Changing My Approach

As Em grows, her input is more and more necessary when it comes to planning our homeschool curriculum.

For one, I want her to feel that she has some level of control over her schooling choices and what time she spends involved in homeschool activities and other children.

Lately, as my focus has turned increasingly towards putting in the time required to get my writing career off the ground and earning me more than a handful of lattes each month, I have also been considering how that would impact Em’s schooling.

I began to look at Time4Learning, which incorporates Language Arts, Math, Science and History together in a grade-specific format. I reviewed the website several times, and finally brought it up to Em today, showing her the site and asking for her input.

She was interested, and also had some strong opinions to share. This was actually a relief, since Em can be a “people pleaser” type and that leaves things open for misunderstanding. If she didn’t want to do something, I needed to know about it.

“I don’t want to go to the Wednesday classes, Mama, I don’t like them.”

I asked her to tell me more and found that it wasn’t the Wednesday classes she disliked, it was the feeling of not always fitting in with the crowd of kids in the gym, who avoided her or played keep away games when she wasn’t with her friends. “I don’t like it, they hurt my feelings,” she said.

It was confirmation of what I have been suspecting for a while. Em doesn’t get much out of organized classes because all she wants is to play with her friends. She has no problem doing work on her own, and learning on her own, but when she is with other kids, the only thing on her mind is playing.

I can’t say I blame her. And I find it a little ironic – because it is how I do best as well. When I’m around other adults I prefer to socialize, not work. And I happily will work for hours all on my own.

In any case, we then discussed LEARN Math & Science, which is a separate entity from the LEARN co-op on Wednesdays. I told her that we could afford to send her to one of the semesters, but not both.

“That’s okay, Mama,” she said. “My friend is staying in the lower class this fall so that her brother isn’t lonely. But next semester she is going into the advanced class. So I don’t need to go until then.”

I asked her if she liked the classes for what they teach or because she liked hanging out with the kids. “Both,” she answered, “I really like the classes too.”

Fair enough, kid.

And with that short five-minute discussion I had a clear idea of how fall homeschool was going to develop.

  • Time4Learning five days per week
  • Harmony Project music class on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and home cello practice on the other three weekdays
  • Cursive instruction and more personalized writing practice five days per week
  • Reading at least half an hour each day, five days per week
  • As many play dates and visits to parks and other social events as we can manage

I love that I can talk with her and we can come up with a plan together!

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Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

This is an interesting approach to stopping bullying: parents make daughter wear thrift store clothes to school

The long and short of it, in case you don’t want to watch the video, is that this one little girl was bullying another about the clothes she wore, calling her clothing choices “gross” and “sleazy.”

The parents found out and were horrified, so the mom took her daughter on a shopping trip at a local thrift store, asking her to pick out the ugliest outfits. The little girl did, and her mom bought them and said, “You are going to wear these clothes to school.”

Surprise, surprise, the girl found herself teased and taunted by her classmates, learned some empathy, apologized and ended up becoming good friends with the little girl she had bullied so badly.

They had an expert on explaining that this wasn’t a good approach because these tactics can “damage a child’s self-esteem.”

That same self-esteem that had the entitled little twit calling another child “sleazy” because she wasn’t as economically well off and didn’t wear the “right” clothes?

It seems to me that the girl’s self-esteem was already over-inflated.

We have a big problem in this country these days. Well, one look at the impending presidential election will tell you there’s more than one problem, but I digress.

Kids are often being raised to believe they are perfectly little special snowflakes. They are not expected to be accountable, and it seems that the word “no” has become politically incorrect.

I’ve got two awesome kids – one who is 27, the other who is 9. They weren’t always awesome, and even now, occasionally either one of them can hit that “pain in the ass” meter nice and high.

They weren’t born perfect. We have had a lot of talks about what it means to be a decent human being, friend, neighbor and more. Sometimes Em, who is truly sweet kid, will say something that sets off my sirens. I immediately set out to give her some perspective, and suggest an alternative line of thought.

I think that these parents were far easier on their child than I would have been. I probably would have taken every single piece of nice clothes and donated them and made her permanently have to wear those “ugly” clothes. Then again, I’m pretty hardcore about crap like that. I think that I would have really wanted to make sure my child understood how truly awful her bullying had been. The kind of lesson that she would have NEVER repeated because she understood it, down to her bones, how hurtful it could be.

What do you think?

What would you do?

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School is Out For Summer!

My husband has done a fabulous job of running the homeschool side of things for the past five months and now it is time for summer break!

Each morning, Monday through Friday, he has dutifully tackled spelling, social studies, math and more. On her own, with little prompting, Em has practiced her cello, watched educational science videos, written in her journal, and read at least 30 minutes per day from a book of her choice.

I have been very impressed with her progress – which has been in no small part due to my husband’s diligence!

In just under 20 weeks they managed to tear through 36 weeks of spelling lists, at least three Life of Fred math books, and 1 1/2 History of US history books!

And while we will be taking a break for summer, there are a couple of things I hope to work on with Em. I figure we will take a couple of weeks and then in the first week of June, we will:

  • Begin daily handwriting practice
  • Practice multiplication until she has all of it memorized through 12x tables

That’s it. Nothing too demanding. In June, she will have summer camp with Harmony Project that mirrors the same schedule as the rest of the year.

And speaking of Harmony Project – I received word that my little munchkin took excellent care of her cello. Such good care in fact, that it was noticed by the guy who handles all of the instrument repair and maintenance. She will receive a special award at the beginning of summer camp recognizing how responsible she was!

I cannot say enough good things about Harmony Project – not just for our family, but for the community in general. I smile every time I hear my daughter playing the cello. It is hard to believe she has only been practicing for nine months – she has really improved. So have all of the kids in the program. It has been fantastic to watch!

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All of the Possibilities

Recently, I ran across this headline in my Facebook news feed:

a mighty girl

You can read the full article here.

The idea that adults were commenting on her site, suggesting that she was better suited to dolls and tea parties made me bristle. It reminded me of my eldest daughter, who was told by other teenagers, “You read too much, boys won’t like you if you are smart.”

Thankfully she didn’t listen.

It was a great reminder that I need to resurrect some women’s studies, and at nine, it certainly is not too soon. When I removed Dee from public school and began to homeschool her, I asked her, “What do you want to study?”


She wanted to learn about a great many things – including women’s history. A Mighty Girl is a website aimed at all “mighty girls” from birth through adulthood. I paged through the site the other day, dreams of lesson plans dancing in my head.

Aside from Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, and Susan B. Anthony, I honestly had not heard of most of the women movers and shakers. The list 15 Women Scientists You should Know talked about women I had never heard of.

I’m not going to jump up on a soapbox and rant about how the only history is men’s history. It isn’t. But teaching women’s history is important, especially for young girls and women. We need to hear about these trailblazers, these women who followed their hearts and dreams without bowing to conventional roles or culturally enforced expectations. We need to know how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.

A year ago, possibly two, Em said to me, “When I grow up and get married, I want my husband to be President of the United States.” When I asked why she didn’t want to be president she looked at me and said, “They have women presidents?”

And no, I won’t be voting for HRC, although I’m tempted, if only to show Em that yes, women can be presidents. Instead, I pointed out that in more enlightened countries women have been serving as presidents, queens, and prime ministers for decades. I also added that, the United States is on the cusp of it, pointing out that Barack Obama is the first African-American president we have had – a huge sign of progress.

As the mother of two daughters, I would rather have curious, brave, challenging girls who get messy, argue, and explore – rather than meek, mild, well-behaved ones. After all…



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Saying “Yes”

I know I’ve been rather quiet here on the homeschool front. The hubby is still unemployed, although there are several possibles pending, so that will probably change soon. Meanwhile, he is heading the daily homeschooling tasks and I am working on other things.

Last night my eldest sent me a link to a TED talk, which reminded me, yet again, how much I enjoy TED talks and how important it is to me to watch them more often.

I’ll see a new link to one come across my email and think, “Later, I’ll watch it.” And then I get busy, distracted, and never get around to it.

Danielle sent an update to me (she’s currently editing my 5th book) and the link to a TED talk I had meant to watch but never did, My Year of Saying Yes to Everything by Shonda Rhimes.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hear another mother say that she doesn’t particularly enjoy playing with her child. I kind of figured I was an anachronism, but perhaps I am really quite normal in this – at least among titans.

Later, as I moved around the house this morning, my little one said, “Come cuddle with me, Mama, just for a little while.”

And although my brain was firing away, a dozen “to-do’s” battling for supremacy, I stretched out on the big chair and a half in the living room and pulled her close to me. There will be a day when she doesn’t need me to cuddle her anymore. And I know it is coming far sooner than I am ready for.

We lay there, discussing the day ahead, until she said, “Until Daddy gets back from dropping off the lawnmower, there are some homeschool things I can do on my own. So I’ll do those, and then can I draw some on my computer?”

“Sure,” I said. Cuddle time was over, she had gotten the time she needed with me, and we hugged again before she ran off upstairs to get to reading and writing. It was five, maybe ten minutes, tops. Such a small amount of time for such an important person in my life.

Watch the video, say “yes” more often, and listen for the hum. That’s the lesson I learned for today.

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It’s Like They Were Double-Killed!

I haven’t had much to say about homeschooling recently because my husband Dave has been leading the charge. Every weekday morning he sits down with Em and goes through Math, Social Studies, spelling, and more. They have really been flying through the material.

i will mention here how fabulous and wonderful that has been for me. You cannot believe the amount of stuff I’ve been able to get accomplished thanks to his handling this important component each day!

Today, however, he had a meeting to attend. So as soon as she was out of the bath and we had run a few errands, we got to it.I read from the Geography Almanac for Kids:

“A brown-gray color dye was achieved by grinding up Egyptian mummies.”

Emily gasped in horror, “It’s like they were double-killed!”

She cracks me up!

Time to get some lunch, take her to LEARN Math and Science, and then back home to finish up with a spelling test and have her practice her cello.

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‘Yo Daddy!

Having the hubs home for the past month has been quite nice. Not only have a number of items been ticked off of the “Honey Do” list, but Dave has stepped forward and volunteered to homeschool the Em. And in doing so, he has applied his own unique approach to it.

Em seems to be enjoying the time spent with her dad and they are tearing through the curriculum, which is normally juggled by me between cleaning gigs, prepping for classes, errands, household duties, and homeschool classes outside of the home.

I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Suffice it to say, I’m getting a lot of other work done!

Monday I spent going through my file cabinet in my office and shredding three full trash bags full of unneeded paperwork.

Tuesday I spent prepping for my Easy Cheese Making class, baking bread, making soup, and writing blog posts.

Today I am working on advance prep for upcoming classes, writing this blog post, and hopefully, if things go well, tackling another round of edits on Book #5. I’ve also had inspiration strike on my cookbook idea and I’m taking notes. I’ve already completed my assigned section of house (the upstairs bathroom and hall) for the day.

Right now, Em and her dad are busy reading Life of Fred for her math studies, along with A History of Us and some geography facts. Later she will practice her cello for 30 minutes. The cream on top, however, are the spelling tests.

Em has really resisted practicing her spelling. At first, she was discouraged by her poor printing abilities (no, we haven’t tackled cursive yet, but we will) and then the sheer number of misspelled words brought her down further. I hate seeing that sad face, but I also know how important it is to be adept at spelling and grammar. She is already well-spoken for her age, with a large vocabulary, she just needs to bring the writing up to speed!

The first week or two of resuming homeschool after a two week break for the holidays was rather traumatic and filled with tears. One of the weeks, on the first round of spelling, she managed one right out of sixteen. I had attempted to have her review the words in advance, but she resisted, so I let her try and fail on her own. Dave took a different tack, and insisted, and she resisted, there were tears, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Finally she did what he asked.

Voila! This week showed the positive results of reviewing the list first. Em managed to get fifteen out of sixteen right on the first day of the test!

I won’t go as far as to say that she is now excited about taking a spelling test, but she is at least more motivated to review the words first. Eventually I hope to win her over. I, for one, love spelling.

It is fascinating to watch them work together and I’m proud of how well they are both doing. Hooray for homeschooling dads!

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Working While Homeschooling

My family is well versed with the need for two incomes and this article is one of several I have seen recently.

If your family can make it on one income while your spouse works a full-time job and you homeschool, then that is awesome for you.

However, there isn’t just the economic need, but often the personal/professional need for a two-income family.

Take our family for example. We need a full-time worker (my husband, since he can make double my work force income) and at least 1,000 more per month. So I clean toilets and teach classes. I would love to stop cleaning houses, but that isn’t a possibility right now. Meanwhile, teaching classes is fun and challenging, and it pays decently.

I also write, but to date, that pays me the equivalent of a latte at Starbucks (I prefer Scooters anyway), if that, each month. I dream of writing full-time and making a living that way, while still homeschooling, but these things take time, patience, and plenty more hours honing my craft and learning how to market myself better.

A friend on Facebook is a nurse, as is her husband. They homeschool and work alternating shifts in order to cover child care and homeschooling. Another friend homeschools while co-parenting with her ex. Many others operate small businesses out of their homes, and my dear friend Kerrie proofreads and self-publishes while running her kids through homeschool co-ops and more.

The face of homeschooling is not static – and neither are we!

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Great Article on Working and Homeschooling

I saw this article pop up on my Google Alerts. It discusses strategies that some parents use to work from home (or simply work alternate shifts from their spouse) and still manage to homeschool. You can find the article here.

With my eldest, age 27, living with us, it has been a bonus. Between the three of us, there is usually someone to help with taking Em to her classes or to read to her and help with homeschooling.

Take this morning for example. My husband is home today, between jobs, which will probably change in a week or so. While he is here at home, however, he has been focusing not just on that long “honey do” list, but also volunteering to handle Em’s homeschool routine.

We have an eclectic curriculum, based on interests and need, so the two of them will tackle the spelling list, reading from A History of Us, reviewing geography facts, watching science videos and more today.

I am in the final edits of my fifth book and am very thankful for the break from homeschooling duties as I work my way through the final stretch!

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Great Podcast

I just wanted to put a quick note out to everyone to check out Unblocked, which is a podcast on writing, and more, since this podcast focused on secular homeschooling.

I’m suffering through another lousy headache today and Charlie’s newest post made me smile. It reminded me of how very lucky I am to have the amazing homeschool community of fabulous parents and kids so nearby.

Thanks Charlie for including me in your podcast!


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