Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Thinking about Homeschooling?

As this school year starts with no right answer on schools, some may find themselves considering homeschooling.

First, let me assure you that this year homeschooling won't be normal for us either, as many of our usual social activities are also restricted.

Is homeschool the right option for you and your kids? Maybe.
Helpful I know. ;)  Here are some things to consider.

Regardless of what you choose, you must do what is best for you, your children, and your family.

Online School 
If you are joining your public or private school's online platforms, you should know that you technically aren't homeschooling.

The benefit of this, is that it is school, just at home. You won't be picking your kid's curricula, or grading assignments, or hopefully doing any more than the homework you usually helped them with. So relax and don't worry about joining homeschool groups or getting curricula. Your child's days will be busy with work from the school. They will still be part of an accredited school and get a report card.

However, the drawback is the same as the benefit. You will be considered a student at that school and therefore required to meet their workloads, time, technological and other requirements. If you're looking for more "freedom" than a traditional schedule, then this might not work for you. For example, if you think your child needs extra time this year to work on getting their reading better or math drills, you don't truly have that choice to make. If you're doing school at home for multiple children, this can be not only a technical challenge (with multiple computer classes going), but a parental challenge of keeping younger kids especially engaged with a computer screen all day.

The first thing to look at if you're considering homeschooling, is what your State Requires of Homeschoolers.  Usually the requirements are very simple such as registering with your state or district or end of year testing (which I assure you is easy to get done.)

I would then ask you to consider what you want your days to look like. Are you envisioning yourself with apples on your sweater, writing ABCs on the chalkboard? Or are you seeing your family out on nature hikes? Reading books by the fire? Watching documentaries?  Painting in a field? All answers are ok. Homeschooling is really a reflection of your family culture.

Are you teaching some of your subjects to multiple children or each individually. If you have multiple students homeschooling. I highly recommend combining some subjects, such as Literature, History, Science and more. Once you do your Math, Reading, and Writing on individual levels, it is easier to do some things together.

Before you buy anything here are some questions to ponder:
 - What things have I always wanted to teach my kids about (a hobby, language, geography, culture, music, cooking, sport)?
 - If I could do anything I wanted for 1 year with my family, what would I do?
 - What do we love doing together?
- What did I love doing in school?
 - What does my child(ren) love doing?
- What is something I would like to learn about?(space, gardening, art, history, a culture, language, programing, technology)
- Do I enjoy reading aloud to my child(ren)?
- Am I nervous about teaching a certain subject?
- What subjects do I look forward to teaching and do I dread?
Picture a perfect day in your home and describe it. What would a total failure look like?

Once you have some of these answers, then you can begin to make choices for your homeschool curricula. (see next post coming soon!)

I'll address the elephant in the room. This pandemic holds socialization challenges for all of us. Regardless of what schooling option you choose, assuring your child has healthy, safe relationships should always be a priority. That ay mean planning more outside events this year and thinking outside the box.

If you have any questions about homeschooling or would like help choosing curricula for your family, contact me.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Doing School at Home (for now)

A few friends contacted me and asked for my best homeschool advice, so here goes.

This is not the list I've seen others posting with curriculum ideas or Homeschool 101. This is reality and practical advice.

1) "Be Not Afraid" For most of you, this will pass and it is just a phase. You can do anything, especially when it comes to your children!  You know them and love them. That is what makes a great teacher. Just love them! Relationship is always first.
You have support from your schools, just do your best.

2) Boundaries for Everyone!
This does not mean you have to have a strict schedule. It does mean you need to set the expectation for everyone that there will need to be alone time and quiet time. Yes, mom needs to pee without being interrupted!  (Still working on that here!)

3) Teach your kids something you love!
Seriously, these make the best family memories. I love to teach my kids about Art and History or reading great books together. My husband couldn't be happier teaching the kids to fix something, doing a physics experiment, or teaching math. It is a gift for your kids to see the things you enjoy!
This is also be a time to teach them how to make a favorite recipe, balance a checkbook, talk about faith, or other things that in general there seems no be no time for.

4) Be Flexible!
Things are going to change for each of us over the next few weeks, so don't be too hard on yourself. If someone in your family gets ill, that perfect schedule will fly out the window (as well it should).
School At home will probably take less time than a school day, as your child will work at their pace. That's ok!  So fill your days with some fun too. 

5) Take breaks individually and together.
One of my children sets a timer in between every subject for 10 mins so he can play. Others, prefer to get it all done so they have their afternoons free. Just because school only has 1 recess doesn't mean you can't have 5!  Go out and play with the kids, you need exercise too! No matter how their days are scheduled, there is still plenty of time for alone and together play.

6) Play Games
Make playing a game part of your day. It can be card games, board games, tag, races, tic-tac-toe, anything!

7) Come up with Challenges or Theme days.
I'm working on a list of ideas to share such as Lego challenges, Family book club, Art Contests, and more. This will help use that extra creativity and fight boredom.

8) Get outside if you can.
Go for a walk or camp in your own backyard. You can do schoolwork outside, in a tree, on the playground set, or in a tent!  Make it fun!

9) Play Music.
Instead of yelling for the kids to do certain things like chores, pick songs as cues. A good upbeat dance some is great for chores. Can the room get cleaned up before the end of "Bohemian Rhapsody"?

10) Talk to your kids
Everyone is frustrated and confused. Talk to your kids about how they feel. Stay positive and just be there for them.
Watch movies and talk about them? What did they think about why characters made certain choices? Do they think it was right?
Read books together! This will create lots of conversation.

Overall, be a MOM!  Of course there will be bad days. There always are no matter the situation.
Pray for patience and understanding.
Stay positive and be kind.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doubting Thomas, Faith and Fear

This weekend at Church, the story of doubting Thomas was read. During the reading, my son said, "It's pretty specific what he says is going to make him believe." 😇 I hushed him and chuckled to myself.

I kept thinking about that. Thomas had specific criteria that would make him believe.

Why didn't Thomas just tell them, "That sounds a little crazy guys. I'll believe it when I see it."

Thomas needed more than just the testimony of others, or a whisper in his heart. He needed not only to see but to touch and know.

Do I carry specific criteria for my faith or limits on what our faith can handle? Maybe I am more likely to set criteria my life or family must reach for me to have strong faith.

Recently, I had the privilege to hear Brother Guy Consolmagno speak.  I spoke with him briefly afterwards; he said, "Faith calls you to live without fear, not to live in fear. Our faith is big enough to handle anything! If we fear what we might learn or hear, we aren't living with faith."

As a parent in today's world, we live with a constant bombardment of fear mongering and insecurity. It is easy to fall prey to the fears of this world instead of hushing the Thomas in our hearts. It is harder to exercise our faith and pray, than it is to doubt and fear. We are insecure in how we parent and the choices we make. We need to wrap our lives and families in a blanket of faith to protect us from the insecurities and doubts around us.

Thomas is eternally known as "Doubting Thomas" but maybe he was more "Fearful Thomas" or "Insecure Thomas". Afraid of what it would mean if it were true that Jesus is risen. Afraid that he missed his chance to see the risen Christ. Afraid that he wasn't chosen to carry on Christ's mission.  Insecure of what his place was in the confusion of recent events. Insecure that if he believed with his whole heart he might bring suffering to his family or look like a fool.

Can you blame him?

I fear that I'm somehow messing up my children, fear that I'm not a good enough mom, wife, or homeschool teacher, and fear the unknown for our futures. But honestly, that's just insecurity and lack of faith. I will try instead to calm the insecurity with a warm and secure blanket of faith. I will quiet the winds of fear and listen to the whispers of faith of what I know is true.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Last minute GHC Cincinnati Tips

Can you believe that the Cincinnati GHC starts in just a few days?  I'm a local to the area, so I want to throw out some advice.

Pack a Snack and Water - You know you do this for your children all the time, save yourself money and pack for yourself! 

Stretch Your Mind - If every year you hear the same speakers, try a little something new.  Go to something that might refresh your soul like Sarah Mackenzie, S.D. Smith, or Anthony Esolen. Go hear about the beauty of Math from Ed Zaccaro or about the ancients from The Lukeion Project.

Have Fun and Feel Good - If you hear something that stresses you out, or makes you feel inadequate in your homeschool, write it down and forget it!  Don't run to buy their product! A curriculum purchased while feeling self lacking and under the guise of a fix, is never really a fix. Take a deep breath, research the area while you are there and go home. Re-evaluate in a month if you still feel drawn to it.

Support the Convention - It's easy to think that the Homeschool Convention and Curriculum providers will always be there, but if we don't show up and support them, they won't.

See the Area -
If you're visiting Cincinnati, take some time to enjoy our city.
Although there isn't too much near the Convention Center, from Fountain Square you can now ride our Street Car to The Banks or to some great restaurants and shops in Over the Rhine near Washington Square.  There are lots of fun and unique dining and shopping between Washington Park and Vine Street from 13th - Central Parkway.

If you're an old book lover, I recommend walking over to The Ohio Bookstore on 8th and Main Street.

For a quick bite during the convention, there are a few faster service places on 6th by Vine Street. Most of these close by 6pm. So for dinner, you'll have to treat yourself.
If you want:
Some of the best  authentic Italian -  Sotto
Mexican, Latin American or Spanish Inspired  - Nada or Mitta
Fun Brewery - Taft Ale House (cool old Church) 
There are lots of others options that are great as well! 

Have Fun and see you there! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What To Read this Lent through Pentecost

This is your yearly reminder to read The Divine Comedy. ;)  You would expect nothing less from me, but why? 

This impressive literary classic is more than you might think.  Yes, Dante writes a image of Hell,  but in the as Dorothy Sayers' quips to only read the Inferno, is like knowing Paris by the sewer system. I couldn't agree more.  It would be as to acknowledge your shortcomings this Ash Wednesday and not work on them in Lent. This book is Dante's sharing of a personal Lenten journey. 

Lent is a time to face our own personal humanity and work on our journey to heaven.   Lent is the time when we acknowledge that we sometimes get lost and need to find our way back to God.  This is exactly the journey of The Divine Comedy.

In Inferno Dante examines the sins we are guilty of and more importantly gives us a lens through which we can examine our own culpability in those sins.  In Purgatory, we are asked to repent and get our hearts right for Heaven. In Paradise are inspired by the eternal Love and life examples we are given. 

What can a man from 700 years ago know of a woman's struggle or a millennial's challenges?  You would be surprised how universal the challenge of being human truly is. 

So, it matters not the translation you use, but the effort you make in personally reflecting.  I invite you to journey with me this Lent and Easter season through Hell and into Purgatory and finally arrive in Heaven.  Starting on Ash Wednesday, we will read about a Canto a Day until we finish on Pentecost.

Notes for those ready to take up the challenge:
I personally love the Anthony Esolen translations from Modern Library Classics: Inferno; Purgatory; and Paradise.  They are easily read and have a wonderful poetic quality like the original.  I also appreciate the footnotes being kept to a minimum. The Longfellow, Musa , Ciardi, and Hollander translations are all very good as well.  They are also often found free or cheaply on Kindle. 
I also want to encourage you to not get bogged down in the footnotes, only read if you feel you need to. 
I will be creating an group on FB that is for those who want to join the Canto conversations.  Contact me on FB if you want to join!  A Canto a day only takes about 10-15 minutes at most!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Four Lessons from 2016

Although we are over a month into 2017, I think it is important to constantly learn from your own experiences. Overall, I learned I need to take care of myself. As moms, we all hear that we need to make time for ourselves, but making time is hard. For myself, I don't need vacations away from my kids or husband, but small time where I know I am nourishing my own soul. These four things made the biggest difference in my year. 

I must make time to read for me! Books and audiobooks are just a joy for me! I love sharing books with my children, but I need to read what interests and inspires me as well.

I have found endless encouragement for reading at the Potato Peel Book Community. It is a wonderful community of readers who love good literature and not what is currently on the Top 10 list. 

I also love listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast. There is no judgement about what you like to read but great suggestions for all types of readers. I love hearing why people read, what they want different in their reading life and the reading struggles we all face. 

Between the Potato Peel Book Community and What Should I Read Next, I find myself constantly inspired to continue to read and encouraged in my efforts.

Related imageArtistic Expression
I need to be creative in some way. I love to paint, but it is time consuming.  This year, I taught myself to crochet. I now have a portable, artistic hobby that allows me to create while watching movies, listening to kids read, or at meetings.This is a total life changing win for me!

Challenge Myself
It is constantly important to challenge yourself. For me, planning, being consistent and organized THAT is the challenge. 

I was fortunate enough to participate in a Homeschool Boot Camp run by Pam Barnhill. I realized there that for me, my own planning and consistency is the key to success for myself, my kids and homeschool. Therefore, consistent is my word for the year! Challenge accepted! 

Encourage Myself with Instagram Gratitude
Instagram can help you see your own world a little differently. A few days distance with a filter and those crazy moments of life are beautiful! I love looking back at my own feed, because I have Instagram for me. It's a way to journal my life and how I see it. It helps me see beauty around me. I grown in gratitude and appreciation for my own life, looking at my Instagram past. 

A I look at 2017, I'm excited to continue with these and learn even more! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017


When I first read about choosing a Word for the Year, I thought it was a little odd or confining.  I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, so this word seemed like a different resolution.  Yet, this Word of the Year concept was one I kept running into.

I kept thinking, "No, I am working on too much to confine myself to one word and for a year."  Then, I realized there was a simple word that embodied all the areas which I needed to work on: Consistent.

Webster's definition of consistent is a person, behavior or process unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time. 

That is what I want to be! 

A parent who is consistent in my love and support, expectations, standards and reactions.

A homeschool teacher who is consistent not only in the execution of my lessons and philosophy, but in the standards and availability of assistance.

A homemaker who cheerfully does those daily chores with great love.

A wife who makes time for our relationship and value it above all others. 

A woman who nourishes my soul with reading and writing, improves myself with exercise, and makes time for the laughter and blessings of friends. 

In all of these areas, I will try to be consistent.