Monday, July 28, 2014

A Little Teen Reading

teen reading groups, homeschool teens
Do you have teens who are readers?
Are you unimpressed with
Divergent, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and other post-apocalyptic drivel for teens?  Sorry, but I just don't care for these titles. The unrealistic storylines are blubbering mediocrity to me and I'm a bit tired of the money-making fandom that the books have spawned. Besides, there isn't much to them.
Are you looking for stories with some depth, humor, and insight? 
Read some John Green!
I am a huge reader and have been all of my life. I wish the kids were as much of a reader as I am, but alas. John has been reading quite a bit lately, though! This week he finished one book and began another! All without my asking him to read.  *grin* 
But I'm reading and I'm thinking about those adults who might be considering starting a reading group for and with teens. I think that John Green is the man to be reading right now. His books are so funny and deep that anyone can relate to them...the teen angst is standard-issue, as is the nerdy, struggling, extra-smart protagonist. The girls are generally sparkly, impossibly cool, and highly likable. And the author-cunningly-hidden-as-a-struggling-teenage boy on a personal odyssey brings such depth and humor, it's as though he is describing our own adolescence with the sharpest pen in the can.

His words have the power to change a person. 
At the very least, he will make you think.

John Green is, currently, the coolest guy on the planet for so many reasons. Have you seen his Crash Courses on Youtube?  You will love them!
A few months ago I read my first book by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars. Can I say read the book first? I know that everyone is crying at the movie theater, but the book is so remarkable... Any teen, cancer-free or not, will love the subtle themes and the not-so-subtle themes running through this book. Even the love story is palatable for male readers. I can't say that the dialogue is the greatest in this book; I think homeschoolers might relate to the conversations, but the awkwardness of adolescents is missing for the most part in the conversations of characters. BUT, it's a great read nonetheless. I was honestly drawn to the journey of each and every character in the book. Green has a fabulous way of making every character familiar, interesting, bright.
Next I read Looking for Alaska. This is when I started getting the idea that maybe John Green is trying to replace Holden Caulfield as the gawky and angsty teen-of-choice in teen fiction. Holden, in my opinion, was so numb and flat that I found the entire book by J.D. Salinger A Catcher in the Rye lacking in substance. I think that John Green might be giving the classic a run for its money with Pudge and Alaska. Alaska is that shinier-than-possible star that Pudge can only dream of until their relationship blossoms and forces Pudge to learn a bit about the reality of people who shine brightly.  Green has a magic way with words...he uses them like a paintbrush.
Paper Towns also kept me interested in this author. Again the main character, the relationship between smart, gracelsss, and angsty Q and his super-cool next door neighbor crush was a DELIGHT. I loved Q and how his road trip and super-sleuthing truly brings about a change, a crystal moment, an enriching journey. If a teen reader of this book would follow their interest and move onto some Walt Whitman, I think that John Green's goals would be fulfilled; Leaves of Green features prominently in this book and in Q's quest for the neighbor girl that he hero worships. It's not every day you can honestly see change happen in a major character like this. And it's not every author who can sketch out such interesting secondary characters! 

Now I am immersed in Green's An Abundance of Katherines. Colin, the staple super-nerd depressed dork of John Green's stories, has his unique problems with being a childhood genius and his struggles become a tad obsessive. Can I help it if I love these nerdy guys? Green draws them with some aplomb, one can't help but wonder how much of his writing is autobiographical. Green's road trip theme continues in this book as Colin and his bestie hit the road to relieve some of Colin's fixation on an ex.  So far, this book has the least SEX in it of all of the other Green books I have read and it might be the best fit for a less-liberal group read. But, of course, the books ARE about TEENS who are, in general, quite interested in the S word.
As for the existence of sex and language in these books - you can do it! You can get past the sex and the language because they are real, they are truly what is on the minds of some teens. I promise, no teen will be shocked; they might even be relieved to have all honestly out there. The characters are highly-relatable. I might be fangirling a bit, but I'm so grateful for fresh writing that really sings.
So, there you go. My brief recommendations for an All-John-Green Read Fest! I am enjoying the books tremendously and I think that your mature and interested reading-teens will dig them too.
Will I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Maybe! As long as the main character is not Holden Caulfield...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Homeschooling on a Single Income

On a previous post called Homeschoolers Discuss Socialization, Steffany left this comment with a question. Can you help with an answer?

Q:  Great post! Exactly how I feel and I'm a public school teacher. I see the effects of this so-called necessary socialization. I want to HS and I have a few years to figure it out, but I'm stuck at how I earn a living if I'm at home. Currently we are a one-income home and I'm afraid that if we decide to HS, I will not have a steady income, health insurance, etc. I currently work for a school district that is convenient for health insurance, retirement, income... I'd like to know how you and other parents figure that part out? 

A: Steffany, I am FAR TOO SPOILED to answer this question. I am in the position where my husband's single income supports us quite adequately.

But I can put the question out there and see what others have to say. :)


Dear Readers, Dear Single Parents who Homeschool, 
Dear Parents who Homeschool and who 
Live in a Single Income Household,
Please come clean!
How do you figure out the income part of your homeschool lifestyle?


And, Steffany, I hope you make it back here to read this.

I have gotten several comments on other venues that post my blog posts.
Here are a few of them:

Melinda said:  We've been mostly single income since Madeline was born and I quit my job to be a sahm. My husband is a public school teacher and thankfully has job security. I do work part time in the evenings to supplement a little and we've made choices to make our lifestyle work. but I wonder if this mom is a single mom? If that us the case any advice I could give is not helpful.

Jamie said:  Don't have any advice except the obvious - cut as many corners as possible, look for deals/freebies, and only purchase what you need

Sarah said:  I never know what people want to hear. We choose near poverty and total lack of benefits in order to have the lifestyle we want. Either you are willing to make that choice or not. With one income you will often qualify for subsidized or free health care, we always have. ( for the children, not the grownups in the family). There isn't some magic formula for getting all you want living on a single income. It's a sacrifice that we've always felt was worth it.  We cut back and lived on the verge for years, at first. Then my parents retired and we all decided to form a multi-generational household, with my parents in an apartment on our property. There are occasional conflicts, of course, but it's definitely helped us all financially, and I can not imagine a better situation for a homeschooled kid. My parents have a lot of knowledge and many skills, and they love to share it all with my youngest and his friends.

I know hundreds of homeschooling families and the answers are as varied for each family as you see here. In my opinion, it all boils down to choosing a lifestyle that means something to you and living it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are You a Good Homeschooling Parent?

I am Still Homeschool Atheist Momma!

Heck, am I???

I was having a conversation with my daughter this week where we were thinking about things I wanted to write about on this blog, when she and I got into a really nice conversation about what it is like to be a homeschooling parent. She had some great thoughts on the matter so I thought I'd share them here with you.

Being a good homeschool parent, being a good parent, in Elizabeth's opinion, requires a few important qualities, beginning with flexibility. She acknowledges that having children can make days, weeks, months a bit...unpredictable. Being able to Go With the Flow, to change plans, and to switch directions on the fly can make life a bit less chaotic.  Have you had any weeks like that??? Seems like many of our weeks are like that.  lol

Elizabeth also thinks that a good parent should be a person who continues to learn throughout their lifetime. Reading, studying, researching. All of these things, according to my daughter, teach children to value education and, equally as important, keep a parent vital, informed, and improving.  I thought she was pretty smart to include this one on her list.  Maybe it's the pile of books beside me that make me say that...    *wink* 

Next on my daughter's list of qualities for a good homeschooling parent is the ability of the parent to adjust approaches to material. In our years of homeschooling we have switched up many times. From one book to another. From one approach to another. From one level to another. Heck, switching approaches is my specialty. But, seriously, between you and I, how did this kid come up with this one.  LOL

High on her list is respecting individuality; who didn't see that one coming? Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that this is, in fact, one of those things that I work on diligently and regularly with my daughter. It is wonderful to know that she sees that, acknowledges that, and recognizes it. I have learned so much by being the parent to this child. I am so touched by the fact that she recognizes it.

According to my oldest kid, a good homeschool parent should be encouraging. Kids, she says, especially teens, can get very bogged down in self-doubt. Parents with the ability to support honest effort can make a real difference in the ability of a child to really see themselves in a positive light. Elizabeth was quite adamant about this one.

And finally on the list, she reports that a homeschooling parent, any parent, should be gentle and fun. These qualities, according to Lizzie, make a parent who is wonderful to be around. Our family is quite dedicated to gentleness, bullying and sarcasm are quite frowned upon, but understood and treated with compassion...

Listen, I'm not saying that she would always admit that her own mom is mighty, mighty. But yesterday, at the end of another long and busy day, she was relaxed and happy and willing to help me out. And I don't claim perfection as a parent, far from it! But I am here to share the imperfect journey that our family has taken and to encourage you on your unique journey.

 THANK YOU, Shooshy!   
 You are amazing! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Co-op Planning, Homeschooling for Mutual Benefit

I am Still Homeschool Atheist Momma!
homeschool secular co op
My group of girlfriends and I got together here at the house the other day and continued our plans for a homeschool co op.
What is a co op?  It is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit, according to Wiki.  When applied to homeschool specifically, a co op is a group of families coming together in cooperation to provide educational and social activities for their children.

St. Louis has quite a few existing co ops and our family has participated in several of them with varying degrees of satisfaction over the years.  We have been active members of St. Louis Homeschool Network for about a decade. The Network has grown and changed every year since we joined and the way our family has played a part in that co op has also changed as the kids have gotten older and as their needs have changed.

While we will still attend the Friday co ops with the Network, we are also having a day a week here at our home where six or seven families (it's still up in the air for specifics) will be getting together to offer the kids of these families continuing, in-depth classes that we put together ourselves.

Yes, Folks, the parents are doing it in true homeschooling glory!
We got together the other day and brainstormed the classes that we could offer and we came up with everything from Woodworking to Playacting History to Advanced Algebra.  With seven accomplished women in the house, we can get some great things done! 

Yeah, these moms are amazing.

Next in the process of putting together this new season of co op we figured out the classes we could offer to our kids, the times for our schedule, what to do for lunch and free time, and some other general parameters. Now we are talking amongst ourselves to figure out the final schedule and which children will be in which classes. We will have three classes going at any one hour, one for each age or ability level: littles, middles, and high school.

Meeting one day a week, we have come up with some pretty clever ways to keep the kids plugging in to the subject matter during the remainder of the week. From online group chat to blogging, we think we can make these co op classes meaningful and productive!

And that is how we set up our co op.
Should be an excellent year!

If you are working on setting up a co op 
in your neck of the woods 
and you have some questions on how to do it,
drop me a line
because we've been doing this for YEARS now!
ALSO, I'm so curious to know

about your experiences
with homeschool coops.


My Writing Process Blog Tour

I am still Homeschool Atheist Momma!
 atheist blog homeschool

I am happy to be mentioned by fellow blogger Danica on her blog Danica's Thoughts where she asked me to participate in a blog tour called #mywritingprocess. Please check out  Danica's blog, Danica's Thoughts for a nice read. Her post My Writing Process will be especially interesting to other bloggers.

Who is Danica? She's a fellow blogger who lives in the Netherlands and who dreams of making it big as a writer one day. Check out her blog if you have some time. And someone please encourage that woman to post some of her writing!!!  

COURAGE, Danica!

Each person participating in this illustrious blog tour must answer four questions. Hopefully after reading this, you will have an informative manuscript of my writing journey. Are you ready? Come with on in, grab a cuppa, and off we go:

1)    What am I working on? 

I'm working on a few different atheist sites, submitting articles weekly. I have been working on being interviewed for an atheist podcast. I'm excited and a bit nervous about that. We will be talking about atheist parenting, homeschooling, and blogging.

I have a few blog posts in the works with plans on writing more about John's activities this summer. I am also a maker of memes.

You can also find my writing on:

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I haven't seen many other blogs that are specifically written for and about secular parenting and/or secular homeschooling. It's such a tiny little niche that I sometimes feel like such a freak!

I'm not interested in debate, so that makes me different from most atheist blog writers. Sometimes I have thoughts that I could totally write an in-your-face post about it. But I usually wait around a bit until I can think more clearly and write, instead, a post with more introspection...

I am also generally optimistic and happy. 

That can be very different.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I'm sure I have answered that one again and again. I feel it to be a mission to be out as an atheist.  There you go, my mission.

4) How does my writing process work?

Weirdly enough, I don't really get writer's block or anything. Daily I am surrounded by things that inspire me to learn more about a thing or that I think is worth writing about. Also, having kids is such a trip that nearly every day is an interesting destination.

Continuing this blog tour during the week on the 28th of July will be one of my favorite bloggers, Laura from Stag Beetle Power, True Adventures in Portland blog. Laura and I are just rocking along, blogging buddies.

If you are interested in the #mywritingprocess blog tour but haven't been asked to participate, please contact me; I'd love to encourage and include you.

Also, Fellow Secular Bloggers,
Please submit your secular parenting blog post to my upcoming

More posts you may enjoy:

On a Mission or an Imposter?
My Atheist Parenting Blog
Dear Reader
Count Me Among the Faithful
Carnival of Atheist Parenting Blog Posts
Do You Know Why I Started Blogging?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Great Balancing Act

I am still Homeschool Atheist Momma!

This homeschool blog has become quite over-focused on atheism lately and I apologize. Sometimes I get tunnel-vision and I need a swift kick to get me out of it. Usually my swift kick comes from my husband. He’s my go-to guy to find my way out of the muddles that I create for myself.

But today I got that swift kick today during a conversation with my kids.

We have been having such a busy summer and we all felt the need to find a new balance somehow.

Elizabeth is working very hard on three large projects that keep us all hoping with her schedule and that leaves very little time for me to do lessons with John John.

People often ask me if we homeschool during the summer and the answer is YES. We homeschool all year round.

John and a BEST FRIEND
John is working on Pre-Algebra, US Government, writing, and gymnastics this summer. His lessons keep him busy enough to feel productive and free enough to get together with friends and have a nice summer. He is quite happy with the work that he has to do and I am thrilled with some of the sources we have used for the US Government.

The swift kick came when we started talking about how our schedule has been overwhelming us all a bit and I realized, for myself, that I have not been focusing on homeschooling at all!  I mean, AT ALL. My brain is just not there.

The work that John has been doing has been poorly planned by me; he has been an absolute trooper by continuing to soldier on with my attention being elsewhere.

Because of the busy schedule that I’ve been keeping, I have found it very difficult to keep my focus on John’s lessons; and he wants to stay on task.
He asked for my help!  So we have juggled our time around so that he and I could have some time together.

And I’m glad, because I’ve been missing that boy!