Midwest Homeschool Convention – day 1

First of all, let me say YAY for a gal’s weekend away!  A dear friend of mine and I drove up from TN to attend the MidWest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati.  This is exciting!

We’ve already had an afternoon of workshops and both L and I have felt convicted by what the speakers have to say.  In essence, we are ruining our kids – BUT IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

The first woman we saw was a workshop called “Confessions of a Disorganized Homeschool Mom” and it was like she was speaking TO ME.  Yes, I knew I was disorganized but she made me feel normal for being so.  It was like a weight was lifted off.  Some of the ways to help stay “on track” in our disorganized world are things I’m already doing, but there were other ideas that were totally new and refreshing that I will definitely be incorporating into my home.

The next workshop was on Unit Studies.  I love this concept on paper, but putting it into action is fearful for me.  The speaker, Amanda Bennett, talked about the benefits and rewards related to unit studies and this is the part where L and I were sure we’re ruining our children. Instead of discovering the gifts God has given them to succeed in ways THEY were meant to, we’re making them fit into our expectations of how they are to learn.  Wow.

Lastly was a workshop on writing and helping a reluctant writer.  Since we don’t follow a writing program, per se, this was very interesting with even more nuggets of inspiration.   The speaker, Julie Bogart, is a ghostwriter by profession and just started teaching writing to her children the way she worked writing.  While doing so, she discovered that the “educational” way of teaching writing isn’t the same as the “professional” way of writing.  This lead to her developing her own curriculum called Brave Writer which seems to be very interesting on the surface.

I see some research in my future.

Oh, and did I mention the vendor hall??  There is a ridiculous amount of companies related to homeschooling down in the exhibit hall.  We were in there for an hour and only saw half of what was there.  I can’t wait to get to the other half!






Unsocialized Homeschooler?

One of the things I remember hearing about (and I still do hear it) is that homeschooled children need to be socialized.

Hmmmm…  I wonder just what that means, sometimes.  I read a recent post on The Pioneer Woman about socializing and homeschooled children and the comments (current count around 260) were eye-opening about the differing opinions and thoughts on these children and their social behaviors.

There are threads about it all over different homeschool forums; How do you socialize your child?  Where does your child interact with other children?  How does he/she do in public?  I’m guessing each family knows their child and what they need best.  That’s certainly true in our case.

Monkey is a social machine.  She loves being around other children – as long as it’s not her brother.  Don’t get me wrong, she does love her brother, but they do fight as siblings do (and it makes a momma crazy, for sure).  Being homeschooled, though, hasn’t changed that.  Thankfully, with my job and our family activities, she’s still around other children almost every day.

Just last week, she had her standardized testing for three days.  She met a girl and made a friend on day one.  On day two, that friend invited her to a birthday party on the weekend.  On day three, her friend is introducing Monkey to her mom and making sure it’s ok that Monkey can come to the party.

The party was on Saturday and we went (and it was about 30 minutes away – one way), not knowing a single person there but the birthday girl.  Monkey was a little shy at first, but her friend took her to each girl and introduced her and within a little while, all the girls were dancing and playing around (it was at a karaoke cafe; a unique torture for the parent that will be written about later).

There’s no unsocialized homeschooler in this house.

On teaching art

For some reason, teaching art in our homeschool has been a struggle.  Which is a shame because I have a degree in art, a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Metal Design to be exact.  I always felt I needed an art curriculum but lately, that’s changing.  What I decided to do this time and will hopefully continue through the end of this school year is to just read about artists and then let the kids explore their creativity.  It seems to be working well, however we’ve only studied one artist.


Jackson Pollock.


I thought that perhaps an unstructured artist might be the easiest to start with.  Jackson Pollock most definitely was NOT structured.  He painted on huge canvases stretched out on the floor with gallons of house paint, old stiff brushes, sticks and the full motion of his own body.  He truly got “into” his work.


Well, so did the kids.  No, I didn’t let them paint on huge canvases (although in hindsight, that would have been way fun!) but they did enjoy not having to follow a pattern.  They just painted.  And splattered.  And dripped.  And laughed.  And learned about mixing colors (I only gave them red, yellow and blue paints).  Plus it was beautiful outside.  All in all, a great day.



Homeschool update

photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom

It’s that time of year again.  Time to research and start buying curriculae for next year.  We’re already about four or five chapters away from finishing Story of the World: The Ancients and Monkey wants to keep going with the second text now instead of wait until the fall.  That’s first on my list.  I’m going to continue using Christian Light Education for her math and language arts, but I really do need to buckle down with her writing.  I picked up a Writing Strands level 2 book, but honestly, I’ve been slack about using it.  Hopefully next year, I’ll be a little more on top of things with that.  I also need to find a reading curriculum for her.  I have no idea what level to consider her, but she’s just finished reading The Lightning Thief.  She’s read through the first nine books of Nancy Drew and really, just about anything else I hand her, she’ll read.

We’ve been practicing for her standardized testing which will happen in a couple of weeks.  She’ll be taking the Stanford Achievement Test 10 at the umbrella school where she is registered.  I haven’t really been “testing” her all year in anything else (she has regular tests in math and LA) so this practice is geared more towards getting her used to taking tests.  It’s worked out well, so far.

So, back to my list of things for her for 3rd grade.  Here’s what I have written down:

  • Math:  CLE level 3
  • LA: CLE level 3
  • History: Story of the World 2
  • Science:
  • Writing:
  • Reading:

Extras, like geography, art, foreign language, health, American History (this would be mostly reading books like Little House on the Prairie, Sign of the Beaver and The Secret Soldier), have yet to be determined in what capacity I’ll be teaching.  It isn’t cheap to homeschool.  Many of these things can be found used, but that takes a lot of time, checking and rechecking For Sale posts, and a little bit of luck.  Some of it has to be ordered new (because they’re consumables) and some I can, thankfully, borrow from a friend whose daughter is finishing 3rd grade this year.

It’s time to break out that Rainbow Resources catalog that is as thick as a big city yellow pages and start flipping…

A crafty Valentine idea

Monkey and I decided to get a little crafty this year for her valentines.  Her homeschool enrichment program meets on Mondays and Wednesday and they are exchanging valentines this week.  Her teacher encouraged the kids to get a little creative with their valentines and so Monkey and I looked around online to see what we could find.  We discovered Valentine’s Day Fortune Cookies on a blog I visit (thanks, Brandi over at Not Your Average Ordinary) and they were ridiculously easy to make.

First, you find some craft felt at your local craft store.  We tested the idea with paper but it just didn’t turn out so well.  Trace a circle on the felt and cut it out.  We used a bowl and it worked out nicely for size.

Take some pipe-cleaners and cut them to the same length as the diameter of the circle.  Glue with tacky glue or fabric glue.  I guess you can use a hot glue gun, too, but this is what we had on hand.

Then place the pipe-cleaner along the center of the circle.

Glue a small section across one half of the circle…

… then fold over like a taco.

We made lots of tacos.

Then Monkey spent some time hand writing her own messages on little strips of paper.  She even came up with “You’re a “dog”gone good friend” all on her own.  It was for a friend who really likes dogs.  Can you believe it?  I giggled about that all afternoon.

Then she used fancy cutting scissors to make them look neat.

We slid the strips of paper inside our little “tacos” after they dried, then we folded them back over the middle and made our little fortune cookies!  And a pipe-cleaner heart just because we could.

And there you have a basket full of red Valentine Fortune Cookies.

Homeschool update – half way done!

It’s January and remarkably close to February.  I’ve been a homeschooling mom for about 5 months now.  I don’t think I’ve ruined Monkey yet, but there’s still time.

I have learned a few things about myself during this time.  I’m not very good at following through on some things.  My lesson plans aren’t so much plans as they are just the idea of something I want to get done at some time or another.

Thankfully, the enrichment program that Monkey is attending handles many of the tougher subjects for me like music, science and yes – art.  Ironic, I know.  I have a degree in art.  I should be able to teach art, but I’m no so good at it.  So, I’m thankful that part of her education is taken care of at the enrichment program.

Monkey is a voracious reader.  I’ve been keeping a list of all the different books she has read since we started school back in August.  Admittedly, I have missed a few and didn’t write them down, but I have listed over 125 books.  The cool thing is that these are not simple books.  These are articulate chapter books and non-fiction books.  I love that she loves to read.

She’s getting a very strong math and language arts base, learning about ancient world history and we practice a little writing.  Right now, we’re using the Writing With Ease curriculum, but I’ll be honest, people.  I’m not completely sold on how this program will teach Monkey to be a creative writer.  She wrote better stories last year with her original first grade teacher.

We’ve started a new ongoing project, though, that I’m kindof proud of.  I’m sure it’s not original, but it’s getting her to read biographies and remembering some of what she reads.  She reads a book then writes in her notebook 5 facts she remembers about that person.  In my mind, it’s helping her learn about important people in history and teaching her to glean important information from what she reads.  Whether or not it’s actually working that way remains to be seen.

I still worry, though, about gaps in her education.  Is she learning everything that she’s supposed to be learning right now?  How will she perform on her scholastic test in 2 months?  Is she really comprehending all that she is reading?

I guess we’ll find out in a couple of months, huh?  Like I said at the beginning, there’s still time yet for me to ruin her.

Field Trip!

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that I get to schedule my own field trips.  Last week we drove about 2 hours to the Gray Fossil Museum in Gray, TN.  This was part of our earth and animal science class.  Gray Fossil Museum is located on one of the only Miocene fossil digs in the US – if I remember our tour guide correctly.  The fossils found are from 4.5-7 million years old and there are many, many more fossils to dig up.  She told us that they are estimating that there is about 300 years worth of digging fossils and about 700 years of processing/cleaning those fossils left to do.

Do this for me, reader.  Picture in your mind what the landscape would look like where a fossil dig is.  Are you picturing lots of earth dug up, areas roped off in grids, lots of tools littering about?  Well, that’s not what I saw.  When the tour guide started the tour with, “Look around you, this is our site,” my first thought was, “where?”  All I saw was a big hill with some weeds and plants growing on it.  Definitely not what I was expecting.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but Monkey and I learned quite a lot about fossils; digging them up, preserving them, making plaster casts and the storage of them.  We learned that they have many, many tapir fossils, an alligator fossil and an elephant fossil, some red panda fossils and rhino fossils and even a saber tooth cat’s tooth.  We also got to dig in the dirt some – Little Man loved that!  They have a tent set up with screens to filter dirt through to try and find a fossil.  Someone in our tour group found a bone about the size of a large shooter marble.  The hands-on part of the museum had different kinds of puzzles for the children to put together – even bone puzzles:  a leg bone (in 5 pieces) and a rhino’s three-toed foot with about 11 pieces.

Their temporary exhibit was all about predators and included sharks, big cats, birds and dinosaurs.  It was also very hands-on and I think Monkey and Little Man had fun.

Here are pictures that Monkey took while there:


This is what they call the Elephant Pit.  They are in the process of digging up an elephant skeleton and it is also where the first fossils were discovered – a hip and socket joint of a different elephant.  They use the bobcat to carry dirt away, not to actually dig.  They have tiny trowels for that.


This is a better shot of the same spot.  The black clay that you see was the first indicator during road construction that there might be something below ground worth saving.  People were actually working on this dig that day, we just happened to catch them on their lunch break.  If you can see the blue flags around a piece of plastic – there’s a plaster cast under there of the elephant they’re working on extracting from the hillside.


This is the Rhino pit.  They have found two, I think, adult males and a fetus.  They haven’t yet found the female, but they feel certain she’s in there somewhere.  They haven’t dug in it in a while and, yes, they do want water to fill the pit.  Some of the fossils haven’t completely fossilized and are still fragile.  The water keeps them moist so they don’t dry out and get brittle.  When they’re ready to dig again, they drain out the water.  The big rocks that you see are what they believe are from the cave in that made the sinkhole.  It’s the sinkhole where the fossils are all found.  One of the theories for why there are so many different animals in this area are that there was a forest fire (they’ve found old fossilized burnt wood) and as the animals fled the fire, they fell into the sinkhole.  Anyway, the rocks weigh tons but they won’t use machinery to remove them – the vibrations from the equipment might damage whatever fossils are still underground.


See all those yellow bags?  That’s dirt.  Whenever they find a fossil, they save the dirt that was found around it.  Each bag is labeled and set aside to be gone through at a future date.


A red panda fossil found onsite.  This was inside the lobby and Monkey was fascinated with it.  As we were leaving the museum, I let the kids pick out something from the gift store.  Monkey picked a red panda and Little Man chose bag of dinosaur figures.  Yeah, big surprise there.

All in all, it was a good day.