‘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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Two Weeks Off

I decided a nice break from homeschool for two weeks was in order, and we have enjoyed some down time last week and this week. Despite this, we are never without some activity or interest. Here is the latest:


Christmas as a Family

This was huge, folks. Our first Christmas together as a family, all living under one roof, since Em was born nine years ago. Dee did visit once for Christmas, but it was early on and we were still working through our mother/daughter issues.

Having all of my loved ones under one roof was absolutely fabulous. We had a simple Christmas, since the year has been tough financially (magic refrigerators and car repairs don’t pay for themselves), but I found it to be the best in a long time.

I continue to count myself lucky to have the husband and daughters that I do. They keep me sane, balanced, and loved.

New Bedtime/Wake Up Rules

So this has been a problem for a while. Em is a night owl and would happily stay up until midnight or later. Unfortunately this means that she also will happily sleep until noon, which really does not work for me at all.

I have instituted the following rules:

  1. You can go to bed whenever you want, as long as you wake up on time.
  2. Wake-up time is 8:30 a.m.
  3. You may not be grumpy or try to go back to sleep after this time.
  4. I reserve the right to tell you to go to bed if rules 2 and 3 are not followed.

I just want a basic, somewhat regular schedule. We will see how it goes.


End of Year Assessment – With a Twist

On a quarterly basis, we assess progress. I do this by following Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year, and have an Excel spreadsheet. If you have read my blog for a while, you have probably seen this. I use the assessment as a tool to gauge where we “should” be compared to where Em is at the moment.

Now that Em is nine, this means involving her in the discussion, so that she understands what she knows compared to the grade-appropriate standards. My thought on this was, if she knows where she is and what is expected of her, she will be empowered to take charge of her education better than me just telling her, “You have to learn this.”

This assessment was special and rather ground-breaking. For the first time since beginning her homeschool journey I didn’t just ask her questions and then put down a mark indicating where I thought she was. Instead, I showed her the legend – X=knows it, N=Nearly Mastered, L=Learning It, D=Doesn’t Know, and U=Unknown (for when I either don’t understand the educational goal or when I feel it isn’t applicable).

As we worked our way through the assessment she began volunteering opinions on where she was at. “That should be N, because I know it, but sometimes I get confused.”

Or, “You just need to put X’s on all of the music stuff, Mama, because I totally know all of that!”

I will post all the details on the assessment in another post. I really enjoyed doing this with Em. It was great to see her fully involved in the process!


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2016 Goals Started Early

If you are a regular reader than you see a lot of posts about assessment – whether they are plans for homeschool for the next month or for the upcoming year.

The thing about goals is that some are reasonable and accessible, others change or become irrelevant or unattainable.

So I’m keeping my list (relatively) simple this year.

First off, I wrote this on my office wall:


And in case it is difficult to read it says:

Each week:

  • Make something

  • Learn something

  • Write something

  • Go somewhere

  • Clean/organize

  • Paint a wall or ceiling

  • Teach Em

The “Go somewhere” and “Teach Em” and “Learn something” are all definite goals for our homeschool year. We have started a little early. On Monday we attended the National Toy and Miniature Museum near the UMKC campus in Kansas City.

It was a lot of fun and gave me some great decorating ideas as well as a goal of making a tiny dollhouse with Em that we can arrange and she can play with.

Teach Em should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, because it is the primary reason we have structured our lives the way we have – in order to homeschool her and give her the best learning opportunities we can afford to give. Learning something new each week goes hand in hand with this. If I am learning something, I’m modeling the behavior I want her to adopt.

Last week we started with the question, “What do you want to know?” Pretty soon we were watching videos on how flour, butter and rice is produced and I have a note here to look up beluga whales and the causes and description of arthritis.

Learning keeps our brains alive and building plenty of new synapses and connecting the dots to each other. It’s a good thing.

I have another goal for Em’s homeschool and that is to encourage her to complete the learning for 3rd grade math from Khan Academy. We will also work with Life of Fred which has such a unique twist that I just can’t help but continue to return to the books. And thanks to my mom, we will soon have the entire elementary level set!

I’m currently amassing a list of possible once weekly destinations. A nice mix of art, history, and nature will be a great combo – it will get us out of the house and involved in the community. I’m also considering hosting art/science classes at my house on a monthly or twice monthly basis. A quick and dirty lesson, combined with friends to play with, would be a great opportunity for Em to stay connected with her friends and learning at the same time.

We will be involving her in more of our cooking adventures as well – that combines home ec with science and math!

2016 is shaping up to be a fun and interesting year!

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About That Reading

One of the daily homeschool requirements is that Em read for at least fifteen minutes. This has taken on a variety of forms – her reading out of grade-appropriate books to her dad or me, reading to herself, and also having us read to her at the end of the day in addition to her own reading.

I’m an “early to bed, early to rise” type, so often the end of day reading falls to Dave or Danielle. And Dee had begun reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone earlier in the summer before it had fallen by the wayside for other things. They picked it up again this week and started over with one small change.

At a particularly long chapter, Dee explained that reading so much, all at once, hurt her throat and wore out her voice. She enlisted Em’s help – offering to read two pages for every one page Em read.

And as we drove to Grandview on Tuesday, stopping for gas, bread, chicken feed, the library and bank – Em and Dee took turns reading from the book.

Dee prefaced the activity by saying, “Now, there are plenty of big, difficult words in here. Just let me know if you have trouble with any because these are big words and some are made up words and can be hard to pronounce.”

What surprised me was the level at which Em was reading. A year ago she was struggling with simple words like “the” and now she was reading at a decent pace, tackling some rather enormous words. I was struck by how well my little girl was reading and that what she was reading was above her grade level (on Amazon it suggests that the book is for age 9-12 or grades 4-7). She also chose to imitate the accents and read with excellent pacing and emphasis.

I think I should mention how thankful I am that Dee took this tack. She saw the potential for more from Em that I had not thought to look for. Thanks to her, Em is tackling a book that is challenging yet interesting. On Thursday, we ate lunch and then sat in the living room, passing the book around, Dee and I reading at least two pages each and Em reading at least one for a couple of rounds. It was lovely. It is wonderful to see her so interested in reading and so willing to engage in it.

I plan to expand this to her other studies – Life of Fred, Story of the World, and more. Engaging her help in reading all of these different books will help with retention and fully engage her with a full learning adventure.

Yesterday I said to her, “I am so excited to see you reading, and reading so well, Emily. It is quite obvious you have been working very hard to get this good.”

As I spoke, tears came to her eyes, “Thank you, Mama.”

My sweet little girl. And huge thanks to my sweet big girl for seeing what I had not.

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Wording it Right


When I was a kid, my mother would say to me over and over, “You are so smart!” I’m pretty sure my dad did as well. Mom’s intentions were good – she had come from a home situation where she didn’t feel smart or capable and she wanted something different for me. She had no idea that her words were actually causing me to question my own abilities.

If I’m so smart, why can’t I figure out this math problem? I’m not smart at all.

Sometimes I fell into the smart/stupid trap with my eldest, and occasionally it happens with my youngest. It isn’t a matter of smart or dumb – but it is a matter of choosing the right words and attitude.

Nowadays I try to remember to say, “Yes, this is difficult, but with practice, you can do it.”

We are all born with natural inclinations – interests that often drive our talents. Some children gravitate towards drawing and this recent conversation between me and my two daughters illustrates how I am learning to word my opinions:

Emily: Hey sis, I tried to draw a flower like yours on the blackboard.

Danielle: Yes, I see that.

Emily: It isn’t as good as yours.

Danielle: Well, how long have you been drawing? [turns to me] Mom, how much did I draw as a kid?

Me: [roll eyes] If you weren’t drawing you were reading. Trying to get you to do anything else was a fight.

Danielle: See Em?

Me: [smiling at Em] What do you spend your day doing?

Em: [sheepish look] I’m on the computer all day.

Me: Well, if you want to be good at computers, then you are on the right track. If you want to learn how to create art, you may want to do things differently.

The more I understand and see about learning, the more I am convinced that Em can learn whatever she puts her mind to. For that matter, so can I. If it is important enough, I will choose to learn it. If not, I won’t. And that is the message I continue to give to her.

Not a shaming thing – “If you practiced more you would understand it.”

Not a smart/stupid thing – “You had better get a husband and stop worrying your pretty head over that.” Not that anyone would ever hear me say that and believe I was being anything other than sarcastic.

Keep trying. Keep practicing. Be kind to yourself but don’t ever stop trying. Those are the messages I want to tattoo on her heart and mind. That she can be anything she dreams of being, but not for free. Not without effort. If you want it bad enough, and you work hard enough, these things can be yours.

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You Can Talk to Me

When I was growing up, there were still the vestiges of “a child should be seen and not heard.” Despite this, my parents did try to talk to me, with me, and involve me in the realities of life. Lately there seems to be this weird trend to keep children free of worry and hardship.

“I want my child to feel happy and free and enjoy his childhood.”

“I don’t want my child bogged down by the realities of adulthood, that will happen soon enough.”

“I don’t want to crush their spirit.”

It seems as if there is a lot of mollycoddling going on.

And while I do believe that childhood is, and should be, filled with magic, fun and learning, I also firmly believe in preparing mine for the inevitable realities of adulthood. That starts early, with activities that are within her ability to accomplish, and with many, many moments spent talking with her – explaining life, listening to her questions and concerns, and helping her make sense of a confusing world.

I thought that it went without saying that she could come and talk to me about everything – but then I realized she is young, and easily confused by my reactions. She might come along when I’m in the moment of composing a story line, or trying to sort out a multitude of priorities. I try to stay open and approachable, I really do, but when inundated with dozens of self-imposed projects (and their accompanying deadlines) I can be an intimidating force of nature. Or so my husband and eldest tell me.

Also I recently was reminded of her when reading a memory on Facebook where I had posted about her endless questions. The post was four years ago, and I’ve noticed that she doesn’t ask as many questions now as she did then. Had my responses discouraged her? Had she decided they weren’t worth asking? That she wasn’t worth my time?

So yesterday, as we were driving to meet her dad at Barnes & Noble on the Plaza, I said to her, “You know you can talk to me, right? About anything. I know that sometimes I’m distracted, or busy with projects or thoughts and I can be rather abrupt with you. Even when I’m that way, you know you can ask me anything, right?”

Em said she did, but I think that she has been in her own world for the past few months, watching way too many Minecraft videos and barely interacting with us at all. And I need to do something about that.

While a good deal of it is age-related, she is nine years old now and peer relationships are becoming more and more important, in some cases taking precedence over familial relationships, I know that I tend to go off on my projects and not spend enough time with her.

My solution to this is to include her in more of our daily tasks – cooking or some basic cleaning, for example. Increase our time spent together – nature walks in temperate weather, crafts indoors during the winter, and add in some date nights with each of the adult members of the family.

I want to talk more with her, and less at her.

In the end, I want her to know that she can always count on me to be there – to listen, to give advice, to answer questions, to guide, and to simply be a companion as she grows into an independent, resourceful young woman.

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December Homeschool Plans

Em had a great month creating her own homeschool curriculum in November. As we enter the last week of the month, it is time for reassessing for December.

December homeschool will be short by one week – I plan to only school for three weeks, and then we will take the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s off.

Her schedule is a pretty simple one, but I have added in a new workbook – Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer. I’ll let you all know how it goes. It looks as if the workbook has a gentle lead-in to writing and is probably designed for slightly younger students. That’s okay, I want Em to feel comfortable with the basics. I’ve also noticed that, if it starts out hard, she is discouraged and fights it. If it starts out easy and gradually increases in complexity, she responds far better.

Then again, don’t we all?

Here is her schedule for 11/30 – 12/19:

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays:

  • Read for at least 15 minutes
  • Writing with Ease exercise
  • Story of the World
  • TWO sets of Khan Academy questions
  • Practice typing
  • Practice assigned cello lesson for 20 minutes

Tuesdays and Thursdays:

Read for at least 15 minutes

  • Writing with Ease exercise
  • Life of Fred
  • Practice typing
  • Learn multiplication tables (she has 1-3 down, and currently struggling on the 4s)
  • Harmony Project

It isn’t all down time for those two weeks off, however, I’ve scheduled a homeschool assessment for the 28th of December!

It will be time to get a solid look at where Em is falling on the scale. It will give me a better idea for what to plan for January and beyond.

I do not plan on suspending homeschool for the summer, but there will be several week-long breaks – time she will spend at day camp or traveling to California to see her grandparents. It is so nice to have the ability to plan her learning schedule and curriculum according to her needs, interests, and activities!


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