May 2013 — Early Winter

by Rose-Marie

Previous Post — April 2013: Early Winter

Only two entries this month. There were no nature study tours scheduled and it was cold. (Sook, sook.)

Daughter was convinced this wallaby, whom we had never seen before, was a baby but I think it was female.

I got a bee in my bonnet about Daughter not knowing what lichen was. I don’t know why I like lichen so much, but I find it a happy thing.

Kel's Roach Ranch, Part I, by Kel


This is the story of how I became the owner of Kel’s Roach Ranch.

Ask any mother what she’d do for her child and she would most likely answer, “What wouldn’t I do?”  Most moms will quickly tell you they’d give up anything and everything for their child’s happiness.  They wouldn’t hesitate to lay down their life for their child, but ask them if they would willingly and eagerly let roaches into their home, and you’d probably get a response like, “No WAY, no HOW!”

I knew as a homeschooling mother I’d have to be willing to take on tasks a traditional public or private school mom wouldn’t face, and I was OK with it.  I knew I’d give up some time for my own hobbies, and I was OK with that.  I knew at some point I may have to teach higher level Math, English, and Science, and I was OK with that.  I knew I’d be the one supervising the dissections of frogs and the like, and I was OK with that.  Had you asked me if I’d be the mom who would order a colony of twenty-five roaches and try to breed them, I would have said “What? Why would I ever do that?!”

I will let you know I’m the animal-loving mom, who never batted an eye when the kids wanted rats or mice or other unusual pets.  I encouraged my daughter to save up for the one thing she’s wanted for years: a reptile, more specifically, a dragon.  This past May she’d finally saved enough money and purchased the little guy. He was barely four inches long and tipped the scales at a whopping seven grams.  You may know that reptiles eat things like mealworms and crickets.  Well those crickets were never a favorite of our little buddy, Spock, so we started researching for alternate sources of food.  We found Phoenix worms, which are really just Black Soldier Fly larvae, and he readily ate those for a few months, but then he stopped eating as much and was losing weight.  We started researching again and found out that a great source of food was something called a Dubia Roach.

Dubia Roaches are a tropical species but can live in a typical house at room temperature. They require very little in the way of care: give them a good quality dry roach chow and keep their water crystal hydrated, and you’re good to go.  So we decided to order some.  Spock loved them.  He started eating and growing again.

The next time I needed to buy, a favorite retailer was holding a Facebook auction.  I could get a breeding colony, twenty-five female and ten male roaches complete with the food, water crystals, and food dish if my bid was the highest.  So I placed a bid and wouldn’t you know it, I won!  This was awesome! If I could get the roaches to breed, then I wouldn’t have to keep paying for someone else to send me 1000+ roaches a month to the tune of $45-$65 per order.  I was so excited, and my group of homeschooling friends had mixed reactions. Some thought I was the coolest mom ever and some thought I had completely lost my mind.

My colony arrived a week later.  I got them all set up in a Rubbermaid bin, with a hole cut in the top and covered with screen for ventilation and a heat source placed underneath.  I had actually only gotten a couple of adult females and one adult male; the rest were what are known as “sub-adult.”  That was OK, because that meant that they weren’t old and close to the end of their lives.  I was so happy when they arrived I posted a big thread in my Facebook group for homeschool moms, telling all about how I set them up.  Later that weekend, I moved them to a better bin and had my husband take a video of me holding the different roaches so I could explain if I was holding an adult or sub-adult and let the viewers know if each was a male or female.  I had promised some of those ladies I would do this so they could show it to their kids.  Many couldn’t believe I was willingly holding a roach and letting it crawl all over me! During the conversation about the video my colony was dubbed Kel’s Roach Ranch, and I have to admit, I liked the sound of it.

Read Part 2: The Babies Are Here!

Five Tips for Making Homeschooling Easier, by Caitilin Fiona


When you are homeschooling, especially early on, life can often be overwhelming, and the advice you may receive is often equally so. Bearing both of these things in mind, I would like to offer five small tips that I have found make homeschooling easier. Please, take from this what you find useful, and leave the rest behind! No one has all the answers, and each of us has our own challenges to face; if even one thing here is helpful to you, that’s a win for us both.

1. Plan your meals, all your meals.

This is something I wish I had done many, many years ago, for though I’ve only been at it for about six months it has hugely improved our family’s diet and budget. Nowadays, I sit down on a Friday night or a Saturday morning and decide what we are going to eat for each meal for the next week. In the interest of frugality, I have switched our breakfasts from cold cereal and toast/bagels to hot cereal or eggs every day. I plan which of the five or six options for hot cereal we will have, taking into consideration what we will be eating later on each day. Thus, if we have cream of rice for breakfast, I’m not going to serve black beans and rice for supper, etc. From there, I go on to plan the rest of the week’s meals, giving thought to what we had last week, what is on sale at the grocery store, and whether each day will be busy or relaxed.
A couple of websites I have found very useful are, which has a fabulous selection of different types of meals on a very reasonable budget, and, a Canadian meal-planning site, which has both free and paid subscriptions and an interesting variety of recipes; it is also often less meat-heavy than many American options I’ve seen.

2. Have assigned chores, for you and for your kids.

As a homeschool parent, often you’ll have the lion’s share of household tasks. However, you can significantly lighten your burden without overloading your children by giving each assigned tasks to complete daily. The reason to assign them is that old saw about how Anybody could have done the job, and Everybody thought Somebody would do the job, but in fact, Nobody did it. If five-year-old Charles knows it’s his job to feed the dog and set the table, and nine-year-old Helen knows it’s hers to unload the dishwasher, and so on, then all those necessary things are done, and done with minimal argument, because everyone knows that there’re plenty of jobs to go around. Mom (or Dad) is then freer to focus on the larger-scale aspects of running the home and the homeschool, using timely reminders, rather than having to newly assign every task to someone as the day goes on.

3. Work for finite periods, both daily and in the longer term.

Homeschooling is a tough gig: though the rewards are great, the pay is miserable and the hours are often long. One way to help counteract these long hours is to decide to only work on school for limited periods of time. To begin with, decide on a time when you’ll be finished for the day, even if you’ve not accomplished everything you wanted to do.
At my house, we school from 8:30 to about 3:30, with an hour for lunch in there somewhere. If you have only young children then your day will be shorter, and if older the day can often be longer, but whatever your cut off time is, stick to it. Older kids can work on schoolwork as homework later, after supper for instance, but you and they both need a break.
In the grander scheme, it has been very beneficial to our homeschool to have finite schooling periods after which we have a small vacation. In some years, we have divided our year into quarters, with ending points at Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and summer. More recently, we have shifted to a six weeks on, one week off schedule. For us this has been a wonderful change, as it allows us the freedom of more frequent breaks without getting behind.
These are just two of the myriad scheduling options you can choose from, but whatever you choose, make sure you schedule in breaks–you and your children will be thankful.

4. Say NO to outside activities.

It is often tempting as a homeschooler to try to take advantage of every educational opportunity that presents itself to your attention. Resist this temptation. While a couple of outside-the-house activities are very enriching, maybe even necessary, to the homeschool, undertake too many and you’re dooming yourself to failure. You will find that you’re doing fine for a while, a month or two maybe, but as time wears on, you’ll soon start to dread every trip, consumed with worry that you’re falling behind, with the feeling that you’re failing your kids’ education, and generally succumbing to serious stress. Don’t do it. Thoughtfully consider where your and your children’s time is best spent, and spend it there–not in the car.

5. Take time for yourself.

I know, I know, this is trite, and everyone says it ALL.THE.TIME. But you know why? Because it is pure and simple TRUTH. You must take some amount of time away. This can be very simple and functional, as a weekly grocery-and-necessities shopping trip. It can be a monthly book club, craft evening, or Bible study. It may be a daily exercise regimen, or a once a year trip to a homeschooling conference. Maybe you go have hot chocolate by yourself at Barnes and Noble for an hour twice a month. But whatever your preference for spending time with yourself (and other adults), do it. It is not a luxury, it isn’t selfish; it is necessary to have the small breaks that give you the oomph to return to your day job.

Caitilin Fiona is a homeschooling mother of six children, ranging from sixteen year old twins down to a five year old. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include language and languages, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.

"Quran Stories For Little Hearts" by Rose Marie


This series was compiled by Saniyasnain Khan and is available from Good Word Books, Amazon, and all the usual places one may buy books. If you are Australian and particularly from Melbourne, I recommend purchasing at IBC because they are a friendly bunch. The proprietor helped me sort through what I needed on and off until an hour after closing time, when he surely had better things to do! That kind of customer service deserves to attract business.

Unfortunately, this series is not sold in order. I thought this was very silly, but was comforted when the chap in the book shop said the Sura (chapter) and Ayat (verse) numbers were included in the footnotes so it wouldn’t be a huge job to sort them out. Murphy’s Law of Homeschooling struck when I got home and found that less than half of the books are drawn from one chapter only, so putting them in order was going to require significant collaboration between my non-Muslim self, Wikipedia, and a few others. Plus, the Quran makes no attempt towards chronological order. Who knew? (Apart from the billion or two Muslims out there!)

So, here is the series put into Quranic order to the best of my ability, just in case someone else ever needs it:

The Morals of Believers

Life Begins

Allah Made Them All

The First Man

The Builder of the Kabah

Uzayr’s Donkey

Ramadan and the Quran

How to Pray Salat

The People of the Book

The Two Brothers

A Unique Miracle

How Ibrahim Came to Know Allah?

Allah’s Best Friend

The Ark of Nuh

The Prophet Hud and the Storm

The Prophet Shuayb and the Earthquake

The King’s Magicians

The Pious Man and His Sons

The Prophet Yusuf and the King’s Dream

The Travels of the Prophet Ibrahim

The Sleepers in the Cave

The Story of Two Gardens

The Wise Man and the Prophet Musa

The Iron Wall

The Old Man’s Prayer

The Miraculous Baby

Allah Speaks to the Prophet Musa

The Prophet King

The Most Patient Man

The Light of Allah

The Ant’s Panic

The Queen and the Bird

The Treasure House

Luqman’s Advice to His Sons

Love Your Parents

The Gardens of Saba

The Angel’s Prayer

The Brave Boy

Tale of a Fish

The Travellers Prayer

The Rivers of Milk and Honey

The Honoured Guests

The Prophet and the Blind Man

You might ask why a Pagan would spend so much money on a series of Quran stories, particularly when she has most of them at home in a book called ‘Bible Stories for Children,’ retained from her upbringing. The chap in the Muslim shop did! As I explained to him, all these stories are important for cultural literacy, and it is my hope that my kids will read the Jewish, Christian and Muslim versions and *notice* they are all the same stories. That might not sound like an in-depth analytical exercise, but I only have very small children at present! What I didn’t tell him, because he didn’t require the long version of my education philosophy (especially an hour after the shop had closed), is that I think an education is supposed to teach us about people and their motivations. After all, we spend our whole lives with and/or avoiding people! Religion is one of the largest forces that shapes the way people view and interact with the world and its other inhabitants, so a lot of my time and “pocket money” will be devoted to the subject.

Rose-Marie was one of those enthusiastic planners who began researching when she was pregnant with her first. She wanted to homeschool because it sounded like an affordable adventure, then she met her kids personally…
DD is 6 years old and has Echolalia and some processing issues so isn’t speaking fluently yet. DS is 4 years old, has retained primitive reflexes and while there may be a deity somewhere who knows what’s going to happen with this kid, he/she/it hasn’t chosen to inform us. They live on a hill in rural southern Australia without enough solar panels and like it there.

Thanksgiving in the Car, by Mrs. Warde


Every other year my father’s side of the family gets together for Thanksgiving. On those years we drive a full day’s journey there, spend the holiday with more than seventy family members, and drive a full day’s journey back home. No time to learn anything about the origins of Thanksgiving. There are a lot of ideas and lesson plans out on the Internet for learning about Thanksgiving at home, but not many for learning about it while in the car. Which is probably where half of families with kids are. So here’s my idea of teaching about Thanksgiving in the car (or plane)!

When planning a “car lesson” I try to consider how to give information, talk about it, ask for some form of output from the student, playing with the topic, and relate to it.

Give information: There are a lot of resources out there. If you already have a favorite book or movie to share, do that. We have just a few simple “First Thanksgiving” books including Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley, and one of my favorites, Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters. If you have a tablet and can access the Internet in the car, Scholastic has some neat video tours and slide shows with historical reinactors. Be sure to include this fact: Thanksgiving, according to Holidays Around the Year, was made a National Holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.

Projects for output need to be simple because cutting and gluing in the car is not ideal! So I recommend making a Thanksgiving Activity Book from things you can print out from the Internet. Staple it together like a book and you won’t have to worry about papers all over the place. Pages to print out for various ages can be found at Blessed Beyond a Doubt, DLTK, and 3 Dinosaurs. I recommend at least one blank page or a draw-and-write page. Also, put a blank page in for the classic hand-traced turkey. This activity book can be as quick or as long as you think your kids would want.

Talk about it: You know your kids best. And who knows what questions they might surprise you with?

Play with it: This would have to be prepared ahead of time, but I think a fun idea would be for the children to color Popsicle stick puppets to act out what they’re learning. Incorporating what he knows into play helps my kinetic learner cement the information in his head. When my four-year-old joins in the play I can tell that he was listening.

Relate to it: Popcorn snack! This can be prepared ahead of time and keeps very well, especially if it’s authentically served without butter. Also, you’re traveling like the Pilgrims did, in a similar amount of personal space. You can talk about what it would be like to travel for several months in such cramped conditions. What about motion sickness, for example? When you get to your destination you’ll be dependent on your hosts for the Thanksgiving meal, just like the Pilgrims needed help from the Wampanoag to find food. And of course, you can always talk with your children about the things in your life for which you are all thankful.

This lesson plan can be adapted in length and depth to suit your own family’s needs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

When Reality Sinks In

by Apryl

A little over six years ago, I brought three little girls home to educate.  We were leaving a school system that I felt was failing them and heading into grand dreams of our new homeschooling adventure.  I had two third graders and a sixth grader, all of whom were bright, pleasant children.  This was going to be so much fun, and I had it all planned out.  There would be a lot of arts and crafts that tied in seamlessly with history and science.  Math would be hands on and exciting.  We would read great literature, study the Bible thoroughly, and write beautiful prose.  With all of this one-on-one attention, the girls would sail ahead of their public school peers.  It was going to be awesome.

Then reality set in.

We discovered how much the girls were just skating through public school without actually learning much.  My A/B Honor Roll sixth grader couldn’t do fifth grade math.  One of my third graders knew how to multiply, while the other had never even done it.  We had some catching up to do.

They were also used to being the best in their class, and never having to work hard at anything in school.  Suddenly the work was harder, and their classmates were just as smart as they were.  It was a blow to their egos, and it unsettled their self-esteem.

My beautifully planned-out curriculum was not going well, either.  I had chosen the Weaver Curriculum for its dedication to learning through the Bible, multi-grade flexibility, and for all of the hands-on work it offered.  Little did I know that the prep work required to implement this was going to wear me out and my older child didn’t really appreciate doing the same work as her baby sisters.

There were tears, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  From the kids, too.

So, two months into it, we threw in the towel on Weaver.  Reality had hit and it looked nothing like my pipe dreams.  I looked closely at the girls’ learning styles and their gaps. We ended up going with Sonlight because it was literature rich and Christian based.  It also gave us the flexibility to customize the work to fit the needs of the child.


Over the years, I found that being flexible is what worked best with my children.  There is no one curriculum that will fit the entire spectrum of their needs.  While boxed curriculum is a great starting point, eventually it was crucial for us to break out of the box and fill our needs with bits and pieces from other sources.  I also had to let go of my own ideas of what was fun or interesting.  For example, my kids never embraced the whole notebooking thing like I hoped they would.  I had to accept that, and be willing to drop that from our plans.

Eventually we outgrew Sonlight, but it had held my hand through a few years of learning to plan lessons and to make sure all the basics were covered.  Now, in their high school years, I am able to pick and choose freely among the myriad of curriculum choices to make sure each child’s needs are met with the minimum amount of angst.

But in the end, that is the beauty of homeschooling.  We aren’t marching to the same deadlines and rules to which the school system must conform.  Our kids reap the benefits of a truly customized education.

Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her daughters (13 year old twins and a 16 year old).  After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were 3rd and 6th grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

Teaching World Geography to Younger Students

by Jane-Emily

When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, I wanted to do something fun that would get her ready for world history in first grade.  I had already planned to use Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World series in 1st-4th grade, and I love travel and learning about other countries!  So I planned out a year of world geography for a five-year-old.  I did not use any packaged curriculum; the ones I had seen had a strong emphasis on Protestant missionary work and that was not my focus.

I bought two books:

I also put a world map and a map of the USA in the hall.  Everything else I checked out from the library.  It hardly cost a thing.

I planned for thirty weeks by choosing thirty countries or regions of the world with the atlas as a help: Scandinavia, West Africa, Japan/Korea, and so on.  I also made a little passport, just a little booklet with heavy blue paper for a cover and a bunch of plain white pages, sewn together with heavy thread.  I put a fancy gold seal on the front (it said “Home Made Candies” but who cares?). On the inside cover I put a picture of my daughter and her basic information, just like in a real passport.  I ruled lines on the pages, dividing each one in half, and labeled the sections with country names.

With my master list in hand, I visited the library each week and checked out a few books about the upcoming topic.  This is very easy to do: Just go to the non-fiction section of the children’s room, look for the early 900s, and you will see shelves of books about other countries arranged geographically.  Many of these are part of “countries of the world”-type series for older children doing country reports, and can be handy for you to look through for recipes or other information. You’ll also find books to actually read to your young child, often “kids in other lands”-type books or maybe some neat history.  Those are fun.

The other books I looked for were folk and fairy tale collections for each region of the world.  Libraries usually collect lots of folk tales, and these are found in the 398 section of the non-fiction collection.  They are not arranged geographically, so you must search in the catalog for specific topics: Just type “folk tales Caribbean” or whatever you’re looking for, and something will probably come up.  You could also find books about world religions in the 290s; there are many good books for young children with the “I am a Hindu” sort of theme.  World holiday books are good resources too (early 390s).

Each week, we wodkchildrenuld start with the atlas and the Children Just Like Me book.  We would read about one or more children, find their homeland in the atlas and talk about what it would be like to live there–not for a very long time, we are talking about 10-15 minutes here.  Later in the week, we would read a story or a folktale (or three or four).  And later again, we would cook something yummy, play dress-up or a game, or otherwise try something fun and new.  I am still cooking the spinach and egg recipe we made for Greece!  We did this three days per week, and most of that time was spent on folktales, play, or cooking.

At the end of each week, we would fill out our passport to show that we had ‘visited’ the country.  I collected stamps when I was younger and I have my collection stashed away in my closet, so we would raid it for good postage stamps and stick them in.  You could also draw something, print pictures, or just find a cool rubber stamp to use.

This plan worked very well for my older daughter’s kindergarten year.  We had a lot of fun and she got plenty of ideas for imaginative play.  In particular, one girl who lived in the Amazon jungle attracted her, and for months she would play that she lived in the Amazon.  Even now, she remembers many of the activities we did.

When my younger daughter’s turn came, I actually did this plan for first grade while her older sister did modern history in our four-year cycle, so that they could start ancient history together the next year.  She insisted on a purple passport, and again we had a very good year learning about the world.

Jajane-emilyne-Emily homeschools two daughters in California.  She is a librarian who loves to quilt and embroider, and she’s a Bollywood addict.  Her favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. She blogs about reading at Howling Frog Books.