A Writing Class for LEARN

I had gone back and forth on this for a while, and I’ve decided to take the plunge…again…with teaching a class at LEARN this fall.

I’ve had limited success teaching classes there. Mainly, I’m a grumpy old creature who has no interest in corralling kids and forcing them to learn.

The last time I taught a class, two years ago, it was a Zentangle class and I wanted to beat many of the kids halfway through, they made me so frustrated. The class turned into a “let’s draw on each other, wrestle in class, and generally behave in a bad manner” each week. Ugh!

So I’m hoping to do something different with this class.

Here is the main description…

Interested in writing books, self-published or otherwise? Do you have a story in you that you want to share with the world? In this class we will discuss and create poetry, essays, and short stories and end the semester by publishing them in paperback and ebook form. We will discuss writing styles, address general writing technique (although nothing as horrible and boring as diagramming sentences), and help edit each others’ work for publication. This class is intended for self-motivated writers, suggested ages are 10 and up. This class will have variable attendance, ask instructor for details on this.

So basically, I want to be able to say to the parents and the kids, “We meet each week, but it might not be for a full hour, so don’t send your kid back to me if they appear before the hour is up.”

I want kids who want to be there, not because their parents signed them up for a class. And I don’t want to have a bunch of hooligan shenanigans during the class.

I’m sounding old and cranky aren’t I?

Well, that’s fair. I am kind of old and cranky, so that works for me.

In any case, this fulfills my self-imposed obligation to be involved and participating as a member of the LEARN community, and I think it could be fun. Who knows what they will come up with?

Maybe I’ll get my buddy Kerrie to stop in and talk about her own writing. Now I just need to rustle up some more writers and see if I can’t get a handful of guest speakers. That would be super-cool!


I have been pretty quiet lately. Mainly I’ve been busy, but then again, I’m always busy. More importantly, I’ve been adjusting to having my eldest back in my day-to-day life again.

We have had too many heart-to-hearts to count.

And while your adult child coming home to stay with you might be viewed by some as less than optimal, I remain, over six weeks later, deliriously happy about it.

Perhaps it is an artifact of a 17-year-old pregnant girl’s dreams. At that age you don’t think about teenage angst, arguments over messy rooms, or single parenting. Instead, you imagine a sweet little baby, all cuddles and coos, and someone who will love you for all the rest of your days.

At least, that’s what I imagined.

Through marriage, divorce, custody battles, screaming poverty and more – Dee and I kind of grew up together. I’d love to say that I was an amazing mom. But honestly? I just did an okay job – I stressed out about all the wrong crap and ignored or rushed through the moments when I just needed to stop and ENJOY my child. I was too worried about making ends meet, being a single mom, trying to improve my life, and more.

And when she went away, just a few months before her 18th birthday, and didn’t come back…I was devastated.

In the 8+ years she was gone, I really changed my life. A big part of it was Em’s presence in my life, and our decision to homeschool. It pulled me out of my comfortable little isolationist life and straight into a life filled with laid-back, innovative, forward-thinking moms and dads. It took me from a quiet house in Belton to a house in the city filled with sirens and crazy dramatic moments, more friends, and connections in the community around me, plus even more homeschooling mama friends and cool neighbors.

And then Dee returned. And I was different, and she was different, and yet, in all of the important ways, we were very much alike.

  • We make the same weird little noises.
  • We have the same odd sense of humor.
  • The values I instilled in her during the better parts of my parenting adventures were well remembered

And I found that I really, really enjoyed her presence.

Honestly, there have been far too many visits where I was in tears at the end – either because I felt as if we would never, ever be able to put the past sadness and anger behind us and forge a new peer relationship, or later, that we couldn’t have a proper relationship because we were so damned far apart.

It’s hard to be close to someone who lives 1,500 miles away.

So here she is, and as I said, I couldn’t be happier. The people I love most in the world are all under one roof. Seriously, how could it get better?

We still have our scraps and tense moments. And one of them occurred today. Later, hours later, Dee said, “I’m dependent on you, I’m not paying my way…”

That bothered me. It bothered me a lot.

I said to her, “We all do our part. Dave makes more money than I do, but I handle so much of the running of the household. I handle the finances, keep the house running as smoothly as possible, and do what I can to contribute financially. You cook most of the meals, help me out with the house and with Em, and were 90% of the driving force to getting her room clean (an epic event that went on for over three days and has made the room the cleanest most organized room in the entire house). If you are a dependent, then so am I, and I’m not okay with that. I do my part, Dave does his, and you do yours. You are not dependent upon us, you are not a drain on us, you are a part of our family and our household.”

Dave echoed my sentiments later that day. “It is a wonderful thing knowing that if I need it, there is always a place for me in my parent’s home.”

And that, my dear readers, is what love and family are to me.

If you get really, really lucky, sometimes they come back home.

A Couple of Links

In a couple of hours, Em will be boarding a plane for San Francisco to visit her grandparents. She will be gone until late next Thursday and I realized it will be the longest we have been away from her in her entire life!

It sure is going to be strange without her here in the house this next week.

I found this interesting article on a Google homeschool feed you might find interesting.

And just for laughs, here is a Buzzfeed link on Eight Things Homeschooled Kids are Sick of Hearing. Enjoy!

Homeschool/Unschool During the Summer

You might have thought, due to my long silence, that I was not homeschooling during the summer. I am, I’ve just been distracted by other parts of my life, like my eldest returning to our home after nine years away in California and Nevada.

In fact, we are trying out something new, and I want to share that with you all…

Welcome to ILS

For the nearly 30 years since I attended a small, quirky private high school in San Francisco, I’ve been regaling folks with tales of what it was like, and how very different it was.

ILS, Independent Learning School, actually accepted grades 6-12. I was 13 when I enrolled there in 1983 for summer school to take a computer class. I started full-time the fall of 1983, my freshman year of high school.

We learned out of books, without lectures or classrooms filled with same-age kids, and our level of freedom was based on how much of our work we could get done without having to be stood over and directed.

I wish I could say I was always a Floater (someone who could sit in whatever classroom they wanted, talk, eat, and take breaks when they wanted), but for those first couple of years I was quite firmly located in the Seater room on a regular basis. I hadn’t yet learned the art of self-control, responsibility, and the biggie…motivation.

In fact, I wouldn’t learn those for quite a while. In some cases, not until after leaving ILS and my dad’s home, and striking out on my own. But the seeds of how I deal with things now were planted there, in that school.

So I decided to emulate the school model in some ways…

Congratulations, You are a Floater

When the school year started, we began as Movers (a step up from the lowly Seater) and had to earn our freedoms as Floaters or even Superfloaters. We did this by completing the work in a daily and weekly Contract. And this is what I came up with for Em…

A weekly contract of certain areas of study…

  • Math – Khan Academy – 3 sets of six questions, three times a week
  • Language Arts – Reading (20 minutes, 3x per week), Writing Journal entries (3x per week), and Penmanship (3 assignments a week from a textbook on the subject)
  • Social Studies – History (an adult reading one segment, 3x per week from Story of the World), Geography (an adult reading one state per week from a textbook)
  • Science – study two pages per week with an adult from a textbook

It ended up coming to 16 things to do each week, or 3 activities each weekday, plus one extra.

I started her off as a Floater, told her she had seven days to finish each weekly contract, and waited to see what happened.

Week 1 – Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

I wanted her to succeed so much, that I couldn’t leave her alone. For that matter, I still have difficulty, but that first week was a doozy! Combine with that her dad reacting badly and telling me that this was doomed to fail (in FRONT of our daughter) and I will admit it was a tough week of me nagging, her whining, and her dad eventually apologizing for, as I put it, sabotaging something before it had even begun.

She managed to get everything done, but it was a logistical nightmare.

Week 2 – Getting Better, HATES Khan Academy

So the second week went better. I was less naggy…Dave was more supportive…and Em was busy putting off Khan Academy until the LAST STINKING MINUTE. Tears, wailing, gnashing of teeth, we duked it out, the two of us. But I noticed that she was working harder, and budgeting her time better, and not needing quite as many reminders.

Baby steps…by the end of the week she asked me, “So, does this mean I’m a Superfloater now?”

Yes baby, it does!

There was an interlude of a week of no school work while she attended a full week of Nature Arts Camp.

Week 3 – Like a Dream, Only Better!

Em had only a little difficulty over the Khan Academy and was actually enjoying the rest of the activities. She had a little difficulty as her penmanship practice increased, but otherwise was doing quite well.

As I listened to her practice reading out loud to her big sister I was happy to hear her sounding out the bigger words and understanding more and more. It has been so wonderful to have a reader in the house, and I am hoping that Em will soon actually LIKE reading and not just tolerate it.

There was another week off after this, as Em attended a full week of Science City day camp.

Week 4 – In Process With Excellent Attitude

By this week, the current week that we are now in, Em has fallen into a decent routine. Monday was hectic, and she only managed one of the items on her list. The next day, Tuesday, was another busy day ending with a birthday party and sleepover in Lawrence. I retrieved her on Wednesday afternoon and reminded her this morning that she had a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it in because while today and Friday were relatively open, Saturday and Sunday would be busy as well.

“Today and tomorrow, you need to get it all done,” I told her. She nodded and without a word of complaint or whining, got to work. She had her eyes on the prize, a dinner and movie out with her big sister this evening, while Dave and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary with a fancy dinner out.

She completed a total of eight items on the list, combined with the one from Monday, leaving just seven left to do for tomorrow. And all without a word of complaint.

I’m pleased with her progress and she seems quite motivated to do the work. Crossing fingers and hoping this continues!

After Assessment Comes…THE PLAN


Now that we have assessed Em’s progress in all of the core requirements for 2nd grade, a basic plan of action is, at least for me, the logical next step.

The biggest challenges as I see it is reconciling “what should be taught/understood at grade level” and our deeply entrenched homeschooling ways.


Is it important to be at grade level?

Maybe. And then again, maybe not.

I will admit that I am far more concerned with making sure that Em continues to enjoy learning. I want to find the right mix of “we should at least consider working toward these requirements” and “Hey, this interests you? Great let’s keep exploring it.”

So I’m going to take this by subject again. First up, Language Arts…


Language Arts

Emily needs to be reading more. I’ve seen a huge jump in the past six months, and especially in the past three months, but she still finds the idea of sitting down and reading a book completely and totally unappealing. Hand in hand with this goes writing. She needs to do more of it, but she balks, mainly because she feels that her spelling is not perfect.

We have had the discussion dozens if not hundreds of times. You will not find perfection overnight, it takes time, and effort, and practice to become better at anything. This includes reading and writing.


But how do I get her motivated to do better?

This is the million dollar question.

She will be naturally reading more just in the course of everyday living. When she works on her Khan Academy work (see Mathematics below) she has to read the questions. I’m also going to give her more experience reading labels in stores by asking questions like, “What kind of ingredients are in that?” and so on.

I have also tried to install a “natural reading time” but failed so far. Basically, I would like for us to pick a cozy spot on the couch, pick up our books, and read them to ourselves, while having the other one for company. Still working on this!


One thing she did agree to was to begin practicing cursive three times a week with Teaching Cursive. She actually volunteered to do it more than that, but I suggested we start out with three times a week, just ten minutes a day, and see how it went.

For now, I’m going to turn over the whole reading/writing issue in my brain. I’m sure it’s a matter of finding the right books to read and the right motivator for her to write. She isn’t completely resistant, but there is a significant amount of unwillingness that we need to overcome in order for her to improve.



Two words…Khan Academy. I’ve started her on the K-2 section of it and she has had her ups and downs. Yesterday three short sessions of six problems each reduced her to tears, anger, and depression. She was missing very basic questions because she was unused to the verbage on the site, unused to being tested, and very very upset whenever she got an answer wrong.

It tested my mettle as well, especially when she turned on me in anger and frustration after I tried to talk her through it.

That said, we talked about doing just three sections per day. I’ll start her out with just 3x per week, especially now that she’s good and frustrated with it. She’ll need a break in between!


History & Geography

It’s easy to go really wrong with history and geography. Mainly, that you repeat the same old stuff, making it boring and repetitious. I would discover, far later in my life, that history was absolutely fascinating! In those early years, however, I was bored to tears with facts and figures.

I question too, how important those facts and figures are when compared to truly understanding our past and the modern world we find ourselves in.

I would rather Em be fascinated by strange and obscure stories, delve into historical fiction along with actual non-fiction accounts, and develop thoughtful opinions about some of our more darker moments in history.


There certainly are plenty of them.

So I pretty much don’t give a damn what the 2nd grade requirements are. I see that it is important for her to know the country she lives in (National Geographic’s Our Fifty States), but also the history of the continent (A History of Us series which begins with pre-history), and the history of the world at large (The Story of the World).

I hope to see us reading about at least one state per week, possibly more, and reading two chapters a week from the A History of Us (we are starting with The First Americans) series.

The flip side - " Do Not Enter! Sign Means I'm Getting Ready."

The flip side – ” Do Not Enter! Sign Means I’m Getting Ready.”

History, knowing it, giving an honest straightforward account that is not whitewashed is incredibly important to me. On Wednesday, as we drove home, I turned on NPR and heard an interview with a GI who was there at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. This led to an explanation of what concentration camps were, and how the Nazis were so incredibly effective at first isolating Jewish people (segregation, labels and more) and then murdering them by the millions.

I get emotional just thinking of it. I believe that if we do not learn from history than we will repeat it over and over again. I think too of how many lives, how much potential for such great things were snuffed out, taken from all of us, in those dark days.

But I digress…geography!

great quote


Geography, like History, can become boring and repetitious, when it should be a great joy. New places, fascinating destinations, amazing natural wonders!

So we will be hitting this in three different ways…

  • 1-3 pages once a week from the Kid’s Almanac of Geography
  • 1 exercise per week with the Map Art Lab book
  • Any travel/country videos she wants to watch on Netflix or from the library on different world destinations



I was quite pleased with Em’s knowledge of science. She loves science and it shows. I will continue to encourage her to…

  • Watch The Magic Schoolbus and/or read the books
  • Take her to Science City 1-2 times per month (she also has a week-long summer camp there in late June)
  • Enroll her in the LEARN Math & Science Club again this fall
  • Review with her our internal workings using the Children’s Human Body Encyclopedia at least once a week.
  • Take any KC-CIRCLE classes that include science experiments, or teach our own!


Foreign Language

There are things I wish for – the ability to have actually mastered another language is one of my biggies. I have always found it rather intimidating. I’ve learned enough to pass classes and then promptly forgot.

I know that foreign language is an important skill to learn when you are young, but I will admit I’ve dropped the ball on this.

I asked Em if she would like to take a Spanish class or a sign language class and she immediately pounced on the latter option. So I guess that’s what we will be looking for. Hopefully low-cost or free. We shall see.



We are so lucky to live where we do. We are literally minutes away from the Nelson-Atkins! I’ve looked over the list of expected accomplishments/knowledge for 2nd graders for art and found it silly at times, boring in other places, and generally irrelevant for us.

Em needs to be exposed to art.

Done. We’ll try and make it to the Nelson-Atkins at least once per month, if not more often.



This is pretty much completely handled through her Harmony Project KC classes. All I need to do is provide the transportation!

Health & P.E.

Other than involve her in more food preparation, and encourage her to read more food labels (turns out those raspberry fruit leathers from Aldi’s are actually made with healthy ingredients!), she is healthy and active.


In Summary

For us, homeschooling is life and life is homeschooling. I know we won’t always have smiles and happiness, and she did receive the genetic double whammy of having TWO parents with perfectionist tendencies, making the mistakes when they occur SO MUCH WORSE (I’m visualizing Thursday’s tears and wailing while working on a few math problems with Khan Academy). But for the most part, I know that Em will learn best if I do not push her. If something is boring, we move on, and tackle it later or find another more interesting source of info.

For the next few months, I will focus on taking her to some stimulating destinations – like the Nelson-Atkins, nature sanctuaries, Science City, and more – along with (for now) scheduling in some regular homeschool study activities. We will see how they go.


Homeschool Assessment – Day Two

Em illustrating the life cycle of a flower

Em illustrating the life cycle of a flower

Today’s assessment flew by compared to yesterday’s 3+ hour marathon. Em was quite excited to be done in just around an hour as we swiftly moved through assessing her progress in History & Geography, Science, Foreign Language, Art, Music, and Health & P.E.

As a reminder, here is the legend that we used: X=Knows It, N=Nearly Mastered, L=Learning It, R=Not Relevant At This Time, D=Doesn’t Know It, and U=I Don’t Know/UnderstandEmily was very involved in assigning the appropriate letter to each category.

My example of another way to illustrate the life cycle of a flower, Em said she liked her way best!

My example of another way to illustrate the life cycle of a flower, Em said she liked her way best!

Here is what we discussed…

American History

  • Know the basic purpose and content of the United States Constitution and understand the structure and function of the federal government – R
  • The War of 1812 – R
  • Westward expansion: wagon trains, steamboats, the transcontinental railroad, and the impact on the American Indians – R
  • An overview of the Civil War – R
  • Immigration – R
  • Civil rights: women’s suffrage, integration, the rights of workers – R

Notes: I’m guessing you see a trend here. Basically, I want to learn this in our own order in our own time. Right now we are considering covering 2-3 states per week out of the book Our Fifty States, two chapters per week from The History of Us series The First Americans, and 3 sections per week from The Story of the World.

Em illustrated and discussed the life cycle of an animal

Em illustrated and discussed the life cycle of an animal

World History

  • Survey the history of Asia, covering landmark events, culture and religion, and geography. – N
  • Survey the medieval to early Renaissance period. – N

Notes: This has been covered and is continuing to be covered through our intermittent studies of The Story of the World. We have progressed from the first book The Ancient World to the second book in the series The Middle Ages.

Ah, spring, ever hopeful, she has someone filling a swimming pool!

Ah, spring, ever hopeful, she has someone filling a swimming pool!


  • Name and locate the seven continents and four major oceans on a world map and globe. – L
  • Name and locate Canada, the U.S., and Mexico on maps and globes; continue to expand geographical knowledge based on studies in other academic disciplines. – L
  • Make “story maps.” (a map based on a story like the Three Little Pigs) – *FUN!!!!
  • Understand the use of a map key or legend; know the cardinal directions – N
  • Define and locate northern and southern hemispheres, the equator, and the North and South Poles. Introduce concepts of latitude and longitude. – R

Notes: Again I question how much of this is necessary at this moment and time. However, we have the Kid’s Almanac of Geography that will come in handy. We’re discussing 1-3 pages per week from that book. The other book that caught my eye is a combination geography and art book Map Art Lab, that we plan on trying to do at least one exercise per week out of. Stay tuned for those updates!

Summer, when discussing seasonal changes.

Summer, when discussing seasonal changes.

Physical Science

  • A very first introduction to Newtonian physics. Students should investigate objects in motion and learn that force is required to change an object’s speed. – L
  • Sometimes forces are applied by simple machines. Know the basic simple machines (lever, wedge, inclined plane, wheel, screw) and how they work – N
  • Define and explain friction. – X
  • Investigate magnetism. – N
  • Understand that sound is caused by vibration. – X

Notes: Between The Magic Schoolbus video and book series, our membership to Union Station’s Science City, and the LEARN Science and Math Club, we have got most of these topics in the bag. I’m going to review Newtonian physics with Em through real-life examples in the next couple of months.

Look at all those leaves falling in the fall.

Look at all those leaves falling in the fall.

Life Science

  • Understand and be able to describe the varied life cycles of plants and animals – X
  • Understand and be able to describe seasonal changes as they affect plants and animals – X
  • Understand cell theory. – X
  • Continue and expand upon the study of human body systems begun in Grade 1. Review the digestive and excretory systems in greater detail. Structure and function of salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, liver, et cetera – N
  • Be able to identify the five senses and their respective systems. – X

Notes: Once again I have The Magic Schoolbus to thank for much of Em’s knowledge in this area. As for the gaps, we will fill them by working our way through the Children’s Human Body Encyclopedia once per week.

And who could forget winter?

And who could forget winter?

Earth/Space Science

  • Understand and be able to describe the water cycle. – X
  • Continue and expand upon previous studies of weather – X

Notes: Again The Magic Schoolbus has helped with the water cycle explanation. Em used the word evaporates correctly and struggled with the word condensation. I installed the shortcut to The Weather Channel on her desktop so that she can check the temperature on a daily basis. This is typically a topic of conversation in the morning hours in the spring and fall due to the vagaries of our weather patterns. There are also videos she can watch on the site that cover various weather conditions.

Foreign Language

  • Simple words and phrases
  • Greetings and the names of the numbers from one to ten
  • The names of colors and other everyday expressions

Notes: We have not studied any foreign language this past year. I asked her if she was interested in learning Spanish or sign language, and she immediately requested sign language. So now I will either need to find a sign language class or get a video series. Any suggestions?

Some of the books we will be using in the next few months.

Some of the books we will be using in the next few months.


  • Understand the function of the color wheel; know the rules of color mixing; experiment with tints and shades. – N
  • Be familiar with the elements of line, shape, texture, space, light and shadow – N
  • Identify different kinds of pictures: portraits, still lifes, abstract art and landscapes. – R
  • Continue to experience and discuss a variety of artworks by well-known artists throughout history and examples of arts and crafts from a range of countries and cultures. Know that architecture is the art of designing buildings. – R
  • Experiment with different art media and techniques to produce original artworks. – N

Notes: We need to visit the Nelson-Atkins museum more often. I would like to make it a monthly trip at least. There is so much to see there and there is also another museum or two in the area (can’t think of their names right now) that will also help. The Map Art Lab book will come in handy, as well her exposure to arts and crafts through simply being around me.


  • Know the definitions of scale, staff, and treble clef, know the names of the lines and spaces of the treble clef. – N
  • Identify whole, half, and quarter notes and whole, half and quarter rests – X
  • Experiment with simple musical instruments – X
  • Listen and respond to varied selections by famous composers – X
  • Know the names of the instrument families of the orchestra and their individual members. – X

Notes: A huge thanks to Harmony Project KC for their amazing, FREE program for children living in Northeast Kansas City. I cannot say enough good things about them! Em is thriving in this class, learning and participating in choir, music instruction and experiencing a huge range of instruments. She has been teaching me about music. We feel so lucky to have this program available to us!

Health & P.E.

  • Be familiar with the elements of good nutrition and the structure of the food pyramid – N
  • Physical abilities (detailed exhaustively) for second graders – X
  • Participate in athletic indoor and outdoor activities – X

Notes: She will continue to learn good nutrition by helping out in the kitchen and with meal preparation. She is also quite active and excited over the purchase of a new bike. She’s in great shape and is a healthy weight.

And that concludes the assessment phase of our homeschool/unschool for the year.

At this point, I’ve made suggestions, and she seems to be interested/willing to try most of the suggestions. Now we need to look at our schedule and figure out how to make these different components come together into a little more organized learning, while still keeping it fun and engaging. More on that in the days to come.

Overall, I was quite pleased with Emily’s learning progress. Despite the fact that we do very little organized/intentional learning on a day-to-day basis, Emily is quite obviously learning at a reasonable rate of speed. I would hazard a guess that, in many subjects she is at level if not more advanced than her public school peers. In some areas, she needs to focus more, and my job is to figure out how to encourage that to happen, while maintaining that joy and interest she has in learning.

Learning should be enjoyable…don’t you think?

It’s Homeschool Assessment Time!


I will confess, I have not done this in a while. How long of a while? Uhhh…fall of 2013 was the last time.

My bad.

A lot has changed in the past year and a half. Em has shot up several inches and her vocabulary has increased by leaps and bounds. Along the way, she has mastered reading and many other studies.

I thought it was a good time, however, to review with Emily all of the many intricate expectations for the end of second grade. Some would be spot on, others not even on the radar, and many in between.

Today, we began with Language Arts and Mathematics. I was using Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year book. As I explained to Em, “This is simply a guide. Some of it won’t apply to us, some of it can be rather irrelevant, other things can wait, and plenty of it you will have in the bag now or with a little review.”

I first began by explaining the term ‘legend’ to her…X=Knows It, N=Nearly Mastered, L=Learning It, R=Not Relevant At This Time, D=Doesn’t Know It, and U=I Don’t Know/Understand. And here is how it all shook out.

Phonics, Decoding and Word Recognition

  • Decode regular 2-syllable words – X
  • Understand basic rules of syllabication – R
  • Increase knowledge of sight words – X (Dolch Sight Words through the 3rd grade!)
  • Know meanings of common abbreviations – X
  • Read grade-appropriate materials aloud with proper expression and intonation – X

Notes: Em’s reading skills have really improved, some abbreviations were unfamiliar to her, but most were instantly recognized and/or made sense to her quickly.I do not see the need for an understanding of syllabication at this time.

Reading Comprehension

  • Discuss previously read material, recalling and describing details of plot, characters, and setting – X
  • Obtain specific information from print materials – X
  • Follow two-step written instructions – X
  • Identify rhyme, rythm, alliteration, simile, and metaphor in poetry. Read and recognize limericks. – N
  • Experience a wide range of literary materials, including fiction and nonfiction, myths, folktales, fables, multi-cultural stories and the like. – N

Notes: Basically, the reading comprehension is doing well. Em needs more exposure to different forms of writing, and more of it. This is something we will be looking on.


  • Practice manuscript handwriting skills, improving accuracy and legibility – L
  • Experiment with a range of writing projects, including short stories, poems, nonfiction reports, journal keeping and letter writing. – L
  • Know and use the correct format for a friendly letter, including date, salutation, body, closing and signature. – X
  • Recognize complete and incomplete sentences; be able to identify subject and predicate. – R
  • Be able to identify nouns, verbs and adjectives and use adjectives in a comparative sense by adding er and est. – X
  • Identify synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms – X
  • Change regular verbs to the past tense by adding ed. know the present and past tenses of common irregular verbs (to be, to have, to do, etc) – R
  • Spell phonetically regular words and second grade-level sight words from dictation. – L
  • Capitalize proper nouns, the first word of sentences, the pronoun I, the names of holidays, months, and days of the year, the names of countries, cities, and states, and the main words in book titles. – N
  • Know the correct use of periods, question marks, exclamation points, and quotation marks. Use commas correctly in dates and addresses. – L

Notes: We started and stopped cursive writing over a year ago. Em is committing to learning/practicing ten minutes a day, 3 days a week. As for the rest, if there has been less than enough reading, writing has been even more lacking. We need to remedy that by writing more. MORE. Writing, the act of it, will encourage the building of all of these skills.

Listening and Speaking Skills

  • Be able to retell stories in proper sequence. – X
  • Memorize and recite short poems and rhymes. – N
  • Be able to give a short oral report based on facts drawn from a number of different sources. – U

Notes: Again, the more she reads, the better her skills will be and the wider the breadth of her experience. There really hasn’t been a need for her to produce an oral report. She did give the introduction for her musicianship class through Harmony Project this past Saturday with no mistakes. Her teachers were very proud.

Study Skills

  • Use a “first” dictionary to check word definitions and spellings. – R
  • Be able to alphabetize to the second or third letter. – X

Notes: I think our time is better spent learning how to use a regular dictionary to look up words we already know how to spell (or have in front of us spelled correctly). We did this when defining synonyms et al earlier. This is a better use of her time.

And now…Mathematics…

Number Theory

  • Recognize and write numbers 0 to 100. Be able to read and write number words to 100. – N
  • Order and compare numbers to 1,000 using “greater than” (>), “lesser than” (<) and “equals” (=) signs. – L
  • Be able to count to 100 by 2s, 3s, 5s, and 10s. – N
  • Understand place values for 1s, 10s, 100s, and 1,000s. – N
  • Round numbers to the nearest 10. – X
  • Be able to write numbers in “expanded” form through 100s (i.e. 729=700+20+9) – X
  • Understand the concept of even and odd numbers – X
  • Use tallies for counting and score keeping – X
  • Identify ordinal positions from first through twelfth – R
  • Recognize and write fractions from 1/10 to 1/2. Also should be introduced to the terms numerator and denominator. – X
  • Recognize and extend repeating patterns using symbols, pictures, or manipulatives – X
  • Collect, organize and record data using pictorial and bar graphs – X


Notes: Em recognizes and writes numbers easily, but the word forms are difficult and there are some misspellings. We have not reviewed the ‘greater than’ and ‘lesser than’ signs at all. She only has difficulty counting by 3s, everything else is great. And she is quickly understanding place value. Once I explained the concept of rounding, she showed me a sketch of how to round numbers using the “mountain” she learned on Odd Squad. Once we reviewed how to use tallies she easily was able to translate numbers I wrote on the board into different accurate tallies. I fail to see how the ordinal positions are important right now. We reviewed fractions and she not only grasped the principles but greatly enjoyed the ideas we discussed. She also showed me a bar graph she had learned by playing an Electric Company game on PBS Kids. I am excited by her interest in math!



  • Know basic addition and subtraction facts through 20 – L
  • Understand the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. – X
  • Review the commutative property of addition – X
  • Be able to estimate sums and differences to 100 – L
  • Be able to solve two-and-three digit addition and subtraction problems with and without regrouping. – N
  • Recognize the multiplication sign; know the definitions of factor and product. – X
  • Know the commutative property of multiplication. – X
  • Know multiplication facts through the 5 times table. Also know how to multiply by 0, 1, and 10. – L
  • Understand the use of variables and use these in number sentences – R
  • Solve simple one-step addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems, including both horizontal and vertical numerical problems and word problems. – N
  • Apply mathematical knowledge to other areas of the academic curriculum and to everyday situations. – X

Notes: Em does okay with simple addition, but subtraction is still a problem. Basically, she needs more practice with real-life applications of mathematics and possibly reviewing multiplication tables and playing more math games. Until these are mastered, I fail to see the relevance of introducing variables and number sentences.

Money and Measurement

  • Recognize and know the relative values of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar bills. – X
  • Be able to determine values of given combinations of bills and coins, and to write the amount using either the cent sign or the dollar sign and decimal point. – N
  • Be able to add and subtract money and make change. – L
  • Compare and order objects by length, weight and volume – L
  • Be able to read a thermometer, measure temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit, and recognize the degree sign. – X
  • Know the names of the months of the year in order – D
  • Tell time to the quarter hour – L

Notes: Em is doing great adding up various sums of money, but subtraction and making change is not something she has had experience with. We need to work on that. Also, after reviewing writing amounts, she is doing well, but made a few mistakes. We have done very little about comparing objects by length, weight and volume. Will need to remedy this. We will spend this year reviewing the months of the year, she will get better soon. Blame digital clocks for the delay in telling time to the quarter hour.


  • Identify basic 2-dimensional figures: circle, square, rectangle, and triangle – X
  • Identify 3-dimensional figures: sphere, cube, cone, pyramid, and cylinder – X
  • Recognize and differentiate among horizontal, vertical, parallel, and perpendicular lines – X
  • Be able to identify congruent figures (same shape, size, just in different position). – X
  • Define and measure perimeter and area – D

Notes: I found most of these rather simple and so did she. We have not discussed or addressed perimeter and area yet. 

And that wraps up today’s assessment. Tomorrow we will cover History & Geography, Science, Foreign Language, Art, Music, and Health & P.E.

After that, I will be posting a plan of action for all of these areas that need to be addressed.

You Will Conform!

This past January, Em started in a great program offered here in Historic Northeast Kansas City, Harmony Project. It is a program designed for inner-city at-risk youth and is free. Free as in…

Free music instruction

Free training in vocals and choir

Free instruments, including the use of a child-size cello this fall

And free is very, very nice. Each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, from 4-5:30 and on Saturdays from 10am – noon, Em learns how to read music, how to sing in a choir, and more.

Despite Em not being an at-risk youth or within their income requirements, she was welcomed by the organizers of this program and they seem to truly like her.

There is one drawback…

The other day she finally came to us and told us she is having trouble with some of the other children. They found out she is homeschooled and have told her that she…

  • Has to go to school
  • Isn’t learning if she is not in school

They have also begun to tease her…”You don’t know anything, you don’t go to school.” And on and on.

She came to her dad first, and he told me, so I talked with her today.

I tried to make her understand why these kids would say these things. All she wants is for them to be her friends and she is sad that they are acting like this. I explained that, when a child is surrounded by age-mates, when they are told each day to do a certain number of things without deviation, when they are treated the same, expected to do, learn and regurgitate the same things…this is conformity. They learn conformity.

And they learn to praise conformity in others.

“If your nose was purple, that’s all they would see or want to talk about. That purple nose of yours.” I explained to her. “If you had six fingers on one hand, that would be all they would talk about. Because that would make you different from them. And in their world, different is not good, different is BAD.”

I didn’t know how to advise her. How could I help her resolve this? Was there any resolution to be had?

Story of world middle ages

I gave her some suggestions. And I have no idea if they would work. Afterwards we read about Emperor Justinian and his wife the Empress Theodora. “Before they start in, tell them about the Emperor Justinian and his wife, the Empress Theodora,” I said, “Make sure they know it is history – a history they will probably never learn in public school because too much time is spent on reviewing, without end, the same basic histories instead of some of the more interesting pieces of it. And if they don’t believe you, I will be there to pick you up and you can ask me to tell them the story and I will.”

She smiled then. She knows she is learning, that she is growing each day and practicing/retaining more and more.


This was never more evident than in our trip to the Overland Park Arboretum yesterday for a KC-CIRCLE class.


As we walked through the grounds with the docent, Em talked confidently, pointing out different plants that she knew and impressing our guide. Herbs, knowing obscure facts like that lamb’s ear (the larger varieties) were used for toilet paper by native Americans, or that dandelions have medicinal qualities, and much more.


There is conformity…

And then there is letting the world be your teacher…


I’m happy we have chosen the latter.

Homeschool Budget


For the past couple of years I have had a homeschool budget set for $600 per year. And while it very well may increase in the years to come, that has been the average expenditures for us over the past few years.

Mainly this budget consists of classes at LEARN, KC-CIRCLE, LEARN Math & Science Club, summer camps, and a small number of books.

And since I was reviewing my budget a lot in the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but wonder if that amount of money was being spent in the right places. More specifically, I wanted to know what Emily wanted to spend that money on.

So today we spent about half an hour taking a look at that money and generating possible options.


  • LEARN classes 3 classes per semester, approx. $100 per semester, or $200/year
  • KC-CIRCLE classes, $66 per semester, 3 sessions per year, $200/year
  • One week of summer camp $180. $20 remaining for books.


  • LEARN classes, cap of 2 classes per semester, approx. $75/semester or $150/yr
  • KC-CIRCLE classes, cap of $30 per session, or $90 per year
  • two weeks of summer camp, $360


  • LEARN Science & Math club, limited to 1 semester per year, $160
  • LEARN on Wednesdays with a cap of one class per semester, $40 per semester, or $80/yr
  • KC CIRCLE classes, cap of $30 per session, reduced to two sessions per year, $60/yr
  • One week of summer camp $180


  • LEARN Math & Science club, limited to 1 semester per year, $160
  • two weeks of summer camp $360
  • our own field trips to caves and other learning activities $80

I wrote it all out on the blackboard to give her a visual of the possibilities. I presented Option 1, our current use of the funds, and Option 2, another viable way to spend the money. But I could see she wanted something more. So we talked about Option 3, and then finally she came up with Option 4.

I can sit here all day and guess at what she wants to do, but in the end, I find it far easier to ask her!

I have to say, I’m rather impressed with her idea. I hadn’t thought of it, but she certainly did. Perhaps I can come up with a list of places, run it past her, and even invite others along.

I told her we would re-assess twice a year, and work with the options before us at that point.

It looks like we will do the summer session with KC-CIRCLE and then stop, although I imagine that will not stick (she loves going to the Coterie and Paul Mesner Puppets, so she will miss it), and that this is only the first in many negotiations to come. I’ve told her I definitely want to teach a class at LEARN this fall, although she has no interest in attending it, and will probably just play in the gym for an hour before we leave and go to Park Side.

I was surprised by her choices, honestly. But it made me happy that I had asked, because what she wants is important to me. This is HER education, not mine.

Next on the agenda is our quarterly “So, what do you want to learn about?” idea-generating time for specific homeschool studies.

I’m betting that she will definitely want to continue to do…

  • Math – using the Life of Fred series
  • History – using the Story of the World
  • Literature – anytime I read to her is a happy day in her world

And as for the rest? Well, I suppose that is up to her!