Post Christmas Quiet

Honestly? We had a pretty quiet lead-up to Christmas as well, considering we all were sick with the flu/cold/plague.

I am looking at our schedule for January and getting a little intimidated…just three weeks and things will really start to rev up!

It remains to be seen if it becomes TOO much for us.

Let me show you what I mean…

By the end of January, our calendar will be full of activities, including:

  • Mondays – Peacequest in the evenings
  • Tuesdays – KC-CIRCLE co-op classes, Harmony Project KC 4-5:30
  • Wednesdays – LEARN, free play at Park Side, Coterie acting classes from 5-6 pm
  • Thursdays – Girl Scouts (2x monthly), KC CIRCLE co-op classes, Harmony Project KC 4-5:30
  • Fridays – Science City
  • Saturday mornings – Harmony Project KC from 10-12

I fear I may have overscheduled us ever so slightly!

No matter, it will all work itself out in the end. Hopefully it might mean me slipping in more and more writing opportunities wherever we go. I would like to write at least 750 words per day (something I was discussing on my writing blog earlier today) but would jump at the chance to increase that to 1,000 or even 2,000 words per day!

And speaking of writing, Em showed me a note she had written today. While convalescing, she has been watching massive overdoses of children’s television. This has apparently led to her writing summaries about the videos after they are done.

Again, I am just fascinated by her deciding to do this, all on her own, without any input, advice or requests from us. I mean, seriously, how cool is it that she decided to just take notes on what she was watching?

Would I like for to watch less TV and do something else? Of course I would. I’m not going to fight that battle while we are both still getting over our illnesses though.

And I just remembered having a discussion the other day about why people take notes. I explained that, in school, kids learn to take notes. The reason for this is because it helps a person to remember things better. The act of writing the information down often cements it better in our brains. The discussion had come about after we visited one of our client’s houses where she couldn’t watch the tv, having forgotten which remote to use. I suggested to her that she take notes the next time she saw the client, that way she wouldn’t forget as easily.

I may have forgotten that conversation after it was over, but she certainly didn’t!

Posted in Daily Conversations, Homeschool - Language Arts | Leave a comment

Splash Math and More

Mother and daughter back against a tree playing with touchpad

Splash Math

I just signed up for an interesting site … Splash Math.

Splash Math combines the best of both worlds. For a child, Splash Math appears to be like a game which rewards on getting answers correct, keeping them engaged all the time. For a parent, Splash Math covers all necessary math skills for their grade levels and provides crucial insight on the child’s performance.


Splash Math is an adaptive program. It personalizes math practice depending upon the child’s level of mastery and covers all math skills for all grades – Kindergarten through 5. Splash Math collects the practice data and shares analytical reports with the parents/teachers.

Splash Math combines the best of both worlds. For a child, Splash Math appears to be like a game which rewards on getting answers correct, keeping them engaged all the time. For a parent, Splash Math covers all necessary math skills for their grade levels and provides crucial insight on the child’s performance.

Special 20% discount – This holiday season, Splash Math is offering a Special 20% discount. Go to Save 20% Off Splash Math to access the discount.

Discussion on Slavery and the Civil War at 1 a.m.

We have both been horribly sick all weekend. Yesterday I spent maybe two hours OUT of bed, and at least 1 1/2 of that was in the bathtub. So with the kiddo and I both sick, we slept together in the big bed and my husband, terrified of getting ill (and who could blame him?) slept in the front bedroom.

We were awakened, Em and I, at 1 a.m. by the dog (who has a bad case of kennel cough) hacking and coughing and then throwing up on the bed. Ah, joy.

Somehow, in the replacement of blankets and upheaval, this led to the following conversation…

E: I sure am glad that General Washington abolished slavery.

C: General Washington owned slaves, sweetie. Perhaps you are thinking of Abraham Lincoln?

E: No, it was Washington. I remember from the history videos.

C: Well, General Washington led troops in the Revolutionary War, some 80 years before the Civil War, where we fought over slavery and other things.

E: But Mama, the video SAID it was Washington. So either the video lied, or you remember wrong.

C: Or a 3rd option, that YOU remember wrong.

[a long frustrated silence from the child]

I then reviewed the early history of the United States to her, reminding her that at the end of the war, African-American men then had the right to vote.

“But not us, right Mama? Not women?” Em asked.

“That’s right, we didn’t get to vote until less than 100 years ago.”

“That wasn’t fair.”

“No it wasn’t. But now that we can, we should always vote, because our opinions matter.”

And with that, we went back to sleep. Well, at least she did.

Posted in Bonding, Daily Conversations, Homeschool - Mathematics | Leave a comment

Writing, Writing and More Writing

It says: "Come In, Knock First."

It says: “Come In, Knock First.”


Just as with the road to reading, the road to writing has been bumpy and full of fear, uncertainty and reluctance.

For the longest time, Em refused to do more than sign her name. And forget trying to remind her when to use uppercase versus lowercase, even that was a verboten topic.

My daughter is a perfectionist. And as I have said before, she comes by it naturally – I fear both of her parents suffer from it!

On the heels of more and better reading – willing reading at that – has come another new development …writing.

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

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

And let me tell you, that’s a fine thing to see! Notes are cropping up everywhere!

She has pushed past the “I must ask Mama if I am spelling everything correctly”  and plunged deep into the writing waters, spelling mainly phonetically and unafraid of “doing it wrong.”

This is a wonderful development. Truly it is.

The fact of the matter is this – you can have zero writing, or writing that is rife with errors she can learn to fix over time, or reluctant, yet perfect writing. And when it comes down to it, I want her WRITING. Spelling errors, grammar, uppercase/lowercase issues – these can all be fixed over time. If she is willing to write, then eventually she will pick these things up and the whole act of writing isn’t such a frightening task.

Her journal that she voluntarily began writing in

Her journal that she voluntarily began writing in

So here is the best part…

Just over a week ago, Em mentioned that she had been writing in her journal. A present from one of the children at her birthday party, it has plenty of lined pages and is either a Princess or Frozen theme on the cover – a huge win for my little girly girl.

On her own, without any suggestions or prodding from me, she decided to write about her day. She actually began with a day that had occurred a month or so ago, and then went from there, talking about highlights of her days as if they had just happened.

I remember my own forays into keeping a journal, and how my mother had said, “That’s not how you journal, it would take you all day to write about your day if you do it piece by piece.” It was a lesson I would have learned on my own as I mucked through the lines describing brushing my hair and eating breakfast and walking to school, but instead, I decided that I really didn’t know anything about writing and refused to journal (even while being marked down for it in school) for YEARS. I was an adult before I would try it again.

Notes on her computer monitor that list chores like  "take out compost, vacuum stairs, chickens" and more

Notes on her computer monitor that list chores like “take out compost, vacuum stairs, chickens” and more

The smallest things, said with the best of intentions, can stunt children in the most peculiar ways. So I did not say, “Oh you need to write things as they happen or say WHEN it happened.” In fact, I didn’t say a doggone thing other than, “Writing in your journal is a wonderful thing to do. It is a way of remembering our daily lives and the things that have happened to us and is a place we can record our hopes and dreams. Don’t worry a bit about whether words are spelled right or if there is correct punctuation. That will come. That will come in the act of doing just what you are doing…writing.”

I wanted to shout with glee, “My child is writing! She is WRITING!” Instead, I smiled, and said good night to her. She looked so excited that night, a pen and journal firmly in her grasp as she climbed into bed. I turned off the overhead light as she flipped on her small bedside lamp to write by. “I’m going to write about playing with my friends today, Mama!”

“That sounds wonderful, Baby! I love you!”

In the end, I want the accomplishment to be hers. I fully intend to live vicariously through my child, enjoying the journey every step of the way, while realizing it is her life, her interests, and her future that is unfolding. And that is a beautiful thing.

Notes on her computer monitor that list chores like  "take out compost, vacuum stairs, chickens" and more

Notes on her computer monitor that list chores like “take out compost, vacuum stairs, chickens” and more

Posted in Homeschool - Language Arts | Leave a comment

I Think I’ll Let Her Drive…

great quote

I just noticed this on my Facebook feed and had to re-post it. It is a beautiful idea, one we can all aspire to.

Having Her Pick the Classes

A couple of months ago, Em and I were looking through one of our random books – from our homeschool shelves and found Science Around the House. She was captivated by the different experiments and coincidentally we were faced with trying to figure out a class for our local co-op. “Why not have a Fun Science class and base it on these experiments?” I suggested.

Emily was instantly excited and began marking all of the experiments she was interested in. We narrowed it down to four experiments and broke them into two classes – one in January (Lava Lamps and Rainbow Milk) and one in February (ph Indicator and Quicksand).

We submitted the class outlines and waited to hear if anyone was interested in signing up. One class was completely full and a special request for an 11th (I had set a cap of 10 students) was accommodated. The second class was nearly filled as well.

I told Em, “From now on, I think you should pick the classes. Your ideas seem to be very popular!”

If You Had Told Me Then

If you had pulled that 16-year-old me aside and said, “So, you will be teaching fun science classes to homeschoolers in a few decades” – I wouldn’t have believed you, not for a second. Sometimes I wish I could travel back to that me in the past and give her a couple of pointers about just how her life would change in amazing ways over the coming years.

Life is good.

Posted in Advocacy, Homeschool - Science | Leave a comment

Following the Interests

This week, and last week, have had a heavy emphasis on gauging interests and seeing where they lead.

After all, that is one the big pluses of homeschooling, that we can give them the basics, while spending time following their interests to see where they lead.

Harmony Project KC

Emily is now signed up for Harmony Project KC, which will begin January 13th. If you are interested, and live in the Historic Northeast, this program is free for the youth in the area. There are low-income requirements stated on the website, however, they told me that the program is free to all, with priority given to the lower-income families. At this time there are still openings and they hope to have at least 35 students signed up.

Em loves music and I’m excited for her to have this opportunity.

Acting Classes at The Coterie

I was successful in my bid to get Em moved over to a Wednesday acting class with The Coterie. She will be with 4th-6th graders, but the choices were limited due to her Tuesday, Thursday, and then Saturday morning involvement with the music program. The options were to put her in a K-1 class on Mondays where I feared she would be bored, or Wednesdays with kids who are older than her by several years.

Em has plenty of friends who are older – some as old as 13 – so I figured she would do better with the older kids. It was a matter, however, of convincing the staff of that. After a couple of days to think about it, they granted her a one time exception, which I hope will turn out well.

She enjoyed the music and the acting so much when we saw Annie at the Trilogy Cultural Arts Center, that I am excited to be feeding that interest!

Fostering Animals for Local Shelters

Lastly, Em has shown a strong interest in fostering cats and dogs. Now honestly, who doesn’t like little puppies and kitties?! I have a feeling that this will be heavy on “oh they are so cute, let me pet them” and far less on “oh here, let me clean up some puppy poop.”

However, I see nothing wrong with trying it at least once. We recently received a request to house a pregnant female dog from a local shelter. She will have her pups, and when they are weaned, we will return Mama and pups to the shelter to be adopted out.

I think it is an excellent experience…birth, new life, biology in action, and then seeing them off to their new homes.

We will see what they say about our application and go from there!

Posted in Community, Homeschool - Music, Playful Learning/Learning Throug Play | Leave a comment

Bring On the Music…and Drama!

Annie and the Clue

This past Friday, we attended an Annie Musical at a local church/cultural arts center. It was fantastic and Em truly enjoyed the performance, exclaiming at the end, “That was the best show EVER!”

The women near us smiled at her enthusiasm.

She insisted on going into the crowd afterwards to find as many of the actors and actresses as she could and giving them thumbs up or telling them they did well.

And watching her do that, well, there was my big clue.

With Danielle, my eldest, it had been reading, art, and writing – pretty much in that order. And to this day, I absolutely support her in any way I can. Draw more, write more, and read, read, read!

And I have been waiting, watching, and observing my youngest for quite a while now. She has an amazing presence with others, something that just draws others in and makes them seek her out. And I have wondered how that would be used in her future interests – because she is definitely a people person.

“Emily, would you like to take acting classes?” I asked her that night. “The Coterie has classes, and I think you could then ask how you would audition for the parts in the performances that they have.”

“Oh Mama, yes, YES! I want to take acting classes!” She bounced up and down with excitement. So I found a class that started in late January and signed her up. I consider it $80 well spent for six weeks of acting classes.

Harmony Project KC

The next day was Saturday and we all attended the Orientation and Sign-Up event for the Harmony Project KC, a free music program for inner-city youth. I mentioned it in an earlier post and my excitement has been growing. The Harmony Project offers choir, intensive music instruction, trips to musical events, and next fall, an instrument of their own to practice with.

We entered the room and there were tables filled with different musical instruments – maracas, xylophone, drums, and also the three string instruments – violin, viola, and cello – which they plan on starting all the kids off with in the first phase of this program. After one of the instructors showed her how to hold it, Emily lightly touched the bow to the violin and drew the string across. The viola was more challenging, because she was too small, her fingers didn’t reach to the right spot, but the women both smiled and commented that she had a light touch. Next to her, a boy was vigorously sawing away on the violin. Finally she sat on a seat and held the cello, also a bit too big (apparently they will have smaller cellos available for her next fall) and Emily drew the bow over the strings.

If the smile on her face was any indication, I think we may have a cello player on our hands in a year!

One small blip appeared on an otherwise perfect situation – a family from one street over was there. The husband and wife have threatened their neighbors and city officials (they were cited for throwing their garbage into the front lawn of the house next to them) and Emily has told us that the kids have spit on her and called her names.

She was just talking about them the other day, confused and upset about why they behaved like that. And seeing them there, in this music program that we were all so excited about, really affected her badly. She climbed up in our laps and looked very unhappy and uncomfortable. This continued for several minutes and seemed to be getting her more and more agitated.

“Baby, this program is for people like them,” I explained. “They need this, badly, it might very well make a difference for them and teach them to be better human beings.”

This was apparently the right thing to say. Because she instantly relaxed. She actually said, “Thank you Mama, for explaining.”

Here is me, crossing my fingers, that that is all I need to do. That these children, if they do actually show up for the program, will not spit on my child or call her names or otherwise abuse her. That this music program will be what we hope it can be, and infuse my child with an even bigger love of music, and encourage her to develop that love into a talent.

Posted in Bonding, Challenges, Community, Homeschool - Music | Leave a comment

Unschooling Conversations, Life of Fred, and More

Em’s reading continues to improve, and although it might be repetitive, I continue to bask in the daily breakthroughs and improvements. I have waited for this for so long, and it is absolutely spectacular to see it unfolding!

I have also continued to see interest and improvement in other areas – unschooling is truly a good fit for us – and here are some of the highlights from this week…

Thank You Life of Fred

On Tuesday morning, Em picked up her free LEGO magazine and was looking through it as I cleaned the kitchen. I would pass back and forth, tidying up the dining room as well, and would stop and point out things like the word bubbles that the magazine invited the kids to write in, making up their own conversations. She happily filled out sayings, using some inventive, yet phonetically accurate spellings of words. On the next page, there was Santa’s Workshop and a seek and find the missing cookies. There were a dozen in all, and Em located them and then announced, “Wait, I need a piece of paper and a pen.” These located, she painstakingly drew pictures of the two types of cookies and then wrote down the equation stating, “There, I showed my work!”

This was completely unexpected and unprompted. I credit Life of Fred math with encouraging this. Math is not a frightening, difficult or onerous thing. And she is definitely getting something out of it. Here is a snapshot of the equation she wrote down…


Veteran’s Day

I have been remiss. This was fully brought home to me today, the day after Veteran’s Day as we drove down the highway.

“Mama! Look at all of those flags!” Emily pointed excitedly to a hillside next to the highway that will absolutely FILLED with American flags and a sign wishing “Happy Veteran’s Day and Thank You for Your Service!”

“Why are there all of those flags, Mama?” Em asked.

“Those are for Veteran’s Day, baby, which was yesterday. It’s considered a holiday with the banks and government, but not everyone takes the day off for it. It is to recognize the sacrifice and service that members of the military give to our country.”

“Oh wow! Mama, I think WE should celebrate Veteran’s Day too.” Em said seriously from the backseat. “I mean, some soldiers give their LIVES for our country.”

And it made me think of the friends we know who have given service to this country. As much as I may disagree with our country’s war-mongering ways (I know, that’s a loaded statement and I truly hope I am not offending anyone), and as much as I wish that no one ever had to put their lives on the line, and risk everything, I had to agree with my eight-year-old’s point of view. I think that next year I definitely need to make this a bigger deal. Emily has asked that we go to a battlefield or visit a cemetery or war memorial in honor of Veteran’s Day.

And you know what? That sounds like a FINE idea to me.

Fostering Puppies and Kittens?

One of the main coordinators of LEARN fosters puppies and kittens for Wayside Waifs. She specializes in sick ones, which need extra care, and there are inevitably a batch of kittens or puppies to pet, cuddle and help feed when we attend the co-op each Wednesday.

Today, this activity spawned a discussion and earnest wish from Emily to help with fostering. Now I am sure a big part of the allure has to do with soft little fuzzy babies she can cuddle. That said, we talked about volunteering and I have sent an email off to the woman to ask for suggestions on how Emily can get started volunteering at a local animal shelter and eventually fostering animals if her interests on the subject continue.

I was mentioning to my eldest today that Em has not shown any specific interests yet – with the exception of her stellar social skills with children and adults – and that I was waiting for her to evidence her predilections, so that I could help promote them. My eldest, now 26, showed a great interest in reading and in art, which I did my best to feed at every turn. And considering she is now a writer and artist, I would say I succeeded in my efforts to support her interests!

Perhaps Emily is destined to be a veterinarian…or maybe not. In any case, I will foster her interests and we will see where they lead!

Posted in Community, Daily Conversations, Homeschool - Mathematics | Leave a comment

Mama, Are They Predators Too?

Driving down Independence Avenue in Kansas City can be an eye-opening experience, with an eclectic mix of used car lots and the occasional prostitute or drug dealer. Thankfully, Emily’s focus was completely on the signs that she now feels comfortable reading aloud, “Mama, what is Ti…Tit…Tittle Max?”

“Title Max?”

“Yeah, Title Max. What is it, Mama?”

“That is a place where, if you need money really bad, you can go trade your car title for an obscenely low price, get outrageous interest rates, and eventually lose your car.” I explained, “Essentially they are predators.”

“Predators?” came a small shocked voice from the back seat.

“Yes, baby, predators.” I paused for a moment, “You know what a predator does, right?”

“Um…hunts other animals?”

“Exactly!” I then explained why I considered them predators. That evening as we lay in bed, a commercial for Title Max came on the television.

I was absolutely disgusted by it. This led to another long discussion about payday loan companies and the like. This morning we were listening to 96.5 The Buzz and Resurrection Sunday (which features hits from the 80s) when a commercial for Toys R Us came on. After a moment, Emily asked, “Mama, are they predators too?”

Which made me laugh, but did bring up a very good point – If someone provides you a service for whatever sum of money, if YOU are comfortable paying that sum, are they taking advantage of you or not? I would say not.

It reminds me though, that we do seem to have the most interesting of discussions…

Posted in Daily Conversations | Leave a comment

Free Music Program for Kansas City Northeast Residents

The other morning, as I was driving Em to her LEARN Math and Science Club, she was busy whistling away. She can pick up a tune and whistle it, without difficulty, in no time. I thought to myself, I wish I knew of a music program I could put her in. I think she has talent, and a natural interest, but it costs so much for lessons and instruments!

And later that morning, this came across my Facebook feed…

If you have/know Northeast children between the ages of 6 and 10 and are interested in providing them with after school music education, check out Harmony Project KC. It’s tuition FREE and we provide them with loaner instruments for as long as they remain in the program, all the way through high school graduation. All they have to do is show up, practice, and stay in school Next Open House/Enrollment is Saturday, 11/15/2014 from 10-11:30 AM

I immediately checked out their Facebook site and also the website.

And although it says:

What does Harmony Project KC cost?

  • Harmony Project is tuition-free (including instruments) for students whose family income is within 18% of the federal poverty level or who attend a Title 1 school.

  • Harmony Project KC relies on individual and corporate donations.

I emailed them and asked, “This sounds amazing! Is there any kind of sliding scale if a family is not at poverty guidelines (but also can’t afford private music tuition)? We are homeschoolers.”

I received an immediate response,

“Christine, we are entirely tuition free – always. Priority is given to low-income and Title 1 students, but our Program Manager says we can accommodate families like you as long as there is room. I encourage you to bring your family to the Open House/Enrollment next Saturday morning (11/15 10-11:30am) at the Northeast Community Center (544 Wabash Ave)”

I encourage everyone living in Northeast Kansas City who has children between the ages of 6-10 years of age to come by the Open House next Saturday. The program includes instruments, field trips to music events, and so much more! I know I’ll be there!

Posted in Homeschool - Music | Leave a comment

Life of Fred – Butterflies!

With many of learning adventures, I’ll introduce a book or subject that seems to be something the kiddo likes, but turns out after a few forays into it, to not be.

I have a child who wants desperately to please me, so it sometimes takes a few go rounds before I discover that the perfect curriculum is simply not so perfect.

And with Life of Fred, as with Story of the World, I have waited for the other shoe to drop and for me to discover that I would need to find something else that motivated/interested my little learner.

However, Life of Fred continues to interest and motivate her. We have finished with the first book, Life of Fred: Apples and moved on to Life of Fred: Butterflies and we completed two chapters yesterday.

The author recommends only completing one chapter per day. They go so quickly, and the story is so captivating to Emily, that often she demands a second chapter, and in the case of yesterday, a third. However, that is often way too much. I notice that there are concepts being introduced in each of the chapters that, frankly, need to sit and process a while. When we did yesterday’s lessons, opening Butterflies for the first time, we did two chapters, but Em had a couple of difficulties during the second chapter and began to get very frustrated and upset with herself. She calmed down and then at the end of it wanted Chapter 3, but I told her we needed to focus on other studies.

Each chapter literally takes maybe ten minutes from beginning to end. Super simple, but also clearly introducing multiple ideas and concepts in a way that is subtle and empowering.

I highly recommend the Life of Fred. I’ve gone through and will be adding the rest of the sets to my wish list. There are quite a few – including Language Arts.

One tiny complaint/issue. The author is pushing a Christian, conservative perspective. So far it hasn’t popped up too bad, “Fred prayed” or “Fred wondered if this is what heaven looked like.” But I have heard from another homeschool mom that the higher grade books teach Tea Party economics. I think that, when we get to that stage, knowing that going in, I can better provide perspective on anything that is too lopsided one way or the other.

Posted in Homeschool - Choosing A Curriculum Series, Homeschool - Mathematics | Leave a comment