Monday, November 6, 2017

StackExchange: Homeschool - Area 51

Back when my oldest was in first grade, I started an American Girl book club in my home. It was one of the BEST things I did as a new-ish homeschooler because it led me to some of my dearest homeschooling friends.

One of these dear friends, Rachel Spigarelli, has since moved to Virginia where she continues to be a star homeschooler and local advocate for the homeschooling community. Now that our family is on the east coast as well, we occasionally bump into each other.  This past May, for example, we met up  at the LDSHE conference that was held in Williamsburg VA.

This morning I had the pleasure of hearing from her via email and wanted to share with you her latest and greatest effort to support and nourish the homeschool community nation wide! This sounds like a wonderful effort to be part of and I look forward to helping it grow. Please consider joining this effort as well.

Here's the message from Rachel:

"This new community will be different than a forum, a help desk, or a facebook group. We will be able to use it to sort questions, rank answers, and filter information. Both beginner and advanced homeschoolers will be able to find an audience for their concerns and worries, their fact-based inquiries, and learn details of implementation of different educational methods. We are hoping that the StackExchange Homeschool site will help homeschoolers nationwide find reliable information. There is no limit on who can join StackExchange, and children as old as 13 can participate. You don't even have to create a new user account, you can log in through your gmail. Once they gain momentum, sites like this are most often naturally self-moderating, because of the gamification set-up. Our group is just getting going, and we need to demonstrate it's importance. We are in the definition phase, where the topic and audience are still being decided. If you're willing to help, what we need right now is for you to submit your five best questions that would define a group about homeschooling. What do you think most homeschoolers want to know? What are some of your most pressing questions this year? Your questions should be answerable, and not be opinion based. Think of something that you, as an experienced homeschooler, have needed to figure out. You can only submit five questions, but you can edit and alter your questions after submission. Also, please vote on the other questions already submitted, helping to define what an "expert" homeschooler would want to know. This whole process will take less than 20 minutes. Please follow this link and join our 
Homeschool Stackexchange group.

. Stack Exchange Q&A site proposal: Homeschool

Sunday, November 5, 2017

C.S. Lewis Explains How Governments Create ‘Tame Human Animals’

Have you ever considered what type of school you would send your child to if you didn’t have to worry about cost?
That question is one which EdChoice annually asks the American public. This year, they found that 83 percent of parents have a child attending public schools, but only 28 percent would keep that child in public school if money was no issue.
I was reminded of this interesting disparity when I came across an essay by C.S. Lewis entitled, Is Progress Possible? In the course of the essay, Lewis explains how modern government has become one in which the experts are in charge and determined to conform us to their mold:
“The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good – anyway, to do something to us or to make us something. Hence the new name ‘leaders’ for those who were once ‘rulers’. We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, ‘Mind your own business.’ Our whole lives are their business.”
Lewis goes on to say that there are two problems we encounter when our government gets to this stage. The first is that we no longer know how to act on our own. The second is that we can’t think for ourselves because we have been indoctrinated by government education:
“Here, I think, lies our real dilemma. Probably we cannot, certainly we shall not, retrace our steps. We are tamed animals (some with kind, some with cruel, masters) and should probably starve if we got out of our cage. That is one horn of the dilemma. But in an increasingly planned society, how much of what I value can survive? That is the other horn.
I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the freeborn mind’. But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of Government who can criticize its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology.
Such an observation should cause us to stop and think. The government has kindly offered its education to the masses “free of charge” for years. But has that “free” education come at the expense of free thought? If we want our children to be free and independent thinkers who are able to recognize and repudiate the flaws in government, do we, as Lewis implies, need to remove them from government schools?
Image Credit: Cuito Cuanavale (cropped)

This post C.S. Lewis Explains How Governments Create ‘Tame Human Animals’ was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Annie Holmquist.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Co-op for Littles

If my oldest was only two, I wouldn't consider a homeschool co-op to be necessary.  But my older children get a lot out of the experience and we FINALLY found one that works pretty well for our family here in NC.  (It only took me a year to find it and get in....)

So the 2 yo just gets to come along and it's an added bonus to her "school" week.  Turns out that she really likes it.  And my job is to work in her room for 2 out of the 3 hours of class time.  Imagine that!  Play time with friends AND with mommy.  Double bonus for her!

Anyway, a couple weeks ago the toddler class was invited to join some of the slightly older kids in a fire truck/fighter demonstration.  It was hot as blazes outside (in OCTOBER) and I was not enjoying the heat, but these littles did such a good job of listening and participating! I was proud of them.

Our little is learning a bit more about friendship too.  She's learning to share toys that she likes and how to be inclusive.

These two are drawn to this little teeter totter every week!

Fall Daze

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love all things fall. But fall in the south is a little different. This video kinda sums it up.
 You get the idea. The first half of October was still hot enough to run the AC and eat salad for dinner. But we pretend it's fall here by still doing all of our favorite fall activities.

 I'm late getting these pictures up, but here's our HS group field trip to the corn maze. I didn't actually get any pictures of the maze! It was more challenging than I thought it would be. We enjoyed it though.

The kids really had fun doing all the other activities there at the farm. To all the fall fans out there: May your fall be brisk and bright!

Below: The corn pit was a HUGE hit.

Below: Rubber duck races on these water tracks that were propelled by hand pumps.

Below: They hay ride!  The "pumpkin patch" turned out to be a grassy area laden with already picked pumpkins of a rather small size.  Sigh.  not what we were hoping for or used to.  So we had to follow up this experience with another trip to a real pumpkin patch.  Pictures of that will have to follow another day.

I hope your fall is full of fun family memories this year!  And I hope your weather cooperates :(

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why Do I Keep Homeschooling After Ten Years??

I know we all have those days when we wish we didn't homeschool.  Like today for example.  I don't even know how we fit it all in!  At 5:40 am my husband takes my higschooler to a bible study class.  At 8:30 am I was on my way with all the kids to a field trip at the corn maze, followed by piano lessons, then poopy diapers, naps, laundry, math lessons, reading lessons, volunteering at the horse barn, cooking, vacuuming, volleyball games, and late night grocery shopping.  Somewhere in there we ate meals.  I think.  Tomorrow will be more of the same, but there will be different activities: Band, Scouts, etc.

Did my mom ever have a day like this?  Nah.  I was explaining to my husband today that her policy was to never rise from bed before we had all been shuffled off to school with a dollar-twenty-five in lunch money and a hug from dad before boarding the bus.  She didn't see me during the week until after cross country practice (or softball, or basketball, or debate club, or rehearsal, or whatever...).  I ate a quick dinner, did my chores, showered, and spent several long hours doing homework in my room.  Pretty hands off for my mom, I think....

So why do I do this homeschool thing?  Why don't I shuffle my kids off to school and spend my days doing what I want to do?  Cause I could!  And then I'd have time for exercising, reading, gardening, shopping at normal hours, meal planning with calmness instead of in a flurry, serving on some community board, or going back to school.  WHY am I a homeschool mom?

Well, three things in the past 24 hours have come to my attention that have really affirmed my decision to homeschool.  Let me go over them here...just for good measure.  Cause I really don't need any more reasons. I already have plenty.  But it's always good to grow the list so that I can draw upon it when I have exhausting days like this one and I am tempted to strap my kids to the back of a yellow bus and say goodbye for 5+ hours while I soak in the tub and eat fudgesickles.

1) I read an article and saw a news cast about a boy in Georgia who was bullied in school because he and only one other child in his 5th grade classroom still had the decency to stand and salute the flag during morning Pledge of Allegiance.  For real?  To make it worse, the teacher then began to explain why she would never stand for the pledge or respect our nation's flag. that why we send kids to school?  To be brainwashed by teachers into hating our country?

2) My 9th grade daughter has a bestie that goes to public school.  This friend told my daughter that one of her teachers was caught smoking pot in the bathroom during school hours.  Everyone could smell it, and it was obvious when the teacher came into class that he was "altered".  Did the teacher get punished? No.  This friend laughed about the experience.
Is this why we send our kids to school? To desensitize their moral compass and expose them to these bottom-of-the-barrel teachers who then flood these young minds with cultural ROT?

3) As I mentioned above, today we took a field trip with homeschool friends to visit a corn maze. It was really fun and what a beautiful fall morning to be outside enjoying the sun and the season with good people.  But we weren't the only group there.  While my kids were having lunch and playing on the swings, I heard two other children playing near by.  These kids were probably between 5 and 7 years old. One of them said, "So Billy, we live together and have kids, but we never get married.  OK?"
WOW!  Is that how kids play 'house' these days?  The worst part was the mothers' reactions to these kids' imaginings.
Mom 1: "Did you hear that? Did you hear what she just said?"
Mom 2: "No, what?"
Mom 1: With a big grin, "She just said, "Hey, we live together but we never get married." Giggle.
Mom 2: "No way! Really? As in, they're living in sin together? That is hilarious!"  Laughing.
Mom 1: "I know, right! SO funny!"

Wow.  Just wow.  Now, I don't know if these kids were public schooled or not. I don't know where they got this information or learned to act it out.  But I can imagine.

Being homeschooled doesn't make you a saint! That's for sure.  But it sure does allow you to filter your environment to such a degree that your moral compass, your knowledge of Truth (with a capital T) and Higher Law, your understanding of  God's world and your place in it will flourish much more than if you were to be thrown into a mix of "do-what-feels-good-ism", commonly found in today's public schools.

And there my friends, are three more examples, or reasons, why I continue to do what I do.  We are in our 10th year of homeschool.  I've got another 18 to go!  (Number 7 is due in November!!!)  It's a daunting thought.  But I do believe that all things are possible through Christ, which strengtheneth me.  And I do believe that the time and season will come when my burdens are less, my time is more abundant, and my own ambitions will manifest.  For now, I pray for strength to play out the role I've been given at this time in my life.

It's late.  My pillow calls me.

Kudos to all of you homeschooling parents.  I know it's hard.  But I believe our efforts will NOT  be in vain.  The world so desperately needs strong, solid kids to stand up to the cultural decay and remind the world that America, and all she represents,  can only be Great when America is Good.  Carry on!!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bayer Bee Research Center in Durham NC

Always on the hunt for free, fun, and educational field trips, I jumped on the chance to visit a local bee research facility.  By the way, if you can't get there in person you can take a virtual tour of it by visiting this link:

After a field trip I always regret not getting more pictures that really tell the story of our experience.  But between watching the littles, managing the camera and also trying to learn something myself, photos often become an after thought.

Anyway, here's a bit about our experience:

The tour starts with a great 10-15 minute presentation describing the pollination process, different kinds of bees in the hive, threats to bee health, and what we can do to help bees thrive.  Above you can see our youngest volunteering to be one of the bees that takes care of the baby bees.  Older sister is there for moral support.

We then moved outside to the screened in observation area.  There was a cool praying mantis on display for our enjoyment as well!  Gotta love NC insect diversity!

It was a pleasant day indeed.  Mid 70s with a gentle breeze; felt like a bit of PNW home.  What a pretty setting.

Our tour guide geared up and went outside to hunt for the queen bee.  We couldn't find her.  The guide explained that the "cold" weather was forcing her to stay warm inside of the clumps of bees where we couldn't see her.  Oh well.  But we could see she had been busy! there were lots of new eggs and larvae.

This year my oldest is taking an early morning seminary class that starts at 6am Mon-Fri.  She's still adjusting to the schedule, as you can see here.  What a great day for a little nap in a rocking chair by a beautiful garden.

Exploring the garden!  There were lots of bees.  Made me a tad nervous.


So, I wish that I had pictures of the kids enjoying their free honey samples, free honey sticks, free fuzzy bee stickers, and free squishy sunflowers.  Lots of free goodies after the tour.  Wish I had some cute pictures of the friends who made the trip with us.  And it would have been cool to get some pics of the cool research facility.   Wow, it's really a neat facility with beautiful grounds! I wouldn't mind working there myself!

In summary: Feed a bee so they can feed you!  Plant flowers today :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

We didn't travel to see the eclipse in its path of totality.  We stayed local and went to a park with a big open field where we'd be sure to have a good view but also hear and feel the reaction of others as this very cool event took place.  Lucky us: We were fortunate enough to be serenaded by our fellow viewers with a rousing rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as we reached peak coverage.

We were expecting 93% coverage here, and even though it didn't get totally dark, it was really cool to witness the change in light and temperature.  I have to say, that I really don't mind having just 7% of the sun's rays beating on me in August.  It was like someone had drawn the shades over a hot window.  Things cooled off, I didn't have to wear my sunglasses, and a slight breeze began to blow.  Perfect!  That's the kind of weather I wish we had every day!

So here are some photos of the big day. We didn't do a whole unit on the sun or the moon in preparation.  I figured the Apologia Astronomy class we did a couple years ago would have to suffice.  Interestingly, my oldest daughter just started an astronomy class this month and she's using MasterBooks as her curriculum.  She is really enjoying it so far and this was the ultimate lab!

We had a cool set up with our binoculars projecting an image onto poster board.  The only problem was that they were taped a little loosely onto the tripod and somebody had to hold it in place THE ENTIRE TIME or we'd lose the image.


The free glasses that we picked up at the library were great!  I'm pretty sure they were authentic, and not lame counterfeit glasses.  Some of us wanted to be extra safe though and put the glasses through paper plates to really keep out those rays!


Dang it! We had made a slew of pinhole viewers too, but we left them at home.  So we didn't get to try those out.

Here's what our little did during the eclipse.  But when we got home she kept reenacting the whole thing by looking up at the ceiling, covering her eyes with her hands and saying, "bright! bright!".   Ok....

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summer Math Games for Reluctant Math Boy

My rising 5th grader is a smart kid. He's creative, inventive, and has a mind like a steel trap. He can remember so many cool facts and figures. Every week he brings home STACKS and STACKS of books from the library (mostly non fiction) and reads them all before we go back. He's constantly wowing me with his factoids and interesting trivia. I don't know how he holds it all in that handsome head of his. He loves computers and has learned to do some coding. Like his father, he has a mechanical brain and can figure out how things work and how to fix them fairly quickly.

So, it's all the more frustrating to me that he still struggles with his math facts. He can remember how many people live in China and what their top exports are, but he can't remember 9x4? Really? Even after I've taught him aaaaaallllll of the "nine tricks"? WHY? His shaky grasp of the math facts was really getting in the way as we headed into long division, fractions and the like. He was starting to hate math. It became a struggle. "NO!" I screamed in my head. "I refuse to have another reluctant math student. THIS will not DO!"

I remembered reading an article about this topic, reminding educators that the main reason kids resist math in upper elementary school is that they don't have a firm grasp on basic facts, and the problems that seem so easy and quick for us adults, are actually so tedious and laborious for kids who just can't figure out what 7 x 6 is. Yeah. That made a lot of sense to me. So I set out to fix that this summer: 

Summer Math Plan for Cranky Factoid Boy:
 *Play games!
*Play more Games!
*Review and Drill some more
*Learn multiplication fact songs.

 And I have to say, it's working. We haven't even touched his text book this summer. I did a lot of research and just put together a binder full of math games that we play every other day. In between those days I give him a math drill sheet that I grabbed for free from Learn Math Fast.  And every day or so, we practiced a new song from Times to Remember.  We all really like the songs and find ourselves singing them randomly around the house.  4.x8 is one of our favorites: "Tooty-Hoo!"

I think his favorite game was Kaboom!  I used to play this game with my kids when they were younger to help them with their  sight words.  But we called it "unicorn" because that's what my girls were into at the time.  You can play Kaboom to learn pretty much anything and even my 6yo liked it and learned a lot of her facts along the way.

Was it worth it to take our whole summer term (9 weeks!) away from the texts book and focus on just memorizing facts?   yeah, I think so.  I'm sure hoping that it will eliminate the daily math struggle when we pick up his text book and keep moving forward with it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Sunday Saunter

There's a great place just up the road from our house called Yates Mill.  It's an old corn mill, and we've been there on a field trip to take tours before.  This particular Sunday (it's been several weeks now) we decided to head out in the afternoon to burn off some energy with the kids by exploring a few of the trails around the lake.

What beautiful scenery!  I always love getting out of the house for a fun, low-key hike with the kids.  Of course, these outings don't always turn out as planned. Sometimes the tensions get high, accidents happen, injuries occur, fights break out, weather turns bad, and so on.  You know how it goes, right?  But at least we try.

This outing was generally a success, despite a few little arguments.  We discovered a trail that connects to the NC State Ag. farms and played on a big wooden swing hanging from an oak tree on the edge of their property.  Very cool.  And these days its seems that our oldest can always be found with a volleyball attached to her.   She and her dad volleyed all they way around the lake, which did happen to annoy a few of the other hikers (in our family!)

But I seem to love this place.  If it weren't for the bit of road noise that you can hear on part of the trail, it would be almost perfect.  So serene, so green, and best of all...close to home.

Notice the Duke Splash T-shirt my volley ball girl is wearing.  She got that at an event held at Duke University the day before our hike. It was for middle and high schoolers. She was able to choose 4 classes and have a pizza lunch for free!  Some of her home school buddies went too and she loved it!  They turned her loose on campus with a map and a list of her classes.  So much freedom and independence!!   She was totally seeing herself going to school there in the future, which, of course, was probably the whole point of the event.  

Monday, April 3, 2017


Wow, strawberry season comes early in NC.  Not a problem! All the more time to pick, eat, jam, and enjoy.

NC Zoo!

Today we took our family to the NC zoo.  The only other zoo I have to compare it with is the Woodland Park zoo in Seattle, which we have visited many times.  I like that zoo in Seattle a lot.  Lots of good memories there.  But if I had to pick the best one, I'd say it's NC Zoo hands down!

What a beautiful zoo! And what a fabulous location! The tram was super convenient (except the part where they make you remove your sleeping child from the stroller, empty the stroller of ALL its contents, and fold it flat before you board).  And the exhibits were very engaging.

We didn't get to see everything of course.  You never can do a whole zoo in one day.  We look forward to going back again!  Next time we hope to take all the kids.  Our oldest stayed home with a chest cold today.  Sad.  :(






Saturday, April 1, 2017

5 Ways Homeschooling is like Entrepreneurship


Please include attribution to with this graphic.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Homeschool Spelling Bee

Back on Feb 16, I hosted a spelling be at our house.  My 6yo is an avid speller! She loves to spell!!  She spells about every 15th word out loud and is always saying, "Hey mom,  I can spell ___________."  Wanna hear?"

So it was mostly for her, but my 9 yo and 11 yo had fun with it too.  We opened it up to 6-12 year olds and I only allowed 15 registrations.  I had a great response! I could have easily filled a lot more spots but, being my first bee (EVER!) I wanted to just keep it low key.

I think it went really well and we had a lot of fun.  If I were going to open it up to more kids I would move it to a larger space, however.

The basics of how it worked:

I used words from  since they have lists by grades. I had asked each child to give me their self-reported SPELLING grade (not school grade) so that they could each be individually competitive at their own level.

As kids dropped out and our numbers became fewer, I challenged the reaming kids by bumping up their grade levels and giving them harder words.  For the last 3 remaining contestants, I started using the challenge words. I had to do that or it would have gone on forever. We had some good spellers!  As it was, the actual bee lasted about an hour and that was plenty.  I had scheduled 2 hours for the whole experience so we coudl wait for stragglers, have an orientation, then do prizes and food at the end.

I allowed the kids to have one PASS and one NEXT card.  These cards allowed the kids to either pass their turn and still remain in the game, or ask for the next word on the list if they didn't like the one they got.  I think it gave more kids more confidence to try the bee.

For the kids who were eliminated, I had cleared out my living room and set up a variety of games, puzzles and activities for them to enjoy while they waited.  They were also free to play outside with some adult supervision from other moms.

I asked for $2/registration to cover the cost of the prizes, which were awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.  My kids didn't place, but I thought we all had a great time and enjoyed the friendly competition.

Our house has 2 sets of stairs, so as the kids advanced to the next round, I had them exit our school room on one side, go down the front stairs, and come up the back stairs where they waited (quietly) in line for their next round.  This kept their bodies moving a little bit while eliminating background noise for the speller.  Looking back, it would have been more efficient to have the kids line up in order of spelling grade level so that I wouldn't have to do so much flipping and clicking back and forth from list to list.

I got good feedback from parents and kids, so maybe we'll do it again sometime.  Actually, I'm thinking next year we will do a Geography bee! I'm already helping my kids study for it :)

On Deck.  The kids on the couch are waiting for their turn to spell.  The others waited on the stairs and advanced to the couch one by one.  Keep them moving, I say.

Using the lap top and white board.  I spelled out the missed words for kids who were not advancing.

orientation.  I explained the rules and handed out the passes.

Battle ship!  Downstairs the kids played games after they had been eliminated

We also had painting set up for kids who were waiting

and other stuff to do....