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!