Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Immediately after starting this here new blog, everyone involved in our homeschool started falling ill, one by one, resulting in two weeks or more of not very exciting school.  Now I'm the sick one!  But fortunately, I was able to call in a substitute.  Of course, as a parent he's always a teacher, and had already taught them lessons in cleaning and cooking before tackling the book learning.  :)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Where We're Coming From

Giving Daddy a tour at open house.
We like school.  We like some of the trappings of school that homeschoolers could easily miss out on--classrooms decked out for the season, snow days (we're having one as I type!), open houses, centers.  And so, we do them.  Many may feel like this is too much of a bother, and they are very likely doing something that WE would think is too much of a bother--to each his own!  One thing I like about team teaching is that when I might get lazy and not do things that are a bit of extra work, the fact that my sister and her kids are also counting on me and the fact that she puts in a ton of work to offer my kids "specials" puts just enough extra pressure on me to get things done.  (Though in all honesty, I didn't do things in an easy, sustainable way when I was teaching in a public setting either--it was exhausting, lol.  But fulfilling.)

I think there are a few key things in our background that have shaped both our decision to homeschool and the way we go about it.   We both experienced public, homeschool, and private school ourselves.  In my case it was K-3 public, 4-6 and 10-12 private Christian school, and 7-9 homeschool.  There were things I loved and loathed about each of these experiences, but I'll tell you one thing, homeschooling as we did it was not enough structure for me, and so I asked to go back to school.  I didn't feel I had enough self-discipline for homeschooling.  I'm sure this is one influence on why we run our homeschool a bit more like a "regular" school.

However, although my mom was the captain of that ship and I asked her to bring me ashore, she also had a long career teaching elementary school and was very gifted in it.  I have many childhood memories of sitting in her classroom as she set in up in late summer or after school.  She made games and fun bulletin boards and taught kids to read.  I think this was highly influential on both B and I.

The school where I went to kindergarten and my mom taught.

Remember the movie "You've Got Mail"?  One of our favorite parts is when Tom Hanks offers Meg Ryan a "bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils" to celebrate that fall back-to-school feeling.  (And yes...B has given me one.)  That kind of happy, eager feeling about school is one we hope to pass on to our kids.  We did school today...can we do it again tomorrow?!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Homeschool Posts on Thinking Outside the Sandbox: Family

I am a regular contributor to Thinking Outside the Sandbox, and I've published several homeschool related posts over there.  Here's a round-up:

A Day in the Life of a Homeschool Family: Sample Schedule

Five Things I Learned in My First Year of Homeschooling

10 Ways to Teach Your Kids a Second Language

Chocolate Factory Field Trip

Kid's Activity: Measure the Weather with the Beaufort Scale

How to Set Up a Home Classroom on a Budget

How to Teach Your Child the Alphabet

I'll be adding a couple more relevant links here when they go live!  Look for a post on our Antarctica Unit and a review on Jonathan Bean's <em>This is My Home, This is My School</em>

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Kind of Homeschoooler...

So what kind of homeschoolers are we?

We’re not your typical homeschoolers…which makes us your typical homeschoolers, I guess.  Part of the beauty of homeschooling is the great flexibility and ability to customize, so I’m not sure that there is a “typical” homeschooler.  In fact, I prefer to see individuals rather than types when I’m looking at people, anyway.  

We’re not Charlotte Mason, but we love living books.  

We’re not Unit Studies, though we love to follow a theme across subject lines when we don’t have to force it.  

We’re not Classical, though we find the trivium a useful structure.  

And so on, for a million other systems.  

I guess you could say we’re A La Carte homeschoolers…we take what we like/find useful and put them together.   Perhaps, in the end, this is typical as well.  

Who’s the “we” here?
In one sense, of course, we is my husband and I and our children, but I also team teach with my sister.  We add students and divide duties.  We have a classroom at each of our houses, though the main one is at her house.  This works well for us!  So frequently when I say “we”, I will mean B and I.  

Here are a few more particulars:

We have a first grader and two preschoolers who turned five during the school year, so we’re in our second year of homeschooling.   My sister has a three-year-old who just stays for school when she feels like it and an infant who is way too much of an adorable distraction to go down to the classroom!  

Last school year, I was panicking over teaching my strong-willed kindergartener because sometimes we clash quite dramatically, so I hired my sister to teach him.  I took the then four-year-olds sometimes, doing library storytimes or just letting them play.   They did one day of preschool with B, and once or twice a week, I would have my oldest, too, and would read some Sonlight read-alouds to all of them.  Then our family traveled for my husband’s job for two months and I had to do school; it wasn’t that bad!  And then my sister had a baby, so I was on deck again.  I suppose that built my confidence a little; when this year rolled around, I found myself full of ideas and enthusiasm for school, so we joined forces.  

Here’s how we break it up:

We use Sonlight language arts. (B teaches this.)

We use Rightstart math.  (B again.)

When it comes to science, we pick a topic, study it, find books at the library and activities on Pinterest and take it from there.  This has been mostly B this year, though I step in occasionally.  Next year, we plan to use Apologia, though highly supplemented with our own ideas, I’m sure.

We own A Reason for Handwriting and All About Spelling.  Ahem.  That’s B’s job and I don’t ask too many questions.  

I do Social Studies—this year, we are studying world cultures.  I pick a continent a month (roughly), find living books, activities, field trips, etc.  

Practicing French Fruits
I also teach French.  Do I speak French?  It is all I can do to stay ahead of the kids!  Isn’t that the craziest thing you ever heard?  I did take two years in high school.  I try hard to expose them to lots of native speakers—we watch youtube videos, Little Pim, listen to cds in the car, play an app called Gus on the Go, and more.  I pick 10 or 20 words a week that I feel pretty confident in my pronunciation of and do our activities around those.  I went to college to teach English and consequently am a little more secure in my classroom technique for languages, so I enjoy French class.  I think the kids do, too!  But if I could find a native speaker teaching a class nearby (heck, within a couple hours of us!), I think it would be a great way to give them some classroom experience with another teacher.  However, despite a few promising contacts, nothing has panned out so far.  So for now, soldiering on.  

Art is incorporated into the other subjects, though we’d like to do more with it as a subject in it’s own right. 
Of course, there is more to know, but that's more than enough for now!  Tomorrow, I’ll share a little bit about our background and maybe some personality quirks that effect our teaching style and decisions.  

What kind of homeschooler are you?

Oh and PS—one more thing.  We don’t think everyone can homeschool or should.  Do what’s best for your family! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

What's In A Name?

"We did school today!"

It's what I'd love to hear my children excitedly tell their Daddy when he comes home at night.

It's what I say with a sense of relief to my sister-in-law after days of sickness have prevented our educational advancement.

It's what I think to myself every time we get another one on the books.  We did school today!

I've never had a job more fulfilling, exhausting, frustrating, or enjoyable as teaching my own children (although I used to teach other people's children--their grown-up children--and I liked that very much as well, so it's possible that teaching is "my thing").   Every day truly feels like an accomplishment, though some more so than others!  I take too many pictures, frankly; I think I annoy my friends, though they haven't said so.  So I'm going to park my pictures here, proof that we did indeed do school today, something to look at when I feel discouraged, some evidence that my toil has not been in vain, that I am not a totally undisciplined lazy bum, some answer to the imaginary criticisms most often only launched at me by myself.

I hope other people will enjoy looking at what we've done, feel inspired, and share their own ideas as well.  But We Did School Today is also a message to myself: you did it, girl!

Can anyone relate?  Anyone else got a hearty "we did school today!" to share?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Reluctant Serial Blogger

15 minutes ago, I decided to start a blog.

It is my third blog.

I consider myself a "serious" writer, not a blogger.  (Yes, yes, vanity is one of my vices...and yes, there are literary blogs and excellent writers who blog, but for me, there is some kind of uncrossable chasm.) I never wanted to be a blogger.  I still don't want to be a blogger.  So what gives?

My first blog was tied to my Etsy business and meant to promote it.  I read that businesses should have blogs.  I was doing everything I could to make a go of it, so I took the suggestion.  I never had ideas to write about.  The blog was interesting to no one but my mother.  I quit.

My second blog was on a topic I was passionate about, mortgage freedom, to include owner-builders, tiny houses, minimalism, etc.  I would post every day; I would treat it like a business; I would gain a loyal readership; and maybe, maybe, I would supplement my family's income.  My efforts led to many interesting contacts and interviews, but I burnt out.

Third time's a charm?

I never spent much time on the reading end of a blog until I started homeschooling, but now I rely heavily on the ideas of other homeschoolers to fuel my own lessons, mostly drawing from Pinterest and blogs.  I put in a few ideas, shake them around, cut them up and rearrange them, and several hours later emerge with my own ideas.  It's a lot of work to plan my lessons--if I come up with the occasional good one, why not share it?

So here's the new blog...I'm not going to annoy my friends and myself by posting it all over Facebook.  I'm not going to  stress myself out with a publishing schedule.  I'm not going to quit my day job (which is homeschooling, so that would be counterproductive, anyway...)  I'll probably abandon it in a couple of months for some new interest. 
But if I have an idea I want to share, I'll share it.  Thanks for reading!