August 8, 2020

If you are a new homeschooler, welcome to the adventure!

It's August and schools are grappling with the question of starting the year with remote learning, face to face learning, or a mixture of the two. 

If you've decided to homeschool, taking on the responsibility of educating your children yourself, I hope you find my blog useful. I wrote this while I was homeschooling my three. Our homeschool existed from 1994-2012, so a lot of it was pre-internet. We also had very little money. And we had great results. All three graduated from college and are living happy lives. What more could a parent want?

Please fell free to comment or contact me with any question you might have. Welcome to the adventure! 

September 10, 2014

The Joy of Childhood and the Joy of Learning

Melissa posted this on Facebook today and I wanted to post it here as a reminder that when we homeschool, we have to keep the big picture in mind. What do you want your kids to say when they look back? My guiding principle was to "maintain the joy childhood and the joy of learning." She's 20 years old now:

A lot of Facebook posts are about how being a grown-up sucks, or how we all rushed to grow up and now regret it, etc. I feel very fortunate to say that I don't regret the pace at which I grew up, or feel like I missed out on anything. Quick shout out to my mom for homeschooling me, because I was able to explore the world and be a kid while everyone else was stuck in a classroom. So thanks ma, because of you I will forever be a kid and have an INSANE love of learning.

March 16, 2014

Peter in Corporate America

Peter and Missa last summer
My previous posts have been about my two girls, so now it's Peter's turn.

Now that my kids are adults, I don't want to write too much about their lives because, well, it's their lives and privacy matters. But Peter is cool with me talking about his homeschooling experience and how it has influenced his life out in the "real world."

He graduated from college in 2012 and spent his first year working at a job that paid the bills but was not what he wanted long-term. During that year, he taught himself computer programming, volunteered evenings at a small company to gain experience, and started interviewing for software development jobs. As it turns out, in this tech hungry world, you don't need a degree in computer science to land a job in the field, you just need to show you have what it takes.

After a few interviews last summer, one company offered him an incredible opportunity in downtown Chicago and he has been working there ever since. All I can say is WOW. Wow, Peter, wow.

He says being an unschooler has been his advantage. He learned how to learn, how to go after something from nothing and build it. He was tired of college telling him what to read and what to study. When he was free, he set his sights on a new career, researched what he needed to do and did it.

He has met one other unschooler at his new job, and this guy is not so positive about his experiences at home. Peter thinks it's because he didn't have as many chances to get out and explore like we did. I thought that was interesting. It is true, successful unschooling needs opportunities.

Imagine a child sitting in an empty room. There isn't much to explore or learn there, even though he is innately curious and intelligent. He needs a library and the whole outside world to explore and find what he loves. Then he needs experts to advise and teach what else he needs to know to build on the knowledge he has to keep growing and creating.

So, as moms at home, still in the middle of homeschooling, let me encourage you to relax as you watch and listen to your children. Take them to new places and see how they respond. Ask them what they wish they could do. Help them become their best selves. Let them become experts at what they love and to enter adulthood with a love for the process. This will increase everyone's joy (believe me!) and carry your children into the future with the confidence and skills they need to succeed.

For you moms with techie kids, Peter started here in learning programming: (Peter did the free version)

He says, "They work well together, so I recommend starting both of them and switching back and forth whenever you start to get frustrated/bored/confused." Spoken like a true unschooler.

February 4, 2014

Meg in Art School

Meg went to India the year she would have been a junior in college. When she came back, she realized she wanted to be an art student, and perhaps, eventually an art therapist. She had been in Family and Consumer Sciences, so that, along with psychology, are her minors.

She just loves art classes. It's a dream come true.

She drew this man from a picture. You can see a bit of the original taped to the side. Her skills have taken off with just a little bit of training. Drawing is relaxing and invigorating for her. She is happier than I have seen her in a long time.

January 20, 2014

One of my children is gay.

We parents love our children. No, we fall in love with them. From the moment they are born, we marvel at their tiny fingers and notice each new development as if it were a miracle. Sitting up, crawling, talking, walking, running, riding a bike, reading...all these things filled me with awe as I watched my children and helped them develop their talents.

One thing I didn't notice about one of my children was that she is gay. I didn't live in a world where gay people existed. I didn't know a single openly gay person, and I didn't think it was possible to be born gay.

But one day, when she was 18 years old and we were dropping her off at college, Missa asked to go on a walk and talk. She said she had been praying and trying not to be gay, but finally felt peace that it was OK. God still loved her and in fact, He had made her this way.

I hugged her and told her I didn't understand, but I wanted to learn, and I was happy that she still loved God and wanted to continue her relationship with Him.

I spent the next year in silence. I didn't tell a soul about this. Missa and I stayed close, texting almost everyday, and weekend visits were frequent, but we didn't talk about this part of her life. I was in shock. I was processing. I was hoping it would go away. She was very patient and kind to me.

After one year away, she moved back to our hometown and started going to college here. I continued to stay silent until I found a book that helped me tremendously. It's called Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christians Debate, by Justin Lee. His background and experiences were so similar to Missa's that I finally understood. My view on this topic has completely changed. I now see how a person can be gay and a Christian and that my views of the Bible passages were wrong.

Many people say it takes knowing a gay person to help us confront our long-held opinions. That's what happened to me. I never had to think about this issue because it wasn't part of my life. Little did I know I was raising a gentle, thoughtful, talented gay individual.

Missa has started a blog of her own, talking about her struggles to reconcile her faith and the reality of being gay, what she went through before she came out to us, and what she thinks now.  

I could kick myself for being so blind and so lazy, for not studying this issue for myself, and for using pat answers. She forgives me and we are still best friends.

For you parents NOT stuck in the mud on this issue, yay for you!! I don't talk about my faith much on this blog, but it's the main reason I didn't know what to do when Missa came out.  

I found these realizations to be the most helpful for me as I emerged from my year of silence:

1. People are born with a certain sexual orientation.
2. Homosexuality is not contagious or learned.
3. The Bible verses that seem to condemn homosexuality are not as clear as I had believed. Studying for myself using the tools on was very eye-opening.

If your kids are "testing the waters" by asking questions and they sense you are against homosexuality, they might retreat from you and have to handle this on their own. To be preemptive, read Torn, do your own Bible study, listen to your kids, and don't be afraid.

Another mom's story  
The Gay/Christian Network
Essay: A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On
Video: The Bible and Homosexuality by Matthew Vines 
Book: Bible, Gender, and Sexuality by James V. Brownson

October 8, 2013

To New Homeschoolers from an Old Timer

Suzy Homeschooler recently sent me some interview questions. I had a great time thinking through this stuff.

Here are the questions:

1- First tell us a bit about your yourself and your family. [For example:] How many years have you homeschooled? How many children do you have and what ages are they? How would you classify your teaching style? Has it changed since you first started homeschooling?
2- Despite its rising popularity, homeschoolers are still in the minority. How did you respond if/when family, friends, or even complete strangers would make negative comments?
3- Stay at home moms, both homeschooling and not, often feel lonely and isolated due to the long hours spent alone with small children. Did you ever struggle with this? And if so, what helped you through it the most?
4- As moms we wear many hats and homeschooling is a very time consuming matter. Did you ever struggle to take your "teacher hat" off and reconnect with your children or your husband or even yourself- away from homeschooling? What advice, if any, would you give to women regarding this balance?
5- During the difficult times in one's life, it can be easy to focus on the current situation rather than on the bigger picture. Many homeschooling moms feel defeated after a bad day. Looking back on your years homeschooing, was it worth it?
6- If you could say only one sentence to a new homeschooling mom, what would that sentence be?

July 14, 2013

The Parent's Role in Interest-Led Learning

I like to call our years of homeschooling "interest-led" because the curriculum was driven by what interested the kids. We didn't replicate a classroom in our living room, we just lived a life full of outings, books, and projects. If someone wanted to learn more or become an expert, we encouraged it! We provided the materials and resources to go as deeply as that child desired. Of course, there was the time Meg really wanted a pony, but our city backyard and tiny budget said no. These things happen.

Our homeschool was child-centered, but not Lord of the Flies. Mom and Dad ran the house, made sure the necessities of life were fulfilled (finish your to-do list) and provided the opportunities to discover interests. We loved to watch our kids in a new experience. Did they love it or hate it? Did they show aptitude or frustration?

I'll never forget Meg at the age of 10 with a paintbrush in hand, painting delicate roses, saying dreamily, "I feel like I'm in another world." I knew this was something she was born to do and that meant doing what we could to help her excel. Drawing kept her sane during her nine months in India, and this fall she starts classes for an art therapy major in college.

As we provided opportunities, we also did a little nudging. I kept a copy of The Core Knowledge Sequence to remind myself of topics to explore. I'd find colorful books at the library and stage them around the house, sort of like baiting the hook to see if they'd bite. At other times I was much more direct and held "classes," which they loved, because you see, being in class was novel, something they didn't do every day.

I also read to them everyday, usually at bedtime. My favorite tactic was to read historical fiction. Not only were they getting a good story, they were learning about famous people and time periods that would stick in their minds. I even attached a long strip of computer paper around the room to place people and events on a timeline.

During junior high and high school, I suggested we volunteer at a local historical site, complete with costumes and training in period skills. To them it was a fun family activity, a chance to dress up and pretend, but I knew they were learning how to be self-sufficient, how to cook over an open fire, and how to relate to an important time in American history. Eventually, Peter decided he really didn't like it, so he stopped. Missa was a little too young to participate on her own, but Meg loved it. She continued long after the rest of us lost interest.

That's the key. Provide the opportunity and let them stop and move on when they are ready, or let them dive in deeply. 

Children learn best when they are motivated from the inside, but unless we provide the experiences and the subject matter, they might never know what they love! And from that foundation of internal motivation, they can learn all they need to succeed.

February 12, 2013

What Really Matters in Homeschooling

If I had to boil home education down to just one necessity, it would be this: impart a love for learning. Think about it. If you love to do something, you give it a lot of time and you get pretty good at it. If our kids love learning, all we need to do is stand back and watch them go. Of course we need to be there to coach and encourage, but overall, the internal motivation fuels the learning. And when kids are doing what they love, they are happy and easier to live with too.

The key is to keep learning from being a chore. If you notice that your kids are starting to whine about your curriculum or a certain activity, change it. Find a different way to get that information across, or leave it for another day. Be willing to listen to your kids and take their preferences into account.

Another great way to foster a love for learning is to let them dive deeply into something they find interesting. If your child is into dinosaurs, let him become an expert. It's OK if he reads about dinosaurs 24 hours a day. Just think of all the science and history and reading skills he's developing. And as he talks to you about it, he's practicing his verbal skills and flexing his comprehension strategies of summarizing, visualizing, connecting and questioning.

Talking to your child about what she's interested in and what she's learning is an excellent way to build higher order thinking and communication skills.

My kids are now out of the house, and I'm glad to say they caught the learning bug. In fact, Peter (now a college graduate) has started a study/research/discussion group with his friends where they get together and talk about their recent intellectual interests, maybe even peer reviewing papers before they try to publish.

That's the goal--adults who keep on learning.

Homeschooling can seem very overwhelming, so keep it simple and keep the end in mind.

October 6, 2012

Overcoming the Fall Slump

It's October, and many new homeschoolers are wondering if it's worth it. If you are feeling like this is too hard, you are in over your head, and maybe sending them to school isn't such a bad idea, let me encourage you.

I homeschooled through sixteen Octobers. The excitement of starting off in late August, the new books, fresh ideas and enthusiasm usually wore off by October. Reality sets in. Can we keep this up? I always readjusted and rethought my priorites and then things would get better again.

Simple advice: Be willing to change.

Stop doing that curriculum. Stop having those expectations. What do your kids need now? Maybe a break is all you need. Think about year-round schooling. Some schools go for six weeks, then take two weeks off. I like that idea. You can adapt it to your homeschool without feeling guilty.

Hang in there, mom!

My next piece of simple advice: Don't give up.

As I look back on those years with my kids, I knew I was sacrificing. I knew I was saying no to myself and things I wanted to do, but I kept my eyes on the prize, the prize of three emotionally healthy, stable, intelligent adults. I knew that if I gave them a loving, nurturing environment in which they could develop their natural curiosity, they would not only be learning facts, they would be learning how to learn, how to find information and experts to answer their questions, all driven by their natural interests. I see the results now.  Peter has a job, an apartment, and is teaching himself computer programming. Meg is braving a third-world country, and Missa is working and going to college in the big city.

Now that I am in this phase of life, I am SO glad I gave those early years to my kids. That was their window of time. That was my chance to lay a strong foundation for them. And really, it wasn't all that self-sacrificing because now I am cashing in on the benefits. We all have great relationships with each other, they know how to solve their own problems, and they are on career paths that excite them. What more could a mom want?

September 30, 2012

Unschooling after College

Peter and Missa
Peter graduated from college in June, and now that it's September, I asked him if he was homesick for college. Does he wish he was starting school instead of heading off to work everyday? He said no, he's glad he is done with college and can get back to learning again. Ha! I asked him to explain and he said that he's glad he can choose what he wants to learn, at his own pace, and in his own way. Spoken like a true unschooler! He is currently learning computer programming. He's taking a course over the internet, one of those open source classes from Stanford, I think he said. He loves it and thinks maybe this is the career he wants to pursue.

Meg is still in India. I miss her and wish she would come home soon, but she is happy and feeling more at home there as she teaches English to children. Missa is into her first semester as a college freshman, living three hours away in her own apartment with a friend. I really miss our years together, but I am so proud of them and continue to marvel at their accomplishments, if only from afar.

August 15, 2012

A Practical Guide to Loving Homeschooling

Two years ago I put together this little beginning-of-the-year guide to homeschooling. I've added more and recent posts with the hope that it will help you get organized and prepare for another great year of learning at home!

This has to be...let's see...2001?

What Makes a Good Homeschool Parent?

Capturing Your Child's Heart

Don't Even Blink

Nurturing Your Child for Success

At the Heart of Homeschooling


Jump Starting an Interest-Led Education

A Look at Interest-Led Learning 

What does Interest-Led Learning Look Like for a Five-Year-Old?

Curious About Unschooling?

Rethinking Education

 How To...

Here's Meg around 2003.
If I Only had a Map (a simple guide to successful homeschooling)

The Bare Minimum  (what more do you need?)

Advice for First Year Homeschoolers 

Motivating Learners in Your Homeschool 

Bloom's Taxonomy: A Simple Roadmap to Learning

How I Keep Records in Our Home School

Should I Homeschool High School?

Intentional Unschooling 

How to Prepare a High School Transcript for Home Schoolers

Homeschooling and College Scholarships

How to Find the Right Books for Your Readers

Using Movies to Teach High School History

I have dozens of posts tagged "beginning homeschooling," but that can get overwhelming. I really need to get organized.

I love to take questions, so what would you like to know?

July 30, 2012

Choosing Books at the Right Level

Kids who struggle with reading need to be reassured. It's OK if reading doesn't come easily because everyone has things that are hard for them. Ask your child what does come easily...drawing? riding a bicycle? making people laugh? Help them see that they are valuable and talented in ways that are different from others and that's a good thing.

When it comes to choosing books, a struggling reader needs to feel successful (we all do!) in order to hang in there and keep trying, so don't expect him or her to read books at a frustration level, even if you think they should be at that level. Attitude, believing that you can do it, is at least half the battle in learning how to read.

Here is an easy way to find books at your child's reading level using
  1. Start here and click on Book Wizard.
  2. Type in the name of a book that your child can read and understand without much help. 
  3. When that book pops up, it will have a grade level and a link that says "Book Alike, find similar books." Click on that button. 
  4. Now you will see lots of book choices at that same level. 
  5. Make a list of what looks interesting and find them at the library.
If your child's reading level is 6th grade or below, check out this chart. Click on any number or letter in your child's reading level row and it will take you to a page of books at that level with some ways to filter books by subject and theme. This is important because you want to find books that also have interesting topics for your child. 

If you want to learn more about book levels and how to find just the right books for your children, you might like my post about lexiles.

Happy Reading!

July 15, 2012

Parenting from Afar

Homeschooling invades your personal space...all day long...every day. If you want to homeschool, you must not mind having your kids around that much, and most of us would probably say we like it.

The Fam about 10 years ago, including Missa's friend Spot
So what's it like to finally have your kids move out of the house and begin their adult lives? Culture shock. Extreme culture shock. But I've been working on easing the transition since 2008 when Peter moved away to college. For one, I started this blog in an attempt to capture all the memories and all the lessons I've learned. I also started graduate school to get my teaching certificate up to date and hopefully add a masters degree. That's been keeping me busy and giving me a new focus.

Missa (18), Meg (20), Peter (22), June 2012
Meg moving to India has been harder than I expected. She's been gone almost a month, and we try to communicate every day. Hearing her struggles and not being able to do much about it has been hard. But I do thank God for the Internet. At least we can talk through things in real time. I remember spending three weeks in Hong Kong in the mid 1980s, and it was basically a communication blackout. I feel old saying this, but my, how times have changed! We've even figured out how to use Google+ and get everyone's face online talking at once!

She passed out in the market one day, and that really scared me. She was with a friend who caught her and got her home, but that was a particularly trying time for Ole Mom. Then there was the night she didn't get online as usual, and this led to a very long day for me, waiting to hear from her in the evening (which is her morning). She's starting to feel more comfortable over there, and I'm starting to relax about her being there.

Missa (who moved to Chicagoland this summer) texts me every day. Peter, on the other hand, doesn't communicate as often, but he's a boy, right? I'm glad to say that even though we're moving into this new stage of life, we are all still heart...if not in square footage.

July 9, 2012

How to Find the Right Books for Your Readers

If you have a reluctant or struggling reader at your house, there are probably two things going on:
  1. He hasn't found a book he's interested in.
  2. He hasn't found an interesting book at his reading level.
Interest plus reading level. That's the equation that leads to engaged reading. And once your child is engaged, he or she will feel more confident, will learn new things, and the positive momentum just keeps going, gathering reading ability as it rolls.

I've never been a big fan of reading levels. It just sounds too much like grade level, and I'm all about keeping kids away from being labeled or categorized. But there is a lot to be said about finding the right match between readers and books.

If a text is too hard, no matter how interested you might be, you'll give up and not read it. It's like being drawn to the front cover of a book only to find it's written in a foreign language. Not much enjoyment there.

Some kids are great at the Goldilocks method of choosing books.  They start to read and, argh! too hard. Get another one, yuck, too easy. Get another one, ah, just right! But other kids give up too quickly. That's when mom or dad have to put on their reading teacher hats and find those "just right books" that will hopefully hook the reader before he knows it.

Here's How to Do It

I'm going to walk you through an easy way to find a bunch of books that combines your child's reading level with his interests.

Go to At the top of the page is a quick search. Enter the name of a book that your child can read with hardly any mistakes (99% accuracy). This will give you his lexile level (sorry I keep using a masculine pronoun. I know girls need this too).

The lexile of that book is a number followed by the letter L. A lexile is a measurement of text difficulty that is determined by sentence length and word frequency. Nothing about age-appropriateness. That's for you to determine.  

Let's say you entered the book Frindle. The lexile for Frindle is 830. Now look to the right sidebar. Follow the sequence you see in the picture below.

  1.  Set the sliding "Lexile Filter" to 100 points below and 50 lexiles above your book's lexile (in this case our book lexile is 830, and looks like I could have set the upper level even higher. Oh well.).
  2. Remove the name of your book so it all looks blank like I have in the picture.
  3. If your child is 6th grade age or above, check HL (High-Low). This means "high interest, lower level." These books are intended for older kids who don't want to be reading "baby" books. 
  4. Scroll down just a little and hit "update." That should give you a bunch of books to choose from. 
  5. Extra credit: Write down or memorize the original book's lexile, then hit "change" near the top.  Type in the lexile number in the "Lexile Measure" box and hit "submit." This will take you to a page of interests you can select. Then hit "submit" and see what happens.
You can read book descriptions there, and go to to "look inside," and check for reviews. Surely you'll find something to entice your reluctant reader.

I think I'll do a few posts about book levels this month. There's just so much to say!

(top photo credit)

July 7, 2012

Getting Used to an Empty Nest

June was a whirlwind with Missa moving to the Chicago area, Peter graduating, and Meg moving to India. Once the dust settled, I looked at my husband and said, "It's so weird living here by ourselves!" I started following him around and calling him "Roomie."

It's weird, but I'm getting used to it. It helps that Missa texts me good morning and good night every day, and I usually get to talk to Meg once a day on Google Chat (and video is free through that too!).

The upside is that my phone charger stays were I put it, a pan of brownies lasts longer than a day, and there aren't 10 pairs of shoes at the door!! Yes, we only had one child living here the past couple years, but for some reason, her shoes never made it upstairs. And her friends would leave shoes (and eat brownies). Anyway, you get the idea.

The house actually stays picked up from day to day, a feat I never thought I would accomplish. But you know, these sorts of things aren't important at all, just a nice little perk to graduating from homeschooling.

I'm glad to have my reading teacher practicum this summer. I have one 7th grade girl who is a couple grade levels behind in her reading ability, so I meet with her three times a week, give her diagnostic tests and prepare lessons. I just love it, and it's getting me over the goodbye hump.

June 26, 2012

Meg is in India!

Saying goodbye at the airport last week. I look happy here, but I cried all the way home.
My second child is taking a year off of college to follow a dream. Since she was a little girl she's wanted to go to India and help the children there. Now's her chance. She will be teaching English and music to underprivileged children in North India. She arrived last week, school starts this week, so there is a lot going on in her life right now.

She started a blog called A NutMeg Narrative to chronicle this adventure. She even has a short video of her new home.

Meg had a hard time learning to read when she was young, so I think it's ironic, poetic, even victorious that she's going to be a teacher!

June 21, 2012

It's Official

 June 9, 2012: Thousands of people on the University of Chicago quad, but only one stood out to me.

Congratulations Peter! Graduating with honors. It was a very emotional day. Pride, nostalgia, and a bittersweet realization that life is changing for all of us. A couple of people I don't even know told me, "Congratulations," and I nearly burst out crying.

Mr. Alum has a job too, working as a legal assistant or something of the sort for a law firm in Chicago. He's using this time to decide what he really wants to do with his life. 

May 18, 2012

Graduation Time...sigh

The problem with homeschooling and attachment parenting is that you get attached to your kids. I started this blog four years ago when Peter (our oldest) graduated from high school. Now he's about to graduate from college and Missa (our youngest) is about to head out the door. That's the last one. After Missa moves to college, all my children will live somewhere else. I've been pretty brave about the whole thing, but last night I cried my little heart out.

But this is what parenting is all about, right? You love them like crazy, try to give them the best, most stable childhood possible, then they become mature, confident young adults, ready to tackle life. Bye, Mom and Dad! Thanks for everything! Yes, that's the goal. But it sucks. I forgot that I was growing up too, that at some point I'd graduate from child-rearing. Even though I started back to college last summer, doing all sorts of independent, grown-up things, I forgot that the days of kids running in and out of the house were numbered. Running out. With all their stuff. Waving goodbye.

But, hey, my kids are pretty attached to me too, so I know they'll come back and we'll keep in touch. Missa says she'll text me everyday, and we plan to all live in the same town eventually. The girls want me to homeschool their kids (ha!) and Peter talks about being in a homeschooling co-op someday.  It will all be OK. It's just graduation transition time. Talking it through helps. A little.

Peter is graduating with honors from the University of Chicago, and we are very proud of him. He called today to say he just finished the oral defense of his BA paper and got an A which means he'll graduate with honors from his department as well as from the overall college. Go Peter!

Meg has finished two years of college and has done very well. Next year she is taking a year off to teach English in India. She is thrilled! It's a school for underprivileged children, and along with English, she'll teach music. This is a dream-come-true for her, so I'm happy but nervous at the same time.
Missa is heading to the Chicago area to study criminal justice. She's been an intern with our local police department this past semester and is looking forward to learning more about that field. Last night we attended her final high school choir concert. They gave all the seniors a gift and read their "advice to underclassmen." Here was Missa's: "Be nice to everyone because you don't know who might end up being famous or a member of the mafia." Everyone laughed. Classic Missa.

So, this weekend we have a little open house to honor Missa, and in three weeks we attend Peter's graduation. Then a couple weeks after that we take Meg to the airport to fly off to India. It's a good thing I have a class this summer to keep me busy after all these goodbyes.  

February 4, 2012

Reading to Your Kids

I am a month into my third semester of graduate school. I just love it. The best part is finding out that interest-led learning is really the ideal. Teachers try to tap into kids' interests and build motivation for learning, but it can be hard when there are so many other things they have to do--like standardized testing.

One of my teachers said a very interesting thing last week. She said the best reading program is to get a boatload of good books and read, read, read! I thought that was great advice for homeschoolers who have the time to actually do it. :)

So, when you read to your kids--and all ages like to hear a good book--talk about what you are thinking as you read. Kids learn a lot about how to understand what's going on by getting a peek at your thinking process. But be balanced about it. Sometimes my kids would complain that I was breaking up the flow of the story too much. Just gauge their reaction and keep it fun.

October 20, 2011

My Two Seniors

OK, this isn't the greatest picture of me and what is Missa doing with her hands? But Peter looks cute. We're sitting on the window seat in his new dorm room. He is officially a senior (I mean a 4th Year) at the University of Chicago. He thinks he might want to find a job after graduation and give himself some time to decide if he wants to go to graduate school. Missa is a senior in high school and wants to go to college in the Chicago area. She still wants to go into law enforcement. Meg is a sophomore in college and still really loving her coursework in Family Services.

Me? I am half way through my second semester of graduate school. I am learning a lot about the realities of public school. Lots and lots of testing. Kids are tested and tested and tested, and teachers are supposed to get them up to a certain level every year. Yikes. I am so glad we had the option to learn at home.

July 11, 2011

Search Engines! and a little update

I have my first three graduate courses under my belt. Yay! I loved them all. Since I am no longer homeschooling but still immersed in the world of education, I think I will continue to write in this blog. As I learn little things here and there, I'll pass them on. For example, I have discovered a treasure trove of search engines.

I remember the days when I had to go to the library and thumb through the card catalog to find resources. Now I can access "libraries" through my computer. But the Internet is so BIG! So here are some search engines that are safe for kids and direct you to the good stuff:

TekMom  This is a well-organized page with all sorts of search engines to choose from.

KidsClick! describes itself as "a web search site designed for kids by librarians - with kid-friendly results!" Search by topic, word, Dewey Decimal range, media. Yes, very nice.

Ivy's Search Engine  Lots of search engines and specialize links.

Kids Search Tools Combines several kid-friendly search engines onto one page.

Awesome Library  Thousands of sites organized for students and educators. Click on who you are!

Browse the Dewey Decimal System  Pick a topic and find amazing online resources

My most amazing personal favorite:

Database of Award Winning Children's Literature   A librarian organized award winning children's literature in all genres. You can chose the reader's age, the historical period, the gender of the protagonist, the book format, etc. All I can say is "wow." Narrow down your child's preferences and a list of books will appear. Magic.

Update on my kids: (thank you Sarah Joy for reminding me)

Peter will be a senior in college this fall. Yikes! He is staying in Chicago in a house rented with friends, working on an academic project and participating in a reading group with a professor in his field. He's still not sure what he wants to do after graduation. Stay tuned. :)

Meg will be a college sophomore this fall. She finished her first year at a state university with all A's and B's. I add that because you may know that she was a struggling reader until she was 10. Hang in there and have hope! This summer she took two classes and is working half days. The big news for me is that she moved out of the house. She and a couple friends rent a house near campus. When I was taking classes I got to see her everyday because she works just down the hall from my classrooms. I even got to introduce her to my professors and classmates. She is very proud of me and even thinks we should try to take a class together.

A tree branch thwacked her across
the face during a night hike.
Missa will be a high school senior and will be applying to colleges this fall. She just got back from a two-week hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains where she climbed Pikes Peak and learned how to survive in the wilderness! I'm amazed at what she can do.

Now that I have about a month before my classes begin again, I plan to organize all my homeschooling materials. Since part of my graduate course work is writing lesson plans, I would love to be able to locate books that I know I have somewhere! I also have household projects calling my name, so I'll be plenty busy the next few weeks.

As always, please feel free to send me questions!

May 26, 2011

My Next Chapter

Both Meg and Peter are in college and Melissa has only one more year of high school (in public school). So what's an education nerd supposed to do with the rest of her life? I've decided to pursue a masters degree in elementary education, focusing on reading instruction. I love the idea of helping kids of all ages overcome their reading difficulties.

So now I'm a student! I started my first class last night and loved it. We even got to spend an hour in the hallway during a tornado warning. Bonding time.

This summer I have three classes, but the other two won't start for a few more weeks. That's good because I need time to get my student mind back in gear. It's been 23 years since I took notes in a classroom. :)

Meg and I are both students at the same school. She finished her first year of college with no problem at all, loving (most of) her classes and doing very well. She is even contemplating a minor in English. Her early reading difficulties inspired me to jump into this field and get my credentials. 

I probably won't be blogging much during this chapter of my life, but in the end, I look forward to translating what I learn into helping the homeschooling community.

As always, please ask questions. That gives me ideas for posts.

Happy Summer, Everyone!

April 12, 2011

Jump Starting an Interest Led Education

Today I got a great question from a reader (keep them coming!):

What if my kids don't know what they are interested in because they have not really thought about that? How do you get them started on the process of interest led education?
The key to success in an Interest-Led homeschool is opportunity. A child in an empty room will not grow intellectually or socially. You need to make sure he or she has lots of interesting things to choose from. Go to the library at least once a week and let your child check out books and videos. Go to nature preserves and theater productions. Take classes at the park district. Usually something will awaken their curiosty and they can run with it. When that interest grows cold, they can find a new one.
When You Get Stuck
Sometimes you just can't think of anything and everyone seems bored. That's when I got out my copy of The Core Knowledge Curriculum by E.D. Hirsch. Today, thanks to the Internet, you can download it for free! It lists all the things a child at a certain grade level should be learning (according to Mr. Hirsch). Think of it as an educational wish list, not a to-do list. If you try to cover everything on the list at every grade level, you'll probably drive yourself and your kids crazy, but it's a great resource for ideas.
You could even use it as a record-keeping device. Just jot down dates in the margin that reflect when your child covered that topic.

>Download guides for preschool through eighth grade here. 

>Learn more about the Core Knowledge Sequence here.

Remember, these guides are intended for kids in the public school system. It's a way for schools across the US to plug into a common curriculum path. The truth is, not all kids in the 3rd grade learn about the Northwest Passage (as found in the Core Knowledge guide), so don't let this guide freak you out. And even if they do cover it in the 3rd grade, how many remember it by the time they reach high school?

Make your homeschool a fun, active, rich learning environment that follows your child's learning style and interests. And when you need some ideas, glance at the Core Knowledge Sequence.

January 6, 2011

Staying Healthy with the Five W's

When the kids were younger, staying healthy was a constant battle. With five people in the house, it was rare to all be sniffle-free at the same time. One day I decided to make this important concept easy to remember. I thought through my advice list and realized they all started with W! (well, sort of...)

How to Stay Healthy

1. Wash your hands often.
2. Stay Warm.
3. Drink plenty of Water.
4. Take your Witamins everyday.
5. Get plenty of West.

Once in a while I remind them of my five W's and they just roll their eyes.Yesterday Missa wanted me to share it with a friend of hers and we all busted out laughing! Laughter is good medicine, you know. We couldn't remember #2, so she texted Peter and Meg. It became quite the topic of conversation. When I finally remembered, I decided to blog about it so I can have a permanent record and let you in on the secret to staying healthy. :)

December 30, 2010

Don't Even Blink

A new year...sigh...Time is such an interesting thing. Some of us rush through it, others trudge through it, some savor it. I think I'm a savor-er.

It all started with a TV broadcast of Our Town by Thornton Wilder when I was in junior high.The scene that changed my life is in Act 3 when Emily comes back from the dead, back to her childhood kitchen, to all the hustle and bustle of breakfast.  She laments, "It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another." I cried through that scene and vowed to pay attention in my life. 

On my wedding day, I kept looking at my groom as the pastor gave his sermon. I was determined to memorize exactly how he looked standing next to me in his black tux.

I journaled through each hour of labor and delivery (after the fact!). And I filled a dozen notebooks with memories of our three little ones.

I would sit and just watch them. I'd listen to their conversations, marvel at their abilities, and laugh at their antics. We must have the funniest kids on earth! Lots of eye contact, lots of conversation..I didn't want to miss a minute of their lives.

And what is the reward of such immersion, such rapt attention? Children grow up. There's nothing to watch anymore. In fact, I spend most of my days alone and I have to fight feeling sorry for myself.

Just like becoming a new mother, learning and adjusting to the situation, I have to learn to adjust to mine. A new season of life. That's where I am now. 
 Something special happened this week. Everyone is home and we drove an hour to an Indian restaurant, just the five of us, crammed into our little car. This was a monumental feat with young adults aged 21, 18, and 16. Just being in the same room for more than an hour takes a week of planning! But it's that time between Christmas and New Years when everything's on hold and everyone's schedule is pretty flexible. 

The Indian restaurant was wonderful. From the first bite, the memories flowed. Missa was eight, Meg was ten, and Peter was 12 when we all went to India. It was such a fun trip, and everyone talked and laughed about the things they remembered.

On the ride home, someone had to stop for the bathroom, a little jabbing, a little whining (all in good fun), and I just had to laugh. "Now this is normal," I thought. It wasn't all that long ago that we were taking long car rides with three small children. I had flashbacks of hysterical crying, but even so, great memories.

I know most of you are in the middle of the child-raising season of life, and here's my advice to you: Pay Attention. I know it feels like time moves in slow motion, but it's a mirage. It's actually flying by. Don't take the battles and difficulties too seriously. You are experiencing the metamorphosis of a human being. Create positive memories that will bring you together in the future.

Once I find my new "normal" I'll let you know. But for now, I'm just glad I didn't blink.

You can watch my favorite Our Town scene here on YouTube.  

December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29

December 17, 2010

Fist Fights and Socialization

Peter is home from college, Meg is finishing up her first semester of college, and Missa still has a few more days at the high school before Christmas break.

This morning Peter, Missa and I were hanging out in the kitchen. Missa was telling us about a fight she broke up at school. She was changing clothes in the PE locker room (where there are no teachers) when she heard a couple girls fighting. One girl was screaming at the other and shoved her against the locker and was on top of her. The rest of the class backed up to watch the fight, but Missa grabbed the aggressor, threw her against the locker and held her down so the other girl could get away. Yes. My policewoman in training. The three of them ended up in the principal's office, but she didn't get in trouble because there were enough witnesses to say she broke it up.

Peter's comment: It's a good thing those girls didn't miss out on this important socialization opportunity. They might have been maladjusted if they were homeschooled.

Missa: It's a dog-eat-dog world out there and it's important for kids to go through it.

Peter: But this sort of thing doesn't happen in the rest of the world, except maybe in prison. I've never once seen a fist fight, except on school grounds. (Peter was a teacher's aide in a 4th grade Chicago classroom for a couple years).

Then she told us about a teacher who had her leg broken when she was pushed down the stairs, trying to break up a fight. All the kids just stood around watching. Granted, kids get in trouble if they are part of a fight, no matter if they start it, are victimized, or try to stop it. But come on. Where is common human decency? Where is the willingness to do what is right, whether or not you get in trouble?

And another story: A kid on crutches walked up to another and whacked him across the face, knocking him out cold. He is now in a home for troubled kids.

Just yesterday a group of kids got into a brawl at school and someone pulled a knife.

All this in our little farm town that only has one high school and a population of 20,000 people. No wonder more and more families are choosing to homeschool all the way to high school graduation.

November 24, 2010

The Best Oreo Turkeys

For the past few Thanksgivings my mother-in-law brought these adorable Oreo Turkeys, but this summer she passed away and we all wanted to continue the tradition. Last night I got online to look for a recipe since I had never taken a picture or asked for the directions. Nothing looked quite right.

Today the girls and I put our heads together and remembered...

Grandma Weese's Oreo Turkeys


Oreos with chocolate cream
Hershey's Kisses
Red Hots
Candy Corn
chocolate icing (we just bought a can)

Cover the top of an Oreo with chocolate icing. Place the Kiss near one edge and arrange the candy corn for feathers. Place a dab of icing on the point of the Kiss and add a Red Hot. Too cute!

  Happy Thanksgiving!

November 11, 2010

Meg's First Few Months of College

Meg is in college. That sounds so strange, but I am getting used to it. She's our second child, the artsy one who didn't learn to read until she was ten years old, our incredibly social child who homeschooled from kindergarten to 12th grade. She goes to a public university in our hometown and is able to live at home, in her own apartment we created in the basement of our church/house.

I asked her a few questions.

What do you think of college after the first three months?
It's not as hard as I thought it would be. I'm getting A's and B's and not having to work too hard.  

Do you think homeschooling gave you any sort of advantage in college? 
Maybe, because I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I could pick classes that I was already good at. Also, I've noticed that I can focus and get a lot done in a short amount of time because in homeschooling we had the motivation--if you get these math pages done, you're done and can do something else. But in regular school, even if you're done, you still have to sit there. 

How are you doing in class, taking notes and understanding the professor?
I seem to be more of an independent thinker and have the confidence that I can understand. Even if it's not too clear, I can figure out that he probably means this or that. It's pretty frustrating when kids in the class keep asking him to clarify and everyone just goes around in circles. 

After the freedom of homeschooling, how do you like the structured school setting?
I love it! I love having to get up and go somewhere everyday. (Yes, this is the child who, starting at age four, would ask me every day, "What are we doing today, Mommy?" The pressure is finally off. Oh, and I should mention that she has a job and has to be there at 8am a couple times a week.) 

Are you making friends? 
Yes! I've made a lot of friends. Getting a part in the musical gave me an instant set of friends. Plus, there are alot of people at this school that I met in high school when I did theatre.

Meg's major at the moment is Family and Consumer Sciences which is the new name for Home Economics. She'll be taking classes in psychology, nutrition, health, things like that. She is especially interested in the sociology aspect of the major.

And she's still very active in theatre and takes voice lessons. She even won the opportunity to perform on stage with a troupe from Broadway that came through our town. She had to submit her audition via YouTube, and she got to sing the female solo lines in Seasons of Love. Here she is with Grant Norman who has played the Phantom and Gaston on Broadway. Yes, very exciting.

Overall, I'd say homeschooling gave Meg the confidence that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Reading was a real obstacle from age 5-10 and would have set her back terribly in public school. Instead, she got to enjoy her childhood and develop her "gifted" areas. It's interesting that we didn't homeschool Meg because of her reading difficulties--she was just part of the group here at home, everyone learning at their own pace, in their areas of interest. It turned out to be a perfect choice.

October 1, 2010

Motivation and The Homeschooled Child

I wrote an article entitled "Motivating Learners in Your Homeschool" at Some days just seem to be wasted. But are they? Head on over and leave a comment about how YOU motivate your kids.

September 28, 2010

In Memory

My husband's mom passed away in mid August this year. Everything happened quickly, and I still feel like it's not possible she's gone. She was a "can-do" lady who went on an African safari at the age of 76.

In her lifetime, she raised and trained horses, and just last fall, she participated in a trail ride through the Shawnee National Forest.

She came to every theater performance, taught me everything I know about cooking, and will be missed a great deal. Last weekend, all six of her children, extended family and friends gathered for her memorial.

We love you, Weese.

September 1, 2010

How Do You Answer the Socialization Question?

One of the first objections to homeschooling is socialization. No one is quite sure what it is, but it's important, and your kid is missing it if he is homeschooled.

I have an article on Simple Homeschool today called "How to Answer the Socialization Question." I'm sure you have great responses, so please share them with the readers over there on Simple Homeschool. Thanks!

August 23, 2010

A Season of Change and Loss

When your kids are small, you are exhausted and overwhelmed, and sometimes you can't wait until they grow up and leave you alone. Then around age 12 or 13, they begin to be more independent and you have some breathing space.

But at the end of that stage comes "moving on." They leave for college or get married, or just find their own place to live. Now the house is quiet and you wonder why you were in such a hurry for this season.

That's where I am today. Meg started her first college class this morning, and it hit me. It's over. I'm no longer a homeschooling parent. I'm out of the picture. OK, I know, she's living in the basement, but it has a separate entrance and is a half block away (we live in a converted church building), and she wants to be as independent as possible. Good for her. But boo-hoo for mom.

I was going to pick her up from class today and hear all about her new adventure. But no, she wanted to walk home. I told her I made chocolate chip cookies, and she laughed and said, "You did that just so I'd come up and talk to you!" Yep.

Add to this the fact that my mother-in-law passed away a week ago. The passage of time, changes, loss. I'm not liking this too much. But I realize it's a transition time, and eventually I will feel at home in this new season. 

August 4, 2010

Beginning Homeschooling

With the school year upon us, I know many of us are making plans and thinking through our child's education. I dug through my archives and pulled up some relevant posts from the past. I hope they are helpful.


What Makes a Good Homeschool Parent?

Capturing Your Child's Heart


A Look at Interest-Led Learning 

Homeschool Envy

 Practical Issues

Advice for First Year Homeschoolers

How I Keep Records in Our Home School

Should I Homeschool High School?

Intentional Unschooling 

How to Prepare a High School Transcript for Home Schoolers

Homeschooling and College Scholarships

I have dozens of posts tagged "beginning homeschooling," but that can get overwhelming. I really need to get organized.

I love to take questions, so what would you like to know?

July 28, 2010

Rethinking Education

Have you ever been plowing through life, doing what needs to be done, not unhappy, but just moving forward--then BAM!--something touches your heart, brings a tear to your eye, quickens your heart rate, and you realize, THIS IS WHAT I LOVE.

That happened to me tonight. I visited a friend's blog where I found a post about Ken Robinson's video. I wrote about his last video and was curious about this one.

It reminded me why I homeschooled my three and why I am so passionate about education. If you have a few minutes, sit back and be inspired. This is Ken Robinson, "Changing Education Paradigms."

 I really want to read his books:

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative

June 2, 2010

Straw + Berries

It's strawberry season here in Central Illinois, and the girls and I went-a-pickin' last week. Melissa said it was more fun than her farming video game. Glad to hear.

Melissa said she liked strawberry picking so much, she was going to quit her job and become a full time strawberry picker. If she had a job, that is.

May 24, 2010

If I Only Had a Map

If you are just starting out on an interest-led learning path, you might feel a bit lost. Where do I start? Where am I going?

Believe me, I've been there. You might like my post on setting boundaries and the bare minimum in schooling. I also have one called Advice for First Year Homeschoolers.

If I had to draw a map of this path with the most basic sign posts, beacons of sanity that keep me focused and moving in the right direction, I would whittle it down to these five:

#1 Know your state's homeschool law.

Check out This will tell you when the compulsory education law kicks in. Is it at age six or age seven? Until that age, your child, by law, does not have to go to school. Once they hit compulsory education age, know what's required of you. Join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association before that age, and they will help you handle any legal problems that might come your way.

#2 Stay out of jail.

If you need to show something to school officials, find out what it is and how to do it. Search for homeschool organizations in your area and ask them. They might even have workshops.

If your child has to take a test at the end of the year, find out as much as you can about that test. Ask other homeschoolers in your state about them, and do what you can to help your child meet the standards. At the elementary age, you don't have to worry about scores, just passing, unless your child will be going to a private high school.

If you don't like your state's laws, work to change them or move to another state. :)

#3 Teach your child to read. 

This might seem obvious, but with all the curriculum out there for all sorts of fun things to do, we can feel overwhelmed, and a little guilty. First things first! Once they know how to read, the whole world opens up to them.

#4 Know your child well.

Find out what interests her, what motivates her, and fill her life with those things. Misha has a great post on this at Simple Homeschool.

#5 Think ahead and keep options open.

If your child plans to go to a private high school, wait until the middle of 7th grade and call the school to ask about their admissions requirements. They might look at standardized test scores, and they might have an admission exam. Knowing this ahead of time gives you a chance to prepare.

If your child will be going to public high school, enroll them as a freshman, and that's it. They might have placement tests for math or English, but the school can not deny enrollment to any child in their district. If your child wants to start high school after freshman year, then you will have to deal with getting credit for subjects studied at home. That gets more complicated, but not impossible.

Travel Tips

If your school district allows homeschoolers to take classes at the public school, that can be a "best of both worlds" option. Melissa took band in 6th grade, and Peter and Meg were in choir all four years of high school. Your child could also take math or science at the high school and do other subjects at home. These classes would be free (well, I guess most schools have enrollment fees), and you could also take community college classes for college credit.

Not only can these resources give your child more options, you will also have a teacher outside the home when colleges want letters of recommendation.

Your Destination!

At the end of the journey, we all hope to have happy, emotionally healthy, motivated learners who are ready to take on any challenge that awaits them.

Now you're ready! Oh, and don't forget snacks and a water bottle. :)

The first photo is an actual sign Meg saw in India.

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