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!

Friday, August 17, 2012

ABC's to Reading- Good tips for all parents!

I am detouring from posting my Teachable Moment columns for a quick trip into some ideas for teaching the alphabet and beginning reading strategies I used. This is at the request of one of my young mother friends.

First of all, I started teaching the sounds of the alphabet as soon as my children were communicating verbally fairly well. Nothing major, just things like ba ball or ca cat. I did this for as many as I could think of and I did it throughout the day, not just some scheduled time of the day. It just came naturally to do that with them.Of course, mama and dada are givens! As the kids grew to the preschooler stage, we did fun things like not only drawing the letters, but making alphabet cookies or even sandpaper alphabet letters and taking the child's finger and writing the letter on top of the sandpaper. For kinesthetic learners, this is very helpful. Your more auditory children will pick up the sounds easily with their ears, visual can write, draw, color, paint etc.and have the alphabet down easily. Some kids need to get all their senses involved and the sandpaper letters, also allowing them to draw in the sand and especially eating the alphabet letters can really involve a young learner. The bath crayons might be another idea. This is not one that we tried, but as the product came onto the market, I realized that would have been a good one to utilize too.

From that point, several things can be done. Not only did we read a tremendous amount, I had the kids start telling me their stories (dictating to me) and I would write the story down for them. Then they could do their own illustrations. At some point along the way as we would read, I would start letting the child read the letter a every time we came to it Then an and then we worked up to the. I would follow the words along on the page with my finger, sometimes holding the child's finger. Yes, it slowed the story down immensely to stop and have the child say these words, but they were reading with Mommy at that point. Then you just keep adding simple words in. As they already learned an and knew the sounds of consonants, can, man, Dan, etc. just flowed.

I did not discover the BOB books until our fourth child Matthew, but I highly recommend them. Our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter already has a preschooler set. These follow along the same lines of what I was describing in the previous paragraph. They start with the consonant sounds and then go from there. I went ahead and allowed Matthew to scribble in them. Had I had a line of children coming behind me, I probably wouldn't have been so easygoing about that. However, the sense of ownership can be vital to children.

Our library at that time required the children to be able to write their names to obtain their own library card. As soon as they could do that, and they were very motivated, they had their own cards and would check out their own books. This was a tremendously exciting thing for our children! Confession: maybe not so exciting to me. I had to become very organized to keep up with all their books until they had that responsibility down. I still wince when I hear one of them had to pay fines at the library even as grownups! I tend to be way overresponsible about library books! It thrills me that our little granddaughter already loves to go to the library. And don't forget sharing time! If at all possible, utilize this free service for your kids!

As things flowed along, the kids began to be able to write their own stories. This is where you can work in spelling. During these years, their journals (where they wrote their stories or events of the day) also became their spelling program. I would have them read to me and then I would circle their misspelled words and they would work on them until they mastered them. Fast forward to today: as I read their blogs or FB posts, sometimes I just have to point out they are having a lot of typos. This is a downfall of being a homeschool mom. You take it so personally when they are adults and still have a misspelled word. I don't know that other parents feel a zing in their heart in that situation. No being able to blame a public school then!

I am not a fan of the reading programs public schools use where they require a book to be read and then the child has a report and all these questions to answer. I think that so strips away the joy of reading that great damage is done during that time. We did utilize the Book-It program from Pizza Hut! That again was fun and rewarding when they hit a set number of books. We had many verbal discussions of their books and they could write about them in their journals, but there was never force or grading on this.

I also kept a family book going during this time where I would read out loud to the kids. We had the advantage of traveling around seeing respiratory clients and I would read while Mark drove. We read a variety of books during these years. When they were younger, they loved BoxCar Children. As they grew older, we utilized historical fiction. We were able to work through the majority of The Work and The Glory books  by Gerald Lund. I would read with great expression and adopt "accents".  When they were younger, they loved this. Flashlights were important while traveling at night so that everyone could keep reading.

I learned to stop reading at dramatic moments. It became a game for the children to try to find where I had put the book so they could read ahead of everyone else. I made a big deal out of telling them not to read ahead and then fussing at them a little when it became evident they knew the outcome.

I also loved Reader's Digest growing up, so we kept a subscription to that going. I was always hunting it down because certain children would grab it straight from the mailbox! The vocabulary word test was another good thing to utilize that was low pressure but yet inducive to them learning new words.

Also encouraging reading a book before seeing the movie is a natural reward. I still do that for myself.  We share good books with each other all the time now and enjoy discussing them. I was almost always willing to read their books. Jared did challenge me with the Resident Evil books....he was really into those at one point.

It's probably not necessary to point out that strong readers are also usually very strong writers. There is just a natural connection. Our children did not have a hard time going into college and writing impromptu essays. They did it all the time growing up.

Encouraging reading and writing and making a big deal of it will pay off in the end. It is healthy for the brain. It is enjoyable. Kids can entertain themselves in situations that might be boring. I never wanted them distracted with movies while traveling. I highly encourage all parents to be involved with your children and take responsibility for creating a rich learning environment.


From the Teachable Moment October 1998:

"Being such an avid reader, I've been so pleased that our first three children picked up the hobby also. I've always felt it definitely made homeschooling much easier if your child liked to read.. Our fourth and youngest child seemed to be on that track when he was younger, but got off the track during the past year.

As I pondered and thought on the situation, I had many thoughts run through my head. I've always believed in the wisdom of Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore as shared in books such as "Better Late Than Early". I had never pushed our other children; they just wanted to read and pursued it until they could. But troubling thoughts also ran through my mind. Fact: I had never spent as much time reading with Matthew as I had with the older three. I seem to be in the busiest season of my life right now, so if Matthew was content with a quick book or none at all that day, it didn't terribly disturb me. With the older children, we would come straight home from the library and read six to ten books in one reading sessions.

Fact: Matthew was watching more television than we had allowed the others to watch at his age. I'd get involved with one of the older kids or get caught on a telephone conversation that extended longer than I expected and Matthew would slip into the family room and turn on another show. I just didn't have time to paly TV cop as I had with the others.

If it wasn't TV, it was a computer game. Even though we had several educational games that might have encouraged some reading, Matthew was gravitating to games his big brother downloaded off the internet.

I wondered, was there a desire to read deep down inside of Matthew being suppressed by TV and the computer? Was I making sure his environment was conducive to reading? Should I be concerned about this?

After a family discussion, we decided to try a a drastic experiment (it wasn't a unanimous vote). The TV went on a vacation to the grandparents house and the keyboard to the computer was removed and only connected with mom had time and agreed to it.

We saw results almost immediately. Within days, Matthew was loading up his backpack at the library and begging to be read six to ten books in a row. He spent much time studying the pictures page by page in a book. And his reading skills began blossoming!

I don't think this is necessarily the answer for every child and I do believe there exist personalities that don't find reading one of the most wonderful experiences in life. However, I do think as parents, we have to ponder and be willing to examine our children's learning environment to see if we can enhance any areas before we accept that something's just personality driven.

P.S.: TV and computer have made their way back in and are being moderately used, much to the relief of certain other family members!

2012 Followup: Everyone is grown and everyone likes to read for pleasure. My husband, who was not a reader, began to follow in his father's footsteps and our examples and also started reading for pleasure. We swap books around the family and have great book discussions. That was the first time the TV went on vacation but it went on vacation another time or two over the years. Some people have told me they thought that was too drastic at the time. I think parents are being even more challenged in today's world and particularly so with the variety of games out there and the young men who are struggling to balance their time with video games. In Korea, they now have rehab centers for videogame addicts and I won't be surprised to see some methods for dealing with this in our country soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


From the TEACHABLE MOMENT  April 1997

' "So what have you been learning about this year?" My mind goes blank. What have we been learning about this year? Have we even learned anything? The harder I try to pull something out of my brain, the less I can remember.

Has this ever happened to you? Many times we grumble and complain about having to document our learning, but I've actually come to appreciate it.  It's wonderful to have a record for those times when you just can't remember what specific learning has taken place. I had one of these episodes recently. I was really feeling discouraged in fact. We went to visit a relative and we grabbed a family video to show them. When we played it for them, there was our documentation on our squirrel project! Why couldn't I remember the squirrel project? The only reason I could come up with for not remembering the squirrel project is that we move from subject to subject so quickly at times. It was amazing how quickly my discouragement vanished.

I attended a workshop on portfolios a couple of years ago and saw many examples that could be used. I was amazed with one mother who made the portfolio into a scrapbook really. She had pictures throughout, along with documentation and the notebook was covered in fabric. It looked like a fun thing for the child.

Another mother just used her calendar, with page numbers and notes jotted down. There were other examples in the range between these two. One mother suggested collecting brochures from each place you visited on field trips and including them in the portfolio.

In our home, our older two children have documented their own portfolios for 2 years now. It can become a good way to build in a little extra language arts, as you can ask them to include a descriptive paragraph for a field trip or a science experiment. I also like the fact that it helps them to evaluate the amount of work they are accomplishing. At times, one or the other have looked at what they've written down and decided they needed to do more. I feel it helps them to be more self-directed.

Won't it be nice for our children when they are adults to be able to explore their portfolios with their own children and actually have a record of what they were interested in at a certain age? With this goal in mind ( a positive one instead of the negative one of fearing being called in by the school board for review), documenting and keeping a portfolio can actually become a pleasant experience.'

2012 Followup: It is mandatory in FL for those homeschoolers registered with the county to keep a portfolio and also a reading list, for 2 years past the particular year of homeschooling. Counties may ask to review the portfolio with 15 days notice. One other suggestion I began adopting over the years was to put everything for the year in a box as the year went along. Field trip brochures, pictures taken during field trips or snapshots taken of projects or learning experiences. In addition, I found it helpful to hang onto the itemized library receipts and put them in a ziplock bag. One thing most homeschoolers do is to read voraciously and the amount of library books checked out at one time sometimes shocks other people. The librarians have become used to that fact. I still get such a happy feeling when my children check out books from the library. Reading seems to be a part of their genetic systems now. But the next blog will share a bumpy road with reading in the Evelo Family.

Monday, August 13, 2012


From the Teachable Moment November 1996

"It sometimes is the best of times and the worst of times. Referring to homeschooling, of course. As I've observed our homeschooling track record over the years, I recently realized we seem to follow a cyclical pattern. There are times we seem to be learning so much and I can point specifically to certain areas and know learning took place. Then we seem to level out and just plod along for awhile, no great leaps and bounds, but I can still see learning happening. Then, and I only recently put this all together, we seem to take a nose dive! Everything seems disorganized, we seem to be running in circles and enthusiasm for homeschooling hits a low point. It truly seems the worst of times! I question why we're doing it and have endless discussions with my husband about what is best for the kids.

However, after pulling out of one of these bleak spells recently, I noticed what happens next! We almost always jump right back into the best of times! Not even the level plodding along, just a fast jump!

Bear with me as I share one great day from the last week. Since Lindley (our eight year old) was under the weather this particular day, she only participated on a limited basis; so most of it refers specifically to Jared (14) and Shelley (12).

We started the day finishing up a study unit I pulled from the newspaper based on a 10 part series entitled, "Who Stole the American Dream?"  Since terms such as imports, exports, tariffs, trade balances and others were included in this series as well as graphs, statistics, government offices and their functions and the effect upon everyday people. I found this to be an ideal economics and government unit. (2012 note: Is this applicable to this year or what?)

This was followed by another unit using the newspaper as a resource, the Kids Voting Section, which was supplemented by materials from The Weekly Reader. Jared and Shelley then spent time predicting the electoral vote outcome and marking their predictions on a map (use that sibling rivalry to your advantage when you can!).  I was impressed to see the logic they employed in trying to make these predictions.

They then went on to work on their separate activities, such as Saxon Math lessons, journals, Writing Strands, plus reading whatever books they're currently into, listening to a Spanish tape and practicing piano (Shelley) and typing (Jared).

The rest of the day was spent working on making a video documentary about the squirrel project we had been involved in for a couple of months. Lindley was feeling better by this time, so was able to join in. As they each did a separate section on the video, I realized they had learned quite a bit from the activity. I knew we had all learned a lot at the beginning of the project, but was really wondering if anything new was being absorbed by the end of it. ( 2012 note: I might have been hoping to justify a way to end the project early?)

Can you believe that in the days preceding this particular day, I was at a real low point,wondering what we were doing wrong? I realize that we can't have wonderful learning days all the time, feel okay about the times we're level, but I still just don't like the low days. However, it has helped me immensely to realize we seem to have a pattern here, and believe me, I plan to review this article next time we're in the worst of times! If you're having some of these low times, ponder and see if you're following some sort of pattern also. I don't know that everyone follows the same cycle, but I do believe that the best of times is worth going through the worst of times!"

2012: I now apply this to everything in life, especially marriage and family relationships. : )

Saturday, August 11, 2012


From the Teachable Moment  October 1996

" Once again, a unit study was plopped right into our laps! Ever since Aletheia Robinson was raising her orphaned baby squirrels (this occurred during the EcoShow), I had always intended to contact St. Francis Wildlife and have our family receive the training. I knew it would be a great unit study for our family. However, I never could make myself get around to it.

Then three weeks ago, Shelley came home from her Scout meeting with a  little present. As the Scouts were cleaning their meetinghouse, a hole in an outer wall was discovered. As one of the girls began vacuuming out debris, something fell on the ground. At first, the girls all thought it was a bird, then a rat. However, it turned out to be an infant squirrel. The leader took it and put it in some nearby bushes. After the meeting, it was still lying there, so Shelley scooped it up and brought it home.

We called Northwood Animal Hospital and learned it would be okay to feed it baby formula for the night. The person on call suggested that the best thing would be to bring it in to him. You can imagine the outcry that resulted from that suggestion! We all piled into the van and drove to my sister-in-law's house to borrow formula. Caution: I learned the next day from Anne Gatz of St. Francis Wildlife that squirrels don't do well with milk-based formula, so soybean-based formula would be better for this situation. Fortunately, we had  a 3 cc syringe on hand to feed it with. Caution: I also learned squirrels have powerful force when they suck and could aspirate with a 3 cc syringe; 1 cc syringes are recommended.

The next day was spent learning all about squirrels and their care via telephone calls to others who had done this project and especially to Anne Gatz (who has been a saint for putting up with all the questions!). We drove across town to pick up the special formula the squirrels do best on. We set up the habitat involving the box being half-on and half- off a heating pad. The box was quickly upgraded to a glass aquarium once the squirrel's eyes were opened.

We decided the squirrel could be our 12 year old's project with our supervision. Caution: don't undertake this unless you're willing to do a lot of close supervising. Baby squirrels are fragile and their systems are easily upset.

Then we found out that you really should have more than one squirrel for best results. We ended up with two more squirrels,so the whole family is really involved now. A friend loaned us a great book on raising wild orphan babies written by a veterinarian and we attended a training session put on by St. Francis Wildlife. The kids are keeping squirrel journals. We have covered so many areas of learning in just 3 weeks of this project! Sometimes, the unit studies that fall into our laps turn out to be the best ones! Just be prepared to invest some of your time if you undertake one similar to this!"

2012 Followup: When this article was published, we were in the very beginning stages. What someone really needs to know before starting such a project is that newborns are all the same. They have to be fed every 3 hours or so, even during the night! It was great for our kids to participate in this. We never had to worry about teenage pregnancies in this family! And then the squirrels became teenagers with very sharp claws! Ouch! They had to be handled with gloves on. It became much less fun taking care  of them at this stage. As they advanced to real food, the cage cleanup became very messy work. We released them into the woods out in the middle of nowhere between us and Crawfordville. This was done out of respect for our neighbors. One of our neighbors was hopping mad we were saving them since he had had so much trouble with them ripping the insulation out from under his house. I have since learned from other friends that they had bitten through wires under the hoods of their cars and bitten through wires in attics. I have friends who believe a good squirrel is a dead squirrel! As Matthew grew older, we didn't do an orphaned squirrel project for him but focused on goats and he had his own baby goat to bottlefeed after the mother had rejected him. Matthew named him Blackie (he was black with a white spot on his side) and barely had a voice. Again,he had to be fed during the night. The kids dressed him in baby clothes and he actually came to church with us the second day of his life since we lived too far away to come home and feed him between meetings. He ended up on a farm 8 miles away from us when he was larger, so we saw him frequently as we drove by that area.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


From "The Teachable Moment" September 1996

" 'How much money do I need to budget to start homeschooling? How much does homeschooling cost?'  I have been asked many similar questions by those interested in homeschooling. I always wish I had an easy answer for the questioner. I always say 'as little or as much as you want to spend'. That was the answer someone gave me years ago and it is so true.

Some people want to rush out and buy a packaged program that will cover all the bases. I know this is what I wanted to do. For me, that would have given me a feeling of security. Fortunately, an acquaintance talked me out of it. She listened to what I had to say about our oldest child and realized he needed something different. Because we went another route, I was able to take money I would have put into one grade level and buy items that benefited all the children, if not at the moment, then later. We were able to build up our basic library and invest in a computer.

I also look around and see what everyday things on hand can be used to help us learn. Reading the power meter and figuring the kilowatt hours used, organizing the cancelled checks in numerical order (followup: boy, is this part outdated!) , alphabetizing something in the house (be it spices, files in the cabinet, etc) and of course the cooking. The list can go on and on!

If you're able to get to the library frequently, you have a built-in curriculum. In our first two years of homeschooling, this was not a good option for us. Trying to keep a newborn contented and keep up with an active preschooler all at the same time made for some stressful scenes at the library! We're just now at the point of being able to really spend time there without me becoming totally frustrated.

I recommend that you try to borrow a particular curriculum item before purchasing it. Sometimes the advertisements sound so-o-o good. However, your child or children might absolutely hate it. Even recommendations from friends (while helpful) might not take into account your childrens' personalities. I like to tap ito the homeschoolers bulletin boards  to hear about new products, but also realize they may not be for us.

I remember being at a curriculum fair and being convinced I had to buy a reading program ($150) with all the bells and whistles. A good friend did a lot of talking and helped me get past the moment. That child learned to read without me investing in a reading program at all.

We're at the point now of trying to decide if we will enroll with a correspondence program for high school for our oldest kids. We have a year to make up our minds. So I'm once again weighing options to decide what will be best for our children. Our oldest child, interestingly, is  leaning towards the program and actually seems to be looking forward to it.

Cost of curriculum and what kinds of curriculum to use are very individual situations that have to be tailored to each family and child. There's no way to give anyone a set answer on these kinds of questions."

2012 Followup: The options for homeschoolers have exploded over the past few years. Our three oldest children used a curriculum from American School (one of the oldest correspondence courses in the nation; Sandra Day O'Connor is a graduate). They then did a dual enrollment with the local community college which is available for junior and senior years. Florida Virtual School had come along by the time of our youngest child (A big thank you to Brenda Dickinson, President of Home Education Foundation!) for middle and high school. An interesting tidbit about computers. Homeschoolers were in the main category of households that had computers as they were hitting the market. The buzz at the legislative level just 3 years ago was to start mandating that high schools have a mandatory online class for students. Homeschoolers have had this one down for years!.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Time Keeps on Slipping...Into The Future

It's so sweet that these memories were written up. Another experience I had completely forgotten about!

From Teachable Moment  August 1996

"How many times in a month am I guilty of it? More than I would like to be! Do some of you do better in this area? I'm referring to those learning opportunities we let slip through our fingers time after time. I began to ponder on this subject after our visit to Eastpoint last month.

As we drove along the coast, we noticed white objects floating in the water. 'What are those white things?' one of the children asked.  After we got a better look, we discovered the "white things" were dead fish. We put two and two together and concluded these dead fish were the result of the red tide we had been reading about in the newspaper.

As we visited clients in Eastpoint, each resident had something to say about the situation. 'It's worse than they let on in the news.' 'It's affecting Eastpoint bad.' 'The shrimpers say it's a horrible stink out there.' One resident worried there would be more shark attacks now. Red tide and the dead fish occupied our morning as we drove around. By the time we were heading back, the kids had a full scale begging campaign going on. 'Please stop at Carabelle Beach and let us look at the dead fish close up!'

I finally agreed to ten minutes. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a white van with the words FSU Marine Biology Lab on the side of it. There were a group of people of assorted ages hanging around with white plastic bags. I honestly didn't pay the people any attention as I was trying to skim the newspaper in the ten minutes I had allotted the kids.

The children came back on time and Lindley was in the process of asking me a question when the man who appeared to be in charge stepped in and answered it. He then rejoined his group, we jumped in the van and away we went!

This is where I wish I could rewind and do this over. Since he approached us, why didn't I ask him if he would mind taking a few minutes to talk to us about the red tide and what his group was doing at Carabelle Beach in relation to it? I came up with a long list of questions I would have liked to ask, never mind the kids! He did tell them they had just sampled the water and thought the red tide was on the way out.

This is just one example of a missed opportunity. We had more that very same day. We have far too many of them! We've decided we will try to be more aware of these impromptu moments in order to follow through on them. Most people love to talk about subjects they're knowledgeable in. This is one way in which real life curriculym can be an advantage to homeschoolers."

Followup in 2012: We did go on to learn much more about Red Tide. And we did improve on following up on impromptu moments. And this column actually displays another lesson for homeschooling parents. Did you notice how I let them out of the van to go explore their natural curiosity while I was in the van scanning the newspaper? It's okay for you as a homeschooling parent not to "be on" all the time. Since homeschooling becomes such a lifestyle and not just school at home, it's important to not take charge all the time. They did not need me to look at the dead fish with them. While I wish I had seized the moment to model the behavior of asking questions when the gentleman approached us, we all learned to do this as time went on. It's okay to scan the newspaper at times!  (Just make sure the kids are safe though)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Deadline weakness in homeschoolers?

From March 1996 "Teachable Moment":

"You're their mother and it's natural you will give them more slack."  "They'll never learn to meet deadlines-they'll be trained procrastinators." Maybe you've received similar comments and bits of counsel in your homeschooling experience. I certainly have during four years of homeschooling!

What disturbed me is that some of these comments hit a nerve. Maybe there was some truth in them. I remember a time that the older kids and I had decided on a due date for papers they were writing. You guess it - one of them didn't finish it by the due date. However, it was finished, just later than projected. Since we don't bother with grades, where was the natural consequence?

I finally decided that the main objective with this particular assignment was learing to write the paper and that meeting the due date was a secondary objective. How then would we attain the objective of learning to meet deadlines?

First, I defined what it meant to meet a deadline. To me, it meant setting a goal to accomplish something specific, planning the course of action needed and projecting the amount of time required, and then carrying out the plan.

After pondering on this subject for some time, I would like to share what is working for our family. I feel good about these methods and feel they are accomplishing the goal of learning to meet deadlines.

We enourage the children to enter contests as often as they can. That puts the burden of meeting the deadline on the kids. I have no control to say it's okay to wait one more day. If  they don't submit their entry on time, the logical consequence will be no participation in the contest. This requires keeping our eyes and ears open. The newspaper and the FPEA Almanac have been very helpful in this area. We have entered two contests this year through the newspaper. One was a math contest sponsored by Sprint-Centel. It involved word problems. And by the way, Shelley won $25 from this one! The second one was an editorial cartoon contest. The prize was $50 in this case. Although no one in our house won this time, it was a great learning experience and they made the deadline!

Since we are participating in the Florida Stock Market Game sponsored by the Florida  Council on Economic Education,I was excited to spot an announcement for an essay contest sponsored by NASDAQ. This contest is open to children between the ages of 5 and 18. Twenty-five winners will be selected and will receive $1000 to invest.

Other local contests I've heard about but not pursued at this time are the Tropicana Speech Contest and the Leon County Spelling Bee. It's gratifying to note that some homeschoolers did place in the speech contest this year.

Contests are just one way of helping your children learn to meet deadlines. I realized another way our children work on this is when they're assigned to be the speaker at church. They definitely have to prepare in order to deliver a talk at a set time and date.

Deadlines, whetherwe like them or not, are a fact of adult life. We feel a need for our children to be successful in this area before adulthood. For our family, finding natural and rewarding methods to incorporate this concept has answered the need.

Followup in 2012: I have no idea if the Stock Market Game or contests sponsored by NASDAQ still exist. But I do know homeschoolers continue to participate locally in the Leon County and surrounding counties Spelling Bees and the Tropicana Speech Contests. All four of our children did grow up and also learn to meet deadlines!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The benefits of Girl and Boy Scouts

Update: We had an ongoing debate in our home for years over girl scouts versus boy scouts. Our son and his friends felt boy scouts was superior to girl scouts. I will never forget the day Shelley appeared wearing a girl scout shirt that said, " Boys drool, Girls Rule!" Both organizations reinforced learning and life skills.

From Teachable Moment, July 1996

"Recently I watched our son writing a 500 word report on an international issue. He had just finished a study on citizenship around the world. He had learned about imports, exports, tariffs, national interests, forms of government, economies, types of international laws, etc.  The realization hit me how much Scouts (Boy and Girl) had enhanced our homeschooling.

When we first starting Scouting, I thought of it more as a fun social activity. I have learned it is that and much more. I have watched the kids stretch and grow to meet challenges posed to them by their leaders and Scout manuals. Goal setting is a major component of Scouting.

Organization skills are encouraged by the Scouting process. Most of Shelley's regular meetings this past year were planning meetings. Her troop took on the task of being responsible for the 2 day event honoring girls in Florida who had achieved the top awards of silver and gold. This was a big deal! The girls had to pick out an auditorium for the ceremony. They had to select a hotel that would be nice, yet affordable to house all these troops coming into the area. They had to plan a theme for the whole event (including designing a T-shirt for every girl to wear) and a celebration party. Yes, we're glad it's all over! Oh, did I mention cleanup after the party? (Follow up years later...the ending project when these girls were going after their gold award was stocking a library in a school in Africa- quite an adventure)

Also, the Girl Scout cookie program makes a girl and her mother have to be organized! When a girl sells cookies at the mall, she has to know exactly how many of each type she brought, how much starter money she came with and then has to balance out in the end. She has to provide her leader with exactly how many boxes of each type of cookie sold-this helps to determine what gets brought the following days. Of course, counting real money and giving correct change back teach important skills!

Planning for a camping trip also reinforces organization skills. Deciding upon and then packing needed items is a big process. The older two children have become very skilled at this and I no longer even check behind them. Jared and I both overlooked his mess kit one time and that's all it took for him to remember it forever!

Learning to interact with the community as well as the other Scouts and leaders is another benefit of Scouting. I watching in amazement as Shelley approached the owner of the bowling alley to request free bowling tickets for door prizes for the awards ceremony! (Followup: Shelley was an extremely shy child). I couldn't see myself doing that at her age. She also had the neat experience of followiing Representative Marjorie Turnbull around one day while the legislature was in session. She was allowed to be a page one morning. Representative Turnbull was a Girl Scout herself and likes to make this opportunity available to them.

Even regular academics get worked in. I really like this part! Lindley's troop did a number of science experiments this past year and had a Science and Math Day at the Girl Scout camp. Jared is at the stage of giving oral and written presentations to demonstrate knowledge learned.

I've enjoyed the assistance Scouting has given our homeschooling experience. I'm sure other organizations, such as 4H, would accomplish the same thing. Sometimes it gets hectic with 3 children in 3 different troops, but the rewards have been many."

Followup: I didn't write columns during Matthew's majority of homeschooling, so will be adding in some things about his schooling process. We did end up utilizing 4H for him and he thoroughly enjoyed the group activities as well as the individual projects he worked on at home. Entering those county fairs has brought in some income for some young homeschoolers. Many people are not aware that there are many contests the young ones can enter into with cash prizes, not just the ribbons.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Linguistic Abilities-Good For You Into Old Age!

From March 1996 "Teachable Moment":

Did everyone see the article in the Tallahassee Democrat (Feb. 21, 1996) linking Alzheimer's with lack of early linguistic skills? This was an interesting study done on a group of nuns. When the researchers examined essays written by the nuns in earlier years (they each had to write a personal history), there was a correlation seen between the ones that displayed poor linguistic abilities and the development of Alzheimer's disease later in life. It was pointed out that this may be a chicken or egg coming first situation. In other words, maybe the Alzheimer's is present much earlier than anyone has suspected and interferes with linguistic abilities even in early life. Then again, maybe the development of linguistic abilities will help to ward off the development of Alzheimer's disease. The researcher is saying it certainly can't hurt young people to develop their linguistic abilities regardless of not knowing for sure at this point what this study really means.

I would like to encourage all of us to realize the importance that a single book checked out of the library can play in the education of our child. I ran across an autobiography titled, "Taking Flight" by Vicki Van Meter last month. Lindley and I began reading this book together.(Up to date note: Lindley was 8 years old at this time). It's written by a girl who set a goal of flying across the country at the age of 11. She followed that up with a flight across the ocean.

We were able to use this book in so many ways! We used maps and the globe to track her flights as we read along. Now everytime Lindley sees Greenland on the globe it really stands out to her! Vicki Van Meter discusses the importance of math and goes through the process of figuring her amount of gasoline needed for the number of miles she would be flying. She described some of the people she encountered. She also went into some history of important events and people. We followed it all up with Lindley writing a letter to Vicki Van Meter to tell her what she had liked best about the book and how she had used it in her homeschooling. The only drawback to the whole thing is that Lindley is determined she is going to take flying lessons soon! (Up to date note: Vicki Van Meter did respond to Lindley with a handwritten letter and a signed photograph. It was a great payoff for Lindley's studies!)

If your child has a favorite author, try to find a biography about him/her. Jared has read biographies on Charles Schultz, Jim Davis, Jules Verne, etc. He recently finished the biography on Jules Verne and now wants to read his other books. Jared found it interesting that Jules Verne had studied to be a lawyer at his father's request. We all discussed what events in Jules Vernes' life had helped him to develop his imagination to come up with some of the story lines he developed.

Let's all encourage our children, as well as ourselves, to keep reading, writing and developing our linguistic abilities!                             

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thoughts on radio debate with Bob Lemons on homeschooling in 1996

As I reviewed this post, I have to admit I did not even remember being present at this debate on the radio (WFSU-FM) with Mr. Bob Lemons, who had published a negative article on homeschooling in the family section of our local newspaper.

"Mr. Bob Lemons sure obtained a reaction from many of us lately. It's disturbing to many of us when we run into someone so close-minded and unwilling to look at the information out there. It's one thing to express an opinion, if one makes sure that others know that's what it is. It's entirely different to set oneself up as an expert on a subject one didn't do his research on!

However, I do think some benefits were realized as a result of his article. For one thing, I think we have actually gained some positive opinions from people who didn't care one way or the other. Mr. Lemons achieved that on his own. Also, I think it made many of us reflect and ponder on our reasons for homeschooling in the first place. I felt reaffirmed in the choices our family has made.

One phrase Mr. Lemons kept repeating in the followup radio debate was that  "the education of a child is a serious responsibility". I have pondered on this for a week now. He is right about that. I have looked at it from various angles. At times, I have felt overwhelmed by the thought that we've undertaken this whole adventure. At other times, I've felt because it is such a serious responsibility, we can't do it all for our kids. They have to want to take that responsibility on (as they're ready) and homeschooling is a wonderful way to help them in that quest. Can we really make them learn if they don't have the desire to? Yes, we can convey enthusiasm, enticements and motivations, but the bottom line is there must be some desire on the part of the child to learn. I know our children have achieved more as they felt some control over their educations.

I"ve been glad for this opportunity to reflect and ponder. Maybe Mr. Lemons helped all of us in a roundabout way.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

From Teachable Moment (Jan.1996) Curriculum Advice

I am finally starting to blog about the homeschooling years (almost a year after I last announced I would do this! Give me a break....a lot has gone on with my health and our family). I had the idea to reprint some of my articles I wrote for Tallahassee Homeschool Group's newsletter over the years. So I decided to start with 1996. Note: You can tell how dated it is with the plethora of computer programs available to help your child learn 16 years later. Back in 1996, this was all exciting and fresh!

 " I haven't been able to come up with a single idea for this column, so I've decided to share some of the curriculum products we use that I feel have been helpful to our homeschooling.

I am frequently asked what we do for math. First of all, everyday situations are great! Let your child read the power meter and then subtract from last month's reading to figure kilowatt hours. If you receive your cancelled checks from the bank, let a younger child organize them by number. Have them guess how far a distance you're traveling by car, set the odometer and check estimates. Don't forget the grocery store and its numerous possibilities. There are so many things we do on a daily basis that our children could participate in and learn from.

As far as bought curriculum, we use the Saxon Math Series. First of all, let me inform you it's not a visually appealing package - no bright, colorful illustrations. Its appeal is that each lesson reviews previous material learned, so old concepts are retained as new ones are learned. We supplement with other workbooks, especially the Key to ...    series for the older kids. The Key to series zero in on specific concepts-such as Key to Fractions, Key to Decimals, etc. This just gives them a little more practice.

Also, I have heard criticism of the Saxon Math series for the upper levels as far as the geometry skills go.  Parents and students who have been all the way through the series feel some geometry supplementation is needed.

For spelling, this year we began using the Spell-It 3 computer program. It has word lists to fit all ages and fun games to play while you learn the words. We also use the method Ruth Beechick recommends, lots of writing and correcting for misspelled words and keeping a spelling journal.

We also like the Learning Literature Through Lanaguage Arts series. Many of these lessons involve dictation and then letting the child check himself. Each lesson will teach something involving language arts. Another program our kids have enjoyed is the Editing Adventure books (2 volumes). There's a daily passage and the kids try to catch the mistakes.

The children do their own checking of their work. In math, they go back and correct missed problems and come to me if they can't figure out why they missed it. I periodically check in on their work to see what they're learning and if they really are getting it.

This is some of what we do in our homeschooling. There's really too much to write about in one column. One book I recommend is Ruth Beechick's 'You Can Teach Your Child Successfully'. She gives many practical ideas and lots of reassurance. Happy Homeschooling!"

Follow up: I do believe most of these products are still available with many others, of course, out there too. I went through 2 volumes of Ruth Beechick's verse and called it my homeschooling bible. It was the number one book I recommended all the years I answered homeschool calls.