Category Archives: Homeschooling

Do My Kids Ever Ask Me to Go to School?

3/4/22

Yes, have they! There have been times my kids have asked me to send them to real school. How many times? I don’t know. Definitely depends on which kid. Definitely depends on the age. I’ve noticed the requests the most from about 4th grade to about 9th grade, depending on the person.

This is the time, I feel, when their personalities, the identity they choose is emerging and budding and growing. They want to know. They want to fit in. They don’t want to miss out. They feel like mom is holding them back from the herd. It’s all mom’s fault.

Sometimes it’s easy to divert their arguments about going to school.

For example, my kids wake up on their own morning rhythm to do school. So sometimes pointing out that many kids have to get up each day, every day at 6:00 am to get to school quiets their requests. Also, my kids are done with school when their work is finished. Some days, my kids can finish school early. Pointing out that kids are in school from 8:00 am to 3:20 pm and go home with homework can diminish requests to be sent to school.

Then, other times, it’s not so easy. I’ve done all the right things, like trying to figure out what the daughter feels she is missing, trying to enroll her in activities to fulfill missing gaps (art classes or extra-curricular sports), trying to change up how I teach material. But the requests and accusations keep coming.

And for us, it has never been, “Hey, Mom. The high school here has the most amazing math class. I’ve heard great things about it. Think I could try it?” It has been about people. They want to be with people and have people things, depending on the age: lockers, buses, clubs, a crowd to belong to. And I get it. I like people too. I had these things. I’ve been there.

You’re ruining my life.

I can’t remember if one of my daughters has actually told me, “You’re ruining my life.” I’ve certainly felt the idea steaming off of them at certain times, even if they didn’t voice those words. And I do very, very much take note of their frustrations and work as hard as I can with them to meet their needs socially without sending them to school.

As much as school might allow opportunities for “a group,” it is kind of a strange socialization system to me. All the same ages pushed together. A weird hierarchy. Little autonomy. I just prefer to educate my kids at home and then help find them socialization opportunities in other ways.

Usually, the desire to go to school at our home revolves around nothing academic. I make it very clear that I am confident in the academic fiber of their homeschool. I let them know they can have people over to our house whenever they want. I’ll let them try activities they want.

No matter what I say, there have been two or three times when I finally just had to say this:

“I’m not here to ruin your life. If you think that school is the answer and will give you what you need, I will set up the appointments for us to go meet with them. I will let you go investigate and ask them questions. If you still want to go after interviewing them, then you can go.”

I homeschool because I want my kids to have a great education. I want them to know their family. I want them to have more time to learn diverse topics that they might not have time to learn well if they went to school (Spanish, how to play an instrument, and art). I want to give them the opportunity to explore more of the world through learning.

But if one of my kids really, really thinks that school will fix her problems, and I’ve tried everything, then I have to let her try. But not till after we’ve turned every other rock.

Another reason that I homeschool is so my kids can learn to express themselves under the guidance of a woman who loves them, tries to understand them, and who wants them to learn to communicate their true wants and needs.

If after lots of talking and trying everything else and looking at the heart of matters and also looking into the future of their education with them and their life goals they still want to go meet with the school hierarchy, we will do so.

But I’m graduating one this year, and she stuck our school out!

Terri F

Why Would You Quit?

2/25/2022

I forget that quitting your career as a medical doctor to homeschool your children intrigues some people. “Why would you go through all that work and then quit?” It was mentioned to me a couple of times this last week, so I thought I might write a little more about this today and in the weeks to come. There was a lot of processing to do to swallow my pride and follow the path I knew I needed to take.

Deciding to stop practicing medicine was a hard, humbling decision, but the decision was already made for me by the fabric of who I am and what drives me.

There is nothing on this Earth more important to me than the integrity and well-being of my family. Every decision I make revolves around the stability, wholeness, and health of our unit.

I don’t care what the world says. Children are given to parents to foster, encourage, instruct, care for, nurture, feed, provide for, learn about, and develop a relationship with. A secure family is truly an amazing, comforting flat stone which your foot rests firmly on when you’re stuck in the mud of the world and can’t see your feet beneath the sludge. You stand on that stone strong and know that you can’t sink because it’s there, holding you steady till you can get out.

I Can Do It

I believe that somewhere says to every mother, “You are the best woman in the world to care for these kids. Can you do it?”

When I was asked, I stepped up boldly, and I said, “I CAN. I will do it. I will take my job seriously. I won’t let anyone down. My life depends on it.”

My life depends on it??!? Yeah. Frankly, I can see into the future. Well, not like that. But I am pretty sure that I’m going to be a pretty worried and frazzled mom for the rest of my life if my kids get into drugs, alcohol, choose a crummy husband, can’t hold a job, suffer from mental illness, can’t handle their finances responsibly, or can’t figure out how to parent their own children positively and responsibly. I want to be a dump and run grandma, not a raising grandma.

When I was in high school, my mom once remarked to me, “One of the most important things you can do is keep your kids off drugs and alcohol.” I observed, after she pointed this out to me, that many of my friends got involved in drugs and alcohol in high school, so I decided the time up to this time and this time itself, must be very, very formative, difficult times for children. (Duh?!) I challenged myself that when I had kids, I would work very hard to help them have the tools that my mom and dad gave to me which steered me away from drugs and alcohol.

From my mom, I learned how to be an emotionally connected and involved mom. From my mom, I also learned that a mom can show enough interest and give enough help in her children’s schooling that they can become lifelong learners and great students. My mom, from a poverty-stricken household of seven kids, only completed high school, but she could do basic math, spelling, and grammar, and she helped me do those things as long as she could, till my academic knowledge surpassed hers.

My mom was the best woman to raise me, and she took that seriously. Now, it’s my turn. And one day, it will, perhaps, be my children’s turn to answer the question, “You are the best woman for this job. Can you do it?”

What’s Inside Your Box?

Good mothering sets my kids up for peace, joy, and happiness. FROM THE INSIDE OUT. NOT THE OUTSIDE IN. There are many, many, many, many, many “boxes” (households/families) in the United States which put up the appearance of happiness. Inside, though, is a pain and hurt that I can’t imagine. I know it. I hear it first-hand. I’ve seen it. Severe verbal abuse and belittlement. Manipulation. Physical abuse. Molestation. Depression. Alcoholism. Drug parties. Denial. Hidden anxiety. Anger. Rage. 

Well, I’m growing long. I quit my career because I know myself well. I had to invest in my family. Even if it meant giving up money, prestige, power, reputation, helping others, and years of hard work. In order for my family to have what I wanted it to have, this is what I needed to do. I want true happiness for people. An inner happiness that can’t be stolen. I want it for me, and so I took it.

My “box” (my home and family) is genuinely happy. Sometimes I hesitate to say it. Like I have something I don’t deserve. Or I have something I shouldn’t tell others about. Or if I say it, it will all crumble away, and I’ll be made a fool. Or people will think I don’t have bumps in the road. Or I’ll be labeled a white woman born into it.

But, yet, if I don’t say it, perhaps it won’t be known that it is possible to have true peace, joy, and fulfillment within families. Perhaps people won’t realize that each decision they make is impactful, that if they didn’t just go around doing it the way it’s done or hiding from the hurt or choosing things which distract from the integrity of their families, that they could have that true peace and calm they are searching for in their families.

Well, anyway. Have a great Friday and weekend. Remember, the world happens, but nobody can steal our inner peace unless we give it away. So if you’re angry or unhappy, you’re giving your peace away. 

Terri F.

 

**Note: The only thing in front of my family is my Faith. I would be wrong if I didn’t mention this because that is how I know to go after the Peace that can’t be stolen.

Homeschooling with Saxon Calculus

1/28/2022

Today I write to share my experience for people thinking about homeschooling using Saxon Calculus. I homeschooled my first daughter using Saxon Calculus, Second Edition. I have decided to try using the first edition for subsequent teaching rather than the second edition. I was dissatisfied with the second edition for reasons mentioned below.

My calculus background: I took Saxon Calculus (First Edition) in high school, and I had no problems. Enjoyed it. In college, I have no idea what book I used for Calculus I, but I had no issues whatsoever earning my A.

Calculus Curriculum Terminology (AB? BC? Calculus I? Calculus II?)

When you choose a calculus curriculum for homeschool or high school, it gets a little confusing and you need to know some terminology. This is what I know, which may be corrected if you know more.

The terms “AB” and “BC” are terms made up by the makers of the Advanced Placement (AP) tests. (The makers and sellers of the AP tests are called the College Board.)

The terms Calculus I and Calculus II (and Calculus III) are traditional terms used by colleges. Calculus I usually covers differentials and limits, some basic integration. Calculus II covers more integration techniques, series/sequence. (Calculus III is multi-variate and not single variable.)

If students do AP’s AB calculus, then they get the equivalent of about what is covered in college Calculus I. And if students do AP BC calculus, then they roughly get the equivalent of college Calculus I plus Calculus II.

I wonder why the AP producers did not use the traditional terminology. Does anyone know? (The initial idea of AP may have been sound, but where it has gone today seems wrong for sincere seekers of learning.)

I Picked the Second Edition Saxon

For our first go-round with calculus in our homeschool, I selected Saxon’s Calculus with Trigonometry and Analytic Geometry, Second Edition. My public high school when I was a student used Saxon Calculus, First Edition, which is about equivalent, from what I understand, to college level Calculus I. I chose the Second Edition for my daughter based on all the reviews saying that it was better, more comprehensive, and prepared a student better for the AP exam.

I was taught calculus in high school using Saxon Calculus, First Edition. And I don’t remember that book being as hard as my daughter’s Saxon Calculus, Second Edition book. The second edition has made significant edits to make it correlate with the AP exam, which covers approximately college level Calculus I and Calculus II.

My daughter does not anticipate taking the AP calculus test, nor does she plan to study mathematics (beyond potentially needed prerequisites) in college. I wish sorely I had tracked down the first edition Saxon edition I was trained on for my first daughter. But all the reviews said that the second edition was the way to go. And I was worried that my daughter would be taking classes with kids who had AP classes, so the college calculus class might be geared to the knowledge those kids came to college classes with. So I selected the second edition, which is also much easier to come by than the first edition of the book.

In hindsight, I am now aware that basic college calculus is basic college calculus, and the first edition would have been just fine for our purposes. Although the scope of many college subjects has progressed by 2022, say computer technology or molecular biology, basic Calculus I has not.

Why Choose Saxon Calculus at all?

  1. Information comes in small bite-sized bits rather than tackling complex material all at once.
  2. The explanations are thorough and written with good, understandable prose.
  3. The practice problems are cumulative, really promoting retention.
  4. With mastery of the lessons, you have a good, solid understanding and improved long-term retention.
  5. The page layout is simple and flows. Many new texts have “busy” graphic layouts, not Saxon.

Cons of the Second Edition:

  1. There is too much material in the second edition. There are 148 problem sets. (In the first edition, there are just 117 problem sets.) Also, there are more problems in each problem set in the new edition than the old edition. It actually states that the second edition is to be a three semester class. I guess that’s fine. But since my student isn’t interested in mathematics or other hard-core math related fields and she’s not taking the AP test, she could have done just fine with the first edition’s lesser quantity material, which states is to be covered in two semesters. And then, if by chance after that, she loved calculus, we could have found another text to use for advanced study.
  2. It expects students to have a complex understanding of “arithmetic series,” much deeper than was presented by the Saxon algebra and advanced mathematics texts we used prior to Calculus. (I do not know if perhaps we lack understanding of the needed advanced arithmetic series information because we used older algebra/advanced mathematics editions. Maybe the new Saxon algebra texts cover arithmetic series really well? The old ones teach it at a very basic, introductory level. NOT the level this second edition calculus book demands!) So we had to spend a lot of time learning this to be able to proceed.
  3. Some of the trigonometry equations required were also not presented as thoroughly in prior texts as this book “assumes” its student will have. So you had to go back and learn these.
  4. Not enough supplemental practice problems to do if a student struggles with a particular concept.
  5. When something is not understood, then cross-referencing with other resources is difficult. Why? Because Saxon presents learning in little pieces sporadically as you travel through the lessons. Other resources present it all-out in a discrete unit. Saxon doesn’t always call the new little pieces that are learned along the way by names that will help you cross reference to another text when you get stuck. Make sense?
  6. I guess maybe I just feel like they tried to introduce calculus “theory” and understanding too early in the lesson sequence of the book. I actually kind of enjoyed it because I had some (limited) calculus background, and I was getting to learn exactly what this calculus stuff was “doing!” But my daughter did not like that. She just needed to get comfortable with DOING the work, and then the theory might have sunk in better later in the text. But I feel like the new edition wanted to teach the kids the why early on. If you read about John Saxon’s teaching theory, he didn’t believe in teaching the why and the theory too early in his math books. It can bog down learning. I feel like the book was trying to set the user up for the more complex Calculus II topics (BC), but my user just needed to get comfortable with this new style of math! So again, I suspect I would have been happier with the first edition which doesn’t cover as much Calculus II and setting up of theory for it–then supplementing at the end of we wanted to do more advanced calculus.

Supplemental Resources We Used:

Calculus textbook by Larson and Edwards

On-line tutoring

Khan Academy videos

Calculus for Everyone by Mitch Stokes

Essential Calculus Skills Practice Workbook, Chris McMullen, PhD

CLEP Calculus

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  1. I will use the first edition for my next student, which from experience I feel does a great job with limits, derivatives, and basic integrals without bogging the learner down like the second edition does. My daughters are leaning towards health-related sciences, and they will only need one basic college calculus class. (I went to medical school. My kids are considering that. Some medical schools don’t even require math. Some don’t require calculus. Check the schools you want for prerequisites!) I really do prefer Saxon’s teaching methods, so I want to stick with Saxon. But my students do not need the more advanced topics that the second edition has made revisions to accommodate. The first edition covers basic college calculus preparation quite well without the extra fluff for AP exams. If my daughters wish to proceed to Calculus II one day, the first edition is adequate to help them do well in their Calculus I college class and give them a very strong foundation to move on.
  2. We found an on-line tutor to help us periodically. He was displeased with the sequence of the Saxon second edition book and made no bones about expressing his irritation about it with us. (Kind of stated, “Too much, too early. Why so early? It’ll just depress students.”) I know that there are on-line classes which use the second edition for homeschoolers, and if I used the second edition again, I would use one of those actual classes rather than try to teach it on my own. Those math-minded people would do a better job knowing how to teach any gaps and how to skip unnecessary lessons and problems without interrupting the flow of the cumulative Saxon program. We had to use many extra resources and time as we sifted through this. (I do not consider it wasted time…but my daughter complained a lot…but I think it taught her how to fend for herself in the academic world to get what she needed.)
  3. Another homeschooling family I know used the second edition of Calculus, and their daughter liked it a lot. Different strokes for different folks. That student likes computer programming and math. My daughter does advanced math because I make her and she might need a calculus class in college as a prerequisite for her graduate school plans (and plus I know she can do it).
  4. My daughter has transitioned well to calculus-based physics.
  5. Good luck to you whatever you decide! Have fun with it. If you’re at the this point, your child is about to graduate and move on! This is what you prepared them for! Watch them fly!

Homeschooling Happiness

January 20, 2022

Are you considering homeschooling?

We still homeschool our four daughters. Our oldest is graduating this May. I am exceptionally satisfied with the resources available to successfully homeschool children. Besides using traditional curriculum, we have tapped the resources and knowledge of friends, family, our local community, and wonderful internet teachers. Because we homeschool, there have been no gaps in instruction due to Covid the last two years.

If you have the time, dedication, and desire, homeschooling your children provides the best opportunity for the best education for your children. It will be tailored to their learning speed, their learning style, the rhythm of the year’s activities, and their learning goals. Our eldest daughter is just one example of what a homeschooled student’s academic and extra-curricular life can look like: fluency in three languages, math work through calculus, science work through physics, proficiency in playing an instrument, solid background in reading, writing, and history, excelling at volleyball and advancing to the State championships, hanging out with friends and family, and following her own interests.

I, like schools, have had 13 years and about 8 hours a day to teach a very special person. A lot can be accomplished in that time, and if you want your child’s learning to be prepared specifically for him or her, go for it. If you are considering homeschooling, I encourage you. If you have any questions, I am happy to share our family’s experience. Homeschooling does not mean you have to do everything as a parent! It means you explore your resources and match them up with the needs of your child’s education.

PS: I have not written for a long time due to helping actively in my children’s activities locally, and also Covid has had me sitting back, watching and figuring out my place in life. But as my daughter approaches graduation, I wanted people out there who may be wondering if homeschooling is a good educational option, to know that it IS a great educational option! I watch my friends’ kids struggle to keep up with all the changes and rules of institutionalized education, especially the last two years, and I am thrilled we started homeschooling and kept at it. I want homeschooling to continue to always be an option in the USA because it has allowed my daughter(s) to have the education that I could only have dreamed of as a teenager. (By the way, I would be remiss to say we homeschooled alone, and I am grateful for every single resource in our community that we have utilized, including public and private school resources. Local and regional cooperation makes homeschooling where I live fantastic.)

Lastly, greetings to old internet acquaintances who may see this. I hope your lives are wonderful. Live locally and develop relationships if you can, beyond controversy. LIVE where you ARE. GIVE where you LIVE. —Terri F

My Preferred Resources to Homeschool

I always remind myself that many brilliant minds throughout history created and forged many brilliant ideas with simply curiosity and readily available resources. Then, I breathe and smile and determine, if nothing else as a homeschooling family, to focus on the three R’s for my elementary students and the simple resources needed to teach them.

Here is the short version of what I think it takes to homeschool elementary-aged students who can read and write at my house. (Note: I have an 11th grader, 9th grader, 6th grader, and a 1st grader.)

READING: Easy if the library remains open!

I let my kids pick their topics to read. If there’s something I want them to read that they’re not interested in, I will use this as a read aloud and read it to them (poetry, cute science books, fun books on history, etc.).

Being well-read is beyond important, in my mind. Vocabulary. Exploring new experiences. Sticking through to the finish of a book. Heck, even PICKING the book requires lots of decision making! So much learned in simply choosing, reading, and finishing a book. Or listening to a book read aloud. Really helps attention and focus lengthen.)

So…my recommended resource for reading: Student-selected books from the library with supplemental books selected and read aloud periodically by adult. (I usually steer toward poetry, age appropriate history books, age appropriate cultural books, age appropriate science. Just a gamut and not always in any particular order. I HAVE used designed curriculum where the books were shipped to me. Two daughters did not like that. Some books were boring. Some were childish. Some were too advanced. One daughter is so schedule and plan-driven, that she did like it. The others, NO.)

WRITING: Don’t Ruin Them!

Keeping it simple with fun journal prompts, letters, step-wise instructions on how to do something kids know how to do, or writing up summaries of the books being read is a really good idea.

With my first child, I marked her writing up like crazy with suggestions and corrections. Man, was I powerful. BIG mistake. Don’t do it. Just let them write. Let them write. LET THEM WRITE. Let them write.

Sometimes, their writing won’t be long enough; then, I specify the number of words or sentences or paragraphs to get more writing from them. Sometimes they don’t answer a prompt the way you’d want/expect.

One daughter I have is super imaginative and playful. Sometimes, I never know what I’m going to get as a response to a prompt. Which is fun and great, but a little unnerving because I’m like, “This would never fly as an answer to this prompt in school…” Let it go, I tell myself. Work her there eventually. Let her voice shine, and then cultivate it over the next 5-8 years.

(Which is an advantage I have. I KNOW I’m sticking with this homeschooling. I have a long term vision and can slowly move my kids toward the goal. I don’t have to get them writing excellent paragraphs in 4th grade. I can allow their creativity to shine and know that I can work on grammar in 5th, 6th, 7th grade–when they’re more receptive to grammar and more tedious type thought.)

But speaking of grammar…I really like Easy Grammar Daily Grams for simple, concise grammar practice. And then I focus selectively on correcting grammar mistakes in their writing, picking just one topic (maybe capital letters for a couple of weeks or apostrophes for a few weeks), in a kind, less-is-best way to reinforce grammar.

So…my recommended resource for writing: A lined paper notebook (and assigned prompts such as a summary of a book, instructions on something they know how to do, crazy story prompts, serious-to-them prompts, write a poem, etc) and Easy Grammar Daily Grams.

And I didn’t mention HANDwriting. I grab a print/cursive handwriting book that looks fun from Amazon or at a store I’m shopping at. I’ve purchased a few different ones. No preference. But I have them work through this throughout the year. I DO want my kids to learn cursive. It IS important to me.

(Other homeschooling posts I have written detail resources that we use, such as for history or spelling. My homeschooling has relaxed a little throughout the years as I see what is important or not important for each student. However, in general, I still come back to the same resources and incorporate them, I’ve found.)

ARITHMETIC: I only know Saxon Math.

I pretty much stick to the Saxon book and also do lots of timed worksheets for math facts (and lots of flashcards). If I remember right, the curriculum is consumable until about 4th grade; I think there’s a 4th grade book that’s consumable. At Saxon 5/4, it’s not consumable anymore.

We take it as slow as we need to. Or as fast. Usually adjusting to mastery, although sometimes continuing on in elementary school even if a specific topic doesn’t seem to be understood (such as reading a clock). In elementary school, I’ve noticed sometimes kids have HUGE developmental leaps that come in spurts, not incrementally!!!

At the Saxon 5/4 book, it’s like the “big kids” math book. They’ll need to learn how to fold their paper (WHO KNEW!!?? Kids have to be taught to fold papers!!!! 🙂 ), where to write the lesson and date, and how to number down a page and copy math problems to lined paper. That was quite a lot to learn for mine. Much harder than the math. Ha.

So…my resources for math: Saxon Math at appropriate level with extra emphasis on math facts using flashcards.

SUMMARY: I focused on the three R’s.

YES. I had tons of other stuff that I wanted to do and add in: history, art, poetry, spelling, Spanish, music, etc.

But when life was stressful (I’ll speak in past tense as I remember back to the first two children), THIS is what we did (the three R’s) each day. Then, they’d often go off on their own and do art work. Or sewing. Or running and jumping outside. Or practicing their music. Or making their own snack. All the while learning and maturing.

If you can have things to keep you accountable to other subjects, like specific music lessons or a Spanish tutor come once a week, great. Do it. But not necessary.

So…my last recommended resources to keep in house: Find a way to MAKE ACCESSIBLE AND ABLE TO BE USED FREELY WITHOUT YOU AND FEAR OF STAINS/ETC: Paints, scissors, glue, markers, lots of kinds of paper, fun craft stuff like feathers, jewels, etc. Tons of craft stuff with free access.

And tons of books.

Well, I’m prattling on. I told myself if I did the three R’s (and for our family: Spanish was mandatory), then that was what they needed. That and freedom to learn with curiosity. And a warm, happy home. (KEY! Don’t overlook this!!!) We did lots of other school subjects, but I as long as I could get them through the 3 R’s routinely, I relaxed, knowing they’d do okay. And so far, I’m satisfied.

Remember: You CAN make things too hard.

Cornering Fear in Your Decision to Homeschool

Are you making the right decision to homeschool this year?

So many parents speak to me about homeschooling their children this fall due to the new COVID regulations. I love homeschooling and wouldn’t want to educate my kids any other way.

I homeschool my children because I WANT to homeschool them. I believe I am the most qualified, the most invested, the most capable person to guide and supervise their education. It is NOT because I have my MD. So many people say that to me, “Well, you’re qualified to teach your kids. Other people aren’t. They shouldn’t be homeschooling.”

I call that lying. A degree does not denote conscientiousness, concern, or passion. Ever. Any education succeeds when curiosity blossoms, resources (minimal ones needed) are provided, and concern by a leader (parent/guardian/teacher) is manifested and acted on diligently according to the needs of each learner.

I homeschool because I believe in myself and my kids. I believe there is a better way to educate them so they are all-around healthy people, inside and out. Physically and mentally. Spiritually and wordly. I watch them. Enjoy being with them. Enjoy meeting the challenges they dish out to me and themselves head on.

I homeschool from a place of confidence garnered from the belief I can observe my children and see if they’re learning or not and make changes as needed to help them learn.

Many of you will begin homeschooling this fall due to fear. How is FEAR? How does FEAR feel? It freaking sucks.

Many of you are afraid to send your kids to school and you are ALSO afraid to homeschool. This makes you feel STUCK.

You are not stuck. You feel stuck. But you are not. Fear is bringing this about.

You have to let go of one of your fears, either your fear of a COVID school environment or your fear that you won’t do a good job at educating your children. If you don’t ditch one of these fears, you will remain unsatisfied and grumpy, angry at this new world we live in.

If you choose to ditch your homeschooling fear and embrace the fun of helping your kids learn, then best wishes to you! I am happy to share any of our homeschooling stories and experiences. Just comment below.

But whichever choice you make, do it from confidence that this is the right thing and you can make this work. For homeschooling: Think of something you have confidence in. Something you know you can do well. You walked into that arena with the open mind that you could do it. You didn’t start off good at that thing–because none of us do. We all have to develop that “being good at something.” You can have confidence that you can make homeschooling work.

For sending them back to school: Think of someone you have confidence in. Someone you trust well. You walked into that relationship with an open mind that there are people in life to trust. You didn’t start off trusting. Been burned too many times for that. But you developed trust and confidence eventually in the person. You can have confidence that the administrators are trying hard to do what’s best for your kids. That they’ll make this work.

Which place do you want to place your confidence? That’s for you to decide. But, somehow, you have to come to the 2020-2021 education table with confidence and not fear.

Are You Ready to Homeschool?

Your Coronavirus-traumatized kids came home to you in March of 2020. You quickly learned what every homeschooling mom and dad already knew about teaching kids at home. It’s fun. It’s hard. And it’s worth it. You’re ready to homeschool permanently.

Let’s reiterate what you learned and throw in a little extra to make sure you’re ready to go live in Fall 2020. Let’s temper any unrestrained idealism. Time soothes many painful memories, and we forget. Yet true success requires us to be cognizant of our past pain and struggles, while curating ways to cope with or circumvent barriers.

Mental preparation is key.

So, for those who know, those who have forgotten, and those who want to know, when you homeschool:

Your house might be a mess.

For years on end. And you have to be nice about it. And actually be the one who disburses the tools of domestic destruction: paint, Play-doh, water, markers, pens. . .?  

Your eating and exercise habits might change.

Math steps and mental hula hooping don’t count as physical exercise. Kids are always hungry, so 3-5 times a day—YOU journey on the kitchen cupboard quest to turn out food for your scholars. When it’s all said and done, you might be a little heavier than you want.

Your kiddos might not accept you as “Teacher Mom” at first.

“You are NOT my teacher.” Teacher. Mom. Mom. Teacher. What’s the difference? Is there a certain look I put on when I homeschool? I don’t know. As I was beginning to homeschool eleven years ago, I clung to a nugget of information from a dad of a homeschooling family I admired: “Homeschooling was hard for my wife until the kids figured out she was their teacher.”

There IS a point at which kids transition into see you as teacher-mom versus mom-mom. Don’t despair if it didn’t happen during Coronavirus.

Learning might not happen linearly—and in fact will stall completely at times.

You might have watched learning at home during Coronavirus and wondered how learning happens at all for anyone. Never mind. It does. And I promise you, it is not linear.

You might never be alone again.

I am never alone. And I like to be alone. Coronavirus togetherness was like homeschooling togetherness on anabolic, high-dose steroids, and homeschooling isn’t as bad as that. But homeschooling togetherness is still a challenge for those who need silence and alone-time to recharge. Know thyself and prepare! (Note: Out of all the challenges on this list, this one affects me the most.)

The phone ruins school. (No “might” on this one. The phone ruins school.)

Do you think a wall phone with an answering machine would destroy as many productive opportunities as our cell phones?

You might feel overextended teaching different grade levels.

It’s hard teaching different levels. There are curriculums (curricula, if you prefer) that suggest teaching different grade levels certain classes at the same time, like history. Never worked too well for me.

You might sit a lot next to your child, pointing and redirecting and wondering why your pointer finger is so magical.

Case in point: I’m sitting there watching my daughter do her 30 math problems, most of which she knows how to do. But I have to sit there and make sure she doesn’t get lost in the world between problems. Between 12 and 13 she’s in Harry Potter World. Between 14-15 she’s having a sleepover with her best friend. Between 24-25 she’s in Lego Land. My magical pointing wand (right index finger) keeps her tethered to math.

Schoolwork for many kids is simply a portal to another world. They need your “magic pointing finger” to draw them back.

(During the beginning of Coronavirus homeschooling, a friend asked me for some advice on her freshman boy who was starting his biology in the morning and was still doing it at 10 o’clock at night. I told her to sit next to him, constantly keeping him moving forward to what needed read and done. I know she thought he was old enough to know better than to squander time and felt any person with average intelligence and motivation should be motivated enough to stay on track. But sitting beside him did help.)

Sit down and prepare to be bored as a parent while your kid works. They eventually transition to not needing and wanting you there.

Your books and methods often might NOT WORK!

Any experienced homeschool mom will tell you that about five back-up plans are needed to arrive at the learning destination. One way, one rigid method = tears and unhappiness.

Your school might not look like school.

Homeschooling does not look like school at home. You might start that way, but it generally expands to something beautifully different.

You might lose your temper and express frustration poorly.

It happens. I venture to say to all of us. Apologize. Investigate ways to get to the root of the problem. Regroup. Find your fear and anxiety. (Are you afraid your kid is lazy? Are you afraid they one day won’t hold a job? Are you worried you didn’t teach something well? Are you scared they might have a learning disorder or low IQ? Are you afraid you can’t juggle all if they take this much time every day?) Then use your words to help your child understand your concern. Or maybe you’ll see your concern is catastrophizing and overreacting and apologize more.

You might fight technology battles.

I know this is a hard one. We directly see physical activity and affability go up when we remove technology in our home. It’s worth removing. But then there’s that alone time, messy house, new method to research to help with reading. . . But regulating technology is worth it.

Closing

That’s it! Have a wonderful day. It’s a hard time to keep grounded inside ourselves. I feel like everything “out there” wants to polarize my emotion and your emotion. We are stressed by happenings in the world. If you can help it, don’t be polarized. Explore the middle ground. And feel free to ask my experience with homeschooling four.

Terri F

May 28, 2020

Pandemic Causes Questioning of Education

With the pandemic, I know that many families are in an educational conundrum and investigating homeschooling. I have seen increased traffic on my site, which I assume has to do with homeschooling. Parents wonder if school will be live in the fall. Will their kids have more e-learning? Will their kids bring home COVID-19 to an at-risk family member? What educational gaps will occur because school was missed or may continued to be missed? There are so many questions and unknowns.

I just wanted to take a minute to share that we are still homeschooling successfully. Eleven years strong. I am thrilled with my children’s education. They each speak two languages. They each play two instruments sufficiently. Our science work rivals my pharmacy school (I went to pharmacy school and then medical school.) biology and chemistry classes. Mathematically, we are on track to complete calculus in the junior year of high school. Athletically, each child has picked a sport they love and practice year round. They each know how to cook. They (can) help me with laundry. I have some fantastic art pieces hanging here and there. They love to watch a good historical documentary or a stupid, cheesy Hollywood movie. They are interesting PEOPLE to be around.

We have a bunch of fun, and I love my family dearly. This is exactly what I envisioned when I realized that I could not practice medicine and raise my family the way my heart wanted to. I had to make a choice. I am a bit particular, and there was not enough of me to raise my kids so that I had no regrets.

I keep very busy heading a gymnastics non-profit club and assistant coaching high school volleyball, and I have not made time to write here for a long time. I would like to. But no matter what, I want you to know that homeschooling can be an exceptionally successful educational platform.

I check my site for comments and questions routinely. If you have homeschooling questions, I can share our experience so you can hear one family’s personal experience.

Here is what I am telling myself during this pandemic:

I WILL see opportunities to learn from tough times. I will NOT FOCUS on the storm in front of all of us now, although I will do what it takes to weather it and see its reality. I WILL know that, although we cannot do what we did before, we can find things that we CAN do. I will know that, although it feels like nothing is going right and everything is going badly, if I am honest, I can find at least a couple of things that are good that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had to go through this storm.

Best wishes,

Terri F

Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part II

Here are some pieces of our ninth grade curriculum. I’d be happy if anything I write helps you in your decision-making process for your own curriculum! I know I scour reviews and blog posts as I look for ways to teach.

Mathematics: Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics (Second Edition)

I selected the Second Edition of Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics because I want the program the way John Saxon designed it, with geometry integrated. Newer editions break away from integrating geometry.

Back in my school days, I used Saxon math from sixth grade Math 7/6 through senior calculus, and so I use my own positive Saxon experience to help teach. Art Reed’s valuable newsletters on his website also helped me tremendously: which books to select, how to address transcripts (You might find it interesting that my own high school transcript titled my year in the Advanced Mathematics book as “Trigonometry,” but when I read forums now, it is discouraged to call the class “trigonometry!”), how to handle bumps in the road using Saxon math, and other fascinating stories to get lost in!

Saxon’s math curriculum routinely defies all mass education norms, and his book Advanced Mathematics (second edition) is no exception:

  • It is not designed to fit neatly into a 180 day school year. (Was math designed for school–or school to teach math?) It is intended to take 3-4 semesters.
  • It mixes material from four different math classes: geometry, advanced algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. (I did supplement geometry with a mix of some extra on-line materials I found for proofs and geometry terminology.)
  • It is incrementally and cumulatively taught such that material from the first lesson will be phased out and then brought back many lessons later for review. It’s not “learn and forget” with Saxon!
  • It continues to be graphically “boring.”
  • Its story problems contain advanced vocabulary and are quite humorous, if you get Saxon’s kind of humor.

My ninth grader seems to pick up math easily, and she has pushed through the Saxon books at a good pace, arriving at Advanced Mathematics. She does half a problem set one day and the other half the next. Since every student deserves a little autonomy (Ha! Such freedom!), she gets to pick if she does even problems one day and odds the next–or if she does problems 1-15 on the first day and then problems 16-30 on the second day.

In years past, since she grasped math quickly and fluently, I would selectively allow her to skip problems (which she knew how to do in her sleep while running from an axe murderer). However, when these old “easy” problems were brought back for review 15-20 lessons later, she had to do them to keep retention. Saxon discourages skipping problems, and I understand why.  This year, we have not skipped problems (and have even added in some extra geometry problems).

Composition: Time for Writing

We tried something different this year for writing, since I’m not a very good writing instructor. I tend to go a lit-tle crazy marking up my kids’ papers. They go a lit-tle crazy defending their work. It gets a lit-tle crazy around the house. (Best to find a new way, yes? Yes.)

We tried out two classes at Time for Writing, a program offering on-line writing classes. (I actually used it for two of my students this year.) How was it? I think that both students increased their writing skills, and I only had to put up with a lit-tle grief– instead of a lot!

  • Work was graded by a teacher, not me.
  • Concise, sequential lessons
  • Helpful deadlines
  • The classes are priced at $119 for 8 weeks, which divides out to be about $15 a week.
  • When I had to correspond with teachers, they were very helpful, kind, and seemed to like communicating with the students and their parents.
  • Actual grades were assigned.
  • Grading seems to be done on a rubric.
  • Variety of writing topics
  • Immediate start date
  • Can extend or pause a class a little bit if needed
  • Most of the actual work is paper writing. There is not much busy work, although there are reasonable on-line assignments and quizzes.

Now what about more of the cons?

Well, if you have a student who struggles with significant writing blocks, I do not suggest this program unless you have a writing tutor or the ability to work cooperatively with your student yourself. For a writer who is afraid to write (or who is motivated to start and has great ideas, but gets writer’s block as soon as she has to type, handwrite, or dictate words), this will still be a tough class and will not address that stumbling block.

However, if you have a student who has no problem getting started with the writing process when he or she puts his or her mind to it, but just doesn’t appreciate your awesome parental feedback or believe in your deadlines, then this certainly could be the program for you. It provides those things! It just doesn’t provide any help for writing block.

Speech

We used Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW) Speech Bootcamp. Loved it! A small group of students met every Friday morning for one semester. The course comes with DVDs, a teacher’s workbook, and a student’s workbook. We followed the syllabus closely. It was clear and easy to follow. Very well designed and user-friendly! The videos were fun and painless to watch.

We added in extra, too: fun speech exercises; some psychology to think about that interferes with our ability to be ourselves in front of a crowd; watching and discussing some famous speeches and speakers; and a scientific presentation. Parents and siblings were invited to class to watch the students’ speeches.

This was a fun class. I liked the IEW Speech Bootcamp because it was so well planned and put together. As a teacher, I could have just followed the workbooks and videos without too much planning. Adding in more was super easy to do without interfering with the flow of what Andrew Pudewa (the Speech Bootcamp teacher) was trying to accomplish.

Closing

Ninth grade has been lots of fun, and it’s stimulating to see the teenage spunk and spirit culminating and exerting itself.

What I have written is not all-inclusive of what we read, do, or learn. We round out our curriculum with history, grammar, music, PE, and classes offered in our community.

Guess that’s all I have to say for today! If you have any questions on our use of Saxon math, Time for Writing, IEW Speech bootcamp, or anything else I’ve mentioned, ask below!

Take good care!

Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part I

De_Re_AnatomicaHere is what our ninth grade curriculum looks like. The ability to tailor education to the individual is by far one of the greatest strengths of homeschooling. Simply amazing!

I love to talk homeschooling and education, so if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I know it can be hard to decide which resources to use to educate your child. There are SOOOOO many out there!

Curriculum

Spanish: We use Spanish Honors Three with Señor Ray Leven via Pennsylvania : Great, intense, live on-line class which meets once a week for a year. During class, Spanish is spoken, and conversation is in Spanish. There is a lot of homework. Expect it. Students read Spanish literature, and they write papers in Spanish. Younger students may need to be coached on time management skills to ensure they keep up with Spanish and their other courses, especially if their other courses are a bit tough. Señor Ray Leven is an amazing teacher. He is honest, frank, and willing to work with you and your student to get them fluently speaking and writing Spanish; his expectations are high, so the student must be willing to give it all he or she has got. But his passion for teaching, Spanish, and student development is unparalleled. His classes are fun, interactive, and witty. If your student really loves Spanish, the financial investment in this class is exceptionally worthwhile.

Biology: We use Miller and Levine’s Biology curriculum. I bought the textbook, the worksheet book, the test book, and the lab manual. Sometimes I do not like the way the textbook presents things. There are gaps or the writing is not clear. When this happens, I supplement with the Campbell Biology book and the Preparing for the Biology AP Exam. I really like the Preparing for the Biology AP Exam book a lot. It takes everything that needs to be known and condenses it into outline form. I use this book to check myself as a teacher at the end of a Miller and Levine chapter/unit. Did I teach my student what was covered here? If not, do I need to? If I am not sure the depth to cover certain topics in, I try to find someone who might know. For example, I don’t like teaching about plants. I didn’t do much plant biology with my pharmacy and medical school background. So I found someone I knew who had a plant emphasis in her background and asked her. She kindly sent me her botany class notes so I would know what to hit well.

The Preparing for the Biology AP Exam book roughly follows the Miller and Levine topic sequence. It follows the Campbell Biology sequence even better, but the Campbell book is written at quite a high reading level and contains too much information.

I find the Miller and Levine worksheets very good, but my student gets bored if we do them for every chapter. So I mix it up. I find worksheets on-line for some chapters. I also use on-line videos and documentaries to try to keep biology interesting for her.

Lastly for this section, you may be wondering if my student will take the AP Biology test since I am using the AP Exam book I mentioned. I may suggest to her that she does this. However, I find the concept of AP classes and exams somewhat repulsive. I feel like it is a money-making scheme which boxes students in and squashes the creativity and fascination of learning. If my homeschooled students can do well on any AP exams, fine. But I feel like my whole 23 years of institutionalized education did nothing but make me a monkey who follows orders. I am hoping for better for my children.

Closing

I’ll get the rest of the curriculum up in posts which follow. I adore homeschooling, and I am super grateful that our country (the United States) allows it. I mean, it should allow it! But there are many countries in the world which I consider fine countries, countries which I love (or would love) to visit, which do NOT allow homeschooling AT ALL. But American independence and free-thought thrives, and I’m proud of that. Love to all. Be proud that your neighbor can have such radically different thoughts and opinions than you do. It is a neat thing! Go for curiosity, not animosity! Curious minds LEARN! Angry minds shut down.

Terri F.

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