Re-Evaluating Priorities

I struggle every day with homeschooling. And I think it is more the IDEAL of it I struggle with, rather than the reality.

Take this past Monday, for example. Just an hour and a half of our day, and it was beautiful and perfect. There was no stress, no frustration. At the same time there were also learning challenges, smiles, and fun. Em was learning how to group numbers together for ease in adding bigger and bigger numbers together and quite obviously making a couple of leaps.

She enjoyed listening to Story of the World just as much as she enjoyed listening to Life of Fred and doing the math assignments.

And I enjoyed myself as well. One lesson easily moved to the next. I updated the history timeline after reading Story of the World, noting Alexander the Great’s reign and subsequent death. And I know that sometimes I will write in the timeline and eventually, so will Em.

Monday felt…GOOD.

And I want that more often. I realized then that I don’t need markers, or grade comparisons to tell me where she is academically. I don’t need to know if her reading level is at Kindergarten, 1st Grade or 2nd Grade level – because if she keeps practicing and reading, it will grow. At her rate, not some artificially constructed time frame.

The same goes for math, science, social studies and a host of others.

And I realize that, in order for this to continue, and to eventually build into a self-directed learning path for her, I MUST put solid time aside. So I’m going to take this on a week by week basis and plug it into my calendar instead of just trying to somehow fit it in as I’m running from here to there, which NEVER works.

This week, well, Monday and Tuesday are already over and today is LEARN. Tomorrow though I have isolated time in the afternoon – between 3-5 p.m. and on Friday afternoon from 2 – 4 p.m.

I put them in the calendar in order to make sure I didn’t see those times as “free.” After that special, focused time, THEN we can run errands and do other things. With my work schedule cleaning houses, it looks like we can do this at least two hours per day, three days per week, and sometimes more. From what I have seen of her attention span, these two hours might consist of one hour of actual study (me reading history to her, us working math problems or conducting science experiments) and then another half hour or hour of games and art.

Combine this with the two homeschool co-ops she attends, reading practice each night with her dad, and learning through the act of living, and we have a nicely working eclectic curriculum in place.

And now to get that freelance writing career off of the ground…

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Unschooling for Monday – Forget Columbus Day


Having read the first part of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and learned a few things about Christopher Columbus, and what a completely and total monster he truly was (rape and enslavement of women and girls, wholesale murder of those who resisted) I am happy to say that today is NOT a recognized holiday for us.

Today the kiddo was getting a fantastic treat – a day with one of her favorite best buddies, Lucy, (and her wonderful parents, Kristin and Tom) at Powerplay, with a fancypants dinner and sleepover afterwards.

But first we had some learnin’ to do.

Or should I spell that ‘larnin?

I gave her a couple of options…

  • I could read Story of the World (ancient history)
  • We could do another chapter in Life of Fred (mathematics)
  • I could read more of The Family Under the Bridge

Em first chose our Q&A a Day books while she ate breakfast, I updated those. It’s been months since we touched them, but it was nice to pick them back up again. One of the questions in her book was, “Do you ever think about having a girlfriend/boyfriend? Whom would it be?

She answered, and I dutifully wrote it down…”Derek, because he is such a sweetheart and I’m a sweetheart. We are perfect matches. He will still be that way when he grows up, I can see it in him.” I love that she said that.

And that really struck my heart because of the situation at hand. This little boy’s dad is dead and his mom is a drug addict. She was recently dating the metal scrapper across the street who, despite being a metal scrapper is actually a pretty stand up guy. He has a prison record for drugs, but has chosen to clean himself up and to try to live a better life. He was engaged to Derek’s mom, but that has apparently collapsed due to the young woman’s drug use and other issues. Recently, the woman’s mother (who she was staying with) moved and our neighbor has no idea where, and no way to see the kids. Derek is a sweet boy, very shy, but a good kid. His mom spends her food stamps and other welfare money on drugs and lets the kids go hungry. It’s pretty bad, and her mother (the grandmother) seems ineffective at dealing with it. We don’t even know if we will ever see Derek again, which has Emily pretty sad.

In any case, that sad story aside, we headed upstairs, where I have relocated most of the homeschool books except for some of the science books (they stayed in the homeschool room) and Em decided she wanted Life of Fred first.

We are now on Chapter 5 of the Apples book (the first book in the elementary series). I’m waiting, holding my breath, will the bubble burst and Em not want to do the book anymore? So far, it is “easy peasy” to quote the kiddo, but when it becomes difficult, will she lose interest? I’ve paid $60 for these four books, but if they work out, I’d happily pay twice that.

In any case, after Chapter 5 was done and she had answered the questions, we took a look at Mathmania, which is put out by Highlights. My mother-in-law sent a huge stack of them a couple of years ago and I’ve been waiting and hoping we could start to use them, because they look fun. We actually managed to do several pages and it held her interest for nearly an hour. I’ve found that, if I’m doing some of the writing and helping break it down for her, it is less intimidating. I am sure that, over time, she will take more of the initiative because she will have done it with me enough that it won’t seem as daunting.

We did this exercise…


And then I gave her just a quick intro on division…


We reviewed counting by twos to do this dot-to-dot…


And this little exercise ended up on the blackboard wall. It turns out that Eliza was the youngest ape and Gordo the oldest…


The fun part was seeing her making the leaps in addition. She is seeing how I group numbers together and progressively move through the problem. She is also becoming very familiar with carrying numbers and how that works. After this, though, it was time for Story of the World. She needed a break.


I read one chapter, the death of Alexander the Great, who died at a very young age, just 32 years old, and a phone call that needed my attention ended our studies for the day. Her reading skills are increasing markedly with each day that passes.


I get the rest of today sans-child and will pick her up sometime tomorrow. We will hopefully tackle more studies then. With the homeschool books now upstairs, we have a comfortable spot to read through them. Just sitting on the carpet is more comfortable than the hardwood floor! I am hoping we will make a regular practice of paging through more of the books and getting Em even more comfortable with hanging out in the library. Tonight I hope to enlist her dad’s help in moving Em’s computer upstairs. She will get a spot opposite of me at my desk and can work on her computer when I am writing.


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Life of Fred Math and Spelling at the Dinner Table


Life of Fred Math Series

As I ushered out a visiting homeschool co-op student today there was a package waiting on the front porch.

The series I had ordered, Life of Fred, after hearing rave reviews, was waiting for us inside of the box.

I read the intro, which is written for the parent, out loud and started in on Chapter One of Apples, the first book in the series.

I read the chapter, and Emily abandoned her Legos and began listening intently. At the end of the chapter were questions for her to answer. She wrote the answers down, we checked them (they were all correctly answered) and she demanded we continue to the next chapter.

At the end of this chapter’s questions she exclaimed, “What is their obsession with the number seven? That is so last year!”

After all, she’s been eight for two whole days…

So far, Life of Fred seems like a WIN. More on this as it develops.

Spelling at the Dinner Table

I know plenty of parents spell at the dinner table and other moments when they are hoping to keep information out of little ears. We never have, and it seems that the window of opportunity has now closed. At least, if we do, it will be with the kiddo’s full involvement. Here is how the discussion this evening went.

Emily: Eww, this pasta is gross. I said I wanted it my way, not this way.

Dave: Eat it, stop being a B-R-A-T.

Emily: I’m not a brat. [leans over to me] Daddy is B-A-D.

Me: Daddy is not bad, he’s a good daddy.

Emily: He isn’t. He’s B-A-D and so is this pasta.

Me: Stop being a S-N-O-T

Emily: What does that spell?

Me: Sound it out.

Emily: I won’t sound it out, you tell me…NOW!

Me: I won’t you recalcitrant little B-R-A-T.

Dave: At least she didn’t call me a D-O-G. But really, I’m G-O-D.

Emily: [snapping] Oh please, you are NOT God.

We get along so well. Spelling all the way.

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Funny Stuff, Adventures in Reading


Funny Things Kids Say

A few nights ago, torrential rains had moved in, soaking the ground, flooding the streets. And in the morning it wasn’t much better. We had a puppet show to attend at 9:45, about a half hour away, and as we turned on the house alarm and locked the door, the rain began to pour down in earnest yet again.

We ran for the van, jumped inside, and I laughed Emily’s frantic attempt to shut her umbrella while the rain poured into her side of the van.

She was flustered and, as we pulled away from the curb said, “Mama, drive slow, or else we might lose fraction!”


Eh, close enough!

Adventures in Reading – Fun With Word Magnets

I am exploiting the newest advances in reading as often as possible with my young daughter. And recently that has included the word magnets on the fridge.

We put together silly sayings, search for words, and have a good time. I’m trying to make it into a bit of a regular thing, each time we are in the kitchen, to play around with the word magnets and come up with new combinations.

This helps immeasurably with her reading and is yet another way for us to connect words and reading with fun – something I think my daughter needs desperately to move forward into a more reading mindset.

If you have children, what are some ways you use to encourage reading?

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I’m Back and Thank You

No way! I haven’t posted in nearly three weeks?!

Ai carumba!

Well here is a big thank you to all of my homeschool peeps (you know who you are…or should) for all that they do and the wonderful people that they are. In the past few months I’ve had my friends (both new and old) and even a couple I just knew in passing, really step in and help me when I desperately needed it.

You are wonderful and I love you all…

It might just be me and my experiences, but I have found the homeschool community at large to be such a kind and nurturing one.

  • Perhaps it is because, after all, we like spending our days with our kids.
  • Perhaps it is because we all share that “it takes a village” mentality.
  • And perhaps I’m just really, REALLY lucky.

In the past couple of months I have had at least four situations where other moms, some who I knew well, and others not as much, have stepped in to care for my child in a time of need.

Usually it involved me being either overscheduled or sick – but the kiddo has thrived from these encounters – been taken care of, spoiled (although I have been assured by them that they did not think her capable of being spoiled – always a good sign), and entertained while I ran to an overabundance of work appointments or suffered from illness, et cetera.

Words cannot express how much these kind gestures have meant to me. They have helped me feel a part of a community far bigger than our little nuclear family unit. They have reminded me that I am not alone, that my child is liked and cared for, and that I have options and support.

From sleepovers to days out to simple trips to our co-op, they have been there. Friends, acquaintances, just fellow homeschool moms (and dads).

I guess I appreciate it more because I remember the years when I didn’t have that. It makes you thankful for the small things that many might take for granted.

Raising my child isn’t a lonely adventure – it is shared in laughter, rides offered, time and energy and kindness in all directions. And it reminds me that, when life deals me a whopper, I’m not alone.

And that is a really, REALLY good feeling.

Thank you, all of you, Bethany, Kerrie, Nicole, Sara, Kristin, Tom, Cheryl (and if I have forgotten anyone please, please PLEASE forgive me) – you have reminded me that I have some wonderful allies, friends and kind folks in the community.

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Last Week’s Unschooling and a Very Thorough Report on How Unschoolers Turned Out


So first the thorough report on How Unschoolers Turned Out. I found this article quite interesting and I think you will too.

I mentioned in recent post ( that there were some bumps in the road in our homeschool/unschool journey.

I’ll get to those bumps in a moment. First, I’d like to just talk for a moment about the highlights of our unschool week before I get all bummed out again.

This past week, we:

  • Discussed B.C. versus A.D. – I was trying to explain the concept that with B.C., the higher the number the longer ago it was, and with A.D. the lower the number, the longer ago it was. We were driving at the time and Emily got by looking at the exit numbers. “Mama, on I-70 were going the direction of B.C. time, and now on I-435, we are going in the direction of A.D. time.” Yep, I think she got it!
  • Meal Planning – I have been including Emily in the decision making of meals – not only when I’m coming up with the week’s list, but also showing her the ads and what is one sale, involving her in finding possible recipes, and asking her for her opinion on what particular meal we should fix on a particular day. She also helps make the meals with me sometimes.
  • Navigation and east/west/north/south – I’ve been very impressed, she knows which direction we are heading about 75% of the time. Miles better than I was at her age!
  • Antebellum History – We visited Missouri Town 1855 as part of our KC-CIRCLE co-op and it was fascinating! It provides a view of life pre-Civil War when much of our country consisted of rural farms and small towns. We also learned that oxen are not a special breed, they are simply educated/trained cattle. My husband refuses to believe this, which means I have work to do to convince him otherwise.
  • Picasso Art – This was another KC-CIRCLE co-op activity. The kids were introduced to the works of Picasso and given artist’s trading cards to create Picasso-inspired art on. The theme was “happy.” Emily made three and we placed them in protective plastic sleeves.
  • Computer Games – Emily has recently started gravitating towards computer games – mainly the free games on I have decided not to involve myself – if I show excitement or approval over the games, she stops, because she realizes they are learning games and that I approve. And recently she has been on a mission to subvert my every learning-centric move. More on that in Part 3.
  • Story of the World – This past week we read about the rise of the Persian Empire and examined the workings of two city-states in Greece – Athens and Sparta – which were very, very different!
  • Lego competition – Emily receives LEGO Club magazine (free to kids, just sign up for a subscription) and saw that there was a competition she wants to enter. We will put the finishing touches on the wording this week (it isn’t an actual model, but suggestions for a LEGO Friends Dream Resort.

Those were the positive aspects of our learning last week.

There were also drawbacks.

I mentioned about a week ago that I was putting together a history timeline. I wrote about it here:

When Emily saw me putting it together she seemed interested and even excited. And that got me excited. It can be touch and go with this kiddo of mine. Anything that smacks of “learning” and she practically runs in the other direction!

In any case, after several instances of me reading Story of the World and asking her, “So, would you like to mark that date in the timeline?” – and her just shaking her head – I finally got a little frustrated.

“So, what is going on? Why don’t you want to use the timeline?” I asked.

She gave me an absolute crap answer. I can’t even remember it other than it was a blatant, “I’m pulling this out of my rear to placate you, Mom, because I have absolutely no intention of EVER touching the timeline.”

And I will tell you that it really depressed me.

I’m a pretty up front kind of gal. I don’t like subterfuge or trickery.

I can remember as a kid that my mom fixed a salad made of spinach leaves and asked me if I liked it. When I said yes, she smiled with a “I fooled you” look and told me what it was. I didn’t particularly care if it was spinach or not – but I didn’t like the feeling of being tricked. As a result, I’ve always tried to deal with others as I want them to deal with me.

Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t give me flimsy excuses. Say what you mean.

I basically told my kiddo she was full of fecal matter. Only I used that four-letter word. A lot.

I told her she could have at least told me I was wasting my time.

At this point, though, I am beginning to realize I may need to take a different tack with her than one that would work for me.

I ended up being down in the dumps all weekend. I just feel so defeated, and then I end up worrying that I’m doing her a disservice by homeschooling her.

I end up wondering, “Maybe I should put her in public school. Maybe learning how regulated her day would be will shake some sense into her.”

I can see it in her eyes, she has hit that age where she has transitioned from believing every word we say, to questioning us in just about everything. It is frustrating.

However, to involve the public schools means FOREVER involving the public schools. Even if she goes for a week or a month to school, and then decides she would prefer to be homeschooled, the public schools will continue to be a presence in our lives.

Once on their radar, we will, at the very least, have to file a yearly notice that we are homeschooling. My Libertarian leanings make this a less than optimal choice.

I don’t want this – for many more reasons than I care to list. So I thought about my approach and realized, “I might need to change my approach to better fit my daughter not my own preferences.”

And this may include sneaky learning. For example, if I really want her to involve herself with this history timeline I made, I may need to do it myself for a while, or set it up like I’m working on a super-secret project, a “Mama only” project that does not include her. By deliberately excluding her, to her face, I may very well encourage enough curiosity to hook her into the project. Once there, her excitement and interest would outweigh her preconceived notions and resistance.

So, I’m having to get sneaky, which goes against my very basic programming. When I weigh the alternatives, her in public school or her simply not learning, it seems like the only viable option.

I guess I’ll do what I need to do to make sure the learning happens.

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Unschooling for 8-26-14 through 8-28-14

Unschooling for 8-26-14

Yesterday (8/26) is a busy day despite not having to do “work work” (read that cleaning houses or teaching classes).

The night before we practiced reading (Emily read to her dad) and I read to her more from The Family Under the Bridge. I mention this because I posted the unschooling notes for Monday before those two things occurred.

Yesterday, we had an interview first thing. Emily was right by my side and although it wasn’t a specific homeschool lesson, she got to watch how an interview is conducted first-hand, so that’s got to count for something!

After lunch we sat down and read from Story of the World. This particular passage was on the Olympic games, more specifically the beginning of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. We then drew pictures illustrating what we had learned. I liked Emily’s, she drew hers from an aerial perspective.

Getting to see how an interview was conducted by a journalist, she then got to witness an interview conducted by me for the book I’m writing. I was meeting with a gentleman from Land Bank and asking him questions on how folks qualify, the approval process, and more.

In the evening there was more reading practice and I made a note to myself to practice reading numbers with her on the blackboard. She still mixes up 21 and 12, 14 and 41, and so on.

Today we are juggling visits from plumbers for quotes and also possibly the pool this afternoon. But I definitely want to get some learning into the mix!

Unschooling for Fall

I’m looking forward to the official start of our unschooling year. Considering that LEARN first meets on Wednesday, 9/10 – I guess that will be the first week of “official” schooling.

And here is how my daughter’s fall 2014 semester is shaping up:

Wednesdays: Art, Girl Scouts, Math Games, and Spanish in the morning at LEARN, followed by free play in the afternoon with the Heathen Homeschoolers.

Fridays: Chariots, Planes and Trains (lessons on physics and more) at Rockhurst Community Center for two hours.

And on at least three days a week with me:

  • reading and writing practice
  • Story of the World history book and interpretive art (and possibly a History of Missouri book as well)
  • math reinforcement through games, baking, and shopping

Also, intermittent classes through the KC-CIRCLE co-op that will include science, history, art, and theater field trips.

Aaaaand … I just picked up the Beyond the Books catalog from Mid-Continent Public Library. There are a ton of things I would like to take Emily to this fall with the libraries. So I will be going through that and adding in events where I can.

It’s going to be a GREAT year!

Unschooling for 8-28-14

The end of the week tends to be busier for me with cleaning clients. Thursdays are especially busy and yesterday I had back to back cleanings.

We managed a stop by the library on the way from one cleaning to the other and I picked up a book on Rosa Parks. I need to visit The Coterie website and find out when they are having the Rosa Parks play and coordinate the book reading with that visit.

Although they state that the play is for ages 10 and up, I think that Emily will keep up with most of it. She’s also of the age that, even if something bores her somewhat, she will sit still and watch. So I think she will get something out of it, possibly a lot.

We continue to read from Story of the World. We are still in Book 1 – Ancient Times and I’m looking forward to finishing the book and moving on to the Book 2, which I have a Teacher’s Key and learning exercises for (ditto for the rest of the books in the series).

I showed Emily a timeline yesterday on the homeschool room chalkboard. I’m concerned that she can’t really understand the true expanse of time occurring. I mean, we are still in B.C.!

I think I will get a binder together and place 30 pages in it – 100 years for each side of a page, makes 6,000 years’ worth of timeline. As we read more, we can mark the dates and details in the timeline and fill it full of information and pictures. Doesn’t that sound cool?!

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Unschooling for 8-25-14


We have had a busy day homeschooling today, despite it taking very little time. So far we have covered:

  • The Family Under the Bridge – I read a chapter out of the book and Emily loves it. Every time we come to the end of the chapter she wants me to read more!
  • The divisions of most schools – elementary, middle and high school – This came up as we discussed her neighbor friend who is now in middle school and I realized she didn’t know that certain schools cover certain ages.
  • Making change – This actually happened the other day when she was in search of two quarters to buy the mega-gumball from the machine in the Mexican restaurant. We might need to play a round or two of The Money Game to remind her of the different values of quarters, dimes and nickels.
  • Cost comparisons – Grocery shopping is always a win-win for this kind of thing! We ended up only getting around $35 in groceries at Price Chopper before heading over to Aldi’s for the rest of our food needs. “Look Emily, the milk is over $1.10 cheaper than at Price Chopper!
  • Learning to question – instead of just blind belief – This has been a recurring theme, mainly due to the neighbor boy who apparently told her that if he does all of his homework and participates in class his teachers will give him $100 each week. Mmmm hmmm, sure they will. She’s starting to doubt some of his wilder claims!
  • We are all related – religious versus science-based – still ends up the same. – Emily mentioned that because she “believes in God” she knows that we are all brothers and sisters. I pointed out that a belief in God is not necessary to know that we have the same small handful of progenitors some eons past and that we all share the same basic genetic markers that make us human. I think she will be chewing on that for a while.
  • I know how to spell food – poof – This was sort of a joke. She was reading the word upside down and made a game of it. She’s picking out words, most of them easy ones, but increasing her reading as the days go by.
  • Story of the World – Odysseus and Cyclops – and interpretive art – We read the story of Odysseus and Cyclops and then drew pictures representing our vision of the story. I drew a small cave with a path leading up to it and pens of animals on each side, with Cyclops in the entrance. Emily drew the sailing ship (with cannon holes) and a time-lapse of the boulder that Cyclops threw at the ship. After that, I wrote a description of our project on the back of the card and Emily asked me to write hers as well.

Our first official day of homeschooling for the school year!


Posted in Advocacy, Arts and Crafts, Daily Conversations, Homeschool - History, Homeschool - Language Arts | Leave a comment

Daily Conversations and Reading While Baking or Driving

I should have taken notes yesterday on what we were talking about, because I have now forgotten. I do remember that lately we have been on a metaphor theme – basically I’ve been giving my almost-8-year-old examples of metaphors in different sayings.

Examples, concrete real examples, make sense to both of us, and seem to really bring the point home.

She learns a great deal by the one-on-one discussions we have. I don’t realize it at first, but later, she will say something to another child or adult, and they will look at me with some level of surprise and comment that she is quite intelligent.

I think that all children are far more intelligent that often given credit for. And if you treat them like they have a big magnificent brain, then they often end up using it far more often than expected.

Lately we have been practicing reading – but in a sneaky sort of way.

“Emily, I need your help making these hamburger buns.”


“So I have this bowl, and I think it said I need flour. Can you check to see how much?”

Or …

“Emily, I need your help finding this place we have never been.”

“Okay Mama, give me the directions.” I hand her the Google map text directions, “Okay, we are on I-35 right now … you want exit 226B …”

She STILL resists reading. However, occasionally she will read something and be very excited. “Mama, I read that!” I continue to reassure her that reading will become more and more natural. I’m dealing with a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist – she resists it because she feels she is not perfect at it yet. It is tough to deal with sometimes.

But I am far more stubborn than anyone I know. I will persist!


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Did You Know You Can Find Me on Facebook?

I write … a lot … about a lot of different things. Gardening, cooking, crafts, homeschooling, and plenty more.

However, you will inevitably find links to more posts if you simply follow me on Facebook. I have pages for The Deadly Nightshade, The Homeschool Advocate and my writer page Christine Shuck all set up to catch my posts.

I don’t always come straight here to make a post on parenting or educational themes, although I do eventually land here to post as many pictures as possible.

But if you are interested in keeping a finger on the pulse of my activities – follow me on Facebook. Here is the link!: The Homeschool Advocate

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