Sunday, December 30, 2012

Administrating or Ministering

I am going to merge a little bit of my religious life with homeschooling world in this blog. Many years ago, I was serving in a leadership position in my particular church with a very wise wonderful man. One of the frequent conversations that came up in our one on one meetings was around the topic of being an administrator or a minister.

Homeschooling your children, in my opinion no matter what your religious beliefs, is a spiritual matter. I have shared many posts already exploring both sides of the coin. To have a well run homeschool requires many of the skills of an administrator. A homeschool parent is a teacher, aide, principal, front desk receptionist, CEO, nurse and psychologist all rolled into one. If you don't provide structure, organization and parameters, good luck on that science experiment you will never get around to! Without some of the skills that administrators have or develop quickly to survive in their jobs, you will most likely find yourself in hot water over not obtaining that yearly evaluation. You will accumulate fines at the library that might have financed an important item for your homeschooling program. Your children really might benefit from public or private schooling. I had to assist a few families in this boat to put their children back into school because they were in a perpetual state of chaos in their homes and lost the desire to even try to improve.

However, to balance it all out, you also need the attitude of a minister to be truly effective in your children's lives. "For every little boy or girl in our world, there’s a father or mother who can get so focused on achieving life’s little goals that he or she fails to see the opportunities to make their child prince or princess for an hour, or a day- and do an eternal work in their hearts. Our noble missions, even legitimate ministry involvements, steal time that ought to be given to our children." Monte Swan, 'Romancing Your Child's Heart'."

I had the opportunity one year at a FPEA convention to hear Monte and his wife discuss this concept. There are times to take the administrator's hat off and minister to your children. While some structure is good to prevent the chaos from swallowing up your learning opportunities, rigidity will kill off desire for learning. Again, I have mentioned in several earlier blogs to allow for spontaneous learning, to be willing to take detours and to encourage enthusiasm. There are times with certain bad days to turn the emotional climate around and leave the house to let the kids run in the park.

Of most importance, is a minister's ability to care about the individual above programs. In our particular faith denomination, a frequent saying is "People before programs". We have programs that enhance and enrich our lives. We have wonderful programs. But even with all that is wonderful, every person in leadership needs to learn how to make sure they are capable of leaving the ninety and nine to seek out the one.

As it should be in our own homes. The concept of romancing our children's hearts never left me after sitting in on that particular forum.  It's tough work to progress towards this balance. There will be no one perfect at it. I sincerely believe, in almost all circumstances, that parents love their children and want only the best for them.

So feel encouraged to throw out the curriculum that worked well with two of the children and is absolutely killing the desire to learn in the third child. Go ahead and rework the schedule to allow for that weekly enrichment lesson or extracurricular activity out of the home that one of these kids desperately wants and therefore needs! This next suggestion might earn me a boo or a hiss. Be brave and change your schooling situation completely if chaos prevails and your heart is so not into it that you are now resentful of the whole adventure. I think very few will find themselves in this category. However, continue to want what's best for your child.

Throughout the New Testament, we read of Jesus ministering to the one. He urged his listeners to leave the ninety and nine and find the lost one. Ministering to our children, while also doing a decent job of being an administrator, is one of the best gifts we can give to our children. It will never be wasted time. On certain bad days or weeks, you might be the one who needs rescuing! Recognize it and take care of it quickly so you can go back to romancing your child's heart!

"The most important of the Lord's work  you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes."  President Harold B. Lee

Monday, December 10, 2012

Virtual Schooling

I am finally working around to writing about virtual schooling. Our youngest child participated in this type of schooling during high school. Our oldest three utilized a correspondence course in which they were sent textbooks, studied, and mailed in their tests. This helped fill the holes as they also went to community college for dual enrollment classes. By the time our 4th child hit middle school age, Florida Virtual School was well underway. They were very successful and actually became a working model that the national Department of Education used as a model for the whole country. But, alas, others wanted in on the act and the profits and now there is a smorgasborg of virtual education programs being utilized in the state of FL. I personally feel our legislators made a huge mistake with their legislation but the situation is what it is now. What was a quality program is now reduced in quality as time has gone on depending upon which program your home educated child winds up in.

One reason I feel virtual schooling works so well with homeschooled children is that they are already used to more independence in their schooling. Many are very like minded in wishing to cut through the wasting of time and achieve the learning, thus freeing time up to explore other areas of interest.

I loved that the student and teacher had to interact over the phone quite a bit. It wasn't just sitting at home on the computer taking the tests. There was an introduction call and then pop quizzes and then just great conversation with the teachers. After the competition arose through the lobbyists and legislators, I do feel the staffing ratios must have changed since the amount of  telephone interaction had greatly decreased by the last year our son participated.

As the playing field widened for virtual schools in FL, there was also a big push for elementary school students. FLVS started at middle school which I felt was appropriate. However, I always advised, especially new homeschoolers, to even utilize that very part time. I was and still am totally in disagreement for early elementary school aged children to be involved in this type of schooling. The early years are all about concrete learning and especially for homeschoolers, reading, so to speak, your child and adjusting for those very active children. I became aware of one little child utilizing one of the other programs that had popped up through the public school system, that was tied to a scheduled time of day for his classes which then kept him from being able to attend  homeschool group activities and field trips.

With FLVS, the student has a pacing chart and can access the courses at the times that work best for the student. The only scheduled items would be the telephone visits. It is so important that homeschooled children be flexible for the learning opportunities that arise through the support groups and homeschooling community that I have mentioned in previous blogs. No computer program should be allowed to interfere with that.

I was interested in a blog one of my young friends wrote who shared her viewpoint of virtual schooling. Now she is a public schooled student and the FLVS was originally developed to aid public educated students in obtaining classes that they needed for credits or make up courses.  In recent years, it was mandated for public schoolers in FL to take a certain number of virtual classes since they are graduating from high school into a technology future.  You can read Stephanie Stone's blog at this link:

You will notice Stephanie touches on some of my concerns that I have mentioned here and in previous blogs. Every student needs interaction with others and access to the teachers.However homeschooled students that have been homeschooled for years are more apt to be self paced and independent than many public schooled students. The teachers at FLVS were very responsive. Students could instant message them or place a telephone call to them. I know many of them kept their beepers on them also so that the students could get in touch with them during the working day at any time. I actually believe with the staffing ratios at the level they were at the time our son was utilizing it, the students had more actual one on one time than they would ever have had in public school.

You can read my blog "The S Word" to understand why I feel homeschoolers do not need to be lone rangers. Stephanie is very right in her concerns regarding public presentations, etc. Again, homeschooling parents have been very busy addressing these concerns for years and that is why a homeschool group, co- op, group projects, field trips, etc. are vital to the homeschooling child. What goes on in public school that is beneficial to students has been replicated in the homeschooling community. It does take energy and commitment on the part of the homeschooling parent to bring these benefits to their children.

I believe a mix of all of the above does every student good!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Resistant Sons

As a follow up to my previous blog, I wanted to share some thoughts I wrote in the Teachable Moment in July 1999.

"Chris Davis made a great point in his lecture on "Resistant Sons". The statement he made sounded terrible at first, until he explained it. Women who are being supported by their husbands in homeschooling will burn out. The whole audience was looking at him with funny expressions on their faces! His point was that dads need to do more than just support. They need to take some responsibility for the homeschooling. This doesn't mean they have to quit their jobs and stay home to do the homeschooling with the kids but they need to know what is going on with their children, what are the interests of the moment?,how can the parents help support this interest?, etc. In other words, their hearts and minds need to be focused on the homeschooling process going on in the home too, without the wives having to focus them in."

I was so grateful to my husband as he involved our children in putting a metal roof on the house and building a side porch on. Also when he pulled our younger son into building the chicken coop as they took up the interest of chickens. He was the supervising parent in many of the science experiments.

Follow up note on that seminar on resistant sons. The ballroom was packed with parents....probably at least a thousand people!

"Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails"

I am 10 or 11 years old. I am walking down the hallway at school. The previous few years had been tumultous ones for my family, in part due to the Vietnam War and my father being over there for a good part of those years. I see a small dark curly haired boy in a desk in the hallway all by himself. He is crying. It is my younger brother.

His teacher was frustrated with him. He was too active for her classroom. In the 1960's and early 1970's, the education establishment did not understand how to deal with active little boys. The diagnosis of ADD or ADHD wasn't on the horizon yet. So it was easier to isolate them and put them out in the hallways, where they didn't bother anyone else, including the teacher.

At my young age, I realized something was terribly wrong with this picture. I still remember my first impulse after speaking to him. I wanted to march into that classroom and tell that teacher off. I hurt for my brother. Realizing that would not be the best idea, I did not do that, but did let my mother know what I had seen in the hallways that day.

Besides the socialization question, the number two frequently asked question during all those years of homeschool calls was about those energetic little boys. Note, I am not saying those hyperactive little boys. Many studies have been done regarding the differences between the genders in learning situations.

From my own experiences with my own two active little boys, sitting and being still is hard for them. And not to be too biased here, I did have one very active little girl too and one more sedate little girl. With that said, adapting the homeschool environment for lots of getting up and moving is an easy thing to do. Even just getting up and tossing a ball back and forth while quizzing for multiplication tables can turn the atmosphere into one of fun while learning.

Another area we implemented has already been mentioned in another blog. Give the active child some control over the learning agenda. Allow him/her to pick out areas of interest to learn about. Build as much of the curriculum around the areas of interest as possible. All of this is fairly easy to accomplish in the younger years when the activity levels are at their highest. Even people diagnosed with ADHD when young often end up with just the ADD diagnosis as they mature. My sons definitely slowed down as they hit their teenage years.

Years ago, I sat in a seminar with Dr. Raymond Moore (considered to be one of the grandfathers of the homeschool movement in the United States). He gave an example of a mother whose son had dropped out of school. She was desperate to keep him going in his education. He asked her what he was passionate about. The answer was he was passionate about motorcycles. He then advised her to build a curriculum around motorcycles. Not just the simple things you first think about, but to take it to complicated levels. She did that and returned to thank him within a year or two. She kept her son's brain turned on and there ended up actually being much math built into the curriculum. He told the audience to remember, KISS....Keep it simple, sweetheart! He was a kind man. Please google to obtain a list of the books he and his wife, who was a reading specialist, wrote. You will benefit from their books, I promise!

While I am not going to get into the disciplining area of active children, I will say this. If you don't teach your children to behave within societal boundaries, other people will. The people who fall into disfavor quickly in homeschool groups are those whose children are so out of control, that everyone has to worry about them on the fieldtrips. When on a fieldtrip, it's best to teach your children that you are there as guests and to behave accordingly. I remember one place that uninvited our homeschool group from future field trips due two misbehaving children whose parents were oblivious.

Teaching active children to behave appropriately in various settings obviously takes time, so it's best to begin when they are small. Talking to them beforehand about what behavior is expected before the situation and praising them after is important. If they are inappropriately touching something in a setting, it is best for you to correct your own child before another adult feels obligated to step in.

I will also tell you what I told so many homeschool moms and a few fathers along the way. A parent of a very active child needs breaks too. Getting replenished and coming back with a different perspective can make a world of difference. If you sense you are building up negativity for a child, recognize it, take a break and make a list of all of your child's wonderful qualities. Parents need to be a team to parent these children. If mom or dad is always the one disciplining, it is going to lead to trouble down the road. If mom or dad is in the background undoing the consequences that the other one is handing out, a manipulator is being created. A child is being done no favors with parenting like this. Mom and Dad need to get on the same page of the notebook, even if they need to obtain some counseling in the process.

Active children can be just as much fun as calmer children. Recognize the challenge, come up with your plan and enjoy that excitement with them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


From Teachable Moment, June 1998:

" 'Making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who's naughty or nice', ooh, it's time for end of the year evaluations! This is the time of year when we start wondering if any progress was made at all. Did we just stand still, go forward or (surely not!) go backward?

We always start our homeschooling year by making a list of areas each person wants to learn about. We post it on our bulletin board and refer to it for the first few months.

This process of writing things down never ceases to amaze me. I can write a shopping list, arrive at the shopping mall, realize I left it on the table at home and still proceed to remember most of the items on the list. However, if I just list items in my mind and try to remember later, my success rate is much lower.

This same phenomenon applies to our homeschooling list. We forget about it during the rest of the year (yes, I know it would be better if we didn't forget about it, but this is what really happens in our home) and look at it again at the end.

Here's the amazing part- we have always covered almost everything on our list. Somehow, we naturally wander into the areas. In addition, we have always added a few more. The list serves as a reference to check our progress during the year.

We also list a few goals for each child that we feel they're capable of accomplishing that year. By plugging in a few minutes each day on these goals, we also see them realized by the end of the year.

Matthew did learn his consonant sounds and is writing small words. Lindley was able to master her multiplication tables and her desire to write is blooming. Shelley and Jared have progressed in Spanish and Algebra and have performed a number of community service hours.

As we check our lists this year everyone has definitely "been nice". It helps us to see that progress has been made and gives us hope and courage for the next year. As we go through the summer, the kids will be thinking of what they want on their lists for the coming homeschool session. "

2012 update: Okay, the Spanish didn't stick with them, as it didn't with so many of us. I took it in high school and college and can recognize many written words, but forget the speaking and hearing part of it.

When I look back, it all went by so quickly! So please allow your children to pick out some areas of interest and put that into the curriculum too. Keep the joy of learning going!

Friday, November 2, 2012


A long while back, I mentioned I would get around to the "s" word....socialization. The number one question for homeschoolers everywhere from the very beginning! I hope the newest group of homeschoolers are not still fending off this topic. But just in case, I am going to share a tidbit from a column from 1997.

"The very first lecture I attended was by a Dr. Larry Shyers from the University of Florida. Guess what it was on? The Social Adjustment of Homeschooled Children Compared to Public Schooled Children! Dr. Shyers did this study as part of his work for his doctorate degree. When he first started, he really believed he would find out that the public schooled children would be better socialized. It was a blind study, meaning that those doing the evaluating didn't know if they were observing homeschooled or public schooled kids. Of course, most of us already know what Dr. Shyers found out! The homeschooled children ended up being the better socialized according to the definition that was being used. I loved this lecture!" Note: I believe his study was published in 1996. He came back to the FPEA convention the next year (1998) and I attended his lecture again.

Stepping away from quoting the long ago column now, I will add in from my memories and experiences. Dr. Shyers used criteria such as introducing yourself when presented to a stranger, using manners, not interrupting, etc. The homeschoolers scored very well. It was humorous as Dr. Shyers added that the homeschoolers were busy getting contact information from public schoolers that they had built a quick rapport with. While public schooled children have their strengths too, of course, their setting throws them with so many strangers on a daily basis, maybe it's to be expected that they wouldn't be as enthusiastic at meeting yet more strangers. Dr. Shyers also noted to his audience that it struck him as odd that public schooled parents were signing the permission slips for their children to take part in the study without asking questions about the study and exactly what their children were being subjected to. It was only the home educators that asked the hard questions. All of this came out of a man's mouth who openly admitted he was biased against  homeschoolers before the study. I love an honest person!

Speaking to the strengths of homeschooled children, many of us readily recognized that it's the one room schoolhouse setting. They are not segregated to age, they interact with people of all ages. Add into the equation that many homeschoolers are highly involved in service projects outside of the home and many times with elderly people and the reasons for the strength in socialization are easily explained.

The desire for popularity is diminished within the homeschool community. Since each child's individuality is stressed as part of the homeschooling lifestyle, all children are more easily accepted for who they are.An added factor is that more and more parents are home educating their special needs children in order to maximize their strengths.

Participating in co-ops, speech contests such as the Tropicana Speech Contest, debate clubs, 4H and many others can all help children to work on following rules, taking turns and not interrupting. These are skills homeschoolers need to learn too. That is one of the reasons I stressed to new homeschoolers time and again not to be the lone rangers, but to get involved with other homeschoolers on some level.

Many of the new families I assisted would decide to go the lone ranger route and too often, I would receive a phone call from a discouraged family. Many times, the request was for help on getting their child back into the public school system. Sometimes it was for assistance in connecting with those support groups that were recommended a year before at the beginning of their journey.We all need each other and we all need socialization! We are social beings! Interdependency is a good thing!

I do think, for the most part, cashiers in grocery stores are very used to seeing homeschoolers out and about. Librarians love the homeschoolers being with them during the day. Every once in a while a homeschooled child has a negative interaction with a truancy officer but I think that has really diminished over the years. The days of sitting home with the blinds closed are long over and home educated kids are a vital part of every community. May it always be so!

The Lonely Swingset
By Lindley Evelo
Age 8

The swingset is a lonely one,
the only one. It sits in the yard
without a playmate. It was sad.
I saw it be sad, sad, sad...I hate
to see a lonely swingset, a swingset
that is sad, sad,sad....Why was it sad?
It had no playmate. The playmate was
on a trip. The playmate was sad because
she had no swings to play on. The swingset
is blue,white and yellow and has a slide. The
playmate loves her swingset, lonely or not.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


From the Teachable Moment December 1996:

"It's that time of year again in which I have to make major decisions. As the Christmas season gets underway, a struggle begins taking place in my mind. I owe the inspiration for this topic to my son, Jared. I could not think of anything to write about this month. In desperation, I asked him if he had any ideas and he hit the nail on the head. In fact, because this struggle has been taking up so much of my brainpower, it really is no surprise I could not think of anything else to write about.

The indecision is over what type of presents to buy the children for Christmas. We like to celebrate by giving each other presents on a small scale. I struggle every year because I don't like to buy the commercialized gifts that pop out at us everywhere. I like to buy (could you already guess?) educational gifts. Gifts that will help the children to learn, grow and develop talents. It's a challenge to stay balanced with this. I think the kids worry every year that I'm going to go overboard and go educational all the way. They've developed their defense strategies of asking grandparents for the really junky gifts they know I will draw the line at.

Some of the educational gifts in the past have sat around for a couple of months while the glamorous gifts were played with for a short time. I have noticed, however, that sooner or later, they are pulled out of the boxes and utilized. I usually get a "That was pretty neat, Mom!". I have been encouraged this year by a couple of the kids actually asking for something out of a science catalog. So, I will continue to strive for balance and not go overboard. Hey, have you seen some of the neat stuff in the Edmund Scientifics catalog? Another homeschooling mother introduced that to me!"

2012 Followup: Now that those years have flown past, I look back and don't regret doing everything I could to help my children learn. I am happy with their ability to continue learning, to reason through subjects. I wished for my children to grow up and become thinkers and they have. They are all good people and that is a great contribution to the human race! Now, I am thinking through educational presents for grandchildren!

"Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known."   Garrison Keillor

Saturday, October 20, 2012


From the Teachable Moment January 1998 :

With the holiday season in full force, I  have been reflecting upon gifts that last forever. Gifts which get passed on and continue to touch lives. One gift that was given to me many years ago which continues to affect my life every day wasn't even a Christmas gift. It was a summer gift and it was given to me by a complete stranger.

I was 8 years old and visiting my grandmother in her little town for a few weeks. As I was exploring the immediate blocks around her home one day, I noticed a place that looked fairly busy. People were coming and out with books. My grandmother told me it was library and encouraged me to go in. She did not come in with me. The only libraries I had been in before this were the ones at school. You went in with the whole class and were on a tight schedule and the librarians were usually grouches, busy shushing everyone and giving the impression the library was a very important place, but not a very welcoming one.

That I even took a few more steps into the library is remarkable. My report card for the year had remarks on it recommending that someone work with me on my reading. That I needed to talk less and put more effort into my reading. Needless to say, I had a negative mindstep towards reading.

I didn't get too far into the situation before I was approached by a librarian. I remember feeling scared, sure that I was in trouble for daring to intrude in this place without an adult. Instead, she talked to me for a few minutes and had me settled in a comfortable chair with a Nancy Drew mystery before I realized what was happening. Since she had treated me so kindly, I actually started reading the book. Guess who got hooked on Nancy Drew mysteries? (2012 note: Guess who is still hooked on mystery books, of all kinds?) I had never even known of the existence of a fictional character named Nancy before.

I reluctantly left after a short time. The best part of the gift was to come. This kindly librarian extracted enough personal information form me to track down my grandmother, encourage her to let me return and arrange for me to check out books while I was in town!

My love of reading blossomed from that point. I hit the ground running and have never stopped. Now I have 3 companions who run along with me. The sweetest sound to my ears is when one of the three older children (hopefully that number will be changing to four before very long) agitate to get to the library. I understand their agitation. I feel the same way when I am out of reading material. They are amazed when they discover friends whose families never go to the library. They have tried to share this also. With some of their friends, it catches on. With others, it doesn't.

While we have never officially been members of a reading club, we have an informal one going on all the time. We're always sharing the plots of our books with each other, always scoping out what everyone else checked out recently, and many times, temporarily stealing each others' books. This can lead to war at times!

I'm sure, being 8 at the time, that I did not properly thank that librarian. I hope she knew somehow that she had done a really nice thing. Something that probably wasn't in her job description. Taking the time to invest in a little 8 year old girl that she could easily have ignored or scooted out of the way. May we give the same types of gifts to others!

2012 Followup: As I've pondered why the love of reading wasn't kicking in due to the exposure of books in the school setting, I've decided it has to do with something I have mentioned in another blog. In school, it was more of an assignment with much control being exerted. Assigned reading or just picking from a certain list, written book reports, etc. At the library, the choice was at my fingertips with no strings attached. This is one of the reasons I have been against the reading programs implemented in many schools today. I believe they take the joy of reading away from the children. As my older children were hitting high school and I started reviewing lists of classical books, etc. all children should read, my children had met that quota through having the books readily available and the fact that they were voracious readers from having reading freedom in their early years. Many of their friends who were going through those reading programs in the local public schools lost their love of reading during those years. It was a sad thing to watch.

On another note, observing my own mother's love of reading over the growing up years surely made an impact too. While my mother did not get involved with her children's schooling, she was always reading in the background. I am sure I learned the art of  tuning out the noise and activity going on around me while reading from her! And I am happy to say, my husband began reading for pleasure as the years went by. Our fourth child also jumped on the boat. I did have to regulate the home environment some for his benefit, which is in another blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I apologize for a little bit of repetition in one paragraph, but didn't want to break the flow of the article.

From the Teachable Moment August 1999:

" 'How do you do it all?' is a frequent question I hear when meeting new acquaintances who discover what I do with my time. It sounds overwhelming to them; homeschooling four children, working a part time job that requires my husband and me to be on call 24 hours a day, and being very involved with church responsibilities. My answer for years was usually to the tune of how much I enjoyed all that I did. When asked about the balancing of it all, I half seriously, half jokingly replied I just picked something different to be behind on from week to week. If they really wanted to hear more, I could elaborate on a wonderful husband who took over most of the cooking our third year into homeschooling (we're now heading into year eight) and assigned chores that the children were fairly responsible about fulfilling. Somehow it all worked.

In addition, I would always share that every year was different as the children went through new stages of development. Now I would have to pause before blurting all of this out. I would have to add that this past year (number seven) was extremely different. This was the year when I would ask myself, 'How was I doing it all? What is it going to take to get back to that point again?' We had different dynamics this year and I was profoundly affected.

Two children in adolescence learning to drive and a preteen with her own set of challenges proved to be part of the dynamics. Bringing my grandmother into our home to nurse her through a gangrenous infection and amputation of her leg definitely added into the equation. Business and financial concerns reared their demanding heads. Continuing to work through extended family relationships and issues took their toll. Being a moderate perfectionist and desiring to do a good job in all areas of my life also factored in. Feeling the responsibility of four children's educations lay heavy on my emotional state.

As one challenge after another was met head on and successfully dealt with, it seems I would have felt on top of the world. Instead, the opposite occurred. I was feeling slower, heavier and more weighted down as the year went on. I was so relieved as summer vacation arrived and one area could be dispensed with for awhile. Just getting that relief from homeschooling has helped me to gain a clearer picture of the past year and the strain I had been under.

I have also realized that it is very likely our family would not have been able to make it through the challenges of the past year if we had not already been working as a team. The reality that everyone knew what jobs were expected of them and carried their own weight most of the time was important to our family carrying on through all of the many challenges, especially the challenge of Mom not functioning at the high level of productivity that she usually did. When we starting homeschooling eight years ago, did I even for one second consider that I might go through a time of struggle and would need my family to be functioning strongly? I can honestly say I never gave it a thought.

What I can share from this experience is that I wish I had given this some serious thought and would encourage all new homeschoolers to do just that. Maybe we would all try to work harder as a team with our families after that time of reflection. I am grateful for how well our family did function and for the insights we've gained. Even with hindsight, we would still take my grandmother in and help her. There was much we learned from that experience. Maybe with pondering in advance I would have been quicker to identify what was starting to happen to me emotionally and would have understood the need to take better care of myself. Taking time to exercise would have been a higher priority. Encouraging even more sharing of responsibilities would also have been on the list.

Challenge times will come to every family. We mothers tend to think that we will be able to pull out our strongest and best selves when the challenges come. Our family has learned we need to build and strengthen each individual member of the family since we don't know who will be feeling strong at any particular crisis. One friend quoted to me, 'The only certain thing in life is change.' I don't know who to credit that quote to, but it certainly applies to the homeschooling lifestyle.

Sometimes I fear we're all so busy trying to prove to ourselves and the world that homeschooling does work that we minimize the challenges and the struggles. I'm sharing here that I think it's okay to acknowledge that we are going to struggle at moments and that we may not be our best and strongest selves at all times. What a great concept for a family to function as a team! How much better if there's been some practice and training so that everyone doesn't struggle at once. Just as we homeschooling parents teach our children to utilize the resources around them for our learning experiences, our family had to identify what resources could help us with each of our situations. Taking time to identify resources before challenges hit can be a benefit.

Thank you for bearing with me and allowing me to use this forum to share these thoughts. I'm sure writing this article has also helped me to process through some areas. It is my hope that sharing these thoughts will help someone else too. Positive thinking includes not only the positive thoughts, but being able to look at situations and come up with solutions. May you also be able to arrive at solutions to your changes that occur in your homeschooling and family life journeys!"

2012 Followup: I would like to add a little more all these years later. Within the next year, we actually did something that many homeschoolers were horrified at. We put the younger two children into 3rd and 7th grade of public school respectively, as we finished up the older two children with their high school. I was very proud of how they both utilized skills learned at home and applied them to their new situations. By the next year, after reviewing everything and hearing their input, they resumed homeschooling. Sometimes you have to weigh everything out and in our family's situation, with much prayer, arrive at solutions that weren't even on the horizon a short time before.

Also, again in our situation, our church service was a big plus during this time. Getting out of your own home and serving others can help to keep the gloomies away. Much of what I was doing in the church setting was enhanced by our family's helping, such as them handling a nursery numerous times to allow the women to engage in enrichment and community service activities.  I am grateful when I look back on those years. The children and my husband weren't grumbly about their assistance. They were glad to be helping the women who do so much to help our church to be effective. I respect my husband so much because he recognizes the value of women and their contributions to all aspects of life.  I've often thought the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman had to have been the same type of man my husband is.

Monday, September 24, 2012


First of all, one more link to another blog on Co-ops! If you haven't already linked to Roxana's page, you should!

From the Teachable Moment 1997:

" 'Who wants Cream of Wheat for breakfast?'  I asked my children one recent morning. Three of them answered in the affirmative. The youngest, Matthew, was emphatic in his no.

'Please make lumps in it,' begged Lindley. I know the ideal way to make Cream of Wheat is without the lumps, but for some weird reason, the kids and I love them.

As I started spooning the lumpy mixture into the bowls, the enthusiasm level was high. And by the time the bowls made it to the table, Matthew had his own bowl and was anxious to dip in.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines enthusiasm as 1. rapturous interest or excitement or 2. a subject or activity that inspires a lively interest. Another homeschool mom and I were discussing how our level of enthusiasm influences and affects the kids and their experience homeschooling. We had both had the experience of starting out homeschooling years ago with great enthusiasm and it waning somewhat as the years rolled by. The experience of our younger children has not been the same as that of our older children.

That discussion has provoked some pondering on my part. I've decided that as we first started homeschooling, my enthusiasm level may well have approached the rapturous. While it may not be possible to maintain that level over years, I hope it will be possible to maintain a lively interest in subjects and activities.

I've sought to identify areas that hinder my enthusiasm. Some of these I can actually do something about. However, I have to accept that in other situations, I may have no control since other people are involved. But just identifying that something or someone may be dampening my enthusiasm can actually help.

Our best homeschooling experiences in the past have been ones where at least a couple of us were enthusiastic and then it spread. I hope to do my part not to hinder another family member's enthusiasm. What is better in life than sharing something you're interested in with the people you love most in the world?"

Now, going back to co-ops. Matthew was affected as his siblings left the home, one by one, and then all of a sudden he was an only child homeschooling when all he had known was this group homeschooling and all of the ideas and enthusiasm floating around in the air. It was around this time that we were invited to join the LIFE Co-Op mentioned above. It came in the nick of time for Matt! I will be forever grateful to Roxana White for organizing it and opening the door for Matt.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Our youngest son was invited to participate in a local co-op organized by a  friend halfway through his homeschooling high school years. The level of organization was way beyond any classes our local support group had organized over the years. The following post and link is from our friend who organized that co-op based on one she and her children had participated in located in another state before their move here.

We Needed LIFE

"I am an eclectic homeschooler. Of course, I didn’t know that until we were well into our 2nd year of homeschool.  I just thought I was all over the place.  I knew my girls were doing well, I knew homeschooling was right for us, but I wondered if everyone else was as all over the map as me. We are now in our 14th year, and I have learned that there are quite a few of us still mapping things out.

As part of our journey, somewhere along the way, I became involved in a large co-op that was based on classes. Actually, I thought all co-ops were class-based.  It wasn’t until I moved to Florida 6 years ago that I learned there are different types of homeschool co-ops.  After trying several of them, because that’s what we mappers do, I really began to miss what I had been familiar with.  It worked for us. This type of co-op offered 3 class periods, with a choice of classes in each period.  There were classes for nursery through high school.  After co-op on Friday mornings, we all went to the park for lunch and fellowship.

Because class-based co-op worked for us, and there was no such co-op in my area, one day I somehow found myself mapping out a plan to start one.

L.I.F.E. began 4 years ago. 

Learning in Family Education Co-op Classes has been a challenging and rewarding experience for me, my children, and the families we have grown to love.  Each semester brings changes. The classes are never the same, many of our families have been with us from the beginning, some are new, all are welcome.

If you are a mapper, someone who loves to plan and likes variety, and you are looking for a support group or co-op in your area, I encourage you to try a class based co-op.  It could be a great supplement to your core subjects, a great resource, and a great way get a breath of fresh air on your journey.  If there aren’t any in your area, consider starting one.  There are many resources to help you get started.

Please visit this link to learn more:      

Saturday, September 15, 2012


As a follow up to the last post which was written by my father in law. From the Teachable Moment October 1997

"The sleepy dog looked up at the veterinarian-her vision becoming blurred by the anesthetic. Wait, was there two of the veterinarian? No, just the kindly doctor and her shadow- a homeschool kid checking out her work.

My topic for this month is shadowing. One of the suggestions from a seminar I attended on homeschooling older kids was that it's best to get them out of the house on a regular basis. Late middle school and early high school is a great time for them to start checking out careers. Shadowing differs from apprenticing in that in the former, the student will follow someone around and observe the work involved. This is usually done on a short term basis, maybe for a few hours a week for a month. In apprenticing, the student would actually work with the selected person and learn skills on a long term basis.

Since Jared is interested in becoming a veterinarian, we felt it was important that he obtain an accurate picture of what the job entails. Also, Shelley thinks she might have an interest in dentistry, so again, we wanted her to get in there and observe.

It's always easier to set this type of project up with someone you know. However, depending on what your child is interested in, you might have to use contacts around you to put you in touch with the right people or even approach someone cold turkey. Be prepared to do a little bit of education on homeschooling and let the person know your student has expressed an interest in their career. It should go without saying that if your child doesn't have an interest in doing something like this, you shouldn't force them. You would not want to take up someone's valuable time with a teenager's bad attitude.

It's a good idea to check on the appropriate clothing to be worn. Also, review manners and as many situations as you can think of so your homeschooler will be able to handle himself with ease and confidence.

Expressions of appreciation to all involved will probably go a long way towards making it easier for a future homeschooler to get her foot in the door. There's also the possibility that shadowing might turn into an apprenticing avenue for the student.!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grandparents and Homeschooling: From a Dilemma to an Adventure

From Teachable Moment October 1997 written by Skip Evelo:

In my last blog, I mentioned reactions relatives sometimes have. Here is an honest article that my father-in-law was willing to write after we had been homeschooling for six years or so. I appreciated it then and I still appreciate it to this day.

" You're going to do what? Homeschool our grandchildren! Have you lost your minds? Don't we have a vested interest in our grandchildren? Even though you two have college degrees, you aren't teachers. Where did we fail as parents? Oh! We had many questions and many more doubts.

Okay, so they'll study at home. What about their social relationships with other kids? Do you want them to be "hermits"? I can just see it now;  Jared, Shelley, Lindley and even Matthew laying in bed till around nine AM. Then a leisurely breakfast watching TV, maybe a little Nintendo later, then it's time for lunch. Later Mom exclaims, "My goodness, we've got to study now! Get your books. Let's see, we'll try some Math and maybe a little English, then you can go out to play". At this rate, it'll take them forever to learn anything!

That's how we felt about this "home schooling thing". And that was six years ago. And after much enlightenment and observation on our part, we've completely changed our minds and attitude. It's nothing like we imagined it to be.

In our opinion, our grandchildren, thanks to dedication, hard work and yes, persistence of their parents, are receiving a well rounded education, and in my opinion, receive a more advanced and structured learning experience than they could ever receive in public school. To those parents and grandparents who are just a little skeptical about homeschooling, let me briefly outline a normal day in the life of a homeschooler.

My oldest grandson, Jared, age 14, is presently attending a special religious seminary class sponsored by our church, so he arises early enough to meet at the church at 6 AM. By 7:30 AM, he is back home and begins his studies. The others are up by this time, have had breakfast, and will start their lessons soon after. Even Matthew, age 5, is in homeschool kindergarten. The kids are being tutored by their mother. For several hours a day, they complete their lessons interspaced with numerous field trips and participating in learning circles and groups with other homeschool children. Much of their studies and research are accomplished by utilizing the family computer in addition to frequent visits to the local library. Through the process, my grandchildren are exposed to a multitude of learning experiences and I am amazed at the knowledge they possess.

One unique facet of their learning experience is the opportunity to explore various career opportunities. Jared has a desire to become a veterinarian, so arrangements have been made for him to spend three hours a week "shadowing" or observing a local vet, while Shelley, age 13, has some thoughts of becoming a dentist, so she is "shadowing" a local dentist. These are special projects that they have elected to complete. You tell me that they would have these opportunities in public school!

Yes, we're sold on homeschooling and both my wife and I support my son and his wife and our grandchildren in their decision to seek a well rounded education."

Many high schools will arrange for their upper grade students to do some sort of shadowing outside the school in their chosen career paths. The difference is that those students usually only get to do one internship versus homeschooled students can start at younger ages and can do whatever their parents are able to set up with whoever the students want to shadow! A big advantage!

I loved this quote our newsletter editor placed right after the article from my father-in-law.

" Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned, and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly." Thomas Huxley

PS: Jared did not become a veterinarian; he is an accountant. Shelley did not become a dentist; she is a registered nurse. Lindley is also a nurse (she was a junior volunteer at CRMC) and Matthew is a college student.

Monday, September 10, 2012

And What About The Relatives?

In writing about the value of a good support group, I am planning to share a separate one on co-op groups soon. I have an expert friend who is going to send me a blurb, plus a link to her blog. 

Now, there is another support group we must not forget. That is the one of extended family...our relatives. Oh, what is that I am hearing? Sarcastic laughter? What? You didn't get total, no holding back support from your extended family when you so enthusiastically announced your idea to homeschool? Well, this blog post is just for you! Although I hope that many of you are experiencing more support from relatives than those of us twenty and thirty years ago.

One of the great joys of working the annual FPEA convention over the last few years was the turnout of grandparents coming along with the parents to support, learn and here's the great part for some help pick out and even buy the curriculum! Yes, I must admit to a tinge of jealousy! But in fairness to the relatives of many years ago....

The proof wasn't in the pudding all those years ago. Homeschooling was not seen as just another educational alternative in those years. The options that homeschoolers take for granted (at least in FL) such as extracurricular activities legisation, Bright Futures Scholarships, Dual Enrollment and Florida Virtual School were not available then. The legislation to make homeschooling legal in the state of FL was not even passed until 1984 - 1985. Even after it was passed, it was on a recommend to veto list to the Governor. Before homeschooling was made legal, our pioneer families in the state could forget about going to the park to have homeschool day once a week. Please visit for more history on how homeschooling began and the options that HEF has accomplished for homeschoolers. A big handclap for Brenda (and Craig) Dickinson!

Our own experience with announcing we were embarking on the homeschooling adventure was met with the reactions that many of you have experienced. Your parents absolutely thinking you are out of your minds. Brothers and sisters cracking up laughing at the idea. Friends giving you strange looks or maybe just outright blurting out how crazy you are!

Some grandparents feel offended and think new homeschooling parents are making a negative statement about the quality of education they received growing up and are passing judgment on the grandparents. So defensiveness pops up.

Many relatives are worried the children will be ruined. The, ahem, socialization dilemma discussion gets underway immediately. Not to forget the graduation, prom, and what about college questions.

Not to worry! Do your homework so that you can educate everyone about the facts of homeschooling. We're way past the days when the proof really wasn't in the pudding! I will post in a later blog some answers regarding the socialization question. That one is so outdated!

After you have educated your family members regarding home education, do all you can to involve them. Invite them to an FPEA convention in May or a local homeschooling field trip or park day. Locate some good homeschooling books for them to read. See if they would take the kids to a field trip or share with them some of their own passions or knowledge about a subject. If they are the type of grandparents to volunteer in your child's school, you can probably count on them to be volunteers in your homeschool program too! Maybe they will help buy some of the curriculum or at least purchase some of the more fun homeschooling stuff for birthday or Christmas presents!

If you aren't winning any points and are even dealing with angry relatives ( I know so many who went through this) just persevere and keep plugging along. You don't need everyone's approval to teach your children. While it is nice to have approval and feel supported, you can still get support from homeschooling friends and support groups. As you proceed ahead, you will hopefully see the opposition melting away. And hopefully, you will then have some extra volunteers for your homeschooling program and some recognition of your hard work and sacrifice to educate your children.

Please don't let negativity catch you in its web! Don't waste your time and energy once you have done the basic education on disenchanted or angry relatives. You will need your energy for your homeschooling life. I also recommend that you not waste time bashing public schools. We are fortunate in America to have different options for education. Home education is just one of them. It is not necessary to tear down other forms of education. Yes, public education needs to be iimproved. However, some private schools and even some home school environments could use improving too. Why waste time on those debates?

My next blog will be a reposting of an honest article written by one of our relatives after we had homeschooled a few years. Hopefully, this will encourage some of you!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Out of Pocket

It will probably be a week before I am able to blog again. I hope to write up a post on co-op groups with the input of a couple of friends who are more expert in this area! In the meantime, keep on keeping on. If it's a particularly hard day, it's okay to rest for a day and even go to the park! That's something long term homeschoolers learn over the years. Don't let the atmosphere in your learning environment  go negative! Redirect and approach from a different angle!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Value of a Good Support Group

2012: The following is a column I wrote in August 1997 for the Teachable Moment regarding Tallahassee Homeschool Group or THG as we all abbreviated it, written and spoken. I will always be forever grateful for that group! I strongly recommend to anyone starting their homeschooling travels that you find a group that works for you or you create one! It is vital. The saddest thing to me when fielding homeschool calls for all those years from new homeschoolers is when there was no interest in participating in a support group. I think it is much harder to be a lone ranger and you are almost certainly shortchanging your kids. I hope the following article will help newcomers understand why.

"A beautiful location, outstanding entertainment, a refreshing pool, great food and wonderful people...the year end rally, in my opinion, was one of our best activites yet!

As I chatted and visited with others, thoughts of those who hadn't been able to attend crossed my mind. I reflected upon the people I've had the opportunity to become acquainted with due to the homeschool group. It sometimes feel frustrating to not have the time to invest in closer friendships with each member of the group, but I've enjoyed the intermittent conversations and sharing that have taken place.

It's amazing to me when I mentally rehearse all of the activities and projects that THG has participated in over the last 2-3 years! I love to see the contribution each family has added as they've joined in with us. Not everyone has been able to stay with us (due to various reasons) and, of course, their absences are felt. However, THG exists whenever any number of us join together for an activity.

Every year brings changes. Children certainly metamorphose as they go through their developmental stages, as do we adults. Our family dynamics are remodeled as a result. Consequently, THG will continue to experience changes also.

The last two years have shown an evolution from a small core group of people to a larger group of involved members. One reason I feel the group has been able to weather this transition is the ability of new members to realize they are part of the group. Also, the credit for successful activities and projects can be attributed to the resources each member, new or old, brings in with them.

When we welcome a new family to the park, we're also welcoming the resources and insights this family will bring with them. These will have a positive impact on our children. We also recognize the supportive help other adults give us when we're involved in certain projects, such as the Junior Museum (the Eco-Show) and Elizabeth Danley (who was a librarian who went back for her Ph.D. and utilized many of us for her dissertion on home education). In the process, Elizabeth made suggestions to the library for better ways to aid and assist homeschoolers.

Our family feels fortunate to have such a unique group to aid us in our homeschooling endeavors. I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to each of you for your contributions. You're each important and add so much to the dynamics of the group. We miss you when you're not able to be present, yet understand too, that THG activities can't always be at the top of the priority list. Best wishes to those who are pursuing other educational choices this next year! "

Ideas implemented during our years in THG:

We always met one day a week at Optimist Park. They still meet there every Thursday afternoon, except in the summer. The city daycare programs have it during the summer. So the option then was to go to Wakulla Springs every other week for a day. Wakulla Springs was great about not charging our group for that!

Learning Circles: No more than an hour. Probably the greatest one was when someone brought a hot air balloon to the park. It was an older one, so they laid it sideways on the ground and the kids and parents all ran in and out of it. Then they set it right side up. Otherwise, there were a variety. Anything anyone was learning about could be presented. One young man, who was diabetic, taught all the kids about diabetes and demonstrated checking his blood sugar. We had people come teach about other countries and bring items from those countries. I personally taught a few science ones regarding the human body. It was a good time to work in the dangers of smoking. There were some dedicated to service projects also. I might have to dedicate another blog about learning circles.

Yearbook: We started a yearbook. Each child made their own page with their picture on it. We also had group pictures. Parents signed up to obtain sponsors for advertising which helped bring the costs under control so that everyone could afford to have a yearbook.

Field Day: A load of fun! Probably the most popular event every year.

Field trips: This category always depended upon someone being willing to coordinate. And I will just add, if you sign up for a field trip, try with all your strength to honor your commitment. Homeschoolers can sometimes turn into slackers in this area. It's embarrassing for someone coordinating to have everyone bail out at the last minute. The most favorite ones that come to my mind (but there were so many!) were the  Marine Biology Lab in Panacea, horseback riding, Joe Budd in Quincy (fishing and science lessons) St.Marks Wildlife Reserve (especially during the Monarch Butterfly migration!)  and don't forget the Junior Museum.

Valentine's Day: The same traditional stuff.

Halloween: Same as Halloween Day. The kids dress up and march around in a parade with some festival type booths set up too.

International Day at the Library: The kids made posters based on learning about different countries which were put on display at the local library.

Soccer: In the early years, a wonderful father gave of his time and taught the kids soccer. It was low key and not super competitive. Many families would stay at the park afterwards and have pizza together for dinner. Sweet memories for our family!

A Teenage Dance: This was added in after our years there, but I heard it is very successful.

4H Clubs: We did some 4H activities together. Matthew especially enjoyed the Archery Club.

THG version of Scouting!

Cooperative classes: Writing, Greek Mythology, etc.

I know I am leaving some things out! It really grew to the point where you had to start picking and choosing your activities because it was very hard to do it all!

One last point; when  you join a support group, go with the attitude that you will find a way to be a contributor.  The parents make the group go. Each group is only going to be as successful as the parents who are sharing their time, talents and resources. So please take this seriously. THG was good about giving first year homeschoolers a break just to get on their feet and absorb it all, but the expectation was that by the second year, parents needed to be jumping in somewhere. Some homeschool groups require a written agreement. It's that important.

Happy homeschooling!  : ))

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


From the Teachable Moment August 1998:

"I experienced a true writer's block this month with this column. I just couldn't think of anything worthwhile to write about in regards to homeschooling. One reason may have been my involvement with planning a couple of major events. I definitely had other things on my mind! However, the major reason finally occurred to me! Summertime seems to be the only time I can relax and just let go of homeschooling.

Every summer, I set a goal to have the children work on some math and writing (since we have readaholics in the house, this is one I'm not concerned about) but the accomplishing of that goal gets more and more sporadic as we journey into summertime. This is the time when all the projects I've put on hold during the school year leap from behind corners in my mind, startling me and reminding me it's their time!

If I had a different personality, didn't have four kids and didn't work a part time job, maybe I could do the homeschooling differently. Maybe I could go more with the flow and spontaneous learning all the time. However, being the me that I am, I feel a constant urging inside to make sure the right environment and learning resources are available to the kids. I desire to give each child the time and attention needed to ensure maximum learning opportunities. Much of my time is spent pondering even as I go about the daily activities of life.

So I put many things on hold during the regular school year. Of course, I've tried just calling a halt to everything and getting a certain project accomplished, but that little voice just nags about the children's futures! To decrease frustration, I remind myself that I can focus on those things and projects during the summer. I've also tried the year round schooling schedule of 4 weeks on, 1 week off or 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off. The kids rebel - they want their summer vacation. Thsi approach also didn't work for me; I've decided it's because I always seem to need 3 or 4 weeks off as a recovery period.

That held true this year. Only after a month of basically being off from homeschooling, did the energy to actually accomplish projects kick in. What a morale booster it is when the motivation kicks in and those projects start getting accomplished! One is always the same - to reclaim the house! I go room to room; cleaning, organizing and dejunking. I declare war on paper and cart it to the recycling bin by the grocery bag full. I know - this is spring cleaning and I have my season wrong!

Then I get around to the gratitude gifts;the thank you's and shows of appreciation to scout leaders and others who have so blessed our children's lives. This should also be a spring activity. I always hope they will forgive our tardiness.

Getting our porch painted, starting Christmas shopping, dragging the kids in for annual checkups; the list continues - sorry to bore you with the details. As each item gets checked off, there are fewer monsters lurking behind corners ready to jump out. I feel myself growing stronger and feeling refreshed. I feel closer to being ready to start the homeschooling trip again.

Each homeschooling parent has to find a way to balance it all. I never really gave this much thought when we started our homeschooling journey. Now that I've discovered my system for balancing and coping, I feel much less frustrated. Best wishes on your homeschooling adventures and on your rest stops!"

2012 Update: Wow! This was written in the same month 14 years ago! And I have to share that as my kids grew older and then there were three, two, one...the balancing act changed again and again. So my conclusion, when it is all said and done, is that you do not allow yourself to lock in adamantly to any schedule, but remain flexible and do what works for you year to year. As my older two were gone, the summer schedule did work for my younger two as they grew older. We just adapted year to year based on each child. In addition, guess what....I did get more to the spontaneous flowing stage too. Somehow it all ended up working out! : ))

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Eclectic Homeschooling and "October Sky"

For this post, I am going to use snippets from some of my 1998-1999 columns in the Teachable Moment. Visualize a bulletin board with snippets of wisdom pinned to it. These snippets were just some of the words of wisdom on my bulletin board over the years.

Cafi Cohen, the author of "And What About College?" was someone I discovered early on in our homeschooling adventure. It was from her that I discovered we were eclectic homeschoolers. "Families incorporate diverse resources to create the best program for the student. The educational philosophy is: use anything that encourages enthusiasm for learning." ( 2012 -Sorry, didn't write down the page number all those years ago!)

Mary Hood, otherwise known as The Relaxed Homeschooler made a big impression upon me. From "The Joy  of Homeschooling" page 83: " First, in order to free yourselves from the idea of lesson plans, separate subjects and grade levels, it is absolutely critical that you and your husband formulate some long range goals to guide your efforts. Most of the specific roles of the homeschooling mother can be derived from looking at these goals on a regular basis. For example, one of my goals is to turn out eighteen year olds that love to read and write and are competent at these skills. In order to accomplish this goal, I must constantly monitor the progress of specific children (through observation, not necessarily testing) and provide experiences and materials. My roles may include reading a bedtime story to a toddler; obtaining a magazine subscription for a preschooler; helping a six year old learn a few phonics rules; listening to an eight year old read knock knock jokes to me while I'm washing dishes; helping a ten year old write a letter to a penpal; editing a story for a  middle schooler; or finding an appropriate resource to help a high schooler learn how to write a research paper. Some people might see such roles as "teacher" roles, but I don't. I just think of myself as a mother, who is helping her children set and reach worthwhile goals and doing "whatever it takes" to accomplish that." (2012 - Is that powerful or what?)

In an FPEA (Florida Parent-Educators Association) seminar I attended in May 1998, Mary shared that some parents worry over their child possessing a certain core body of knowledge. She believes that each child's core body of knowledge will be different and specific to that child (makes sense to me, living in the information age that we do!) She stated that some parents need to focus on their children's core body of skills and values.

Mary has a Ph.D. in education, by the way and readily admits she learned to "play a game called college". The emphasis of this class was not to forget a mother's primary role is exactly that - a mother. She kept emphasizing that we are not teachers, we are mothers. Our children will learn but our perspective needs to stay on being their mothers. (2012 perspective- who else besides a mother and a father cares so earnestly about their child's success in this journey of life?)

From another FPEA seminar in 1999, I scribbled furiously from two seminars by  Susan Sheffer titled "The Myths of Unschooling" and "Self-Directed Learners": Two good questions parents can remember to ask their child are , "What's the part you need help with?" and What's the part you can do by yourself?". She listed nine ways parents can support their children: 1) helping kids pursue their own goals  2) letting kids know about stuff that is available  3) listening and helping them think things through  4) helping kids feel capable- show them their own strengths and how they're progressing in a certain area  5) reassurance  6) helping them figure out how to do things  7) giving feedback  8) sharing our own ideas, work experiences, decision making process and  9) don't wait until they can do things by themselves before letting them try.

Here's an example from our lives of that eclectic homeschooling: " We stumbled upon a movie, by accident, that ended up being a great start to our homeschooling year. "October Sky" is based on a true story of a group of boys from a coal mining town in West Virginia and their science teacher's belief in them that they could do more than mine for coal. The Russian satellite, Sputnik, that was launched in October of 1957 captured the boys' imaginations and started them on the path to launching rockets. They had to overcome adversity and attitudes from their own parents and even their high school principal. As a parent, it reinforced to me the importance of supporting your child's learning interests. Our children thorougly enjoyed the movie and have asked for it to be added to our collection of home videos."

2012 update: I attended FPEA's Convention every May for the majority of years our family homeschooled. It was a valuable resource to me and I feel it is a tremendous resource for homeschooling families. Many homeschooling families designate that time as their family vacation week. Other families scrimp and save so that the homeschooling mother or father can attend. Many times mothers from an area travel and room together and get their Girls Time Out session in.

While I served on the FPEA board from 2001 - 2010, one woman came from Africa two different years to gather up curriculum and take it back to share with her friends. A blind man and father of five traveled from Australia. Chad Hymas, a quadriplegic, flew across the country two different years and donated his time to speak and also be the keynote speaker in 2011. Please visit his website and read his story!

This is an organization worth having membership in and always needs people who are focused on serving homeschooling families. This organization needs all the help it can get and needs its homeschooling membership to keep a watchful eye and make sure the focus always stays on serving the homeschooling families and not just growing a corporation so that it can be number one in the state and nation.  It is easy to get caught up in the good the organization does and to succumb to pride. The focus should always be the organization existing for the homeschooling families and not the homeschooling families existing to grow the organization. It was a frequent discussion during the years I was there. I am sure it is still a frequent discussion even today.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What About the Prom, Graduation and High School Reunions?

From the Teachable Moment May 1998:

"Many people have different questions when they find out we intend to homeschool the high school years also. These questions focus (of course!) on college, the senior prom, high school activities and clubs, and then, always thrown in for good effect, "but what about class reunions?".

This is not unknown territory for me since I gave up my senior year to go ahead and start community college. We had moved again (military family) and I was about to attend my third high school. For some reason, I was ahead on credits and only needed one class to graduate. The new school had a counselor that wanted me to attend the whole year. I just wanted to take my one class. It became a standoff. He wouldn't relent (2012 note: he had terrible skills at dealing with a responsible teenager) and I was just fed up enough to declare myself free of the system. I would just quit! My hysterical mother called the superintendent of schools and he found a loophole that allowed me to start community college. (2012 update: This is a commonplace thing nowadays. Our homeschoolers can dual enroll at most local community colleges for their junior and senior years. Back in 1977 in this location, this was a major thing!)

This kindly superintendent asked all these same questions. The senior prom and all those activities didn't matter (at this point the other seniors were all strangers!). And it was true I did not feel the lack of those things in my life. I've also read that many homeschoolers still get the senior prom in. They get asked as a date - one boy attended 3 different ones! (2012 again: As our children matured, the girls each attended more than one senior prom. Our boys could have cared less. And with the FPEA graduation I will mention later in the article, a senior prom is included with the statewide graduation.)

The one thing that nagged at me though was the class reunions. Since I had gone midway through my junior year at one high school (all the way up in Alaska), I wondered if I was going to feel some regrets about this. As the time approaches for that class to have its 20th reuinion and I've talked with a lot of other friends about their experiences, I realize again, it doesn't matter.

It seems most people keep up with the people they were really close to in high school. Guess what? I've done that too! Many people don't even feel a need or desire to attend their high school reunions. My husband has missed two now. And you can always plan your reunion to see those you really want to see. I've just spent last weekend with a friend that I hadn't seen in 19 years!

We couldn't believe it had been 19 years. We've kept up with little notes and pictures throughout the year and when we first saw each other, the talking just flowed. It was that way throughout the entire visit. She informed me what all the people from the second high school we had in common were up to.  I have heard many people say when they go to their reunions, it's the same groups automatically pairing off just like in high school. Everyone was comparing how they aged compared to the others. Plus trying to decide who the successful ones were. (2012: Recently saw an Everybody Loves Raymond episode and it was hilarious! His wife met a woman in the restroom and had Raymond sitting with a group he did not get along with at all in high school.)

I realize this is not everyone's experience. I have a friend who graduated in a small class of twelve (1963) girls and then some boys. Ten of the twelve just got together for a luncheon the other day. They certainly had a great time. However, they all still live in the same small town and haven't lost track of each other.

It is experiences together that cement these relationships and it doesn't matter whether the friendships form inside a school or not. With the ability to email, keeping up with friends as they go all over the globe is easier than ever. (2012: This makes me laugh. Look at where we are just since 1998! Facebook, Skype....Wow!) I don't think homeschoolers have some terrible gap in their lives because they won't have an official class reunion to attend. They, like everyone else, will keep up with the people who matter to them."

2012 Good Stuff to know if you live in FL:  Visit  and find out about the statewide graduation for homeschoolers. It is a magnificent classy event! You can have the whole shebang, class ring, graduation pictures, etc. and a little bit more. They actually slow it down and read a short bio on each graduate and project pictures on the big screens...a childhood activity picture and a grown up picture. It WILL make you cry. I always enjoyed keeping count of which professions the graduates were aiming towards. That is in the biography read as the graduates cross the stage. This event is always held in a 5 star resort convention center such as The Gaylord Palms or Shingle Creek Resort. At times, graduates with relatives in FL have come from other states to participate in this ceremony. The graduates spend a couple of days together before the ceremony and some quickly become friends who keep up with each other. A senior prom is also optional.

And, drumroll, not only do we have dual enrollment for our homeschool kids in Leon County, Tallahassee, FL but we have just been blessed in our area with 3 years now of dual enrollment at Tallahassee Community College. Visit this link to find out more:  A big thank you to Brenda Dickinson of Home Education Foundation!!!   Every state needs a Brenda Dickinson.

I am especially grateful all these years later to a mom who cared enough to call the superintendent. I am grateful to that man and the president and dean of the college who cared so much about a 17 year old who had had enough and went out on a limb I realize now to make that happen for me. It is humorous to me now to recollect that after I had completed the first year, they called me in and said something about making this legal now, please take your GED.   :  )))  Wonderful people who saw the big picture! And, unfortunately, my parents had to relocate that same first year of college. I would have been starting yet another high school. I did move out on my own at a very young age at 17, but the heavens were smiling down on me and everything worked out. Due to all this, I did not have the concerns mentioned in the first paragraph regarding my own children.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CAUTION: Your Children Are Watching

From the Teachable Moment  March 1998:

"Rudeness! I'm surrounded by rudeness! Help! How do I handle it? Do I respond with my own version of poor manners or do I model patience and assertiveness combined with kindness?

Whatever I choose, as a homeschooling mom, I'm definitely modeling it! My children are constantly observing my reactions to the situations around me. In the case of a shy daughter, it's been great for her to see that you don't have to let rude people run over you. It is possible to use the parameters of what would be reasonable to expect in a situation and then to voice your opinion kindly.

Our traffic situations in Tallahassee give us all great opportunities to practice patience skills. These are times when you probably don't need to voice an opinion (road rage exists here too). I personally use a destressing option of reading at red lights. (Of course, I have a lookout posted to let me know when the light is about to change! I wouldn't want to stress anyone behind me and add to the rudeness factor!) (2012 followup: This was written well before texting became popular.)

Recently a gentleman was very upset with my decision making abilities regarding a terrible intersection near my home. It petrifies me and has a high incidence of crashes (no matter what the Department of Transportation says. My own neighbor has been slammed around in it!). I actually thought about getting out of the car and going back for an educational chat with him.

However, I knew my 15 year old son was observing Mom's reaction. Knowing that he will be driving soon and never wanting him to even think of such a solution, I stayed in my seat and proceeded across the intersection when I felt we would come out in the same arrangement of body parts. Thank goodness for homeschooling!

Dealing with credit card solicitors over the telephone has given me lots of practice too. Yes, I could slam down the telephone and be rude myself, but I'd rather teach my children there is a person on the other end that is trying to perform a job that will earn them money. I certainly don't know what their situation is. It might be desperate and that person might be doing the very best he can. I can be firm without being rude. (2012 Followup: I feel very sure those who are doing these calls are definitely desperate now in this current economy.)

We often find ourselves wondering why a person chose a particular behavior in a certain situation. Learning to look from another person's perspective is an important skill that seems to be fading away in our society. It's interesting to me that schools spend a lot of time teaching children mediation skills-they have programs set up just for this.

I feel we can teach it better. I think it's wonderful that we can teach our kids that we can have our own opinions, we don't have to be doormats for others and we can still accomplish all this while maintaining respect for the other person.

Of course, the biggest challenge comes up with the family unit itself. Our family has discovered it takes great work and a constant practicing. We don't give up when we fail, we try again. Parents are taken aback when their wonderful babies grow into adolescents who push limits and are disrespectful at the same time. I have personally wondered if there's a night class somewhere they all take together while the parents are sleeping!

So, as for myself, I will keep striving to practice all this. You're forewarned now if you have the misfortune to get behind me in traffic. Honking your horns and making rude gestures isn't going to hurry me up!"

A funny 2012 followup: During my reading at red light days when I had children in the car to be my lookouts, our editor in the local newspaper did an editorial and included something about seeing a woman reading at red lights! She was not impressed! I am convinced to this day she was talking about me. I guess she never realized kids can be trained to say, "Mom, the light's about to change!"  It still makes me chuckle!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dominoes and Hummingbirds!

From the Teachable Moment May 1999:

" As we all know, homeschooling carries over into all parts of our lives. It is not a separate thing we do for a certain number of hours a day. We're always noting learning moments and experiences as we go throughout the day. I've just realized that after 7 years of homeschooling, I've developed what definitely has to be a homeschooling attitude. Now attitude is usually taken as a negative word lately, but I use it in a positive sense.

In October 1998, my grandmother developed pregangrenous ischemia on a toe from poor circulation. I traveled the three and half hours to her home to bring her to Tallahassee for a second opinion. We were in hope of saving her foot. Three weeks later, she was at the hospital undergoing an amputation up to her midcalf. I mentally began preparing for what we needed to do to get through this ordeal. There was an option of putting her in a rehab facility for 2-3 weeks after her 5 day stay at the hospital.

Nurses expressed surprise when I told them we were taking her straight home and would handle the physical therapy on an outpatient basis. They didn't believe we could pull this off, even if I was an experienced nurse. I knew instinctively that my grandmother had to get into a different frame of mind if she was going to have any hope of resuming her independent lifestyle.

I did become a little nervouse when the physical therapist at the hospital was trying to suggest ideas for my grandmother and each one wasn't workable. What do you do with someone whose main interests and hobbies are now out of the question due to rheumatoid arthritis? I knew grandma could not sit like a slug every day.

My cousin bought her a cassette player. We made the suggestion she might like to listen to books on tape from the library. She later told me she had no interest in that. My uncle came from Oklahoma and had religious tapes from their church. Bingo! She would now listen to one tape in the morning and one at night when she was going to sleep. We made a request for people of her religion to visit her. I arranged my schedule to take her to her services.

Our homeschooling life continued. My kids would read and discuss the articles in the newspaper every day. Soon we had her reading the newspaper too. Then I got her interested in a series of books that we have all read. She had finished 4 volumes before she returned home.

I researched amputations at the library and found a book on 38 survivors; people who survived arm and leg amputations and still found life enjoyable. She read that book twice and gained much knowledge. We discovered there was a magazine for people with amputations. Knowledge was changing her life and making her a stronger person. (2012 note: my grandmother was one of the strongest people I've ever known in my life, but the situation just about beat her.)

The kids soon had her playing Hail to the Chief (a history game about US presidents) and Dominoes. They were amazed at her abilities in both games. She always could beat the pants off anyone in Dominoes!

She gave my husband cooking lessons in foods we love to eat at her house. I think she long ago realized I was a lost cause in this department. She enjoyed our cockatiel so much. He would fly and land on her and she would just laugh. We began studying the bird magazines lying around in her doctor's office. She admitted to a fascination with hummingbirds. I never did get around to bringing books home from the library on hummingsbirds.

Grandma became more alert and joyful than I've seen her in years, in spite of her depressing circumstances. The first week after her amputation, I was pushing her to do her PT exercises at home and she looked at me and exclaimed, "I am a 83 year old woman and you all are expecting too much out of me!" By the time she went home in mid January, she was so much stronger.

I just spoke to her on the telephone two days ago. Her 89 year old sister is in bad shape with her arthritis and is wanting to give up on life. Her son had told my grandmother they all knew what was wrong with her. My grandmother expected him to say the arthritis, instead he said, "She's an 89 year old woman". My grandmother related this to me indignantly. She said she told him that didn't make any difference with what she went through.

I had called my greataunt right before she fell so ill. She was depressed and said she could tell this was the end. This is a woman who has always had zest for life and participated in a million things at once. But again, the arthritis is stealing interests and hobbies away from another person. I tried to convey to her son that she needed to become interested in other areas that would stimulate her mentally. He really didn't want to hear about it. (My greataunt died in 2000).

I am determined to find a book on hummingbirds to take to my grandmother on my next visit. I want to encourage her to keep learning. I believe one answer to old age depression and doldrums is getting back into the learning mode. It worked for my grandmother!"

 ( 2012 note: I did buy her a wonderful book on hummingbirds which is now in my home. My grandmoher was able to live independently in her home for three more years before she passed away from ischemic bowel disease.)

Don't Buy That Early Education Curriculum!

If I ever wrote a column about this topic, I can't seem to locate it now. But I gave the tips over and over again in the thousands (really don't think I am exaggerating here!) of phone calls over the almost 9 years I served as a FPEA District Director. So that must be why I feel I wrote this.

Young children are natural learning machines! You can't keep them from learning. So much of what they need to learn at these ages is accessible to you in your home and surroundings. I encouraged parents to save their money and use it for museum memberships (highly recommend The Tallahassee Museum of History and Science, formerly Junior Museum), field trips, art supplies and extracurricular activites.

First of all, use the local library. There are a variety of fictional books to inspire love of reading. There are a ton of nonfictional books too. You can check out biographies, science books, science books with experiments and on and on. One thing I stumbled into that I absolutely loved was that you can also check out magazines! So, since the budget was so tight and we couldn't afford subscriptions to Ranger Rick, Highlights, National Geographic, etc., all we had to do was wait a month and we could check the magazine out!

For the very young elementary, continue focusing on reading, writing, etc. Have an old wind up clock on hand to teach how to tell time ( in spite of the digital age, kids still need to be able to read a wind up clock!). Keep monopoly money around to teach them to count money. Play store in your house! Our kids loved it! Have them help measure ingredients while you're baking. Keep a thermometer outside the window and have them read the temperature every day, draw a picture of the weather outside and how the temperature correlates to the weather.

Have them help weigh fruit and vegetables at the grocery store.  Let them write the grocery list and group food groups together. Encourage them to plan a meal, help buy it, help prepare it and write a report on the food. Expand that by choosing meals from different countries and having them report to the whole family. They can also learn more about that country or culture to report upon.

Teach them to keep a daily journal. Correct the misspelled words and use them for spelling words. Have them write down words they don't know as they are reading their fun books so they can include them for spelling and vocabulary.

Use objects for math lessons. Young children are not abstract thinkers and therefore need concrete objects to associate with math operations. You can make it fun by using gummi candies or M&M's.

Encourage the children to make a list of what they want to learn about during the year and work off of that list. These subjects can then be written about in the journal  and orally reported on. Teaching your children to speak publicly at an early age is a great advantage. I will never forget the girl in high school speech class who burst into tears and ran out of the room.

Don't forget games! Children can learn so much from games. They are having fun and don't even realize they are learning. Those old standbys of Monopoly and Scrabble are priceless! I made a point of buying a number of educational games for our children. Those were especially helpful on my sick days!  Homeschooling parents rarely have a substitute teacher they can call in. : ((

Enlist them in publishing a family newspaper and send it to long distance relatives. I had a source years ago that sold large blank newspaper that the kids could write in.

Of course there is modern day technology! I saved this for last because I strongly feel it has a place in all this, but that kids still need hand on, touching, feeling learning too.

Sometimes we run for curriculum to reassure our own fears, but you are capable of using all that is around you, structuring the learning environment and schedule (somewhat) and saving your money for other areas in order to assist your children in being well-rounded.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your Kids- Market Days- Entrepreneurs

I have a thousand directions I want to go in as far as blogging about homeschooling. But first, I wanted to share this post about our daughters and utilizing Market Days to make and sell items. Market Days is in November(google and make sure of this year's date) and has a kids tent where the kids can make and sell their crafts. It was a fun experience for our girls and I wanted to get this idea out there now so you will have time to get in on it.  From the Teachable Moment December 1997

"We finally did it! We had discussed it for 3 years,planning and revising, but could never seem to even get to the point of making the telephone call to obtain the application, never mind actually making something to sell.

Market Days is one of the biggest craft shows in the Southeast Region with exhibitors coming from all over the country to participate. It is sponsored by The Museum of History and Natural Science. It is a major part of the museum's income. That is because every exhibitor pays a certain percent of their gross income back to the museum for the privilege of being there.

There is even a children's tent set up for young people to exhibit. The word exhibit strikes me funny since what everyone is really doing is trying to hawk their wares. Why don't they just call them vendors? Although a majority of people do seem to pay the charge to get in just to walk around and look. Which is what I always tell myself I am going to stick to every year, but then I lose my selfdiscipline.

Shelley and Lindley organized themselves in time to actually be ready to participate this year. It was a great learning experience that covered many areas. It was one of those activities we are still processing a week later. I keep thinking about yet another thing they learned from it.

Once the items to be sold are decided upon, materials bought and the items actually assembled, the real fun began. Trying to decide what to charge for these items so painstakingly created (for Shelley, with multiple hot glue gun burns, it was definitely painful at times). One price would be suggested, then someone else would think the time put into the task should be compensated for also.

By the time we showed up that morning, we were ready for a great sales day! We made it to our assigned table, got everything displayed in a becoming fashion, collected our envelopes for the 10% to the museum and the 7% sales tax to the state of Florida ( no cutting slack for these young ones!) and waited on the first customers. And waited and waited and waited...

I walked around a little to see exhibits, breathing a silent prayer that what the girls had made would seem worthwhile to someone and came back to the exciting news that two photo albums had sold, as well as one Santa Claus hanger! And so the rest of the day went, with little spurts of progress here and there, but no great outstanding sales! To think we were worried we hadn't made enough!

By the end of the day, several kids were bartering items. This seemed like a great idea so that you could at least lug home something different. We evaluted the process and decided on a few guidelines that will be helpful next year.

Since it's a children's tent, we felt that most of the people who walked in there were looking for real bargains. We decided that making low cost items would definitely be a factor to take into consideration. The children to the right of us had a great variety of items and did a really brisk business. So having more than just two items to sell seemed to be important. Also, since there are so many exhibitors in this particular craft show, how you disply your items is important too. The people to the right of us brought a portable shelving system to sit on top of their table. It really grabbed people's eyes.

Once Shelley started marking her prices down and then changed her sign to read  Sale of the Day, it also got more attention. We decided again that grabbing people's eyes were important.

I questioned several children involved about their experiences with this and they all said they wanted to do it again next year. I encourage parents to be careful about the amount of money they are willing to invest in this one, since it might not be coming back. I also think it was worthwhile as a learning experience. By the way, the majority of participants seemed to be homeschoolers.

If you are interested, contact the museum and they will give you the name and number of the person in charge. You do have to submit an application and state on it exactly what you will be selling. Remember to prepare your child for a long day and maybe some disappointment regarding sales. A word to the wise, have your child start making their crafts early, maybe in the summer. It will take some of the stress out of it!"

2012 Followup: I went ahead and googled for you! It will be December 1 and 2nd, 2012. The website states average attendance is 15,000+ with over 300 arts and craftspeople exhibiting their original and handmade creations. You can contact the museum at 850-575-8684 or email them at    Happy Exhibiting!