Planning Prep

I am beginning the process of actually planning our next school year, and last night something dawned on me:

I have NEVER done two years the same.

How is that possible?  Truly, I’m at a loss.

Well, I’m not so much at a loss, as I’ve been pondering this for a day and half now.  And the thing I’ve come to realize is that it’s always the *how* we do school that is different.

This year is going to be so much different from last year.

In the process of deciding the best way to schedule our school this year, I keep going over stuff we have and how it can be used to make this year work.  We have a LOT of stuff.  Not even joking!  Although my friends frequently joke about how they like to do their “shopping” at “Christine’s Homeschool Library”; the amount of items I have is mind boggling.

Bizarre stuff too.  For example, looking through “music” not only do I have a massive quantity of books on the subject; I also have instruments (piano, trumpet, clarinet, flute, bagpipe to name a few).  Oh, and a recorder, pretty sure I have a couple of those.  mmm.  Yes, I’m not going there, but I’m pretty sure I have a lot more upstairs that I didn’t mention.

What are we doing for music this year?  Musicals!  Because I’ve never done that before and I think that will be fun, and I get BORED so easily.  Seriously, I don’t know how school teachers do it teaching the same stuff year to year.  I would lose my enthusiasm and my passion.

Anyway, I’m sitting here struggling to create something for my kiddos to do — something that will keep all of our interests and yet actually provide a solid foundation for their future.  Yet, as I sit struggling with the entirety of it all I find myself super-jealous of all those homeschooling mommas that do the same thing year after year.


That will never be me.

My Opinion Doesn’t Count

I am always gob-smacked when someone asks for input from me.  All I can think of is, “Why?”

“Why on earth would someone want my opinion?”

Generally, if I were to truly answer myself, it would be that they don’t.  They just feel, for some bizarre reason, that asking others for their opinions is the polite thing to do.

Either that or they are waiting for the inevitable odd thing that will pop out of my head and remind them that they had made a mental note never to ask me such things again.

Without further ado, the question is:

“[What is] your top tip for homeschooling through high school?”

Let me answer this by starting with a story (AKA “inevitable odd thing”).

A number of years ago we were over visiting with some friends which included a young mother and her baby, whom she was trying to feed some jarred baby food.  He was having nothing to do with it and causing her no small amount of frustration.  My husband asked the name of the blend and upon hearing it declared that he probably wouldn’t eat it either and something along the lines of being surprised she was trying to feed it to her child.  In exasperation she declared, “But it’s ORGANIC!”

My husband held her gaze for a fraction of a moment and then smiled and said, “So’s my poop, but that doesn’t mean I’d feed it to a baby.”

I don’t mean to make light of the question, because it is a rather in-depth one, and I’ve seen lots of “good” answers.  However, like so many questions related to homeschooling these answers are given from personal perspective.  A “been there done that; have the t-shirt” imparting of information that is absolutely. . .not helpful.

It is incredibly important that you understand that.  Because their input is based on them, on their situation, on their children, at their location, with what’s available to them, etc.  Not that it makes their input “bad”.  It doesn’t.  It could be similar to your situation, and therefore very helpful.  Yet, there is one thing that I’ve learned about homeschooling and that is that it is very individualized.

So, my “top tip” is this (which is not limited merely to “homeschooling through high school”):

Be brutally honest.

Ask yourself:

  • Where are you at in this time of your life?
  • What are your skills?
  • What are you capable of?
  • What causes you grief?
  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • How can you make this happen?
  • Who are you doing this for?  (peer pressure anyone?)

Ask these questions about each of your students too — because each one of them is so incredibly unique.

Ask more questions that are meaningful to you and ask frequently, because the reality is things change.  Staying on a path that you started 8 years ago just because you decided umpteen years ago to do so may not be the wisest course of action for you or your student.  It doesn’t make you a bad parent or a bad homeschooler to re-evaluate and decide that change, in whatever manner you deem appropriate, is a wiser course of action.


Your homeschool situation will be incredibly “organic” (good and bad) throughout the span of time you decide to stay the course.  I believe, if you are honest with yourself throughout, it will not be merely a trek endured, but a venture best lived.

My life’s purpose

Yesterday I was on a TED kick and somehow landed here:

Actually, I know I landed there because well over a decade ago someone told me that God gives everyone gifts (at least one), and that our purpose in life was to find out what it was and use it.

I have yet to discover what mine is; thus, how I came to watch this particular talk.

Not only does the man say he will help you realize your purpose in less than five minutes, but you will be happier for it.  How awesome is that!

Well, to be honest I was wary, but willing to give it the good ole 10 minute go.

Right, so question number 1, “Who are you?”

I hate that question with a passion.  I hate it because I don’t know the answer to it myself, but also because when I see / hear the responses of others I’m quite sure they don’t understand the question either.  In fact, I believe that most people answer the question with designators akin to stadium seating tickets, especially amongst those in the homeschool circles.

For example:

“I am a child of God.”    (Stadium Ticket would read the name of the stadium.)

“I am the offspring of loving parents.”  (Stadium ticket would read the section you are in.)

“I am the spouse of ___.”  (Stadium ticket would give your row.)

“And I am the proud parent of ___.” (Stadium ticket would give your seat number.)

Guess what?  I still haven’t the foggiest notion WHO you are!  I get it.  I truly do, because this dude asked the question, and I was sitting there combing my brain for the answer.

Turns out he just wanted your first name!

HA!  How awesome is that?!  Remind me when I go to apply for my next job that my resume merely needs to state only my first name!!!  Apparently, that best describes who I am.

The next question was the real kicker though.  I mean, I was honestly grateful that the man started out with something simple like “who” I was, because number two was a doozy.

“What are you passionate about?”

Yep, at that point in time it was time to just get up and walk away.

To be honest, the first time he asked the audience to answer I think I heard maybe 3 voices.  When he asked them to respond louder, I suspect most people said, “watermelon”.

(I suspect that because one of my friends who teaches drama and chorus would tell her students that if they forgot the words to the song, just to mouth the word, “watermelon” and no one in the audience would know any different.  Of course, that little trick would only work if it was a group song and most everyone else did remember the correct words.)

This guy was having everyone shout their answers to him, so I strongly suspect that most people just hollered “watermelon” and he was none the wiser.

At this point, I knew I was still screwed, but I watched the rest anyway.  I did like his final point on how only two of the questions were related to you, and the other 3 were determined with thought towards others.

Still left me clueless.

But, don’t worry, I’ll leave you with my first name and you’ll know.


What Homeschooling Has Taught Me


I started this blog mostly as a way to let interested family members know what was up with our family.  At the time we were on a different continent and it made sense.

At various times it has been used as different “platforms” (i.e. a “soapbox”, a “look-at-us-aren’t-we wonderful”, a homeschooler’s aide, a gripe box, etc.)

By the way, the community needs to determine if “homeschool” should be one word or two, because I’m getting a mite bit tired of spell check telling me I’m wrong.  And, honestly, how can a community be taken seriously if they can’t determine that singular thing.  Oooh, squirrel!

Yesterday I was pondering if I even wanted to continue to write a blog and if so to what purpose.

I haven’t yet figured out “to what purpose”, but I do believe I would like to continue.  It seems to help me focus.

To that end, yesterday was sheer “pandilerium”!  (Which I’m pretty sure is a made up word, courtesy of my husband, but which suits perfectly.)  My head was completely out of any game what-so-ever and nothing I did could bring it back.  But, just as I was drifting off to sleep, something popped in my head that I wanted to share.

What Homeschooling Has Taught Me (thusfar)

  • Patience is not merely a virtue.  Once upon a time a long, long time ago, I thought patience meant being able to stand still in line or sit quietly in a doctor’s office.  And I worked hard to perfect both.  Oh how wrong I was!
    • Patience shows respect.  Let’s face it, I don’t care to hear about a silly-to-me game ad nauseam any more than I want to hear all the griping about how math is “too hard”, or how “school is so stupid”.  However, listening to these things is often what my children need for me to do.  They need to feel I respect their opinion (even if I don’t agree), and that they are valued.  Additionally, in taking the time to show patience in this way, I generally learn “why” they find math hard, or school “stupid”.   Usually, they would not be able to form these thoughts quickly and succinctly.
    • You need patience to persevere.
      Why, yes, I spent 2 years teaching one child the multiplication tables anew on a daily basis.  I even managed to retain some of my hair and tooth enamel.  And, by golly, I would do it again if the need arose.  I just may purchase a mouth guard.  To my knowledge the child has no emotional scarring from that period of time, which is probably the best testament of my patience there could possibly be.
    • Patience for the “ugly”Let’s face it, there are some things you have to teach that you don’t like.  Despise even.  Yet, there you sit plugging through it; even going so far as to research and get to know it better so that your child may possibly find it interesting and, if you’re really lucky, “fun”.
  • Two sides to every equation.  This is a big one!  There are so many articles out there about discovering the type of learner your child is.  Or the best teaching style for this type of kid, etc.News flash!  You need to know YOU first.  And believe it or not, most of us haven’t actually considered that.
    • One of my students was very kinesthetic, so I did all this study about how to incorporate that in teaching situations.  Made sense at the time; except for the fact that I have tactile issues.  It’s amazing how all the activities in sandboxes that are highly recommended caused all sorts of heeby-jeeby issues in the teacher that would put school on hold until fully body showers of all involved were completed and an entire house vacuum session.  However, painting with water on an exterior wall totally worked for both of us.
    • Also, phonics makes no sense to me (whatsoever).  I think homeschool gurus still strongly recommend teaching phonics to children.  I remember at one time, I was truly determined that I should “do things ‘right'” and spent a good deal of time researching phonics, and the more I researched the crankier and more confused I became.  I do not purposely teach my children phonics.  They may “pick it up” through some intuitive gift from God, but they surely don’t get it from me.  (By the way, my kids all read well, so pthhbt! to phonics!)
    • Guess what?  There is every likelihood that EACH of your students will be very different from the other.  What works for one is not guaranteed to work for the other.  Not only based on learning style, but the “who” they are and their personal strengths / weaknesses will throw a wrench in your carefully laid out plans.
  • Know the reasons why.  When I started homeschooling with my oldest he would frequently ask “why”.  Why did he have to learn this?It’s an excellent question, and if you can’t answer it, then why on earth teach it?!
    • Sometimes I have had the reason why, but still decided it wasn’t worth teaching.  i.e. Latin.  If you go into a science / medical field Latin can certainly come in handy.  Learning Latin can help your child learn the grammatical rules for language, it helps your ability to learn a 3rd language, etc.  We don’t learn Latin.  (I have the books though. . .should sell those.)  It’s a dead language for heaven’s sake!  If you need it for your chosen field, you’ll learn what you need.  Get a good grammar book; you’ll be fine.  ANY second language will help in your ability to pick up a 3rd language, if only to affirm your personal abilities to do so.
    • Telling your students “why” can eliminate a lot of frustration.  I didn’t realize this for a period of time, but the state law of “you must have math every year” is an amazing gripe eliminator.  “Sorry, dude, it’s the law.  You want me to go to jail?”  (Thankfully, children have yet to decide to send me to the “big house”.)
  • Set the GOOD example
    • I got fussed at last night by my 11 year old.  I had gotten frustrated a let a choice few words fly free in his presence.  “Mom!  If you don’t want me to say such things then why would you say them?”  Why indeed?*sigh*Let’s face it, everything we do is closely observed.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  We do not have the benefit of those whose children go to school and can therefore blame a lot on peers or other external influences.  It’s all “HERE”.
    • This goes beyond “school” as well.  My personal struggle right now is diet.  (I don’t diet; this is more a discussion of “food habits”.)  What food habits am I “teaching” my children that is setting them up for failure in their future lives?  (Cheese on broccoli?  Desserts twice a day?  SNACKING?)  Let’s face it, there are a number of things that I am not willing to change for me; but for my kids. . .it is amazing what leaves I will turn over.
    • I spend a lot of time researching and planning and preparing.  Not just for school, but for life as well.  The children are now frequently heard to say, “Can I look up ___?”  It does not dawn on them that they are learning.  Heaven forbid any of this research should in any way, shape or form somehow be related to learning (AKA school).  I’ve had two children learn instruments in this fashion.
    • PS  YouTube is an awesome resource!
  • The “magic pill” does not exist
    • Oh, *sigh*.  This is a big one I STILL fall prey to!  You are talking to a friend whose opinion you highly respect and they offer that such-and-such saved them.  You read an advertisement about some product or other and, of course, it is in the topic you feel least comfortable in so you just have to buy it.  And on, and on, it goes.
    • There is NO magic pill.  I mean, you may come across something that totally jives with you at this point in time.  That does not mean it will work for your best friend or even your next child.  Five years from now it may not even work for you.  A lot of this plays into who you are and learning styles and such, but be very careful.  “We” have a tendency to recommend things like they are God’s gift from heaven.  Just a mite bit audacious.
    • I am a scheduler.  Schedules and lists not only work for me, they are necessary for me to be able to work.  I know of others that can’t deal with a simple list, let alone a schedule.  Yet, they still get things done and are quite productive.  (Call me baffled!)  Here’s the thing, if you know you are talking to a non-scheduler, don’t recommend a schedule unless they ask.  (Then, you can honestly say they asked for it.)  And obviously, the reverse is true also.  But, let’s say you don’t know what type of person they are.  Then mention both!  Don’t pretend the one side does not exist.
  • Marathon vs. sprint
    • “Education” is a marathon.  Too frequently we can get into the mental “sprint” trap.  It’s an easy trap to fall into as there are so many courses of study, benchmark checklists, etc.  Guess what, if your child took till 4th grade to learn their multiplication tables, chances are they will do fine in life.  Truly!
  • Flexibility
    • Oh, your students will help you with this one; even if you go into it kicking and screaming!
    • I knew of a family once that believed all their sons should be engineers and all their daughters wives and mothers.  Based on that philosophy this was how their “school” was designed.  I recall the mother expressing frustration because one of the daughters wanted to study more science and was “fighting the power”.  hmm
    • Your goal, in my honest opinion and whether or not you choose to accept it, is to help your children attain THEIR goals.  Now, if their goal is to be a bum, that’s fine.  They will just be one that has a basic set of solid skills (remember, “state laws”).

Finally, I have learned that this is probably the period of greatest “growth” in my own life, and I strongly suspect that I will continue to stretch and grow further than my wildest imaginings on this journey.

Freak Out!

It’s that time of year.

The fact that this happens EVERY year should, in my mind, somewhat diminish the reality; yet, that has never happened.

The start of the new “school year” is upon us, and I have hit total “freak out” mode.

I am NOT ready!

What was I ever thinking!

I am no-where near “good enough”.

And on and on.

Honestly, I think I would happily run-away, if I could only figure out where to run to.  But, that would require time, research, and funds; and if I’m going to use those resources it only makes sense that I use them toward the application of what I had chosen to do in the first place.

My head is killing me and I just remembered one of my students wants to learn the clarinet, another the BAGPIPE.

Oh gosh.  And then they will both be studying Spanish, and I haven’t liked anything I’ve seen on the market, so I had started pulling things together on my own.  (Was that back in April?  Did I come up with a plan?  Did I write anything down?  OH good gravy!)

That’s not even counting the super easy stuff like:

  • Do I have enough paper?
  • Pencils?  Where did all the erasers go?
  • Why is it every pen in my house is missing its lid?
  • Can I find my bookcases?

Actually the answer to the last question is NO!  I can’t find my bookcases, because I had pulled off the books to try to organize at some point towards the beginning of summer and got sidetracked.  So all I can tell you is that behind all those stacks of books the bookcases exist.

Egads, if those books are in piles then how will I find the ones we need???!  Wait.  Do I know which ones we need???  I had a list!  Where oh where is my list!?

I think I’m coming down with a rash.  It’s probably got some awful acronym to go with it, like “HAGS” ( for Homeschool mom’s Acute Guilt Syndrome).

MATH!  Oh my goodness, did I make a plan for math?  Oh, I did.  That’s right.  I did.  Aw man, where are the math books???

Paper bags.  Paper bags are used to help with hyperventilation, right?  I think I saw that in a movie somewhere.  I have paper bags.  Wait.  I only have 12.  I have 12 students in one of my classes.  Are we using paper bags in that class?  I can’t remember!

Breathe.  Adapt.  Overcome.  Repeat.

Ah forget it!  Someone else can do without a paper bag!

Exercise Woes

I have to tell you that exercise is not my friend.

It is said that exercise is great for increasing your energy levels, making you “feel better”,  as well as decreasing your stress.

Ah, the “magic pill”. . .that does not, in any of those categories, work for me.

Exercise leaves me feeling insanely exhausted.  At the end of any given workout I feel like death warmed over, and hubby pretty much verifies that is what I look like too.  As for decreasing stress?  Let me just say any time you have something on your daily to-do list that you dread. . .it is a major stress inducer.

Oh, and during any workout (I do exercise videos), the nutty, smiling leader is always talking about all these stupendous benefits while also proclaiming the wonders of “endorphins”.  Let me just say, for me, those little buggers exist on the same mythical playing field as Pegasus.

I think the worst thing is the number of people that state these things as FACT.   Sort of like those who declared for decades, that you know you are having a heart attack if you have pain in your left arm; or the whole “flight or fight” theory.  Course, recently it has been shown that both of those aren’t true for the majority of the population because the studies that came up with that bunk only used male test subjects.

Not that I’m suggesting this exercise hocus-pocus is false, or that it only applies to men.  I am merely stating it does not apply to me; and I’m willing to bet I am not the only one.  Because, it stands to reason, should exercise be as wonderful as exercise gurus claim it to be, we would not be a nation of obese people.

All that said, you will find me up at 0500 nearly every morning for my daily workout.  (I have very low energy levels and they are at their highest in the morning; otherwise, I would try to figure out how to workout at night, as my most favorite thing to do after working out is to go to sleep.)  Also, given the dread I have for working out, I reduce my stress by not being completely awake when I’m prepping to cross  it off my to-do list.

I do not work out for any benefits other than the fact that it does help my clothes fit better and, possibly, because it will keep me healthier.  (I’m not holding my breathe.)

So, it should not surprise you that in the midst of my workouts my thought processes are. . .grumpy?

I do a different workout every day, on a rotating weekly schedule.  This keeps me from getting bored and plateauing.  Just this week I switched to a new, more “difficult” routine.

Wednesday is yoga day.  I think the routine I did yesterday is headed for the trash.  Not only did I have to hear the bunk about all the great benefits I was NOT going to be feeling, but  I had to listen to the dude’s idiocy.

I mean, at one point we are doing breathing exercises.  (And literally, we are sitting in the “ohm” pose — modified criss-cross applesauce, with wrists on your knees and your thumb and middle finger touching in a circle.)

Just to interrupt my own train of thought here:  Why???  What does that pose do for you?  How does holding your fingers in such a way do anything for breathing or relaxing?  I just don’t get it!

Anyway, the guy wants us to think about “absorbing energy”.  And to help us do this we are to “visualize a sun or a star above your head”.

What?  Does the man not know that a sun is a star?  I mean if he doesn’t that could explain a lot.  Wait a second!  What if he thinks WE don’t know that the sun is a star?  (offense taken)  And, that retard, if the sun and / or star was above my head I’d have “absorbed so much energy” I’d be burnt to non-existence.  Like that will do me a fat lot of good.

You know, I thought of one other benefit I gain from these terrible torture sessions.  Normally, my natural aggressions are completely expelled by the end of the workouts so that my family doesn’t have to deal with such a cantankerous me.  I would suppose there is a great blessing in that.