Behind the Scenes

5 Reasons to Check Out the HSL Podcast

Our favorite secular homeschool podcast might be your new favorite secular homeschool podcast, too.

This summer, Suzanne had the brilliant idea to start a home | school | life podcast, where we could talk about the big homeschooling questions: What does our decision to homeschool say about us as educated, intelligent women? How do you know when to push a kid to do something she hates and when to put a pin it? What is the weird obsession the world has with whether homeschoolers are socialized? Plus a podcast would give us another place to obsess over what we’re reading, what we wish we were reading, what our kids are reading, and what we wish we’d never, ever read. We recorded our first episode at the end of May, and we’ve been putting out a new episode every fortnight(-ish) since.

If you’ve been listening, thanks! (Especially if you’ve sent us an email or left a comment—that makes our day!) And if you haven’t listened to The Podcast with Suzanne and Amy, here are five reasons you might want to tune in to an episode:

1.  Suzanne and I do everything about homeschooling really differently—except for being neurotic about overthinking everything and feeling guilty every couple of days. We both do that. Maybe we all do that?

2.  We have read some terrific books so far, including an Anthony Trollope-ish novel about very class-conscious dragons with Victorian manners, an apocalyptic thriller in which a scientist and a witch are working—sometimes together, sometimes against each other—to save the world, and a piece of E. Nesbit fan fiction that’s really pretty charming.

3.  If you have ever maxed out your library card and your holds and had to read like a maniac to beat your next requested book to the library, you could be a contender for Suzanne’s favorite game: Library Chicken. (Amy plays the less exciting Yarn Chicken, which basically involves knitting faster and faster as your yarn starts to run out, as though speed will magically extend the length of your yarn.)

4.  You love the magazine but sometimes wonder “Who are these people anyway?” You can learn a lot about our everyday homeschool lives—including Amy’s family’s “absolutely no spitting ever” rule, Suzanne’s morning routine, how we handle sick days, and lots more—on the podcast.

5.  You don’t have anyone to obsess with over things like whether you should be worried about teaching calculus or how you’re going to cope with the fact that high school has completely thrown your daughter’s social circle for a loop. Obsess with us! We have obsession to spare.

You can keep up with the podcast here on the website or on iTunes, and if you enjoy it (or if you don’t!), we’d love to hear from you! It sounds silly, but sometimes the Internet feels like a lonely place, and it’s so nice to know you’re not just floating out there alone. :)

The Scoop on Our Online Classes

home/school/life :: online homeschool classes for high school students

Back when we first started homeschooling, I interviewed a woman named Andrea Hermitt for an article I was writing about homeschool budgeting, and her words have stuck with me: “You should spend money on what inspires your kids’ passions,” she said. “Scrimp and save in the subjects that don’t get them excited.”

Because, really, isn’t this the whole point of homeschooling—the ability to go where our passions lead us and to dig in, as deep and as long as we want to? There’s learning for learning’s sake and learning for passion’s sake—and I know which side of that equation I want to end up on.

So when we decided this winter that we wanted to think about offering online classes through home|school|life, passion was our byword. Like so many of our homeschooling projects, this one started a little selfishly: My daughter starts high school in the fall, and researching classes wasn’t turning up anything interesting. Classes were either core-curriculum-generic topics (British literature, U.S. history) that would be easier and more fun to do at home together, or super-casual academic-lite classes that are fun for meeting people and getting an overview of something but not really very dig-in-able. So we thought about what kind of classes we wanted for our daughter’s high school experience: smart, fun, rigorous, obsession-worthy. And we decided, what the hey, let’s build some. Maybe we’re not the only ones wishing for these kinds of classes. Maybe our daughter won’t just find the opportunity to explore topics she’s fascinated by under the leadership of amazing teachers. Maybe she’ll also extend her circle of friends to include people who share those passions. 

So that’s the idea that launched home|school|life passion projects—our online course offerings that you won’t find in any traditional class catalogs. We’ve teamed up with some incredibly knowledgeable, incredibly passionate people to bring these classes to life—and really, not just classes but a whole online community where students can interact with their teachers and each other between scheduled class sessions. Over the next weeks, we’ll be sharing more details about our summer lineup—which we view as a fun sampler of offerings that will give you a taste of what you can look forward to in our semester-long classes this fall. Feel free to chime in with questions and ideas for future classes!

At Home with the Editors: January Rewind

At Home with the Editors: January Rewind

Living books to inspire a reluctant reader, learning how to take notes, and other stuff that's happening in our high school right now.

Stuff We Like :: 10.16.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

I love when the first story for the next issue comes in the same week the current issue goes out to subscribers. It makes me feel so productive!

around the web

This American Life presents the state of U.S. education in “The Problem We All Live With.” Definitely worth a listen.

Strunk & White: Grammar Police. This is a series that needs to happen.

Fascinating read: What happens when Amazon dies?


at home/school/life

in the magazine: Our fall issue is out!

on pinterest: Painted rocks with owls! Hello, Monday art project.

on the blog: I loved Shelli’s post on how to set—and achieve—academic goals in your homeschool.


reading list

I am a pretty vocal proponent of rereading, but every once in a while, I wonder what I’m missing out on by reading something again instead of reading something new. Then I reread something like East of Eden, and I know I am not missing anything.

Mo Willems is a sure bet in our house, so it’s no surprise my son is digging The Story of Diva and Flea. My daughter has been digging A School for Unusual Girls, which is about a spy school for rambunctious young ladies, set in the early 1800s.

I love everything Ruth Reichl writes, and My Kitchen Year is no exception. (My favorite is still Garlic and Sapphires, though.)


at home

Why yes, I have watched the Wonderfalls series twice in a row all by myself.It’s the perfect antidote to feeling sorry for myself.

I have started my December sweaters for the kids—I like to try to knit each of them a sweater every year. I’m making another Fisherman’s Pullover for my son (one of my all-time favorite knitting patterns) and a Boxy for my teenage daughter, mostly so she will quit "borrowing" mine.

I'm trying to find my way back to a workable fitness routine for the next six weeks of my recovery, and chair yoga has been a pretty good start.

Stuff We Like :: 8.7.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

One of my friends was teasing me that my weekly stuff posts make it seem like I have my homeschool life act totally together. So just for the sake of transparency: I haven’t been completely caught up on laundry since one glorious week in 2011 and I do not include things like “ordered cheap Mexican because I was too lazy to cook dinner” on my lists because they are such routine occurrences that they don’t bear mentioning. In other words, I totally have my homeschool life act together — for about 11 whole minutes of every day.

around the web

This warmed my heart: What happens when you give a tree an email address?

This blog rounds up every line spoken by a person of color in hit movies. Wow.

Is our obsession with photographing every minute of our children’s lives shaping the way they’ll remember their childhoods — and not necessarily for the better?


at home/school/life

on the blog: Did you enter our Oak Meadow curriculum giveaway yet?

on pinterest: I am in love with this cozy, creative corner.

from the archives: Easy ways to turn around a not-so-great homeschool day.


reading list

Is anybody else dying to get her hands on the adult-novel sequel to Five Children and It, set during World War II?

I have been listening to this Oxford lecture series on the works of George Eliot, so of course I had to crack open Middlemarch again. (It's even better reading on the other side of thirty.)

It’s that time again: I’m doing my annual end-of-summer reread of Little Women. (And I’m totally okay now that Jo doesn’t end up with Laurie. But even Gabriel Byrne is not going to reconcile me to Professor Bhaer.)


in the kitchen

In my effort to squeeze every bit of flavor from tomato season, I made a batch of tomato jam. Verdict: Yum. (Think of it as a very posh ketchup.)

Shawne inspired me to try making onigiri at home, and these little stuffed rice balls have become a favorite afternoon snack. The recipe makes them sound complicated, but they are actually really easy. (Sometimes I stuff mine with smoked salmon and avocado, and they are delicious.)

If there are blueberries, I’m making blueberry boy bait. And there are blueberries.


at home

My daughter and I had our annual homeschool planning retreat — at the pool, this year. I just reported my July homeschool budget, but August spending is well underway.

Jason and I are trying to find a new television show to obsess over, but in the meantime, we’re digging the Harriet Vane Collection on DVD.

We’re totally obsessed with Quirkle, which is kind of like dominoes but with more sophisticated strategizing required. We’re always pulling it out and saying “just one quick game.”

Amy’s Homeschool Budget : July

A dollars-and-cents breakdown of one family's homeschool budget. #homeschool

So you know how any time you start to think, hey, I’ve kind of got this together, something comes along to knock you back to the starting line? I had my budget for the coming year all neatly planned out when I got the email that our homeschool group is increasing registration fees by a pretty hefty amount this year — such a hefty amount that signing our kids up for their usual classes there isn’t an option for us if we also, you know, want to feed them this fall. So it’s back to the drawing board to sort out some outside-the-house classes for the kids. I’ll let you know what we figure out. In the meantime, back-to-school shopping has begun. We don’t take a summer break, but we don’t officially start our new school year until after Labor Day, so I still have some time to make my mind up about a few things I’m dithering about. I haven't really drilled down to my final list yet. There were a few things, though, that I knew we’d want, so I went ahead and made a few purchases. Here’s what I’ve bought:

The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way for my almost-8th-grader. (Rebecca’s review totally sold me.) $15

I also picked up the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra set for her. I’ve mentioned before that my daughter has struggled with more traditional math programs, so it’s great to see her making progress with Life of Fred — but even more, it’s great to see her feeling confident about her ability to do math. (I borrowed a copy of Fractions and of Decimals last year but decided to buy the whole set so that we could work back through anything we wanted to.) $125

The next level book for Miquon Math for my almost-2nd-grader. If you have a math-y elementary kid, you should take a look at Miquon — it’s been such a good fit for us. $9

Handwriting is something we want to work on this year, so I bough a pair of lined whiteboards to practice on. (If you use dry erase boards and don’t know about this site that sells discounted seconds, you definitely should check it out.) 2 x $5 = $10

Total spent in July: $159 Total spent this year to date: $159
Total budget for the 15-16 school year remaining: $3,641
Total budget for the 15-16 school year: $3,800
(You can read more about our budget breakdown here.)


In case you’re interested, here are a few things we’re using that we didn’t have to pay for, either because they are free or because we already owned them:

Eighth grade is state history here, so we’re taking advantage of the free textbook available online from Clairmont Press. I don’t love textbooks, but I figure we can add enough fun field trips and conversation to make this one work — and free is my favorite price.

The Brief Bedford Reader (I picked up a copy of this last year for an essay-writing class I taught, and I liked it so much I'm planning to use it for our 8th grade writing spine)

ECCE Romani I and II (I talked a little bit about how we study Latin, including why I’m not buying a new book for Latin this fall, in this blog post from last spring)

Story of the World, volume 2, which we didn’t quite finish this year

My Pals Are Here Science 2A (I bought this when we first started thinking about homeschooling but never actually used it — I figure this is its chance!)

Oak Meadow 2nd grade (it’s an older version hand-me-down from a friend)

Minding Our Business: Group Subscriptions to HSL

home|school|life magazine :: secular homeschool magazine offers discounts for group subscriptions. (Great perk for co-op members)

One thing you may not know about home/school/life is that we offer group subscriptions at a pretty nice discount. If your homeschool group of 20-plus folks wants to subscribe to the magazine, we can hook you up with a deal that lets each individual subscriber pay just $12 for her — or his! — subscription. (If you want to price it out, that’s the equivalent of getting two issues for free, so it’s a pretty good deal on a pretty great homeschool magazine.) Note: Group subscription price increases from $10 to $12 on September 1, 2017.

We see this as a win-win: We think homeschool groups are awesome. If you don’t belong to one, it really is worth the effort of stalking email groups and making awkward park visits until you find your people. We like to think that super-affordable subscriptions are a little perk we can give to support something that we see as a pretty integral part of a well-balanced homeschool life. And for us, it’s pretty terrific to reach a whole group of homeschoolers at once. We kind of love knowing that our group subscribers will always have someone to talk to about the latest issue of home/school/life when it comes out.

If you want to take advantage of a group subscription, all you need to do is appoint a point person for your group to email us with your list of at least 20 people. (We don’t care if you’re an email list group, a meet-at-the-park-twice-a-week group, or a Facebook group. If you consider yourselves a group, so do we.) We’ll send you an invoice via PayPal, which you can pay after you’ve collected the money from your group, and then we’ll send you a free download code to share with your group as each issue becomes available. It’s easy for you, easy for us, and a way to get a pretty nice discount on the subscription price.

Minding Our Business: "Why Don’t You Have a Print Edition?"

home/school/life is a digital secular homeschool magazine.

Probably once a month, we get an email from someone asking why we don’t publish a print edition of home/school/life. “I like to be able to hold a magazine in my hands and flip through it,” someone will say. And Amy will say “So do I.” So why don’t we just publish a print edition? The reason, frankly, is cost. Say that every single person who currently subscribes to the digital edition of home/school/life decided to take advantage of the print edition. It would cost about $22 per issue. That’s just the cost of printing — it doesn’t include any mailing costs, and it doesn’t include any profit for the magazine. It’s just the straight-up cost of printing the magazine for the number of subscribers we currently have. We think that’s a bit too much to ask someone to pay. (Though we will order you a print copy if you want one — just email us for the price of a particular issue and shipping.)

There are ways we could make a print edition more affordable. We could be less picky about advertisers, or trade reviews or coverage in the magazine for money that would help cover the cost of subscriber copies. But we feel like that’s not the way we want to grow this magazine. We like knowing that our readers can trust that the products we review in our pages are the ones we honestly think are the very best. We like knowing that the companies who advertise with us are companies whose products we can wholeheartedly support.

We could also reduce the size of the magazine — if we cut the number of pages in each issue in half, we’d cut the price of printing in half, too. But we like that every issue feels like a book’s worth of content — we want to give you enough reading material to carry you through the season until our next issue comes out.

Ultimately, we’ve decided to be patient. We put out a magazine that we think stands head and shoulders above other homeschool magazines. We hear from lots of readers who say it’s “the best homeschool magazine” they've ever read. We’re going to trust that we’re doing the right thing with the magazine and trust that — eventually — our readers will find us. (Some people have mentioned a Kickstarter campaign, and that’s definitely something we’re going to look into.)

Because there is a magic number where the cost-per-issue for subscriptions drops dramatically. (If you’d like to help us get there, tell your friends about home/school/life — encourage them to check out a free copy of the summer issue and to subscribe if they like what they read. The more people who read the magazine, the closer we get to offering a printed version.) Ultimately, the things we feed are the things that grow, and we want to feed home/school/life in a way that will make us proud of what it grows into. If that means it takes us a little longer to produce a print edition, we're okay with that. We hope our readers will be, too.

Minding Our Business: How We Use Affiliate Links

HSL's affiliate link policy

We believe that companies should be as transparent as possible about their financial dealings. At home/school/life, we’ve tried hard to find ways of supporting the magazine that we feel good about, and we will never trade editorial coverage for money, period. We know we're pretty picky about things like advertisers and product reviews, but we're comfortable with that. We pay our writers, buy photos, and keep our website up and running in a few different ways. We don’t make a lot of money from affiliate links, but because they can be so controversial, we want to be upfront about our affiliate links and how we use them. You probably know that affiliate links work a lot like referral fees: If you click on a book recommendation on our blog and buy the book through Amazon, a small percentage (usually less than $1) from your purchase goes into the home/school/life account. Do you have to click on the links? Nope — see below — we try to give you enough info so that you can Google the product yourself if you prefer not to support the magazine this way. But we sure do appreciate it when you do use them.

In the coming months, you’ll see a few more affiliate links in posts — and you’ll know that you’re seeing them because there will be a note at the end of every post that contains them, letting you know that there are affiliate links in that post. Why would we start including affiliate links when we haven’t used them much in the past? Well, we’d like to be able to hire another full-time writer for the magazine and possibly start moving toward putting out a print edition, and we’re hoping that these kinds of links might help move us closer toward that goal.


Here’s what we promise about affiliate links:

- We only support affiliate links with companies that we have personal, positive experience with.

- Any time we use an affiliate link in the post, we will let you know that post contains affiliate links. (If you aren’t sure, hover over the link and look for an amazon at the beginning — those are giveaways that the link is an affiliate link.)


Here’s what we won’t do:

- Give vague information that forces you to click on an affiliate link if you want to see what we’re talking about. (We’ll say “Possession may be Amy’s all-time favorite book” or "this grass green bulky (superwash, yay!) yarn" never a sneaky “This may be Amy’s all-time favorite book" or "this yarn." We're not going to force you to click on an affiliate link to follow the conversation.

- Not link to something if we can’t use an affiliate link. We love these grammar mugs, the podcast On Being, and pretty much every knitting pattern Martina Behm has managed to come up with, and we're going to talk about them even though none of them are home/school/life affiliates. — We’ll only use affiliate links in situations where they happen to exist for something we’re writing about anyway.


Here’s who our affiliates are:

(We’ll update this list if we add or drop affiliates in the future.) 

  • Amazon :: This one is probably pretty obvious, but we’re big fans of the variety of books and movies available on And, you may have noticed, we recommend a lot of books.  

Stuff We Like :: 7.10.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

around the web

This NPR story confirms something I have always suspected: The team with the most librarians usually wins.

The whole #distractinglysexy thing was hilarious, but sexist jokes are serious.

“I’m not behind on my emails, I’m ahead on my life.”

I feel kind of icky about the circumstances of the new Harper Lee novel, but this article about what life is like now in the Alabama town that inspired Maycomb was a fascinating read.


at home/school/life

on pinterest: Genius! Write the microwave-in-a-mug cooking directions right on your mug with a Sharpie.

on instagram: We’re kind of new to the whole Instagram thing, but apparently we need to eat more doughnuts? We are down with that! See you there?

on the blog: Our blog is hopping with book lists, columns, and all kinds of fun stuff to celebrate our site relaunch, but you do not want to miss Lisa’s great post on why curiosity is the most important thing to give your kids.


reading list

I finally got around to reading The Girl on the Train, but I didn’t love it the way other people seemed to. What am I missing?

We discovered the Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book in a museum gift shop, and it is just delightful. We had to buy a second copy because my daughter really didn’t want to share. (Fair enough!)

“But I’m a little burned out on the whole dystopian thing,” I said when Suzanne raved about The Girl with All the Gifts. I was wrong — apparently there will always be room in my heart for really interesting dystopian fiction.

We’re reading the first book in The League of Beastly Dreadfuls series as our morning readaloud and digging the Roald Dahl/Lemony Snicket-ness of it.

I am afraid to hand my copy of Echo over to my daughter because I loved it so much, and what if she doesn’t? (But of course I will because this book is too good not to share.)


in the kitchen

I made a little batch of this blackberry-cabernet jam thinking that I might give it for holiday presents, but now I’m getting kind of my precious about keeping it all for myself.

This roasted carrot and avocado salad almost always ends up somewhere in our weekly summer meal rotation.

Easy cherry crostini is my kind of dessert, which is a good thing since I am apparently incapable of passing up cherries at the market. (I swear, I thought we were out! All three times!)


at home

I have had Winter is for Kierkegaard by Tyler Lyle playing on repeat for the last week. Even though it’s the opposite of winter here in Atlanta, and — obviously — autumn is for Kierkegaard.

I really want to knit Marigold, but it seems like an Advanced Expert pattern and I am just a Fairly Enthusiastic Amateur. Has anybody else had any success with it? I can’t crochet and I am so jealous of those gorgeous crochet flowers that people make, so I’m thinking this could be substitute.

There’s a Mo Willems exhibition at the art museum near us, and so it has been all Pigeon all the time here. (We are big fans.)


notable sales

Doctor, meet the Doctor: This Horton Sees a Who shirt is totally worth $12

Lots of good buys in Amazon’s monthly Kindle book deals, including The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (a steal for $2.99) and Jacob Have I Loved (just $1.99), one of my YA faves by the great Katherine Paterson.

KnitPicks has its Chroma Worsted self-striping yarn on sale for 30% off. I’ve been wanting to make another Rayures, but I’m also tempted to try something like the Butterfly Beanie.

Happy Holidays

red berries HSL

However you spend the holidays, we hope you experience joy and peace. 

The staff of home / school / life will be away from their desks during the holidays, but we can't wait to communicate with all our readers again in the new year. Our next issue will be out by mid-January!

Meet the Team: Patricia

Meet Patricia Zaballos, a columnist for home / school / life magazine. She has written her column, The Wonder Files, since our second issue. She has homeschooled three children. One of them has already graduated from college. A second is in college, and her youngest is still being homeschooled. She says she has spent twenty years teaching herself how to write, and if you've read any of her work, you'll know she has mastered her craft. Her columns are a favorite in the magazine not only because they offer comfort and guidance to homeschooling parents but because they are so beautifully written. She also writes on her blog Wonder Farm.

Me in 100(ish) words: I am a writer, a knitter, a beekeeper. A greedy reader of essays and memoir. An aspiring photographer. A vegetarian for 29 years and a wife for 26. I’ve known my husband since we were eleven, but we didn’t date until our last year of college, when I chased him down because I know what I like. I'm the mother of three kids, aged 22, 19 and 13; nothing has defined me as much as being their mama. I love little in life more than gathering around a table to eat, drink and talk. If I like you, I will cook for you. And if I really like you, when I laugh at your jokes I will sometimes snort.

How I started homeschooling: When my oldest was three, a friend asked me to go with her to visit and interview some homeschoolers she knew. The family was warm and wonderful, but I remember the mother saying that the year before, when one of their daughters had gotten very ill, they had done little in the way of formal homeschooling beyond regular trips to the library. At the time, being a recent elementary teacher, I thought: That's crazy!

 (Of course, I totally get it now: Homeschooling allows you to focus on what really matters as a family, it keeps you close during difficult times, and you can learn an awful lot from time spent happily reading.) Anyway, crazy as what they were doing seemed to teacher-me, I couldn't get homeschooling out of my mind. I read all I could find, and started taking my young kids to a local homeschool Park Day. Soon there was no turning back.

My homeschool style: I’ve never found a prevailing style that felt like a fit for us. We found our own way. We’ve had a regular time of working together most days. My kids’ learning has always centered on their interests, but I guide them too. They have a say; I have a say. We start with what they’re worked up about and move out from there.

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: It’s changed from the days when all three kids were at home. (Now one is in college and one has graduated and is making a career as a cinematographer in New York.) Still, from the beginning our days have almost always started with me asking, What do you want to do today? 

The kids would offer suggestions, I’d offer mine, and they’d be off, either with me or on their own. I read aloud lots, always. The older two loved making things; my youngest is more of an idea guy. He’s been designing games of one kind or another since he was small, and he tells me about them. Big chunks of our day are devoted to simply talking. Our time together tends to go for three hours or so, with time for reading, computer-surfing and trampoline-jumping along the way. Ideally, we have three or four days home each week, plus a variety of activities outside the home on other days, and some afternoons. Every Thursday has been Park Day with our support group—for seventeen years! That’s sacred.

Favorite readaloud:  Frances the Badger books by Russell Hoban when my kids were little because Frances’ parents were such wise badgers. Also, the Alfie and Annie Rose books by Shirley Hughes. The Milly Molly Mandy stories by Joyce Lankster Brisley with my daughter. My boys particularly liked the The Great Brain books by John Fitzgerald, and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books—and my daughter and I enjoyed them too. And Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books have served as an epic literary subtext for my kids’ childhoods.

Favorite driving music: My kids and I have always been such audiobook fanatics that we hardly ever listen to music together in the car. When I’m on my own: Conor Oberst, Wilco and other alternative folksy stuff. Give me strummy guitars and lyrics like poetry and I’m a goner.

Things I like: Funky shoes, laden fruit trees, hip restaurants. Quirky indie romance films. Spicy condiments, knitting lace, honeybees. Dancing with my husband. Essays with collaged bits that come together at the end. Old churches. My family of five around the kitchen table.

Guilty pleasure: The Indian dive where I eat every Wednesday night before I go to write, where they just smile and write down my chana masala and roti order, and all I have to say is hello.

What I love about homeschool life:  That there has always been so much time to watch my children unfold before me, and so much freedom to allow that unfolding. This sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it: the grand joy of my life has been helping my kids become who they want to be.

What I love about home/school/life magazine: That it exists! Eons ago, when my oldest was three, I looked for a magazine like this. One that spoke to a range of homeschoolers, covering a variety of approaches, and not pushing a single agenda. And was it too much to ask for beautiful layouts, fonts and photos? Apparently it was. It’s been a long wait, but I’m so pleased that home/school/life is here now, and I’m delighted to be part of it. 

What We Love in the Fall Issue of HSL

home/school/life fall 2014 issue

We asked some of our regular home/school/life contributors to share their favorites from the fall issue. (Want to read them all? You can subscribe or buy the current issue here.)

  • Once again, home/school/life is full of fantastic reading suggestions. This month’s guide to books for young writers was just the list I’ve been looking for. My oldest son is participating in NaNoWriMo, an online writing project. The fabulous collection of titles HSL suggests this issue will come in handy in my quest to support my budding young author. As the weather grows colder, my kids and I look forward to long afternoons by the fire. You’ll find us there curled up with gems like the Halloween selections Suzanne recommends in her column this month. As if all this wasn’t enough to keep us busy, Amy shares 11 must-read titles spanning many genres including poetry, fiction, science, and history! Thanks for all of the great suggestions! —Rebecca
  • * I love "Best Cities for Homeschooling" and am particularly tickled at the fact that my own city, Oakland, made the list! I wholeheartedly agree that Oakland is a wonderful place to homeschool. It's neat to see Lake Merritt mentioned; it's been the heart of the city for years, but it's been recently spiffed up. A walk around the lake these days gives the ideal snapshot of Oakland: vibrant, diverse, urban and naturally beautiful all at once. * "Snap Happy" is a fantastic article on how to take better photos. I'm amazed at how much useful information Shelli managed to pack into this piece. Her suggestions about how to take advantage of light should be invaluable to anyone who wants to take better photos. I've been working at my photography for a few years now, and I found this piece to be both a great refresher and excellent inspiration for me to pick up my camera more often. * If you know me at all, you know that I love writing, and encouraging others to love it too. Parents who want to inspire their kids to write ought to write themselves—which is why I think "Just Asking" is such a neat article. It's aimed at helping parents think deeply about their reasons for homeschooling, and how they spend their homeschooling lives. But they could also be used as the ten best writing prompts for homeschooling parents ever! Parents who don't have a regular writing practice could buy a new journal, or open a new Evernote file and try answering these questions. Just tackle one at a time. They're such thoughtful questions, and they're bound to lead to deep wonder and discovery. I know I'll be trying them out myself! —Patricia
  • This is very hard for me because I love everything in the magazine, but if I have to pick just five, I will pick the five that were very informative to me right now as a homeschooling mom. * You Asked: I loved the question about when a parent should start worrying about a child who isn’t interested in reading because this is something I’ve dealt with and I think parents need all the encouragement they can get to not worry about this issue. * Curriculum Junkie: I love our new curriculum junkie’s first column, and when I read it I wanted to go buy the biographies she recommended immediately. * Career Path: I love these interviews with professionals because as a homeschooling mom, I want to learn as much as I can about different career paths and how to help my children on their chosen career paths. *Mark Twain’s Mississippi: I just love Mark Twain and enjoy reading anything about him. It reminded me that I want to read all his books to my boys. * Just Asking: When I read these excellent questions to ask myself on this homeschooling journey, I knew I’d revisit it someday with my journal, and I think I might just do that tonight…. —Shelli
  • Officially, everything in the issue is my favorite because that's kind of how we put each issue together—we say "What do I really want to know about homeschool life this season?" and go from there. I've been gushing about the Best Cities for Homeschooling for a while, so I won't include that one (even though I think it's terrific!) and I'll try not to repeat anything that's already been mentioned, but here are a few things in this issue that have really inspired me: * Patricia's lovely letter to her new-to-homeschooling self is a much-needed reminder that we can trust our kids to point the way when we feel stuck. * Our reader letters page is one of my favorite pages ever because it's so wonderful to hear from people who are actually reading the magazine we work so hard on. * I have already purchased the quick-attach smartphone microscope in our holiday gift guide. I love the idea of having an instant microscope for nature walks. * I wish I had had Amy Hood's tips for art museum field trips when we started homeschooling — I think our museum jaunts would have been a lot less stressful and a lot more fun. * I always love Shelli's "Our Way" pieces, which profile real-live homeschool families, and this issue is no exception. I don't know about you, but I never get tired of hearing about other families make the homeschool life work. —Amy

Meet the Team: Rebecca

Rebecca is home / school / life magazine’s Curriculum Junkie columnist, and you'll be reading her first column in our Fall 2014 issue. Her writing appears in various national publications as well on her blog She is a community herbalist and interested in all aspects of sustainable, intentional living. She lives, laughs and learns on a small farm near the Adirondacks with her husband and three boys and a bunch of sheep, chickens and goats as well as their cat, dog and an unassuming pet shrimp named Weaver. 


How I started homeschooling: When my oldest son turned three he announced his plans to become a scientist. He asked to begin school “immediately.” Seeing our farm as a perfect laboratory, we took on a hearty curriculum of worm hunting, puddle splashing, cloud gazing and dandelion picking. Our days were such glorious fun it never crossed our minds to stop!

My homeschool style: Learning at our place is usually messy and all-consuming. I do my best to adhere to a child-centered approach. The key detail is that my sons are driving their learning process. They are empowered and encouraged to help decide what themes we will explore together. This means lots of art, hands-on science, hours of reading, creative writing, walks to grandma’s and ample opportunity to seize inspiration from life, as it happens, all around us on our farm.

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life:  We generally start out over breakfast discussing the day ahead. Each of us shares our goals. Some of these are practical—math, using the microscope, bike riding. Many are big—find dinosaur bones, practice wizard skills, construct a robot. My oldest son and his dad do barn chores while the little boys and I clean up and prepare the homeschool room for the morning. The boys play till around 9, giving me time to do chores, think about dinner and do some writing. When we begin homeschooling, we usually start with whatever major theme we are working on. For example, right now the boys are interested in Ancient China. We’ll start off with a lesson that involves all three boys; this includes a family read, craft, travel video or some other hands-on project. Mid-morning everyone is able to enjoy some free time while I work one-on- one with each boy on math, handwriting and other age-specific tasks. We reconvene for lunch, which we make together and try to eat outside. Afternoon is spent doing science/nature studies. We take a walk most days and I usually go out with some specific goals in mind: find 3 signs of spring, hunt for monarch caterpillar eggs or tell me what you smell in the air. These walks ignite our imaginations; the formal science studies we do when we return home are fueled by these walks. Free time to play, read and run follows and takes us on into nighttime when dad is finally home. Stories of the day are shared with him and we eventually fall asleep tired.

Favorite readaloud:  This is easy! Absolutely anything from Andy Stanton’s series of Mr. Gum books. These books are hilarious, imaginative, well written and full of zany creative fun. My whole family loves these books. The humor will appeal both to children and adults and they are perfect for reading aloud.

Favorite driving music:  Like most moms,I can barely remember the last time I had a turn at the radio! I think, way back when, my first choice would be anything by the Dave Mathews Band. These days we listen to a lot of They Might Be Giants’ awesome tunes for kids. Our family’s favorite is Here Comes Science. My middle son is also a fan of Woody and Arlo Guthrie. I consider this fact my crowning achievement as a parent.

Things I like: Road trips and coffee, walking in the woods, Christmas time and wood fires. I love dirt roads in New England and any time spent with my family. I really like my chickens too.

Guilty pleasure:  Expensive wool socks. They really are the only thing I splurge on for myself. I have only two pairs, but how I do revel in this secret little luxury.

What I love about homeschooling:  All hours of the day our house buzzes with creativity: storytelling, picture drawing and science experimentation. I love the generous stretches of time homeschooling provides to explore whatever most lights up the eyes of my kids. I’m grateful that my middle son is home to feed his dog and that my youngest, not yet school-aged, is home with his big brothers learning from them all of the time. I’m so very thankful that there is time in the morning to read stories together while we are still in our pajamas. Picnic lunches in the middle of the week are awesome fun. I really could go on and on!

What I love about home/school/life magazine:  The homeschooling movement is rich with people from all kinds of backgrounds; we all homeschool for a range of different reasons. I love that home/school/life magazine brings each of us to the same table. This really is a magazine for all kinds of homeschoolers, which provides for a fun, fresh exchange of worthwhile ideas and resources.

Meet the Team: Lisa

Meet Lisa Hassan Scott, one of our new bloggers. She is an American who married a Scotsman and has been living in Great Britain for 18 years. She's a Yoga teacher, breastfeeding counsellor, writer and home educator with three children. She blogs at We asked her a few questions so that you can get to know her better.


What a typical day looks like in my life right now:  My eldest daughter recently chose to go to high school, so the rest of us get up early with her to have a family breakfast and walk her to the bus stop. It’s a great way to get fresh air early in the day, and is especially good for helping the younger children to focus on the work we do together when we get home. Sometimes we stop at the Post Office or the greengrocers, but we always make it a longer walk and talk about the nature we find along the way. At home I normally make myself a cup of coffee while the children get a snack, then we do letter and number work, read together, go through our moth trap and record what we’ve caught overnight and plan the rest of the day. Later in the day we might go out to home ed groups, meet up with friends, or scoot to the skate park. I always try to have at least 10 minutes of quiet time for reading, writing and Yoga, but that doesn’t always work out.

Favorite readaloud:  We recently finished all the Little House on the Prairie books and are now working our way through all 12 of the Swallows and Amazons series. But my favorite read aloud, especially for slightly older children, is Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse—such witty and clever writing.

Favorite driving music:  I haven’t chosen the driving music in our car for nearly 12 years!

Things I like:  Language, nature, enthusiasm and a have-a-go attitude, compassion, cooking, running and cycling, Yoga and meditation, writing and alone time.

Guilty pleasure:  Margaritas.

What I love about homeschool life:  freedom.

What I love about home/school/life magazine:  The focus on learning as a family culture.

Meet the Team: Idzie

Meet Idzie Desmarais, one of our new bloggers. Idzie is a grown unschooler, and she's the author of the popular blog I'm Unschooled. Yes, I can write. She has published her articles in various magazines and has spoken at home education conferences in North America. We asked her a few questions so that you can get to know her better.


Me in 100(ish) words: I use a lot of labels to describe myself, so I suppose I could start there! I’m a grown unschooler and unschooling advocate, a (confusedly) queer 20-something woman, a green-anarcha-feminist, a cook and baker, a writer, blogger, and speaker. I’m an INFJ, in case you’re into the whole Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator thing, an introvert, and someone who values intuition very highly. My dream in life is to help build a small intentional community somewhere both rural and wild, and live there with assorted family, friends, dogs, cats, goats and chickens.

How I feel about my background as an unschooler:  I feel very positively about it, which is why I’ve spent so much time combining my love for writing with my interest in self-directed alternative education, specifically unschooling. I feel that by growing up unschooled, I really got the chance to learn, grow, and develop at my own pace and in my own way. I credit unschooling with making the anxiety issues I’ve always dealt with much easier to bear as a child, and with helping me grow into a much more confident and competent person than I might otherwise have been.

What a typical day looks like in my life right now:  I get up, and almost instantly get on the computer to check email and messages, and go through my various feeds, reading articles on education to try and find some good ones to share on my unschooling Facebook page and other social media haunts. After that, I’ll eat something, do some work around the house, and probably get back on the computer to do some writing or editing. Right now it’s just me and my sister at home, since my mother has gone back to school to pursue her passion for building, and my father works full time, so we pretty much keep the house not-too-messy and make sure that things are running as smoothly as we can make them! Once my father arrives home, I usually go with him and our big hairy Irish Wolfhound cross to the dog park, and then, along with my sister, help make supper. We both like to try new things and don’t tend to do things half way when tackling food stuff, so we make some pretty good meals! The evening will then be spent watching TV as a family, writing, or hanging out with friends, depending on the day. My mother has just gone back to school this fall, so we’re all still adjusting to the new schedule, and my sister and I are still adjusting to not having a car on weekdays. Still, we’re finding a flow that seems to work, and I’m doing better with writing productivity and selling my work than I ever have before, so that feels pretty good.

Favorite book(s):  That’s a tough one! I’m a big fan of fantasy novels, and I can say that current favorite authors include N. K. Jemisin, Kate Elliott, and Tamora Pierce. I also really love the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. When it comes to books on education, I like 101 Reasons Why I'm An Unschooler by ps pirro and Life Learning: Lessons from the Educational Frontier edited by Wendy Priesnitz.

Favorite driving music:  Once More With Feeling from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Great Big Sea, the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack…

Things I like:  Food! Cookbooks. Fantasy novels. TV shows (especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, and Orphan Black). Dogs and cats. Goats and horses. Big gardens. Downpours in the middle of a hot day. Snuggling with my furry family members. Hiking. Sunflowers and forget-me-nots. Curling up with a good novel. Going on roadtrips with friends. Unschooling conferences. The satisfaction of completing a difficult new dish. Folk music. Singing.

What I loved about homeschool life:  The lack of pressure and rushing. Being able to spend as much or as little time on a subject as I wanted to, and as much or as little time as I wanted out with people or home with just my family. Being able to learn purely for the joy of it, and not because I was trying to cram for a test… A whole lot of things, really!

Meet the Team: Tracy

Meet Tracy Million Simmons, one of our new bloggers. She's a mother of three teenagers, a farmer's market manager and a writer. You can view her author page at and read her blog at Living and Learning in Oz. She's answered a few questions so that you can get to know her better.


Me in 100(ish) words:  I tried to leave Kansas in my 20’s, but was drawn back by the wide open sky and the assured change of season (sometimes we get multiple seasons in a single day!) I’m a reader, a writer, a people watcher, a long-walks taker, a “fresh and local” foodie and manager of the local farmers market. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Finally, I have come up with the answer: Always growing! Whether sharpening my skills at word craft or strategizing a better method of keeping my husband’s law office accounts in order, my gig as a homeschool mother has taught me that who I am is a journey, rather than a destination.

How I started homeschooling:  The hubby talked me into a homeschooling trial when Munchkin #1 was still… well, munchkin-sized. I tackled the experiment with gusto, and when I looked up she was 18 and on her way out the door for her first day of school… at college. My second and third munchkins (now 16 and 13) have remained unschooled, to this point, as well.

My homeschool style:  It’s a family affair, a continual collaborative adventure. At various times in our journey, I have referred to our family’s method of education as child-led, project or passion based, unschooling, homeschooling, and just plain living life.

Favorite readaloud:  We simply like reading together. Great books, read together at the kitchen table have been the one constant in our homeschool journey from the beginning. From The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch) to the On the Shoulders of Giants series, from Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba), we have joyfully read ourselves hoarse many times over the years.

Favorite driving music:  I tend to listen to an eclectic mix of 60s-70s-80s-90s pop and classic rock hits with selections from the MP3 players of my kids mixed in. The only music I tend to actively avoid is contemporary country music, though occasionally you’ll find me humming along with a twang, as well.

Things I like:  Chocolate, sunsets, storms, books, kittens, the smell of lavender, homegrown tomatoes…

Guilty pleasure:  Life is too short to bother with guilt; if it gives you pleasure, embrace it.

What I love about home/school/life magazine:  I love the glimpses into the lives of others who are joyfully raising children. I enjoy articles that make me think about my own processes and connections with other homeschoolers that make my world feel a little bit bigger.

Introducing the New HSL Bloggers

I'm happy to announce that we have finally hired three bloggers who we think you're going to love! I'm not going to give you their full bios here because you can find them now on our Staff page, and they'll also be doing some Q&As so that you can get to know them better. But I did want to tell you that you can expect to hear more from... Tracy Million Simmons, who has tons of homeschooling experience as a mom of three unschooled teenagers. She's also a part-time farmer's market manager and fiction writer.

Idzie Desmarais is going to give us the perspective of a grown unschooler. You may be familiar with Idzie because she writes the popular I'm Unschooled. Yes, I can write. blog.

Lisa Hassan Scott is an American who married a Scotsman, and she's been living in the U.K. for 18 years. She writes beautifully, and she has many years experience as a mother and home educator too. She has three children, ages 11, 8, and 5.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read what these talented people have to say.

We Meet At Last

The home | school | life team at the first National Alliance for Secular Homeschoolers conference

Believe it or not, Amy and I (Shelli) have been working together for over six months, corresponding on an almost-daily basis, but we had never met face-to-face! (We have talked on the phone a couple of times though!)

Well, that has changed. This past weekend I was able to meet Amy and her husband, Jason, at the National Alliance for Secular Homeschooler’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia. We were there to promote home / school / life magazine, and it was fun to watch people flip through the print copies of home / school / life and tell us what a beautiful resource it is – chock full of information for homeschoolers and other conscientious parents!

We were asked what set home / school / life apart from other homeschooling magazines, and Amy said something that I think is important to impart. Not only do we offer lots of useful lesson ideas, how-tos, encouragement, first person narratives and interviews with other homeschoolers, we offer real reporting on subjects that are important to homeschoolers, such as how to cope with loneliness, financial stress, or what steps one needs to take for a certain career path. We do a lot of research and interviews to write our features. In short, we offer real journalism. And it’s in a beautiful format to boot!

I love meeting new homeschoolers, but yesterday, I had even more fun meeting and chatting with Amy and Jason. They are incredibly sweet people, and it was a pleasure getting to know them a little better. I already know they are hard-working people, and it’s great to be part of this team.

We enjoyed talking about home / school / life and its future, and I thought I would share some of that with you.

  • First, we congratulated ourselves for putting together such a beautiful magazine with such a small staff! Amy does most of the writing and all the layout and other nitty-gritty details, and I do a lot of writing, proofreading and the social web stuff. We also have a few columnists whom we rely on, and their work makes the magazine sparkle. If you look at any other masthead on another magazine, you’ll see they have much bigger staffs! (So now you know why our Facebook and Twitter page is very quiet, especially while we’re in production. It’s hard to do it all!)
  • Jason is our advertising and promotion man, and he’s been working hard recently to get the word out about the magazine. For example, members of N.A.S.H. will be able to subscribe to home / school / life for a discounted price -- that should be available soon. We are reaching out to other associations and conferences as well. If you want to partner with home / school / life, Jason is your man.
  • Our fall issue is turning out to be another great issue. We’re going to tell you what the best cities are to homeschool in in the United States, how you can become a better photographer, and give you some important questions to ask yourself about your homeschool journey as well as lots of unit studies and inspiration to get you through your day.
  • We had a few print copies of the magazine, and oh my – they are beautiful! But we need a lot more subscribers before we can make them available to you. If it’s something you would like, please tell us. Of course, we don’t have to have a print magazine – being able to click on all those links in the digital issue is pretty cool too – but if the demand is there, we will make it an option!
  • Pretty soon we’ll be introducing you to some new staff writers! It’s very exciting to bring new people on board with their fresh ideas, but I’m going to save those details for the newsletter and future blog posts.
  • After the fall issue comes out, there are a lot of things Amy and I want to turn our attention to. One of those is revamping our website. Though we plan to keep it as simple and beautiful as possible, we want to be able to do more with it. For example:
  • We’re going to have a store! We will be selling home / school / life magazine issues and more….
  • And that’s the other exciting news: we’ll be working on some extra resources that we think you will find useful on your homeschool journey.

With such a small staff and budget, we can’t do everything as fast as we would like, but I am like that turtle in the story – going slow but sure can yield the best results! This is only the beginning of home / school / life. I know it will take time for us to make the website, store, hire more staff, and get more resources out to you, but it will happen. I hope you will join us for the journey.

We always welcome your ideas and comments. E-mail us.

And if you like what we do and want to support us, please consider subscribing, renewing or giving a subscription for a gift for only $15 a year. That’s not much for four awesome issues, coming straight to your inbox every season.