Difficult Seasons

I am sure you have noticed long absences in my posting.  I have struggled with the idea of posting anything very personal on this blog, but I have decided to allow you a closer look at my life.  Not often, probably, but felt that today you needed an explanation.

This has been a difficult season in our home.  In April, we lost my husband’s brother.  This was not just any brother, but someone we all held as most dear to us.  He was the one person that has held steadfast in our family’s life to be there each and every time we needed any kind of help.  He never had children of his own, except for a daughter who died at birth, so one of our children is named after him.  He and my husband worked every day as a team for 40 years, and for 10 years in business together.  When my husband became ill and went on dialysis in 2009, his brother chose to retire.  They were ten years apart in age, but closer than any adult brothers could have been.  My husband was in the hospital when we got the call that his brother had passed away.  It is the most difficult news I have ever had to share.  We miss him.  I cannot express to you how much; there are not words to describe this kind of hollowness that won’t go away.  Only weeks later, we lost my husband’s mother.  She was 103.  Losing a parent is difficult at any age.  For several weeks, we just moved through the motions of surviving each day.

In August, our shop and all contents burned.  In my husband’s shop held tools he had used all his adult life and items from his dad and brothers who were deceased.  The brother I described above had given my daughter a pick-up and it was in the shop also.  This was a devastating blow to my husband.  We worked weeks cleaning up the mess.

My computer got a virus and I had to replace it.  The new computer had some kind of  glitch that after a three weeks wiped itself clean, and I lost all my work.  I had to get another new one and rewrite some things and manage to get some things off the virus computer.  For a writer (and probably anyone needing their documents and photos), this is beyond frustrating.

In November, my husband had surgery for a very large hernia, and I had to be hospitalized for tests on my heart.  I had a cardiac catherization (heart cath).  New meds took a few weeks to adjust to find the right one (and still working on that).

Those are some highlights (or lowlights in this case) that describe why I have not been making regular posts.  However, I want to express that through everything I am blessed, and God does not forsake me in my times of trouble; He just holds me closer.  I can have joy and peace in the midst of my mess.  It is a most amazing thing.  Just as I cannot describe that feeling of losing someone close, I cannot find words to express how God gives me unspeakable peace.

Please have patience with me, and thank you for checking in here at the First Lady Mulberry blog.


Homeschool Pioneer Megan Cross


Megan Admire Cross
1998 Homeschool Graduate
Home educating her children since 2005.

 Megan never went to public or private school, she was always home educated. Her family lived in Georgetown, Texas, and Megan was a year younger than her brother and ten years older than her sister. Megan’s mother began Megan and her brother’s home education in 1984, when her curriculum choices were Abeka, Bob Jones, and Rod & Staff. She used mostly Abeka in the beginning, and attended the homeschool convention in Dallas every year. They were a part of a support group and participated with them in doing play dates at the park and some co-op classes.  When Megan and her brother graduated, they invited friends, family, and church members to their personal graduation that included speeches from them both. Megan graduated high school when she was 16 and started college.  Her first semester she took nine hours and went full time afterwards. In 2002, Megan received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in education.

Even though her parents required college, it was always Megan’s goal to be a mom and home educate her children. When she dated Scott in college, she told him early that she wanted to have a large family and home educate her children. Scott was studying for ministry, and they both wanted a foundation of biblical values for their home. They married right after college graduation, and Seth was born in 2003.  They now have six children, ages 14 to 5, and Megan has followed her desire to homeschool each of them. Her minor in education solidified her conviction to home educate; Megan saw first-hand the inefficiency of the public school apparatus. Megan appreciates the freedom to choose curriculum and enjoys the flexibility of homeschool.

Unlike when her mother home educated and the choices for curriculum were limited, Megan was overwhelmed with so many choices. When she attended her first homeschool convention as the teacher picking the curriculum, Megan admits that she cried from the stress of trying to figure out what she should use. Today, she helps with a workshop, Homeschooling 101, which is taught the night before the Oklahoma City Homeschool Convention. The class goes over the basics one needs to teach, and they walk with the participants to look at all the vendors on the convention floor. It is designed to help ease that stress of being overwhelmed with the vast options offered today.

Megan uses a variety of curriculum and takes her children to a support group co-op one day each week.  At co-op they have studied a wide variety of subjects–music, computer science, sign language, art, cooking, and Excellence in Writing.  Megan feels that her own writing skills are lacking, so she likes to utilize others to help her teach writing.  Megan has a strong science education, and she is happy to share her expertise in exchange. Homeschoolers across the country apply this idea of co-op to teach an area of expertise in exchange for someone else teaching another needed subject.

As many of you know, having six children requires a lot of organization to get everything done. Her children have weekly assignments, and they must budget their time to get their work completed.  If one does not complete an assignment, they must work on Saturday.  The school day mornings are spent with reading, math, and independent study.  In the afternoon the elementary age children work together on spelling, history, science, and Bible.  The older children can sometimes finish all their day’s work by 1:00 pm.  Scott reads aloud to the children more than Megan, and they utilize audio books as well. In addition to the basics at home and taking classes at co-op, the children participate in piano lessons, dance, gymnastics, and Civil Air Patrol.

Megan shared that it is sometimes exhausting to be with children all the time, as every homeschool mom can probably agree. She is thankful for Scott’s strong support. When their last child was three, Megan felt restless and went back to school herself. In 2017, she got her master’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in marriage and family therapy. In ministry, she and her husband have seen situations with very complicated life problems.  Megan felt she needed to be better equipped, and it was necessary to have more training to help people in these situations. She is currently looking at options she can introduce into her busy schedule to use her degree and help others.

Her advice to you is, “take time for play and fun. Give yourself grace, and get out of the public school mentality.”  When she taught at a private school while Scott was in seminary, she discovered that children from the public school background were better at memorization of facts, and those from the homeschool background were much better at critical thinking.  She says both are important, and she works for a balance of both in her homeschool.  Since Megan was home educated and she has always home educated her children, I think I will be taking her advice to take more time for some fun!


Homeschool Pioneer Rhonda Rogers


Rhonda Rogers

Rogers Homeschool 1991-2017

Rhonda and Jim Ed have six children and began homeschooling their first child in 1991 when friends introduced them to Weaver Curriculum, a hands-on activity based curriculum. Rhonda loved it and thought it was so fun. As the children grew older, she added a diverse mix of other curricula to meet the needs of her children. The Rogers family loved the freedom of doing school during those long stretches of time that dad was working, and taking off for family time when Jim Ed was home.

In 2003, they had two boys and a two-year-old daughter when they adopted eight-year-old twin girls from Arizona. Oklahoma authorities did not want the girls home educated, but Arizona authorities recognized the need for continuity in the family and ordered that the girls be educated at home. One of the girls was not yet reading, but within two weeks Rhonda had taught her to read. It was quiet a transition for the whole family, but Rhonda new God was in all the details.

Rhonda shared that the best time was when all the kids were at home. They would get up and have breakfast, and then they each had life skills (chores) to do for an hour. If they finished early, they had free time until school time was called. Some subjects they did all together, like Bible reading, memorization, and history.  Math and language arts were done individually in the morning.  Afternoons were for hands on science and other fun activities as their interests would dictate. There were times of learning in a coop or for taking field trips with others. Rhonda loves to teach and to see a child’s face when a concept is grasped or something new is introduced that they enjoy.

When the children reach high school age, she always gives them the option to enroll in public school. The first four, their oldest two sons and the twin girls, chose to continue homeschooling through high school. They graduated in 2008, 2010, and 2013, respectively. Also in 2008, Rhonda and Jim Ed were blessed with their last child, a son.  During those final years of home educating the older ones and continuing to home educate the younger ones, Rhonda was caregiver to her parents.  After her mother died, caring for her father took much more time, and the girls were a big help. The last months of his life, they moved him into their home, and homeschool was easier. After her father passed away, Rhonda operated a preschool two days per week. All the girls enjoyed helping with the preschool, and Rhonda loved it. “It is a joy to see children when they learn something new,” Rhonda said about her preschool and her homeschool experience of teaching children.

When the fifth child was in the eighth grade, Jim Ed was diagnosed with cancer. The future was uncertain and the family was reeling from the devastating news, so the decision was made for her to go to public school in 2014. It was also what she wanted to do. She has made straight A’s, and when she turned 16, she began working at the local nursing home. Over the summer she attended VoTech, and today, she is a certified nursing assistant (CNA). She continues to work 20 hours each week and will graduate from high school in 2018.  Rhonda continued to home educate her last one through Jim Ed’s chemo and later, remission of his cancer.

After having the house full of children, having just one to homeschool has been lonely for her youngest son. He plays baseball, football, and basketball; and they have decided to enroll him in public school this year. He is in the fifth grade.  However, Rhonda is open to having him come back to homeschooling if he decides he wants to do so.

Their first born went to the local community college for one semester after graduating and decided to take a job instead of continuing college.  He is now married and has two little boys of his own.  His job is working with an oil equipment company.  The second son chose to go straight to work and is single.  He loves his job working for the same company as his older brother.  One of the twins is married and has a baby boy who was diagnosed with cancer at only a month of age.  He is a fighter and continues to have chemo and spends many days in the hospital.  The other twin “is an adventurer,” says Rhonda.  She is single, and plans to work toward her CNA like her sister.

Rhonda would not trade her years of home education.  She says it was the greatest adventure of her life, and she would absolutely recommend this option to others.  The most amazing part was the freedom, and that part of home education is what she will miss most while her last two children are in public school.  Real life challenges happened during those homeschool years–adoption of twins that changed the family dynamic and took some adjustment, caring for ailing parents, a father/husband having cancer, and all the normal challenges that families face. Rhonda relates, “Homeschooling is not easy-peasy; it takes a huge commitment and discipline.”

Curriculum Used:

  • Weaver
  • Saxon Math
  • Abeka
  • Generations
  • Biographies & Autobiographies
  • Sing, Spell, Read, & Write
  • Bob Jones
  • Bible
  • Coop Unit Studies

Selection of Favored Field Trips and Activities:

  • 4-H
  • Harn Homestead
  • Hydro Corn Maze
  • Waste Management
  • Pumpkin Patch
  • Omniplex (now Oklahoma Science Museum) Classes
  • Wichita Mountains Geology with Dr. Sharp
  • Rose Rock Museum
  • Braum’s Tour
  • Anadarko Native American Museum
  • Sam Noble Museum of Natural History
  • Osteology Museum
  • State Capitol Tour
  • Governor’s Mansion Tour
  • 45th Infantry Museum
  • Softball Hall of Fame
  • National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum



Homeschool Pioneer Karen Shipman


Karen Shipman
Shipman Homeschool 1991–2013

Karen and Richard Shipman have three children, and they began their homeschool voyage in 1991.  Karen went to her first Oklahoma Christian Home Educators Consociation (OCHEC) convention when her oldest daughter was three. Her first homeschool convention was in a small-medium sized church in West Oklahoma City with only a few vendors–maybe a dozen–set up in the fellowship hall. Karen has enjoyed watching how Oklahoma Homeschool has grown from those small beginnings to today, when the Cox Convention Center (formerly the Myriad) is packed with homeschoolers and prospective homeschoolers at the convention.

When Karen began to home educate, she only knew two families that had chosen this path. Her parents and family, who had not even heard of homeschooling, did not support the plan to home educate, but later when her children began to learn and succeed, they did come to believe she had done well. Karen did not have a negative experience or ideas about public or private schools, she just felt a conviction by God that this was the right choice for her family.

In 1994, Karen began looking for a math curriculum that would be hands on and use manipulatives.  She saw an ad for exactly what she wanted and called the number on the flyer. When she ordered everything through fifth grade, the creator/owner of the math curriculum asked her to be a representative for her area to sell product and answer questions.  Karen agreed and sold the math curriculum for 16 years. Each year she took her family to three homeschool conventions:  Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Wichita. Karen spent an average of four hours a day, five days a week, answering questions and taking orders over the phone. She enjoyed selling the curriculum and meeting homeschoolers.

In 1996, she could not find a good homeschool Oklahoma History and while teaching at a homeschool coop she developed her own. Karen called it OKLAHOMAP.  She did a first printing of about 250 books and sold all of them. She made money, but her other business of selling math took so much time that she did not do another printing of OKLAHOMAP.

Karen’s favorite aspect of home education is the flexibility, and her least favorite would be the opinions given by those that disagree with the idea of home education.  When family members, friends, fellow church members, and others are critical, it causes unwanted stress. However, Karen has completed her homeschool voyage, and it is apparent she was a success.  Her children’s stories follow:

Ann Shipman
2006 Shipman Homeschool Graduate

Ann received her Doctorate of Pharmacy degree in 2012. She was able to begin taking college courses as a high school junior.  Her first semester at Oklahoma City Community College she took 11 college credit hours, and each semester following while in high school she took 12 credit hours.  Being homeschooled allowed her the flexibility to take those extra hours and gave her a jump start on her degrees.  It also exposed her to other world views.  Ann relates that the training her parents gave her in her home education far exceeded any she would have received elsewhere.  In homeschool, she was able to pursue her interests more in-depth than in a traditional school setting.  However, there were moments of discomfort when she met others with knowledge of areas she had not been exposed to, like playing sports.  Though she did not wish to play sports growing up, she thinks not being exposed to it may be one capability she lacks.  Even so, Ann was exposed to much more than just studying the books.  She participated in activities with support groups: parties, taking tours of places like the Oklahoman newspaper, historic era ballroom dancing, classes at the Oklahoma Science Museum, and more.  Her favorite was probably the ballroom dancing, because it made the era of the time come alive.  She made a dress for herself for one of the balls that she still has.  Ann was also active in 4-H for several years, and she says, “It is was super beneficial. It was a great way to be involved with others to learn public speaking, and 4-H helped me learn to communicate with all ages.” Through 4-H, Ann worked with dogs, and at the time, she wanted to be a veterinarian. However, when she toured the vet school, she changed her mind.  She wanted nothing to do with the messy part of medicine.  Ann did have strong skills in math and science and continued to seek a field that would fit.  Her parents suggested pharmacist, and after she investigated, she agreed.  It was the right decision; she loves her career. Home education may not be the optimal choice for everyone, but Ann believes it was for her.

Stephanie Shipman
2009 Shipman Homeschool Graduate

            Stephanie is a mechanical engineer. As of this writing, she and her husband were expecting their first child.  Stephanie believes that home education gave her the opportunity to have a wide variety of experiences and a broader knowledge base. One of those experiences is that she began assisting customers in her mother’s math business when she was eight; she learned early about customer service.  Interfacing with customers is not a main job description for her now, but it is a quality for which Stephanie’s supervisor has commended her.  She not only believes that home education helped her succeed, but also her parents methods of parenting.  She was not a sheltered homeschooler, but one that participated in multiple activities and was a frequent library visitor reading a variety of books.  Like her mother, Stephanie says that flexibility was the best attribute for her homeschool experience.

John Shipman
2013 Shipman Homeschool Graduate

            John is in college studying forensic science and criminal justice. For the past five years, he has worked in a butcher shop and earned money to be able to live near his university. When asked about his home education experience, John said, “Home education should be considered by everyone. Not everyone should choose it, necessarily, but it should be a consideration. Homeschool helped me to remain focused and work at my own pace.” Now that he is in college, John thinks he is more dedicated to his education than his peers, and he can relate better to his professors. In his work and in his education, he has a positive work ethic. His is well-prepared for his future and credits this to his parents and home education.

Variety of Curriculum Used:

  • Math-U-See
  • Konos
  • Shurley English
  • Apologia Science
  • National Writing Institute Spelling
  • Bob Jones
  • Abeka

Selection of Field Trips and Activities:

  •  Oklahoma City Zoo
  • Oklahoma Science Museum (Omniplex Science Classes)
  • Dr. Sharp Geology Field Trips
  • Historic Era Ballroom Dancing
  • 4-H
  • Concurrent College Classes (all three children)



Homeschool Pioneer Shelly Drew


Shelly Drew

Drew Homeschool 1993–2010

Shelly is originally from Houston, Texas where she taught high school math for three years and hated it.  After Shelly and her husband, Phil, had children, a friend encouraged her to homeschool.  She thought that was a bit weird, and Shelly was not convinced home educating was her best option.  When it was time for her son to go to kindergarten, she enrolled him in a very small private school.  Even though home educating was not her plan, her three years teaching public school had shown her that public school was not the direction she wanted for her three children either. Soon after enrolling her son in the private school, Shelly’s chemist husband’s job transferred them to Vancouver, Washington.  Their son would not be able to attend the private school in Houston.  Shelly had to rethink her plan.

When they arrived at their new home in Washington, there were many others home educating their children.  Homeschooling did not seem so unusual.  In September of 1993, Shelly drove to Target and purchased Golden Step Ahead books to begin her home educating journey.  It was her strategy to just try it for a year, but Shelly says, “It went so swimmingly, I did it the next year.” Her children continued that year with the Golden Step Ahead books, got a library card, and they read many books together.  In the beginning, they wrote thank you notes to family and friends to teach them to write.  Later they included passages of scripture for practice in printing and then cursive.  She was very confident in teaching math, and was creative in her approach.  She liked to use cracks in the sidewalk to create giant number lines.  She never purchased manipulatives, but used whatever was on hand—counting geese at the park, sorting laundry, and M & M’s were a few. Their home education style was eclectic in nature; they never had just one curriculum.  Shelly picked what they liked for each subject.  Her opinion of history textbooks was that they were rather boring and dry.  For history, they spent time reading G. A. Henty novels and other books.  One adventure took them camping for two weeks from Mount St. Helens in Washington, to Mount Lassen in California–a hand’s on experience in nature that cannot be duplicated in a book.  Learning was her objective and not merely finishing a textbook.  They continued on their homeschool journey and home educated through high school.  Only once did Shelly decide to try private school again for one of her children, but she could not find peace in the decision, so her daughter went one day.  Shelly cherishes all the time she was able to invest in her children.

In 1999, they were transferred back to Houston, but only for a year and they moved back to Washington.  In that year the Drew family connected with old friends and influenced several of those to begin home educating.  It was not so much what Shelly and her husband said, but the positive impact the friends saw.  As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.”

As home educators know, one of the questions asked of them is, “Are you really qualified to teach math and science?”  Shelly would have liked getting that question, because she and her husband have very strong math and science backgrounds. However, one question that stands out that was asked by a friend who was concerned for her chosen method of education, “How will you teach them home economics?”  To Shelly it was an absurd question to ask, but she answered.  They all researched purchases together so the children could be smart consumers; the children helped to select groceries to understand cost and nutrition; and because they were there to work alongside with household chores like cooking and laundry, they learned all kinds of “home economics.”  In my opinion, they would probably know more home economics than a child in public school.  All home educator’s love those questions that make us roll our eyes in private, but smile politely and answer the questions in public.

Shelly’s children are now grown; one is single and is a dynamic car salesman in Vancouver, one is an accountant (CPA) and a stay-at-home mother who is married and has one daughter of her own, and the youngest daughter is an RN, is married, and at the time of this writing expecting her first baby at any time.  After living in their beloved Northwest for 20 years, Shelly and her husband moved to Edmond, Oklahoma to be near their daughters’ families in 2014.  The girls had moved to Edmond to attend Oklahoma Christian University and made their homes near Edmond.  Today, Shelly is a math tutor and Phil does statistical analysis for Oklahoma Christian University.  They are not crazy about Oklahoma’s hot summers, but love the people and the conservative attitudes of Oklahomans.  Many of Shelly’s extended family live in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, so she is pleased to be closer to them.

Now that the dust has settled on the homeschool journey, and the Drew family have had opportunity to reflect, they are all glad they chose to home educate.  Shelly’s top discoveries about homeschooling from her experience are these:

  • Children learned to think and solve problems
  • Know and understand each other well
  • It is actually cheaper to homeschool
  • Children developed valuable life skills that taught them to be responsible adults
  • Children learned cross generational communication
  • Children learned to be better citizens and care for others
  • Delayed exposure to negative influences
  • Able to focus on developing each one’s strengths
  • Gave the most valuable resource—Time

Let’s Play Dress-Up

Do you want to keep your preschooler busy and entertained?  Create Dress-up Boxes.  Use a plastic tote (or whatever you choose) and make a Chef Box by adding a chef hat, chef coat or apron, plastic pots and dishes, pretend foods, etc.; make a Doctor’s Box by adding a stethoscope, tongue depressor, thermometer, etc. and be sure to include a doll or stuffed animal for a patient; make a Police Box by adding a kid size policeman hat, badge, hand cuffs, etc.  Make as many as you can think of, and rotate them so they stay “new” to your preschooler.  They can be a chef one week and a Dr. the next.

Savoring a Memory & April’s Carrot Cake


Remember when grandma used to make “name of your dish here?” Every time you eat certain foods, you think of a special someone, or a time, or a place, or an event.  Some of those you have the recipes for and you make them for your family.  When my oldest son moved away, he would call me and ask how to cook a certain food or the recipe for that special family dish.  For his birthday, I took a few weeks and wrote down many of our family recipes and a paragraph or two recalling a memory of why the recipe was special.  He loved it!  I have “updated” and added to the cookbook over the years, and he is asking for the latest copy.  Below is a sample from the book:

April’s Carrot Cake
My older daughter’s favorite cake is carrot cake with no raisins or pineapples. As a child she loved bologna sandwiches with a glass of milk, ramen noodles, and beans and wieners with macaroni cheese.   Her taste buds have become more sophisticated and she’d rather have a chicken salad sandwich than bologna.

This daughter excels in school, has read all Miss Manners books (some of them more than once and even requested one for a Christmas present), enjoys languages, knows how to pinch pennies, and cannot tolerate unfocused men who would like to date her.  She is a little too concerned at times, but this conscientiousness makes her an excellent student and employee.  The girl likes to cook, but really doesn’t like cleaning up.  She is a good cook and makes delicious casseroles and yummy cakes.

Recipe:      6 eggs
1 ½ c. sugar
3 tsp. lemon zest
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 c. grated carrots
2 c. ground almonds
½ c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

Grease and flour a rectangle cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the sugar thoroughly. Add lemon juice and grated rind, carrots, almonds, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.  Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into cake mixture. Pour batter into pan and bake 45 minutes or until done.  Frost with cream cheese frosting. (At My Table, 2003)


Go Bananas!

Kids can help with these, and they will eat them up!  These are so healthy, you won’t mind them eating ice cream, or having a stack of pancakes.  Gluten free!

Banana Ice Cream
2 Frozen bananas
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk
Put into food processor and blend to smooth and creamy (start with one tablespoon of milk and add the other if needed).

Banana Pancakes
2 eggs
1 banana
¼ tsp. pumpkin spice
Mash together to make smooth “dough.” Heat pan on medium and spray.  Pour silver dollar size pancakes, cook 30 to 45 seconds on each side.  Serve with syrup.


The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham Book Review

Book Review
The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham
Billy Graham’s personal exhaustive study of the Holy Spirit led him to write this book. He explains the complexities of the Holy Spirit–who He is and what He does, and our enormous need for His power in our lives.  There are great chapters on how to be filled with the Spirit, recognizing and using our spiritual gifts, and how the Spirit’s fruit is produced in our lives.  One passage in the book that inspired me as I read, “While we read the Word, its message saturates our hearts, whether we are conscious of what is happening or not.  The Word with all its mysterious power touches our lives and gives us power.”  Consistently read the Word and activate God’s power in your life!

Microwave Brown Betty

This is a very quick individual, healthy desert when one just needs a little something sweet.

Microwave Brown Betty
1 green apple, peeled and cut up
1/8 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
Dash salt
Dash cinnamon
1 heel whole wheat bread (or any bread), toasted and torn into pieces

Stir together. Cook on high for 3 ½ minutes. Stir about midway.