Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Spelling You See

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Usually that phrase has to do with a face to face meeting, but let’s face it sometimes our first chance to “meet” people comes in written form: resumes, work proposals, even blog posts.  In these cases we’re often evaluated on our grammar and spelling.  I’ll even go on the line and say most people don’t know enough to judge whether we should have used a colon or semicolon so most of the impression will be based on proper spelling.  That’s why I’m so glad to see Spelling You See continue its curriculum with more advanced courses.  We recently had the opportunity to try out their highest level course (Level G)--Spelling You See: Modern Milestones.

Like its sister program Math-U-See, Spelling You See is not labeled with a grade level and progress is based on mastery of concepts.   This Level G course is designed for students who are ready for adding prefixes and suffixes to words.  This involves the challenges of knowing when to use “s” or “es” to make a plural noun and when to double ending consonants before adding “ing” to a verb.  The course is divided into thirty-six weeks of daily lessons. We received an Instructor’s Handbook and two Student Workbook’s (each with eighteen lessons).  Incidentally, you’ll want to be careful opening your package if you purchase Spelling You See: the box of required colored pencils had been embedded in the Styrofoam separating the books.  You’ll also want to take note of the coding on the plastic wrap covering the Instructor’s Handbook which can be used to unlock several videos and .pdf files on the vendor’s website.

The structure of each week’s work went as follows:

Monday:  Schnickelfritz would read a short paragraph aloud and then mark the paragraph up by underlining base words with blue, suffixes with yellow, and prefixes with green (see the example above).  The yellow was a little difficult to see so we ended up coloring in the letters instead of simply underlining. The Instructor’s Handbook includes full color answer keys for these marking exercises.  The title “Modern Milestones” is a little misleading as the paragraph subjects include folds like Copernicus, Queen Elizabeth, and Gutenberg. Next, Fritz would copy the paragraph by printing and trying to match the spacing of the sample line above. This paragraph would be marked in the same way. 

Tuesday:  Identical to Monday’s assignment, right down to the same text.

Wednesday: Reading aloud and marking the same paragraph as Monday and Tuesday, but this day there is no copy work. Instead Fritz would be applying the concept learned to new words which he would use to fill in the blanks, count syllables, or other activities.

Thursday: Reading and marking the same paragraph for the fourth time.  This day he would have to write the paragraph from dictation (this meant covering the facing page which includes the text). I would read from the Instructor's Handbook and could give help spelling words and providing punctuation and capitalization clues. I was directed to set a timer for ten minutes—not to rush him to finish the work, but to let him know the exercise would be over shortly.  No matter how far he got, we would end the lesson by counting the correctly spelled words (even the ones I helped with).

Friday:  Fritz read and marked the paragraph for a fifth and final time.  During this day’s 10 minute dictation I was not allowed to provide any spelling assistance (but I could continue with punctuation and capitalization help). Again we ended by counting the correct words.

I’ll be honest and say I had concerns from the beginning that my son would balk at this method of learning to spell.  I’ve known for some time that writing is my son’s least favorite activity—and I’m talking about the physical act of putting pencil to paper.   He was willing to read the paragraph over and over and mark the roots, prefixes and suffixes appropriately, but when it came time for copy work and dictation there would be whining and tears and sometimes complete blowouts. 

Fortunately for me, we had only been using Spelling You See for a week or two when I had the opportunity to meet its author Karen Holinga at my local homeschool convention. As I shared my son’s frustration, Dr. Holinga began to question me about his penmanship: does he stick capital letters in the middle of words, does he try to fit letters like “t” and “p” within the guidelines rather than let them stick above or hang below, is his spacing between letters and words erratic? I had to answer yes to all of the above. 

Dr. Holinga believes that my son is struggling with a visual glitch that is hampering his writing ability. She was adamant that he was not being lazy, instead he’s spending so much energy trying to focus that he has nothing left for the act of putting words on paper.  When I returned to her booth on the second day she’d talked to enough parents that she had the name of a behavioral ophthalmologist that she could recommend.   While we wait for an appointment she suggested I compensate for this glitch by allowing my son extra time to complete writing/dictation assignments and remove neatness from my grading criteria.  I asked about allowing my son to type the dictation, but she was very clear that the work needs to be printed to be effective.

I’m keeping our Spelling You See books to see if Schnickelfritz can get more benefit from them after seeing the specialist.  He may need corrective lenses or eye exercises for a while.  On the whole though, I found the program to be very sound and I can tell that Dr. Holinga has a real heart to help struggling students and their parents.

 Spelling You See Review

Saturday, April 25, 2015

FIRST Robotics 2016—Innovation Faire

It’s been two long days of commuting to St. Louis for the annual FIRST Championships.  Let me just say that they have EXPLODED in size this year, so much so that they couldn’t be contained in the convention center and the domed stadium.  They’ve now had to move the FTC and JrFLL competitions to Union Station and the exhibitors and college recruiters to the ballroom of a nearby hotel.  Three venues—three posts.  Today I’m going to focus on the smallest of the three—but also one of the funnest for spectators & visitors.  Here are some photos of the Innovation Faire.

For all the technology of the event, sometimes you just need to go old school and play with Legos.  Here the teams were able to “graffiti” a Lego tower by adding their team numbers with the colorful bricks.

Slightly more advanced (and an homage to Hugo Cabret), this Lego creation could draw images based on scanned photos.

I just know someone seeing this is going to run out and add hand drills to their own Foosball table.  It reminds me of the time my own Toolman tried to rev’ up the manual ice cream maker with a high speed drill (just think what always happened on Home Improvement when Tim the Toolman added more power).

The sand formed patterns based on the vibrations from the frequency of the machine.  In the background, kids were able to skewer balloons without popping them.

Talk about money to burn…only this dollar didn’t burn.  It had to do with the liquid it had been soaking in—isopropyl alcohol was one ingredient.  I remember there was something else to make the flames visible. 

This was one of the more popular stations because it involved FOOD!  These gals were making strawberry ice cream with liquid nitrogen.  Another chef was making Dragon’s Breath (which we sampled last year).  The fellow with his back to me was flash freezing balloons and flowers for the kids to shatter with hammers.

Later this week I’ll share about the FRC robots.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

FIRST Robotics Championships coming next weekend

For everyone within a daytrip’s drive of St. Louis—plan on visiting next weekend for the FIRST Robotics championships April 22-25.  In a world where most kids worship athletes and rock stars, why not let them see that math, science, and engineering can be cool too.  There’s something for all ages—even the youngest kids work with LEGO Mindstorm robots (and there are usually a few at the vendor’s booth for visitors to test drive. 

For an idea of everything that goes on, you can check out my posts from the 2013 and 2014 events.  Viewing the competitions and walking through the team pits is free—they’ll even supply you with a pair of safety goggles.  The Convention Center and dome are just a block’s walk from MetroLink which can be boarded way out in the suburbs if you don’t want to drive/park downtown.

If you honestly can’t come, look for my post with pictures after the event.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

5 Days of Real Homeschool—Dealing with Crisis

I’ve interpreted the “Real” of Real Homeschool as a need to be completely honest—not waxing on about my child’s giftedness and not hiding the bad days from view.  Today, we’re going to get as real as possible…we’re talking about when the Titanic hit the iceberg…we’re talking about homeschooling with cancer.

I can still remember the opening day of Six Flags five years ago…I had taken my Schnickelfritz to the park to celebrate the new season.  As we boarded the roller coaster and the lap bar came down I felt such a pain in my abdomen that I saw stars.  Two weeks later I was having an ultrasound and the technicians were whispering that they couldn’t even find the edge of this unnamed “thing” in their scan.  I had an ovarian tumor nearly six inches in diameter. 

This led to more tests—CAT scans and blood work; finding a specialist,  hospital visits, etc.  Obviously the tumor had to come out, but I was very surprised to learn there was no way to determine if it was malignant or benign until it was removed.  I went into surgery not knowing if they would only remove one ovary or do a complete hysterectomy.  The tumor had to be extracted intact so that any possible cancer cells wouldn't have the opportunity to spread to other areas in my abdomen.  That required a vertical incision from my navel down.   In post-op recovery the doctor said my tumor actually fell into a borderline category so they ended up removing everything and we wouldn't know until my follow-up if I would need radiation or chemo.  We were wrapping up our homeschool year (the roller coaster ride was the beginning of April, my hysterectomy was May 22nd), but we had a two months of uncertainty and then weeks of recovery.

We didn't stop school.  Schnickelfritz needed the routine and normalcy and I needed something to keep my mind occupied so it didn't wander down that dark "what if" path.  I was racing down the road to "what would I look like with no hair" and "would our son have to go to public school if I die?"  In a way I was fortunate that my husband had already dealt with thyroid cancer as a teenager.  He helped me focus on just the next step and when we reached it, we'd take the next one together.  

After surgery I spent most of the day in bed so school was often just read-alouds and snuggling (as long as Schnickelfritz didn't jostle me).  Do you remember me sharing yesterday Dr. Wile’s comment that homeschoolers are generally so far ahead in the education game that they can afford to take a step back or slow down.  I felt no guilt about only reading books and putting aside math, spelling, etc. I was spending quality time with my son.

Two weeks later, when I had 77 staples removed, we got the good news.  I would not need chemo or radiation.  I still go to the doctor twice a year for blood work to make sure the cancer marker enzyme is still low, but we're approaching five years with no recurrence.  So now that I'm on the other side of the mountain looking back, here's the advice I'd like to share.

Prepare as much as possible. 
I realize that by its very nature a crisis is usually unexpected. Still you may have some warning.  I had a month before my surgery could be scheduled so I used that time to prepare freezer meals and finish the schoolwork that would be harder for us to do from my bed.  Our schoolroom is normally in the basement, but I made sure to move the books we'd still be using up to the same level as the bedroom.   Years ago when I was pregnant I was diagnosed with Placenta Previa and knew I might be on bedrest for the last trimester.  Again, I used the time I had beforehand to fill the freezer, decorate the nursery, and lay in baby supplies that I wouldn't be able to shop for at the last minute.

Let's face it.  We all know a crisis will arise at some point.  Have you followed Dave Ramsey's advice and built up your $1000 emergency fund?  If your children are old enough, have you taught them the skills they need to run the house if you're laid up in bed?

Share your needs
How many times have you lied to your friends?  Let me rephrase many times when you run into a friend and they ask "How are you doing?" do you respond with "Fine!" even when you're not?   We tend to hide our frailty and failings from others.  I had plans and backup plans for help during my recovery.  My mother was going to come from Indiana and stay with us but her own health issues prevented it.  My step-mother was going to commute several days but she caught a terrible cold and didn't want me to start coughing or sneezing in my condition (coughing REALLY hurt).  Even my aunt, the closest of all, was too busy taking care of my grandmother who had broken her hip the week before.  I had no choice but to turn to my local homeschool co-op and let them know my needs.  They were such a blessing.  Some brought meals.  Others took my son for the day so I could rest.  One family let him swim in their pool, another family let him join their birthday party at the St. Louis Zoo.   They even went the extra mile to pick him up and bring him home because I wasn't cleared to drive.

Pray Boldly
The fall before my surgery, our pastor led a series based on
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.   The point of the series is that we need to come before God with bold prayers and claim his promises.  Not that God has become a catalog service where we place our orders and wait for them to be delivered, but that we need to stop asking wimpy, nonspecific prayers.  Just after my appointment with the oncologist I ran across this passage while looking up verses for Royal Rangers in the Message translation of the Bible.

Micah 7:8-11

8 Don't, enemy, crow over me. I'm down, but I'm not out. I'm sitting in the dark right now, but God is my light. 9 I can take God's punishing rage. I deserve it - I sinned. But it's not forever. He's on my side and is going to get me out of this. He'll turn on the lights and show me his ways. I'll see the whole picture and how right he is. 10 And my enemy will see it, too, and be discredited - yes, disgraced! This enemy who kept taunting, "So where is this God of yours?" I'm going to see it with these, my own eyes - my enemy disgraced, trash in the gutter. 11 Oh, that will be a day! A day for rebuilding your city, a day for stretching your arms, spreading your wings!

I heard a voice in my head saying “Your enemy has a name—it’s cancer.” I was sitting in the dark, waiting for a tumor that may be malignant  to be removed. I could see how some would ask “where is God” or  “why did God let this happen to you?” But when I read God is my light and someday that enemy would be trash in the gutter I took it as God’s promise that I would make it through. After that, anytime I felt myself feeling afraid I would read and reread that passage and pray.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

5 Days of Real Homeschool—Expo Day 2

Today I’m continuing to let you follow me around as I check out our local Homeschool Expo.  You can read about Day 1 here.  Saturday morning I couldn’t sleep in because Expo starts at 9 am.  Once again I start the day with the Key speakers Diana Waring and Jay Wile in the sanctuary.  Their First Workshop was called Homeschooling: Things We Wish We’d Known (also the title of one of Waring’s books).  I loved their explanation for homeschooling…it’s  custom fit learning in an off the rack world.  I’ve heard (often) about how homeschool kids fare better on standardized tests than public school students, but did you know they may actually be healthier too?  Research shows 55 percent of homeschool teens get the optimal amount of sleep and eat better.  In comparison, 87 percent of public school teens were NOT getting enough sleep. 

During Q&A time, one mother asked about finding a curriculum just wasn’t fitting and switching to something new.  She was most concerned that it would “put them behind.”  Both speakers assured her that she was so far ahead to begin with, she could afford to take a step or two backwards in order to find the best choices for her family. 

 Second Workshop—This may throw some of you for a loop, but I chose to learn about Backyard Beekeeping.  Not everything at a Homeschool convention is actually about school.  I’ve listened to lectures about freezer cooking, housekeeping, baking whole grain bread, and now keeping bees.  It turns out the speaker is the husband of one of the Expo board members.  The day before he’d brought in a display hive for the kids program and today his workshop was well attended by all ages.  I noticed the ratio of men to women was higher than usual too.  I’m no tree hugger, but bees could really use our help right now.  And we really need them!  I can’t recall the percentage of our food crops that are pollinated by bees but you wouldn’t believe the sticker shock we’d face at the market without these creatures doing their job. Bees are really the most fascinating creatures and I’d loved to work up the guts to keep some.  Right now money is the biggest hurdle.  I should probably also find out if I’m allergic to bees (I’ve never actually been stung).

During Lunch Break I was perusing the Expo handbook for the feedback questionnaire (PLEASE help organizers in their quest to make conventions better by filling out these feedback forms) when I found the “Save the Date” announcement for next year’s expo.  For whatever reason, Expo will be in nearly a month later, in April.   The date isn’t such a big deal except that my HSLDA membership expires in March.  I stop at the HSLDA booth and the representative said I really don’t want to let my membership lapse, even for a short period.  Conventions always offer the best prices and since I was promised anything I did now would be tacked on to the end of my current membership I went ahead and renewed.  This five year renewal will last through the end of Schnickelfritz’s homeschool career (where have the years gone?).  The 5 year or lifetime memberships are really the most economical if you can swing the cost.  In this case we’ve been saving money since our current 5 year membership started so there was really only 1 year we hadn’t saved for yet and we could cover the cost. The representative also said if we have trouble with college admissions or accepting credits after this period we should call HSLDA and mention that we were former members.

After lunch came the Third Workshop.  Since Mr. Wile had shared with me yesterday how to show Biology on a high school transcript before high school I thought perhaps I should attend HSLDA’s Recordkeeping for High School workshop.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the room to retrieve the drink I’d left at the HSLDA table when I was filling out my membership paperwork.  When I returned Carol Becker was well into her presentation and I immediately felt overwhelmed.  Yes, I will need to learn this but not today.  I head to the Sanctuary—the easiest venue to enter during a workshop, to hear Andrew Pudewa speak on A Classical Approach in a Modern World.

One of the book’s Mr. Pudewa referenced was The War Against Grammar by Dr. David Mulroy. Here are some highlights…

  • For 30 years the National Council of Teachers of English have a plank in their platform opposing the teaching of grammar.
  • In 1963 the average SAT verbal score was 478, it dropped to 428 by 1996. Rather than improve the student’s education, the test itself was “re-centered” and by 2002 scores were back “up” to 504.
  • Latin is the most well organized and consistent language for learning grammar which can then be applied to English.

By the Fourth Workshop I fell into an old habit—every time I sat down in a seminar, I was sure that one of the other choices would have be more beneficial.  I’d slip in a room, listen for a few minutes and then slip out again.  They make something for people like me, it’s called recordings.  Every homeschool convention I’ve attended has some company that records every session and makes it available on CD or an MP3 download.  Please note: sometimes exhibitors may also hold workshops, essentially live infomercials for their products.  These may or may not be recorded.  Sometimes you get a better deal buying multiple recordings or a complete set.  It’s usually cheaper to buy at the convention than on the recorder’s website after the fact.

In the end I ended up back in the sanctuary with Mr. Pudewa, this time sharing about Competent Communicators.  He shared the top sources of vocabulary/language for our kids: TV, peers, and social media.  Be honest, do you think we’ll be producing any more Charles Dickens from that pool?   You can’t get something out of a brain that isn’t there.  That’s why we must double or triple our efforts to expose kids to excellent language.  The best means are reading aloud and memorization.  For read alouds you may want to search for books from the 1830’s-1930’s.  They are written in modern-enough English, but won’t be dumbed down.  For memorization you can choose scripture, poetry, or excerpts from famous speeches. 

My Schnickelfritz is currently under the belief that he want to be an actor when he grows up.  Although I pray otherwise, this may be the key to getting him to try memorization—actors need to know their script after all.  The Institute for Excellence in Writing does have a poetry memorization course that I’m looking into. 

I’ll be honest, I was too worn out to attend the Fifth Workshop—Mr. Steve Demme speaking on The Five Most Important Truths to Communicate to Your Children.   I left Homeschool Expo with a lot more knowledge and a little less money, sore feet, sheets and sheets of notes, and the inspiration I needed to finish this homeschool year strong.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

5 Days of Real Homeschool—Homeschool Expo Day 1

Several weeks ago I shared my tips on preparing to attend a Homeschool convention, today and tomorrow I’d like to share how things actually went at Homeschool Expo.  The event was held on both Friday and Saturday so I’m dividing this into two posts as well.

Friday AM  After dropping Schnickelfritz off at his Granny’s I headed to the mega-church where Expo was being held.  In the past, I’ve taken my son to the children’s program at Expo, but now he’s too old for the kids program and too young to appreciate the teen workshops.  He was much happier getting to go to the zoo with his grandparents.  He spent the night so I didn’t have to drop him off again the next morning (BONUS: this meant my husband and I could have a date night when we both got home).  I try to arrive at least 30 minutes before the opening session because there can be quite a line at check in.  This time there was no line which gave me a few extra minutes to browse past the vendor booths—not that I was planning to buy much this year.

My first stop was Books Bloom run by fellow book-rescuer Jan Bloom (if you ever hear her at a convention talking about a book sale where they sold kid’s books by the inch and not the foot—I was the friend who invited her).  I went there first to 1)  see Jan and 2)  get first dibs on any books I might find.  I got Illustrated Junior Library editions of A Tale of Two Cities and Gulliver’s Travels, another of the Henry Reed series by Keith Robertson (my son really enjoyed Henry Reed, Inc. and believe it or not my own copy of The Second World War for Young Readers (which Jan said was a very rare find) so now I can return my borrowed copy.

Now it was time for my First Workshop, Mastery Learning by Andrew Pudewa.  We’ve been using IEW products for years, but this was the first time I’d heard Mr. Pudewa speak live.  His message was about the importance of mastering a subject before moving on to learn more (Pudewa’s background is in violin and this is a key component of the Suzuki method of teaching music).  I begin to get pangs of guilt about my choice to switch from Math U See, which is based on mastery, to Teaching Textbooks, which has a new lesson every day.  We got TT for nearly free from my aunt, but in the past year and a half math has dropped out of the “favorite subject” standing and Schnickelfritz has told me more than once that he once to go back to Mr. Demme.  The Math U See booth will be one of my first stops after the workshop.

In the Second Workshop, Diana Waring and Jay Wile are tag-teaming to share why Homeschooling is the Environment for Genius.  Diana Waring was the key-note speaker at the very first homeschool conference I attended and I loved her tape series “History Via the Scenic Route.”  You can get an idea how long ago that was because I say they came as a tape set, not CD or MP3.  Jay Wile was the founder and author of most of the Apologia science texts for Junior and Senior High.  Anyway, the lecture explains a study of 20 persons commonly regarded as “genius” and what common factors from their childhood may have contributed to such a label.  There researcher found three factors:

  1. A high degree of attention focused upon the child by parents and other adults, expressed in intensive educational measures and, usually, abundant love.
  2. Reduced contact with the peer group.
  3. A significant amount of imaginative play.

Numbers one and two sound a lot like homeschooling to me and I’m sure my son gets more time to work on number three than he would sitting at a school desk all day.

Lunch Time~~There was an optional box lunch available to buy on site, but my co-op had given me a Chick-Fil-A gift card for Christmas and this was the closest I would be to one for some time.  I picked up a meal at the drive-thru and headed back to visit some vendors, specifically Karen Holinga of Spelling U See since we were currently reviewing her product and were having some issues.  I’m saving the details for that post but I will say she highly encouraged me to attend her afternoon workshop (which I did).

For the Third Workshop I choose Hope for the Organizationally Challenged.  It was by far the most crowded room in the building (I was sitting on the floor).  She had great visuals of the tools she uses to keep herself on track—like the Your-Minder personal alarm clock.  You can program up to four alarms per day and record personal 10 second messages to tell yourself why you needed to set the alarm in the first place. Then the presenter, Vicki Bentley, showed us copies of the handbooks she had authored.  I was slightly embarrassed to see one of them was the Everyday Family Chore System—that I reviewed three years ago.  I wrote a note to myself to find my copy since I obviously wasn’t following her advice now.

In the Fourth Workshop, Dr. Jay Wile was working solo to cover Teaching the Junior High and High School Sciences at Home.  I’m fairly comfortable with science, having taught physics at our co-op, but I wanted to see if there were any special requirements for logging hours, etc.   I’m so glad I attended…first I learned that Dr. Wile is no longer recommending the Apologia Chemistry curriculum—at least not the new 3rd edition.  You can check out his reasons and an alternative course for yourself on his blog. Second, Dr. Wile went through a detailed explanation of when students are ready for his other science courses and it’s all tied to math levels.  According to him, students should begin Biology when they start Algebra (which is typically 9th grade in public schools).


  Not Science- Oriented Science-oriented Math Prerequisite
7th Grade General Science General Science None
8th Grade Physical Science Physical Science None
9th Grade Biology* Biology None
10th Grade Chemistry* Chemistry Algebra 1
11th Grade Physics* Physics Algebra 2, at least beginning Trigonometry
12th Grade Supplements Advanced  Biology, or
Advanced Chemistry,
Advanced Physics

Algebra 2


I went up to him after the workshop to share that my son was already working through algebra.  Did that mean I should skip General and Physical sciences and plunge into Biology next year?  Dr. Wile emphatically said “Yes.”  He would cover the same material in more depth in the coming three years and he would get much more on the back end being able to study advanced courses.  That was great news for my friend Stephanie who wanted to co-op Biology with me next year, but bad news for my pocketbook since I’d already purchased my books for General Science.  I’m turning to eBay to sell what I don’t need and purchase the new materials.

Finally I attended Karen Holinga’s lecture “Finding the Glitch When Kids Won’t Write” for the Fifth Workshop of the day.  She made clear that labored handwriting takes physical and mental resources away from higher learning and that handwriting enhances memory better than typing on a keyboard.  It is estimated that 10 – 30 percent of kids struggle with their handwriting and that the problem usually lies somewhere else (not strictly dysgraphia).  In my son’s case she believes the issue is a visual glitch and we’ll be taking him to a behavioral optometrist.

Are you exhausted yet?  I assure you I was.  A quick stop at the warehouse club and then I went home for dinner out with my husband. Then I went to BED because the whole cycle would start again the next day.  Come back tomorrow to read about Day 2 at Homeschool Expo. 

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Monday, April 6, 2015

5 Days of Real Homeschool—A Typical Day (If There Is One)

I hesitated to write a post about a typical homeschool day in our house because frankly one day seldom resembles the next, but recent changes in our lives have forced me to be more organized and a routine is developing so that’s what I’m sharing today.

5:30  My husband has been awake for a while now and either the sound of the shower or the blow dryer wakes me up.  First duty is to fix his breakfast and pack his lunch. In the past I might return to bed or turn on the news and “lollygag” waiting for my son to wake up.  Now I can’t afford to waste the hours…I do my exercising, walk the dog, gather books and materials for our homeschool day, and check in with the Homeschool Crew.  If my son wakes on his own he may take a shower, use the internet (our service has bonus time before 8 am so this is when he can stream videos), or watch cartoons.  If he doesn’t wake on his own I get him up by 8:00 so he still has some time to himself before we start school at…..

9:00  We start our school day.  We used to say we’d start at 9:30, but it often was much later as he was in the middle of building something and I was busy trolling the internet.  That’s almost never the case any longer.  With deadline in the afternoon we need to get started early.  We always begin with prayer and Bible to demonstrate the place God deserves (and frankly both teacher and student need prayer).  Then we more in order from least favorite subject to most favorite.  This way we’re doing what he perceives as hardest while he still has the most energy and we’re always motivated to move forward because what comes next will be better.  This means we start with language arts (spelling, grammar, writing), move on to history, then science, then math and end with piano of all things. 

I’m discovering just how important it is to put everything back in its place when we’re finished with it as well.  Our school storage place is in the basement, but that’s a little cool down there to stay for any length of time (but we love it in August).  Even when we’ve carried everything we need upstairs and resolve to keep it in a pile, something always goes AWOL the next time we need it—the Bible, the page where he wrote a key word outline, the colored pencils, etc.  We just don’t have the time to search for things anymore.

11:00 or 12:00  On Wednesdays we head to homeschool gym at 11a.  A local private Christian school allows us to use their gym for two hours.  The gentleman in charge organizes a devotional and some games for the kids.  The rest of the time the kids play on their own—basketball, ninja tag, hula-hoops, etc.  Believe me in the dead of winter, you want your kid to be able to disperse some of his pent up energy in a gym and not your house.  There’s even lunch available for a mere $1.50.  And here’s the big secret, we moms don’t go to gym for the kids sake—while their playing in the gym, we get to talk with other moms in the cafeteria (there’s a giant glass window so we can keep an eye on everyone).  I usually jog on the elevated track for thirty minutes and then work on what my Ranger Kids will do that evening.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I have to head to my part time job at the library.  This is the new development that is causing such a need for organization.  We no longer have the luxury of being able to finish up school after lunch. I have to grab a quick lunch and take Schnickelfritz over to his grandparents so I can be at work by noon.  He will occasionally take “homework” to their house—usually his reading assignments.  Sometimes we take advantage of their unlimited high-speed internet for science videos, etc.   Three hours may not seem like enough time for school, and working with a class room of students it probably isn’t.  I’m only working with one child so my attention never needs to be divided and I’ve already customized our studies to his learning styles which makes most things move faster. Still, I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel more rushed to finish.  We don’t have time for “going down rabbit trails” , for deeper conversations, for slowing down and savoring the moment because 4 out of 5 days there’s a deadline looming over our heads to finish.

Schnickelfritz and I are usually back home between 5-5:30pm, depending on how long I stop to chat with my mother.  If I was on top of my game earlier I’ll have dinner in the crockpot or the sourdough pizza rising so dinner won’t be too far behind.  If I’m not, I scramble for something quick—hamburgers or this wonderful creation that can be done in 15 minutes in the pressure cooker—you can even throw in the ground beef still frozen. There’s usually not time to wash dishes afterwards because our day isn’t done yet.

7:00-8:30pm   Right now we’re in the season of busy nights—karate, basketball practice, Royal Rangers.  Three out of five nights (two of which are days I worked) we’re headed back out the door.  This is where I cave to the socialization police: after being with me and/or his grandparents all day I want him to have time to be around kids his own age and learn to be under the authority of other adults (coach, instructor, commander).  This is his last year of Upwards Basketball and karate doesn’t meet in the summer.  I’m really looking forward to being able to stay home at nights.

9:00pm Honestly, when I get home I’m exhausted.  I’d like to say I do the dishes and clean the kitchen but often the dishes are still in the sink next morning.  Schnickelfritz goes to bed at 10, and he still enjoys me reading to him.  He really has a terrible time getting the whirlwind in his mind to slow down enough for sleeping so I do believe this read-aloud time helps. 


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Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Friday, April 3, 2015

Five Days of Real Life Homeschool

Two weeks ago I was attending our local Homeschool Expo and listening to Dr. Jay Wile speak.  Although he’s best known for creating the Apologia science curriculum, this time he was tag-teaming with Diana Waring (who has her own history curriculum) to speak about homeschooling in general—specifically the things they wished they had known when they were teaching their own kids (dare I say decades ago).

One of the comments Dr. Wile made really stuck with me—he was actually quoting someone else but I didn’t get that in my note.  He said “One of the worst things women do to each other is clean their house before another one comes over to visit.”  On first hearing, this may sound odd to you.  After all, everyone assumes we’re showing hospitality and respect to our guests by welcoming them into an orderly and tidy home.  Dr. Wile went on to explain the comment.  As women, we tend to compare our own home and circumstances with those of lady we’re visiting.  Unfortunately the vision we use for our own home is the day-to-day version or even the crisis version and we’re comparing it to the home that has been cleaned and polished for the past two days before our arrival.  No wonder we get complexes that we’re not doing enough.

The same could probably be said about homeschooling bloggers.  I’ll confess to cleaning off areas that will be in camera-view before snapping pictures of my son for a review post.  You as the reader will never know about the stack of junk hidden on the other side of the table.  We also tend to write about the positive aspects and if something is not going just hunky-dory we try to give the impression that we’ve got grace under fire.

But next week the Homeschool Crew is going to pull back the curtain and let you see that we deal with life just like everyone else.  Dirty dishes piled in the sink, kids that whine, backed up septic systems,  and who know what else.  You’ll want to visit every day for our 5 Days of Real Life Homeschool ( this link won’t go live until Monday 4/6 at 8:00am).

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
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