Sunday, March 31, 2013

Song for You

When my dad died four years ago, I wrote this "speech" to read at his wake. It turns out that I didn't read it...couldn't get through it.  But here it is, because I miss him...

Dad and I at my wedding in 1995
Dad and I are two very different people. Different world views. Different ways of living our lives.
And, for years, we focused on these differences and it wasn’t good. I never wanted it to be that way, neither did he. But we lived with it.

Then, a wonderful thing happened some years ago. It wasn’t a dramatic decision, it happened slowly, and we both saw it. We started seeing the places where we agreed, seeing places where we overlapped, and seeing the pieces of ourselves that we shared.

Dad and his Grands
To begin with, Dad and I realized that we shared a profound love of learning. What is the smallest particle, the farthest visible object, the newest and still-unnamed species, the history of Nero, of flight, of the pencil? There is hardly a subject that didn't interest us.
There isn’t a thing that Dad and I didn’t enjoy researching. Any subject that caught our fancy, we would research. Ants. Mars. How to best teach Mathematics. Radio Telescopes. King Ludwig II of Bavaria. New Zealand. Sound. Homeschool. Automobiles. Constellations.

I enjoy exploring and learning about everything that I come into contact with and I would often share it with Dad. He was delighted.

The love of learning. A nice gift to share.

Dad in my kitchen
Many, many, many times, Dad and I shared news stories about atomic and sub-atomic level discoveries and light year away discoveries. Genome research and Mars Explorer research. And we would exclaim, It’s a Great Time to Be Alive! And it is!

Sharing our excitement about and loving the process of finding out MORE.

The love of language. 
The English language is a weird, intricate, difficult, and beautiful language to learn. Dad and I loved learning where words and phrases come from and why we use them the way that we do. Why cargo is shipped and shipments move in cars. Where did the word “Chaos” come from (related to chasm, from Greek and Latin for gaping abyss). Idioms that seem, after a second glance, to make no sense!

“A Fine Kettle of Fish”, “Feeling puny”, “Across the Board”, “Hair of the Dog”, “Turning the Tables” and “Getting a Handle on it”. 

Dad about three weeks before he died
As a little girl I often went into his room at night where he would be laying reading by his little bedside light, reading one of his many books on language. He would read them to me or point out excerpts from the book. I loved that. Even as a kid I knew that those moments with him were important and special to me. That is probably one of the reasons that I read to my children each night.  

I enjoy thinking about him, there, on the bed, readying a book by that puny little light.

And then there is Science. Every field of science.  Every period of scientific history. Every scientist.  Dad and I couldn’t get enough of it.

So when Jerry and the kids and I got so heavily into astronomy, Dad and I had a hey day (an expression from 15th century England, meaning “high day”) exploring the website Astronomy Picture of the Day. For days and weeks we shared new discoveries about astronomy with one another. As Dad would say, a body can never get enough of that!

Another thing that I noticed recently about Dad and I is that we just don’t judge others. We notice  differences, maybe try to understand them, and then embrace them. I think that that quality in Dad made him a particularly nice person to talk to about new ideas.

When it came to our family choice to homeschool, Dad did lots of research on it. I shared some websites with him and he shared some with me.  Within a short period of time, he supported it 110%. He even went to far as to send me subscriptions to excellent online resources to share with the kids.  

So, in the end, despite our disagreements, despite the difficulties of the past, and despite our different personalities, we found these small places of agreement, places where we came together.

Dad and his lifelong best friend
And we did that because, as all peacemakers know, that is the way to create true, meaningful, and lasting reconciliation. And we had that. Maybe it took me a little bit longer, but I finally realized that Accepting a person for who and what they are, without the need to change or fit into my idea of them, is the truest form of love. And Dad and I did that in our own quiet way.

As for me, I will miss my dad. And knowing that he loved me, I will move forward. And, you might wonder, will I take these pieces that I shared with Dad and hand them down to my children, Elizabeth and John John?  ...Pr’haps.


Dad and I were "talking" online the night he died.  We were sharing a particular song. I hold on to that often whenever I need to feel close to him. Here it is. I hope you can find someone with whom you can share this song too. It's wonderful.

Dad and his lifelong best friend, Chuckie, and Dad's beloved dog

Sorry...I'm an Interfationist

And that is not a novitious word.  I CONSTANTLY interrupt when people are talking. Not just during my hebephrenic years, but now too!

Scroggins! I can't stop myself! At times this unthew makes me erupt in erubescency. It's like I have ten questions and other flabberdegaz for everything a person utters and I can't stop myself from asking the questions!

I fell like I am being roinish...yet I must know! I mean it as no grithbruch. ...what is her name? When did you meet? Where did you find it? Who else was there? Is he married? What will he do next? What were the choices? How did you know? Who made that choice?
I'm so sorry for my squackett!

But even more importantly, I want to share this blog with you.  With no further cunctation, it is called Obsolete Word of the Day.  The blogger is no longer updating the blog, but there are a few years worth of delightfully obfuscating words to ensorcell you!

P.S.   All gynotikolbamassophiles unwelcome here!

novitious:  newly-created
unthew:  bad habit
erubescency:  blushing for shame
flabberdegaz:  nonsensical talk
roinish:  rude, despicable 
grithbruch:  breach of the peace
squackett:  to make a disagreeable noise with the mouth
hebephrenic:  adolescent silliness
Scroggins!:  expressing astonishment
cunctation:  delay
ensorcell:  delight
gynotilolobamassopnile:  a person who likes to nibble on women's earlobes.  Seriously.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Have you heard of the Carnival of Homeschooling?
Each week a different homeschool blog puts out a post that includes posts from a variety of homeschool blogs that have been submitted to them.
Here is my last carnival from a year or so ago:
Here is the most current Carnival of Homeschooling for example:

Next week I am hostessing the carnival.
If you have a homeschool blog and have the NOYV, send me a blog post to include in my carnival!  You can leave it in a comment won't be published as a comment...

Include this information:

Name of your blog:
URL of your blog:Name of your post:
URL of your post:
Brief summary of your post:
Brief, catchy, pithy description of yourself, including your first name:

PLEASE submit by Sunday night, March 31st.


A Query from a Confused Parent

The Doctor and I
I have an issue and I could use your input! My daughter The Doctor often feels a longing for new friendships while she really doesn't put any effort into finding, creating, enriching new friendships.

I find myself putting effort into it, then putting space between myself and her friendship efforts, then going back to putting effort into it... I'm not at all sure I can do anything. 

I try to keep out of it...until she, again, asks for my help. But I don't see her putting effort into it... Why not? What do you think? Is this even a problem? Isn't it kind of normal?

And, YES, she is kind of shy, kind of not. She is anxious to meet new people. She is very open to friendships with a large variety of people. But kind of lackadaisical about putting any effort out there... I dunno, kind of normal, really!

Any ideas or input??????


P.S.  Some of the coolest and best people read my blog!  THANK YOU!

Are Homeschoolers Weird?

A young woman who reads my blog, Lana, has her own blog called Wide Open Unfundamental Conversation. She often talks about her frustrations about having been brought up as a homeschooler, and feeling that she was very isolated during her teen years, years that she feels are the fundamental and essential years of friendship formation. Lana recently wrote a post called Home School Girl (and Learning that it's Okay) that grabbed my attention. 

Lana, an excellent thinker, an excellent person, feels the need to put her truth out there:  being homeschooled was NOT a good socialization situation for her. She feels outside of groups, unable to relate to "normal" kids, and longs to be "normal". And, furthermore, she has readers who absolutely shared similar experiences.

I can honestly say that my daughter, The Doctor, Liz, goes through periods such as this. The Doctor is a terrifically emotive person. She is so in tune to herself and others and she notices so much and she questions so many things. She doesn't get groups of kids from school.

The Doctor decided to go to school a time or two as a result of this feeling. She wanted to know what "normal" kids do. She wanted to become a part of that giggly group of girls at the mall, walking along, texting on their phones, and telling secrets. She wanted to know what those normal kids had that she felt that she didn't have.

So she did go. She took the bull by the horns went to school. She's been to school during kindergarten, third grade, and eighth grade. Looking for "normal". I was proud as hell of her and I supported her in total.

She had supremely high hopes. But what she found was far different than what she expected. Kids weren't nice. Kids were rude to their teachers and to each other.  Kids were cruel to one another very openly. Kids weren't open to meeting anyone new. She definitely wasn't befriended.

Her overall experience was fine, she wasn't offended at not having been befriended. Instead, after having been "inside", she felt informed. She felt grateful to not being a part of these kids who were all worshiping fad clothing, Justin Bieber, and the popular kids. She felt gratitude and deeply proud of her homeschool friends who are all very unique, very well-spoken, and very open with who they are. She actually felt sorry for the kids who had their uniqueness squashed, teased, tormented. She saw, with new eyes, that those girls in the mall are a small piece of a very large puzzle and those girls don't represent most of the kids, only the most visible part.

My Daughter,
The Amazing  Doctor,
She totally chooses homeschooling.

I think you are amazing.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Experts Reveal: What Children Want from Us

As complicated as kids make our lives, they also, somehow, help us to simplify as well.  While we may be learning the difference between ibuprofen and acetaminophen, we are also figuring out which is more important the extra-curricular class or being together for dinner each evening.  I can't help but notice that we parents tend to make our own lives slightly crazy by all of the complicated decisions we must make for the sake of our children.  Decisions ranging from health care to education choices to lifestyle choices.

Should we use only organic foods?  Is it too cool to go without a sweater?  Should we give our children allowance, how much and how often?  How open should we be about sexuality?  Which are the best books to enhance character development?  Which doctor is kid-friendly and homeopathic?  Which doctor does not use natural treatment options?  Should we get her braces?  Does a child really need to take a second language?  Is it too early for him to take the bus by himself?  What should my child know about war?  Minecraft:  yes or no?  Should my child have a cell phone?  Which apps are ok?  When should she start paying for her own snacks at the movies?  How much TV is ok?  Which shows?

It can be pretty awful and that's just a tiny drop in the bucket!  Dang, sometimes weeks go by where I haven't worried about something all night long...

It can be tough figuring out where to put our energy for the benefit of our kids. But when we go to the experts, the kids themselves, they tell us their secrets:  we find out what is truly important to them.  I found this on and has to pass it along to you.

The Top 10 Things Children Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them 

  1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.  Last night, after reading this, I went upstairs and tucked each kid in, again.  And they were both so snugly and happy about that.
  2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.  Not surprising, actually, because this is exactly what I want from them!
  3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.  It doesn't even have to be a special activity, just bring one kid with you when you go shopping, to pick up the cleaning or prescriptions, or just to take the mail up to the post office.  Just a few minutes together can really bring a sparkle to their eyes!  Bonobo likes to hang out with me for chores that I run and The Doctor likes us to sit together when we read our own separate books. 
  4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.  While my own kids don't appreciate this on a daily basis, overall they have told me how grateful they are for the many different fruits and veggies that they have tried.
  5. At dinner talk about what we could do together on the weekend.  Thinking about the freedom we have on the weekends to include Jerry in our trips really takes the planning up a few notches!
  6. At night talk to me about about anything; love, school, family etc.  The deep, dark just invites closeness and intimacy.  We have, lately, been playing cards at the table with most of the lights off in the house.  Our little table becomes the focus.  And OMGoodness do we laugh!
  7. Let me play outside a lot.  Without a doubt, Bonobo gets the most joy of the day from uninhibited free play.  But the The Doctor, too, sparkles after a quick trip around a couple of blocks. Admittedly it is BEAUTIFUL down here!
  8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.  They especially like it when I watch their favorite matter how ridiculous I find them...
  9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care.  Would it surprise you to hear that The Doctor has, more than once, thanked me for putting limitations and expectations on her?  She has!  She has told me that she is actually grateful for me having her wait until she is older before she could date.  She said it let her relax about it and not fret about not having a boyfriend yet.
  10. Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.  This one is a family tradition from way back, borrowed from my sister Brenda.  No one goes on a long trip or an overnight without ruffling through their bags for notes!
Children are incredibly wise and tend to see the world more simply than we do. Perhaps it is time we start taking their advice. Maybe we would all feel a little less stressed and be more satisfied with the fact that doing little things really is… good enough.


If you enjoyed this post please try this one:
Advice from Expert Homeschoolers
Or you may like this one:

You are not Alone

Many people find their way to my blog for the first time when they are looking for other secular homeschoolers.  It's a wide, wide world out there, and pretty cold too.  It can feel like being a secular homeschooler is like the sound of one hand clapping or one leg marching.  ...pretty quiet.

Homeschooling is gaining in popularity.  But secular homeschoolers still find themselves calling into crevices for information.  Not to mention curriculum.

But relax and know that I am here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Being Alive

Do you know what?
I'm thrilled being alive right now.

Sure, I blinked and it's already 2013, but the thing is, I love being alive at this time. No, things aren't perfect. I see lots of bad stuff in the world; it's hard to miss. In fact, life seems to be pretty precarious, all things considered. But I find myself tending to spend my energy thinking of the great things, the transcendence, the survival, the wonder.

Right now, things are really kicking assWhat our species has been able to accomplish during my lifetime makes me feel proud of our speciesHopeful.

Maybe it's because I tend to surround myself with beautiful people and I have learned the hard way to leave others out of my life, and maybe it sounds cliche' and maybe it sounds sappy, but I see the world and this life as a truly beautiful thing. Is it because I have learned that long life lesson of standing up for myself and my self. Is it because I'm finally so happy living in my own skin? Is it because I am living a life of integrity and compassion and kindness? Is it because I get to look into the eyes of true beauty each day? Is it because the world keeps turning my way? Is it because I am so in love with the Southern Cross? It could be all of these, or none of them.

Life is incredibly beautiful regardless of my awareness or lack of awareness of it.

Anyway, the point of my post today is to celebrate being alive.  And even more than that.

I want to encourage you, to remind you to LIVE your life. Do not waste your precious time and energy on guilt and shame that others want you to feel. Do not give in to the smear campaign that so many people do on freethinkers, on people outside of the box, on questioners, on atheists, or on anyone the smearers don't agree with.

Do not go to sleep in anger. SEIZE the opportunity to just SAY IT.  Say what needs to be said. Apologize. Express your love. Ask the questions that need asking. Be your true self. Use your own voice and say it. Do not tolerate being victimized. Do not victimize others. Slow down and see the world around you.

You are alive at this most amazing of times.
Remember to LIVE.

Sorry if this is sappy.
But it had to be said!

If you enjoyed this post please check out: 
A Brief Interaction
Star Craving Mad

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Compassion is not a Tactical Advantage

You know, Mom, being compassionate and having empathy is a very human thing. And compassion has its advantages and its disadvantages. In wartime, the guy who is willing to take risks for the benefit of others will be a desirable guy to have in the long run. People will be willing to support him, build a team around him, trust him. But it can also not be a benefit to have empathy. I mean, in every alien invasion movie the aliens can set traps using the "weakness" of the compassion of humans.

However that is also an advantage, having a strong need to rescue people in need, because a person's empathy might make that person more determined than ever to do whatever is necessary to rescue people he cares about or to support causes that matter to him.


If you, as a parent, are concerned about how homeschooling transfers cultural values on to your children, allow me to become tiresome and redundant by reminding you:

What has your child said lately that has blown you away?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Silly Titles

Sometimes I wonder just what brings people to this blog.
I look myself right in the eye and say:  Silly Titles

Also, the sarcasm.  I'm heavy on sarcasm.
And the skeptical subtext.  I'm hell on subtext.

But what are the qualities of this blog that bring the readers in like heathens to a Sunday morning yard sale...besides great turns of phrase...

And so, in the spirit of celebrating my blog, entertainment ether destination of a few, here is my top ten list of what, of this blog, I think appeals to my readers:
  1. The frequent revelations of our exciting homeschool schedule.  (Who doesn't want to read about someone else's unit studies?!)
  2. The blatant but rare surly tone when discussing popular cultural icons that I find particularly insipid and banal.  (Sorry Oprah.)
  3. My saucy repartee.
  4. Really cool self-made clip art.
  5. My authentic and blushing "voice".
  6. My inspired...rants.
  7. My slightly neurotic use of correct grammar
  8. The pathetic attempt to make something out of nothing.
  9. And my "glass is half full" pessimism.  
  10. TMI
Actually, the truth is, I'm thinking how very sappy much of this blog is.  I seriously want this blog to be a sincere support to atheists who are scared to be "out" and a sincere support to parents out there who are wanting to homeschool.  I think the homeschool thing is taking care of its self these days.  Homeschooling has become far more mainstream and has finally begun to shake off the negative propaganda and myths.  Atheism still has some work to do, but it's gaining momentum.

So, then, why do I blog anymore?
In all honestly, I think I really get a rush from "meeting" people who come to my blog, read, and then leave comments for me.  I enjoy the relationships I have built with a few, wonderful people.

But what am I doing?  I'm not sure I have much more to say.
I'm not sure anyone wants to read my stuff.
I'm just thinking I might have run my course...


Addendum, March 20, 2013

OK, OK, I've been reading the love and I will keep on.
It means alot to me that this blog means alot to you.
I will probably take a bit of time off, though, unless some inspiration hits me.

In the meantime, in the comments below, leave me with questions, if you like.  It would be helpful to me and I can write some posts in response to things that interest you.

Thanks for the love, Karen

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dear Husband

Dear Jerry,
Day after day I bring anxiety and drama to your life. You, the solid, logical, pragmatic computer geek. Yet somehow you give me support and love and acceptance without adding to my negative self image in the slightest bit; somehow you reduce that negativity.

You help me to see the beautiful things of life. In fact, together we created two of the most beautiful things.

You help me to find my way through the absolute crap that muddles my imaginings so that I can figure out what is essential and meaningful and personally vital. Those times when I am my own worse enemy. When I am doubting myself and all of our choices.  Those times when I have forgotten myself...

You are the ISTJ to my ENFP. Somehow, you are an ISTJ who thinks and feels and values those parts of me that I struggle to value.
You are the homeschool advocate at times when I can't be.

Your genuinely good heart and wisdom sometimes still surprise me. Funny how those first years of life are so hard to break away from. Those years with my Fam of origin seem so very real somehow, no matter how far away they really are and they still hold me back with the messed up values. You are the present for me.

We laugh every single day. Every. Single. Day.
You are the best friend I never thought I'd have.
I love you.

If you liked this post you might also enjoy:
I've Been Framing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Essential Homeschooling Strategies

Getting to be a great homeschooling parent takes time. During that first year of homeschooling be prepared to go to bed each night with some fear in your heart. Fear of messing up the very kids you are trying to free. Fear of failing your most beloved children. Fear of being inadequate. Fear of forgetting things. I remember feeling anxious much of the time those first twelve months of homeschooling.

It took me about a full year before I realized something comforting... we were homeschooling. We were doing it! (We had been doing it all along!) Feeling confident and strong in homeschooling comes with time. I promise!

There is no silver bullet for homeschooling a child, of course. An important part of parents choosing to homeschool our kids is often knowing that each child is unique and wanting to preserve and celebrate that uniqueness. So why do we think there should be a known, prescribed way to teach our children?!!! (good point, eh?)

One of the best things we can do, as parents, is recognize, support, and love the uniqueness of our children.  In homeschool or not.
  1. Don't pay huge sums of money on materials. Unless you feel it necessary, the first year use your library, your community, your computer. The world is a wonderful place.
  2. Pay attention to their current interests.  Use their areas of interest as jumping off points for lessons.  For example, when my son is very involved with Minecraft (and if your child is not involved with Minecraft, please tell me your secret!  LOL) I have used Minecraft examples in math, language, art, and science. One example is how we made pixilated images for an art project. He couldn't get enough of creating pixilated worlds. 
    Another example is drama.  Both of the kids are into drama, especially Lizzie. For her literature we have read many plays, monologues, and one acts. From those readings we have learned history, language, geography, etc in context.  tarting some topics "early" with your child, especially if they are already interested in a subject, gives them a greater ability to understand higher levels of work later.
  3. Which brings me to a simple concept. Start topics "early". Don't wait to introduce your child to subject matter that interests them simply because some chart somewhere recommends it for some later age! If your child is interested in the upcoming eclipse, explain the mechanics and physics of that event using correct terminology. Nothing like giving them "advanced" knowledge in context. NOT living within the context of someone else's schedule is what gives homeschooling it's advantages. Your children are very capable of understanding advanced chemistry if they are interested in it. They will find a way to learn it!
  4. Give them independence.  The other day I gave the kids a topic (anthropology) and had them go off and create a project with it. I heard lots of noise and activity for a couple of hours. When they came back they had created a video of an interview with Java Man. Had it been on my head, I would never have thought of that idea!  It was only by giving them an idea and letting them run with it that such a project was possible! And they enjoyed the freedom to do it as they wanted. They needed to do extra research, write a script, get make up and props, and rehearse. 
    It was amazing and they felt great for having used their own talents and imagination to create such a project. Your child might create a piece of art, design a board game, make something in the kitchen, or write their own short story.  Whatever they do, you will be surprised with their ingenuity!  In my case, it was great having them work together.
  5. Say "Yes".  While we are working on lessons together, if (WHEN) John John has a ridiculous
    suggestion for an activity to supplement what we are learning about, I say "YES". The other day they wrote and performed a song and dance about Bribie Island.  It was silly, it took awhile to get back to lessons, and I had to have the patience of ...well, a MOTHER, but it was a time they will always remember fondly. Also, they still break into Bribie Island song.  LOL
  6. Move to another location.  This may sound like an awful lot of work, but try picking up and driving to the library or the local park. There are far more distractions in alternative locations, but there are also more opportunity for exploring something new in a new way. Don't be afraid to put down the book and look closely at something in the moment. In fact, embrace it!
    For example, yesterday we were at a local excellent Queensland park. While looking at an amazing 500 year old tree we saw, at its base, a collection of tiny mushrooms and an ant colony. Just imagine the length of time these life forms have lived together in harmony. And, while at the library take a chance, reach behind you, grab a book completely unfamiliar. Send your kids out to choose a book on a subject completely foreign to all of you. You never know, that book on clothing from the 1700's might just surprise all of you! You don't always have to have a plan!
  7. When in doubt, start with reading aloud together.  Maybe the poetry is absolutely dull. Maybe the history is Too Long Ago. Maybe the mollusks are simply too familiar. Reading the material aloud, even in English accents, is STILL reading the material. I know this one first hand. We enjoy reading poetry aloud
    Please use silly voices. My kids remember lots of memorized verse simply because we treated it in this manner. I am certain that had we been serious about it, well, let's just say they wouldn't have it in their heads right now.
  8. Flexibility is more than just timing.  It also refers to approaches, materials, teaching styles. If you find yourself pulling teeth to get your children engaged, perhaps it's time to switch to something else for awhile. You can always come back to Marcus Aurelius. After a quick segue into writing and singing a rap song about him. Or creating some excellent Greek skirmishes in Lego. Or try going the Greco-Roman shuffle... 
    My point is that, for most kids, sitting and studying is tantamount to nap time. That is normal, truly. When you see the zoned-out eyes and the somnambulist appearance, switch gears enough to get some cranial fluid moving.
    Teachers do it!  Get physical.
    I have been known to move the kids from the table to their laptops where they took notes on a Word document. The important point here, flexibility is a must. We parents who were "schooled" often struggle to look outside-of-the-box for our approaches and our expectations for our kids. Also, when materials aren't working, don't grind it! Get rid of them and find something more interactive and engaging.
  9. Getting together with friends for projects is always a winner.  A friend and I recently got together and did an earth timeline on toilet paper. Together the kids counted out 35 squares for the Precambrian age all the way down to a tenth of a square for the Industrial Revolution. The comments and light bulb moments with all of the kids' involvement is priceless. Don't forget the idea of co op class! Offering classes to other homeschoolers is always a GREAT idea to get kids involved in something complex or less engaging in an imaginative way.
  10. Keep materials in one organized and handy location.  Do you have a dresser? How about some crates? It isn't necessary to have a homeschool room or shelf as long as there is a single place to return all materials to at the end of the day. We functioned out of milk crates for a long time! There is nothing more frustrating than starting work again and again because you can no longer find pages and books.
  11. Let your kids know what work is expected during a given day and let them figure out how to get it done. Time management and approaches might change from day to day, but the lessons involved in figuring logistics out are innumerable. My kids have been known to bring books and materials and keep working even while on field trips or in the car simply because they want to have their work completed quickly. I use a page that I made where I write down work expected for a given day and the kids use that page to refer to in order to get all of their lessons done independently.
  12.  If you haven't spent any time figuring out your child's preferred learning style, do so. This is one of the best parts of homeschooling, tailoring lessons to your child, and showing them how to tailor materials themselves. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Skills and growth areas? I found some free online tests for figuring out learning style.
  13. Additionally, figure out your own biases.  Do you think children should sit and study quietly? Do you prefer to be outdoors? Do you enjoy learning games online? Do you want to read in circle time and then do projects? Do you find it difficult to do lessons after lunch? Have you thought about researching these things and then talking about it with the kids??? How informed they will be when they understand their own "preferred" learning methods! Now that's self knowledge!
  14. Use the computer.  Having a computer-literate child is essential in the world today. Use youtube, pinterest, edlearner, TEDtalks, News Sources, Project Free TV, Khan Academy, Google Earth, Online magazines, online games, Wikipedia, and the millions of other resources on the net to keep your children up-to-date on current things. Learn Power Point, word processing, Google+, typing, CAD, film editing, researching, photo editing, online courses and lectures... The list is nearly endless. There is no excuse to not use the computer daily. It is such a cornucopia of information...I am overwhelmed with its abundance. Keep Current!
  15. Model a world view.  Pay attention to what is going on in the world and keep a global paradigm going with topics. Walk a mile in the shoes of people from other times and places. What better way to learn respect for all people.
  16. Forget grade levels.  If you are homeschooling more than one child, chances are you have been or are overwhelmed with trying to do everything for everyone. I humbly suggest my approach for your consideration. There is absolutely no reason to "dumb down" materials for a younger child. We have all seen our children grasp concepts that we have thought them too young to understand. Let's not underestimate their abilities! 
    Teach your children as a group. I bring together my two kids and work on the same material at the same time. My younger son is almost always able to reach up and grasp the concepts we are working on. If necessary we can go back and bring him up to speed; in fact, sometimes I have my daughter take a few minutes to bring him up to date.
    For the most part, I have found it very rewarding to introduce "upper level" concepts early. Some homeschooling parents find this counterproductive. Try it. Use it when it works and don't use it when it doesn't. Simplify, streamline, and encourage discussion!
  17. Recognize the need for down times.  Notice when your child is engaged and can put in some extra time. Also notice when your child needs to quit. These times may not be optimal times in your estimation, but they are optimal in your child's!
  18. Live and Learn.  Don't be afraid to change!

I'll bet you found this blog post late, late at night as you are surfing the internet for advice on how to best educate your child. Imagine those early parents who didn't have the internet! How did they do it????!!!!!!!

If you are homeschooling, remember, it's not the same as School At Home. It isn't necessary to be School At Home. Embrace the freedom and opportunity to celebrate your child and to focus on his or her needs specifically. And don't forget, we're all in this together! You have plenty of time to raise these kids. Relax and enjoy the ride!

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also like: 
Thirteen Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Homeschooling When I Got Started 
A Day in the Life 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Star Craving Mad

In November of 2012 our family flew up to Cairns Queensland to see a total solar eclipse.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and casts a shadow on the earth. People in that shadow spot experience the dimming of the sun behind the disc of the moon.

Seems like it would happen all of the time, but a total solar eclipse is quite special. I remember one happening in my hometown in 1973. I was at school and only a few of us in class that day knew anything about it and expressed any interest in observing it. (My house was directly behind the school and my dad came over to the school that day, bringing safe observing glasses!)

Our trip to Cairns was quite beautiful and tropical and memorable. But that total eclipse is a moment in time that I think about again and again. I can only describe it as...magical.

The eclipse occurred quite early in the morning, about 7am. We went down to the beach, along with several hundred observers from all over the world. (Apparently there is a solar eclipse subculture out there where enthusiasts travel all over the world to observe these moving phenomenon.) We set up our camera and viewing equipment and waited for the ridiculously heavy cloud cover to move out of the way. Sadly, it lingered.

I did not get a good shot of it
Through our eclipse viewers, through the thinning clouds, we could see when the eclipse began. The lighted disc of the sun looked like a broken cookie, then a waning moon, then a Cheshire cat's grin. The light of the day didn't seem to dim for a long time. The tide slowly crept in. Sea gulls continued their crustacean search. And people on the beach were silent.

The crucial moment came and there was a small break in the clouds! Just long enough for a ten second glimpse of the total eclipse! The sky dimmed to early dawn light. The birds were absolutely silent. People cheered. The light was so eerie, surreal, affecting. I remember sitting there, with full understanding of the mechanics of the dimmed light, thinking If I didn't understand why this was happening, I would be frightened of a supernatural event!  I would run and hide in fear!
The darkness, the silence, the creeping chill...Totality.

That moment, when everything seemed to go still. I was alone with my family at the beach, holding arms around one another, in the pre-dawn-like light, bonded. It was a primal feeling. It is a moment that I find absolutely indescribable. 

I go back to that moment in my mind and feel that mysticism of the moment...

Slowly the locals moved up the beach to begin their day. But we stayed on the beach that day as the cloud cover moved away and through our safety lenses we could see the moon passing to the left of the sun like a bite out of an Oreo. For almost an hour we sat as the tide crept towards our toes, the moon crept out of sight, and the sun so much brighter and clearer than imaginable.

I recall that very human pull of religion, magic, mysticism...even in spite of knowing the science.

Looking forward to being home in St. Louis for the next one in 2017.
Now I understand the Total Addiction.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Part 5 of 5: Prospective Homeschool Parents: SOCIALIZATION

Welcome to this last 
in a five part series of blogs 
specifically for
the prospective homeschool parent.

Are you online this evening surfing and surfing and surfing for information on homeschooling and fretting about it? Is there a possibility that you are considering homeschooling your children and would love to read some advice from seasoned homeschooling parents? 

If so, STOP the presses. Put down the surf board and RELAX.  You have found what you are looking for.

This is going to simplify things for you a bit. I have a large group of friends who homeschool. Between us we have over 100 years of experience homeschooling! In order to gather information for you, I asked each of them all to fill out a survey of sorts, looking for wisdom to share with prospective homeschooling parents. In this series I have shared much of the wisdom of these moms.

This post is about SOCIALIZATION.

For some reason this myth of homeschooling still pervades the internet and the fears of families considering homeschooling in spite of the many research studies and supportive propaganda.  Although I have done many posts on this subject, I will let the homeschool moms share their wisdom with you:

Darlene suggests that socialization in public schools is what should really be questioned:
Socialization is the process of learning to be a functioning member of society.
It is specifically not taught in schools.
It is easy to model when a child is exposed to the larger world.

Cathy, long time homeschooler, is uniquely qualified to calm your socialization fears:

Socialization was great, as the kids found themselves with many different ages and sorts of people, all the time, and learned to be strong and yet to get along. Socializing was also fantastic, ranging from Girl Scouts and dance classes with neighborhood kids to hanging out a ton with somewhat far-flung homeschoolers in our wonderful support group!

Rebecca has this lovely story to tell about socialization with her daughter:
My children are very good socially, talk to people of any age very confidently, and they are not ageist at all. My 8 year old invited an elderly neighbor he talks to over the wall, who I hadn't really met, to his birthday party - and he and his wife came, and are really nice! They get on with other children, teenagers and adults with no problems at all. They talk to people in shops, on the beach, wherever we go. The last thing that concerns me is "socialization".

Korin, confident homeschooling mom, states:
The socialization thing is not a real issue, that is a made up problem to frighten people who want to go outside the norm. One of the postives I do see from HSing is that my kids are NOT exposed to the type of dysfunctional socialization that goes on in any brick and mortar school.

And Angie says:
Socialization?  It's a myth. If you want your kids to become 'socialized,' then you don't keep them secluded at every opportunity. I've known traditional schooled kids that never took a trip to the grocery store or the post office with their parents. Believe me, they were Un-socialized! Interact with your children and find meet ups in the area. You'd be surprised how many like-minded people you'll find just by reaching out even slightly.

I have about a dozen other replies to this question, but most of them sound like this:
Socialization?  Sure, I let them out of their shackles every now and then.

ADDENDUM after Sophelia's comment below:

My 15-year old daughter, a homeschooler for 10 years has this to say about socialization:
It is possible to have good socialization, but it's hard. You have to figure out what you like and follow through with it. To meet people, I have had to be very deliberate, and do the hard things. 

It's not easy because I'm kind of shy. But kids are interested in hearing about homeschooling and that starts up some good conversations.

It's difficult here in Australia because there are few people my age. The friends that I do have here are always busy with school, work, and boyfriends.

Back home I don't have that problem because most of my friends homeschool and it's easier to get together with them and go places.  We are a close group back home. In a good week, I hang out with friends several times a week  Our parents encourage our time together.

What I find the hardest is getting the courage to talk to people. My parents often help me get started with friendships, but it can be difficult meeting new people who are open to friendships because they already have lots of friends and aren't open to adding new friends.

I have figured out that what you can't say to new people is "I don't have many friends here in Australia" and the people I say this to treat me oddly when I say that. But I've been here for several months and maybe I have scared them away by saying that.
I can honestly say that here, in Australia, I don't see friends often enough. I appreciate it when Mom works hard to schedule get-togethers with me, I'm a bit shy in setting days up by myself... 

Having close friendships is vital to most human beings, and doubly so for kids. Schooling children come with a ready-made pool of children to choose from, it's true. But that doesn't mean that all will be ducky; for example I had a very lonely childhood in my school.  But that advantage of a pool of children doesn't come ready-made for homeschooling families. I have put a great deal of effort into our entire homeschool experience, including friendships. I guess the caring parent will do everything they can to create friendships for their children.

I have to say that time with friends is a thing that we work hard on, create deliberately, and give lots of focus to. Our circumstances are quite different from most families, but it can be said that each family is unique unto themselves. Friendships will be easy for some to create and difficult for others. No one can tell you today what things will look like for you tomorrow. John has been trying to build a friendship with S, a school kid down here who lives just a house or two away. Although S is often home, he is not open to a friendship with my son. In fact, just this afternoon John told me that he is going to stop trying. I am mentioning this because being a homeschooler or not does not have as much to do with friendships as personality does in many cases. In this case, S is being pressured by people around him to NOT be friends with John...

Once a family begins homeschooling and finding the homeschooling community in their area, they are often pleasantly surprised with the many resources out there for homeschool families. Homeschool groups and co ops, frequent play dates, hobby groups, scouts, sports, neighbor kids, etc. can be good places to start. Your imagination is your only limitation!

As for a specific response to Sophelia, it is always possible to find people who are not educating their children in the healthiest way, who are not raising their children in the best possible way, who are living so outside-of-the-box that their children do not experience child-centered childhoods. That goes for homeschoolers and schoolers of all kinds. I am sincerely sorry when I meet people who were not given the best resources possible. It's not fair. Do we blame Sophelia's parents for Sophelia feeling so ill-prepared for life? We could, surely. But, rather, let's learn from her.

Let's recognize that raising children is a full-time job whether they are in school or not. Good things happen and bad things happen to children regardless of their learning options. Sophelia sincerely wishes for children to be raised in loving and protecting homes that offer dynamic opportunities for moving through the world. And don't we all.

Thank you, Sophelia, for asking me to make this post be more meaningful. You are absolutely right that I didn't put much thought into the post at all. And for something so important?! My sincere apologies. I'm glad you called me on it

Homeschoolers DO get tired of the socialization questions. But that doesn't mean they don't take it seriously. We do!  Even more specifically, Sophelia's comment about having been poorly-socialized, "I felt this way, and many of my homeschooled peers also went through periods of great depression when they began attending university and couldn’t cope socially" is very important for us to hear and to hear again. A couple of readers of this blog, themselves homeschool alum, often write on their about their on-going difficulties in life that seem to be a result of not having had enough time with similarly-aged friends growing up.

We, as parents, are trying our best. We do what we do in order to make good lives for our children. So, feedback from others in our shoes is absolutely essential for our improvement. Is it awful for me to use your cautionary tales as a lesson for myself? I hope not because I am doing that.  

I have spent many hours discussing friendships with my daughter and son. (Many of the above homeschooling moms do not have children who are teens as mine are.) It is my hope, my desire, that all parents work hard at having good, close relationships with their children so that they can frequently assess the needs of their children and teens...and so they can respond to those needs.

And, as for socialization, with sincere effort, it really can be wonderful being a homeschooler!


I will be hostessing the upcoming Carnival of Homeschooling on April 2nd.
PLEASE, to my readers and blogger friends, submit some great reading material for this homeschool carnival!
You can send it to me directly at:  karen.loethen Ampersand