Sunday, December 28, 2014

This Year At Co-op

We are part of a fun and practical homeschool co-op that I helped start 10 years ago. We are now in our eleventh year of co-op and my kids could not imagine homeschooling without being in co-op.

Here are the classes the kids are taking this year.

Suzy, age 12
Creative Crafters - fun crafts
BFF Club - learning how to host parties for your friends and creating friendships
Babysitting - the Red Cross babysitting class
Drawing Portraits - a DVD course with an art teacher to learn to draw portraits

James, age 15
Drafting - learning both pencil/paper drafting and CAD
K'Nex Bridge Building - using K'Nex to learn about the physics of bridges
Literature (Mythology) - Greek and Roman Mythology
Personal Protection - Physical fitness and self-defense

Emily, age 17 (her last year of co-op)
What's Next - preparation for adult life (careers, bills, housing, etc...)
Foundations Personal Finance  - the Dave Ramsey course for teens
Literature (Mythology) - Greek and Roman Mythology
Choir - yup, singing in a group

Since this is Emily's last year, next year I will have only two kids at co-op.

If you haven't found a suitable co-op in your area, starting one may be very rewarding!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Eve of NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow! Every year since 2009, which was my second year of participating, my kids have written novels during November.

When I talk about NaNoWriMo, I encourage EVERYONE to participate. You may have a novel inside you and not even know it. And don't even try to tell me that you don't have time. We can compare schedules. ::::grins::::

If your CHILD will be participating:
You, the parent, will sign up your child at  If you, for whatever reason, don't want to affiliate with NaNo's YWP, that's ok; you can be local participants only. Students choose their own word count goals on the YWP site. Here's a handy chart to help you choose: I actually recommend higher numbers than these, starting with 1000 words per grade level. So a 7th grader could aim for 7,000. 

This year, my kids have these word count goals
Emily (12th grade) - 50,000 - that's 1667 words per day
James (9th grade) - 25,000 - that's 834 words per day
Suzy (7th grade) - 7,000 - that's 233 words per day

ADULTS can write too!
Moms and Dads, you can sign up too. Go to the main NaNoWriMo website at and sign yourselves up!  Adults all aim for the 50K word count goal.

So, my own word count goal is 50,000. I will be writing a middle grades novel entitled Ebenezer McCracken and the Saga of the Sphinx.

Come on! You'll be really glad you did!

Many resources exist on the website. They have written novel-writing lesson plans and FREE workbooks for your students (and they are EXCELLENT) as free downloads. Very cool!

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month happens every November!

It is a fun, seat-of-your-pants novel writing event where the challenge is to write an entire novel in just 30 days. That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but our Young Writers Program allows participants who are 17 years old and younger to set reasonable, yet challenging, word-count goals.

The only thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: you will be writing a lot of strange stuff, and some of it will be just plain bad. But that's a good thing! For 30 days, you get to lock that inner editor in the basement, let your imagination take over, and just create!

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants of all ages are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel.

In 2013, over 300,000 adults participated through our main site, and nearly 90,000 young writers participated through the YWP.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Can't Imagine Homeschooling Without Our Co-op!

Another year at our homeschool co-op is underway. This is the eleventh year our family has done co-op and I have been on the leadership team the whole time. We really can't imagine our homeschool lives without co-op.

How is our co-op structured? Each child chooses 4 classes from several choices offered for each age group. We break for lunch partway through the day. This provides some downtime for the kids to interact (and the moms too!). We meet every other Friday 14 times between September and April and finish up with a program at the end of the year to show what we've been learning all year. You can check out our website at

This year's class choices are:
Suzy, age 12 (7th grade)
Creative Crafters - a craft class for ages 10-15
BFF Club - a chance for girls to get to know others and to plan activities for the group to participate in. Each girl will "host" a week.
Babysitting  - Red Cross babysitters training
Drawing Portraits - learning to draw portraits (DVD-based class)

Emily, age 17 (senior)
What's Next - Life skills training
Foundations Personal Finance - Dave Ramsey for teens
Literature - Mythology
Choir - yeah, singing

James, age 14 (9th grade)
Drafting - the basics of Drafting
K'Nex Bridge Bldg - physics and engineering using K'nex to build large bridges
Literature - Mythology
Personal Protection - self defense and fitness

Friday, October 3, 2014

We are NOT Hermits!

We have nothing on the calendar today because a field trip was canceled. Here's a conversation I had with my 14yo son.
James: We have nothing today?
Me: Well, we have lessons.
James: But we're not going out of the house today?
Me: No.
James: Oh my gosh, we're hermits!

As this post will tell you, we are quite a long way from being hermits. Now that our school year is under way, our routine is becoming second nature. Here's a glimpse at how our days (should) go.

I work 20 hours a week from home on the computer.
This is divided into 4 hours each day Monday through Friday, but I have the freedom to work whenever I want during each day. So, when you look at the below routine, you can imagine me shoving my 4 work hours into the "free" times. For example, while the kids are at karate, I bring my laptop and work from the karate school.

Our mornings usually follow a schedule like this:
6:00 AM - Mom gets up. Get ready for the day and work before the kids get up.
6:30 AM - Dad gets up
7:00 AM - Alarms go off for the kids. Get up, do chores, get ready.
7:30 AM - Dad leaves for work
9:00 AM - Lessons begin. The bulk of their work is done in the AM.
12:00 PM - Lunch and clean up kitchen.

I will note that the kids NEVER get up when their alarms go off. I am working on how to make that happen. Ideas welcomed. Keep in mind that I rarely go upstairs where their bedrooms are.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, we are generally home in the afternoons so the kids keep working on lessons or have free time. I am a paid supervising teacher at a homeschool partnership on Wednesday afternoons; the kids have stayed home on Wednesdays and done much the same as on Mondays and Tuesdays. James and Emily have just gotten a seasonal job that will probably keep them busy on  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons for a few weeks. Suzy went with me to work this week Wednesday and she will do that if the older kids are at work.

On Thursdays, I teach two writing classes and my kids are each in one of the classes. We leave at 10 AM and don't return home until dinnertime. One Thursday a month, I have scheduled as an off-day and we do not have writing class on those days. During the class they are not in, my kids work independently on assignments. After writing, they attend two karate classes - their own level and a lower level for review. We often stop at the store on Thursdays after karate.

Every other Friday is homeschool co-op, so on those days we are out of the house from 9 AM to 3 PM. On the off-Fridays, we often have a field trip or park day to choose from. Lessons for the week must be done, or they don't get to attend anything special on Friday (or the weekend, for that matter).

In the evenings, we have some commitments as well.
Monday night - karate class at 5:30 and sometimes a lower level class at 6:15
Wednesday night - James goes to Royal Rangers at 5:30 and youth group at 7:00. Emily goes to youth group at a different church at 6:15. (She has to be on track with her work in order to go.)
Friday evenings are usually work time for me, but often the kids have a friend over or make plans to go somewhere.
James and Emily have been learning to referee soccer games and those are usually on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings. They only can ref if we have no other commitments.

Emily goes to Teens for Christ two Saturdays a month and is gone from about noon to midnight.

I am trying to protect Tuesdays as our Stay Home Day and make no regular commitments on those days.

So, there you have it! The basics of our full lives!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Planning Time - Science

Science is the bane of my homeschool. I don't like science and I don't want to teach it. I also don't like how science is taught. (This is probably the reason I dislike the subject. I was public-schooled, you know.)

Emily doesn't have a science credit this year since she has nearly finished her three required science classes. She has a few experiments to finish from Chemistry that we have saved for her to do this fall.

Thankfully, I found The 101 Series. This is a DVD-based curriculum that gives a nice overview of the science topics for the non-science-oriented child. James will be doing Biology 101 this year since he is a freshman. I add a dissection lab to this curriculum to round out the content. (Anyone want to teach James dissection? I. Do. Not. Do. That.)

The structure I use for this curriculum is for the student to watch the DVD section of the current module and read the text pages.Suggested activities and readings are included with each module, so I usually assign some outside reading from the library and short reports to summarize the information. We complete most of the suggested activities and experiments. Sometimes a field trip is suggested. Once those activities are complete, I have the child re-watch the DVD lesson and re-read the lesson before taking the end-of-the-unit quiz.

Suzy will be doing some experiment and reading from the book Exploratopia. We are starting with some kitchen science experiments. She will be doing experiments twice a week and writing them up on the other days.

Planning Time - History

History is easy. It's just a story.

OK, it's a really long story with multiple settings and countless characters. But still a story.

We use The Mystery of History. We are nearly done with Volume 3.

We will push hard to finish Volume 4 this year so that Emily (my senior) will be able to finish it with us.

When starting Mystery of History all those years ago, I had it in mind to do the whole thing TWICE before David graduated. Well, the books didn't come out fast enough for that. We made do and used other resources.

Suzy and James will get to do all 4 volumes twice. That's the plan.

So, for this year, we will work hard the first three weeks to finish the last few lessons of Volume 3. Then we will try to keep up the pace the rest of the year. We don't do tests or worksheets for history. It's a story and so that's how we study it.

I like to reinforce the topics with videos and hands-on projects. We also work on a timeline to put everything in order.

Monday, September 1, 2014

We're still not starting school....

Most of Michigan's public schools begin the new school year tomorrow, Tuesday, September 2nd. Many of my homeschool friends are following suit.

We, on the other hand, won't start our 2014-15 lessons until next Monday, the 8th.

A friend asked me why and I gave her a couple of reasons, but as I thought about it, I realized I'd only given her part of the story.

Quite a few reasons figured into my decision to wait another week before hitting the books this fall.
1 - I hate starting on a  Tuesday. Mondays are my best "get school done" days.
2 - I have a work commitment this Wednesday and therefore will be out of the house most of that day. Great second day of school THAT would be.
3 - I have NO planning done yet. I mean that. None. So, I need this week to plan.
4 - We were originally thinking about going out of town this week - until I realized that A) I have to work on Wednesday and B) We had to buy a new alternator instead of a vacation.
5 - My summer hasn't been long enough! And now we have some nice weather! I don't WANNA sit inside.
6 - And last, the public schoolers are starting, but that's no reason for us to copy their schedule. I don't copy their snow days, government holidays, or end of school schedule, so I don't need to worry about when the first day of public school is either.

So, this week will involve lots of lesson plans. I hope to post some of that!

And best wishes to all those starting their lessons on September 2nd. I'll think of you! :-)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Best Writing Curriculum Ever!

I've done a lot of research into language arts and writing curricula and the best I've found is IEW. I tried substitutes and I've tested other approaches, but I return to IEW over and over.

Why did I choose IEW curriculum? IEW, or Institute for Excellence in Writing, is a very thorough and effective program that yields excellent measurable results. However, the learning curve for the instructor is steep so many homeschool moms find it difficult to integrate into their homeschool routines. 

This year I am again teaching composition classes for high school and middle school and I am using IEW curriculum. (Sadly, there doesn't seem to be local interest in an elementary level class.) Offering these classes to homeschoolers means that I can provide quality writing instruction to students in a group setting. Parents can be assured they will progress steadily toward excellence in writing without the pressure of learning how to teach this system.

When you have this, you can learn from the master himself - Andrew Pudewa. Prepare yourself to be overwhelmed and confused at first. I viewed the TWSS twice and taught David and Emily the SWI-B (Student Writing Intensive) before I felt really confident about teaching these concepts.

However, some moms don't have the advantage of a local class. So, what do they need to do? Well, if you're serious about teaching writing with this method, I'd suggest getting the Teaching Writing with Structure and Style (TWSS) DVD set from IEW. Yes, it's expensive. I went in with a group of friends and we purchased it together. 

My classes are using the Thematic books from IEW this year. The middle schoolers will be using the Ancient History-based theme book and the high school group will be working through the Character-based theme book. Last year my middle school group completed the Following Narnia theme book which turned out to be a valuable experience. These books are only suitable for use by instructors who already know the IEW system well. 

Parents can skip the learning curve by choosing the SWI courses. These DVD-based courses allow your children to learn from Andrew Pudewa and work through exercises in the corresponding work binder. I would recommend watching the DVD along with your children so you understand how to complete the assignments.

If you want help choosing IEW curriculum for your family, IEW has a helpful tool on their website HERE.

Students who learn to write with IEW gain confidence and skill and become excellent writers. I recommend starting now!

Friday, August 29, 2014

No Fall Sports (this year anyway)

David at about age 8 in 2003
For the first time in thirteen years, no one in this house is playing soccer this fall.

We've been a soccer family since my oldest child David was about six years old. (He's almost 20 now.)

Some years we'd have four soccer games on a Saturday morning, often in different locations. We've sat through hot sunny games, cold rainy games, even games that we huddled under blankets in our winter coats.

Emily after a muddy game in 2011
at age 14
We've picked up colorful new uniforms and passed down old soccer cleats. We've looked for sales on Capri Sun and made last minute runs to the grocery store on game day when we forgot it was our turn for snacks. We've juggled practice schedules and decided if Mom or Dad would go to the games.

We've kept camp chairs and blankets and spare shinguards in the car. We've stocked up on water bottles. We've figured out which long sleeved shirts work best under this season's jerseys.

But not this fall.

This fall we are taking a break from soccer so that the kids can concentrate on training for their black belt in Tang Soo Do karate.
Suzy in 2007 at age 5

The three kids still at home (ages 12, 14, and 17) are planning to test for black belt in February. They need to attend more karate classes at their PKSA school. I need to make sure they practice regularly at home.

James in 2010 at age 10
So we made the tough decision to say "no" to soccer or any other fall sports. That choice was especially hard on Suzy, the youngest, because she adores soccer and also because she has had fewer years of play than the others. She also is considering how to fit volleyball into her life and that's also a fall sport. So, there was no volleyball this year and her best friend is playing volleyball.

But it's just one season. By next spring, they will hopefully have reached their martial arts goal and will be free once again to play soccer.

And once again I'll be shivering on chilly fall mornings. I'll make sure to pack my blanket.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

"You're writing a book? How cool!"

That's what people often say when they find out (usually during National Novel Writing Month) that I am working on a novel. Then they often ask something about how it's done.

"When do you find the time?"
"How long does it take?"
"Where do you get your ideas?"
"Isn't it hard?"

When I was invited to participate in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by my friend Kaye Sims at Wondering as I Wander, I thought it was a valuable opportunity for me to sit down and think through some of those questions. During NaNoWriMo, I'm usually too busy frantically typing to make my word count to give the process much thought. By the way, I met Kaye via mutual friends on facebook when I noticed she also was writing for NaNoWriMo. She inspires me with her commitment to writing and simplicity as well as her willingness to go deeper spiritually. Thank you, Kaye, for this opportunity for some self-reflection and connection to the community of writers. 

So, Question #1 - What am I working on?
The bulk of my writing is done during the month of November, the aforementioned National Novel Writing Month. During the rest of the year, I blog, sometimes regularly, sometimes occasionally, and think hard about finding time to edit. 

My book club guide to the works of Jane Austen is in the editing stage and that's the project that is most likely to surface first from the murky recesses of my computer files. I'd also love to find some time to finish the weird sci-fi novel I attempted during NaNoWriMo 2013. 

Question #2 is 'How does my work differ from others of its genre?'
Focusing specifically on my Austen book club guide, my goal was to give the reader the sense of actually being at our book club. Since most of you have not been there, you wouldn't know that it's slightly irreverent, yet serious in our discussion of the classic books we read. 

We are not the kind of book club that just meets to drink wine and giggle, though we often do both of those things. We nearly always choose books that have modern film adaptations because we are very visual and we watch the films together. However, we chat through every movie, commenting on everything that strikes us funny or philosophical. 

So, I wanted to give my book club guide that same lighthearted feel but still be able to discuss the deeper questions that Austen's books raise in the modern reader. I haven't found any other discussion guide with the same goal.

My fiction work is much more earnest, I think. I'm not a dystopian or ironic sort of author. I don't think my fiction differs much from other books in the genre, but that's not necessarily a disadvantage. Readers who choose a genre often do so for some commonality between authors and works.

The #3 question asks, "Why do I write what I do?"
I'd like to give some really artsy answer here about how the story would burn in my soul if I didn't tell it. The truth is much more practical though. I'm not artsy. I don't have a story burning a hole in my soul.

I would like to make a living as an author. If that's too prosaic and practical for you, I guess I'm not your kind of writer. However, I think there is room in the world for writers of all proclivities and preferences, and I tend to be more common sense than romantic. 

But I have found that I absolutely adore creating a fictional world. The characters come alive, though they do not always do what I tell them. The story leads somewhere and I'm not always leading it! 

And I am in love with words. Selecting the perfect word is a process I enjoy. My weighty Roget's thesaurus containing 330,000+ words is my trusty companion.

The last question for this tour is #4 - How does my writing process work? Since NaNoWriMo is my normal writing environment, VOLUME is the key. 50,000 words in a month boils down to 1667 words per day. My process in November is to write as many words as I can in a sitting. I write fast and don't let the blank page bother me. At least not bother me much.

I like to do a lot of research, but NaNoWriMo isn't very conducive to that, at least not while I'm working a job other than my writing. So, either I try to do some research before the writing begins, or I write about something that doesn't require much research - a modern-day story or, as I tried this year for the first time ever, a science-fiction story.

Planning or outlining the story ahead of time is something I've done on a couple of occasions, but more often I've flown by the seat of my pants. Since my days are full without even considering any writing time, planning is a luxury that I haven't allowed myself to indulge in much. Perhaps my writing would improve or my stories would be easier to finish if I did more of it. Something to experiment with, I suppose!

Maybe you are wishing for many more details about how I actually write. But I doubt it. I will attempt to do more blog posts in the future about the nitty-gritty, but for now, I'll bring that to a close.

And now I would like to introduce three of my writing friends, C. Gockel, Andrea Miles, and Gina Lawton. Within the next few days, each will be posting their answers to the writing process questions. I can't wait to hear what each has to share! 

C. Gockel writes a series of books that I've much enjoyed and I'm so thrilled she's agreed to participate in this blog tour. I found her books due to my not-so-hidden Loki obsession and have enjoyed each one thoroughly. I highly recommend you download I Bring The Fire: Part I Wolves and immerse yourself in her mix of modern Earth and Asgard. (I see that Part 1 is free to download on Kindle today, so you've got nothing to lose!)
C. Gockel got her start writing fanfiction, and she is not ashamed! Much. She received emails, messages and reviews from her fans telling her she should 'do this professionally'. She didn't; because she is a coward and life as a digital designer, copywriter and coder is more dependable. But in the end, her husband's nagging wore her down: "You could be the next '50 Shades of Gray' and I could retire!" Unfortunately, the author isn't much for writing smut. She is sad about this; she'd love for her husband to be able to retire and just work for her so she could nag him.
At the moment, Ms. Gockel is working on the next installment of "I Bring the Fire".
Ms. Gockel loves to hear from readers. She can be reached by email at: cgockel -dot- publishing -at - gmail -dot- com
Her Facebook page is:

My next writing friend, Andrea Miles, is a fellow homeschooling mom whose first book, Trespassers, is coming out later this year. I look forward to reading it! I found Andrea on Twitter (or maybe she found me?) and have enjoyed her tweets.

Andrea Miles earned her Masters of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Originally from Pocomoke, Maryland, she currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and three children. Her first novel, Trespassers, is forthcoming this October from She Writes Press. Visit her website ( or find her on FB (

Gina Lawton has been my friend in real life for many years and she always inspires me - in writing, in education, in learning, in food (!), and in following Christ with a whole heart. Her blog is always thoughtful and sincere, going deeper than the shallow obscurity of so many blogs that I've clicked through.

Gina Lawton is a Mom, wife, wanderer, connoisseur of the "finer" things in life, writer, photographer and always looking for what comes next ...You can find her blog here:

I'd also like to give a shout out to a writer I follow on Twitter who has been very inspiring to me - Nat Russo. His tweets pour forth every day bringing writing tips, ideas, and practical information. His first book is Necromancer Awakening: Book One of The Mukhtaar Chronicles. I saw that Nat had also participated in this blog tour so here is a link to his post: HERE

Thank you for reading, everyone! Please visit my friends' blogs. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour Coming Up!

I've been asked to participate in a blog tour detailing the writing process from the perspectives of many different authors. So, be on the lookout this week for a post from me with all my writing secrets!

OK, maybe not "secrets". Ha!

I also will be announcing several writers who will be also be posting on their blogs to give you even more insight into how authors work. What fun!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Open Letter to Linda Lacour Hobar on the Authorship of Shakespeare's Works

Dear Linda Lacour Hobar,

I've committed to your history series, The Mystery of History for a number of years now. I've considered it to be strong and well-researched until this week. We have eagerly awaited each new volume and are in the last half of the third book now.

Imagine my distress when I was blithely reading Lesson 49 aloud to my kids when - lo and behold - I realize that you promote the delusional theory that William Shakespeare did not write the plays attributed to him. I was annoyed and shocked and inserted my own disclaimers to my children about your unproven views.

Instead of titling the lesson "William Shakespeare" or "William Shakespeare: The World's Greatest Playwright," you chose to give it the ambiguous title, "The Works of William Shakespeare." Other lessons are titled "Michelangelo," "Erasmus Writes In Praise of Folly," or "William Tyndale: Father of the English Bible." But your skepticism regarding poor maligned Shakespeare is already reflected in the title of the lesson.

You nominally give him credit at the beginning of the lesson by stating that he "is considered England's greatest poet and playwright [emphasis mine]," but then you go on to describe several theories as "worthy of our consideration." Just because there are people who believe that Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, or Edward de Vere was the actual author of Shakespeare's plays, this should not be the focus of your only lesson on Shakespeare. You call the evidence for de Vere "convincing" and blame "fans" of Shakespeare for not agreeing with the "ghostwriter" theory. And Marlowe? For heaven's sake, Marlowe was DEAD and could not have written the bulk of the Shakespearean canon. But you give credence to the fantastical theory that perhaps he was secretly kept alive in a "witness-protection plan" and therefore was able to publish his works and attribute them to Shakespeare. This is fiction, pure and simple, and does not belong in a history book.

In the five pages devoted to Shakespeare, just five short paragraphs describe his life, but a page and a half are given to detailing the various conspiracy theories about the authorship of his writings. The remainder of the lesson focuses, as it should, on the genius of the writing. However, you ruin it over and over with phrases such as:

  • "I will use the name of William Shakespeare to refer to whoever it was that wrote his works."
  • "the vast works attributed to William Shakespeare"
  • "whoever it was was that wrote the works of William Shakespeare"

Linda, you must give up the delusion that anyone besides William Shakespeare authored his own plays. If you feel that you must address the controversy, I think a simple sentence stating that "some believe that Shakespeare was not educated enough, but..." would be adequate for the needs of elementary and middle school students. It is irresponsible to plant these seeds of doubt in such young children. I hope that truth will be reflected in future editions of The Mystery of History Volume 3.

The Guardian provides a helpful article about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tweets from Day Three of Convention

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tweets from Day Two of Convention

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tweets from Day One of Convention

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Best Convention Ever!

Back from the best homeschool convention weekend I have ever attended. I went with three fun ladies and stayed three nights. We had delicious eats, amusing conversations (as well as deep), and browsed the vendor hall. But most of my time was spent in 13 valuable seminars. I must be getting better at choosing my workshops or maybe the caliber of speakers was just very high, but I didn't have any duds at all.

Without further ado, here is the list of workshops I chose.


  1. Why Do We Read These Old Dead Guys - Really? - Robin Finley of Analytical Grammar
  2. Raising a Worldview Detective: Three Steps to Thinking Critically About Books, Movies, and More - Adam Andrews of The Center for Literary Education


  1. How to Tell (or Write) a Story - Jim Weiss of Greathall Productions
  2. What's Your Next Step? - Jonathan Brush of College Plus
  3. Improve Attitudes, Learning, and Relationships By Discovering Roots of Problems - Dr. Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids
  4. Les Miserables vs. Shrek: What do Traditional Stories Do that Modern Ones Can't? - Martin Cothran of Memoria Press
  5. Shakespeare! - Jim Weiss of Greathall Productions
  6. Burning Out: Why it Happens and What to Do About It - Dr. Susan Wise Bauer of Peace Hill Press
  7. Education in an Hour: Teaching Life's Most Crucial Lesson in One Sitting - Adam Andrews of The Center for Literary Education


  1. Ten Dumb Things Teenage Writers Do and How To Avoid Them - Brian Wasko of WriteAtHome
  2. A Busy Mom's Guide to Daylight: Tick Tock! - Heidi St. John of The Busy Mom
  3. Control Screens/Social Media So They Don't Control Your Family - Kirk Martin of Celebrate Calm
  4. From Atheist to Apologist: Lessons from C.S. Lewis, the Great Christian Storyteller - Stacy Farrell of Home School Adventure Co.

I will be posting my notes and reactions to these seminars over the next few weeks. I hope you'll check back and glean some information from what I share.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Day in the Life: In Which I Explain Our Hectic Schedule

Since reading a friend's recent “Day in the Life” post, I've wanted to write an updated one. I reposted our “Day in the Life” from 2006 a few weeks ago, but I've been waiting for a “normal” day around here for weeks! Blizzards, sickness, and a crazy schedule have interfered until now, but this Monday will be as normal as it gets around here, even if it is Saint Patrick's Day!

Warning! Extremely long post ahead!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Early Morning: In Which The Day Gets Underway
The night hasn't been very restful, as I awakened at 3 AM or so and then again at 5 AM or so for no good reason. But I woke up before the alarm, at 6:15. I did some stretching in bed, then laid back down until after my husband got up at 6:30. I finally roll out of bed at 6:50. The house feels toasty warm by now, but the temperature shows only about 6 degrees outside.

Between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, I spend some quiet time snuggled into my cozy robe in the recliner, my favorite coffee mug in one hand and my phone in the other, getting caught up on Facebook. I pray with Bob before he leaves for work and then sort the laundry from Saturday for the kids to fold when they get up. Next I power up the Kindle to do my devotional reading and also read a chapter of a book on e-book marketing.

Our fourteen-year-old son James gets up earlier than normal, probably around 7:15. Bob calls Emily down several times since she needs to catch up on her missed schoolwork from last week, but the seventeen-year-old does not emerge. Suzy, age 11, turns up MUCH earlier than normal, around 7:45. Finally Emily patters down the stairs. The kids make some headway on their chores and get their own breakfast, usually just cereal. Sun streams in the windows which makes it easier to be productive.

Around 8:00, I throw in a load of laundry, then I change into workout clothes. I hop on the treadmill at 8:20 and walk while watching Raising Hope on Netflix. I have been seeking shows that are 22 minutes long since that's how long I want to walk. I am attempting to get back to running someday soon. A quick shower follows the workout.

Morning: In Which We Begin Formal Learning
We are supposed to start lessons at 9, but no one is going to be ready right on the hour. We are close today though! So, I pour another cup of coffee with French vanilla creamer and gobble a bowl of yogurt and Kashi. Time to corral the kids for the beginning of lessons.

Only ten minutes late! We start our Bible lesson by singing two hymns a capella: Stand up Stand Up for Jesus and Rescue the Perishing. I read a devotional and short prayer from Powerful Prayers for Your Family by David and Heather Kopp, and then we move into our prayer time, round robin style. Next is a lesson from Character Building for Families (volume 1 by Lee Ann Rubsam). The topic is cheerfulness illustrated with examples of Joseph and Samuel. To round out the Bible time, I read aloud a short chapter from Don't Check Your Brain at the Door by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler which refutes myths many believe about Jesus and the Bible.

A short aside here to note that, today, attitudes are bad. We have a card system for discipline and a couple children have already lost the bulk of their cards. I am determined to stick to it for the long haul, though, knowing the rewards will be worthwhile. (Note: both Tuesday and Wednesday's attitudes have been MUCH improved.)

While I have the kids all at the table, we cover the subjects that concern all of them. So, first we review some Korean karate terms and information for their written black belt test. Another subject we do all together is penmanship. This year we have focused on handwriting. Today's cursive page bothers them because, for the first time, there is no cursive model on the page for them to follow. They have to look at printed text, remember the cursive letters, and write them. This challenges them and there is some initial opposition. (Yes, I know that all my kids really should know cursive by now, but I recently realized that none of them know it well – too much typing, I guess! So this year's study is intended to rectify that.)

Next on the agenda is to check over last week's work to see if there are any incomplete assignments. Usually we do this on Thursday or Friday, but we neglected it last week. I don't like starting a week with last week's work, but sometimes it happens. Suzy knows what she needs to work on from last week. James has Logic lessons to finish and Emily has research and some reading journal entries to write.

Now is the time when Emily usually heads off for some independent work time. I review with her the manner in which she should be completing her reading journal and send her to the living room to finish it. While she is doing that, I read the next history lesson to James and Suzy from Mystery of History 3. The topic? John Knox and the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. While I do that, Suzy colors a page from her famous landmarks coloring book. She usually tries to find one with a corresponding location to our lesson, so today she colors the Highland mountains.
Doing independent work

After the history lesson, I tell Emily to stop journaling and get on with her research. She is writing a research paper on Michigan's role in the Underground Railroad, but she is clueless as to how to accomplish the research. This task requires a lot of abilities that she struggles with – time management, skimming and scanning, choosing information, higher level thinking skills. She is way behind on the research for this assignment, mostly because she really doesn't know how to manage it, or even how to know what information to locate. Something else she needs to learn is to ask for help when she doesn't understand. I can't help her right this minute though, so I tell her to find her thesis statement and review it.

James needs some help with his logic lesson from Introductory Logic from Mars Hill (Canon Press), so I sit with him and explain the concepts while he does his incomplete exercises. During this time, Suzy does her art lesson – watercolor on a wet outline design from The Usborne Book of Art Ideas.

After they are finished, I quiz first James then Suzy on their spelling words from Spelling Power. After the quiz, each one goes off to practice their words and write sentences.

Somewhere in there I ate a muffin with butter and raspberry jam and got the last half cup of coffee. Today might be a day where I wish I had more coffee.

Now I have a bit of time to work with Emily on her research question. We do a rough outline of her topics and I reiterate how she should take notes. Then I move her to the table with her materials and set her to taking notes.

While she is doing this, James is working on his German lesson. He is using the free service at Duolingo and he NEVER complains about doing it. He seems to be making satisfactory progress.

Suzy has disappeared upstairs. I wonder what she's doing up there. But I realize the kids might want clean uniforms for the karate promotion this afternoon so I move the wet load to the dryer and wash the doboks (Korean for uniform). I do my hair and makeup. Suzy comes back down and tells me my hair looks pretty. :-) Then she does 20 minutes of math on Khan Academy.

Afternoon: In Which We Work Independently
I get myself some leftovers for lunch and instruct the kids to feed themselves from Leftovers Only today. Usually they are allowed to make their own lunches, but the leftovers are taking over!

At 12:15 or so, I sit down to work on my paid work hours. We have to leave in a couple of hours, so I want to get as much done as I can before we leave. Suzy is doing the dishes. She knows it's her job and she whines about the amount of dishes (which truly is quite a lot) but she does them without any prompting.

After about half an hour, I think about the wet uniforms and go transfer them to the dryer, hoping it won't shut off unexpectedly as it has a tendency to do. When I sit back down, I have received an email about our possible roof loan, and so I look up some numbers to answer the email.

After a few minutes, I have to confiscate James' phone because he is playing a game instead of doing his schoolwork. He moves on to reading A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I set Emily another goal for her research note taking. Suzy is still doing dishes which seems like it's taking a long time though possibly she has done some other things in there too.

Suzy finishes the dishes at 1:13 and I hear her run upstairs. After a couple of minutes, I inquire as to her next activity and get her started on her Teaching Textbooks 6 math. I plug in headphones and attempt to do an hour of concentrated effort on my work. I am listening to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

After about half an hour, James brings me his answers for the first chapter in A Study in Scarlet. We discuss them briefly and then I go over the instructions for the paragraph I want him to write as a response to the reading. He heads off but returns shortly, complaining loudly about the IEW requirements of the paragraph I have assigned. I am firm and send him off with many admonitions for silence.

At 2:00 Suzy reminds her brother and sister to get their uniforms on. I am still attempting to work.

Mid-Afternoon: In Which We Leave The House
At 2:25, we leave for our 3:00 karate class. We recently bought a “new” van with a CD player. After a more than a year without one in the car, we are appreciating having that convenience again. Sometimes we listen to educational CDs, but lately we have been listening to the soundtrack of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which everyone enjoys.
Red 2 Gold:
less than a year to Black Belt!

We arrive at karate a few minutes early and my oldest child is already there. YAY! I love to see him. David is 19 and in his first year of college about 45 minutes away. He lives on campus, so we mainly see him at karate class. Today all my kids are being promoted to Red 2 Gold level. I dropped out of karate 3 months ago, so this is the first promotion I have not participated in. I don't feel sad though.

While the kids are in class, I work for about 35 minutes. (Thankfully the karate studio, or dojang, has wi-fi.) David leaves a bit early, giving me a hug and a kiss before he goes. This is exam week for him – the last week of term 2 - so he will be home on Friday for a couple weeks of break.

After class, we run next door to the shoe store. Suzy is in need of some new athletic shoes since she has none that fit that are also suitable for volleyball. She finds some she likes very quickly which is a miracle, made even more miraculous by the fact that I can afford them.

We head out to meet my husband. He is off 1 hour early today to go to a 5:00 doctor appointment. The timing worked out well for him to take the older two kids home on his way. Otherwise they would have to stay in town with me because Suzy has her first volleyball practice tonight.

Evening: In Which One of Us Plays Volleyball
Sitting in McD
Suzy and I head back to town to sit at McDonald's to eat dinner and finish the last 90 minutes of my work hours. The internet is SO SLOW at McDonald's that it's driving me nuts and ruining my rate per hour. Some teenage girls giggle madly for a long time in the corner booth. V. distracting. (At home, James heats up some more leftovers for dinner.)

While I work, Suzy does a few of her assignments. She writes 6 sentences about the chapter she read in Stuart Little. She types them on my phone since she forgot to bring any paper. She also does 10 minutes on the DragonBox algebra app. Last she completes a speed reading exercise from an A Beka speed and comprehension book. (One of the few things I like from A Beka)

Suzy (pink shirt, NEW blue shoes)
with her gr 4-6 team
After my work hours are complete, we head over to the school where practice is being held. We are a few minutes early. Suzy has been here before, but I have not. This attractive middle school has a roomy pleasant gym with a glossy floor, currently occupied with lots of kids working on volleyball skills. Suzy's practice isn't until 7, so we go back out in the hall. She bounces the ball around while I play on my phone. After a while, Suzy's best friend and teammate arrives. Her mom is my good friend and she and I chat for a while before she heads out. I settle in to watch practice and to read on the Kindle app on my phone.

Practice ends at 8:00. A couple of my friends have arrived with their older girls for their 8:00 practice. I chat with them for a few minutes then head out with Suzy. On the drive home, with Joseph on the CD player, Suzy falls asleep. Long long day for her!
Volleyball drills

A quick stop at the post office is the last thing for us before we arrive home. We don't have mail delivery in our small village, so a stop at the post office is nearly a daily occurrence.

When we get home, I gently poke Suzy awake. Inside, Emily is working on her research and James is napping on my bed. They both have accomplished some of their lessons while they were home alone. The internet is out again, which is annoying. These outages have become more and more frequent over the last few days. I fiddle with the modem and after a while it comes on, but it is intermittent all evening. Hopefully when our new modem arrives, the problems will be resolved.

Nighttime: In Which We Begin to Fall Asleep
Suzy's bedtime is 9:30, so I send her off, then realize Emily is not accomplishing much in the way of research. I redirect her to do her free reading for 30 minutes and then journal writing for 5 minutes, so at least she can mark SOMETHING off her list.
Being Silly with James

At around 10:00, I tell Emily to shower and go to bed. James is supposed to go to bed too, but he bribes me by rubbing my neck, which has been bothering me all day. The internet has come back on so I watch Merlin on Netflix. The internet cuts out several times during the show. Annoying. After the show, I send James to bed and watch one more show by myself – Last Man Standing. By this time, it's 11:15 and I am exhausted, so I go to bed.

The Overview: In Which I Analyze the Day
Yes, this really is an average “good day” in our home education. We started fairly close to 'on time'. I spent the morning working with the kids and got my work hours done by early evening. We often have afternoon or evening activities, so that part is normal. The attitudes were a bit worse today than average. I know this can be solved with consistency.

One thing I really need to work on with these kids is QUIET WORK TIME. Each one feels perfectly entitled to talk aloud or make noise at any time of the day. James really has been loud since the day he was born. When he was a baby, I had to change my style of homeschooling because his noises were such an disruption. I could not read aloud. He continues to be a loud kid. Now that he's 14, I think we can reasonably expect him to know when it is okay to be loud and when it is unacceptable. I don't mean to single James out. All of us, including me, can work on this.

If you made it to the end of our very long day, I congratulate you! Any questions?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

She knows I like blue....

Suzy (age 11) painted watercolors on wet paper yesterday as part of her art lesson. She and I both selected some lessons from The Usborne Book of Art Ideas and she has been completing one per week.

This lovely piece of art was waiting on my desk after she had gone to bed last night.

In case you can't read it, the words say: for Mom Because of the Blue. I ♥ U.

I ♥ her too!