Education is a Life

Summer Learning, by Lynn

Please welcome our newest writer, Lynn!  She is a home educator in the UK and has lots of good thoughts to share. 

Ah, summer time…and the livin’ is easy…

Or not, as the case may be in our household. Personally I struggle with the lack of routine. I have a nine-year-old daughter, who will rise around 5 am so she can watch children’s television, and a twelve year old who will stay in bed until lunch time. This does not always make for an easy routine, for this routine-loving mother!

For various reasons, schooling year ‘round is not an option for us (though I really wish it was!), so here are the tips I have for keeping the learning going as the heat rises.

  1. Have flexible expectations for each day

It’s summer, I know. All the neighbourhood children are free & playing outdoors. Unfortunately, that does not mean the chore fairy comes & takes care of the household! There are still dishes to wash, clothes to launder, and mud that piles up on the floor. (I am English; we have mud in all seasons!)

Everyone still has their own chores to do and animals to care for. I also tend to use the summer break to ‘spring clean’ so all is lovely and fresh for ‘back to school’ come September, so the girls are occasionally roped into that too.

If we decide to spend a day at the pond, then of course, all this can go out of the window, but otherwise, there are chores to be done. I am sure this must count as home economics, too!

  1. Always have a good book planned.

I always buy the girls a new book to read over the long summer days and evenings. Their own choice, not a book from my overflowing list. I also choose a family ‘read aloud’ too. Something fun, that we can laze in the garden and enjoy together.

  1. Put up a new map on the wall.

Replace your tired out map with a new one…be it a world map, map of your country or locality, even a historical map. Something different to catch the eyes as people go by.

  1. Set up a weekly activity basket.

I love this one! It is as exciting for me to plan, as for the girls to do. Simply have a basket in a prominent place filled with related activities. Change it out as often as you wish, or when it no longer generates interest.

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

* Butterfly Hunting

– A butterfly net

– An observation pot. You can buy lovely ones with a magnifying glass built into the lid, but a simple yoghurt pot will do; just be sure to poke holes into the lid.

– A local field guide or a sticker book like this one, where you add stickers once you have seen each butterfly:

* Prism Play

– A couple of prisms (glass works better, but acrylic will be safer if you have a kindergarten and younger crowd.)

– Sheets of both black & white paper.

– Pencils or crayons in the colours of the rainbow

– A couple of kid-safe mirrors

– Some great science books such as these:

First Science Library: Light & Dark: 16 Easy-to-follow Experiments for Learning Fun. Find out About Rainbows, Reflections, Refraction!

 Mirrors: Finding about the Properties of Light

* Summer Journaling

– A lovely fresh journal

– A new pen

– Some fun stickers

This may entice your most reluctant child to do some writing. Pre-writers can draw pictures instead.

* A new game

Always a winner, games are a great way to have children enjoy maths.

Fractions Pizza game

Math Wars Card Games: Addition/Subtraction or Multiplication – Simple, but great fun!

Magic Cauldron

Hunt around; you will find games of all kinds covering all aspects of the curriculum and pleasing to all ages.

* A Jigsaw puzzle

– There are fabulous jigsaws these days, based on many themes: outer space, historical times, the Periodic Table. They can also be picked up very cheaply from local charity (thrift) shops.

 * Handcrafts

-Knitting needles & yarn, a cross stitch sampler, the materials to make books…the world is your oyster this summer!

I hope you can glean a little something from these ideas. Remember to have fun, enjoy the break, and make memories!

Reading, Study Skills

Library Skills Scavenger Hunt, by Jane-Emily

Recently Sandbox to Socrates published the guest post I wrote for To the Moon and Back on teaching your child library skills.  I’d like to continue the theme with another post about learning to use the library.

Once you have explored the library with your child, try this fun scavenger hunt for practicing library skills.  It was designed by a librarian teaching 4th graders but would be fine for ages 9-13, or older with a little tweaking.  It’s really quite long, so spread it over two to four visits according to your needs.

(Note: a call number is the number or letter code on the spine of the book that tells you where the book lives on the shelf.  In an American public library, we use the Dewey Decimal system to categorize non-fiction books, and fiction is alphabetized by author.)

Library Skills Scavenger Hunt

Photo by Odan Jaeger


Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict. Jane-Emily is our Webmistress.

Reading, Study Skills

Library Skills for Children, by Jane-Emily

When Sandbox to Socrates was in its early days (we are headed toward our SECOND birthday!), contributing author Jane-Emily wrote this guest piece for To the Moon and Back on teaching library skills to children. Because our readership has grown greatly since that time, Dusty, our dear friend and owner of To the Moon and Back, has graciously allowed us to reprint that post here as a refresher for our readers. Jane-Emily gives us great tips on navigating the local library with our children and includes some of her favorite read-aloud books. We hope you enjoy our trip down memory lane.

Your local library is the place to go to find out what you need to know. It’s not only a place to find great books to read–although that is a big part of it and will save you lots of money. The library is where you go to find out:

  • how to care for a new pet
  • what your local government is up to
  • how to fix your car
  • about dealing with legal issues: landlords, local laws, powers of attorney, and authorities
  • about learning a new skill
  • how to garden in your area
  • about local history

There is so much to find out! Learning to use the library is an important skill–both for school and for the rest of your life. I encourage you to take your children to the library often. Let them check out as many books as they can handle, and teach them how to use library resources. Encourage your child to ask the librarians and clerks questions. They are there to help and will always prefer it if the child asks (instead of the parent doing it for the child). Have him learn how to use the library catalog and find books for himself. Familiarity with how libraries work and comfort with asking questions will both be important skills in high school and college. In my experience, third grade is a wonderful age to start exploring the library with intentions to learn more about it–second grade is a little young, but third-graders get very excited. Of course, any age after that is a good time to start! See if you can learn about one new thing every time you go. Some suggestions:

  • First, figure out the children’s room. There will probably be sections for fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and more. Learn where these first three are and what they mean.
  • Is there an area in the children’s room for easy readers? Magazines? Books on CD? What can you find?
  • In the non-fiction section, there will probably be labels for animals, plants, history, and so on. Notice where they are and what they say. The non-fiction books will be arranged by subject in a numbered system called the Dewey Decimal system which is very easy to use. All you do is learn that, say, the books about horses are found at 636.1. Find the 600s and keep going till you get to 636.1. You will find some unexpected things in the non-fiction; fairy tales (398) and comic books (741) are probably in there, as well as poetry!
  • Find the foreign language section in the children’s room. How many languages are represented? Can anyone in your family read any of them? Find a picture book that has text in both English and another language, and take it home to read.
  • In the main part of the library, find the newspapers on microfilm and see how far back the records go. Could you look up newspapers from when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated? How about when the Titanic sank? (For some reason, kids usually know about that one and are impressed.) Look up what happened on the day your child was born! Can you look up the actual birth announcement?
  • In the adult area, see if the fiction is divided up into general fiction, fantasy and science fiction, mysteries, and Westerns. Think of familiar examples of these genres (Nancy Drew, Narnia…what is Star Wars? It has spaceships and the Force…). Do any other genres have their own sections?
  • Find the reference books. Encyclopedias and dictionaries will be there, and so will lots more. Find one really neat reference book to peruse.
  • There might be a local history section, with the more valuable items locked in cases. Take a look!
  • The library probably has displays that change every so often. Find one and see what it is about.
  • Learn how to put a hold on a book and how to request an InterLibrary Loan.
  • If you ask nicely and are lucky, maybe someone will take you in the back to look around. See if you can find the other side of the bookdrop.
  • Does your library have a special lending program for tools, science projects, or some other unexpected category?

I would also like to share some of my favorite read-aloud titles for children. Reading aloud to your child is one of the best things you can do; it brings you closer together and has myriad benefits for your child’s mind. Children can understand much more complex literature than they can read, and this continues to be true right up until about age thirteen. Reading aloud stocks their minds with complex vocabulary, sentence structure, information, and stories that they will remember and draw on for the rest of their lives. These are my favorite titles for children ages 3-6+, with the younger stories at the beginning.

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the library with your child! As your child gets older, you will want to learn about even more resources the library has to offer, such as databases for research in history, medicine, science, and all academic subjects. Libraries are wonderful resources for our whole lives: armed with nothing more than a curious mind and a library card, we can all learn anything we want to know at any time. To me, this is an amazing and wonderful thing.  

You can read the original post at To the Moon and Back.


Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict. Jane-Emily is our Webmistress.

Student Art, Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Art and ASL

I took an eight-week workshop on using American Sign Language in song and dance. The first thing we learned was the alphabet. I love to draw and thought drawing a message in finger spelling would be a great way to practice. The message says, “I made some art for you.” I used Fire Alpaca, a drawing program, to create this on my computer.


Gillian is a twelve year old, the girl variety, being homeschooled in northern California. Artist and self-published author of Infection, she loves to learn new languages, especially computer ones.

Education is a Life

I'm Not Ashamed, by Genevieve

I must live an extremely sheltered life because, honestly, I’m just shocked that there are women today who base their self worth on their weight, how often they are available for sex, how clean their houses are kept, and how advanced their children are.

I have news for you. There is always more work to be done. If you judge yourself by external standards, you will never measure up. Nothing you do will ever be enough.

I only have one life.

I’m not willing to spend it in an endless cycle of resentment and drudgery. I’m not willing to subject my family to the unhappiness and disappointment that would follow if I tried to live up to someone else’s list of standards.

I have a lot to get done each day. There are animals to feed, children to educate, meals to cook, soap to make, yarn to ship, errands to run….

I never get everything accomplished.

And I never will.

I only have this one lifetime, but I refuse to judge myself.  I refuse to entertain  society’s expectations about what it means to be a wife, a mother, a woman.

My kitchen is a wreck due to a late-night soap making session and too many meals.


It was a wreck yesterday too. I could have cleaned it. I had the day off.  Well, I was off once I fed and watered animals, fed the baby goats their bottles, milked, and made cheese. The point is – I had plenty of time to clean the kitchen, but I didn’t.

Instead, I spun two new skeins of yarn and watched movies with my five year old and let the new lamb play in the house and enjoyed a glass of wine.  I’m not ashamed.


I only have this one lifetime. I can’t do it all.

A marriage where you are judged by your appearance and your ability to clean is no kind of marriage, and a childhood where you are valued for your academic progress and sports prowess is no kind of childhood.

I may be experiencing some middle age spread to my waistline.

I may have a kitchen that looks like a tornado went through it.

I might even have let the kids play hooky and stream an entire season of TV, but you know what? I’m happy.

My husband feels valued and knows that I am always here to listen and support him.

My children are happy and enjoyable. My adult children are accomplished, and they like themselves.


Every once in a while, someone will tell me that the happiest memories of their childhood were spent in my messy house where people are free to be creative, take risks, and be themselves.


This morning I am going to the feed store and out for Mexican food with my family. Afterwards, I may clean my kitchen, but if I do, it will be because I have the time and cleaning the kitchen is what I choose to do with that time. It won’t be because a clean kitchen makes me a better wife or a more valuable woman.

I won’t give the smallest amount of head space to impossible, superficial standards of self-worth.

And I’m not ashamed.



Genevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

About Classical, Veteran Homeschoolers

Classical Education is Not Elitist, by RCD

A classical education is not elitist because it makes one humble and simultaneously empowers, and builds empathetic curiosity into a tenacious, ethical muscle.

This lovely article was originally posted at Dragons in the Flower Bed by one of our friends in the Sandbox to Socrates Facebook group. She has articulated much of what I’ve wanted to say but have been unable to. Thank you, RCD, for allowing us to share your words with our readers. ~Editor

I enjoyed reading this thoughtful essay at Sandbox to Socrates, and it left me thinking about how work is where infinity really is, and the edifying nature of permanently unfinished things.

That happy thought was tempered by concern for all the many billions of human beings who have toiled at the unfinishable task of keeping themselves fed, never enough margin to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets they worked through. I think about one of my favorite folk songs, a round I taught the boys when they were babies because it makes work go so sweetly: “I believe to my soul I can pick a bale of cotton…” It is a gorgeous, hopeful tune, but it was sung by freed slaves who could never have picked a bale of cotton in a day and had to in order to get paid.

When I worry about whether classical education is elitist, I try to frame it through that social justice lens, as much as I currently can. I have spent many hours in my adulthood, thus far largely lived in a poor city neighborhood, catching myself up on anti-racism movement with the help of many thoughtful bloggers, authors, speakers and activists. I’m learning and there’s so much I still don’t see.

So far, I cling to the classical model of education, anyway. Many times I’ve heard that you can’t disassemble a system with the same tools that built it. I suppose I don’t think it was the formal practice of logical debate, foreign language immersion, and the insistence that everyone read fiction, that built the oppressive, patriarchal system my children will inherit. Those skills are what I put into practice in order to understand the socioeconomically marginalized peers. In order to understand what happened in my own family. Saying classical education is elitist because it has been taught only to rich white straight boys in centuries past is like saying that vegetables are bad for you because pesticides and GMOs cause cancer. It completely skips over the responsibility of the whole society to create an environment in which farmers need not and do not use pesticides or GMOs, and in skipping that over, demonstrates the foundational problem that we all assume an illogical individual non-responsibility to the common good.

As it’s practiced by non-racist, non-sexist educators, classical education is not elitist.

It is not elitist because classical education is like chop-wood-carry-water. It is a task you can never complete, and that very endlessness of it, the hard and tricky endlessness of it, humbles and inspires and keeps one in the moment. This endlessness, and focus on process over product, means that the child chanting enthusiastically and diligently “amo amas amat” is doing the same work in a very real sense as the scholar who has been at it for forty-five years.

It is not elitist because a classical education assumes auto mechanics, pig farmers and the cleaning lady all are living an intellectual life. In classical education, no one is written off as unable to handle something so hard as Latin or Homer, and dissecting bit by bit the ideas inherent in our culture is viewed as irrelevant to no one.

This very dissection is what is changing me and challenging me as I raise three people who are the very picture of The System. Someday my children will be grownup, and then they will be white American men, richer than most of the world’s population across time. But they won’t be imbued with prejudice, because they will have had a liberal — freeing — education that taught them to turn all things over incessantly, to approach something as foundation as the syllables in the words they speak every day with a critical eye of analysis. The whole world needs my boys to be so aware of what silly place, exactly, our mores come from, and how to dig into the heart of a culture — its language — to find the soul of it.

A classical education is not elitist because it makes one humble and simultaneously empowers, and builds empathetic curiosity into a tenacious, ethical muscle. That is my goal for my children, and all children, and if I can seed my white American straight boys with the skill to pass that on, I’ll be taking a step towards a fairer world for everyone.

The original post can be found here.

How We Make it Work

Always Almost, by Briana Elizabeth

I have been trying to write an article on why classical homeschooling is not elitist, and it’s taken me weeks. Not because I can’t think of reasons but because the words for that article aren’t coming. I keep writing another article in my head – one about being present and aware in the moment, not rushing through to what is to be done next in our heads as we are teaching our children now, not being always almost-present.

A friend from my local homeschooling group emailed us all a letter she wanted to discuss at the next Mom’s Night Out about how answering the need of a child is like answering the monastery call to prayer. A Blessed Be the Interruptions type article. I had read it before and it is lovely, but as I had pondered that article many moons ago, I kept thinking about how the problem we have is not with thinking of every thing that goes wrong as a wretched interruption, but that we are so on to The Next Thing in our heads, we’re never fully present for what we should be attending to.

We are moms. We are not only moms but also homeschooling moms and sometimes working-from-home homeschooling moms and working-OUTside-the-home homeschooling moms and phew! – to run this unit efficiently we need schedules and checklists and menus and planners and yes, yes we do. We need all of it. I can’t hold all of those things in my head, and I need that brain dump onto paper and the checklist and the menu–but what I need most is to be present in the moment I am living right.this.instant.

And, my head just exploded, right, because isn’t that just One More Thing to Do? Argh! I’ll just put that on The List. Be Present. Right under the weekly menu and the activities and the chores and the schedule and the lessons…Be Present.

If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

Thankfully that is not what we need, and that is not what I’m talking about.

We are mothers. Our day is made up of interruption after interruption. It just is. These little humans we are charged with loving and raising don’t understand the schedule thing or the list thing or the task thing–even when they are older and you are so, so tired and ready to go to bed, and your teen chooses that moment to have a three hour talk with you, and you know what you do? You talk. You connect and you love them when they reach out to be loved–because that’s what the interruptions are. They are people (our children are people) reaching out to connect with us. That is the ultimate reason we are home with them, no? – to be reachable? Can we think of interruptions as beautiful moments we are offered to love one another?

So we CAN make our lists and be orderly because we need that, too. But we do it at a certain time, when we are able. And then we can use that schedule as a guide to our day. But whatever moment you are in, be *present* in that moment. Be conscious of those you are with and yourself and what you are attending to in that moment. Not what’s next. And when the interruptions come – and they will – see them as just a part of the cycle of the day, not a deterrent. Otherwise we go through our day in a madly-driven fog, and isn’t that tiring? It’s monotonous, boring, unhuman–it is the automaton of our age. That’s not who we are raising, and that’s not what we are.

So how can we connect and practice this mindfulness? In my own life, I do it a few ways. I have crucifixes and statues and icons all over my house that, as my gaze falls on them,  pull me into the present. They make me stop and think with consciousness. When I start thinking about something other than the task before me? I catch myself and pull my mind back into what I am doing. When I feel irritation rising within me, it is an alarm bell as to my motives in that moment. I feel it and I can stop and judge if I am rightly attending to the situation before me.

For a non-religious person, there are many beautiful ways to practice mindfulness. You can write words on stones and leave them on your desk or windowsill, and when you glance at them, you can reconnect with your purpose.  A nature table is another meaningful way to bring mindfulness into your family’s life. As we gaze upon beauty, we should stop and be thankful for it.

How can we work a habit of mindfulness and consciousness into our children?

When we become aware of our own inattention, we can see the inattention in them and readjust them. A slight touch on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss, an affectionate reminder of giving our full attention to the task at hand is a loving way to pull a child back. Just a slight readjustment of the sails can remind them to attend to what they are doing.

There is a beauty and a bounty to being present. The beauty comes with the connection we experience, not only with our work but also our loved ones. I will tell you a secret. The bounty of being present comes with getting work accomplished.  I don’t know what magic it is, but when I am fully attentive to my day, in the evening I can reflect back with amazement on how much I accomplished and how I was able to connect with those whom I encountered that day.

Instead of ending our day with being always almost-attentive, we can be present, there, fully engaged, come what may. Isn’t that so much more than a checklist?

If you would like to read more on being present, Eckhert Tolle has an article on the idea, and he calls it the Joy of Being.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.