Thursday, February 25, 2010


L’s journal entry today:

I feel most peaceful when....

I am with my friends skating on the ice,

when I just lay down and play with Daphne and Jake,

when I get into my slippers and read a book

when I am watching tv all curled up in a blanket petting Daphne,

when me and my family walk through the whole mall,

when me, my Dad and my sister go to IKEA together,

when I play with Jake,

when I make Daphne crazy,

when I look back to the pictures of great memories,

and when my Mom and me just hang out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blogs, Books and Basketball

I have been doing a lot of blog reading lately. It gives me insight into how other families are managing learning at home along with all the other things busy families do. One post at Camp Creek Blog deals with the issue of technology vs. reading. Putting down the Wii or the Xbox in order to read makes reading a punishment. How does a parent handle the balance between the two? Do they limit time with technology? Do they mandate reading time? Children in traditional school have a finite amount of time to devote to pleasurable activities. Unless more time is freed up during the school day for things like reading for pleasure and game playing they child is forced to choose between the two at home.

This sums up how I feel to a tee. Part of my wish for G to come home is for her to experience the joy of more time. She is the kid described above. She loves to play board games, she loves to play the Wii, she loves to play basketball, she loves to ride her bike, she loves to walk her dog, she loves to read a book. How do you take care of all these loves with only 5 hours a day: one in the morning to get ready for school, one hour taken up after school with homework, about an hour taken up with dinner and showering/preparing for bed. That leaves my child with so many loves only 2 hours a day to be just a child and do the many things she loves. She has Saturday and Sunday is taken up with Church and Sunday School leaving about 6 hours. Not much time to be a nine year old extremely active child. I know she is happy in school. I know she enjoys her teachers, her friends, and the structure of the day. I feel that it is unfair to give L the time to learn, to discover, to explore and yes, to play, while G toils away at a different subject every 45 minutes and very little time to become invested and hardly any time left over for play.

So when she is home, do I let her play the Wii uninterrupted for hours? Do I ask her to put it down and pick up the book she is reading at a snail's pace? Do I encourage her to go outside and shoot some hoops with her Dad or take the dog for a walk? Usually I let her choose realizing that reading is not going to be the first choice she makes. I hold to the belief that books will appeal to her and there will be time at bedtime or before she comes downstairs in the morning for her to snuggle in with Harry, Percy, Opal or Ivy. I will always be there with a good recommendation and a willingness to share my reading spot with her. Until then, she is working on her basketball skills on the actual and virtual court.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Blanket for my baby....

I finished L’s blanket. This was my hardest project to date. I had to count rows, change colors and try to maintain even edges. I put on a single stitch boarder to hide the ties and the miscounts. Overall I am happy with the results. I learned I prefer working with bulkier yarn. Already my fingers are itching for a new project.

Monday, February 15, 2010


For Valentine’s Day L put an impressive amount of effort into pouring through the Oriental Trading Catalog to select the perfect gift for her sister. To make sure this was reciprocated, I put a bee in G’s ear that she should do something little for L. G does not do anything “little”. She and her dad when to Taget where they got L the cd she wanted - the one advertised while she is watching iCarly on Nick - Kids Bop 17. Dad did not scan the titles of the songs, and even if he did, he would not know the lyrics since we only listen to xm satellite radio and I do not like most Top20 music. When we put the cd on to listen to kids badly cover the pretty decent original songs, Lady Gaga’s song Paparazzi came on. I don’t know if I can write her lyrics for fear of copyright infringement but to summarize, the song is about a fan stalking a singer until he loves her. I had a flashback to my father who censured my listening to Madonna and the Beastie Boys and I told them I would put the cd on their ipods, but I am leaving off the song I find offensive. “Why?” I was asked.

I am finding myself delving into pre-teen issues with my girls lately. I had to explain that there is a difference between Taylor Swift singing about liking a boy at school and being disappointed because he likes another girl and liking a boy and following them around trying to make them like you back. Ironically, I said that young “Ladies” do not behave that way. They got it.

Tomorrow I will probably post about how disappointed I was that Carly used her internet show to find a date to the dance....which led to another discussion about never ever ever ever using the internet to meet people you don’t know.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Because we follow the school calendar since G is in school, today was the start of our vacation.

Well vacation started......after L’s spelling test.

After her piano lesson.....

After we dropped the 33 books that were due off at the library and picked out about 33 new ones.......

.......then we were able to say we are on VACATION!!!!

We hung out with Auntie and Grammy......

played some DSi and watched some YouTube with our cousins...........

smiled till our cheeks hurt....

and laughed

until we almost cried.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What if....

What if I never met J at church?

What if I never switched to OLOP church?

What if I never had the courage to introduce myself?

What if I told L she just had to deal with school?

What if I did not read the right books to give me the confidence to homeschool?

What if I waited until summer like I planned?

What if I never found the Eagan Center online?

What if M was not welcoming?

What if I never had the phone call to inform me P was homeschooling?

What if I never had been invited to A’s house?

What if G did not support me?

What if GW came home too?

I am so thankful.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Car Wash

L’s Brownie Troop is studying water; the importance of water, its conservation and uses. They have a field trip to a water treatment plant planned for this spring. To build on this learning, we are taking a break from our animal unit and learning more about water.

I took out several books from the library which present information through experimentation. I want to introduce the scientific method during these fun experiments. Today we began with "sink or float". G joined in since she was home sick. The girls gathered many objects from around the house, made a list and checked off it the item sank or not. After exhausting their list and being surprised by many items, they turned this into a much loved activity in this house - matchbox carwash!

G beginning the list.....

what is better than learning in pajamas?

Monday, February 8, 2010


A friend taught me a lesson about parenting last week. In my house growing up, adults were adults, kids were kids and sometimes the two would mix. If adults were talking, kids were not and more likely than not, the kids were not to be seen while the adults were talking. So, when I was talking with my friend about a book we both read, Free Range Kids, G interrupted asking a question about the premise of the book. Without thinking I sighed, and rather than answering her question, I commented that she really should be upstairs playing with the other children...all who were not interrupting the adults. She was just curious. Here she was watching, listening to two adults hold a conversation about a book! My biggest wish for my children is for them to share my love of language by reading constantly and learning to write with their own voice. Here was an opportunity for me to model that to my child and I blew it. Instead my friend answered her question, for which I was very grateful.

This led me to question my old model of parenting. Why not include my girls in more conversations with my friends and family? G was not being rude, she was not asking an inappropriate question, she was just curious. My hope is that I never again squash that budding curiosity and instead look at it for what it is - a teachable moment.

Thanks friend!

Friday, February 5, 2010


When L was being toilet trained she would sit and sit and sit. I would try to be as patient as I could but patience is something I am learning later rather than sooner. She would see my face and wonder what I was thinking and ask me “Mommy, are you mad?” No L, I am not mad. “Mommy are you angwy?” No L, I am not angry. “ Mommy, are you fwustrated?” Yes, L I am frustrated but that is okay, you keep trying.

Now I see her sitting attempting to do her lessons at home her mind full of things other than learning, or just other than the learning I am presenting at the moment. My face must betray me. “Mom, are you angry at me?” Not at all honey. “Mom, are you mad?” Nope, I have nothing to be mad about. “Mom, are you frustrated?” I can just catch the little lisp that remains from her toddler talk and I smile. Sometimes I can get frustrated, sweetie. But that is okay. We are going to figure this out together and you just keep on trying.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Do They Do It?

I have become an avid blog reader. I like to know how other families are learning, what they are using and how they manage it all. I know I have been doing this just a month but it is easy to feel inadequate. This is how we are doing our lessons:

Math: Singapore Math level 1B textbook and workbook. We work on math for about 45 minutes a day. The past month has been spent on fact practice, addition with regrouping (tens place only) and introduction to subtraction (taking from tens place only).

Language Arts: We are using First Language Lessons (level 1) and love it. L is 7 but has never learned grammar in public school. We started at the very beginning. Because she is already a fluent reader and writer, we combined several lessons without even knowing it. For example, writing the proper names of our family members included aunts, uncles and cousins (all which were covered in follow up lessons). We are on lesson 36. She has memorized three poems and is working on her fourth. I give her a certificate when she is able to consistently recite each poem from memory.

Writing With Ease is our writing curriculum. I love that the excerpts are from children’s literature. This week’s excerpt is from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. L now wants to read the book and I checked it out of our library today. Because L was writing prompts and realistic fiction in school I did not think she would have difficulty with comprehension questions and narration. But she does! It is hard for her to think of what she wants to write and then remember it long enough to put the sentence on paper. I love that this teaches the process of summary, thought collection and then narration. As I have said before it is the only area that I struggle with because it is a huge departure from the way writing is taught in our district - the Columbia Teacher’s College Model of Artist’s Writer’s Workshop. To supplement writing, I incorporate as many real life writing opportunities as possible. She entered an American Girl Contest in which she has to answer the question “I am inspired by nature when....”. She has sent a thank you letter to her great-aunt who donated pattern blocks and colored counters for our math lessons. She keeps a journal and I ask her to write something periodically. She has entries about her first homeschool play group and a poem all about her sister.

Spelling has been a bit of a disaster. When I ordered A Reason for Spelling, I did not realize there was a teacher’s guide. I ordered that used from Amazon. I was sent the wrong book! I ordered it again, Amazon canceled my order. I ordered it a third time from the publisher and am currently waiting for delivery.

We love history! The Story of the World, the Ancients has supplied L with such passion for ancient Egypt! We have read many many books about Egypt from mummification to pyramids and the God and Goddesses. We have watched a movie, taken a trip to the Peabody Museum and will be attending an event about Egypt at the Barnum Museum later this month. She has made a model of the Nile River and used clay to write in Cuneiform from Sumer. I am taking my time with this, savoring her enjoyment of the process of reading, discovering, creating and absorbing the new knowledge. We are keeping a Book of Centuries which has entries for Mozart and her Great-Great-Great Grandfather from Poland.

Science has been disappointing for me. We have been doing animal classification and she has completed lapbooks about squirrels and frogs. Her interest in waning and I feel like we need a more structured science curriculum. I am going to take a break from animals and connect her science learning to her Brownie Troop’s learning about water. I took our two books from the library about water and fun science experiments for us to do. I will use this opportunity to introduce the scientific method and keep a journal of our experiences with the experiments. Because she has joined the Brownie Troop mid-year this will help bring her up to where the other children are. It will also help make her field trip to the water treatment center more meaningful. Part of me feels that science should be based on their interests and questions rather than just teaching topics because we have to. I am very excited to chart how much water the family uses flushing the toilet and how phosphates in cleaning products can be measured. I am surprised that her Brownie book is packed with information on water usage, cycles, and treatments (I was a Brownie drop-out). It is a mini-unit in itself! I would be foolish not to capitalize on this opportunity.

Music and Art. These two are interesting because she is already taking outside classes in both. We are members at Creative Arts Workshop. There children and families can take workshops in a wide variety of art mediums. She has taken a workshop on printing and card making. She is now taking a six week class on pottery. Since this program is run on 6 weeks cycles, she regularly attends classes taught by working artists filled with children from every imaginable background. This is giving her a good basic art education. I am supplementing it with art activities based on our learning and when we have time we are learning how to use real watercolor paints. Music is the same. She has been studying piano for over a year and practices regularly. I have incorporated a composer study. January was focused on Mozart. We listened to music every morning. We read picture book biographies about him. I also discovered a great website called Classics For Kids and we listened to a webcast, completed a lesson on the Turkish Rhondo and added his birth and death to our Book of Centuries. I asked her piano teacher to give her a piece of music composed by Mozart that can be played at her level. She is working on the piece Romance.

To continue the Spanish instruction she received in school I am using two sites: one free and one subscription. The free one is I like it because it incorporates vocabulary with sentence structure in a format that is similar to Rosetta Stone. I do not like that it is tied into a social networking site where you can practice your language with native speakers. Needless to say, we do not use this feature and the free subscription is in my name and uses my email address. I did not think she was understanding it until she started telling me I was an old lady! We are alternating this with a vocabulary building site for kids called Foreign Language Friends. This is a $9/month subscription. I pay monthly because at some point within the next year she will outpace the lessons that are provided.

Every week she attends an hour and a half of religious instruction at our church.

For physical education we are walking her sister to and from school every day. She is attending swimming lessons, plays basketball with her sister twice a week and we purchased Wii Fit for her to get some movement in on cold winter days. One thing that homeschooling allows for is many play dates. During these play times the children are never idle. They are taking walks, having mud fights, creating a slingshot game from elastic headbands, sliding down snow covered hills or playing hide and seek. They are in constant motion.

So when I freak out that I am not teaching cursive handwriting yet, have not thought about introducing geography and am not using a boxed curriculum for reading (I teach through the countless books she has read over the last month....I think her list is up to 25...) I remember what my husband and best friend said to me. He said he thinks of this time, the time from when we withdrew her from school through the end of the official “school year” as a time for her to grow socially, not so much academically. He wants her to feel confident, to make new friends, discover her voice, share her personality. The learning will always be there, some days more than others. Some topics will be wonderful, others will not. But at least she will be a content child who is learning in an environment she trusts, surrounded by friends she cares for and secure in the knowledge her parents will always act in her best interest. She is seven. She is in second grade. The rest will come....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


What I am enjoying the most about this experience is the time we have to delve deeper into the topics we are covering. I choose not to move at the pace of one chapter of Story of the World per week because she is so into ancient Egypt. We made of model of the Nile River, flooded it with water and watched grass grow. This involved time for planning, finding material, a trip to Home Depot and the creation of the model. When we learned the difference between Cuneiform and Hieroglyphs (my learning is keeping pace with hers), she wanted to take out the clay and make a clay tablet with the words "I Love You" written in Cuneiform. When the tablet is dry, she wants to give it to her father as a Valentine’s gift. That took about an hour.

I make sure that the lessons I require: math, grammar and writing are done before starting the other topics that she can spend hours on should she choose. Because she struggles with math, when she is giving me attention, I stay with it until her interest wanes. This may mean she does two lessons, or has a significant time for practice. Today it meant we were able to spend an hour on addition and subtraction with regrouping and were able to play a round of Countdown.

Where time causes difficulty is in trying to tie in the life of homeschooling with that of public school. I feel very much caught between two worlds. In order to chaperone G’s trip Friday, I have to find someone to watch L all day long. Doctor’s appointments can be a challenge. We can be in the middle of something engaging and we have to put it aside to pick G up at 3:05. I feel that even though we are learning at home, our day still follows closely to a “school day” because G is at school. I feel disconnected from my former PTA participating, hallway painting, volunteering “school” mom. I don’t want to take anything away from G’s experience in public school but I find myself resenting the strain caused by trying to straddle the two vastly different worlds successfully.

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...