But Why Say That?

“Can I include audio books as reading materials?”
“Can my child study [a particular country], in depth, for world history?”
“Can I decide that my child’s done with the school year even though he hasn’t completely finished the curriculum?”…

I see questions like these (and others) online all the time. I like trying to share what I know to try to help these homeschool parents who are trying to figure out what they’re doing. And I understand that other people are Continue reading But Why Say That?


Graduation Memories of a Different Sort

What Do You Remember About Your High School Graduation?

As friends post online about their children graduating from high school, one asked about our own memories of high school graduation or if we even remembered the event at all. I do remember mine, but thinking about it brought back other memories, too, memories of being frightened and alone but surviving.

The graduation ceremony itself took place on a windy day outside in the football stadium. I remember holding the flower Continue reading Graduation Memories of a Different Sort

Virtual School Lessons

This year, we tried Florida Virtual School (aka FLVS)–the online public school program run by the state of Florida–for a couple of courses for my teens with mixed results. Well, they have both earned good grades in the classes taken, but we’ve all learned something about public school courses–not just how to take them but their quality and the huge impact they’ve had on our homeschooling.
Continue reading Virtual School Lessons

Creating Memories with Our Homeschool Support Group

Our homeschooling would be so different without our homeschool support group. I say this as I’ve just put a lot of finishing touches on our group’s fourth annual yearbook since I’m the editor-in-chief. Shutterfly photo books have, it turns out, a limit of one thousand photos per book, and we had reached the limit without completing all of our pages, so I had to go back and check over what the committee had done and weed out photos that were essentially duplicates so that we had space for photos from our big annual Talent Continue reading Creating Memories with Our Homeschool Support Group

Teaching a Preschooler at Home

I frequently am asked “What curriculum should I use with my preschooler?”

After teaching a lot of preschoolers in my home (including my own forever children as well as almost two dozen foster children), I’ve learned a lot about what works with most children and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that Continue reading Teaching a Preschooler at Home

How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?

Every year around this time, I ask my kids about what they’d like to study next year. The answers have varied a great deal but they’ve always made our studies more interesting for both the kids and me, and I know they learn more when they are fully engaged in what we’re studying. It can take a bit of creativity and work to figure out how to include their interests, but the rewards have been great.

For example, one year my son who was about ten years old at the time, asked if he could study Star Wars. My initial response was, “No, we can’t study Star Wars. Continue reading How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?

How’d You Do Physical Education (aka P.E.)?

We’ve done a lot for P.E. this year. Most of it has come from activities done with our homeschool support group in casual group activities. Some from things we’ve done on our own for fun. In this area, we’ve had a lot of variety this year mostly because of our homeschool support group that’s grown more organized, with more volunteers, over the years.

Our group’s soccer meets twice a month usually for at least an hour and a half, though often it’s closer to two hours. A homeschooling dad coaches, having them do warm-up exercises, a variety of drills, and then they play the game. The coach volunteers his time so soccer is free to members of our group; our group offers a variety of similar activities for free because we ask all of our parents to volunteer in some capacity over the course of the year. I really appreciate this as our funds are limited and I’m not a sports person who’d feel comfortable teaching a variety of sports. Soccer is casual, with no uniforms or requirements other than coming dressed in appropriate clothes for running the field. The kids’ skills have greatly improved over the years, and now they’ll often start up their own casual soccer game at park meetings.

Similarly, another dad in our group ran a Golf Club and a Tennis Club that each met monthly. In the Golf Club, we’ve met at a public golf course and the kids have learned to use the driving range and practice putting on the putting green. They’re working up to playing a round of golf together. Clubs purchased from a thrift store have kept this sport inexpensive and I like the idea that my kids will have a working knowledge of golf, even if they aren’t passionate about the sport, so that if their future involves someone who wants to chat about business over a golf game, they won’t be totally out of their element. Likewise, for the Tennis Club, we’ve used rackets bought from the thrift store to minimize the cost. When a neighbor was cleaning out his garage, he gifted us with a ball holder and a plethora of tennis balls; in my experience, it really helps to chat with the neighbors about what the kids are doing.  A mom in our group ran a fitness club that met twice a month the first half of the year with calisthenics and lessons in nutrition and other aspects of health.  Now a teen is running a twice-monthly basketball fundamentals clinic. Since he’s being scouted by college basketball teams, he knows his stuff and has helped the other kids learn a lot. When all of these activities are put together, the kids have had some form of organized physical activity at least once a week, sometimes twice, for one to two hours at a time.

In a local public high school P.E. class, which is usually about 45 minutes long, a good portion of the time is used for changing clothes, showering, and taking roll. So two hours a week of organized physical activity is about what a public school P.E. course would offer. With the activities listed above, my kids are doing close to that amount of activity, but they do a lot of other activities as well.

My son wanted to learn archery, so together, he and I went to a 4-H training session and became 4-H certified instructors (well, Junior Instructor in my son’s case). Together with some other moms in our homeschool support group, we started a 4-H Archery Club for other homeschoolers. The 4-H group gives us insurance, some equipment, and a place to meet free of charge. We meet twice a month at the local fairgrounds and have been teaching about 20 students, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, to shoot with bows and arrows at targets.

If you throw in the biking, running around at the park, swimming, and other activities, along with some lessons in health and safety, we’ve done a lot more than the 120 hours that are usually cited as the minimum for earning one high school credit. If you add in all the P.T. (physical training) my son’s been doing with his Young Marines group and the workouts he’s done on his own, he’s definitely earned more than one credit in P.E. this year, but one credit of P.E. seems enough for the year to me.



Mock Trial Fun

Tomorrow morning, we–my children and several others from our local homeschool support group–will put on our fourth annual mock trial. In the first mock trial, we used a pre-planned script we found online (prepared by a group of lawyers for use in educating students and available at no cost), but over the years as we’ve all learned from the process, we’ve grown more daring and have created our own.
This year’s mock trial is based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Willow Woodcutter is accused of the murder of Mr. Wolffe. Was she a heroine who saved lives by killing a fiend? Or did she misjudge him and attack him without cause because of her own bias against wolves? Depends on which team of lawyers you believe. (They weren’t sure about the use of a fairy tale in the beginning, but they’ve had a lot of fun with it. Hopefully the actual trial will be full of the drama exhibited in today’s rehearsal.)
Our players have planned their strategies, prepared their speeches, made props (including a box of Puffs–the brand of tissues prescribed to Mr. Wolffe who suffered from terrible allergies and short-term memory loss per one team of lawyers–and a police report about Mr. Wolffe’s previous crimes) and are ready to go. They’ve learned some of the basics of how trials are organized and the evidence allowed; tomorrow, they’ll demonstrate what they’ve learned and include a number of other children who may choose to just watch or to participate as members of the jury. Our mock trials have all been held in the historic courtroom in a local museum and have been a lot of fun as well as great learning experiences not only demonstrating an aspect of how our government works, but giving the children a chance to practice public speaking and theater skills.


No Tattling Here; Or: Social Skills

Over the years, I’ve heard a few parents complain about their kids tattling. Then again, I hear news stories in which something horrific happens and people are upset that someone knew beforehand and said nothing. I think the two go hand-in-hand, that one leads to the other, and I’ve never chastised my kids for tattling because of it. I don’t want them to ever think that they should stay quiet if there’s trouble brewing.

I was bullied greatly in school. We moved often, so I was always the new kid in school. I’d lived in other countries and even on a yacht, so I was very different. I was quiet and shy which didn’t help either. In seventh grade, I lived in an area along the Mexican border and my blonde Continue reading No Tattling Here; Or: Social Skills