homeschooling

Looking Back on a Decade-Plus of Homeschool Life

Our resident Book Nerd is on vacation this week, so while she racks up points for a special double-edition of Library Chicken, we're reprinting one of our favorite Suzanne columns.

Looking Back on a Decade-Plus of Homeschool Life

I can tell you exactly when I decided to homeschool. Kid No. 1 was nearly three, Kid No. 2 was an infant, and Kids No. 3 and No. 4 were years away. I was sitting on my bed next to my husband, reading my way through a stack of library books— not unusual, except in this case, the stack consisted of every single homeschooling book my local library had available. About halfway through the stack I turned to my husband and said, “I think we can do this.” I believe his response was a dubious “Hmmm.”

That was over 10 years ago, and if you ask me why I choose to homeschool, I can give you a decade’s worth of reasons. Initially, it just sounded like a whole lot of fun. I loved school and was a fairly accomplished nerd in my day, so the idea of doing school with my kids (of whom I am also rather fond) seemed pretty great. Academically, it turns out that the one-on-one of homeschooling is such an efficient way to teach that we could take Fridays off and still keep up with what was being taught in our local schools, even as we watched our school-friends deal with bullies, school bureaucracy, and the occasional lousy teacher. I believe that homeschooling supports family relationships and creates life-long learners, and we’ve chosen this course with great care and thought.

Of course, if you ask my kids why we homeschool—and people have—they will tell you that it’s because “Mom likes to sleep in and wear pajamas all day.”

Now, as it happens, this is also true. Which I think illustrates something important about homeschooling: it’s not just an educational choice, it’s a lifestyle choice. I thought I knew this going in. I pictured my kids’ educational journey as just that, a road trip, where instead of taking the interstates like most other folks, we had decided to take the back roads, enjoying the scenery and confounding the GPS.

We’re still on a journey, but it’s not enough to say that we’re driving the back roads. I think we’ve left the car behind and are doing something radically different— more like taking a trip in a hot air balloon, with an entirely different view of the scenery.

But I’ve since realized that metaphor doesn’t go far enough. Once I decided that ‘school’ didn’t have to look anything like the model I grew up with, I also started thinking about happiness, and success, and what I really wanted for myself and my husband and my children as we grow up together. We’re still on a journey, but it’s not enough to say that we’re driving the back roads. I think we’ve left the car behind and are doing something radically different— more like taking a trip in a hot air balloon, with an entirely different view of the scenery.

I didn’t quite know that’s what I was signing up for, halfway through the stack of library books, and it can get a bit nerve-wracking up there at times, but I have learned a few things I can share with my fellow balloonists.

Be flexible. You’re in charge up there, but you’re not in control. Health, financial, or other family issues may mean that the best choice for your family today is not the same as it was last year, or even last week. Give yourself permission to change course.

Keep your destination in mind. Whether you’re planning to homeschool for a year, until college, or for as long as it works, at some point your child will have to deal with the more traditional expectations of the rest of the world. This can be a rocky transition, but there’s a lot you can do to prepare and make it easier.

Teach the kids how to steer. When it’s appropriate—and as often as possible—let them make the decisions about where to go next. And, of course, enjoy the ride. Skip math and grammar and spend the day in bed with the kids and Harry Potter. Take a family trip when everyone else is in school. And definitely, always, wear the pajamas. 


Introducing Homeschool 101 — And Enter to Win Free Enrollment!

Awesome online workshop for new homeschoolers. Great info for getting started, thriving, and figuring out the whole homeschool thing, tackles lots of homeschool FAQ. #homeschool

One question I get asked all the time is “How do I get started homeschooling?” It’s a big question, probably because homeschooling can look lots of different ways and every family comes to homeschooling with a different set of experiences and expectations.

That’s why I am so excited about Homeschool 101, our first-ever online workshop for new homeschool parents. The brilliant Suzanne Rezelman and I have worked so hard to put this class together so that it’s authentic, personal, and genuinely useful. Suzanne (who has homeschooled her four—incredibly diverse—children and counseled so many new-to-homeschooling families over the past 15-plus years) has put together five one-hour sessions covering the most common homeschool questions, from how to talk to your mother-in-law about homeschooling to finding opportunities for extracurricular activities to understanding how to make sense of all those different curriculum options. Even better, we’ve set up a totally private chat group for class participants where you can ask all those follow-up questions that wake you up in the middle of the night and bond with other new homeschoolers are just getting started, too. (Suzanne will check in frequently to respond to questions and offer insight.) Think of it as your own private homeschool support group. And your access to the chat room is permanent, so you can keep checking back for months (and years!) to come. 

To celebrate,we’re giving away one spot in this awesome workshop. To enter, just leave a comment here, telling us one of your biggest homeschooling questions. Be sure to check back on Wednesday, May 25 to find out who the winner is! (If the winner hasn’t claimed her prize by Monday, May 29, we’ll draw another winner.) Spread the word to your homeschool-curious friends, and feel free to share this hither and thither—it’s going to be such a great workshop!


How to Start Homeschooling in the Middle of the Year

How to Start Homeschooling in the Middle of the Year

There are lots of reasons you might decide to start homeschooling in the middle of the traditional school year, but it usually boils down to the fact that you’re ready to start homeschooling Right Now.

Stuff We Like :: Holiday Break Edition

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

We’re taking a couple of weeks off to wrap up the winter issue and just chill (but we do have a few great blog posts scheduled over the next few weeks), so this will be our last Stuff We Like of 2015. We expect to like plenty of stuff in 2016, too, so we’ll be back to our regular posting in January.

around the web

Everybody is talking about Iceland’s Christmas Eve book flood, but that’s because it’s awesome.

I don’t really take selfies, but after reading this, I kind of want to.

Dream trip: The Alice in Wonderland guide to Oxford

 

at home/school/life

in the magazine: The winter issue may be my favorite issue yet—and it'll be out in just a few weeks. Right now I’m editing a really cool piece on planning your life after homeschool. (Because after homeschooling, you can do anything!)

on the blog: I am inspired by Lisa’s post on making your own wellness a priority—that’s something I really struggle with.

on pinterest: Now all I can think about is making homemade chocolate pop tarts.

 

reading list

I’m reading an odd little book about early 19th century murders that’s equal parts bizarre and fascinating. If you’re interested in a quirky history of the dark side of the Romantics, you too might enjoy Murder By Candlelight.

We started Sea of Trolls as a winter readaloud—even though it’s not build-a-fire weather at all around here, this seems like the perfect book to read by the fireplace. Maybe we’ll do it anyway.

Both the activity-ish books we got the kids for Hanukkah this year have been big hits: Finish This Book (for our teenager) and Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book (for the 8-year-old).

 

at home

We are settling in for a few days of much-needed vacation. On the agenda: Harry Potter movies, hot chocolate, cuddling, and starting my ZickZack scarf. (I couldn’t resist!)

My best friend and I are planning a Dollhouse marathon over the break. (Are you a Dollhouse fan? When I first watched it—when it originally aired—I was pretty bummed by what seemed like a lot of unrealized potential, but on further viewings, it’s really grown on me. I’m pretty interested in some of its ideas about identity and consent.)

I am practicing walking in the most comfortable, supportive shoes I have ever owned. Jas teases me that my Alegria Palomas are "prescription shoes" and they are definitely clunky looking, but wow, seriously comfortable.

New Year’s Eve is the best excuse to eat blinis with creme fraiche and smoked salmon.


Mindful Homeschool: What Are You Afraid Of?

Love this post! A good reminder that we don't want to be driven by fear in our homeschool lives. #homeschool

Fear is a normal part of life; and can certainly be a part of homeschooling. Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Are we out of the house too often? Are my children learning all they need to be learning? Is my teen going to be ready to move out and live on his own? You get the idea.

Most of us have these moments of uncertainty and fear. Right? They’re especially common when you first step onto the homeschooling path, but, to be honest, mine still pop up from time to time, even though I’ve been at this for 18 years. While I’m confident in our decision to homeschool, and love the life we’ve created around our homeschooling journey, I still have to be mindful and notice when fear starts creeping in.

The funny thing about these homeschooling fears, is that most of them aren’t based on the “truth of what is” in this moment, but instead are worries about the future – things that haven’t happened yet; things that might never happen. So why do we put energy towards that?

Now, when I talk about fears here, I don’t mean the very real fears that come from living in a crazy, sometimes dangerous world. I’m talking about fears and anxiety directly related to the homeschooling path. These fears, I believe, come from a space of “not enough.” These fears come from comparison.

When we look at our children and ourselves where we are in each moment, with clear eyes, and open heart, we can accept where we are without fear. But when we start comparing our homeschooling, and our kids, with others—either schooled-kids or other homeschoolers or even to ourselves when we were their age—we open ourselves up to fear.

During my own moments of deep anxiety, I’ve found myself awake at 3 in the morning, heart pounding, mind racing, not really worried about where my boys are right now, but worried about where they’ll be in the future. What if my little one never learns to read? (His brother was reading by this age.) What if he hates learning new things and he goes through life barely able to have an intelligent conversation? What if my teen never becomes a good driver or never wants to cook for himself? What if he never learns to balance his checkbook and pay bills? (When I was his age I was already working and had a car payment, and made most of my own meals.)

I know, in my rational mind, that these particular fears are self-created, and stem from my own insecurities about my role as homeschooling mom, and my own expectations around who I want my children to be. They are based on what-ifs, not what-is. Fortunately, I’ve gotten better over the years at recognizing this and learning how to move past the anxiety. I’ve even started to figure out how to use my worries and fears for good, instead of letting them keep me awake at night.

What I’ve come to realize is that, in certain situations, fear can be useful. It tells us to run or fight when danger is near. It can prompt us to stop what we’re doing and try something new. Unfortunately, most of the time our fears just keep us stuck. Fear keeps us in our head and out of the present moment. And it can be damaging to our relationships with our children, who most definitely pick up on our fears and anxiety, even if we never talk about it with them. In fact, research has shown that parents with high levels of anxiety tend to have children with high levels of fear and anxiety. And none of us want that.

So what can we do, and teach our children to do, to let go of these fears when they arise? Here is what works for me:

  1. Bring focus to the fear. Don’t fight it or try to distract yourself from it. Instead, take a moment to stop what you’re doing and really look at it.
  2. Trace the fear back to its source. What is the fear really about? Do you really believe your child will not be reading when he’s an adult? Are you truly worried that you’ve made the wrong choice? Or is it something else? Where does the fear originate?
  3. Look at it without attachment. Once you stop and examine the fear, and trace it to its source, try to sit with it without attachment. Say to yourself, “I am feeling fear,” not “I am afraid.” Notice the feeling in your body. But don’t judge the feeling or identify with it. See it as a temporary state.
  4. Turn to the breath. Following the breath can calm the nervous system. First, notice the breath flowing in, and notice the breath flowing out. If you’d like to take it further, you can do a four-count breath: breath in, deeply, for a count of four; hold the breath in for a count of four; exhale, deeply, for a count of four; and hold the breath out for a count of four. Repeat as needed.
  5. Write it out. Once you have examined the fear and calmed your mind, you may find it useful to create a list of possible actions, scenarios, and outcomes, related to your fear. For example, if you’re worried that your teen will never learn to drive well, make a list of ways he can get more practice. What can he do on his own? And what are ways you can help? And then make a list of options related to the idea that he may never be a good driver or even want to drive. Uber. Taxis. Public transportation. Walking. Biking. These are all viable options that can be included. Whatever your parenting or homeschooling fear is at the moment, coming up with an action plan and also seeing alternate outcomes to your expectations can be tremendously helpful.
  6. Finally, focus on the great things about your homeschooling and your children. What are the things you are doing right? What are the things your children love? Find the joy in your relationships. Find the joy in your homeschooling. This could make a wonderful list too. Maybe you can add to it every day to help keep the fears at bay.

A teacher once told me that the opposite of fear is love. I like to think of it as joy. While fear keeps us stuck in our comfort zones, limiting our views of the world, joy opens us up to new possibilities. Joy helps us see the awesomeness in our every day activities and relationships. It creates flow in our lives and homes.

Becoming fearless doesn’t mean never being afraid. It just means being able to move beyond our fears into a space of openness. It means showing our children that it’s ok to risk, and fail, and try again. That it’s OK to change course. Learning to navigate our own fears and anxieties in our homeschooling, and in our lives, helps us build connections with our children and the world around us. And that’s why we homeschool, isn’t it?

So what are you afraid of? And how do you work through those fears?


"Homeschooling Must Be Really Hard."

Love this! All the things that run through your head when someone says "Homeschooling must be so hard" or "I could never homeschool my kids." #homeschool

Today we spent an incredibly satisfying hour sitting beside our brand new wildlife pond, watching dragonflies lay their eggs in it. A few weeks have passed since we dug this pond. It appears that wildlife has discovered it now, and it’s teaming with little squiggly things. To anyone who claims that children have a short attention span, I wish they could have seen the attention my children gave these dragonflies today. Magic.

Those of us who home educate (homeschool) our children are used to hearing inquisitive and somewhat incredulous comments like, “But are you a teacher?” And, “How do your children socialize?” Or this beauty: “Is that even legal?!” People have all sorts of things to say about home education, especially where I live, because it’s fairly unusual and a lot of people have never even heard of it.

Sometimes people say, “Wow. That must be really hard.” I don’t think they necessarily mean that teaching primary level skills is a challenge. What I think they might mean is that being around your children all day, and carrying the weight of responsibility for their education, must be hard. They usually follow up their comments with something along the lines of, “I could never do that.”

It’s awfully nice of them to try to commiserate with me, but I think the thing that’s missing here is that, believe it or not, I am actually choosing to home educate my children. And most of the time I love being around them. But whenever I hear people say, “Wow, that must be hard,” I think to myself, yeah, it’s hard.

“Wow, that must be hard.” Yeah. It’s hard.

“Wow, that must be hard.” Yeah. It’s hard.

“Wow, that must be hard.” Yeah. It’s hard.

Then I find myself thinking all sorts of negative thoughts about home education. And I wonder where my joy has gone.

It’s been a few weeks since anyone has told me how hard my life must be and I’ve noticed that my life is not actually the vale of tears everyone thinks it is. I have a renewed sense of clarity and I wonder how I got talked into the idea that home education is a penance for martyrs. I remember that there are some glittering moments in every day when I think, “This is why we do this.” Today’s dragonfly magic was one such moment.

Of course there are other times when I so desperately want to be alone, I can feel it beneath my skin. I have a list of interesting ideas and projects I want to sink my teeth into, yet round every corner I meet a new needy person who wants me to do something. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. English, maths and spelling. Build a Hot Wheels track with me, edit a film with me, help me feed my caterpillars. Predictably, I sit down at my computer or unfurl my yoga mat, and it’s as though I’ve rung the dinner bell and everyone comes running.

This is what they’re referring to when they say it must be hard. What I’ve found is that the more I focus on the hard the less I focus on the magic. When I fill my mind with what I don’t like about it, I forget about the gratitude I feel that I am fortunate enough to be able to do this for my family. Being held in awe or pity, or commiserated with means I am a martyr, or worse, a victim. I am neither.  Sure, home educating my children can be hard, but it is a joyful kind of hard, like a diamond in all its surprising, sparkling brilliance.


Unit Study Idea: Mushrooms

Resources for an elementary level unit study about mushrooms. Love that it includes living books as well as more traditional resources. #homeschool

Like strange flowers or magical dwellings, mushrooms are endlessly enchanting — and an ideal subject for nature study since you can delve as deep as you’re inspired. Even better: 2015 has been a bumper year for ’shrooms in some parts of the country, so there's never been a better time to add mushrooms to your curriculum.

Reading List

Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg A little ant shares his mushroom umbrella with other forest creatures during a rainstorm.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron Two boys use their science skills to build a spaceship that takes them to a mushroom-filled planet, where they must help the inhabitants solve an environmental crisis.

Mushrooms of the World with Pictures to Color by Jeannette Bowers Learn to recognize more than one hundred different types of mushroom with this coloring book.

Katya’s Book of Mushrooms by Katya Arnold Gorgeous illustrations make this book by a Russian mushroom enthusiast worth seeking out.

Our Living World: Fungi by Jenny E. Tesar A practical, information-rich book, this volume is a nice introduction to mycology.

World Treasury of Mushrooms in Color by Bernard Dupre Just flipping through this book makes you aware of the impressive variety of mushrooms.

Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath This simple poem paints a vivid picture of fungi life.

 

Activity Ideas

Grow a Mushroom Garden: Grow your own edible garden of mushrooms with an easy-to-set-up kit. One to try: The Back to the Roots Organic Mushroom Farm

Make a Spore Print: Mushroom spores make beautiful prints. Mature mushrooms make the best prints, but it’s not always easy — even for pros — to tell which mushrooms are at their peak, so collect plenty of specimens and hope for the best. Martha Stewart has a handy tutorial for making spore prints on her website.

Practice Your Identification Skills: Identifying mushrooms is surprisingly challenging — there are so many varieties of fungi, and sometimes you need to know whether a mushroom is fully developed or just starting out to identify it correctly. But the challenge is part of the fun, and kids will learn as much trying to make an identification as they will successfully I.D.-ing a mushroom.

Learn from the Experts: Join the North American Mycological Association, and you’ll have access to all kinds of mushroom-focused learning materials, events, and publications. A family membership is just $30.


Taking a Step Back to Embrace Change in Your Homeschool

Great homeschool inspiration read: Sometimes you need to take a step back to move forward. Love this essay. #homeschool

The jet lag is tough. Four days ago we flew home to Great Britain, after a long holiday in North America where we visited friends and family. We’ve unpacked the suitcases, thrown several loads of laundry into the washing machine, been to the supermarket, and are now trying to get back into the groove. Well, almost.

Taking a holiday has always been an opportunity for my family to reevaluate our rhythms and routines. Stepping away from our various projects and commitments, leaving behind the pile of homeschool books and resources, is a chance to think about what we want for our family. Usually we don’t discover new goals, we simply come back to our family’s core values. Time together. A love of learning. Curiosity. Discovery. Fresh air. A concern for nature and our fellow human beings. Helping others. Love.

It’s not so much that we stray from these values and need to come back them; more that I forget that they’re there, and they become buried beneath the making­-breakfast­-practice-­the­-piano­-where­-did­-you­-put­-my­-shoes­-ness of daily life. I like it that I get wrapped up in the everyday, because to me that means I am present to my family. On the other hand, I don’t want to lose sight of what we as a family believe because I want everything in our lives to draw us closer to our core values.

To that effect, I apply my mind every summer to thinking about what we do and how we do it. Do we still want to have family games night on a Wednesday? Do our agreements about screen time still make sense? What direction do our projects seem to be taking, and how could I tweak things to better support the children in their work? Are we socializing enough, or perhaps too much? And the question of questions: are we happy?

Family life changes over time: babies become children who learn to read. Those children become teenagers: all limbs and mobile phones. Husbands turn grey and take up home brewing. For me, life seems too busy and I find myself hatching plans for how I can retreat to my rocking chair with my crochet. It all sounds like a slightly skewed Norman Rockwell painting, but you get the point: what worked for my family last year may not ring true for us now. Though most of us hold in our heads the idea that things are static, in fact they are in a constant state of flux.

The idea is to embrace change. I work at seeing it as my friend. I ask myself what I can change to lead us toward a greater experience of happiness. I attempt to make those changes. Sometimes they work. Other times we go back to the way things were and chalk it up to experience. Change can be hard to swallow and for the change­-averse needs to be gradual and ever so gentle. But if the alternative is to be stuck in a rut, I know what I’d choose. Right now, we are figuring out where our ruts are.


Q&A: Dealing with Competitive Homeschool Parents

Great tips for dealing (politely) with homeschool moms who get competitive about how their kids are doing. #homeschool

One of the moms at our regular park day wants to turn every learning-related conversation into a competition where her kids are smarter and better than everyone else. How can I politely shut her down?  

If you started homeschooling to get away from competitive education, you may be out of luck. For every chill, laidback homeschooler who’s never looked at her child’s test scores, there’s a homeschooling mom who watches her — and your — child’s academic progress like a hawk. Your son loves Harry Potter? Her daughter just finished War and Peace. Your daughter is finishing up her math workbook? Her son found that particular curriculum way too easy. Your son loves his new art class? Her son is repainting the Sistine Chapel. Whatever you’re talking about, the conversation always seems to veer to how smart/talented/superior her child is.

Before you get grumpy, consider the fact that this mom may be facing criticism from her family or insecurity about her own abilities to be a successful homeschool parent. She may be aggressive because she feels like she has to convince other people that her child is doing well. While that knowledge won’t make her behavior any less irritating, it can help you deal with it politely, says Maralee McKee, an Orlando homeschool mom and author of the book Manners That Matter for Moms. For starters, resist getting drawn into specifics: The more details you give, the more ammunition she has for comparison. Be vague: “Oh, we’re always reading, but I don’t know what’s on the list off the top of my head,” or “We’re doing pretty well in math right now, but I’m afraid if I talk about it too much, I’ll jinx it.”

If she keeps pushing, it’s perfectly acceptable to let her know you’re not interested in the conversation: “All we’ve done is talk about school stuff! I’d love to know more about that farmers market you were talking to Susan about” or “Jordan’s reading list is under control, but I’m looking for something to read myself. Have you read any good books lately?” And if your polite diversions don’t have any effect, you’re well within your mannerly rights to excuse yourself and relocate your blanket to another part of the playground.

 

Originally published in the summer 2014 issue of home/school/life magazine. Subscribe to get great homeschool content every season. Do you have a question about homeschooling? Email us, and we’ll try to help you find an answer. Questions may be published in future issues of home/school/life.


4 Easy, Effective Ways to Plan Your Homeschool Year

4 Easy, Effective Ways to Plan Your Homeschool Year

Whether you’re a new homeschooler not sure how to get started or an experienced homeschooler looking for a little planning inspiration, these simple strategies will help you get organized for the learning year ahead.  

Favorite Homeschool Quotes: "The greatest sign of success for a teacher"

Raising a Young Naturalist

Really like this essay about how to encourage kids to explore nature in your homeschool.

Like most homeschooling moms, I had a lot of fears when we first started homeschooling. My four-year-old was cautious. He was quiet in big groups, and he didn’t want to participate in group games. He preferred to explore a pile of woodchips by himself on park day. He hated story hour at the library. Now I laugh at myself. He was only four.

Luckily we live within a reasonable driving distance to a nature center, where they were offering a class for 3- to 5-year-olds that would introduce them to nature. My family loves nature, so it seemed like a good class to try.

At first my son was very timid in the class, but soon I started to witness something remarkable. He blossomed. And it wasn’t just a little kid coming out of his shell. It was a little kid finding a passion.

My son leapt out of his skin every time the facilitator brought out live animals. Snakes were his favorite, and three years later, he still says he wants to be a scientist who studies snakes when he grows up.

At first I thought to myself that every kid likes nature, right? Maybe my child would have blossomed in any class I had taken him to at that age. But then the facilitator told me one day that she could tell my son had a true passion for nature. She said other kids might say, “That’s cool,” but then they would walk away. My son stayed by her side, wanting to see more. He loved helping her turn over logs on the trails.

Shelli Bond Pabis

Shelli Bond Pabis

Ever since that first class, I have continued to foster his love of nature and science. As a family, we love hiking, so that’s not hard to do. But my husband and I have also done a few other things to support him:

  • We continue to go to classes at the nature center. I call it our second home.
  • We bought our son a small camera so that he can record the natural discoveries he makes.
  • I bought my son a big notebook, and we call it his nature journal. He likes to paste his photos in there, and I label them for him. I’ve encouraged him to draw what he sees, but he prefers photography. That’s okay with me.
  • I have supported his desire to collect items from nature: We bought a medium-sized wooden box at a craft supply store, and we call it my son’s “treasure box.” He has a bird’s nest, nuts, rocks, and even a squashed baby snake in it. (We seal items like that in plastic bags!)
  • His nature collection is too big for the box, so we’ve dedicated some shelves in his room for other items. He has shells, shark teeth, ammonite fossils, small dinosaur bones, a beaver chew, a bison bone, a geode, and lots of rocks on his shelves.
  • We consider our yard a laboratory, and we continuously observe the wildlife in it. We have containers on our front porch containing pupas and cocoons, and we are eagerly waiting for them to emerge.
  • My son is participating in our state parks’ Junior Ranger program.
  • Together our whole family watches nature documentaries daily.
  • We visit natural history and science museums, attend rock and gem shows, and take advantage of any other opportunity to explore nature and science.
  • As project-based homeschoolers, we make time for our son’s own interests and projects, many of which have to do with science.
I have rid myself of the “ick reaction” to the slimy and oozy parts of nature because I see something in my child that I don’t want to lose.

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle said in an interview: “A critter person. Children generally start out that way, given a chance to explore even in their own back yard. So often, the adults around them will say, oh, don’t touch that beetle or, ugh, an earthworm, or caterpillars, yuck. My parents were different….”

All children are born scientists. They explore their world, ask questions, and test their limits. I have rid myself of the “ick reaction” to the slimy and oozy parts of nature because I see something in my child that I don’t want to lose. I know from listening to other interviews with scientists that their love of exploration, nature and inquiry started at a very young age.

Ultimately, I do not know if he will chose to become a naturalist or a scientist as a career, but I do know that a love of nature can sustain him through many of life’s obstacles, and an appreciation for the Earth is something everyone should maintain. My job as his parent is to observe, listen, and foster this inquisitive mind. So here I am, exploring the world with my son. 


This column from our very first issue launched Shelli's Hands-On Science series. We're reprinting it here as part of our big web relaunch. To get Shelli's thoughtful, practical resources for everyday nature and science study in every issue of home/school/life, subscribe.

Favorite Homeschool Quotes: "I'd give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes"

Monday Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Because sometimes you need more than a cup of coffee to dive into the coming week, we’re kicking off this little series to help inspire you over some of the week’s potential bumps.  

3 fun things to do this week

Relive your childhood with your own kids when Pixels opens on Friday, starring homicidal versions of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and more arcade favorites bent on taking over the planet.

Tie-dye some t-shirts or a summer tablecloth in the backyard. (I love how this abstract watercolor version looks so much more interesting than the typical tie-dye, but I wonder how hard it actually is to pull off.)

Make Seven-Day Magic your morning readaloud. I always forget how much I love this book until I read it again, and then I want to tell everybody I know that they should read it, too.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

You don’t even have to turn on the oven to make this chickpea salad, and you can pile it on some arugula, eat it with a quick tomato salad, or just stuff it in a pita.

In summer, all I want to do is get back out of the kitchen. This quinoa topped with spinach and a fried egg lets me do just that.

My farmers market haul seems to be all about tomatoes and peaches right now, so this tomato-peach salad with tofu cream seems like the perfect side for the inevitable grilled chicken.

 

one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 

arnold palmer sangria


Favorite Homeschool Quotes: "It's knowing where to go to find out"

The Easiest Way to Get Organized for Homeschooling High School

Super easy, fool-proof method to keep up with homeschooling high school - love how simple this system is!

Homeschooling high school doesn’t have to mean acquiring organizational super skills. This easy organization method won’t stress you out and will make your life a whole lot easier when you start working on transcripts and other official paperwork for high school graduation. (This is our most-requested reprint from the magazine.) The envelope solution is elegant, effective, and so simple you can’t screw it up. Start it in ninth grade — eighth if you’re feeling particularly ambitious — and when it’s time to start the college application process, you’ll be all set. Here's how it works.

Label a large envelope for each class with the full name of the course and grade number (such as 9-Honors English 1 or 11-AP U.S. History). Add a separate envelope for extracurricular activities — if your child is serious about an activity, like soccer or theater, you may want to create a separate envelope for that particular activity as well as one for general extracurricular activities.

Label another envelope with your teen’s grade level and Honors — you’ll use this envelope to stash certificates of achievement, pictures of science fair experiments, and other awards and recognitions. Add one last envelope for community service — again, be sure to label it with your student’s grade level.

Make a basic information sheet for each class your child is taking. Include:

  • the textbook(s) used, with ISBN number
  • a copy of the textbook’s table of contents (Do this now. The last thing you want to do is end up rooting through boxes in the garage in a couple of years to figure out if your son’s freshman biology class included a section on genetics.)
  • the course description and syllabus
  • the name of the teacher (yes, even if it’s you!)
  • the number of credit hours the course entails

 

Tuck this information sheet securely in the envelope. Add items to envelope as the year progresses. Things you’ll want to include:

  • graded papers and tests
  • samples of presentations, lab reports, or other work done in the class
  • a running reading list (Add titles of books and essays to the list as you read them so you don’t have to try to remember everything at the end of the year. Even better, have your student keep an annotated reading list — with notes about each book.)
  • notes about associated activities — visits to museums, lectures, theaters, etc. — that relate to the class

 

At the end of the class, write the final grade and total credit hours on the front of the envelope. Inside the envelope, add:

  • official grades — community college report cards, printouts from an online class, or your evaluations
  • Ask any outside teacher to write a recommendation letter or evaluation for your student. Do it now while your student’s work is still fresh in their minds, and add the recommendation to your envelope. If you decide to ask this teacher for a recommendation when you’re working on college applications, you can give him his original recommendation to refresh his memory.
  • If your student ends up taking an AP or CLEP exam in a subject, add the exam results to your envelope. Similarly, if your student publishes or wins an award for work she started in the class, add those credits to your envelope.

 

Use a binder clip to group your envelopes — depending on how your brain works, you may want them grouped by grade level, by subject matter, or by some other criteria. However you group them, they’ll make writing that final transcript a lot easier since all your information will be organized in one place.


Reprinted from the winter 2015 issue’s Problem: Solved feature, which also tackled writing your own curriculum, keeping up with library books, getting over bad days, how to tell the difference between a homeschool slump and when you’re ready to stop homeschooling, and lots more

Finding Out: Curiosity as a Way of Learning

Love this: Why curiosity is the ultimate homeschool resource

In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s caterpillar season. The leaves are bursting forth from the trees, grasses are growing taller, birds are building nests, bats are waking up and they’re looking for food for their young. My youngest child’s insect project is ramping up and we are spending more time with our hands in hedges than sitting down and holding a pencil.

When we first started home educating, I kept a mental checklist for most tasks we’d do. Running around in the park? That counts as PE or recess. Baking a cake? I’m sure that counts as math. Making bracelets? Definitely good for fine motor skills. Looking for caterpillars in hedgerows? That must be science. It felt good to think that every aspect of our lives could “count as school.”

If my five-year-old son was in school, his teachers would be helping him work on his pencil grip, form letters and understand phonics and the basics of mathematics. At home, my son only holds a pencil or pen for about 15 minutes every day. Maybe I should worry. Maybe he will never learn to write his name!

That skill—the ability to find out is the key, for me, to being a successful learner.

But I don’t worry. I don’t worry at all about his writing. The reason is not that I’m ultra-confident. I’ve got all sorts of worries about my children. But when I watch my son gently lift a caterpillar from a leaf and hold it with precisely the correct amount of pressure and grip to keep that caterpillar safe from harm in his hand, I know my son has all the fine motor skills he needs to write his name. When he pulls out one of his nature books, turns to the index and asks me to look up that caterpillar’s food plant or when he opens the tablet and pulls up a document about caterpillars, I can see that he understands about letters and language and what they are intended for. He knows where to go to find out what he wants to learn. In short, he knows what he needs to do to find out. That skill—the ability to find out is the key, for me, to being a successful learner. The thing is, he knows what he wants to learn and he knows how to find out. Gradually he will arm himself with the skills to find out, perhaps by asking me for help or by figuring it out himself.

He will eventually learn to write, because he wants to find out.

He will learn to read, because he wants to find out.

He will become numerate, because he wants to find out.

I am here to mentor him, to help him learn the skills he needs, to encourage and support him when it’s hard. I want to nourish his curiosity and support him while newer and more exciting doors open to him.

I used to box-tick and think about whether what we were doing “counted as school.” Now I hardly think about school. I simply wonder what he’ll be finding out next.


Stuff We Like :: 7.2.15

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

Here's a little roundup of what's making our homeschool lives a little more interesting lately.

Around the Web

If you’ve taken the Rory Gilmore reading challenge, you will want to know what Rory read after Gilmore Girls. (I loved Station Eleven!)

Hilarious: Emily Dickinson on Facebook

Apparently speed listening to audiobooks is a thing now? This was a fascinating read — I’m really interested in the differences between wide, shallow learning and deep, narrow learning. (I think there are benefits to both.)

 

At home/school/life

On the site: Work is still (obviously) underway here on homeschoollifemag.com, but the end is nigh!

In the magazine: It’s a running joke at Casa Sharony that every issue of home/school/life is always my favorite, but this one is really good, y’all! I’m hunkered down with final edits, so look for your copy next week.

On Pinterest: These spoon puppets would be a great project when it’s too hot or rainy to play outside.

 

At home

What's on our menu for the Fourth: my favorite grilled salmon and campfire potatoes, plus a giant veggie salad

I have been plugging away at my Beekeeper’s Quilt, using up all my scrap ends of yarn. I adore this project and willingly acknowledge that I will probably not finish it until I am eligible for Social Security.

I’m trying to convince my daughter to join me this England in the Time of Richard III course (it’s free!) so that we can read The Daughter of Time together again. So far, she is not sharing my rabid enthusiasm for British history, but I'm hoping to convince her before it starts on the 13th.