The Christmas List

by Fiddledeedee on August 26, 2014

Nevermind that it’s still August.  Or that our Crocs are still sticking to the asphalt.  My son has already taken it upon himself to make his Wish List for Christmas.


As you might see, he’s still in the dinosaur phase.  I believe we’re going on 3 or 7 years now.  I’ve lost count.  But what you might have noticed if you look beyond the spelling errors, is something a bit new.

Jensen is still on Lizard restriction.  He cannot seize, catch, hunt, or track reptilians in our yard.  Or anyone else’s (as we found we must be very specific).  My apologies to the elderly neighbors who may have spotted a 9 year old boy in camouflage skulking around their rain gutters.  Also, all televised viewing which contained episodes of animal violence have been removed from his Netflix lineup.

In their stead, Fiddledaddy placed Animal Planets Too Cute into Netflix for Jensen’s viewing pleasure.  This is a tug at your heartstrings type of show which features liters of tiny puppies and kittens.  There was one particular breed which caught Jensen’s fancy; Bengal Kittens.

One night last week while I was out shuttling teenagers to and fro (this is a whole new aspect of homeschooling a high schooler which deserves a post of its own), I received a text from Fiddledaddy about Jensen’s brand new obsession.   It began with a link to the cat breed in question.

The conversation went as follows:

Me:  Stop it!!!

Him:  I know.  I’m canceling Netflix.



Him:  Help me.

Me:  Step away from the internet.

Him:  I’m holding a weeping boy who is negotiating away all toys for Christmas if only he could have a Bengal Cat.

Me:  Tell him we will get him a snake.

And for the record, the No Pet Clause is still safely in place.  I love the idea that the only things I have to keep alive in the house is the husband and the children.  The boys tried to give me some mumbo jumbo about this particular cat (which can set you back a couple thousand, btw) being hypo-allergenic.  Phhhttttt.  This is so NOT my first rodeo.

Legos for Christmas.  What would be wrong with Legos for crying out loud?



Math is a 4-letter word

by Fiddledeedee on August 5, 2014

It’s crunch time.  We begin school next Monday, since the girls begin Co-op a few days after that.  I’ve spent my entire day setting up Math.  Math has consumed me.  So this is a math review.  I sense that your eyes are rolling to the back of your head.

I can tell you that I love math.  That love is not shared by anyone else that I live with.  Or know.  Not long after we were married, Fiddledaddy asked me to play the banker in this little game of Monopoly because Math is not his gift.  It seemed natural since my accountant offered me a job every single year that I brought in my taxes.  You should see my check register.  It is a work of art.

Yes.  I could benefit from therapy.  But IT’S NOT IN THE BUDGET.  HAHAHAHAHA.

Proving that He has a sense of humor, God gave me 3 children who hate math.  And then to add insult to injury, He encouraged me to HOMESCHOOL them.

We’ve been through nearly every Math curriculum ever created, including A Beka, Math U See, Saxon, Singapore, and Accelerated Christian Education.  Some worked okay with one or another, but it wasn’t until I discovered Teaching Textbooks that I found a curriculum that worked well for all 3 kids.

Teaching Textbooks is a curriculum which has verbal and visual instruction on CD-ROM, and can come with a written student spiral.  It was created specifically for homeschoolers.  It begins with the 3rd grade and ends with high school Pre-Calculus.  I think it works well for most kids because the lecture is conversational, and includes bright colored interactive visuals.  So it appeals to the visual AND the auditory learner.


We switched to Teaching Textbooks when Emme was struggling mid-way through her 6th grade year.  It was an immediate relief, as it took much of the explaining off of my shoulders, and allowed her to work through the problems at her own pace, not moving on to the next concept until mastery.  There is just the right amount of review, and she knows immediately if her answer is correct.  If incorrect, she is able to view how to do the problem.  OH YEAH.  And it’s self grading.  I get the second edition versions which are Mac compatible and therefore self-grading.

I do like getting the spiral text, even though my kids show their work in a graph spiral (I get these from Office Depot).  That way I can still re-sell the text, but it’s nice to visually see the lesson in print, and know what topics are going to be covered.

Teaching Textbooks is not cheap.  I can attest to that since all 3 of my kids are doing it.  I’ve been able to buy it used in all cases.  I have had to purchase an occasional spiral text, or buy a replacement disc for one that is damaged.  This company does not mind that this curriculum is sold used among homeschoolers.  And their telephone customer service is awesome.

My math task today included installing Math 4, Math 7, and Algebra 1 on the computers.  I also make it a practice of burning copy discs so my kids aren’t using the originals and risking all the scratches, dropping, and general mayhem that accompanies disc usage.  The copies I make are only for our use and I destroy them when we’re finished.

I did run into a snag, however.  I spent a good deal of my afternoon trying to make copies of Algebra 1.  The first disc copied, but no others would.  I thought that perhaps I had defective discs, but then I realized that they might be copy-protected.  A quick call to the company confirmed this.  She apologized, but said that some of the newer versions (like Algebra 1) were copy-protected.  I completely understand this, since I can see where that might be abused.

So I’ve instructed my Algebra student that she cannot use her discs as a coaster, or a frisbee, or a weapon…

I also discovered a Math Worksheet website last year which allows you to customize worksheets to cover those topics your own reluctant student might need additional help with.  There are plenty of free topics, but I did subscribe for a year (I believe it was about $25) so that I had access to more specific math topics.


At one point this last year, one of my children (unnamed) looked up from her computer, “MOM, if I’m going to be a Disney Princess, I do NOT need Math.”

That’s where you’re wrong, my friend.  Math is the one subject you WILL use every single day of your life.

And that thought fills me with an unending amount of joy.



The Skates

by Fiddledeedee on July 30, 2014

I grew up on 8 wheels, throwing myself around a roller skating rink on a weekly basis.  During the pre-disco era.  Between the pom-pom bedazzled roller skates, 18 inch bellbottoms, and requisite platform shoes, it’s a wonder I never broke a femur during that decade.

The one and only time I tried ice skating was in my early 20’s.  I was a struggling actress in Dallas and my agent called, “Can you ice skate?”  “I’ll let you know.”  I mean, how different could it be?

I headed out to the local rink and stuffed my feet into a pair of white ice skates.  This is when I discovered that the two types of skates WERE VASTLY DIFFERENT.  I hobbled around on the carpet before getting the nerve to try the ice.  After about an hour of hugging the rail, I took a break to make my way to a pay phone.  I called my agent, “How good do I have to be?”  “You have to look like you know what you’re doing.”  A couple of moments of tortured silence, and then I said, “I’ll call you back.”

I made my way back to the ice and put in another hour or two until I could get around the rink without hanging on to another patron or the wall.

I went to the audition and was never even asked if I could skate.  And to add insult to injury, I didn’t book the commercial.   Showbiz.

Fast forward many many decades.  My girls and a gaggle of their teenaged and tween-aged friends want to spend a carefree afternoon at the ice skating rink.  I don’t ever mind trips to the ice rink, what with ALL THE HOT FLASHES.  And since this is Florida, ALL THE HOT.

And if this is the part of the story wherein you think I applied a pair of ice skates to my own feet and showed up the youngsters, you would be wrong.  Not enough insurance in the world, my friends.

But the unusual part of this saga is that for the first time EVER, my 9 year old boy wanted to check out the ice skating rink.  With ideas of possibly giving it a whirl.  My 9 year old son, who has never ever shown ANY interest ANY sport, thought ice skating might be fun.

I’m guessing this could stem from the boredom one might experience if you’re 9 and you’ve been placed on lizard restriction.  To save the remainder of the lizard population, we’ve had to instill a conservationist mindset in our boy.  This means no hunting, touching, and accidental murder of any more lizards.  (Long gruesome story.  Best left untold.)

So my son joined his sisters, a bunch of teen and tweenagers, and two of my sweet mom friends at the rink.  Ice skating is not a cheap adventure, so I was really hoping Jensen would not only place the skates on his feet, but also, you know, venture onto the ice.  After I got him strapped in, things did not look good.  He couldn’t get his ankles to cooperate.  I even rented him a walker.  Yes, just like the elderly, except the bottom is flat and can glide on the ice.

He wanted to quit 3 minutes after getting the skates on his feet.  Visions of a shredded $10 bill danced in my head.  I encouraged him first to stand, then to try walking around the rubber perimeter.  After a time, he saw his sisters and friends heading out onto the ice.  He made it to the ice entrance.  And then his sisters and all of their friends enveloped him and began encouraging him.


The cute blonde is my dear friend, Beth, who took one for the team and strapped on her leg brace and skates to hit the ice with the kids.  She was supremely instrumental in getting Jensen onto the ice.  She promised him a handful of M&M’s.

One of Emme’s buddies is well over 6 feet tall, and he began leading Jensen around the rink.  He earned his angel wings for all of his patience that day, even taking a tumble when Jensen pulled them both down.  But they got back up and continued skating the impromptu lesson.

Before the skating session had ended, Jensen made it around the rink THREE times by himself.  He was a wall hugger.  But had lots of encouragement along the way.  I’ve never seen that little boy be so proud of an accomplishment.


When I was helping him take off his skates, he asked, “Mom, is ice skating a sport?”  “Yes, yes it is.”  “HEY! I HAVE A SPORT NOW!”

And my heart melted all over the ice.





Curriculum Round-up Summer 2014

by Fiddledeedee on July 22, 2014

I’m in denial that our school year starts in just 3 short weeks.  I’m also in denial that I have a kid in high school.  When I started this blog I was a homeschool mom to a 2nd grader, a kindergartner, and a toddler.  And then I blinked.

3_Students(That is my finger in the upper left. I have mad photography skilz.)

I don’t think I really thought I’d be in this for the long haul.  I simply took it a year at a time.  Or as my husband would tell you, a week at a time.  My biggest fear (besides a complete mental breakdown) was how in the world I would homeschool a kid through high school.  I have no idea how I ever made it through high school, much less how I would get someone else through it.

So much of our journey has been trial and error.  Heavy on the error.  I think I’ve tried nearly every curriculum available, from A Beka through Our Father’s World.  Some worked some years, for some kids, for some of the time.  We’ve settled on an eclectic mishmash that I believe will get me through the remainder of our homeschooling journey.

One of my favorite curriculum is Our Father’s World.  I wish I had discovered it when we were beginning to homeschool.  Alas, I had to abandon it when Emme began Classical Conversations her 7th grade year.  I had all 3 of them on different schedules and curriculum and I nearly went crazy.  When I saw that we might not have a tutor for CC 8th grade, I switched her to a local Co-op which catered to 7th – 12th grade.  That was the best homeschooling decision I’ve ever made.  The courses offered suited her academically, the teachers were amazing, and I dearly love the kids that she’s become close with.  This program will see her through high school and save me from the scary high school courses that include labs and DISSECTING STUFF.  And she is excited to start school (first time ever) because of how much she loves this co-op and that two of her best girlfriends will be joining her there this year.

I attended our annual homeschool convention in May with my sister-in-law, Trish.  Honestly, when things get really bad in our homeschooling day, we can console one another with, “but if you quit, you can’t go to the homeschool convention.”  Not even kidding.

We both had to pay extra attention and attend all the “how to homeschool through high school” classes.  The biggest takeaway I got was how important the SAT scores are for scholarships and that transcripts really aren’t all that frightening.  Fortunately I am OCD when it comes to record keeping.  I’m certain that Emme’s transcript will be suitable for framing.

So, here’s a rundown of how our school year will look.  Both Emme and Cailey will be doing the Co-op one day a week.  Their teachers give them their assignments for the remainder of the week.  My job is to simply follow up with them to make sure they have their work done and have them to their class at 8:30 dressed in something other than footie pjs.

Emme (my 9th grader) will be taking Apologia Biology, American History, Advanced Literature, a 2-D Art class, and a Math tutoring class.  She will continue Teaching Textbooks for Math at home and will be in Algebra 1.  She will also continue Spelling and SAT Vocabulary with our Big IQ Kids program.

She’s been doing Big IQ Kids to supplement her Spelling since 1st grade, and I totally attribute this program to how amazing she is at spelling.  All 3 kids do the program to supplement and it is the one constant through all of our homeschooling years.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about it.

Oh yeah, and she’ll be taking DRIVER’S ED.  {{{Hold me.}}}

Cailey (my 7th grader…gulp) will be taking Apologia General Science,  Latin & Greek Roots, a Writing class, 2-D Art, and a Science study hall at the Co-op.  At home she will be doing Teaching Textbooks 7 for Math, Accelerated Christian Education for Spelling, English, and Social Studies.  I will continue Story of the World Volume 1 for history with both Cailey and Jensen.  We are in our 3rd year of Volume 1.  We evidently like to study our history in real time.

Jensen (my reluctant 4th grader) will be doing everything at home.  With his mother.  Otherwise known as The Torturer.   Jensen is my most difficult student to date.  I know.  Hard to imagine.  He’s a wiggly learner who is likely to spontaneously fall out of his chair at any moment.  But I have to say, he’s come a long way since the beginning of his 3rd grade year.  When we began last year, he was not reading.  Not.  At.  All.

He is now reading, learning cursive (the bane of his existence), and is known to carry armloads of books out of the library for his own personal science research.  The kid is scary smart.  I just need to direct and redirect ALL THE ENERGY AND DEFIANCE.

He will be doing Teaching Textbooks 4 for Math (he is certain that Math is going to kill him…but he’s doing great), and Accelerated Christian Education workbooks for English, Spelling, Social Studies, Creative Writing, and Science.  Since Science is his favorite subject, I’m adding a new curriculum that a girlfriend of mine suggested (she also has wiggly boy scientist wanna-be’s), The Sassafras Science Adventures: Zoology.  This is an adventure story with a corresponding work-book.

I’ve gotten my Journal all set up with Donna Young free printables, curriculum is on the shelves, and Extra-strength Excedrin is stocked in the cabinet.  I think I’m ready.

I love to know what curriculum everyone is doing, so please feel free to list yours in the comments!



The Evaluation

July 9, 2014

At some point during the month of June, I schedule an evaluator to peruse my homeschooling journal and the kid’s portfolios.  If she gives her okiedokie, everyone is promoted to the next grade, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. (We’ve never ever NOT received an okiedokie, but you know, there’s always THE CHANCE.) […]

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