studies. Parents select and purchase the curriculum and resources of your choice. Homeschooling allows you to move through material at a pace that works best for your child, and to customize the topics taught within each subject area.


Submit a notarized Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool with proof of birth to the County School Superintendent’s office within 30 days of starting to homeschool (or within 30 days of your child’s 6th birthday if you started homeschooling earlier). The affidavit is filed once, not annually.

None required. Parents are responsible for creating their child’s high school transcript and should keep records for 9th-12th grades to calculate GPA and complete the transcript.

None required. There are a number of private testing services that homeschool families can utilize, if desired. Read more in our testing FAQ.


Five Steps to Filing the Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool

  1. Download and fill out the affidavit
  2. Get it notarized
  3. Submit proof of birth with the affidavit
  4. Mail or hand deliver the affidavit and proof of birth to the County School Superintendent
  5. Get started!

Enjoy the learning adventure with your kids.


#4 – How do we get started?

Homeschooling is as unique as each family that embarks upon this journey. Your homeschool is going to look different than other families’. It may take some trial and error to get into a routine that works well for you and your children.

Here are some things that you can do to help you have success as you get started.

  • Read books about homeschooling.
  • Familiarize yourself with Arizona homeschool law.
  • Find a homeschool support group in your area.
  • Talk to experienced homeschooling parents.
  • File an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool.
  • Select and purchase your curriculum and resources.
  • Set goals for the year.
  • Get organized. Organize your home, your supplies, and your schedule.
  • Be willing to adapt as needed. Expect there to be a learning curve for you and your kids.
  • Attend the AFHE Homeschool Convention in July.

If you’re transitioning from public school to homeschool, you’ll find some very practical encouragement about what to expect in this helpful article by Laura Gadbery.
Ten Things You Might Experience Transitioning from School to Homeschool

#5 – What does it cost?

The cost of homeschooling is as varied as the individual families who teach their children at home. It depends on a number of factors including:

  • The curriculum and resources you choose
  • How many and what types of extracurricular activities your child participates in
  • Field trips and enrichment activities you choose to do
  • If you decide to have your child take a standardized test

Homeschooling does not have to be expensive, and it is a worthwhile investment in your child. 

We are often asked if there are tax credits or funding for homeschooling. We have answered that question in this article: Do Homeschoolers Get a Tax Credit?

#6 – Where do I find curriculum?

There is an abundance of curriculum and resources available to homeschooling today. Attending AFHE’s annual Homeschool Convention is a great way to view and shop for a wide variety of curriculum and resources in person all in one place.

You can research on the internet, talk to other homeschooling parents and support group leaders, and read reviews and books on this topic. A couple of recommendations:

Cathy Duffy Reviews,

The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles by Carol Barnier (available through Amazon)

In addition, Arizona is blessed to have a local resource center in Phoenix that has a bookstore with new and used curriculum. Their knowledgeable staff can answer questions and provide direction on choosing curriculum.
Covenant Home School Resource Center,


Identifying your child’s learning style can help you choose curriculum that works best for him or her. There are a number of books on the market that can give you insight in this area. Two examples are:
Demystifying Learning Styles: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Tyler Hogan, Bright Ideas Press
The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias (available on Amazon) 

#7 – What about graduation?

 The homeschooling parent is responsible for creating and maintaining their child’s high school transcript and issuing a diploma. Students who are homeschooled through high school are able to successfully go on to college, the workplace, and the military.


Homeschool Transcripts, More Important Than Ever by Colene Lewis
Diploma Equivalency in Arizona by Tom Lewis
The High School Handbook: Junior and Senior High at Home by Mary Schofield (Amazon)
HSLDA: Homeschooling through High School
NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute)


AFHE Graduation Ceremony

Each spring (usually the end of May), AFHE hosts a beautiful cap-and-gown graduation ceremony for Arizona homeschool students graduating from high school at home.

It is a special celebration of an important milestone and includes a commencement speaker, musical performances, senior class address, diploma presentation, photos of each graduate, and more. The registration window is mid-November through the end of February. LEARN MORE

#8 – What about sports?

Arizona Revised Statutes §15-802.01 states that a homeschooled child who resides within the attendance area of a public school shall be allowed to try out for interscholastic activities (such as sports) on behalf of the public school in the same manner as a pupil who is enrolled in that school. Parents who choose this avenue should familiarize themselves with the policies of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA).

There are a variety of opportunities available to homeschooled students within the homeschool community and in the private sector as well, including competitive athletics programs run by homeschoolers for homeschoolers, club ball organizations, programs offered through city parks and recreation departments, and more. One example of a competitive sports opportunity for Arizona homeschoolers is EVAC Sports. 

#9 – What if my child is struggling or gifted?

Homeschooling can work really well for children who are gifted learners or who have special learning needs or unique learning challenges of all types. Parents can offer their children individualized education, flexibility, encouragement, and support. AFHE is building a SPECIAL LEARNERS RESOURCES page on our website and we also hold special learners events for parents periodically.

Additional resources:

#10 – What about socialization?

Socialization is defined as “to make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.” Many homeschooling families have discovered that healthy socialization takes place when children are exposed to people of all ages in various settings, rather than being limited to a group of peers all about the same age. Children can learn to socialize in everyday activities such as a trip to the grocery store or library, visits with grandparents, play dates with friends, support group activities, park days, and so on. More importantly, children often receive their most valuable socialization in the nurturing environment of home and family.

Arizona has a vibrant, active homeschool community with many opportunities for socialization. One of the biggest challenges families encounter is dealing with the abundance of activities available. Parents should look for activities that enhance the homeschool experience without leading to the frenzied distraction of too many outside endeavors. Learning to say “no” to the good and the better helps a family leave room for the best.

We’re here to help!

If you have questions about homeschooling in Arizona, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are homeschooling parents ourselves and we are here to help. | 602-235-2673

AFHE Home Blog Homeschool Solutions Uncategorized

Starting a Kids’ Book Club

Starting a Kids’ Book Club: The Power of Reading Together

by Lisa Varner

“Whether or not people read, and indeed how much and how often they read, affects their lives in crucial ways. All of the data suggests how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals—whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed. The cold statistics confirm something that most readers know but have mostly been reluctant to declare as fact—books change lives for the better.”1

Reading Is Foundational

Most of us agree that developing our children’s love for reading and great books is one of our most important goals as parents and home educators. Everywhere we turn, it seems, we encounter study after study stating that a person who voluntarily reads will do better in school and in life.

Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and its nationally recognized studies Reading At Risk and To Read or Not to Read, summarizes this well, “If you could know only one thing about a 17- or 18-year old to predict his or her future success, you’d probably want to know whether they voluntarily read. If the answer is yes, you can be reasonably sure they will do better in school, they’ll do better in the job market, they’ll become more integrated with their community, and they will have higher odds of successful personal outcomes.”2

Obstacles to Cultivating a Love of Reading

We want our children to grow into lifelong readers. It can be difficult to encourage our children to love reading, however.

We often face many obstacles. Not only is the act of reading complex and difficult for many of our children, but also we can struggle to find books that they are interested in reading. Some of them haven’t yet discovered the enjoyment of a great story, and so they have declared that they do not like to read. As a result their “mental reading muscles” are underdeveloped. Finally, digital media can prove to be one of our most significant obstacles.

The Rise of Digital Media

Today’s generations are growing up in a world no longer dominated by books and literature. Instead, according to the Center for Disease Control, the average American child aged 8-18 years old spends 6-9 hours every day in front of a screen.3 The U.S. Census Bureau conducted a large survey in 2002 on participation in the arts with startling conclusions: “With the rise of digital media, less than half of U.S. adults were now reading literature.

The survey found there had been a 10 percentage-point decline over two decades, which was a loss of 20 million potential readers. The drop spread across every age group, every ethnic group, both genders and all income levels. Worse yet, the steepest decline was among those 18 to 34, who 20 years earlier had been the most likely age group to read a book. The survey also indicated this backsliding of a literate America had rapidly accelerated with the advent of social media networks, streaming services and all-consuming video games. Experts extrapolated that, if the trend continued, reading as a pastime would be all but nonexistent in another 50 years.”4

The Reading Crisis

It is the sad truth that every group in America is reading less than 20 years ago and also reading less well—kids, teens, young adults, adults, and even college graduates.5 Dana Gioia’s 2007 NEA team discovered that people who didn’t read were less likely to vote in elections, volunteer for charities, attend public events, and support cultural institutions. Additionally, Gioia was correct in his suspicions that the dangers didn’t end there. Later neurological research and MRI testing confirmed that reading increases brain connectivity and improves basic human empathy, while exposure to most screen-based media has the exact opposite effect.6

Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media, they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading. “The general decline in reading is not merely a cultural issue, though it has enormous consequences for literature and the other arts. It is a serious national problem. If, at the current pace, America continues to lose the habit of regular reading, the nation will suffer substantial economic, social, and civic setbacks.”7 America is facing a reading crisis. We need to do all we can to lead our youth to rediscover the gift of great books.

The Power of Reading Together

Kids’ book clubs can be such a powerful help in this effort. J.K. Rowling states that if a person doesn’t like to read, they haven’t found the right book. We can take that a step further and also conclude that if a person doesn’t like to read, perhaps they have not yet encountered the joy of fellow readers. I have seen my own amazing proof of this in the last several years.

May 2019 marked the end of the third year of our girls’ book club and the end of the second year of our boys’ book club. We read ten books a year, or one book a month, from August to May. We have had a range of ages in our book clubs, although most of our girls were 13 and most of our boys were 10 when we began. Our girls and boys absolutely love book club!

Positive Social Influence

Book clubs are just wonderful, in our experience. They bring us together around a great book and provide community, accountability, and fun. Whether a child is a nonreader, reluctant reader, or a lover of books, all of the members will grow in their eagerness to read. I most attribute that growth to the positive social influence of a book club.

There is nothing quite like the influence of friends and peers who are excited about the same book and excited to talk about it together. When you add in the chance to grow in friendship with others, along with games and snacks, it is easy to see how book club has the potential to transform children into lifetime readers.

Starting Your Own Book Club

Have you considered starting a book club for your child? If so, perhaps you were unsure of what to read, how to get other kids to come, or what to do during book club? I’m excited to share my experiences with you from my years of leading these two book clubs, along with lots of information on my Facebook page, Starting a Kids Book Club – The Power of Reading Together, to help you get started.

Step One: Deciding on the Format

Once you’ve caught the passion to start a kids’ book club, the first step is to decide on your format.

  • How often will you meet?
  • Where and when will you meet?
  • What will be the size of your book club?

Enjoy the freedom of designing a book club around your schedule and interests.

While my groups have enjoyed meeting once a month in our home, book clubs can happen with different frequencies and a variety of locations such as in libraries, coffee houses, churches, etc. I encourage you to decide on the group size you would like and extend invitations slowly so that you don’t grow too big. The average size of our groups has been 16 kids.

I have been amazed by the enthusiastic response from every girl or boy we have invited and can assure you that you will not have trouble finding kids to join your book club. It is very fun to have a large group and yet also challenging. Generally speaking, the optimal size is probably 8-12 members.

Step Two: Planning the Reading List and Book Club Dates

The second step will be to plan the reading list and book club dates. Others get even more excited about your book club when you have a great line-up of books and specific dates already selected for the upcoming year all presented in an attractive way.

You will find all of the book lists we have used—nearly 70 books in all—on my Facebook page. I have chosen books from a variety of genres so that our kids are stretched to read books beyond what they normally would read. Our girls and boys have stated that they really love this aspect of our book clubs.

There are so many available resources beyond my book lists to help you discover great books for your book clubs. I have used all of the following titles for help: The Read Aloud Revival by Jim Trelease, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin, Books that Build Character by William Kilpatrick, Books That Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson, and Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson.

In addition, the following websites have been a fantastic help:

I frequently consult lists of Newberry Award winners, read many book reviews, and ultimately read lots and lots of books. I encourage you to use my book lists and all of these wonderful resources to choose books your kids will love.

Step Three: Inviting Others

The third step will be to invite kids to join your book club. Consider inviting your children’s friends from homeschool groups, church youth groups, neighbors, sports teams, etc. We have really enjoyed having a mix of homeschooled and public/private-schooled kids in our book clubs and have seen it as an outreach of sorts. Be sure and have your book list, book club dates, and location all ready to hand to each child you are inviting.

Step Four: Planning the First Meeting

The fourth step will be to plan your first meeting. A two-hour book club meeting works well. For about the first 30 minutes, we typically play ice breaker games (an online search will lead you to many great games) or share a bit of what’s been happening in our lives since we last met by sharing a “high” and a “low” from the last month. Then we move into the book discussion which usually lasts 45-60 minutes.

Our teen girls lead their own discussions, while adults lead our middle school boy discussions. We usually use some kind of object to pass around and to be held by the person speaking. This is a helpful visual reminder that it is another’s person’s time to speak and a time for all others to practice listening.

It has been thrilling to watch our kids grow in their ability to listen, reflect, and respond to each other’s opinions and perspectives on the books. Then we end our time together by eating snacks and playing games or playing outside. You’ll find more information about this schedule and some lists of general book discussion questions on my FB page.

Step Five: Planning Snacks

The last step will be to plan snacks. Snacks are essential for a great book club. Consider having a family snack sign-up list and decide how many people will bring snacks each time. Sometimes our families have brought snacks that match the book theme. That is always fun and so enjoyed. Be sure to send reminders to those signed up, and be ready with a backup plan just in case. As the host, I provide water and plates, napkins, silverware, etc. The kids love snack time. They love everything about book club!

Leading a Book Club Is a Worthwhile Endeavor

It is my great passion to be a small force in this bigger battle to get our kids reading again. The evidence of literature’s importance to civic, personal, and economic health is too strong to ignore. We must do all we can to reclaim our youth for books, for reading, for the power of a great story, for the ability to imagine, reason, ponder and reflect, for community in a non-online world, and for the opportunity to encounter role models in books who are brave, good, fascinating and different than us.

As Sarah Clarkson beautifully states, “…to read a great story is to begin to learn how to live one.”8 I believe this is even more certain when we are reading these great stories together.

I want to encourage you that leading a book club is definitely something you can do and absolutely worth every effort. I hope this will be the year you start a kids’ book club. Everyone will be so glad you did. Happy reading to all!

Lisa Varner

Lisa Varner has always loved books and been an avid reader. She loved teaching high school English for 11 years and then moved into professional counseling. Her career path changed again in 2011 when she and her husband, Mark, decided to homeschool their three children. She has loved homeschooling for the last 8+ years—even on the difficult days—and has been thrilled to grow her children into readers. When she’s not leading a book club or homeschooling or counseling, she loves any chance to be with her family and friends, especially when that includes hiking, camping, and reading. Lisa lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, children, and, quite arguably, the world’s best dog. Follow Lisa’s Facebook page Starting a Kids’ Book Club – The Power of Reading Together for more helpful information.

End Notes

1 National Endowment for the Arts. (November 2007). To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence.  (Research report #47). Washington, DC: Office of Research & Analysis.

2Burger, John. “Dana Gioia Shares the Key to Your Teen’s Success.” Aleteia,  28 January 2014, Accessed 14 June 2019.

3 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Screen Time vs. Lean Time Infographic.” 29 January 2018, Accessed 10 June 2019.

4 Anderson, Scott Thomas. “The Man Who Saved Reading: Dana Gioia’s Battle for the Future of the Arts, Literature and Critical Thinking in America.” Medium, 22 December 2018, Accessed 13 June 2019.

5 National Endowment for the Arts (n1)

6 Anderson (n4)

7 National Endowment for the Arts (n1)

8 Clarkson, Sarah. Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Transformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children. Monument, CO: Storyformed Books, 2013. Print.

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Box Tops for Education Goes Digital

Box Tops for Education Goes Digital

by Cindy Duell, October 2019

For nearly a decade, AFHE has been participating in Box Tops for Education (BTFE) as a fundraiser that benefits the Arizona Homeschool Scholarship Fund. Families all around Arizona have clipped and collected these cardboard chits and brought them to support group gatherings, the AFHE Convention, and even mailed them in (sometimes with handwritten notes of encouragement).

This group effort has been a significant way to provide encouragement and support for many deserving homeschool graduates. We have raised more than $7,200 through Box Tops for Education with our community’s participation!

Exciting Time of Transition for Box Tops

This wonderful fundraising opportunity is now in a time of transition. Box Tops for Education has determined that it is time to take the program to a fully digital format. What?!? No more clipping and saving and remembering to take the Box Tops to the next meeting? No more counting and bundling little cardboard squares? No more postage expense? That’s exactly right!

You may have noticed that those product packages which used to have that little dotted outline on the top now have a new logo highlighting this new digital approach. Through the end of 2019 there will still be some packaging with the clippable coupons found in grocery stores. Those Box Tops can still be used, and so can any Box Tops you have at home with expiration dates in the future.

Please do continue bringing those Box Tops to AFHE events and mailing them to AFHE as they can still be redeemed during this transition period.

Scanning Box Tops is Easy and Fun

Moving forward, the new method for participating in the fundraiser is by using their app. Available from Google Play or the App Store, this free app has the redemption mechanism built right in. After making a purchase with eligible items, you simply open the app and scan your receipt! Done! Box Tops are still worth 10 cents each, and in the app you will be able to see how AFHE’s scholarship fund is benefiting in real time!

The new format for the program will be much easier for participants, volunteers, and organizations. The app will also be useful for identifying eligible products and tracking special offers that will benefit our scholarship fund even more. Some of the special offers listed have huge bonus earning opportunities, made so easy with the app!

We hope you will take a look at the app and give it a try. Receipts do need to be scanned and redeemed within 14 days of purchase.

So, no more clipping and collecting for you or counting and bundling for AFHE volunteers—but feel free to go ahead send us a handwritten note anytime!

When you set up your account, search for Arizona Families for Home Education as our school name to make sure proceeds are going to support AFHE. Thanks!

Your Help Makes a Difference!

The Arizona Homeschool Scholarship Fund (AHSF) provides eligible Arizona homeschooled students with financial assistance in pursuing post-secondary education from a college, university, or trade school.

100% of the money raised through Box Tops for Education is distributed to Arizona homeschool graduates in the form of scholarships for college/post-secondary education.


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What Makes Grand Canyon University a Great Choice for Homeschoolers?

What Makes Grand Canyon University a Great Choice for Homeschool Students?

2019 AFHE Convention Sponsor – Guest Blog Post
by Sheila Jones, Grand Canyon University

At Grand Canyon University (GCU) we absolutely love homeschooled students! They come in with a missions background, a BIG love for the Lord, and an exceptional work ethic. We are finding homeschoolers flocking to our vibrant campus from all over the nation and we want to do all we can to nurture them. Here are a few big reasons why Grand Canyon University is the best university in the nation for homeschooled students.


We have an incredible community! One of the best things about homeschoolers and their families is how well they build community. You often find homeschoolers giving back to the community and each other, worshipping, and taking adventures. This is exactly what GCU does. If you stop any student on GCU’s campus and ask them what their favorite part of being at GCU is, they will likely say “the community.” GCU is a natural fit for homeschoolers because, despite our growing campus, we work hard to keep the community at the forefront, just like homeschooling parents do.

Would you like more information on GCU?
GCU Introduction


According to Barna Research, roughly 70% of high school students who enter college as Christians will leave with without their faith and we strive hard to fight those odds. GCU has life leaders on every floor of every dorm who lead bible studies, Chapel on Mondays where over 7,000 students voluntarily come to listen to God’s word, and The Gathering on Tuesday evenings where students lead worship together. We have mission opportunities both in the local neighborhood and overseas. It is cool to love the Lord on our campus at GCU!

Would you like more information on our Spiritual Life? 
GCU Spiritual Life


Our Dual Enrollment is top notch! Dual Enrollment helps homeschoolers get a jump on college and save money. Over 70% of our students graduate in less than four years. GCU understands most homeschooling parents operate off one income, so we have worked hard to make our dual classes extremely affordable or even free for local homeschooled students who attend on our campus. Our dual students save money on the front end of their college career and this helps students reduce their debt load on the back end when they graduate and head out into the workforce.

Would you like more information on our Dual Enrollment?
GCU Dual Enrollment


For more details on this homeschool-friendly university …
CONTACT Sheila Jones,
FACEBOOK: Ask to join our GCU Homeschool Facebook page at

Sheila Jones, Grand Canyon University

Sheila Jones currently serves as program manager for Strategic Educational Alliances, working closely with homeschool groups within GCU’s Alliance Program for Homeschool Achievement (ALPHA) program. Sheila spent her previous years in admissions at GCU and supplementing education by running and owning a private tutoring company servicing the state of Arizona. Sheila earned her undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University and completed her Master’s degree in Business Leadership and Grand Canyon University. Sheila’s hope is to explore and learn more about how she can glorify the Lord through her opportunities as a servant leader. She adores working and advocating for homeschool groups and hopes to have a hand in furthering their opportunities for growth through GCU.

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54th Legislature Wraps Up

Sine Die

by Allison Gentala, AFHE Government Affairs

May 28, 2019

As the school year wraps up for many of us, so does the 1st regular session of the 54th Legislature at Arizona’s State Capitol. Much like school years, sessions are exciting and fun, but we’re always ready for a break at the end. This legislative session was largely uneventful for homeschool freedom—which is exactly the way we like it!

A bit of History: The session opened on January 14 and adjourned sine die at 12:58 am on May 28. This year’s legislative session was longer than average, but by no means the longest. In 2013, the 51st Legislature 1st Regular Session lasted 151 days as Governor Brewer pushed for Medicaid expansion. Previously, in 2009, the 49th Legislature 1st regular session ran 170 days due to budget disagreements. As if that wasn’t enough, summer of 2009 was full of special sessions where lawmakers were hard at work for an additional 71 days. But the record for the longest session was set back in 1988 by the 38th Legislature 2nd regular session, which ran 173 days, as the impeachment of Governor Evan Mecham was underway.  

AFHE’s Involvement

The 54th Legislature is closely divided. There are 31 Republicans and 29 Democrats in the House, 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats in the Senate. While AFHE is a non-profit and stays bipartisan, legislators do not. The close vote margin makes it difficult to both pass favorable legislation for homeschoolers and to oppose legislation that jeopardizes homeschool freedom. We are grateful there were no bills limiting or regulating homeschoolers this session and no special situations for homeschoolers requiring legislation to rectify or clarify.

AFHE’s legislative team spent the session watching bills, meeting new legislators, joining school choice coalition meetings, and getting homeschool information packets to all legislators. Additionally, throughout the session, our government affairs team responded to questions from lawmakers about how pending legislation might affect homeschooling.

In addition to legislative work, AFHE’s Government Affairs Team also works to build relationships with elected officials outside the Legislature. This year we have been gradually meeting with county school superintendents and mailed each one a homeschool information packet. It’s important to know that many bills pass or are killed by one or two votes. Although as a nonprofit organization which is bipartisan, AFHE does not support candidates. We do, however, support homeschool freedom and parental rights. If you want to be a part of protecting this freedom and rights, we encourage you to research the candidates and be certain to cast your vote every election cycle in accordance with your views in these areas.

Partner with AFHE

AFHE Membership has benefits for your family and your membership supports the work of a non-profit organization that serves Arizona homeschool families all year long.

Not a member? JOIN TODAY 

Together, we are making a difference to preserve homeschool freedom!

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Learning at Home and in Nature

Learning at Home and in Nature

Guest Post by Charlene Notgrass, Notgrass History

President Theodore Roosevelt received most of his childhood education at home. He learned from his father and mother. He also learned from his aunt and grandmother who lived with his family in New York City. Their lessons equipped him with knowledge, values, and habits that would guide his life.

Young Theodore’s parents gave him and his siblings opportunities to experience the outdoors. Their family took wonderful field trips and vacations. They spent summers in the country, roaming, exploring, riding horses, and climbing trees. The children went barefoot much of the time. They watched the haying and harvesting, picked apples, hunted frogs and woodchucks, and gathered nuts to sell to their parents.

In the country, the children had all kinds of pets—cats, dogs, rabbits, a raccoon, and a Shetland pony. Theodore loved these extended vacations so much that he felt eager to go when spring came and sad when the family moved back to town in the late fall.

While he was a student at Harvard, Theodore made two trips to Maine with friends and a local guide named Bill Sewall. Mr. Sewall told his family later that Theodore would take his Bible each day and go alone to a certain place in the woods. There he communed with God and admired the wonder and beauty of the natural world. (Now known as Bible Point, the location is a Maine State Historic Site.)

Touring America

Theodore Roosevelt spent many years in public service. Elected vice president in 1900, he became president after the death of William McKinley in 1901. In 1903, President Roosevelt left Washington, D.C., for a nine-week journey across the United States by train, automobile, and horse. He traveled 14,000 miles, visiting twenty-five states, and speaking more than 250 times.

Celebrating the beauty and majesty of God’s Creation was an important part of his trip. Roosevelt spent two weeks camping at Yellowstone with naturalist John Burroughs. He also asked conservationist John Muir to give him a personal tour of Yosemite.


President Theodore Roosevelt at the Grand Canyon, 1903
President Theodore Roosevelt at the Grand Canyon, 1903

Visiting Arizona

Roosevelt made his first visit to the Arizona Territory on this trip. He had served with soldiers from Arizona in the Spanish-American War, so he felt a connection to the area. His visit to the Grand Canyon made an impact on him, as he expressed in this speech while there:

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country–to keep this great
wonder of nature as it now is. I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope that you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it. If you deal with irrigation, apply it under circumstances that will make it of benefit, not to the speculator who hopes to get profit out of it for two or three years, but handle it so that it will be of use to the home-maker, to the man who comes to live here, and to have his children stay after him. Keep the forests in the same way. Preserve the forests by use; preserve them for the ranchman and the stockman, for the people of the Territory, for the people of the region round about. Preserve them for that use, but use them so that they will not be squandered, that they will not be wasted, so that they will be of benefit to the Arizona of 1953 as well as the Arizona of 1903.

Conservation and Compassion

President Roosevelt returned to Washington wanting even more to preserve America’s treasures. He made the Grand Canyon a national monument. While president, Roosevelt encouraged Congress to set aside land for five new national parks. He also set aside 150 national forests, fifty-one national bird reserves, four national wildlife preserves, and eighteen national monuments. Theodore Roosevelt was the conservationist president. In all, he helped to set aside 230 million acres for government protection.

According to Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (NASB). As homeschoolers today, we can follow the example of Theodore Roosevelt’s parents. We can teach our children and grandchildren to take care of the world God made and the people he put in it.

Special Links

Watch the Notgrass History video series to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt’s homeschool experience:

Retrace President Roosevelt’s 1903 cross-country journey with photographs and summaries of his speeches:

Charlene Notgrass, Notgrass History

Charlene Notgrass, Notgrass HistoryCharlene is a Christian and a veteran homeschooling mom. She is the wife of Ray, the most wonderful man in the world. Charlene has always loved being a mother and now relishes the role of mother-in-law and grandmother. She is proud of her grandma name, “Little.”

Charlene oversees curriculum development and is a lead curriculum author at Notgrass History. She loves to encourage homeschooling mothers through her Daily Encouragement for Homeschooling Mothers blog and free online community for moms. Charlene enjoys reading, quilting, drawing, sewing, and improving their old house.

Author portrait by Kevin Wimpy

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Homeschool Graduation: Is a Finance Class Required?

by Allison Gentala, AFHE Board Member, Director of Government Affairs

Over the years, Arizona lawmakers have sought ways to ensure that high school graduates are well prepared to face the world that awaits them. In order to accomplish this, bills have been passed adding tests or classes to the graduation requirements of Arizona high school students.

In 2015, HB 2064 was passed requiring all public school students to pass a civics test in order to graduate from high school starting in 2017.

In 2019, SB 1184 is before the legislature and would add the requirement of a finance class to ensure that students know how to balance a checkbook, make a budget, and understand the consequences of debt.

While both of these new graduation requirements are wonderful for preparing students to launch well into adult life—and we would encourage you to equip your students with this knowledge—neither are required of homeschoolers.

Homeschooling is not regulated by the Board of Education

Privately funded education is not subject to oversight by the Board of Education. Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) §15-203, in listing the powers and duties of the Board of Education, says that “the state board of education shall exercise general supervision over and regulate the conduct of the public school system and adopt any rules and policies it deems necessary to accomplish this purpose.” No power is given to the Board of Education to supervise or regulate homeschool.

Homeschooling has its own legal definition found in ARS  §15-802, which states homeschool is “a nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent, guardian, or other person who has custody of the child, or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.”

Graduation requirements for homeschoolers

The parent sets the graduation requirements for their homeschooled student, creates the high school transcript, and issues the diploma. If a student is college bound, it is helpful to research college entrance requirements for a school your child is likely to attend and plan their high school courses accordingly.

The AFHE Legislative Team is actively watching legislation that may impact Arizona homeschool freedom. We hope updates like this are beneficial to our community.

Learn more about Arizona homeschool law

Do you have questions about homeschooling in Arizona and the law? Check out AFHE’s AZ Law page.

We invite you to send in your questions to and we may use some of them for future blog posts.

You can support the legislative work AFHE does on behalf of Arizona homeschoolers through a one-time or recurring tax-deductible donation. DONATE HERE