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

Defining Boundaries Thanks to New Reading Skills

So once the kiddo realized just how much she could read, and willingly began to read more, we have seen a snowball effect take place. Now she is reading everything she sees – signs, billboards, and more.

And recently, with the Daylight Savings Time change, I used that new skill to my advantage.

Emily usually sleeps until 9:00 every morning. Heck, sometimes it is 9:30.

And after fretting for way too long about how this might not be a good idea, I stopped thinking like a schooled person and embraced our homeschool life that allows for different schedules. She continues to go to bed when we do, at around 9-10 p.m., and sleep for nearly twelve hours.

I have come to relish this time to get a lot of writing done. I have also considered it the ‘stop’ time. Oh look, the kiddo is up, time to stop working and focus on her.

And with the time change came another change. We just had ‘fall back’ so what was 9:30 is now 8:30. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she has finally transitioned out of needing 11-12 hours of sleep to needing more like 9-10. On Monday she woke at 8 a.m., on Tuesday at 6:45 a.m., and on Wednesday at 8 a.m. again. And she is still going to bed at the usual time!

After three days of my writing time being shot to pieces, I came up with an idea. This now graces my office/library door…

note to Emily

Moments after I posted this, I heard her bedroom door creak open. A moment after that, the door opened and she came in smiling, “I read your note and I’m here for my hug and cuddle!”

One word stumped her…busy…and so she sat on my lap, her arms around me, and we read it on the screen, since I still had it up. Then she read it again out loud all by herself to show me she could do it.

“Mama, that was a GREAT idea to post that note!” She grinned at me, kissed and hugged me, and went on her way. My boundaries defined, I had to stop and post this before continuing with my writing. I have still got 1/2 hour to go, I’d best get cracking!

Posted in Bonding, Challenges | Leave a comment

Probiotic vs Antibiotic Unschool Conversation Today

Art and Unschool Conversations

There are moments when learning happens and I am stunned, truly and thoroughly boondoggled stunned at how much learning we have accomplished, just in the midst of a simple discussion. This happened today at breakfast time.

Emily woke up at around 9:30 and dressed and we headed downstairs to begin our day. Before we did, she spied some black paper on my desk and asked who it belonged to. “You, I think,” I replied, “It is made to use the gel pens on.”

Immediately she was intrigued and announced she wanted to draw with it right away. I reached over to our art shelf and retrieved the gel pens and placed them on the paper to wait until she returned from getting dressed. As we walked downstairs she talked excitedly about the picture she wanted to draw. This was such a sharp departure from my normally art-avoiding child that I didn’t know what to think. I got her breakfast ready while she began to sketch (quite well, I might add) her pet plant, a morning glory that she raised from seed and that has recently started blooming. Its name is (quite appropriately) Glory.

As I poured my kefir, our conversation went something like this…

Me: I’ve already had breakfast, but I’m going to have a small glass of kefir. It is so good and good for me!

Em: How is it good for you Mama?

Me: It has probiotics in it that help my guts run smoother. See we have tiny bacteria that live throughout our body.

Em: Even on our skin and eyeballs!

Me: Yes, there too. Probiotics are good forms of the bacteria. Sometimes we also have bad bacteria, and that causes illness and infection. When we get that, we sometimes take antibiotics, but it is best if we don’t resort to that.

Em: Why?

Me: Because antibiotics are broad-spectrum?

Em: What does that mean?

Me; Well, it’s kind of like if a burglar is breaking into your home, do you shoot him or throw a bomb that blows up him and everyone on the street outside who is coming to help you?

Em: Oh…wow.

Me: Imagine what is left after that bomb. Nothing much, right?

Em: Right!

Me: So then you take probiotics and it is like replanting all of the plants in your front yard that you blew up.

Em: Okay, so do probiotics help keep bad bacteria away?

Me: They help balance your system, so that antibiotics are less of a necessity.

Em: Okay, that makes sense!

Me: So…what do you think ‘pro’ means?

Em: Good!

Me: Or simply that you are ‘for’ something and what about ‘anti’?

Em: Against!

Me: Yes, antibiotics are against all biotics. It’s important for us to keep our bodies balanced. When they are balanced, they are far less likely to get sick or hurt.

I love discussions like the one above. She is just sucking in knowledge like a big sponge, and making connections at lightning speed. And it is absolutely fascinating to watch it happen. Of all the things I love about being a mom, I think this is the top one. Seeing her learn, right before my eyes.

And seeing her working on her art, adding details and proudly signing it, got me in the mood to Zentangle. So while she attended her Daring and Dangerous co-op class, I began to Zentangle on the van. Three hours of work and one small panel done.

The Dot and Unschooling for the Day

We picked up The Dot and Sky Color today from the library and I enjoyed reading The Dot to her this afternoon, along with Story of the World and Life of Fred. We are nearing the end of the first book (Apples) in the Life of Fred series and will then begin on Butterflies. She loves the series and it has really held her interest. Not just that, but she is really getting double digit addition down!

We also read another Hawaiian folk tale, which she enjoyed, along with a funny book Cat Secrets.

After that it was outdoor play time. Her on her scooter and me doing more Zentangle on the van. All in all, a lovely day.



Posted in Arts and Crafts, Daily Conversations, Homeschool - General | Leave a comment

Hoping to Motivate Creativity vs. Perfectionism


So I posted about our Thursday unschooling studies on Bubblews as well as here and it spawned an interesting discussion with another homeschool mom on encouraging creativity.

I mentioned that Em has a difficult time drawing and that it appears to stem from her frustration that the drawing is not “perfect.”

Never mind the fact that we have had so many discussions on the concept that anything that appears difficult can be resolved by practicing and continuing to try.

I have to stop here and say that, despite knowing this, and knowing it WELL, I do the exact same thing in my own life. It is for this reason that I have spent the last 20+ years wanting to be a writer, and writing about being a writer, and dreaming about being a writer, and talking about being a writer – all while convincing myself I was incapable of writing a cover letter, incapable of writing something that peopled wanted to say and incapable of writing mainstream stuff that would appeal to the masses.

I guess it is easier to focus on others and forget how well and thoroughly one can stand directly in one’s own path to success.

In any case, in my discussions with this other homeschool mom, she suggested I look for the book Ish which is written with 5-7 year olds in mind. And along the way I also discovered The Dot and Sky Color by the same author, each of which appears to encourage children to try making art, despite criticism or frustration with their own abilities.

I’ve ordered all three from our local library and I can’t wait to pick them up.

Even if you never become an artist – I believe that learning to draw, paint, and sketch are deeply beneficial for everyone. It exercises a portion of our brain that opens the door to other skills, dreams, and capabilities.

And since my goal is to raise an a future adult who is capable, creative, confident, and curious – learning to create art feeds into my curriculum (eclectic and unstructured as it is).

What do you think? Is a knowledge of art and a creative bent important to you for your children?

Posted in Arts and Crafts, Challenges, Homeschool - Fine (and not so fine) Arts | Leave a comment

Cricket Magazine and Homeschool News

Cricket Magazine Mother Lode

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember WHO brought me a huge bag full of Cricket magazine. Someone did it in the last few weeks, and I remember thanking her, but which of my wonderful friends it was I simply cannot remember.

I hang my head in shame.

In any case, today, as I was busy with rearranging furniture, tidying and organizing the upstairs, I ran across the bag full of magazines. Some are from the 90s. I immediately made room for them on a shelf directly above the homeschool books. I’ve managed to categorize all of the books into Foreign Language, Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts and then Arts & Crafts/Miscellany.

I ended up putting the Cricket magazines directly above the Math and Foreign Language shelf. But I was curious about what the magazines typically consisted of, so I paged through one and was very impressed. I can’t wait to read it to her! This one seems to have a sailing theme, including a tale from the Marshall Islands (close enough for our studies of the Hawaiian Islands).

If she likes them, I hope to tackle a magazine a week. And then I plan on getting a subscription, it looks as if it would definitely be worthwhile.

Homeschool News

And I was amused by this news story, especially the last line which read, “The best that can be said for Common Core is that it encourages home-schooling.”

Ouch! LOL!

Such Relief

I cannot properly express the sense of relief, profound relief, that I have been experiencing as Em’s reading fluency grows daily. It has been so difficult for me to wait for this, to step back from it all and ask my husband to read with her. I had felt like such a failure, so completely incompetent, and questioned whether I was failing utterly and completely at homeschooling our daughter.

Now that I see the fluency growing, now that I have that tangible proof that the gates are opening and the key to learning is firmly in her grasp, I feel as if we are on an amazing and beneficial learning journey.

Each day I am filled with such joy and hope, sitting next to my daughter, watching her brain grow and her learning leap forward. It does not matter what grade level of reading she is at – because it is changing and improving each day. Even if she is behind her peers, she will catch up in her own time, because now she is willing to learn, and retaining so much.

I just wanted to share the joy and the relief I am feeling. Thanks for listening (well, READING)!

Posted in Challenges, Homeschool - General, Homeschool - Language Arts | Leave a comment