Choices – Her Day Her Way

Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT a normal day. Today we are remarkably UNscheduled, as opposed to many other days this week, especially Wednesdays.

Today however, as I am still suffering from these weird GI issues, I chose to leave it completely unstructured. With the exception of her music class that starts at 4pm, I had no requirements or expectations for the day.

It is interesting to see where or what Em will spend her time and energies on when given space and time. Today she is quite self-directed. And honestly, it is a rare moment that I ever hear her utter the dreaded words I’m bored.

She has spent a great deal of time on the computer today, playing different learning games. I seriously question the level of education she might be getting from the games when she told me that one had to do with popping pimples on Elsa’s (yes, from Frozen) face.


In any case, she eventually lost interest, and picked up…drum roll, please…her first book that she actually read out loud without any prompting, cajoling, arm-twisting, “pretty please with sugar on top” et cetera from me or her dad. Actually sat down and read a book out loud, pausing twice for help on a word. The word ‘audition’ was one that tripped her up. That and ‘colony’ – otherwise, she read it flawlessly.

It was surprising and gratifying to see. I can only hope that the trend continues. To that end, her dad and I have discussed having a family book night. This will probably occur on Wednesday nights – one of the few nights when I’m not possibly teaching a class or one of us is needing to be anywhere after 6:30 at night. We will be starting on a classic, possibly Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. I imagine we will get together in the living room, and Dave and I will trade off reading a story out loud, one chapter at a time. It should be fun.

After Em finished reading her book she went into her room and dug up a present she had received for her birthday last October, a LEGO Rapunzel Tower. Perhaps our recent trip to see Paul Mesner’s Puppets perform “Rapunzel” but suddenly she wanted to put it together. Small problem, she had 1) opened the box and one of the bags, and some pieces were missing and 2) could not find the instruction book.

You have to love the internet. I found it immediately when I Googled “LEGO Rapunzel Tower 41054″ – this meant she would have to bring her LEGO pieces into the office since she was viewing the instructions via a pdf on her computer.

She started off a little bumpily, missing some very important pieces and having to sort through a mountain of spare LEGO parts in various corners of her room.

I watched her for a while and then said, “Okay, so with your music class you can show up as early as 3:15 or as late as 4:00, what time do you want to be at class?”

Normally she will tell me she wants to go early, so she can play with the other children. This time, however, she was quite clearly thinking of other things. “I want to get this project done, so probably close to four.”

I love that on a laidback day like this, she can have the luxury of choosing her day, what she gets to do, and when she gets to be somewhere. It isn’t always this way, but days like this are gentle and easy on us. And you would be surprised at how much learning happens in between!

Sharing the Love

Sometimes ideas just kind of sneak up on me and smack me in the head.

Actually, MOST of the time that is exactly how it happens. That “oh, duh” moment when I realize, “Gee, that might really be a good fit for me.”

And as I was driving home from dropping off Emily at music class, I realized that I really, REALLY would enjoy teaching a Young Writers Program at LEARN next fall.

I thought of how accessible self-publication is these days. The students could put together several contributions each, possibly even accompanied with artwork, and we could create an ebook and self-publish it through Amazon at the end of the semester.

I would introduce some general grammar/spelling (basically suggest that bad grammar or spelling take away from the reading experience), discuss when to break and start a new paragraph, how to create dialogue, why outlines help keep you focused, and more.

We could read/share/edit our work together and then work together to edit, format, and submit the ebook.

I’m thinking of (don’t laugh) possibly suggesting a theme – Identity, Feelings, the Future, et cetera for us to follow. It’s okay, you can laugh, I find it highly ironic that I, the rule breaker and theme avoider extraordinaire, would actually suggest the very thing I usually avoid like the bubonic plague.

In the end, I guess my thought is that if I work with some of the tweens/teens, I can share my love of writing and inspire others to create their own literary works of art.

Valentine’s Day, New Homeschool Mommies and More


Next Time We Are Making Our Own!

Gah! I have to say it again (having already said it to her), my friend Bethany was totally right.

I teased her relentlessly on Facebook yesterday over her posts of making her own valentine’s cards for 84, yes that’s right, EIGHTY FOUR students. Actually, times two, because her middle child came to the LEARN party as well, so 168 Valentine’s Day cards.

I was sitting at home, feeling quite sorry for myself as I suffered from weird intestinal issues. “I’ll buy mine,” I announced cheerfully, and after dropping Em off at her music class I made the trek to Wal-Mart and stood there, befuddled and sick, trying to calculate how many cards I needed to buy.

Somehow I managed to buy 192 cards when I only needed 84 + 12 (for the second Valentine’s Day party we went to later today at Park Side).

And at 8 a.m. this morning it suddenly occurred to me that we needed to (duh) sign Emily’s name to them. We opened them up and Em got to signing as I stared in dismay at the cards. Not only did we need to sign them, but we also needed to add a little sticker/tattoo doohickey to the card AND fold them and seal them with a heart sticker.

“Oh hell no,” were the words out of my mouth. Yes, I swear around my impressionable young daughter, deal with it.

It took us an HOUR to complete the sign your name, insert sticker/tattoo here and put into the bag routine. I handed Em all of the sheets of stickers and instructed her to become the Mad Sticker Person. The rest of our visit to LEARN I would see the little red heart stickers showing up on arms, faces, clothing, bags, and backs of various attendees. The kid took her mad stickering job very seriously.

I figure it took me an hour to drive to the Wal-Mart and back, just so I could spend $15 on crap that required assembly, the very thing I was attempting to avoid. Next year we are making our own!


Homeschooling Can Be Intimidating, Even for Teachers

In the midst of my intestinal issues yesterday, the grown daughter of my neighbor, and new homeschool mom, came by for a visit with her son.

He is nine years old, and she removed him from public school this year to try on homeschooling for size. She was a teacher at some point, and we sat and talked learning and homeschooling for an hour or more.

For some reason it always takes me by surprise when a former teacher turned homeschool mom (or dad) expresses nervousness or worry over whether or not they are homeschooling the “right” way.

For the life of me, I cannot seem to understand it. After all, they were trained on educational methods. Teaching their children would seem to me like a walk in the park.

That said, we have a lovely conversation and I realized she struggled with the same things I did at first – self-doubt (am I teaching the basics, am I keeping up?), socialization (does my son/daughter have enough social interaction with other children?), and more.

I told her that it gets better. And it does. It is scary at first, but homeschooling is NOT reproducing the public school environment at home, it just isn’t.

  • You don’t have to spend hours homeschooling…unless you and your child absolutely want to. Learning occurs far quicker when it is a 1:1 ratio.
  • You don’t have to touch all of the subjects every day…life is not a perfect balance of social studies, science, English, math and more. It is crafts heavy one day, science heavy the next.
  • Public schools do not encourage socialization, they discourage it…don’t talk in the halls, no more recess, don’t talk at lunch. Unless socialization is forming cliques and teaching your children to only associate with others that are born within the same year as him (like you ever see that in the real world). Socialization, if you must call it that, can be easily solved by involving your child(ren) in a play group or co-op and encouraging them to play with kids in the neighborhood after the schools let out.

She has joined LEARN and I look forward to seeing how her thoughts and attitudes evolve in the coming months and years.


She is Fearless and Determined

A couple of weeks ago, Em ran into a bit of a friendship snag. She really liked this girl who was in all of her LEARN classes, Peacequest, Girl Scouts, AND her acting class on Wednesday nights. Basically we see her EVERYWHERE.

The girl was a couple of years older and fast friends with another girl her own age. I think that Em struck her as a little young, but she also was really close friends with this other girl and wanted to basically spend her time exclusively with her.

Em reacted with confusion and sadness. Why didn’t this girl like her? Why was she not wanting to sit with her or be friends?

Tears were shed and I struggled to explain the situation, grasping at possible explanations, hoping things would resolve themselves – either she would move on and make other friends or the girl would warm up to her.

Either way, I hoped for the best. My little girl wears her heart on her sleeve, and even as I explained that she wasn’t going to win over everyone, no matter how nice she was, that some people were simply not a good fit, she would hear none of it.

And over the past two weeks she has been on a campaign of friendship, an all out “bang my drug, YOU are going to be my friend” kind of focus. She has been beyond nice, extra nice, in the girl’s face and world in every possible way, determined to win this girl’s heart over. Today, for the Valentine’s party she made three “special” Valentine’s cards – one for her friend Ellie, one for another older girl she likes, and one for this girl who, while friendly, had remained a bit standoffish.

The determination my little one has exhibited has impressed and inspired me. She knows what she wants and refuses to give up. The girl in question has warmed considerably. I see her with a bemused expression on her face, somewhat taken aback by the tenacity of this younger child, and definitely willing to consider expanding her friend base.

I remember what it was like as a child. I fell in love in a way, wanting one friend and one friend only, unwilling to share my heart and every possible free moment with anyone but that ONE friend. Now, as an adult, I recognize and truly appreciate the depth and variety of so many wonderful, funny, comfortable female friends. I know now that having one friend, just one, limits our worldview and is just a wedge of what is possible to have.

Emily has always held her heart open to so many and I love that about her. I want that for her and I am glad she is so outgoing and that her days are filled with friendly faces and play.

Homeschooling Article

I found an interesting article on the Huffington Post about homeschool. Enjoy!

History, Art, Silliness, and Discussions on Canon

We are getting back into the swing of things after our winter holiday break. We finally completed Story of the World – Ancient Times and moved on to…

Story of world middle ages

Story of the World – The Middle Ages

This book picks up at the fall of the Roman Empire and has taken us north, into Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. We have the Teacher/Activity Guide to this book, which makes things a little more interesting. I read the Review Questions for that particular segment, then read the selection, then ask the questions.

This is new for both of us. I had simply been reading the selection and not really talking about it with her, and she seems to enjoy listening to the questions, remembering the answers, and getting them right at the end.

There are also maps, crafts, and suggested reading and I’ve explained to her that as she progresses through the books (the first time through I will be doing most of the reading), she will get more and more out of them. “By the 3rd time through, you will be using the passages as a stepping stone to reading the additional literature listed and learning more that way.”

We are both enjoying these books immensely. They give info in nice clean bites which invite more reading and/or discussion. Lately she has been working on some maps or drawing what we are talking about as I read to her.

Here is an example…King Ethelbert of Britain meeting Augustine (sent by the pope to convert the Angles, Saxons and Celts over to Christianity)…


Email Silliness

And just so you can have a good laugh, here is a picture of Em while composing and sending an email…


When I posted an update on Facebook I got the following responses…

“Safety first.”

“Keyboards can be really germy. I respect her decision.”

And my favorite…

“She’s obviously heard about viruses in emails!”

Is It Canon?

I love that Em is finally at the age where I can use sophisticated words and ideas and she can truly follow along. We had a conversation the other day that crossed over from “why isn’t there a Spider Girl?” to a discussion on writing in a known universe and following canon, the rules of the universe created by an author.

I explained that canon refers to a set of known, accepted facts – for example, Spiderman’s Peter Parker is an orphan, who is raised by his aunt and uncle. He has no siblings. Em really wanted to write a story in which she is his sibling, preferably his twin, and I had to explain how if she were to write within an already established fictional universe, she would need to follow canon, so Peter Parker couldn’t suddenly have a sibling, or a twin, unless she had a way of explaining certain questions that arose such as…

If Peter Parker had a sibling, why didn’t we ever hear of his sister before?

Why would his aunt and uncle take him in and not her?

This spurred a very spirited discussion that included some inventive troubleshooting by my lively 8-year-old. She really, REALLY wanted the storyline to work. At one point, I reassured her, “I’m not telling you it can’t be done, I’m merely pointing out the flaws, so that your story can be improved and be functional within canon.”

This is what my child gets for having a mother who is a writer!

Despite my arguments, and throwing out other possibilities and plot twists, she didn’t lose her enthusiasm. A good sign indeed. Who knows, I may end up raising TWO writers!

“So…What’s All This ‘Times’ Stuff About?”

Em woke up unusually early this morning. It was barely 7 a.m., and she was up and awake. So my usual routine was a bit disrupted, since I’m used to her sleeping in until 9 a.m., when her alarm is set to wake her up.

She kindly filled her time with activity – a few learning games on her computer and then a rather intricate face paint.


She is getting better and better at them. I said to her, “Wow, you know you could have a little table and sell face and hand paints during the Urban Farm Tour this summer!” (Our home will be on the tour for the first time ever and we are planning out our garden and land with great anticipation)

A few minutes later I remarked, “And if you keep practicing at this face painting, imagine how good you will be in a couple of years. Some people make good money doing face paints at local fairs and events.” I thought about it a moment and added, “Let’s see, say you can do six face paints an hour, and you are earning at least $5 per face paint, five times six is $30. Emily, that’s thirty dollars an hour!”

Emily nodded, “Wow, that is a lot of money, Mama. So…” she wrinkled her face, “what’s all this ‘times’ stuff about? How does it work?”

When a perfect learning/teaching opportunity lands in your lap, jump on it.

“Well, multiplication makes adding things quicker. Instead of saying ‘5+5+5+5=20′ you could say, ‘5×4=20′.”


“Here, let me show you.”

I started with zero…


Then I progressed to the 1s and 2s and early 3s…


She caught on quickly, especially after I showed her that she could turn them around…

“One times four is the same as four times one.”


We finally hit the spot where she had difficulty…


The 3×6…6×3 one got her. But she did something interesting. She stared at it and said, “Well, if I take 24…”

“What made you come up with 24?” I asked, interrupting her.

“Well, 24 is the sister of 12.”

“So, 24 is 12 doubled?”


Basically she was seeing the components of six or 12 (thank you chickens for helping her with this concept, collecting eggs every day has paid off) and she ended up counting back from 24 to arrive at 18.

At this point, I’m figuring that she will just need to memorize the numbers as they get too big to remember or easily calculate in her head. We will see.

Exciting leaps forward!


Bunny Rabbit…I Miss You

Today’s show at the Coterie, tripped me up in an unexpected manner.

In truth, I hadn’t really thought it would be an issue when I first read the description of the show to Em and asked if she would like to go. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane sounded reminiscent of the Velveteen Rabbit, a story line I had also conveniently forgotten, but Em was interested, so I booked it.

The show began and was fine…until the adventures for that haughty self-centered rabbit began. And as I watched the story unfold, and a rabbit change from self-centered and egotistical, to loving and caring, I was reminded of another rabbit, one from my childhood, one also lost.

Bunny Rabbit.

There is a picture of me, a baby asleep in my crib, with Bunny Rabbit beside me. He must have been new, because he was intact, with his black bow tie and bright felt vest all in yellow. The Bunny Rabbit I remember never sported a vest, and his black bow tie was nothing but a black spot of felt at his throat.

Bunny Rabbit was my best friend, my companion, my comfort. I slept with him each night, loved him until his fabric-covered wire ears would no longer stand up straight and he smelled bad. He survived being put through the washer and when air-drying took too long, an oven on low temp.

My grandmother accidentally left him in an oven once, we left on a road trip, and were far away before she remembered. Hysterical crying on my part necessitated a call to my father’s employer who went over and rescued the clean and dry rabbit from the oven and placed him on my bed to wait for my return.

The years went by, and somehow he was left behind in my mother’s house when I moved to California to live with my dad. When she divorced some eight years later, I was 19, and still in California. My mom arranged for Bunny Rabbit and a host of my other childhood friends to be sent to my former stepbrother’s house just 20 miles away. But after hearing them bitter and hostile on the phone, I just never found the right moment to retrieve Bunny Rabbit and return him to his rightful place in my life.

I abandoned my friend, my confidant, and my constant childhood companion because of a fear of conflict or being in an uncomfortable situation.

That was nearly 30 years ago…

And despite the decades that have passed, I found myself undone watching this show. I thought, “That girl is so lucky. She grew up, had her own child, but she got her bunny back. She never abandoned him, never gave up trying to find him.”

I hate having others see me cry. Strange as it may seem, it is all well and fine to admit to crying, but I don’t want someone to see me actually in the act of it. I practically bolted from the door, ran out of Crown Center and into my car, where the tears really hit. And once I had explained it all, as I drove slowly home feeling run over and spent, Em cried too.

For a little, somewhat unattractive to begin with, little stuffed rabbit.

I’d like to think there is a lesson in this. But I’m not sure what it is. So I’ll just say this…

I miss you Bunny Rabbit. Even after all this time, I miss you horribly. And I feel absolutely miserable for ever letting you go like that.

Adventures in Email

A message came across my keyboard while I was writing the entry above. It said…

“gr i love you yes the pin warm upoculip was vere crase!”

Translated it reads, “Grrr…I love you, yes, the pinworm apocalypse was very crazy!”

Which may or may not make sense to you. And it is okay if it does not. The focus is actually on the fact that I had just received my first email from my youngest daughter. First ever. We had to fudge a little to get her an email account, but I honestly do think it is worth it.

I’ll be monitoring the account closely, and have only told her family members and a couple of close friends her email address. My hope is that this will provide the impetus to build her writing, reading and keyboarding skills as well as keep her connected with family better.

Sometimes the rules are worth bending…

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!

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.

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