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.

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!

The Power of Youth

 Today I had not one, but MANY mothers come up to me and thank me for requiring their children to do a personal finance project.

“It has taught [my student] the harsh realities of life.”


And I walked away feeling very deflated.

In all honesty I could not, with any sense of personal integrity due to the nature of this class, avoid doing this project.  That said, it was truly a personal struggle to make it happen, and it was for this very reason that I was so hesitant to require it.

I have been inundated with conversations of late about how hard this teenager is going to have it or that teenager, or those hypothetical few that fall into *that* category.  (Pregnancy, young marriage, medical issues, pick your poison.)

According to all the adults with whom I am forced to suffer these conversations all I hear over and over again is:

“They won’t be able to do it.”

“Oh, don’t expect them to be able to adapt to that change!”

“It’s too hard!”

“What were they thinking?!”

and on and on. . .

My favorite is, “They don’t know what that will require from them.”  At least that one is completely accurate, and God bless them for their ignorance.

The others are a bunch of old-fogey junk!

I mean, “Hello??!!”  Well over 98% of the people I have these conversations with, I know how their adult life started out, and yet they somehow made it.


Youth is highly adaptable.

Youth is truly optimistic.

Youth has the power of imagination and belief that it can be better.

Youth has the ability to rise again, even if they have been beat down repeatedly.

Why do so many of us with the *wisdom* of age refuse to acknowledge those very simple truths?  Think of the many very young mothers that somehow raised families.  Think of the young men who provided for those families.  Think of Alexander the Great, who died when he was about 30.  What about Civil Rights?  Was it a bunch of old people (or even middle-aged) marching the streets demanding change?

What truly scares me is the number of parents who see everything as an impossibility for their youth making excuses for their offspring.  Or worse, preventing certain things from occurring on the pretext of saving their children from these challenges.

Gosh darn it, CHALLENGE YOUR KIDS!  Provide them with an opportunity to grow.  Let them learn the power of success in spite of change or difficulties.  Let them learn the pain of failure, for it is often through those failures that the most is attained.

I want to scream to teens and young adults alike, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (courtesy of Ms. Frizzle)

Today I was congratulated on helping the teens in my class get a “grasp on reality”.

To those teens, and all others:

“Reality” will come soon enough.  Until then, reach for your stars.  Make things happen.  Go for the impossible.  Achieve all and more that those who are older than you say is beyond your grasp.

You have the enviable power of youth.  Do not squander it.


Some of my very favorite books are full of intrigue, suspense, and obscure meanings, (like one would see in diplomatic speech).

For example:

“I hope you can appreciate the fact that I am really not in a position to make serious changes in the government at the moment.” Drop dead.

“Please, I wasn’t suggesting that. I fully appreciate your situation. My hope was to allay at least one supposed problem, to make your task easier.” Or I could make it harder.

-from Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

I truly appreciate when the intended meanings are put in italics too as they would otherwise, most likely, be lost on me. I simply don’t speak/think that way. It would require training for me to get to that level of understanding.

My speech (verbiage and understanding) is very much like my driving. I actually use turn signals, and such to signal my intent. There should, in my mind, be no doubt in another’s mind as to what I’m actually doing.

Not so, other drivers in our state! Therefore, when our kids turn about 15 I start instruction on “vehicle body language”.

It usually starts something like this:

“Just what do you think that idiot is about to attempt to do?”

Towards the end of the child’s “training” I can expect,

“Well, due to lack of any signals whatsoever, I couldn’t tell you. They are in the left-hand turn only lane (which, you would think, would mean something); yet, their wheels are cranked in the complete opposite direction, and they keep throwing up furtive looks in their review mirror every few seconds. Therefore, the nut-jobs are going to attempt to cross three lanes of moving traffic and make a right-hand turn.”

We learn similar skills in body language too.

“Posturing” sets the ground work for identifying the “path” or the direction one wishes to travel.

In case you don’t recall, I wrote this post about how difficult I was finding it to determine how I wanted to lead a unit study class.

Well, nearly half-way through the course, I have FINALLY figured out my “posture”.

It’s about time!

Prehistoric Art

Please note:  For whatever reason, WordPress is not allowing me to add links to this post.  (most infuriating)  Therefore, I’m just posting the links in parenthesis after the text — which is not as neat and tidy as I would prefer, but I don’t have time to investigate the cause of this any further.

I am forever amazed at the number of musicians that will claim, “I can’t do art!”  Do they not realize that music is indeed a form of art?

Today was a rough day.  I knew it would be, we had all last week off due to company and certain people want to fight me tooth and nail when we start back.  Then there’s the whole forget-everything-you-were-ever-taught disorder.

I was mentally prepared for this, but still after two hours on a math lesson that should have only taken at most 45 minutes, even I was ready to scream.

Luckily, the rest of the plan for the day involved our art study.

And first we did music!  Which made me feel awesome because I could put my plan ( into play and see how it turned out.

So, first we discussed how there was absolutely nothing.  Not only nothing to see, but nothing to hear as well.  Then, I “introduced” them to the conductor of an orchestra idea and how at the beginning of any performance he will raise both arms up high.  This signifies to the orchestra to get ready, but to the audience it tells them to get quiet; both of these objectives are essential to be met.

Please note that during this discussion one of my guys could NOT keep his mouth shut to save his life!  We had to wait a bit for him to get his jabbers out. . .

But he did manage to finally pull it together, so we went ahead and moved on to our first piece of music:  water.  I am so pleased with this piece I can hardly stand it!  (Not that I had anything to do with its creation, mind you, just highly impressed.)

The boys were suitably impressed!  In fact, they had never seen wine glasses “sing” before, so that led to an impromptu “lesson” on playing wine glasses.

All in all, a highly successful music lesson.

Then we moved onto cave painting.  We had just finished the book, Boy of the Painted Cave, ( so it seemed the perfect time to cover this.

First we took a virtual tour of the Lascaux caves (, which the boys thought was pretty cool.  We discussed the different colors used and the different animals created, as well as how they used the rock texture to actually create some of the shapes.  (Most memorably this was done with a bull.)  One of the pictures had a wounded person, which fascinated one of my kids. . .

The boys were then set free to create their own “cave art” in our small bathroom, with a candle to provide their light.  (I got this idea from another blog which I can no longer seem to find, so please understand this was someone else’s brilliant idea.)

The boys thought that was “da Bomb!”  Giggling galore ensued.  Happy children emerged from the bathroom.  It was probably the best end to the day I could have wished for.