Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Last Tuesday was amazing to say the least. Over the last year, Samantha and my relationship has been....on hold, I guess you could say. I found myself becoming increasingly irritable with Big S even after the girls left. I am really not sure why. I think I just needed rest. We took the rest of December off. And when I say "off," I mean we took a vacation. We celebrated holidays. We had no activities. We slept in even on the weekdays. And we spent a lot of time sitting around reading.

Our homeschooling also took a break over the last year. And I know, when you homeschool, you never stop learning, because life is learning, but our style of homeschooling took a back seat. We did stuff and learned. But the biggest element in our unschooling way of life-spontaneous trips-disappeared almost completely. It was hard to get up and go somewhere last minute so she could photograph something when we had to be home by 2:30. And to be honest, it was hard for me to get he motivation as well.

But this semester we are back on the horse. Tuesdays are going to be our craziest day. I would liken it to other homeschoolers' co-op day. I spend the morning cleaning the house and putting dinner in the crockpot. Then we eat lunch and head off to acting. It is 25 miles from the house. It is also a 4 hour class, so I found some stores and parks in the area that Little S and I can go to while she is in class. Then we head straight to Heritage Girls, 54 miles in the other direction, get home around 10 and crash.

I stayed for the first half of class because I had never met the teacher, and she was nervous, so she asked me to stay. They had so much fun. Generally, they will rehearse the first 2 hours of class. But this was their first class, so she had them "audition in groups" by doing improv together. She numbered their groups and gave them a topic to act out. They only had a few minutes to plan. She explained that chairs often serve as props when rehearsing and of course taught them the few "rules" of improv, like never telling your partners no.  Then she switched around the groups and they got a new topic to act out. She told them they did not have to have a speaking part during improv if they didn't want, and I thought Sam would run with that because she was so nervous. But she didn't! She spoke and she was funny. And she worked together with her groups. She bit her nails the entire time, but hey, it's a start. Her teacher asked who did not want a part (like who only wanted to work backstage), and what they wanted to do. She took every suggestion and said, "Yes!" She told them this was their play, and they would get to design the set and costumes, everything. She gave them the option to learn special effects makeup, because someone asked. She made everything a learning opportunity. I was thoroughly impressed. During the lesson, which is an hour and a half, then snack, social time and games for the last half hour, Sara started to get fussy. It was naptime, so I asked Sam if I could leave. She said yes, since she had 3 friends there-one was a new friend-she thought she would be okay.

When I came back, she was so excited to have something to tell me that I did not know. We talked all the way to Heritage Girls, and all the way back. We both agreed we felt reconnected. We didn't just talk about acting. Although hat was the bulk of it. We talked about her future, her relationship with God, her feelings toward the situation with the girls...It was nice.

We went home and immediately crashed. The next day Sam went to a friend's house, and it was all about Sara. Just her and me. Like when Big S was an only child. She had a PAT meeting at the house. We read some books together. We played outside for a long time. We explored, looked in the grass, found rocks, chased leaves, rode bikes. She took a nap. The house was quiet. I got some housework done and calls made. We went to the library where she sat on the floor and pretended to read...

I have missed the slow days with both my girls. From now on, Wednesdays will be Slow Days for Sara, because Tuesdays are rough on her. We always go to storytime in the morning and play outside. But we usually end up doing errands the rest of the afternoon.  From now on, I will do those on my own on Saturday night. Instead, we are going to go home and start adding in paints or something specifically for her. Sam will still have her independent work, but that day will be reserved for Sara, and I won't be helping Sam with any major projects until Thursday.

These are the kinds of days that remind me why we homeschool.

Friday, November 23, 2018

My Lord, My Lord

It is Thanksgiving, and my have things changed over the last year.

Every Thanksgiving my Dad, who drives a truck, would threaten to quit his job if they would not let him off to be here. Thanksgiving was his religious holiday. He could not wait to celebrate at his place-when he got one. He went all out. One year he bought 200 feet of name brand alluminum foil. 5 pounds of briskett. Crab legs. Lobster. Giant boxes of Christmas chocolates. You name it. He came in and spoiled the grand children.  Well, grandchild. Sara was too young the last 2 years and didn't want anything to do with anybody but me. We went Black friday shopping and talked and talked for hours. He was truly happy that day, but the rest of the year was unfulfilling for him.

Fast forward a few months. My Husband and I were given custody of two sweet, innocent girls, who albiet have some things they are struggling through, bring lots of light to the entire family's life. They are my sisters. My Dad's kids. (And of course the daughters of his ex wife.) We had met them once.

I tried not to post on here much about the joys  struggles to respect their privacy as well as the privacy of their parents. Although, I needed to. I had a lot of anger and frustration as well as celebratory times and messages of hope. But while we were part of the case, it didn't feel right. I am still not taking sides on what happened or who should have them. But I will say this. They are no longer in our custody. They live with their Dad. And this is their first and last Thanksgiving in town. They  are moving to Iowa. And I am sad. I thought I would be happy that we can all move on. But a big part of me isn't.

As for Thanksgiving, this year is different. My Dad did come in from driving his truck, but it was his last day. He is giving up his CDL. He has to be home for the kids. He isn't nagging me about not buying paper towels or having more kitchen gadgets, because he knows the struggles of saving money and not having enough room in the drawers. We aren't Black Friday shopping either. And there will not be much briskett and no Christmas chocolates. But that is okay, because this year there are 2 more people to love, a lot more happiness in his heart, and we all just grew and learned from the last 10 months.

I learned that, just like when Sara was born, I have an amazing support group of loving family members and friends. If it were not for my Husband supporting me in opening the house up to these two beautiful children, we would have never been able to witness the miracles we have or build a bond with my sisters. I won't say he didn't have his fair share of struggles. I won't say he didn't get angry when I felt lied to or betrayed. Heck, I won't even say I handled it right. Although, he never once took it out on them.  I won't say that he spent every waking moment pouring into them his spiritual knowledge or wisdom. I won't even say that he was always the greatest influence. But I will say this. He allowed me to do those things. He supported me when I wanted to take them places or teach them things, just like he does with our girls. He sat at the dinner table each night, despite his exhaustion, because I was completely convicted of the fact that these girls needed to see a regular family dinner. They needed to see a family unit gathering at the end of the day and taking turns talking about events and other important topics. Heck, he even bought, transported, and constructed the new table I picked out to fit the 6 of us. At one point, we were this close to buying a mini van so we could all fit in the same car....until I backed out. He spent hours listening to me vent. He kept our girls when I needed to cry. And he *attempted* to encourage me when I felt the most empty, which was many times. That man is my rock. Ten years of marriage, and I love him increasingly more with every trial that we face, because we face it together and we become stronger for it.

I had a Mom who heard it all. The good and the bad, but most often the bad. And while she did not exactly provide the Biblical advice I needed, I was able to lay it all  before her while she attempted to put together the broken pieces. As my mother, all she wanted to do was fix it for me.

I had friends who rejoiced with me when my sister was saved. I had friends who played a huge part in that too. I had friends who guided me to scripture that could teach these sweet girls about struggles and the redemption of the Lord. I had friends who offered to keep them so I could just breathe. (Going from 1 kid to 4 in a year was a lot. But to be honest, it was the situation itself that was a source of stress. Dealing with their parents. Trying to appease their sibling's need to see them, which I totally understand. DFCS'S unrealistic expectations that I should put them above my own 2 children at all times. Dealing with 2 in school and 2 at home while my Husband can't help because he is dealing with work and school full time, traveling for work constantly, while also finishing the basement. Needing to be able to leave them with him sometimes, but not being able to, because he is a male, and we need to cover our own butts.) I had friends that brought meals in the beginning when we were trying to figure out our new life. Friends
 who gave us giftcards for food when we weren't receiving help. Friends that texted just to check in. Friends who I texted after court cases to tell them it was a long day, and their response...."Have you eaten? Let me bring you some Wendy's at our meeting tonight." Friends that spoke to my sisters with such sweetness and empathy when they saw them. We were surrounded by positive, life giving words and love abounding.

And most importantly, I had a God who was with me at all times. I had a God that I wanted to draw nearer to during this time of chaos inside the walls of our home. When I wanted to fall to my knees when one child was slamming her body against the wall fighting me and begging me let her hair stay in knots. And another was screaming and crying, throwing a toddler tantrum at my feet. And another one was hurting inside because this was her new normal and she felt like she never had me because when they were at school, I was always making calls to counselors and attorneys and CASAs. And when I wasn't, I was tired and broken. And, as for the 4th child, I had no idea what was going on in her brain, because she had barely spoken to me since the day she got here....And I just called, "My Lord, My Lord!" And he gave me the peace and calm I needed during the storms. And he gave me the energy I needed on Saturday nights for games, a read aloud, and a devotion in the tent. I knew that he was faithful, and we would make it through.

And I do not quite know if I could have made it without God and all those he planted in our lives. But we did it. And they made it to the light at the other side od the tunnel. Now they will have a wonderful, powerful testimony to give as they grow older. And they will have the love and understanding they need to have for other children in the system. And I do thank God for all the growth we have all experienced daily. And for the opportunity we had to do what he has called me to do since middle school.

And now we will move on with our lives. And whatever happens next, will happen. And we will get through it too, the same way we did this time.

Side Note: We will be going out of town to visit the Biltmore in the next few weeks. I cannot wait! It will be a breath of fresh air! A break from reality. We have hardly anything planned, aside from the Biltmore itself. I chose a luxury hotel at a great deal! A place where we can just be-together. I can't wait!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Relaxed School's Cool

I lost my passion.

My zeal for unschooling.

It's hard.


You don't have anybody to tell you what to teach and how to teach it. You constantly deal with outside pressures. And you have to always be available and ready to have adventures or be a mentor at the drop of a hat. It's the ideal education, in my opinion, to follow your interests and spend time diving into them. That is what we do as adults. But it. is. hard.

So when Sara was born, I lost that drive. She kept me drained of every bit of energy I had before. Then the girls moved in right as Sara was becoming a little easier. And then I was focused on getting them to and from school and somehow getting Sara a nap in before we left to pick them up. This meant life as we knew it was on pause. Our little outings or 6 hour days spent reading seemed impossible. I was spent-from driving everywhere, from listening to crying all day from a tired baby, from trying to meet everyone's emotional needs-which were at an all time high in this house. And then all the other usual stuff. Double the laundry. Double the cooking. Don't get me wrong. I love them all. They are ALL worth every minute. I tried to stay positive a majority of the time. We did devotionals together, backyard camped on the weekends, played games, had movie nights. They helped me bake and cook. In the summer we took weekly trips somewhere fun.  And that's what took all my energy. The moment my head hit the pillow, I was done. (My poor Husband.) The plan was to get them to bed and spend time with him, but I was out by 9:30. Never failed.

This "Fall," after some changes and much prayer about anxieties, I am feeling renewed. Little S is almost 2 years old. She can handle a few hours out of the house without a complete meltdown, especially if she is in nature. That has been our main focus this year-getting connected with nature. Three days a week we go on a hike or nature walk and spend at least 6 hours outside. We dont do anything structured. We explore. Or the girls play. I watch. We breath in fresh air. We touch soil with our hands. We garden. We jump on the trampoline. Collect nature. We listen to sounds. And Big S now takes photographs. The other 4 days during the week, we sound 3 hours or so outside,  but don't usually go on a nature walk or anything particularly special. We are just being-outside. In the hammocks or riding bikes or drawing with chalk. Nature is an important aspect when connecting with God. And as a bonus, I'd love for my children to  know the life cycles of lots of things-not just butterflies. I'd love for my girls to show their kids how to rub plantain on a bug bite or show them the dry seasons vs. wet seasons when looking at the rings on a tree. Little S loves it so much, and Big S recently found a more grown up way to get into nature.  (More grown up way than picking up sticks and rocks and collecting them in a basket.) She loves nature's beauty. She loves the way that-when we sit in the driveway and play games on a blanket-the sun peaks around the house and shines brightly on the trees. She loves the butterflies when they land on flowers. She loves the way that the clouds always look different. She loves to draw,  but there is something about a photograph that really does it for her. She captures the perfection at its peak. And she can draw it later. It was so satisfying last weekend when we took an impromptu trip to the store to find a camera she liked. She found a used one-with a warranty. She went a little older (a 2009) but got a great deal for a beginner. There, in the store, I helped her research her camera choices-and she finally settled on a Canon PowerShot. They had just gotten it in and it hadn't even been put out on display yet. She was over the moon. She spent her hard earned money from her business on it, and she said it wwas worth every penny. She loves that little camera. She takes it with us on nature outings. She takes photos of her baked goods for her business-which is still going strong after a year. She makes anywhere from $30- $50 a month. Not bad considering we only order from her during the slow months-which are usually the months with no holidays or fresh fruits in season. Anyway, back to the camera, in the weeks coming, we are going to take outings to places where she can photograph Chattanooga from an overlook to model her train town after. Big S has a lot going on, and I'm so happy to be back in the game with her, looking up videos and taking both the girls fun places. I've missed this kind of education.

And while I'm thinking we arent exactly unschoolers, because we do math, we are definitely relaxed schoolers. If she doesn't like that math, we will look into a new one. If she doesn't want to do her Discover 4 Yourself  Bible, we will figure out another way to learn it. We are open to different possibilities and flexible in  schedule, and will always be that way to give both girls time for adventure and discovery. But I also realize, math is a must in this world, and the Bible is essential to knowing God.

Side Notes: We just finished an excellent read aloud-the 3rd book in the Narnia Series, "The Horse and His Boy." Next, Prince Caspian!
And lastly, serving is something I want to model to my girls and teach them to do as well. I try to show them how to serve even in the smallest situations, like cleaning up when a friend leaves or bringing a plate to someone else. But I also want them  know how to serve in larger capacities. Big S tried to advertise for free "Mothers Helper" services for foster Moms. She has developed a passion for children in general, but also children in foster care specifically. So far, lots have said they are interested, but nobody has nailed down dates with us. With everything going on, we are not ready to commit to volunteering at an entity weekly, so Big S is serving at the library when I take Little S to storytime-her idea. She cuts things out. She colors decorations. She cleans. She organizes books. Soon she will read aloud to the kids there. (In the past, she also taught a kitchen science class.) But the best part was hearing her say to me last week, "Mrs. Shannon already lets me volunteer, and I am so thankful for that, so I won't ask her for a different pair of scissors." The point was not that she would rather suffer than ask for scissors. In fact, I told her it would be fine to ask for bigger ones. The point is that she felt like it was a blessing to be serving, and that was enough to make my Mom heart sing with joy!

I love relaxed schooling. I love that I can tell her to forget her math that day if she wants to spend time looking up videos on photography. And if we don't read our read aloud for 3 days, no big deal. The only thing that matters in relaxed schooling-as with unschooling-is making sure we prioritize our time. We aren't always on the go. There is down time for play and discovery. We aren't going to every event available to homeschoolers just because it is free, but only if there is a genuine interest. As long as we are evaluating our actions, everything else will fall into place.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Things Change

It is the beginning of the schoolyear, and I am meeting so many new homeschool Moms. At this point-6 years-I'm considered a veteran Mom. I'm beginning to realize a majority of those major beginning homeschooling decisions are behind me. Do we homeschool?  What does that look like?  What curriculum do we use? What major activities do we attend every year? (Curriculum Fair, Homeschool Day at McKay....) Now I'm talking relaxed curriculums to overwhelmed Moms, and giving advice on how to keep going when a new baby comes in the mix. (You don't! Ha Ha Ha!) There are a few women that I talked to around our 3rd year of homeschooling who were on the fence about actually going forward with not enrolling in Kindergarten. Since then, they have found their own little niches and become somewhat seasoned themselves. At the very least, they are not insecure about what they are doing anymore. I have seen babies enter Kindergarten, and kids that were my daughter's age when we started get their learners permit. I have even seen kids that were in middle school graduate. Every year when we attend a CHEA event, I can't believe how big the kids have gotten. (I have seen some boys grow their first mustaches!) Ah. My heart pains me as I realize my own child is about to start looking like a young lady herself.

Plus, my Facebook keeps reminding me of all our "Beginning of the Year Shenanigans" from the past, like the year we read our first Chapter Book Read Aloud, "Charlotte's Web." It also showed me pictures of the year we took Samantha "school supply shopping" so that she could feel cool like the other kids.

On top of That, I've started "lessons" with Sara. Montessori based. Fun activities to teach independence, fine motor skills, etc. I made busy bags for restaurants and other outings. And bought supplies to make sensory games. You know, the basics: beans, shaving cream, measuring cups, a giant plastic tub, etc.

And it makes me SO nostalgic. Because things change, kids grow up, and things get more complicated. I remember doing our "Healthy Earth" unit when Big S was 2. We read a book on recycling, went outside and picked up trash, and cooked a healthy meal with lots of vegetables. I remember raising butterflies and watching the wonder in her eyes grow. I remember the "Human Body" unit when she was 4. We colored a giant poster where I had traced my body and labeled the organ systems. We put red water in one side of the sink, and blue in the other to symbolize blood in the heart. We read countless books stuffed with information. It was all for fun. No worries. Play dates were plenty, and nothing else mattered.

I remember joining her first homeschool activities, and desperately trying to make friends. I remember coming to our first CHEA Event and both of us saying, "This is the group for us." I remember having time to attend pretty much every single event they held for elementary. I remember reading the CHEA Minutes religiously. (Now I can barely find time to post a question on the forum, let alone carefully read 6 pages on what decisions the group made this month.) I remember homeschool gymnastics at the local college, and being able to show up an hour before class and practice reading in the lobby.

Now it's pick and choose at this age. We can't go to it all, and we need to make sure we are home to have enough down time for Big S to make creations, and also give Little S lots of playtime. Of course on the other hand, we need to provide Big S enough time with friends. (So we recently started allowing texting on her tablet! But of course, it costs "tickets" if she wants to binge text. And she sometimes goes out with friends without me being there like I used to. Guess that is part of growing up.)

I don't know what I'm getting at here. I guess I'm looking at all these old photos and seeing all these old posts and missing the Good 'ole Days, when things were less complicated.  Then again, maybe I'm just remembering it that way.

Whatever it is, I'm feeling a little lost this year. CHEA is changing. (I'm apparently not the only one who feels that way.) We had several families that didn't come back. I meant the group isn't even allowing playdates on the calendar. A group of moms got together and decided to schedule playdates, and just communicate them over Facebook.  Big S isn't in any other activities (aside from AHG)  as of now because of some scheduling issues. She lost the ability to see some of her best friends when they moved away, and she had a hard time moving on for almost a year after. Luckily, while she is still in close contact with them, she has found some close friends in the area as well. But I'm having a hard time finding my place since my sisters got here. We can't attend as much, and we honestly don't receive as much support as I thought we would in a community that holds caring for children to such a high standard. And I know it is because everyone is busy, but we also have some friends that seem to shy away from us too. We do receive a lot support from our AHG Troop. They have been great. They ask about the girls all the time. They allowed them in the troop despite the guidelines. They even stocked our cabinets with groceries when they first got here and we didn't have any help. They. Are. Amazing. But we aren't close enough with any of them for them to call and say, "Hey. How are your sisters? Can we pray for them? How is Sam doing?" They ask when I see them, but that's about as personal as it gets.Sometimes I feel like, even though I am getting closer to my 30s, that age gap still creates a barrier in some ways.

We joined a new group called Wild and Free. The take monthly hikes and have monthly Mom's Night Out, along with some nature based Field Trips. Maybe that will be the place God wants us through this season. We went hiking with them last week. I enjoyed talking with some of the Moms. S had a hard time figuring out where she fit into the puzzle as she warmed up to the other kids. She has agreed to give it another chance, as she was not miserable. She just...felt awkward.

I am just going to keep praying.

Things are settling down here. Everything is about to come to a peak and then really calm down. The house is quiet most of the day. We started our year off strong with a heavy focus on nature. We take nature walks several times a week, always in the early morning. It is a nice family activity and gets us noticing and identifying different species. Sara toddles along and gathers things in her basket. (Although, she is very picky.) Sometimes she rides in my pouch. And S and I look intently at the random happenings we find in nature (like a caterpillar climbing into a spider's web) and listen to the sounds. It is a nice and peaceful time, before the heat begins beating down. It really sets the tone for the day. On the days that we don't have a nature walk, we have morning time. (We pulled the name for it from a Charlotte Mason Method book I am reading, but basically we have always done this.) We start our day our with our family read aloud (Which is currently The Horse and His Boy, the third book in the Narnia series. We took a break. Now we are back.) And then she either does math or Bible. Of course I am available to help. Then we go about our day. Right now, S is studying how to build a train village and working on a menu for her baking business. Yesterday her and Sara spent a good chunk of the day working on a cardboard house. (Little S mostly scribbled on it and played in it, but Big S put more detailed pictures on it, made door handles, and had me cut out a window and a door.) Lunchtime is the last of our school day. That is when we listen to our Story of the World CD, but that does not take long-about 7 minutes for a chapter. Both math and history can be done on the go now, so I don't fret as much when we have outside stuff to do, as long as it is not errands. I mean things like the last minute trip we took to the aquarium a few weeks ago or Homeschool Day at High Point. Overall, the year is going well. But things are changing at is has me a little sad inside. I need to keep reminding myself that these years will bring the same joys as the ones before, just in a different way.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Living the Dream and a New School Year

I have said it a few times, and so will any other seasoned homeschool mom...some days I wonder what it would be like for my oldest to be in school and just to have a toddler at home. When Big S was an only child, I imagined myself dropping her off in the morning, meeting friends for breakfast and walking the track while it is still early and quiet outside, and then going home for Bible time and cleaning. After that I would go back to the school around 11 or noon to help out the rest of the day and pick up my precious girl. All the teachers would know who I was. I would know her friends. And we would never have to deal with the bus or the dreaded car line. It was the dream. Then, after Little S was born, I imagined that I would bring Big S to school, come home, relax with the baby, just teaching her and staring at her lovingly while she nursed. Maybe attend a Parents as Teachers group connection or a Kindermusik. Then back to the school I'd go to get my big baby. Of course I would be in the PTO and help to organize all the extras. And I would probably come to the school a day or two each week to stay involved. I would have the "Mom of an Honor Student" sticker proudly plastered in more than one spot on my car, and wear my school spirit shirt to every event.

Of course all of this is going on in my imagination.

The reality of it is that we spent the morning reading the newest Gooney Bird Greene book aloud while the baby hung off my boob trying to do summersaults while still attached. Then we watched The Beginning of Life together, cuddled up in the bed while it poured outside. We followed this up with cursive while I sang to Little S, who consistently said "more" every time I finished a song. Then we read "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." Well, I would start a sentence, and she would turn the page while I was still talking. Still counts, right? Then came Bible time for both of us and nap for the little one-which we wished was for both of us too. I had to put Little S down for a nap so that we could eat lunch and listen to our Story of the World CD without someone screaming in 5 second intervals just to get our attention. She woke up as I was typing this, and then she screamed for about 5 minutes because she wanted her sister's car that she has for her 18' dolls. Which, of course, her sister finally obliged. (Oh jeez, she really is the typical baby of the family.) Now Little S is happily eating her leftovers from last night while Big S is downstairs playing with her trains, and setting up her train village so-so. (Hmm...I am starting to wonder if I will ever see her again at this point.) Some days it is boring. Other days are exciting. Some days are "normal." Some days are packed full, and sometimes not with anything remotely educational.

But the truth of it is, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. The juggling. The noise. The days where we are both too drained to do anything. All the chauffeuring. All the worrying. I came to this realization, with no question about it, when I experienced school for the first time. I mean, I do not like to treat my sisters any different than my own children, because right now, it is my job to be their parent. So every deep talk I had planned to have with Big S as a preteen, I have initiated with the oldest of my younger sisters. Any extras I would buy for Big S, I would buy for them. Any special activity I would do for my girls, I would do for them. So we went school supply shopping. Yep, definitely thought that would be more magical than it was. (Maybe it is a kid thing? They said they enjoyed it.) We went to open house. That was pretty neat. Everybody was chatty and excited and the teachers were all excited. Classrooms were ready. The night before school we had the dinner they chose. In fact, the oldest of my sisters cooked it with supervision, but minimal assistance. The build up was kind of exciting. But then the day finally came. The house was finally gonna be two kids less crowded. I took them to school to drop them off. What an exciting day I remember the first day being. You pick out your best outfit the night before. You make sure your backpack is just perfect. That school better watch out, because Here. You. Come! Well, we did all that. I even helped them pick out accessories. But when the morning finally came, everybody was dragging. The drop off line was 45 minutes long. I was ready to get out of there, but when I finally pulled in front of those doors....I didn't want to let her go. I just wanted to grab my youngest sister's arm and tell her she was staying home. Of course the same happened when I made it to the middle school for my other sister. I thought I was okay, but I wasn't. They aren't even my kids, but after keeping them the last 7 months, and spending the entire Summer break with them, sun up to sun down-for the most part, I just didn't want to let them go. And my heart hurts when I think of all that they won't get to do with us anymore. The morning time read alouds. The hours of playing games together until Jessie gets home. The weekly trips to do something fun-swim, pick sunflowers, riding bikes at the park. I was two ducklings short. And while the trips to the store will be easier, the days will be missing something.

But, alas, we must move forward. So...Samantha has requested to use more curriculum this year. She enjoys the fill in the blank, and feels she learns best that way, which is shocking to me because she is my artist one. But if that is what she wants, that is what we sha'll do. We chose "The Family Under the Bridge" as her first read aloud. It is a Newberry medal winner about homelessness. For a lighter note, we are going to listen to Winnie the Pooh on audio in the car. For math, we are continuing to use Master Books Living Math, which I highly recommend for the elementary years if you are looking for a laidback curriculum that does not drill and kill. And the best part is that it connects math to real life through stories for each lesson and related word problems. We bought the Story of the World CD for History. For more History/Bible she is doing Discover for Yourself Kids again, but this semester she is doing Genesis and Abraham, Issaac, and Jacob. She isn't attending the class again because they are doing Revelations, and she wanted to go in order. And for Science, we are not sure. I am still under the notion that, if given enough time to explore, she will learn all the Science basics for elementary and maybe middle on her own. (Although, next year she is considering a co-op by the house.) let's see...Her baking business is still going strong. In fact, she has an order she is dropping off this Saturday for THREE pastries! It isn't even from someone she knows. It is a woman at her grandmother's job that tried some of her samples and picked up her card! Along with that, she has started her own research on trains and villages, as mentioned earlier. She is going to continue with Heritage Girls, and probably take Intermediate tennis next Spring.

It is going to be a good year. I cannot believe we are going on our 6th year of homeschooling. How can it be? We are considering her 4th/5th grade. Her math is 5th grade, but her age is 4th because of the late birthday, and everything else she does has no grade assigned to it. I have met so many new homeschooling Moms this year, and it makes me miss the days of finger paints and unit studies that included topic related baking and storybooks. But I am looking forward. As I see her taking more initiative and studying what she wants on her own time, or doing her math with minimal assistance, I can't believe how far she has come. Besides, I have another one coming up on the days of math games and learning to read. Maybe that will keep me busy when Big S starts to drive!

Friday, May 11, 2018


I began reading aloud to Big S when she was first conceived. From there, I never stopped.

I started reading, because I was always told that it was "good" for them. And I kept going after she turned "school age" as a natural extension of our homeschooling. After she began to read independently, I kept reading aloud because I told her I wouldn't stop just because she could read herself.

I'm glad I didnt.

I never realized what reading meant to us.

But as we lay next to each other in bed, curled up, reading our new book, "A Long Walk to Water," recommended by the author of the "Read Aloud Revival," I get it. As we lay together, looking at what it means to live in South Sudan, shedding tears for the reality of it and trying to decide what we can do about it, I get it.

When we have our own inside jokes about Frindles and Absolutely True Stories, I get it.

When we spend an hour in the pool, putting on our own play version of Narnia, laughing at the funny voices we both make, I get it.

As we reminis about the hours that we have spent together on the bed, in the floor, on the couch, the ground, the trampoline, the hammock...crying, laughing, getting angry, being confused, and being together, I get it.

Reading Aloud. It sounds so simple. But it is among one of the most important things I can do with my children. We can travel and we can learn about the world together. For no money. Just a little time.

I get it.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

What They Need to Know

So, seeing as we don't have a strict curriculum, as Samantha grows older, we are beginning to see a need to have  a list of things we do want her to know before she leaves the house. They aren't all academic. In fact, most of them are not. Many of them are character building, survival skills, and life management skill-which can also be academic. If she can learn those things, it will be a foundation for her to learn what she needs to learn in order for her to fill her calling from God, whatever that may be. Here is that list. I'm open to suggestions.

-Know Her Bible In Depth-In Progress
-How to be Compassionate-Check
-Patience-Half Check
-How to have Discernment-Ongoing (lol)
-How to Disagree (Without Arguing)-Ongoing
-How to Compromise-Check

-How to Build a Fire-In Progress
-How to Cook on a Fire
-How to Fish-In Progress
-How to Read a Map and Compass
-Basic Survival Skills (First Aid, Poisonous Plants, Etc.)
-How to Garden-In Progress (Every Spring)

Life Skills:
-Basic Math-In Progress
-How to Budget
-How to Balance a Checkbook
-How to File Taxes
-How to Invest
-How to Grocery Shop
-How to Meal Plan
-How to Cook-In Progress
-How to Choose a Husband!
-How to Speak Publicly-Check
-How to  Research (Including Using Duey Decimal System and Encyclopedias)