The World is our Schoolroom, May 30th edition

Here is this week’s peek into our homeschool lives.

This will be a weekly feature at Sandbox to Socrates, and we are looking for submissions!  Each week we will pick the top 6 photos and feature them on our blog.  You can submit your photos by linking to them in the comments below, or by posting them in our Facebook Group. Please only submit photos that you own and that everyone in the photo has given permission to be published on our blog.

*The Facebook Group is a closed group, but open for anyone to join.  This means that while anyone can join the group, posts are visible only to the members of the group.

The world is our School Room

One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling is the ability to tailor your learning to your environment and interests.  The notion that you have to have a dedicated school room in order to homeschool just isn’t true.  Our writers have given us a glimpse of the many ways and places their families learn.

This will be a weekly feature at Sandbox to Socrates, and we are looking for submissions!  Each week we will pick the top 5 photos and feature them on our blog.  You can submit your photos by linking to them in the comments below, or by posting them in our Facebook Group. Please only submit photos that you own and that everyone in the photo has given permission to be published on our blog.

*The Facebook Group is a closed group, but open for anyone to join.  This means that while anyone can join the group, posts are visible only to the members of the group.

Homeschooling Through a Parent’s Illness, by Lynne

I bought a T-shirt at a homeschool convention that says, “Homeschool Teacher:  There is no substitute.” I thought it was cute and poignant. For most homeschool families, there’s no one to call in when Mom or Dad is under the weather. School may have to be put on the back burner while the primary teacher is recuperating. For instance, I have a severe cold. So for the past few days, I’ve been making my kids read books aloud, while I lounge in misery on the couch. Then I toss a couple of math worksheets at them and call it a school day.

A parent can fairly easily work around a few days of sickness. Some activities may need to be rearranged. Grandma may need to be called in for reinforcement. The non-teaching parent may have to chip in a little more. It’s not going to be disastrous for the school year if you are sidelined by a few days of illness.

But what happens when the illness or injury lasts longer than a few days?

In the fall of 2012, I had a life-altering situation. I went to the emergency room with intense abdominal pain and ended up with a cancer diagnosis and an emergency surgery to remove the large tumor that was causing the pain. It took me five weeks to heal enough to be able to sit upright for more than an hour. It took me a few months to feel like a normal human being again. Had I chosen to do the recommended chemotherapy treatment, who knows how long the recovery period would have been?

I am extremely fortunate to have a large, loving family. My mother and sisters took care of me, my kids, and my household for as long as it took for me to get back on my feet. I also had lots of help with food and other essentials from other family and friends. Of course, school was not our main priority during that time, but my family and friends did all they could to keep my kids occupied and engaged in activities, so that they wouldn’t worry about me, and I wouldn’t worry about them.

Once I felt like we could get back on track with our schooling, it took a while to build up the momentum we had previously established. Some of my original plans seemed overwhelming since I was really trying to concentrate on reestablishing my own health. Once again, my family came through for me and helped me accomplish my goals. One sister even went through my whole science program and gathered up all the materials we would need for all of our physics labs for the whole year. (Typing this makes me tear up.)  She put everything in a huge bag and labeled it all according to each lesson number.

My sister doing a science experiment with her children and mine.

My sister doing a science experiment with her kids and mine.

I often wonder what would have happened if I did not have this security net around me. What would our school year have turned out to be if I hadn’t had so much help? I may have chosen to send the kids to public school temporarily. I may have tried to persuade my husband to school them in the evenings after his long day at work. I don’t think that would have panned out, because he’s not a teacher-type at all. I may have just cut out the majority of my plans and stuck to the bare bones basics. I’ve read other blogs and homeschool forum chats where families have had to make tough decisions like these. My heart aches when I read about a family who has to change their entire lives because of a serious illness or injury.

Our family missed a couple months of schooling because of my illness. My very carefully planned year was thrown off course. We cropped activities, read fewer books than projected, and skipped a few lessons here and there. In short, we adapted to the situation.  Even though it was not what I had envisioned, when it came time for our year-end portfolio review we had a decent school year to discuss with our assessor.

It has been almost a year and a half since my surgery, and I’m doing well. My perspective on school and life has certainly changed. My priorities are more about my kids enjoying this time with me than on finishing our math book “on time.” I want my kids to be prepared for whatever life brings to them in the future, so I still focus on providing them the classical education I think will serve them well throughout their entire lives. However, I now spend a lot more time worrying about making good memories with my boys than I do about the things they should accomplish in our school year.

lynneAfter giving public school a brief try, Lynne and her two sons have decided they are really more of a homeschooling family.  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 .

Creative Classical Education: Is It Possible? by Sheryl


There is no dichotomy between logic and creativity. None. We have falsely mystified the idea of imagination, causing many people to believe that they don’t have the ability to be creative or, conversely, that they are too artistic to be constrained by logic! What a shame.

Don’t believe that creativity and logic are intricately entwined?

Notice how many classroom “subjects” are involved in artist Janet Echelman’s work.

Creativity isn’t just having the freedom to discover beauty, it is combining ideas and materials in a new way. We live in an interconnected world, and creativity is one part of the whole. It is intentional and it can, in fact, be fostered. Classical education offers a wonderful springboard for creating such an environment.

Creativity in Math and Science

It has been stated by many that “Research is organized purposeful creativity.” I love this line of thinking. Research requires thinking about things in a new way, experimenting, observing, trying diligently, and often getting things wrong.

One of the wonderful parts of Classical Education is that it values time spent in thought. It cultivates the art of awareness, teaching students to articulate their observations clearly. Children aren’t afraid of being wrong and their capacity for innovation is infinite. Classical Education allows them the freedom to question, and to discover answers through their studies in an orderly way.


Creativity in History and the Social Sciences

Creativity is empowering. It creates change. It is how generals develop new battle plans, and how new systems of government are formed. Spending time observing the interconnectedness of our world teaches our children to build an awareness of the activities around them and to begin to analyze what they see.

(Oh, and as a bonus, the study of stories has been proven to help with retention in other fields as well! Consider it homeschool multi-tasking.)


Creativity in Debate and Writing

The purpose of Classical Education is not to produce fact memorizers (although the youngest children are encouraged to do a significant amount of memorizing).  The goal is to create students who understand how to learn. Maybe more importantly, the goal is to bring up children who are excited to learn on their own and share their discoveries with others.

By the time students have completed the Rhetoric stage, they have gained enough skills to be express their point clearly. It is only through this expression, rather than mere thought, that they will be able to impact the world around them with their discoveries.


The opposite side of the coin…

Have you noticed that the arts are analytical?  Music and dance follow patterns, there is history in drama, and psychology in colors. Intelligence is diverse. More diverse than we generally acknowledge.

In the words of Picasso, “All children are born artists.” It is our duty to foster their passions and teach them how to utilize their creativity whether they choose to become painters like Picasso or not.

Do you think Classical Education takes imagination seriously enough?

Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at

Cover photo: By Janet Echelman (1.26 Sculpture) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to our Homeschool, by Mrs. Warde


100_7551Monday. After an extended break. I don’t know what possessed me.

Actually, I do. Sandbox to Socrates wanted to feature a “Day in the Life” for each of its contributing authors. I chose the Monday after Christmas break. Things started to go off kilter, but I kept recording because I thought perhaps it might be helpful to see that one of the advantages of homeschooling is flexibility when life doesn’t go according to schedule.

I have two students: Big Brother is seven years old in second grade; Little Brother is four and half in K-4. We also have Baby Sister who is five months old. People often ask how to homeschool with a baby. It isn’t always easy, but we manage pretty well most days.

Usually I try to begin our school day at 10AM, but on this day we didn’t start until 10:10 because as we assembled at the dining room table, I realized the boys weren’t fully dressed and I thought that should change. Handwriting was up first.This subject either takes a long time or goes very quickly, depending on a certain seven year old boy’s attitude. Big Brother did two pages in his workbook, and Little Brother, who insisted on getting his own work, did a letter page in his grocery store workbook.  Baby Sister sat in her high chair at the table with us and observed for most of the time. This day we finished handwriting at 10:40 and took a snack break.

After the snack we started grammar. A regular lesson only takes five to ten minutes, but I had to  make Baby Sister a bottle so we did not finish until 11:03. We then moved on to writing. It was story and narration day, so that was finished by 11:13. From Little Brother I got “Geppetto made a wooden puppet,” and Big Brother said, “The furniture was really simple.”

After writing we moved to the couch for spelling, which we did verbally. Little Brother sang all of his answers; Big Brother acted out all of his. It was review, so we finished by 11:23. Our reading lesson was also review and went quickly as well. By the end of it, Baby Sister had finished her bottle and was ready for a nap. I wasn’t feeling well, so I let the boys play while I took a break. Most days Baby Sister has to be held to fall asleep for a nap, but this day she actually slept on my bed by herself.

Lunch was a little late, but at 1:00PM I started math with Big Brother. We tried out some new ways to practice telling time. He is a kinetic learner, so we got some pvc pipes from his building kit, and I had him be the learning clock. I did it first to demonstrate the idea and then gave times while he pretended to be the clock. He loved it, and we have done it several times since.


Next we tried an idea I found on Pinterest. Using large paper circles,  I wrote the numbers one through twelve on the top circle and had Big Brother write the minutes (:05, :10, etc.) on the bottom circle.


Then it was Little Brother’s turn for math. We reviewed his math poems and showing the numbers one through ten on his fingers. Baby Sister set a personal record for a nap all by herself, but at 1:30 she awoke so we took another break while I attended to her needs.

A hilarious failed attempt at convincing Baby Sister to try cereal, an important phone call before close of business, a bottle, another short nap for baby, two or three diaper changes – and somehow it was 4:30!  In our house, if the schoolwork is not done by 3PM, it doesn’t get done. I scrapped our bone joint demonstration, rescheduling it for the next day, and just read Inside Your Outsides and a section about bones from The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia.

Later that night I read a few short chapters from our read-aloud book before bedtime. Ideally AWANA verse practice and speech therapy homework would get done everyday, but this day was not exactly ideal.

Not ideal, but still a pretty good day.

Curriculum used:

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, Level 1

First Language Lessons 1

Writing With Ease 1

All About Spelling Level 1

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

Mrs. Warde is a stay at home, homeschooling mother of three and a Pinterest addict. She has too many craft projects started to mention, though very few are ever finished. She blogs mostly about homeschooling and sometimes about preemie issues over at

Perfection in Handicrafts and the Dignity of Work, by Briana Elizabeth

“Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a
rose by and by. Life is like that – one stitch at a time taken patiently
and the pattern will come out all right like the embroidery.”
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes.

(There is the possibility of me coming off as a cranky knuckle slapper in this post. That is not my intention in the least, though I acknowledge it still might happen.)

This post is a conflagration of many readings and ponderings of late, concerning the topics of Charlotte Masondistributisimguilds, and the question of how we develop a good work ethic in our children. How subjects like that shake up and come together in my brain normally centers around my life as a wife and mother as I consider homeschooling and how these things apply to us. Homemaking and homeschooling are my life as it is right now, this is my vocation.

When I first started reading Charlotte Mason’s writings on handicrafts for children, I was almost…insulted by them. What did she mean that crafts should not be futile, or that slipshod work should not be allowed?

My mind immediately returned to the memory of being eight years old, of having rows and rows of knitting ripped out because I had dropped a stitch. I was reminded that I put my knitting down, never to pick it back up until the age of forty! The well-meaning teacher ripped it all out in hopes of teaching me not to do slipshod work, but instead she frustrated me to the point of not knitting for years.

Knowing what I know about Charlotte Mason, I cannot believe that method and outcome were her intent.

Instead, what I have come to learn through her readings, and through teaching my own children, is that anything less than the best effort given is laziness, and a habit of laziness can become a devastating character flaw.

First, let me offer a disclaimer. I know that you know that to give a child something so far above their ability is cruel. That is not what we are talking about. We also need to know that in this day and age we far underestimate the abilities of our children, which in turn is an insult to them.

Could I have knit well at eight? Absolutely. I have seen pictures of little girls knitting at three. But the woman teaching me didn’t realize that at the beginning she needed to sit by me and watch over every stitch. Then, when I had well mastered a row of single stitches with her at my side, then she could have let me attempt one row by myself. Not because I wasn’t capable of more, but to catch my mistakes before a single wrong stitch caused eight inches of rows to be ripped out.

How often do we do the same? Show the child something quickly, because we have a task we think more important, then leave them alone with it and yell when they finish incorrectly. But the true lesson that was lost was the opportunity to make something beautiful, to do something perfectly, to build on that success with more work done well, to learn perseverance of doing the work correctly through struggle, and, in the end, to cultivate the habit of a good work ethic with the prize of something beautiful to be offered to society.

So because we don’t have the time to sit by the child and teach them with patience to do the work correctly and perfectly, we shop the plastic self-stick aisle of the art center, and later in the week throw out the clutter we have just created. Instead of creating habits of attention, perseverance, perfection and pride of work, we teach them that what they make is useless, to be thrown out, and (I think most sad of all) not a thing of beauty. We throw trash in the trash, so therefore their work is not worthy to be kept. Even if we throw it out with stealth while they’re asleep or out of the house, the lesson is still the same.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. ~ Dickinson

By now you might be thinking, “So what does she want me to do, keep every little thing that all of these kids make?” Not at all. You don’t want a room filled with everything they made. They might think they are special little snowflakes and that every item is so precious and twee. By keeping everything, we then make little idols out of our children, and altars out of their work. No, no, no. In the middle lies sanity, as usual.

If we teach perfection of work and the perseverance which grows into a good work ethic, we will also be teaching beauty of craft, pride of work, and high expectations of craftsmanship. We will teach pride of belonging, because if the child’s work is useful to the family, there is a pride of community and the joy of having something to offer. This dignifies the child, and that is so much more than making an idol out of them.

So now that I have built my case for perfection of work, how do we go about building this habit in our family?

We do as Charlotte so wisely taught us.

Four succinct points should be kept in mind when selecting handicrafts and life skills.

  1. The end product should be useful. The children should not “be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like.”
  1. Teach the children “slowly and carefully what they are to do.”
  1. Emphasize the habit of best effort. “Slipshod work should not be allowed.”
  1. Carefully select handicrafts and life skills to challenge but not frustrate. “The children’s work should be kept well within their compass.”

(taken from ‘Home Education,’ p. 315)

If a person were a member of a guild, would slipshod work be allowed? Who would want to purchase it? Would you want a sofa that fell down when you sat on it? A table that was lopsided? Gems that were cloudy, jewelry with solder bubbles, ill-constructed clothes, bread that tasted horrible?

Welcome to the consumer society that purchases those things all day long and twice on Sunday and all in the name of economy.

This is all the more reason why we teach our children the relationship between hard work and quality of product. They will not only become craftsmen, but will gain an honorable work ethic and become wise consumers who understand the value of a thing well-made.

This is not only a post for you, but for me. To remind myself that handicrafts should not be relegated to the place of worksheets. It’s not something to fill up time; it has a far nobler task. Handicrafts are so important that time should be made for them.

Handicrafts lessons overflow into every other area of schoolwork. The same structure is something to be emulated throughout our homeschool. The habit of attention, to persevere, to not allow laziness, to work to the best of our abilities, to immediately fix a problem with a lesson instead of waiting until days of mistakes have gone by, to take pride in work well done, and to perceive beauty and rejoice in it — these are the school lessons taught through learning a skill. I could even go on to write an article on grading, and how it shouldn’t be necessary when work is assessed with these principals in mind. That paper will wait for another day, though.

Don’t think that handiwork is only for girls, either. If you search and think about it, there are many things your young men can do. Each year for Christmas, I insist that my children make each other gifts. Yes, that sounds mean, for what if they are talentless? Aren’t I just putting pressure on them? Well, sometimes, yes, I do. Not that they are unable to do quality work, but, sometimes they need help thinking about what they would be able to do. For instance, this year, I bought my boys wood burning kits, an art otherwise known as pyrography. Three are all kinds of books to help, also. Then, I went to the craft store aisle where they sell the little wooden hinged boxes and they chose what they wanted for their siblings. For patterns we used the Dover coloring books we had accumulated over the years. My youngest son who is ten chose the wedding of Thumbelina for his little sister’s box, and it is amazing. I made sure he knew that he was not to rush. I spent a few hours with him teaching him how to make the tracing,  how to wisely choose what part of the picture he wanted to use, and to know that this was something he was to do to the best of his ability. He rose to my expectations, and your sons can do the same. My oldest son, who’d never heard of woodburning before, took such a liking to it that he is now wanting to design his own custom art guitars.

There are a number of other things that would be wonderful for boys, such as soap making, whittling, (think of Jonathan Toomey or the art of decoys!) or if you have the means, to give them time in a carpenter’s shop learning how to make birdhouses and simple frames. Of course there is painting, and drawing, and many men now knit and sew.   I think for boys in particular, starting off with knitting a scarf can seem too easy, but scarves are the best for learning the basic knitting stitch. My boys love knitted hats, and are proud to wear them, so a basic man’s hat pattern on Ravelry would also be a good start. Don’t forget to check YouT ube for tutorials! For sewing, I would begin with a flannel pant pattern. JoAnn’s has pattern sales where you can buy them for 99 cents, so wait for the sales. Next year I think I am going to have the boys learn stained glass. My Papa was a tool and dye maker, an avid hunter and fisherman, and in the evening he would disappear down into the basement to make the most beautiful stained glass works: window panels, lampshades, and even little bugs for window sill decorations.

For girls there are now wonderful kits available, also. There are knitting, crochet, and of course they may also like their own woodburning kits! There is embroidery, felt ornaments, softie sewing kits, cross stitch, more embroidery, wool felting kits , old arts such as flower pressing,  and of course, painting and drawing. For girls who would like to sew, there are very simple 4 piece shirts that would be easy to teach, quick to work up, and they would get to wear them for a long time.

For small children who are still perfecting their motor skills, I would suggest some felt and larger needles. They can make sweet Valentine’s hearts, felt birds, even working themselves up to more creative pieces. And don’t forget ornaments, easy for beginners, but with much room to grow in difficulty.

If you have any other ideas  please leave them in the comments. And now I’m off to knit.

Summer Self-Education with Professor Freeman

by Amy Rose

What do you do when your Homeschool Moms’ Online Book Club drags a little during the long, hot summer? Our group decided to stop reading books. Instead, we’ve been listening together online to Professor Joanne Freeman of Yale University as she teaches us (and many others) about the American Revolution. We have a Facebook group in which to chat as we listen, and we are having so much fun with it! Some of us have already taught this subject to our children  and are pleased to find we know the people, places, and events of which Professor Freeman speaks. Others in our group have younger children and are fortifying their knowledge before teaching this era of our nation’s history in their own home schools. Certainly, we are all learning.

This is an excellent foundation for an American History course for your homeschooled teens, or if you are really hardcore you could use it for Family Movie Night for 25 weeks. Or simply enjoy it yourself, to add another layer of depth to your own understanding of the era. Professor Freeman obviously loves her work and speaks very animatedly (and often humorously) about the founding of our country. She brings each hero, villain, and episode to life, while skillfully posing the big questions and providing perceptive and satisfying answers conversationally and memorably.

As Professor Freeman explains in the first lecture, the point of the course is to understand why the Revolutionary War was only part of the revolution. She quotes John Adams who said, “The war was not the revolution. It was on the effect and consequence of the revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people.” We learn more about how the people of the era actually thought through the excellent teaching by Professor Freeman.

What exactly is the course about? From the introduction:

“The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations–converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause–but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, “The Revolution was in the Minds of the people… before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington”–and it continued long past America’s victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants’ shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.”

The home page for the course is here: History 116: The American Revolution

The home page includes links to the syllabus, sessions, and recommended reading. (My friends and I did not purchase the books. You might want them for your students, or you might want to just use the lectures as “gravy” for an American History course that you’ve already chosen.)

And here is the first lecture, “Freeman’s Top Five Tips for Studying the American Revolution.”

amy_roseAmy Rose was a middle child growing up in a trailer park in the Midwest with talented parents who struggled financially. Her future life was easy to imagine until one magical day when she was thirteen, her fairy godmother gave her a box of oil pastels and a vintage textbook titled, “England in Literature.” Suddenly the entire wealth of riches found in the history of the West became to her a Holy Grail.  So she grew up and learned how to classically educate her own children who all turned out to be geniuses or at least mostly teachable.