Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Articles I've Had Published About Homeschooling

I've been writing articles for parenting articles almost as long as I've been homeschooling, so I figured I should pair my two loves and make some money for my family at the same time. Currently this money is paying for some "roadschooling" to Florida for two weeks in October 2017 :-) Most of these articles have been published in multiple magazines so I've just picked a few magazines to represent. Thanks for checking them out!

Back-to-Homeschool Tips and Traditions in Birmingham Parent

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Homeschool in ParentMap

Top 10 Homeschool Mistakes to Avoid in Montgomery Parents

Homeschooling 101 in San Diego Family

How to Find Your Homeschool Tribe in Calgary's Child

10 Unique Benefits of Homeschooling in Calgary's Child

Venturing Into Unschooling in North Texas Kids

Virtual School: Where Homeschooling Meets Traditional School in Orlando Family

Friday, August 11, 2017

#BraveWriter 2017-2018 Boomerang Book Selections

The following is taken from the Brave Writer website:

The Boomerang is the monthly digital product that features a classic work of fiction each month. These novels are used to teach the mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary elements). In addition to the weekly passages used for copywork and dictation, The Boomerang includes 9 discussion questions which are designed to enhance a student's comprehension of the novel's themes and construction through discussion and writing.
Each guide contains the following:
  • Copywork/dictation passages
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary device notes
  • 9 discussion questions
  • Book Club Party ideas
  • Access to the Private Facebook Group to discuss how you implement the Arrow
2017-2018 Book List 
AugustStation Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) (purchased paper book and audiobook on estories)
SeptemberWalking (Henry David Thoreau) (purchased paper book)
OctoberThe Thing About Jellyfish (Ali Benjamin) (purchased audiobook on estories)
NovemberGeorges (Alexandre Dumas)
DecemberThe Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)
JanuaryThe Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London)
FebruaryNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass)
MarchWhen You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
AprilThe Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Adam Gidwitz)
MayAnne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
Always review the books yourself and be certain that you are okay with the contents before giving them to your children. Some of these titles do contain adult language and themes.

#BraveWriter 2017-2018 Arrow Book Selections

The following is taken from Brave Writer's website.

The Arrow is the monthly digital product (like a magazine) that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (novels listed below, not included with purchase). The Arrow is designed for children ages 8-11 (3rd - 6th grades) and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.
This year's Arrow Guides are brought to you by Melissa Wiley, well-loved children's novelist and Brave Writer instructor! Mary Wilson, popular blogger, is adding a page of Book Club Party ideas for each book this year as well.
Each guide contains the following:
  • Copywork/dictation passages
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary device notes
  • Writing activity
  • 9 discussion questions
  • Book Club Party ideas
  • Access to the Private Facebook Group to discuss how you implement the Arrow
2017-2018 Book List 
AugustThe Bad Beginning, (Lemony Snicket)
SeptemberEsperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
OctoberThe Girl Who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill)
NovemberJohnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
DecemberWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon (Grace Lin)
JanuaryFinn Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson)
FebruaryElijah of Buxton (Christopher Paul Curtis)
MarchFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsberg)
AprilThe Red Pencil (Andrea Davis Pinkney)
MayThe Thing About Luck (Cynthia Kadohata)
Always review the books yourself and be certain that you are okay with the contents before giving them to your children.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coffee and Co-op Planning 2017 Semester 1

This will be our third year participating in a Catholic co-op as a family. The first year I was a classroom helper and cafeteria cleaner. Last year I taught PE, Creative Writing and Drama. This year I feel like I'm getting the hang of things finally and will be teaching 5th/6th PE, 9-12 PE, and 5-8 Creative Writing one semester/Drama the next.

June was funky with my kids off at different camps and activities. July was funky with my husband working double hours. Have you ever tried to do homeschool planning with five of your own kids running around plus neighbors and friends? My brain was short-circuiting from all the stops and starts so I focused on organizing physical stuff like backpacks and bookshelves.

Anyway, last year I did a little too much seat-of-my-pants teaching and I don't want to do that again. If I have it all planned out for one entire semester of 16 meetings then I won't be freaking out the night before/morning of trying to figure out what to do. I don't feel this benefits my state of mine OR the kids and their learning. I know when I have things planned in advance that I'm excited to teach, I am a much more fun teacher. This goes for at home as well.

My husband's work hours went back to normal, it's Saturday, so I checked the calendar and it looks like a great (rainy) day to head to somewhere with Wi-Fi and coffee and knock out some planning. Parents and kids like a good syllabus, and I'm gonna give one (well, three) to them.

I have the basic layout of the syllabus so I know how many days/slots to fill in so I can get my topics and activities organized. I'm finding I have a lot of fun to be had with poetry, something I personally didn't think I enjoyed but am finding I really dig. And if I dig it, I know I can get the kids to dig it!

Heading out to fill in those slots, which will hopefully turn into an hour a week of homeschool co-op enchantment and discovery and enjoyment. My biggest problem is that I'll be in Florida for a couple of weeks and don't know what I can give up for my helper to teach. I just want to do it all! If only I could be in two places at once :-)

Check back for my Homeschool Co-op Creative Writing Syllabus for grades 5 through 8 (yes, quite a spread but we'll make it work).

I'd love to hear about your planning processes, successes and challenges!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Using Reward Charts in Your Home and Homeschool

I love Target's cheap aisle that's right in the front when you walk in the door. Starting in the summertime they always have fun teacher things and they run out fast! I picked up these reward charts that came with cute apple stickers to try to motivate my kids to get into some good habits for a reward.

I'm getting tired of hounding the kid, but a Pokemon booster pack speaks for itself loud and clear.

The booster pack Sam wants is about $4 so I am doing the same type of reward for Callie. She will fill up 2-3 of these charts doing her math, so she can save up and get a $12 piece of jewelry instead. She is way behind in math and I'm trying to get her caught up. We only have one PC and 5 kids running around the house, so getting her math done can be a feat sometimes.

Supercute reward stickers.
I'm the kind of mom who believes in doing things that make mothering more fun and easier and fosters the relationship I have with my kids. I don't want to JUST be the dictator homeschool teacher; I want to have fun with the learning process. That can't happen all the time, obviously, but I give it a shot. So, yes, I believe in bribes and I believe in rewards. And we don't do that all the time. When I get compliments on my older kids I know I have done something right and I just need to keep up the character-building work with my two youngest kids even though I am getting exhausted during this parenting journey (wink).

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Simple Plan Homeschool Planner from Mardel & Coupon 30% Off Through May 20, 2017

I've been buying A Simple Plan homeschool planner for a few years now and love it. It really helps me when I'm doing my own thing or when I was doing virtual school for the last two years. Venturing out onto our own again this fall and have a high schooler (eek!) and using this planner yet again!

I feel like I can be laid-back as a homeschooler and not a stressball because I have a planner and I can get the thoughts and plans out of my brain and onto paper. Also, I often write things in the planner AFTER the fact. And I never feel like I have to fill in every blank. I assume each blank stands for about an hour of schooling, so 6 hours a day. That's too much for my younger kids. Their blanks also sometimes get filled in with activities like Scouts and also playdates. The pool in the summer for 2 hours counts for PE. We get it all covered :-)

When I highlight something, that means it's been done. I also use Pilot Frixion pens because I hate the mess pencils make when they rub off on other pages and love things in pen, yet these pens erase like a dream.

This planner is normally priced at $19.99 normally through Mardel here at this link. When there was free shipping I grabbed a student planner for my kid who is starting 10th grade in the fall of 2017. His homeschooling and regular lives didn't all fit onto 6 measly lines in A Simple Plan for 2016/2017 so he really needs his own planner. There are coupons on Mardel's website quite often, like this one for 30% off only through May 20, 2017.

This one is mine for 2017-2018
This one is Joel's for 2017-2018

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Captive Audience: Read to Your Kid While They're in the Bathtub

My 9-year-old went through a period where she loved to take showers. Then she reverted back to wanting to take baths. I shouldn't say "revert" like it's a backward step ... I still take baths sometimes because they are relaxing, after all!

Anyway, today she was in the tub and she likes for someone to stay with her, which usually means me. I like to use that chance to catch up on homeschool reading ... today it was Catholic Heritage Curricula's Science 2. I've owned this book for a long time and have read the stories over and over to the kids over the years. Now I'm trying to get them all read to my three youngest kids. I'm sure I'll read them again to my 7-year-old sometime, maybe next year even.

I love my little captive audience. She listens and asks questions and it's great one-on-one time, which is rare in a big family.

Then she got out of the tub and went to "play school" ... getting out her co-op backpack and putting on her jacket and making her "school lunch" ... and I love these rare days that are unhurried. I love them even more probably because they are so rare. Did I mention she made the pantry her locker?

Where do you like to read to your kids? Do you read to them even when they get older? I bet you they still enjoy it even in their teens :-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Do Homeschooled Kids Go to College?

Why, yes, they do.

I get asked this a lot. "Will your kids go to college?"

My answer: Sure, if they want to and they know what they want to do. We are junior college people simply because of the cost and the belief that 18-year-olds don't need to go to another state to party and do stupid things. Call us crazy.*

*If your kid got a scholarship to an out-of-state college and is doing well and not being incredibly stupid with drinking and sex, pat yourself on the back. It does happen. A scholarship is a different story, too ... partying on my dime is not gonna happen.

So here's what we are telling our high schooler now.

Work hard because you'll probably need to take the GED and also if you take the ACT your scores will help determine any scholarships or other help in college.

If you aren't sure what you want to do with your life at age 17 or 18, for God's sake don't spend $30,000 on college. I don't have that kind of money and I'm not going to take out loans for it because I need to RETIRE and DIE IN STYLE someday. And if you take out loans for that amount, I will laugh at you every time I see you.

I am not raising my kids to be in debt just so they can appear "normal" and like everybody else who goes that route.

Case study: My husband. His parents weren't going to pay for college. He worked. He went to college at age 26 and got a degree to be an engineer at age 29 WHILE WORKING FULL-TIME. It cost him $30,000 total in school loans and he's now a working engineer. We paid off the loans within a few years before having children.

Case study: Me. I went to junior college over the course of TEN YEARS to get a 2-year degree and paid for it myself. I now have an AA degree which doesn't really help me with my writing and proofreading career but it's nice to say I have it. I don't know how much it cost me in the end but I wish I had saved all that time and invested the money instead :-)

Case study: My father. No college. Worked as a letter carrier for enough years to retire at age 55. In the meantime he was traveling to Hawaii and other fun places in the USA. He will be 67 this summer and is still doing just fine.

Case studies: Some family members. All three kids went to college and their parents paid. If you can afford that, congrats, but make sure you have saved for your OWN future because there is no guarantee that your kids are going to help you out later. If you can't afford that, WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING GOING INTO DEBT FOR YOUR KID, WHO IS ABLE-BODIED AND ABLE TO WORK? Two are teachers, which you need a degree to be. The other would have had a promising banking career but he fell ill. This is a case where the kids did it the "right" way and honored their parents in the process. I often say you won't appreciate it unless you pay for it, but I do every now and then see someone who appreciates it when it is given to them. Of course, these are MY family members, so they have that Swedish grit and they rock, obviously.

Lawyers, doctors, licensed therapists, chiropractors, pharmacists, engineers, vets, etc. Yes, please get a degree. Pay a lot for it with or without your parents' help and then pay back your loans quickly using your decent-sized paychecks.

Be who you are, kids. If you are one of those rare kids who wants to be something major, go to college whenever you want. There is no rush, though. If you want to work for a while, that's cool too. If you want to live at home for a while and go to junior college and save money while you also work, then you are obviously one of my children and you will not be going into debt. Congratulations.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Respecting Differences: A Homeschool Lesson on Sitting Bull

Sometimes homeschooling makes me physically ill. 

Reading about Sitting Bull and Native Americans, etc. to my teen son Joel. And I have lots of comments but compare it to this:

It's like my neighbor Dave comes into my house and just decides he wants it and takes it and moves in and locks my fridge so my family can't eat our own food. And then he tells me to just go somewhere else, to this little stick fort he built for me out back, and that he totally won't mess with my family; he promises!!!! Then we start fighting because THAT IS MY HOUSE and then we all die. HORRIBLE! 

And I'm not sure what the Native Americans were supposed to do with CASH MONEY for selling the Black Hills (gold!) ... head down to the Sam's Club and buy some junk like white people do? (I also don't get why Grant was dying to know about gold and then word got out and he was like, "Oops, better get those miners out of there and guard them with US soldiers who might give them a hand slap!")

Talk about not respecting differences. I mean, just because the NAs were more peaceful and used their resources better and didn't worship God and Jesus, let's mess with them and wipe them out. We came here for RELIGIOUS FREEDOM and, boy, did that get twisted.

No, it's not so bad these days here, but it's more subtle. So many of us are so intolerant of someone who is not exactly like us ... let us all ponder this during Lent, religious or not, shall we?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Homeschool More Than One Subject/Kid at Once for Free ... The Who Was What Was Book Series

Check out the books we have right now in our home: art, authors, architecture, faith, Black history, science, geography and events. That's a lot of cool FREE learning on my floor there :-)

I had my 15-year-old son Joel compose a list of the Who Was/Is books from Penguin because we are finding them to be so awesome. We do love Story of the World as well, for history for multiple ages, but it's fun to stop and read a quick biography of a person we find out about in Story of the World or just pick one up to read anytime.

I like to read these to all five kids at once and call it English and History. I like to homeschool multiple kids at a time to SAVE time and also do multiple subjects to save time ... this is how we can be more laid-back and have more time for playing outside, meeting friends at the park, etc. You can read a chapter a day or easily blow through one in a day. We normally do a chapter or two a day.

There's even a Mad Libs so you can beef up your kids' parts of speech knowledge while having fun at the same time!

If the thought of finding time to read to the kids right now freaks you out, you can assign a book to a kid to read and then have them tell the family about it orally or have them practice their report-writing skills. It's all up to you! And these are at the library so you can also homeschool for free using these resources.

Here's the list in alphabetical order by first name. I'll do another post for the "What Was" series or just add them here ... I haven't decided yet ... you let me know what you prefer :-)

Abigail Adams 
Abraham Lincoln 
Albert Einstein 
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Hamilton 
Alexander the Great 
Alfred Hitchcock 
Amelia Earhart 
Andrew Jackson 
Andy Warhol
Anne Frank
Annie Oakley
Babe Ruth 
Barack Obama 
Beatrix Potter
Beecher Stowe 
Ben Franklin 
Betsy Ross 
Bill Gates 
Bob Dylan 
Bob Marley 
Bruce Lee 
Bruce Springsteen 
Cesar Chavez
Charles Darwin 
Charles Dickens 
Charlie Chaplin 
Christopher Columbus 
Clara Barton 
Claude Monet 
Daniel Boone
Davy Crockett 
Derek Jeter
Dolly Parton 
Dr. Seuss
Earnest Shackleton 
Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt 
Elton John
Elvis Presley 
Ferdinand Magellan 
Fidel Castro
Frank Lloyd Wright 
Franklin Roosevelt 
Frederick Douglas
Frida Kahlo
Genghis Khan 
George Lucas 
George Washington Carver 
George Washington 
Gloria Steinem 
Hail to the Chiefs 
Harriet Tubman
Harry Houdini 
Helen Keller 
Henry Ford
Hillary Clinton 
Isaac Newton 
J.K. Rowling 
J.R.R. Tolkien 
Jackie Kennedy 
Jackie Robinson 
Jacques Cousteau 
Jane Goodall
Jeff Kinney 
Jesse Owens 
Jim Henson 
Joan of Arc
John F. Kennedy 
Johnny Appleseed 
Jules Verne 
Julia Child 
Julius Caesar
King Tut 
Laura Ingalls Wilder 
Leonardo Da Vinci
Lewis Carroll
Louis Armstrong 
Louis Braille 
Lucille Ball
Malala Yousafzai
Marci Polo 
Maria Talchief 
Marie Antoinette 
Marie Curie 
Mark Twain 
Martin Luther King. Jr.
Maurice Sendak 
Maya Angelou 
Michael Jackson 
Michelle Obama 
Milton Bradley 
Milton Hershey 
Mother Theresa 
Muhammad Ali
Neil Armstrong 
Nelson Mandela
Pablo Picasso 
Paul Revere 
Pete Seeger 
Pope Francis
Princess Diana 
Queen Elizabeth 
Queen Victoria 
Rachel Carson 
Ralph Lauren (coming soon)
Richard Branson 
Roald Dahl 
Robert E. Lee 
Robert Ripley 
Roberto Clemente 
Ronald Reagan 
Rosa Parks 
Sally Ride 
Sitting Bull
Sojourner Truth 
Sonia Sotamayor 
Stan Lee
Steve Erwin 
Steve Jobs 
Steven Spielberg 
Stevie Wonder (coming soon)
Susan B. Anthony 
The Beatles 
The Brothers Grimm 
The Rolling Stones 
The Three Stooges (coming soon)
The Wright Brothers 
Theodore Roosevelt 
Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Jefferson 
Ulysses S. Grant 
Venus and Serena Williams 
Walt Disney 
Wayne Gretzky 
Who was Activity Book 
Who was Mad Libs
William Shakespeare 
Winston Churchill
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Woodrow Wilson

Want more laid-back homeschool? Come on over and give me a like here on Facebook!

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Brave Writer: Your Homeschool Coach

I don’t think a whole lot about the future. I survive day by day, praying my kids learn what they need to learn to live good lives. That they learn common sense life skills and also basic math and English skills and don’t sound dumb in a convo about the Holocaust or atoms. But lately Julie bogart is on my radar a lot and she’s raised her 5 kids and homeschooled them and loved it and writes about it and podcasts and shares helpful things and encouragement and I love her style and I realized I could be a form of her when I’m older. When my kids are gone I always figured I’d of course take up quite a bit of time checking in on them and making sure I know what’s up with them (thank God for texting) and then grandkids, of course. But in my other time, when not volunteering or caring for my parents or being with aron, I knew I would keep writing. But Julie gets $25/month for this coaching community she runs. It’s brilliant. I haven’t joined but it looks neat: I want to be a source of homeschool encouragement to others when I survive my own journey that I am learning so much on the way. Her style is so chill. Check her out on this Homeschool Sisters podcast. She also does these great writing helps called The Brave Writer.

She doesn’t make you feel guilty for not doing everything, for having bad days, burnout, resentment, more. She can be chill because her kids are grown … she says we are homeschooling our kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet so don’t worry about them if they want to play Minecraft all day … they might be programmers for drones someday. If nothing else, you must LIKE her Facebook page and make sure you click the option to see it first in your newsfeed because she always shares helpful things that I SAVE on Facebook to read later. Encouraging things to help us on this journey that is like no other. Often I read some homeschool mom sites and I feel more frantic. I read Julie Bogart or listen to her and I feel relaxed and that trickles down to my kids and my homeschool style for sure.

I mean, check this out from her coaching website:

Late at night, do you worry about…
  • The enormity of the responsibility to educate your kids,
  • the wide disparity of information about learning,
  • the unrelenting demands of the little people in your charge,
  • the annual changes in family dynamics and hormones,
  • your natural home education fatigue
  • and (dare you admit it?) boredom?

All of us wonder: Am I doing a good enough job? How will I know?
YES! We all wonder! We pretend to have it together but we need support and ideas and help! Homeschooling in my 40s with teens is way different from when I started in my 30s with little ones! My husband sometimes travels, I'm dealing with hormones (mine and those of my teens!), I work from home, I have to come up with ideas for teaching 3 classes a week at a homeschool co-op and MORE!

Funschool February: Beat the Homeschool Slump

Every year about this time we start to get that burnt-out feeling. We've been homeschooling over 5 months and have recently survived Christmas. Spring is coming and for us that means we will be insanely busy with some of the following items. Does any of this sound familiar?

one kid with First Communion and party
one kid with Confirmation and party
a fishing trip for my husband and the boys
a trip to Royals Stadium for Scout Day
an April birthday of a kid turning 14
a son with a lawn care job, babysitting jobs, a soccer practice and playing schedule, and a reffing job
another son who is dying to play real soccer
fish frys
bake sales
St. Patrick's Day parade
co-op every Wednesday
a son in Latin every Monday
Cub and Boy Scouts meetings and activities
a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting and more that will come up like dances and lock-ins and parties

Yeah, my homeschoolers are UBER socialized. No worries there.

So I heard about the February Slump on the Homeschool Sisters podcast recently and gave myself permission to mess around a lot during February while still learning. February is going to be busy enough plus my husband going out of town for 7 days overseas. That right there told me I'll have a week to not knock ourselves out homeschooling. In fact, I think we'll just blow up the house with learning activities and then clean it all up the day before Daddy gets home!

*If you listen to this podcast, do so with paper, so head to the link above because you'll love the recommendations for fun learning with your kids. The Field Trip Zoom drove me nuts, though, because some of them are so expensive. I'm trying to get Google Expeditions on my PC but so far it's making me only do it on the phone with the tiny screen. Also check out Discovery VR, and I have you heading to a cool little thing on Hawaii, although it's not exactly a field trip.

I've joined the My Little Poppies Gameschool Community on Facebook because it's very difficult for me to sit down and play games with my kids but I need to do it ... for bonding with them and fun for them and learning happens to sneak in as well.

As a side note, check out this post over here about 17 awesome subscription boxes. I know they can get pricey, but I spend money on dumb stuff at Target that I could get at a thrift or discount store instead so if I just am mindful of my spending and keep up my proofreading from home jobs, I can swing some of these.

I signed up for a JAM subscription for my LEGO kid because the first month was free then there was a discount for the next month. You really probably only need a month to explore each class unless your kid is REALLY into something, then you can pay for another month or there is an option for $99 to mess around in a class for a whole year. Your fee does NOT include multiple classes.

Don't forget about Netflix for homeschooling. Find yourself a community on Facebook for lots of great ideas on that.

Hit the library and snuggle up and read and forget about fractions and Algebra and teaching the alphabet for a while. I have some fun musical alphabet videos I'm going to sit with my youngest and watch and my educated guess is he just might learn more from those than from weeks of me making him do ABC flash cards he dreads. Time to change it up!

I also got a bunch of those "Who Is" and "What Is" and "Who Was" books ... tons of those and they count as history and geography and reading for sure.

So many ideas! I'll be back later! Have a great homeschool day!