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Home Stretch

The following is an actual e-mail that I wrote to Emme’s boss (Emme is a life guard, btw.):

Hi Kristin,

Emme told me that she has a mandatory in-service meeting Sunday morning, May 20th.

I have to play the mom card and ask you if there’s any way she can miss this meeting?

Why?  That’s the morning that we have Senior Recognition at our church.  The Seniors don their caps and gowns and stroll across the stage as baby pictures flash on the large screen.  While their parents weep in the audience.

Why does this mean so much to me?  I’ve homeschooled Emme for 13 long years.  I’m still shocked that I ever taught her to read, as I was a reluctant homeschooling mom.  I pretty much still am, but my children are actually turning out okay.

May 20th is about me.  Not Emme.  I could barely get her into her cap and gown to try the thing on, she could care less.  In her mind she has already graduated and is poised on the brink of adulthood.

However, she has grown up in this church, and every year on Senior Recognition morning, I weep in the audience.  Not because I know any of the Seniors, but I’ve dreamed of the day when Emme will walk across that stage.  I’ve had the baby pictures all picked out for years.  I wish I were kidding.  I’ve been hoarding boxes of tissues when they go on BOGO at Publix for months.

So.  Is there any way she can miss this meeting?  If not, I suppose I could dress her sister up in the cap and gown and parade her up on the stage, but she looks nothing like her sister, and I think people might notice…..

Thank you,

DeeDee Hillmann

Homeschooling mom of 3 2

Kristen, who I know to be good-natured, said that this event trumps work.  I am forever in her debt.  When Emme learned of this e-mail, I received yet another hard eye roll.  One of many these last months, as she steps over her mother weeping uncontrollably while face down on the linoleum.

My Report Card

The Summer O’ Fun has been successful in that my children are so tired they don’t know up from down.  But it’s about to kill me.  I have to keep a cheat sheet in the van so that I remember who I’m supposed to have with me, where they are heading, and when I need to collect them.  There’s nothing worse than losing a teenager who doesn’t belong to you.  And in my defense, it’s only happened once.  But it was a nephew, and I don’t think he realized I actually forgot him (because I burned rubber getting back to where I left him.  I think he thought I was in the bathroom.  And we’ll just go with that.)

However, his mother reads this blog, so I may have some explaining to do…

In addition to surfing, bowling, and movies, we’ve added swing dancing, mall outings, and general “hang-outs” (play dates of old…generally involving old play date kids, just add years, hormones, and a potential for PMS or facial hair…depending on gender.)

I’ve spent the weekend finishing up their portfolios, report cards, and updating Emme’s transcript in anticipation for our annual Evaluation in the morning.  If the truth be told, I’m not running myself into the ground just because I want tired children.  Emme will be entering her senior year of high school next summer, so a very large part of me thinks that this could be my last Summer O’ Fun with her, while unfettered with the responsibility of a job, car insurance, and college prep.  A little bit of panic crept up into my throat as I put the final touches on her transcript.  I only have 2 more high school years with her.  And with that, her senior year will be spent in dual-enrollment at the local university.  Because I blinked.  And my sweet, so painfully shy she couldn’t even look you in the eye, tom-boy girl has blossomed into beautiful, tall, confident, mostly composed (she still falls down spontaneously, but it’s just part of her charm) young woman.

Boys are beginning to buzz around.  You should know that we’re dealing with that.  Boys who can drive.  Fiddledaddy would appreciate your prayers in this department.  And it will undoubtedly be a blog post unto itself, but I have to first get a job to pay my daughter all the money I will owe her because I’m talking about THAT.  As it is, I can generally get away with throwing a dollar or two at her to appease ALL THE EMBARRASSMENT.  But that post will cost me.

Perhaps a Paypal button.  (Insert maniacal laughter.)  She did peer over my shoulder while I was typing and informed me that if I use the name “Emme,” “first born,” “favorite child,” “high school junior,” etc., I will owe her $3 per mention.  PUT IT ON MY TAB, NUMBER 1.

After tomorrow (should I pass), I will be homeschooling a high school junior, a freshman, and a 6th grader.  Our homeschooling odyssey will be entering its 12th year.  Who would have thunk.

And on a different note, Fiddledaddy is giving me a blog MAKE-OVER!  Beach themed.  See?  Pigs really do fly.  Still a work in progress, but coming along.

Happy Monday!


The Homeschool Convention, or as I like to call it, Summer Camp for Weary Moms

I find myself right smack dab in the early part of summer.  And I have a span of time wherein I do not have to cart children off to whatever respective camp.  Hence, I have WORDS and time to WRITE THEM.

We ended our school year in May, and I made the annual pilgrimage to the Florida Homeschool Convention with my two cohorts in crime (sisters-in-law Trish and Cathy).  I’ve made this trip every year since Emme turned 4 and Fiddledaddy desired for her to be homeschooled.

I desired for her to be shipped off to boarding school.  In an uncomfortable climate.  But that could have been sleep deprivation talking.

When a homeschooling girlfriend mentioned the annual homeschool convention way back then (before Kindergarten), all I heard was VACATION.  Fiddledaddy was onboard because he knew the the mother of his children was not homeschool mother material.   He hoped the convention would aid me with tools I might need to, you know, teach.  It did.  I’ve only missed the convention one year and that was because I had given birth to the SURPRISE boy child in 2005.  So we’re talking 11 years of convention attending.

Not only have I amassed much learning, I also have a respectable collection of hoopty ploopty hotel lotion samples, as we stay at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando.

A few years ago, we began opting for the atrium room view.  I prefer to take in the view from the safety of the interior of the room, but I do enjoy the sights and sounds which waft through the doors.

This was our view on this particular visit.  Spectacular.

Fiddledaddy happily holds down the fort at home while I attend, so I can take full advantage of all that the homeschool convention has to offer.  I may or may not have sprung for a pedicure.

I have a good deal of dear homeschooling friends who attend with their entire families in tow.  I would like to tell you that I feel guilty leaving my husband and children at home.  But that would be a lie.  As I left, my children mumbled for me to say HI to ALL THEIR FRIENDS that would be there.  I was all OKAY, AND MAYBE I’LL SNAP A PICTURE OF THEM TO SEND YOU!  Bitter, party of 3.

At one point, my friend Michelle texted me, “I’m at the pool, what are you doing?”  (You know, in between lectures.)  I sent her a picture.


This was prior to the alleged pedicure.

I went down to the pool to join her, but she texted me as I arrived that she had to leave to take over CHILDCARE RESPONSIBILITIES in her hotel room.  So I sent her another picture.

Convention2She posted the following to social media along with the picture I sent her:

This is my friend, DeeDee, at the home school convention.
DeeDee didn’t bring her children.
DeeDee is smart.
Be like DeeDee.

Although, when it came time to party with the moms (who had their husbands on child-care duties), I had to reply to that text with, “I know it’s only 9:00, but I’m in my pajamas.  In bed.”

Because secretly I’m 92.

Part of the joy of attending the homeschool convention with the sisters is that we’re almost always in bed by 9.  Heavenly.

On our last evening, my SIL, Cathy, was joyfully expressing how stress-free this convention felt as opposed to past conventions.  I added THAT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE NO LONGER HOMESCHOOLING.  “Oh,” she mused with a snort.  “That’s right.”

Indeed, she graduated her last child this year.  Yet still chooses to attend with us.  The love of learning continues I suppose.  Or the love of atrium views, time away, an exhibit hall which contains all manner of fun, and more laughter than 3 grown women ought to ever experience over a long weekend.

It is therapeutic.  And what keeps us pressing on.  If the other sister or I ever start researching local schools, we remind each other, “But, remember, the convention.”  The light at the end of the long homeschooling tunnel.


Blood & Guts

I’m almost afraid to jinx it, but I’m proud to say that I’ve nearly gotten Emme successfully through her first year of high school.  With little to no trauma.  At least on my part.

I was able to outsource Science to our beloved weekly Co-op.  I don’t do Junior or Senior High Science.   Or really even elementary Science.

I am seriously blessed as a homeschool mom to be part of a Co-op that meets once weekly.  My girls have been able to take those classes that I’ve felt I’m inadequate to teach well (Science, Literature, Foreign Language, Art, and History).  (For the record, I did teach them all to read, so KUDOS TO ME. )  The tutors are outstanding and this group meets all of our academic, social, and dissecting needs.

Emme has been taking Apologia Biology from a very gifted and wonderful tutor.  She has a heart for  teaching and for her students.  And speaking of heart, her classes are well known for the dissection component of Science labs.  I really have no idea where she gets this stuff, but she comes in weekly with coolers loaded with all manner of fun dissecting options.

I only know that I’m going to do my best to remain on her good side.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of carting some of Emme’s teenaged girlfriends home from Co-op.  I’m often privy to some lively conversations.  This day did not disappoint.  It seems that the Anatomy class had been dissecting pig’s hearts (plural) in the church kitchen.  I will attest to this as I accidentally wandered through the kitchen earlier in the day and witnessed the aftermath of the gruesome crime scene.  The stainless steel kitchen island was still covered in blood.  I made a hasty retreat, and hoped that the pastor wasn’t in the mood to come in to make a sandwich.

Emme and her girlfriends had to enter the kitchen area to wash off their paint brushes after their art class.  “I looked down and there was a bucket of BLOOD on the floor,” I overheard between squeals as they relived their afternoon discovery.  I should note that all gag reflexes were fully operational.

If only their discussions of BOYS were littered with the same disdain.

And then it happened.  Emme’s Biology tutor announced an upcoming frog dissection.  The dissections had at this point been relocated to the great outdoors.  I happened to be loitering on campus and was able to stroll by every so often.  Emme was as green as her frog.  Kind of a putty green.

That’s my daughter in the red bandana.  Please take note of her expression as her tutor describes the frog’s entrails.  The photograph is slightly blurred because the photographer may or may not have been stifling a giggle.

It’s those little parenting moments that make it all worth while.

I’m considering putting her into Anatomy class next year.  I’m really hoping that her tutor can produce a cadaver.  Just the thought of that will be enough to get me through the entire homeschooling year.


Dolphin Tale 2

I thought I’d like to dust off my keyboard and let you all know I haven’t fallen into a Florida sinkhole.  I just needed to cut myself a healthy portion of slack and not pressure myself to sit in front of an empty screen and be all, OH LOOK AT ALL THAT WHITE SPACE.  Especially when I got nothin’.

The honest truth is homeschooling 3 kids, with one in high school, got a whole lot harder this year.  And what with ALL THE SOCIAL, I hardly have time to string together real words.  Next time someone quizzes me about my children’s potential lack of socialization because of homeschooling, I’m going to punch them in the throat.

Which reminds me.  All three kids are doing swim team this year.  Yes.  Three.  This means that Jensen, who swore he’d NEVER be on swim team because he’d rather die catch lizards during the girls’ practice time, is on the swim team.  And loving it.  He’s still on lizard restriction, so I’m sure that swayed his decision.  His fear of being bored at swim practice.


We call him the bullet.

And now I need to do a little bragging.  One of Fiddledaddy’s jobs is that of actor.  Last Fall he was able to travel to Clearwater, Florida to film a small cameo role in Dolphin Tale 2, which just opened last weekend.  He plays a morning show host who appears about three quarters of the way through.  The casting breakdown described this role as “chirpy shallow comedic morning show host.”  I think he nailed it.  He’s adorable.

He had an opportunity to attend the Clearwater premiere a couple of weeks ago.  I knew it would be a very late night, and I don’t do late very well, so we determined that his date should be Emme.  I don’t think she slept for 3 days before the event.  So exciting.  And it was her first time to wear heals.


On the blue carpet…


The really big stars attended the Los Angeles premiere a few days prior, but the younger stars were in attendance in Clearwater.  Emme got to meet a lot of the sweet people that her dad worked with.  It was such a great working experience for him.

I took the rest of my crew to see the film with some of my friends and their kids on opening weekend.  I think my favorite moment was looking over at my son, sitting with his favorite friends, beaming when his daddy came on the screen.

We really are so proud of this movie and Fiddledaddy.  It is an awesome family film.  I give it two thumbs up and a whoop-whoop.  🙂  #notbiased


Math is a 4-letter word

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.


Curriculum Round-up Summer 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


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.)

We’ve had the same evaluator for the last 7 years of our homeschooling adventure and we dearly loved her.  Alas, she retired and I knew I needed to procure the services of someone else this year.  I have a friend of many years (who has successfully completed her homeschooling AND has children that MADE IT INTO COLLEGE) who holds her teaching certificate and is able to do evaluations.  I set up an appointment with her to have all 3 of my children LOOKED AT.

The morning of the evaluation, Jensen worked himself into quite a state.  He doesn’t care for change and he REALLY didn’t take to the idea of someone looking at his school work and, you know, JUDGING HIM.  No matter how I tried to assure and reassure him, he still managed to successfully hyperventilate.  The sisters noticed his dilemma and sought to comfort him.

Just kidding.

They only added to his misery until he was pretty sure he was going to be repeating Kindergarten, even though he had just completed 3rd.

We met at a designated area and the evaluation began with my oldest.  About 5 minutes into the meeting, Jensen came up to me, hyperventilating again, and scratching himself until I though he was going to hit an artery.  As far as I know, no homeschool kid has ever died during an evaluation.  I didn’t prefer mine to be the first.

I comforted him and slid a couple of Kid’s Benydryl tabs between his lips.  There may or may not have been a promise of ice cream should we successfully finish the meeting without a trip to the emergency room.

After Emme’s evaluation was finished, we wisely decided to do Jensen’s, thusly putting him out of our his misery.  I sat and watched Jensen’s eyes shine as my friend, Pam, gushed over his handwriting (the bane of my existence), his careful attention to his math problems (he is certain that math is going to kill him), his detail to Science (the only subject which gives him a reason to live), and eventually, she marveled at his many colorful dinosaur drawings which depict every type known to man and include the requisite 9 year old boy guts and gore.

All scratching ceased.

I’m certain that there is a very special place in heaven that’s extra nice for people like sweet Pam.

I’m happy to say that all 3 children, plus their bedraggled  teacher, passed with flying colors.  Ice cream was enjoyed by all.

I typed up my letter, included the evaluation, and sent all three envelopes off to our local superintendent of schools.  Certified.  Return receipt requested.

After 9 long years, I am now officially the homeschooling mother of a high school freshman, a 7th grader, and a reluctant 4th grader.

And still, no one is in therapy.

So far, so good.