Bedtime stories – you’re never too old

It’s late. My family lies sleeping (or in various stages close to sleeping). Even the dog is snoring. And from each bedroom, I can hear the sounds of bedtime stories.
I guess you never outgrow those.
My son who plans to be a rich and famous novelist has an Artemis Fowl audio book playing on a karaoke machine borrowed from little sister. Little sister has drifted off to Eragon playing on an MP3 file on her laptop. And my husband’s laptop will soon go to sleep itself, having read him (and I guess, itself) Harry Potter 6 yet again.
Technology is wonderful – it’s brought the bedtime stories back into fashion in our house.

If I lie down now, I can still hear the good part.


Delayed gratification

When Jordi told me she wanted to save up for a laptop, out loud I said, “Great idea!” and to myself I said, “No way.  It’s too expensive.  She’ll never save for that long.”

Jordi was 10 at the time with no regular source of income, outside birthday presents, which just don’t add up that quickly.  2 days ago, she emptied her savings account and took it all to Best Buy with her daddy.  She hasn’t put that laptop down since.

For 2 and a half years, she squirrelled away every dime that came her way.  She collected pecans up and down the neighborhood to sell.  She babysat.  She asked for money for her birthday.  She even received several donations from kind friends who thought it was really adorable that this little girl was saving for such a big project.  In all that time, she released money only for three things.  Once she bought herself a pair of pants ($6).  Once she bought her big brother a present ($15).  And she put money in the collection plate at church (I never asked how much). 

And now, she carries around with her a serious piece of hardware (daddy is a computer geek and wouldn’t let her buy cheap junk).  She’s listening to audio books, downloading games, and emailing me pictures taken with her built in webcam.  And she knows that delayed gratification is the very best kind.


What I did on summer vacation…

Granted that my kids have never actually been asked to write an essay about what they did over summer vacation.  If they did, it might look something like this…










Or it might look something like this…

So much fun stuff!

Slept late…

Played video games…

Went swimming…

Helped create a whole summer camp around my favorite adventure novel…

Wrote four chapter of my own adventure novel…

Raced Greek chariots while being ambushed by archers…

Ran obstacle courses…

Saw my friends every week…

Spent time lost in my favorite stories…

Learned to steer a canoe…

Took my first fencing lessons…

Got my tooth nearly knocked out by an errant sword…

Learned new songs and sang in a talent show…

Made new friends…

Got called by a cute member of the opposite sex…

Wow.  It sounds much cooler when you don’t list it by academic subject.  We need to start school again just to get some rest.

It’s quiet around here…too quiet

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Hollywood cliche.  My house really is too quiet.

My kids all simultaneously left me for that American rite of passage called summer camp.   I’m wavering between viewing it as an awesome opportunity for them to test their fledgeling wings with a safely supervised bit of freedom, or a dreadful sham  of boarding school on a trial basis. 

They come home in 2 weeks full of happy memories and new skills, their days filled with exciting adventures, fun project classes and joking friends.  Mine are a bit more mundane.  Scrubbing grout, sorting closets, and getting the wheels aligned on the truck.  Sure, there are perks.  Plenty of time to ride my bike at the lake.  I can eat lunch whenever I’m hungry.  And I’ve only had to pick up the den floor once.  Oddly, it has stayed clean for 3 days now!  I even got to control the remote and watch an old episode of Dr. Who while folding the laundry.

Is this what empty nest syndrome looks like?  Is this what life would be like without children?  Busy, productive, quiet.  I don’t like it.  I love the energy and the creative power and the odd, random conversations that the kids fill my life with.  I’m willing to wash extra clothes and pick up extra messes and even referee arguments in exchange for that.

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean.  But much increase comes from the strenth of the ox.  Proverbs 14:4.  Only 9 days until my cattle come home. 🙂

Just Getting Started – a Homeschool Question

This is one of those “frequently asked questions” about homeschooling by newcomers.  The choices are so overwhelming that it’s difficult to decide what to concentrate on and where to begin.  I gave her my best answer, and I thought it might help someone else in the same situation.


I am marking this fall as the beginning of our official homeschooling
trek. With my son being six in a few weeks, I am lost and very
confused and overwhelmed. I am not sure what to start with or how to
begin. I have found many different sources that tell me what he needs
to do, but they are all different. So, what did you all start with? I
have heard that at this age there isn’t really a lot to do and that I
really don’t need a full curriculum right now, but I become very
overwhelmed when trying to find the who, what, when, where and how.

Thanks in Advance!

My answer:

Bless you, girl, we all know EXACTLY how you feel.  There are so many choices and so much conflicting advice, how do you ever decide where to start?  I’m going to let you in on a secret…the reason that different sources disagree on what you should teach when is because none of the experts agree.  There is no one absolute standard.  Even from public school to public school, there’s no universal agreement on which approach works best.  That “one right path” doesn’t exist.  That’s a bit frightening, but it’s liberating, too.  That means you have a buffet of “right” choices to pick from.  Whatever you decide, there will be “experts” who will back you up and homeschool mom veterans who will say, “Yes, that’s how we did it.” 

So you choose by taking a long look at what your family wants to accomplish, what your values and goals are, and what type of support you need to get there.  Do you work best with rigid guidelines?  Do you prefer step-by-step instructions?  Or are you more flexible?  Do you prefer spontaneity and the freedom to chase your son’s interests as they arise? 

Then take a look at your son.  How long is his attention span?  What’s his energy level?  Is he a constant mover and fidgeter?  Does he need his hands on a project or does he learn better by listening, drawing, talking? 

You can choose an approach that best fits your family.  Here’s a decent summary of the most popular approaches:  It will also tell you which curriculums or resources you might want to look at for each type of approach.

Do you need a full curriculum for kindergarten?  Not necessarily, but you might be the kind of person who functions best with one. 

Here’s what I did for kindergarten: Five in a Row unit studies, Alphaphonics for teaching how to read, BOB books and lots of easy readers for practicing reading, and then a big fat workbook from Sam’s for math.  We started a “traditional” math curriculum with Making Math Meaningful level 1.  What I loved about this approach was that it was simple for me, not a lot of teacher prep time, it was gentle, and the FIAR encouraged such a love of reading and an ability in my children to learn from real books and make connections rather than learning each subject separately. 

We also played a lot in kindergarten. J  Lots of puzzles, lots of fingerpainting, lots of puppet shows and nature walks and listening to music.  I miss kindergarten, sniff sniff.  Of course, since it’s been several years for me, I’ve managed to mentally gloss over the day to day frustrations of teaching a 6 yo to read and do math. LOL 

I highly recommend reading anything by Ruth Beechick.  She has an amazing set of three short books on the 3 Rs.  I think our library has the one on language and reading, but not the one on math.  They’re pretty cheap to buy, or someone here might be able to loan them to you.  She has a simple, commonsense approach and doesn’t require anything complicated or expensive.

And if you can, get yourself to a support group activity!  There’s really nothing more comforting than spending some time with other homeschooling moms. J 

You can do this.  You will be outstanding.



Educational anarchy…and my favorite homeschooling research

Does homeschooling really work? 

You’d think by this point in our nation’s history, given all the documented and measurable studies about test scores and academic competitions and college scholarships, this question would no longer be necessary.  But obviously, it is.  People still ask it, still challenge the very notion that parents can read books and teach their own children without delegating the task to professionals. 


Recently, I’ve been pondering the perfectly ludicrous (and tinged with desperation and hysteria) assertion by the California Teachers Association that my children learning at home from someone not licensed by the state is “educational anarchy.” 


Snicker snicker.  I’m just warped enough to be amused by that prospect.  It feels like a promotion.  I’m not just a oddball…I’m an anarchist.  As one of my homeschooling buddies puts it:



“Anarchy, huh?  Come to think of it, I’m feeling rather rebellious today. I guess it figures, since history shows home schooled Americans start revolutions, civil wars and major scientific discoveries. We’re a dangerous lot you know..hee hee”


On closer examination of my life, I don’t really feel like an anarchist.  I pay my taxes.  I renew my drivers’ license and library books with regularity.  This morning, my husband went to his job, my youngest went to play at a friend’s house (one of those dreaded government school kids, at that), and my older two kids went downtown to perform in the community theatre’s current production.  When I pick them up, we plan to stop at the library because the teenage anarchist rebel wants to check out a sequel to the latest novel he’s read.  Watch out, educators!  Teenagers voluntarily spending summer vacation time in the library…definitely symptoms of educational anarchy.


Maybe we’re just too boring to be anarchists.   I’ll stick to educational nonconformity.  That’s really what the teachers union is frightened by…nonconformity.  Kids not under their control.  I happen to think nonconformity is a valuable ideal worth protecting.  So did our Founding Fathers (please read First Amendment  So does God (check out Romans 12:1-2  No offense, guys, but I’ll take either of those credible sources over the California Teachers Association.

So here’s my absolute, all-time favorite piece of research that proves the benefits of homeschooling.  It goes beyond acing ACT tests and winning national spelling bees (all of which are great things to strive for and measure).  What it shows that homeschooled kids are growing up, moving into the “real world” and leading happy, well-educated, socially and emotionally healthy lives.  They aren’t hiding in closets and cowering in miserable, misfit huddles.  They’re voting and going to church and holding jobs and generally contributing positively to our country. 

Hardly an anarchist among them.  Guess we’ll have to try harder.

Check it out.

Summer starts!

Somewhere along the way, it became a family tradition.  The kids don’t believe it’s summer until we drop the hose into the backyard pool and start getting wet.  This will probably be the last photo of the kids until September without any sunburns, blisters, or extra freckles.  And that’s with me being the Sunblock Police stationed at the backdoor. 

We’re already scheduling swim dates for all their buddies.  Jordi and her buddy are doing the water gymnastics, and of course, Sean grabbed for the weaponry immediately.  And I need to stock up on groceries…all that sun and water leads to hungry hippos.


Homeschool Graduation

My niece Amanda with my daughter Jordan

Commencement is the perfect word.  For me, this is where the homeschool journey began.

12 years ago, I attended a kindergarten graduation ceremony for my adorable niece Amanda.  She blew me away.  She was brilliant, creative, and sweet.  (Not that I’m biased!)  I knew then what a blessing homeschooling could be and that this was the education I wanted for my 3 yo son.

This week, she did it again.  I’d never attended a high school graduation for homeschool kids (they are still kids, right?  I’m not sure.)  It was a more touching and personal graduation than I knew was possible.  The atmosphere breathed respect for family and individuality and God.  A speaker read a biography for each student as the graduate presented her mother with a rose.  The mothers conferred the diplomas and the fathers moved the tassels on the mortarboards and gave the graduate a blessing.  The photographer snapped the graduation picture of the newly graduated student standing between her parents on stage. 

And what a lovely young woman Amanda has grown into…she’s not much taller than she was at her first commencement, but she’s still brilliant, creative, and sweet.  She begins a new chapter in her life as my sister closes the book on her homeschooling career for her oldest child (four more still in the chute). 

She’s inspiring.  She always has been for me.

Amanda\'s Senior Picture

Just one more question…

Lately, I feel like I’m living with Columbo.  Just one more thing…

Day and night, Sean has one more question.  Last night, he wanted to know how you turn coal into electricity.  And how you make playing cards.  And who was the first person we saw get kicked off American Idol (hey, they can’t all be intellectual questions!). 

Since he read my post about all his questions (Yes, my kids read my blogs.  For some reason they suspect that I’m writing about them.), he’s been turbo-charged.

I need a store that sells 50 lb bags of Purina Brain Chow.  The kid clearly needs to feed.

Careful what you wish for…

Our family watched Star Wars on tv yesterday, the episode where the Rebels destroy the Death Star and party with the Eewoks.  We oohed at the adorable Eewoks and tolerated our kids’ sophisticated cynicism of the special effects.

At one point, the spirits of the deceased Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda appeared to pass on their wisdom to Luke Skywalker, and I realized that Obi-Wan looked tired and wrinkled, even as ghost.  I commented that if I were to return to visit my kids after my death, I’d like my spirit to look like the younger me. 

Sean had a quick and just a little too perky answer for me.

“That’s easy, Mom!” he chirped without ever taking his eyes from the tv screen.  “Die young!”

Logical, but somehow not as appealing as I’d imagined.