Friday, September 12, 2014


I have decided to consolidate all of my blogs into one.

My new all-in-one blog is called We Live After the Manner of Happiness, and on it I will frequently write short and sweet posts about a variety of topics, including Self Education, Motherhood, Homeschooling, the Gospel, and Healthy Eating.

I may still post here on occasion, particularly if I have a longer post I wish to write, but I hope you'll follow me there, since my new format allows me to be far more consistent in my posting and more flexible in my topics.

See you there!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Ways to FAIL at Homeschooling

1.  Pattern your home school exactly after the public school model.

2.  Spend lots of money. Make sure to buy every shiny new curricula that happens to catch your eye and every gimmicky uni-tasker toy you can find.

3.  Make it complicated. Attempt to cover every possible subject matter in perfect chronological and/or sequential order whether your child shows any interest or not.

4.  Plan things so extensively that you have 100% structure and 0% flexibility.

5.  Have a specific and rigid school time and refuse to do anything school or learning related outside of that designated school time. You're a very busy person after all.

6.  Teach your child what the government says is good for them, not what they are actually interested in or passionate about.

7.   Only have your child do school in the designated school room, sitting in his or her desk for the several hours of school time. Don't foolishly suppose your child can learn in the family room or *gasp* outside.

8.  Keep your child strictly within his or her grade level by age. If they fall behind, push them to catch up, and do not by any means allow them to skip ahead!

9.  Alternatively you could stay completely out of things altogether and leave your child entirely to his or her own devices, because certainly they don't need you to get involved at all in their education.

10.  Do everything yourself. You are super homeschool mom. You don't need any help whatsoever to educate your kids perfectly!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Year Round

Well, we're back into the swing of things again, and I'm loving it!

I have always said that I intend to do school year round and Saturdays too, for that matter. My reasoning is that if our style of learning is inherently integrated into our everyday life then how could we possibly justify changing our lifestyle on Saturdays and during summer, particularly when there are such great opportunities for learning experiences during those times.

That being said, this Summer I thought we maybe ought to ease off the academics and focus more on life skills for a while. I thought it would be good for us; instead everything descended into chaos. There was more contention and boredom than we've ever had before, and I was forced to admit that our family culture is just better attuned to the loose structure that comes with a year-round-school mindset.

So here we are, loving learning and loving life. It's a Saturday and we're all in the car driving to visit family. R is sitting in the back seat reading James and the Giant Peach. She's been burning through it at an alarming rate. This morning she exclaimed, "I just never want to stop!"

We began reading Treasure Island last night as a family because R has taken a particular interest in pirates lately. In the last couple of weeks we finished reading Little House on the Prairie, Doctor Dolittle, and The Enormous Egg. Every night R begs me to read "just one more chapter!"

We had a fun little impromptu science lesson during my breakfast preparations. The girls asked for fried eggs for breakfast, so I had them watch the butter melt as I explained that it was a solid changing into a liquid. Then I broke the eggs into the pan and had them watch as it turned from a liquid into a solid as it cooked. I also explained the terms "translucent" and "opaque." We also talked about the water condensing on the outside of their glasses of apple juice.

Each night when we read books together, C helps me read the simple three letter words. She gets better everyday. She is so close to being able to do it on her own. She just needs to have that "Aha!" moment that all new readers experience at some point.

I can't sufficiently express just how fun and satisfying this lifestyle is for us. I know it's probably not for everyone, but I do wish more homeschoolers would give going curriculum-less a try. I think you'd be surprised by just how much you'd love it, not to mention the immense long-term rewards for your kids.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How to Succeed at Home Education: Principle #3

 "Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances."
-- Richard G. Scott

Today I want to emphasize something important: I am figuring out the majority of this as I go along. I am a beginner homeschooler, though I do have the advantage of having been homeschooled myself. This means that my principles are works in progress. They may contradict each other at times, or I might have to go back and adjust something I said earlier. I am certainly not perfect at any of this. In fact, I am primarily writing this blog for myself to help me to remember the things that I am learning throughout this process. I hope you'll forgive me when I will undoubtedly have to repeat or clarify myself.

Additionally, I wanted to make it clear that I am trying to find and share true principles. Principles are the bridge between Truth and Application. Truth is universal, but not always clearly applicable. Applications are personal and flexible but worse than useless unless based upon truth. Principles are the building blocks I desire to share because, once understood, they can be adjusted and applied broadly. I really hope I don't come across as either a know-it-all (because I don't) or a believer that one-size-fits-all, (because it doesn't!)

Today I want to elaborate further on a principle which I only touched on briefly in the last post.

Principle #3:  Embrace the chaos and mess.

This doesn't mean there has to be constant chaos or unmanageable mess.  What it means is that you shouldn't let the possibility of a mess or a certain degree of chaos keep you from doing things (or allowing your children to do things) which will cultivate their minds or spark their imagination.

I had this principle emphasized in my mind as I watched a children's science show with my daughters. The kids on the screen were playing with water in a swimming pool in their backyard. At one point they push down the side of the pool and water flows out and floods a piece of the lawn. My reaction: "Stop them! They're wasting water and making a muddy spot and killing the lawn!" And then I remembered how much they were probably learning from that experience. I committed myself at that moment to being a little more flexible and open to the messes that teach lessons.

Sometimes we fail to give our children the learning experiences that would benefit them most because of a desire to not waste the resources we have collected. Almost inevitably, this attitude will have an ironic result.

For example, I have a whole shelf of school supplies in the back room that I continually procrastinate pulling out because of the anxiety and work it would produce. But resources locked away for a rainy day don't do anyone any good.

That being said, another important principle is BALANCE. I tell my kids I can only handle one big thing per day, (or per week depending on my energy level.) And though my house gets pretty crazy throughout the day, it's amazing what five to fifteen minutes here or there can do for order and cleanliness. Plus, I believe that learning to clean is an important part of my children's education, so I try to include them whenever I can.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Succeed at Home Education: Principle #2

Imagine you are taking a walk through a park with a loved one who is also a trusted mentor and friend. She tells you that this park is brimming with wondrous sights and sounds, and she promises to show you all of the best ones. This thrills you, and fills you with exciting anticipation.

First she points out a song bird high up in an evergreen tree. Initially it's hard to see, being so far away, but soon you focus in and catch a glimpse. Questions begin to fill your mind, but before you get the chance to think twice, your friend is pulling on your arm to move you on to the next thing: a beautiful rose bush to your right. You begin to crouch down to smell it, only to be interrupted yet again. "You will just love this next thing," she says. But by now you are thinking, "How can I love it when I don't get a chance to slow down and enjoy anything? Don't we have more than enough time to experience it all?"

Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see a snail inching its way along the pavement. You tell your friend you'd like to go touch it and get a closer look. Her response: "No time for that now! We'll get to that later. Right now I have something else you need to see." You are really beginning to feel some whiplash from all this, as well as a sense of pointed disinterest in whatever she intends to lead you to next.

Does this scenario seem vaguely familiar? It should. This is what happens in public schools all the time. It's a natural byproduct of the need to educate large groups of kids while keeping order and equality. Everyone must learn particular things in each specific grade in a certain order. This is unfortunate, but understandable.

The true tragedy in my mind is that so many families take the leap into home education and then simply attempt to pattern home education after public education. It is one of the most prevalent mistakes I see in the homschooling world, and it is a pity because it fails to take full advantage of the opportunities homeschooling has to offer. Instead, I propose that we glean the best educational approaches and practices we can find and apply them at home. The following principles all fall into this category.

Principle #2:  Make homeschooling a lifestyle choice instead of a daily event.

It is very tempting to "do school" daily at home. This seems natural and harmless. The problem is that segregating school time (learning time) from "real life" compartmentalizes two things which were never meant to be apart. To live is to learn. Children know this intuitively and act accordingly, showing curiosity and excitement about new concepts and ideas... until we train it out of them by setting aside a particular time and place to learn and turning it into a checklist item, thus transforming education into a chore.

If you want to succeed at giving your children a world class education, it is all about the environment, atmosphere, and lifestyle.

Create an environment conducive to learning. Books to peruse are a must. Begin now to collect your own library of classics and children's books, and frequent your local library maxing out your card if you must! Easy access to the internet in a prominent area is ideal for a learning environment. In our home, my personal computer is hooked up to the TV. This way we can quickly access pictures, definitions, music, or online resources as needed. Consider cleaning and collecting leftover food containers and allow your children to play with and explore them as well as any other materials you can easily get your hands on.

(Be prepared to embrace the chaos and mess. I will readily admit that I am not good at this, but I am convinced of its importance. Children allowed to freely explore their surroundings will show more curiosity and interest in a wider variety of things.)

Create an atmosphere of learning. This might mean an attitude change or paradigm shift on your part. Learning is fun! No really--it is!  :)  Develop an enthusiasm for learning and let it show. Pursue your own education. Read, write, do math, explore whatever subjects excite you, and discuss what you're learning frequently with your child. Enthusiasm truly is contagious.

Ask your child lots of questions and always answer their questions to you. If you don't know, say, "I don't know, but I know how to find out!" and show them! Google it, look it up in an encyclopedia, or check out a book on the topic from the library. Before long, you might be surprised how many different interests your child is pursuing at once. They need to feel safe to ask questions and be enthusiastic, and they will undoubtedly love sharing the thrill of new knowledge with you.

Homeschooling isn't something you do, it is who you are and how you live. Learning begins at birth, so homeschooling begins at birth. Remember that you are trying to cultivate curiosity and a love of learning. Form your lifestyle to meet these ends.

I want you to develop "new eyes" designed for homeschooling. These new eyes are going to help you recognize the power of the moment and harness it, no matter when that moment comes, (i.e. during dinner, chores, nap-time, right before bed, driving in the car, etc.)

This can be particularly difficult when it comes to naughty behavior. Believe it or not, much of what we label as "naughty" behavior is actually just curiosity and experimentation. By ALL MEANS, punish truly naughty (read: rebellious) behavior, but be gentle with your little explorer-scientist! Lay down ground rules and limits, and enforce them. But use your new eyes to quickly recognize the signs of a curious and ready mind, and pounce on that opportunity! Lead the little one to safe and acceptable ways of exploring, experimenting, and pursuing his interests.

I like to call these little opportunities "learning launching pads." They give you a clue into what your child is going to be particularly receptive to right now and a point from which to launch into either greater depth or variety of topics. For example, my two-year-old had a week where she just kept sneaking into the bathroom, turning on the water and proceeding to pump out an entire bottle of hand soap. I got so frustrated each time the door was left open again and my patience ran very short. Until one day it occurred to me that she was fascinated with the bubbles. (Light bulb moment!) I took her into the kitchen, filled a bowl with some milk, gave her a straw, and then showed her how to make bubbles by blowing through it. She was delighted! Yes, she still made a mess. But I didn't mind it nearly so much when my paradigm shifted to see it as a learning moment instead of just naughty behavior.

"Learning launching pads" can come in all sorts of forms: questions, incessant talking about a particular topic, "naughty" behavior (as discussed above,) obsession with a certain toy or book. The best thing about these launching pads is that depending on your child's age, you can take their intense interest and expand it to cover everything from history, to science, to math, to literature, and so on.

All of this boils down to the fact that I believe in child-led learning, but it is incomplete unless it is properly parent-facilitated child-led learning.

As you develop the environment, atmosphere, and lifestyle to make your homeschooling efforts successful, keep in mind that at its core parenting and homeschooling are synonymous and all good parenting principles apply.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Succeed at Home Education: Principle #1

You've decided. You're going to homeschool.

Excitement and jitters set in as September approaches. The smell of new textbooks permeate a perfectly organized and well-stocked schoolroom, complete with glue sticks and paint. A carefully planned schedule is prominently displayed on the bulletin board. Everything is set and ready. All that you're waiting for is the official beginning of the school year.

Then it arrives.

You gather your little ones around the table, hand out work-sheets and crayons, and begin the instruction. Between new books, new school supplies, and maybe even some new clothes, everyone has been anticipating this day for some time. And school at home doesn't fail to impress!

Until it does... about two weeks later.

By this point, it's like pulling teeth to get the kids to participate in the brand new curriculum which cost you a small fortune. You've tried everything from bribery to threats to get them to comply, but to no avail. You feel greater and greater anxiety setting in as each day fails to align with the schedule you set up. You are falling behind already and you have no idea how you are going to make up for the lost time. Your anxiety causes you to lay into the kids a little more than usual which, of course, doesn't help at all. In the midst of the contention and tears, you find yourself wondering, "Is this really what I signed up for? This is not how I imagined it at all! How do the other homeschool moms do this for years? This can't be what homeschool is supposed to be like!"

And you'd be right!

This is NOT how homeschool is supposed to be. But sadly, it turns out this way far too often, even for veteran homeschoolers.

If you want to succeed at homeschooling, I have some principles which will help you. They won't make homeschooling magically easy, and they WILL require you do a major overhaul on your educational paradigms. But I promise that these principles are the keys to having the positive and productive experience you want out of home education.

These principles are particularly applicable to the first ten years or so of your child's life. I believe they will still continue to be pertinent after that point, but they will have to be modified and perhaps applied in different ways or to different degrees. I will explain this in more detail later.

(Keep in mind that this is only part 1 of a series of blog posts, and keep on the lookout for future installments.)

Principle #1:  Keep it simple and inexpensive.

Especially when you are just beginning to homeschool and your children are very little, there is absolutely no reason to go out and spend a fortune on books, toys, supplies, or curricula.

If you determined early on that you would educate your child at home, you have the advantage of many birthdays and Christmases before you officially begin. Request educational and multipurpose toys. Ask for simple art supplies, paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue. Buy your children books ranging in difficulty from very beginner to classic novels. In this way you will find it easy to gather ample resources.

If your child is already school-aged, keep in mind that all you really need is paper, pencils, the library and the internet. Seriously--that is ALL! Between the library and the internet, there is literally nothing you cannot learn. In my opinion, the best resources are absolutely free.

I suggest making weekly library visits a family tradition. Look at age-appropriate book lists, and take advantage of the holding system. Keep in mind that libraries contain more than books; there are CD's, educational movies, audio-books, magazines, and e-books. Explore the non-fiction section as well as the chapter and picture books. Check out books about math, history, science, and writing to fill out your homeschooling curriculum.

(I know this hardly needs saying, but it bears repeating. Read to your kids every day!)

As for the internet, make use of Google searches to find lots of free resources. Here are some that I literally stumbled upon in the last year:  Easy Peasy All-In-One-Homeschool, Solar System Scope, ABCya, Sheppard Software, Virtual Manipulatives. And here are examples of some other more well-known but equally awesome websites: Khan Academy, TED, Starfall, Google Earth, and Kindle Cloud Reader (free classics).

I'll add more as I discover them, but I hope I've whetted your appetite for finding your own free online resources and persuaded you that homeschooling need not (and in my opinion should not) be complicated or expensive.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Homeschool Memes

I hope you all will enjoy some of these as much as I did!  :)