Middle-Earth Summer, by Jen N.

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“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.

“Good morning!” he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.
“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

This year has been one unusual thing after another. My emotions of our derailed carefully-planned school year have run the gamut of guilt in not being able “to do it all” to guilt that my kids are being short-changed by doing much of their work independently. When I am rested and caffeinated, I know neither is true. We usually school year-round (meaning eleven of the last fifteen years), and so at first I thought we’d simply plod on and if the year doesn’t end then it doesn’t matter if we are behind a completely arbitrary schedule that means nothing to anyone but me. The kids do the next thing and are doing great. Letting go of my own expectations came by way of an unusual source- JRR Tolkien.

Reading the above quote planted the thought in my head. Being outside, reading a great book, really absorbing the Middle Earth Culture would be just as worthwhile as marching through our textbooks.

We haven’t read The Hobbit with our youngest yet and that was the inspiration that led me to the crazy thought of just picking an end date and putting all the regular subjects up on the shelf. They will still be there to pick back up again at the beginning of September.

I guess this post isn’t really so much about how to end the year, but rather why doing something different may be beneficial for you and your students. I’m a great believer in using the seasons to your advantage as a CM/Eclectic/Classical type homeschooler. It’s not really the best time of year, where we live, to be heavily academic. It’s nice outside, for one thing, and near Chicago, so you never quite know how long the pleasant weather will last. We seem to oscillate between blizzards and 100 degree days. The actual great outside days demand to be enjoyed whenever they appear.

My plan in it’s beginning stages is to read The Hobbit and begin what I hope will be an immersive experience. Right off the bat I can see that if I were counting this as school, I could spin these plans into some education-ese that would meet anyone’s criteria for actual learning. I think you’ll find the same feeling with any great literature. In fact, a Harry Potter Summer or Jane Austen Summer or, or, or . . .  I could go on and on. Pick a world or universe that you don’t mind diving into for an extended amount of time and just dive in. After all in the words of the Ents:

When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold
Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold;
When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!

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Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

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Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com

When Is It Over? How Do We Bring Our School Year to an End, by Cheryl

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Our school year runs from the first of August to the end of July. My kids get a school “end date” in mid-May. If we have done school on every day I had planned, we should have completed our 180 days by that point. But illness and unplanned days off mean we may be a few days short. We still stop formal school on that date.

In mid-May my oldest stops doing math, history, grammar, Latin, Greek, and writing. He has usually finished most of those subjects well before we hit 180 days. My younger student gets to stop grammar, Latin, and handwriting. She continues to do math and reading two days a week all summer. Both kids, however, get to move up a “grade,” which is virtually meaningless within the context of our school work but is important to them.

What neither of them realizes is that they get as much “school-time” in the summer as they do the rest of the year. They both do musical theatre, art, and other camps. We do science experiments, art projects, read good literature, and go on field trips. I use all of these activities to make up for any sick days we may have had during the school year. By the end of July, we have our 180 days completed.

So, school never really ends; it just gets more relaxed.

We try to celebrate the end of the school year in some way in May. We may go to lunch somewhere special, go bowling, have a picnic in the park, or any other fun activity the kids request – one year it was snow cones.

I don’t think there can ever be an end to the school year when you homeschool. There is no real change. Your kids are still home with you all day every day and they still need things to do. I used to worry about ending our year, but the longer we homeschool, the less important that ending date seems to be. To me at least. My kids still want to know when school is over!

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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Switching to Summer Mode — And a Giveaway! by Lynne

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For many families who homeschool year round, the beginning of summer doesn’t mean the end of the school year.  In our house, we do have a point when we switch over from “school year” to “summer break.”  This is mostly for my sake.  I love summer.  I love being outside, planting flowers, floating in the pool.

We continue to do some school work during the summer, just not at the normal pace. We finish up history lessons, we continue to work on math so we don’t get rusty, and we read books.  I love to have family reading time outside in the screened canopy.

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I’m very laid back in the summer, and I don’t care about how far we get in our school books.  I think it’s important to continue some work so that the kids don’t get out of the habit and completely lose the progress they’ve made, but summer is a very low-pressure time.

The best part about summer in my neck of the woods is the number of outdoor field trips we can incorporate into our studies.  My favorite summer was when we were studying Ohio history and toured all the Presidential sites in our state, along with an Underground Railroad museum and old Indian Mill that was given to the Wyandot tribe by the U. S. government and then later taken away from them.  The kids learned a lot about history on those trips.

Last summer, we visited our Statehouse and learned how Ohio state government works. We toured a park where all the shrubbery is sculpted to look like Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  We went geocaching which helped us explore our own backyard.  There are so many fun things to do in the nice weather!

This summer my family will take a trip to Ireland.  I’m looking forward to strolling along the beach and hiking in the green, rocky hills.  I’m also looking forward to watching my boys visit various castles and prehistoric structures and seeing the Book of Kells! This trip will be an enormous learning experience for them.

I’d love to hear how your family handles school in the summer.  Do you stay the course? Do you stop all school work completely?  Join us in our Facebook group for further discussion about summer and homeschooling.

Don’t forget – Comment on any of our posts this week, and you will be entered in a drawing to win a free Boogie Board writing tablet!  


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Student Spotlight: The Rise to the Land of Peace, by Eddie — Age 13

Eddie is participating in an arts contest for the Jewish Federation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year’s theme is “Out of the Darkness and Into a New Life.”  He created this 3D piece of a half happy, half sad person who is flying out of a broken gas chamber into a new afterlife.

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Eddie has been happily homeschooled since second grade.  He likes funky hairstyles, video games, and comic books.  His favorite subject is science.  He is not into nature and considers himself very much an indoor person.  He’s been known to watch an episode or twenty of Dr. Who.

Majoring in the Minors, by Genevieve

When we hear that phrase, we think of someone who makes inconsequential details into issues of huge import. We all want to major in the majors. The problem is that as parents, particularly new homeschooling parents, we often have no earthly idea what the majors are.

I can tell you what they aren’t.

They aren’t how early your child learns to read and they aren’t how many hours a day your child does school. The majors aren’t how many grades “ahead” your child is or even your child’s test scores or high school grades.

I’m here to tell you that those are all very minor. Yet, it seems that these minors are the very things that new homeschoolers focus on the most.

I’m in a unique position. I have grown children who were homeschooled all the way through, and I still have children at the beginning of their homeschooling journey. I recognize the mistakes new homeschoolers are making because I’ve made most of them myself.

Two of my children are adults. I’m very happy with how they are doing. My oldest graduates with her Associates Degree in a few weeks. Her degree was completely paid for with an honors scholarship. She is likely to graduate with a 4.0 and already has transfer acceptance letters and scholarship offers coming in.

My second child has a full time job and his own health insurance and a 401k. He didn’t finish college, but he is on track to be making the same salary as his college-graduate coworkers by the time he turns 20.

So looking back on what I did right and what I could have done better surprises me.

I hear new parents pushing young children because grades are going to matter in the upper grades, and everyone knows that your future can be made or be broken by your high school grades.

Except that my scholarship-receiving child never even had a high school transcript. She never took the SAT or the ACT. Her high school grades mattered exactly not at all.

Grades are also not an important factor in my son’s success at work. His company has never seen his high school or college transcript, yet something is making him stand out. What is it? It’s the majors.

But what are the majors and how can we focus on them in the early years?

* Work ethic – I’m here to tell you that a kid who comes to office hours, stays late, never misses class, always has her homework is a kid who is going to get noticed.

The best way to instill a solid work ethic is to model it the child’s entire life. We don’t complain about deserving more than we get. We don’t spend our time bemoaning how society is out to get us. We just buckle down and get it done. We do our best even when it isn’t appreciated by others. In the end, our kids can’t help but do the same.  It becomes who they are.

* Enthusiasm – It is so refreshing to teach or work with someone who is enthusiastic about the task at hand. My oldest isn’t the most coordinated person. After a semester of PE, she went to thank her professor for being so patient with her efforts and her limitations. The professor said that she only wished every student she teaches could be as enjoyable and rewarding. It turns out that enthusiasm sometimes trumps God-given talent and ability.

* Humility – We have all worked with someone who is an expert in their field, but their lack of humility makes them just insufferable. I’m telling you that the combination of expertise and humility is virtually irresistible and opens many doors.

* Kindness – I saved the most important major for last. Of everything my children do, it’s the acts of kindness that make me the most proud. I believe that children who are treated kindly treat others the same way and that children who are treated respectfully grow up to respect others.

I’m challenging you to take a break from majoring on the minors. Don’t worry about test scores and grades and whether your child is currently ahead or behind grade level because, in the end, the kind and humble and enthusiastic kids with solid work ethics are going to grow up and conquer the world.


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 .

Throwback Thursday: Keeping Records Through Middle School, by Angela Berkeley

Every so often we like to re-run one of our more popular posts from the past.  This first ran on July 4, 2014 as part of our Classical Foundations series.  Enjoy!

Homeschooling elementary students is a somewhat daunting yet very exciting process.  Having selected a classical education philosophy, you assemble your teaching aids, materials, and curricula. You feel like you’re all ready to start. But then you realize that you also face a somewhat crumpling question: How will you know whether you’re teaching successfully? How will you evaluate your child? How much is ‘enough’? How will you know?

The responsibility is yours. You can’t fall back on anyone else. You’re the teacher. You’re the evaluator. You’re the assessor of whether reasonable progress is being made. And frankly, after the hard work of figuring out your teaching philosophy, studying up on curricula or other materials, finding out how to register with the state properly, it almost seems like too much. It’s a bit daunting. It almost makes you want to fall back on ‘school in a box’—a program that has textbooks for all subjects needed for one entire grade. Then you will know that there are no gaps, right? Then you will know that your child is on grade level.

But wait.

Classical education is different. Our standards for assessing grade level are to be age appropriate and focused on each child’s individual capabilities. Marching your child through standard classroom material in the 180 days of a standard school year schedule really gives up a great deal of the available benefits of homeschooling. Being inflexible does nothing to customize your child’s learning to her unique abilities. It does not permit letting her spring ahead in composition compared with spelling, for instance. It does not allow the significant advantage of being able to take family vacations and field trips away from the school crowds during the school year. It doesn’t let you catch up or leap ahead in math over the summer or enjoy full days out in wild parks during the week or take three weeks off at Christmas time and thoroughly enjoy the holidays. It leaves no room for a four-week focus on writing a novel, complete with character development, dialogue, and imaginative development; or to coordinate your science studies with your Lego robotics projects. In short, it gives up too much for too little—for that bit of security based on norming your child to be like every other child of the same age.

By nature, classical homeschooling takes a far different approach to learning than typical public school curricula. It focuses on learning about the whole world, from the very start. It teaches reading, writing, and other language arts from a very different perspective than public schools—emphasizing massive amounts of personal and read-aloud literature, history, and science. It avoids busy work so completely that it empowers children to recognize and resist it forever. It uses copywork and grammar as well as composition to teach writing skills. Science is taught in depth; experiments and field trips are more important than book work at the early stages. Summarization, outlining, conversation, and thesis formation are taught gradually across all subject areas and lead naturally to being able to formulate and convey effective argumentation. (This is a mixed blessing in the high school years, but I digress…)

Naturally this means that children being taught in a classical manner are not necessarily going to be learning the same strategies and ways of organizing information that public school children do. Or they will learn strategies at different ages than public schoolers, due to a combination of the different sequencing of learning in a classical education and the opportunities for customized progress that homeschooling offers.

Really, though, there is no need for concern about these issues when you’re first getting started, if you take a few basic steps to eliminate these questions. First, make a commitment to homeschool long enough for your child’s learning to converge with public school learning. Generally by around 3rd or 4th grade, the various approaches result in consistently similar results from a testing standpoint. Of course, in addition to the typically tested skills, the classically-homeschooled child has had considerably more experience in science experimentation, more exposure to world history, and a lot more opportunities to investigate a broad range of their own interests.

Secondly, commit to teaching to the point of mastery, and don’t worry about assigning letter or numerical grades through at least 6th grade. Grades are used to assess progress and compare children with each other, by teachers who are teaching an entire classroom full of children. You don’t need to compare your child with others, and you know whether she is learning the material or not, so assigning grades is largely a useless exercise unless and until you need them for an application to a brick and mortar school. If your child is going to homeschool through high school, start assigning grades in 8th grade. If she is going to homeschool through middle school only and needs a transcript to apply for a private high school, find the high school application materials (usually available on their websites) and start assigning grades in the first year that is required on the applications. Many homeschoolers who place their children into public high schools find that they simply need to discuss math and/or honors placement with the high school counseling staff and don’t need to assign middle school grades at all.

Thirdly, establish a routine, and establish minimum weekly progress as an ongoing benchmark. While some use a minute by minute schedule, a routine is effective (and less onerous) for many. What kind of routine? I suggest distinguishing skills from content, and teaching skills every morning and content in the afternoons as much as possible. Skills are things like reading, writing, grammar, and arithmetic. Content areas include history and science. Our ‘typical day’ included a religion lesson first thing, followed by either a lesson in reading skills acquisition or arithmetic, whichever was currently more difficult, followed by the other, and then followed by other aspects of language arts—copywork, editing practice, reading aloud, discussing, and summarizing reading, spelling, etc. Science, history, literature, art, music, foreign language, etc. were taught in the afternoons, and not all of them were taught every day. A reasonable schedule for a week might include 5 math lessons, 4 grammar lessons, 4 copywork episodes, 4 literature lessons, 3 spelling episodes, a foreign language lesson and 2 practices, 2 history lessons, a music lesson, and 2 science lessons. So you would call a week ‘done’ when those were finished, and exceed those quantities most weeks, but also have the flexibility to settle for that amount and know that good progress is being made. Field trips counted into the mix—a day-long trip to a science museum might be the equivalent of 4-5 science lessons. Watching and discussing a play would be perhaps 3-4 literature lessons.

Lastly, track your progress loosely for your own benefit and to make sure that you are not letting anything fall through the cracks. I homeschooled my daughter through 8th grade and used two main tools to track her progress: a master calendar and a monthly template.

The master calendar can be kept in any standard software format. I used Lotus notes, but others such as Outlook would work just fine. The calendar is for exceptions and scheduled lessons outside of the home. Weekly choral and art lessons would go onto the calendar, because despite their being routine, everyone needed to be reminded of the times and dates for lessons that occurred outside of the house. More uncommon exceptions like field trips to the zoo, plays, science museum visits, and play dates were also documented. This meant these activities did not need to be remembered in advance and that later, when documentation was being made, it was easy to create a list of ‘special’ activities.

The monthly template is a Word document that has major subject areas as headings and is cut and pasted into a new Word document each month. Subject areas might be religion, science, math, social studies, writing, reading, other language arts, music, art, PE, and Misc. Each month I would look at a printout of the prior month’s report to remind myself of the status at the beginning of the month. For instance, in March we may have completed the grammar text through lesson 35 and continued through lesson 57 in April. So to write the April report, under ‘other language arts’ I would write, “Grammar lessons 36 through 57.” Hence a short but reasonably detailed overview of progress would easily be generated.

What is useful about this? For one thing, it enables the teaching parent to clearly see that progress is, in fact, being made—something that is easy to miss in the moment. It also gives her a chance to take stock and see whether progress is too skewed—too much writing at the cost of science, for instance, or vice versa. Is there something that should be emphasized more next month? Has progress been so great that it’s time to purchase the next materials? Is there something that could use a little more emphasis? This process also puts a summary of that month’s accomplishments right at the tip of her tongue, for interested relatives or others. And lastly, assembling all of the monthly reports for a year or two is a great starting point if you need to formulate a transcript or an overview of progress for applications to brick and mortar schools, or scholarships, or jobs.

In summary, the processes of homeschool scheduling and record keeping can be thorough, complete, and yet not particularly time consuming. It doesn’t have to be difficult to be effective.

Hacking Spanish, by Jen N.

hacking: to use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system

While learning another language certainly isn’t unauthorized access, we are going about it in an unorthodox way. We recently started Latin again, and I’m not crazy about purchasing anything for grade school Spanish this year. I used my google-fu to search out some fun resources.

We are on episode 8 of Mi Vida Loca, and we’re doing pretty good with the printable flashcards available on their website. We look forward to Spanish every day – that in itself is a win.

Since there are only 22 lessons, I’ve started thinking about what we can do next. I already own Spanish for Children from Classical Academic Press and could probably use a combo of that plus the resources at Headventureland.  We are really enjoying the video presentation, so I think we’ll use that alongside these free online resources :

Salsa Spanish – a children’s TV series that is free to watch online. It is all in Spanish, but you can open a PDF transcript that translates each episode. There are also a few games and activities that go along with it.

Spanishtown – a website with lots of games, videos, and printables

Destinos – another video immersion course like Mi Vida Loca.

Free online quiz-type programs:

Duo Lingo

Memrise

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Books:

Tin Bot: Spanish Language Reader – not free but super fun.

52 weeks of Family Spanish – free with Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Of course, I would love to spend some time on the beach in Mexico or Spain because I know that hearing and interacting with native speakers would be the best way to achieve textbook-free fluency. Here are some ideas that fall just short of that beach vacation:

  • Our library has a ton of classic picture books in Spanish. We still have them mostly memorized so it’s an easy jump to comprehension.
  • Go to a Mexican, Cuban, or Latin restaurant and focus on the menu in Spanish. Try to order in Spanish.
  • Do some of your shopping at a Latino grocery store (very prominent these days in cities all across the country). In our area, the signage at Home Depot and Walmart are also in Spanish.
  • Some video game captions can be set to Spanish. Pokemon takes on a whole educational bent that way.
  • Watch a tv series in Spanish. We haven’t tried this yet, but I’m thinking about it. I think Disney movies would also be helpful to gain fluency.
  • Play scrabble. There is even  a dedicated Spanish game version.

 

I’d love to hear about any other awesome free resources that I may have missed.

Image: Mission San Miguel in California.

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Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com

Don’t Listen to the Naysayers, by Lynne

You know how sometimes an internet search leads you to places you’d never intended to go?  Well, that happened to me, and I came across something that I found to be quite interesting.  It was a commencement address given by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the University of Southern California in 2009.

In this speech, Governor Schwarzenegger outlined six rules for success.  He illustrated these rules with examples from his own life, but as I was reading, I thought how these same rules could easily help out a new homeschooling family.  Here are the short versions of  his rules and my own views about homeschooling.

1. Trust yourself.

This is probably the biggest key to success in homeschooling.  You have to know that what you are doing is the best solution for your child at that time.  Even if everyone around you doubts your abilities, you have to be able to trust that you, as the parent, knows what’s best for your child. You have to trust that you have what it takes to provide the kind of education your child deserves. And if you don’t think you can do it all yourself, you have to trust that you can find a way to make it happen.

2. Break the rules.

Arnold is very clear that he doesn’t mean break the law, and I wouldn’t recommend that either.  You really should be familiar with your state’s homeschooling laws and follow them to the letter.  However, there is definitely something to be said for breaking the rules. It is often very difficult for people who aren’t familiar with homeschooling to understand that homeschooling is pretty much nothing like traditional schooling.  We homeschoolers are constantly going outside the box of current educational trends.  We find success in the strangest of places sometimes.  You don’t have to do things the way schools are expected to do them.  You get to make your own plan and design that plan around your particular child.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Nothing in life is guaranteed.  Homeschooling is wonderful and can be a tremendous boon to your family.  But homeschooling is not for everyone.  I don’t consider it a failure if you choose to never homeschool or you choose to send your kid back to traditional school after an attempt at homeschooling.  This goes along with rule number one.  Trust yourself.  Do what is right for you and your child.  Also, don’t be afraid to fail with your actual homeschooling choices.  You need to be able to admit when something isn’t working well for your child, even if you were sure it was going to be just the thing the kid needed. It’s okay to change course.

4. Don’t listen to the naysayers.

This one is difficult.  Some people are fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family and friends.  Others have the naysayers constantly fomenting discord and criticizing their choices.  In fact, some of the biggest culprits can be the people who love you the most. Don’t let these negative people have power over you.  They are afraid.  They don’t want to see your children suffer for what they perceive to be your mistakes or delusions. They can’t understand why you would want to step outside of the “normal” box and do something so crazy.  They actually care about you and what happens to your children, but they think you’re going about it all wrong.  Guess what?  They are entitled to their opinions.  But you are also entitled to entirely disregard their opinions.  If you trust yourself and you know that you are doing the right thing, let the naysayers’ comments go in one ear and out the other.

5. Work your butt off.

Hmm.  I’d say parents pretty much do this one without even trying.  Parenting is hard work.  Applied to homeschooling, I’d alter this rule to say, “Never stop examining your plan.”  Things change, curriculum is updated, kids gain new skills and talents.  Be open to updating your own goals and plans for homeschooling. Be engaged in the learning process. Research methods and materials. Help your child figure out life goals and how to achieve them.  Don’t just hand your kid a workbook and expect them to get a quality education from it.  Be involved.

6. Give something back.

I like this rule.  I try to do this in my local homeschooling community.  I was helped by veteran homeschoolers online and by my sister who had thoroughly researched homeschooling before her kids were born.  I like to reassure new homeschoolers that everything will be okay, even if you feel like you’re on a sinking ship at the moment. This blog also provides me an opportunity to share my ideas and experience with a broader segment of the world.

Basically, in summary, to be successful at homeschooling, as well as in other areas of life, you need to be confident in your decisions but also willing to be flexible.  You need to keep your eyes on the prize and ignore the doubters.  And you need to work hard at your plan. When you finally reach a successful spot, reach out a hand and help a fellow human along the path.


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Extinguishing the Flame, by Genevieve

Have you ever been excited about a new project until someone started “helping” you with their opinions about how you should execute it and sharing the reasons why all of your ideas could be improved?

I can feel the enthusiasm draining right out of me when that happens, and I think enthusiasm is often underrated.

A  feeling of ownership is extremely motivating. Remember the moment you got your first house or your first car? The possibilities were endless. Nothing could stand in your way.

That is how my youngest feels about a blank book.

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It all started a year ago. We flew from Houston to Ithaca, New York, to visit my sister for a week and hopefully play in the snow. In order to keep my five year old occupied on the plane and in a house with no toys, I put a big stack of blank books in her backpack.

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Before we left, she wanted to start the first one. She drew a picture and then told me what to write for each page. She was quite adamant about the phrasing of each section. Woe to the person who didn’t get her words exactly the way she said them!

That first book was completely fragmented. Each had a picture and a caption, but there was no cohesion. It didn’t tell a story.

For half of a second, I thought about pointing it out to her, showing her an example of how the pages of a “real” book are interrelated. Then I regained my sanity.

She asked us to read her book aloud several times, then was ready to start the next one. This time, there was a theme and there was a story. She was correcting her own writing.

This writing became an obsession over the next week. Every adult was enlisted to write down her dictation.

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She filled a shoe box to bulging with finished books. Then one day she just stopped. When I tried to suggest making a book, she informed me,”Oh, I don’t do that anymore.” It turns out that she couldn’t draw to her own standards, so she decided to pursue other activities instead.

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Again, I bit my tongue and butted out.

At Christmas, my brother called to ask me what he should buy her.

“She has too many toys already. I don’t think there is anything she doesn’t already have, so don’t waste good money….there is one thing she might like.”

After an eight-month hiatus, she had just started writing books again.

“She might really enjoy a nice blank book.”

She opened her presents and tossed the book aside, but that night, she picked it back up and made a decision.

She started writing her first novel.

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It took almost a full month of frenzied drawing and dictating to complete all 98 pages. I guess her drawing had caught up to her ideals because that issue was never mentioned again.

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Her novel has fifteen chapters that tell of the protagonist’s adventures being in a band. What an amazing leap from her first book a year earlier!

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Sometimes the most important thing we can do to help our children is to give them ownership, bite our tongues, and let the fire blaze.

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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 .