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Curriculum Roundup

It’s that time of year again.  When a homeschooling mom’s thoughts turn to lesson plans, scheduling, curriculum choices, and keeping the liquor medicine cabinet well stocked with Wine Excedrin.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we will be starting back to school next month.  We began homeschooling year round a couple of years ago, because I discovered that too much down time for my children = a nervous breakdown by September for me.

Plus I found that everything I was teaching them had a way of draining out of their head if too much time lapsed.  Therefore, we will have 4 quarters with 9 weeks per quarter.  We’ll work for 9 weeks and take 2 weeks off.  And we take all of December and June off.

In years past, I’ve pulled together curriculum that matched my children’s learning styles and interests.  Which I think is an awesome way to go.  We homeschooling moms have a lot of wonderful curriculum choices and teaching styles at our fingertips.

But for me, especially knowing that I would be adding an entity known as Jensen into the mix, the planning was killing me.

This year I’m going with a curriculum that is all put together for me.  My girlfriend Diana turned me on to Accelerated Christian Education.  (It has worked wonderfully with her 2 children, as they are both bright and articulate and especially well mannered.  I’m just shooting for “articulate”, but a mom can dream.)

Anyhoo.  Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) provides all the core curriculum needed, plus testing as a way to keep track of what the kids are actually retaining.

And the wonderful thing is, we will proceed at our own pace.  We don’t move on until a concept is mastered.  I could have joined Lighthouse Christian Academy as a way to help with record keeping, testing, and advising.  But since I’m good at organizing and keeping records, grades, and portfolios, I’m going to wait until Emme gets closer to middle or high school.

We’ll have our core subjects: Math, English, Creative Writing & Literature, Word Building, Science, Social Studies plus some extra Bible thrown in for good measure.  I also got the CD-Rom so they can do some of their work on the computer, such as Typing, Math Drills, and Word Building.

Now.  How am I going to upsell them on all of this?

My SIL sent me a link to a website that uses a Workbox System. Go check out the link.  I think this is brilliant.  There are many ways to implement this, and we’re using a set of drawers.  I can include their work in each drawer (one for every subject) plus a fun hands-on project when it applies to what they are studying.

I’m still setting the system up, but I found my drawers at Target.  They are 12 x 12 and have 7 drawers each.  (I got a 3 drawer organizer for Jensen, who will be an official preschooler.  Oh Lord help me.)


(These are the 12 x 12 drawers I found at Target.  One for Emme and one for Cailey.)


(Implementing the Workbox System Workstrip.  I will insert extra activities where the blanks are each day.)


(I’m using crates from Wal•Mart to keep my curriculum organized.  My crate (with answer keys) is the hot pink one.  Because I’m sassy.  Emme’s is black because she’s 9 going on 74.  Guess who has the fairy pink?)


(I print up my own journal pages using free downloads from Donna Young’s site.  LOVE HER.)


(I made up my own Daily Planning Pages using iWorks on my Mac.  Makes me look like I know what I’m doing.)

Also, I found a great website that offers a download file of folder games for Preschool through 4th grade.  I think I got the deluxe set for around $30.00.  That will provide some fun hands on learning and games.

Because my curriculum is already set up, I’ll have time to pull together fun learning activities to help keep their attention.  The premise of the Workbox system is to encourage them to accomplish goals and work more independently.  I really think it will help motivate them.  And keep me organized.

Okay, your turn.  I love hearing about what everyone else is using!  If you’re posting your own curriculum roundup, please feel free to post the link on Mr. Linky and then link back here.  I’ll leave it open for a week or thereabouts so you can join in.

Or of course you can leave your curriculum roundup in the comments section.

Just remember, if you have the heart and desire to homeschool your children, you only have to stay one day smarter than they are.  😯


Printed Words

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!”
— A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943

As our school year drew to a close, my Cailey still had not fully mastered reading.  And she most certainly had not developed a love of the written word.

She steadfastly stated that she couldn’t read.  But I knew that she could indeed read a lot more words than she was giving herself credit for.

And we kept plugging away.  I, by reading books aloud to her, and she, by diligently working through each lesson of “Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.”

About 3 weeks ago, she announced that she wanted to read her “The Little Mermaid” book aloud to us.  This was the same bedraggled book that I bought at a garage sale nearly 20 years ago, when I was portraying Ariel at children’s parties in Los Angeles.  (And btw, long red luxurious hair only served to make me look more pasty.)

I was floored.  She never wanted to read aloud.  She plopped herself down on the couch, and began with page 1.  And continued, reading aloud as though she had been reading forever.  Even the big 4 dollar words.

Since I’m not really one to get emotional…(right…have you met me?) I kept my tears to myself until later.  For the next few nights, she continued reading “The Little Mermaid” until she finished.  I even caught her sitting quietly during the day reading through it.  I was so proud of her.

It baffles me how a child learns to read.  And I’m even more baffled now that I’ve successfully taught two of my children.  I don’t remember ever not being able to read.  It just seemed like one day, somewhere between spit balls and eating the finger paint, it just clicked with me.  And I’ve had a deep and abiding love of books ever since.

Emme learned with ABeka in Kindergarten, and caught on very quickly.  Today she devours books by the armload.  After plowing through all of the American Girl books, she has started on a new series, “Magic Attic Club”.

And NO, it’s not that kind of magic.

Cailey, like most things in life, preferred to take the long winding road to reading.  And I’ve been around enough homeschooled children and their moms to know that each child learns at their own pace.  Some are reading at 4.  Others at 10.  I have a very strongly held belief that it is important not to pressure or push a child into reading.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Just read aloud to them, and present them with books that will spark their interest.  With Cailey, I have been picking up all sorts of books about mermaids, make-believe fairies, and of course the requisite princesses.

Coincidentally, Mom’s Homeroom launched a new episode on the topic of Reading this week.  Go check it out here.

And I’ve had a few of you ask me how to get to the message boards (where I lurk as moderator and sandbox monitor) to share questions or parenting concerns.

I want to give you step by step instructions.  If you are new to message boards, it all looks very foreign the first time you visit.  It certainly did with me.

The first thing you see when you visit the site is the episode.  Then, at the top click on “Community.”  That takes you to a list of topics.  At the bottom of the screen click on “View All Discussions.”  That takes you right to the boards.  You can sign in at the bottom.  All you need is your e-mail address (which is never shaders don’t even get to see it) and a “handle.”  Or what you want to be called.

Off topic.  Did y’all ever have a CB radio in the 70’s and 80’s?  I had one in my truck.  My handle was Sugarfoot.  Good buddy.

Anyhoo.  Focus.

You can start a new discussion, or jump in on one that’s already established.  We have a really great one on children’s book lists.  You can see it here.

I love reading.  And I’m especially fond of the library.  I’d go more often if I could just keep Jensen from disrobing at the circulation desk.  I’m sure the other library patrons would appreciate it as well.

Now a quiz. For you homeschooling moms, what curriculum have you found to be most effective for teaching reading? I’m still happy with “Ordinary Parents Guide” and will probably use it with Jensen next year.  I also use the magnetic board and letters.  Plus lots and lots of reading aloud.

And now, because I’m 7, here is a short list of book titles, not to be missed.

Adding Up by Juan & Juan
The Chocolate Bar by Ken I Havesum
Telephone Problems by Ron Number
Aching Joints by Arthur Itis
I’m Not a Mutant by Abner Mallety
The Bedpan Patrol by B.M. Nightly
Drink this Before the X-Ray by Barry Um
and finally,
I Read You Like a Book by Claire Voyant

Happy reading!


Conventional Wisdom

The Florida Homeschool Convention was indeed everything that I hoped for, and so much more.

While I intended to blog my way through it, I became very much aware that my focus was skewed, and I needed to concentrate on why I was there.

This happens to me in every day life as well.  I start to think more about the fodder, than living in the moment.  And this, my friends, is a hard lesson for me.  And why I haven’t been as “present” in the blogosphere.

I’m learning how to balance.  Because the juggling act I’ve been doing has left me exhausted.


We arrived at the hotel on Thursday, and Trish left me with all of our considerable luggage on the sidewalk while she parked somewhere out of state.

As I sat on the bench waiting, I began my customary yearly practice of People Watching at the Homeschool Convention.  There were a couple of moms who had been dropped off by a husband and a van full of kids.  I noticed that these moms were having a hard time tearing themselves away from the van.

“Suckers.  Must be newbies,” I smugly thought to myself.  When they finally pried themselves loose from the children and shut the van door, they stood back and waved to the back of the van as it disappeared around a corner.

Then they started whooping and hollering.  “YEAH!  FREEDOM!  I JUST NEEDED TO GET AWAY!” And they skipped merrily into the swank hotel lobby.

One thing you notice upon checking in to a homeschool convention, is that it most certainly doesn’t look like your average convention.

Moms, clad in various blue jean jumpers and comfy stretchy clothes, fill the lobby.  And with them are all manner of children, strollers, luggage, and of course, food coolers.

Food coolers.  In the lobby of a hoopty ploopty hotel.  Awesome.

And btw, I had my own food cooler.  I was just savvy enough to have it hidden in a rolling cart, and covered with bags.

It will be our secret.

I stayed with my partner in crime, and sister-in-law, Trish.  In the adjoining room was my other SIL, Cathy.  No one can make me laugh like those two women.  And it didn’t hurt that both of them smuggled in drinks that were wine in nature.

In fact, Trish not only brought wine coolers, but the decorative umbrellas that also make the drink look so much more expensive.

I posted a picture of my beverage over the weekend (and sadly, this was the only picture I took the entire weekend), and then took it down for fear that you all would think I’m a lush.

Which I’m not.  Really.  At most I drank the equivalent of one entire wine cooler over the entire weekend.

Because I’m a cheap date.

But I do have to share a story. On Friday night the 3 of us went to eat outside at the little deli-style cafe at the hotel.  Yes, we purchased food.  However, one of my SILs brought a bottle of wine discreetly hidden in a paper bag.  And some styrofoam cups.

I married into a very classy family.

Well.  We were giggling and telling raucous stories.  With the styrofoam cups filled.  I was in the middle of a story that a friend told me recently involving her lively boys and a set of testicles.

I don’t normally talk about testicles at dinner, but the mood was jovial, and well, the conversation warranted it.

Mid-story, a group of 3 women sat down across from us at our large table.  They were obviously of the same gene pool.  There was a young girl, a middle aged mom, and her elderly mother.  The young girl wore a “Got Jesus?” t-shirt.  They were 3 very dour women who spent the entire meal bickering and sniping at one another.  Never did they crack a smile.

I considered telling them the testicle story.  It’s one of those stories that every mother can appreciate.  But I thought better of it.  Then I considered offering the older of the two a little something from the brown paper bag.  They looked like they could use it.  Thankfully, clearer heads prevailed.  Instead, we 3 flashed our winningest smiles at them.

They ate quickly and left.

This cafe was quite the place to people watch.  The day prior we spotted a family with ELEVEN children in tow.  All dressed alike.  The girls all had matching white bows.  They were very well mannered.  I know this because we sat and studied them carefully.  Not one child pushed, kicked, hit,or bit another.

Trish and I looked at each other, “That’s just not right.”

I vowed to throw myself in front of their little entourage at some point during the convention so that I could interview them.

But alas, security was tight.  And I didn’t want to end up in the pokey because of stalking issues.

So I did what any good Christian would do.  I stared.

I attended many seminars that were delightful.  Among my favorites were speakers Linda Werner (Circle Christian School), Mark Hamby (Cornerstone Family Ministries), and Steve & Annette Economides (America’s Cheapest Family).

I was also able to hug the necks of many dear homeschooling friends!  Shout out to Karen, Carla, Michelle, Maridel, Sonia, Trish S., Carrie, and Joanna B., and new friend Joanna.

I came away rested and refreshed.  Mostly due to the sad fact that we climbed into our pj’s by 8:00 both nights and were fast asleep before 10.  Be sure to invite us to your next party.

Now I’m marking off the days until the next convention.  I did leave our FPEA a little feedback on their review form.  THROW THE BLOGGERS A BONE!  There are many many homeschooling bloggers here in Florida, and I think a homeschool convention warrants a seminar geared to us!

Can I hear an AMEN?

This is our last week of school and no one is more excited about that than the teacher.  I’ll be doing a curriculum roundup in the next month or so, and adding Mr. Linky (if he’s all fixed).


A Virtual Dilemma


Today is the backwards edition of Works For Me Wednesday.  The WFMW participants can pose a dilemma, or question, and then hope and pray for guidance.

Or in my case, pray that a girl scout will show up on my doorstep and give me a box of Thin mInts.

But, guidance would probably be a wiser choice.

I pose a question to all my homeschooling com padres.

Do you have any experience with “virtual homeschooling” in your area, and would you recommend it?

I’ve been putting together and planning our curriculum for the last few years.  I piecemeal a number of different curriculums for all of our subjects.

And this has worked fine.  Until this year.  I have a 3rd grader and a first grader, and in another year, I’ll be adding a Kindergartner to the mix.

The thought of that just caused me to age 10 years right here in my desk chair.

The planning is killing me.  I need something put together for me.  I know there are some wonderful curriculum (like Sonlight and Bob Jones) that offer DVDs and pre-planned lessons.  But they are rather cost prohibitive.

I had never really considered virtual homeschooling until I had a commenter post a thread about it over at the Mom’s Homeroom site, on the message boards.  And then more and more moms jumped into the conversation extolling the wonders of virtual homeschooling, and frankly, I’m thinking seriously about it.  (And to read the thread, go here.)

For now (pending more educational budget cuts, which really, don’t get me started on that one for fear I’ll owe my cuss jar some serious change) our state (Florida) does offer virtual homeschooling at no charge to homeschoolers.  That includes text books, web site use, and on-line help.

There is so much more that I need to learn about it, but I wanted to go to the homeschool moms and get the real information.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have an opinion, please spill your guts.

I’ll be virtually and completely appreciative.


Jumping Into the Deep End

When I first made the decision to homeschool, my oldest daughter was 4.  And I was high on 800 mg. of Motrin.

I was then able to ease into homeschooling starting with preschool, and when that year went by without any of us needing therapy, I graduated to Kindergarten.

Notice I said “I” as opposed to “she”.

Because my homeschooling mantra has always been, “As long as I remain one day smarter than my children, and the medicine cabinet is stocked with Excedrin, we’ll give it another year.”

And now we’re on our 5th year.  So far, so good.

This week I received an e-mail from Kathryn who is looking for advice on homeschooling her up and coming freshman in high school.

High school.  Yikes.  I can’t even think that far ahead.  I am so in denial that my kids will ever be teenagers.

But it will be AWESOME, because that’s about the time that MENOPAUSE will be in full swing.

I get just giddy thinking about all the blog fodder.


I asked Kathryn if I could post her e-mail, thusly posing her question to my more seasoned homeschooling readers.

Hi! I came across your website, while looking around about homeschooling my son.. I am worried about starting.  I have 3 children 15,14, and 13. I am only wanting to homeschool my 15 year old.  I do not like the school district here and he will be starting the 9th grade this year.  I do not want him in this high-school.  Would it be wise to homeschool just him or do homeschooling for all of them?  If you have any questions or comments about my inquiry, please e-mail me and let me know.



My initial knee jerk response was to tell Kathryn to homeschool just her 15 year old, and as she gains confidence, bring the others home as well.  If homeschooling turns out to be a good fit for her family, of course.

Also, I told her to see if she could get involved with a local homeschooling support group.  She said that she lives in a very small town of about 2000, so her resources may be limited.

I now turn this over to y’all.  If you have any sage advice on how to proceed, or curriculum choices, please leave them in the comments.

Thank you!!!!


When A Door Closes

Life is fluid. Seasons come and go. When we reach detours, we just alter our course and go on. Especially after throwing the GPS out of a moving vehicle.

Life is about change. This thing called change?

I don’t much like it.

On Thursday, I received an unexpected e-mail. I read it, reread, and then sat staring at my computer screen. Assessing the changes that were eminent and were completely out of my hands.

I then mentally rehearsed the speech needed to break the unexpected news to my children.

The e-mail I received was from our homeschool group leader. We have belonged to a very large homeschool group for the last 4 years. My children have been very involved in a number of the activities offered. And were looking forward to the next year with great anticipation.

And now, because of circumstances unforeseen, our nonprofit homeschool group is closing. Effective immediately.

I was forced to tell my children about the closing on Thursday, only because they were to attend a function, and I knew it would be discussed. Otherwise, I would have pretended never to have received the e-mail. Avoidance is my favored coping technique.

The children’s grief was thankfully overshadowed by the horrifying news that their mother was leaving to fly home to Texas that evening. Without them.

Thursday was an emotional day in the House of Fiddle. Even the fish cried.

But, there is a reason for this uncharacteristically personal post.

To the lady who has lead this large homeschool group for the last 7 years, and reads this blog, I have a few choice words for you.

Dear Carla,

I just love you. Thank you for the many millions of hours you have devoted to my children, as well as to hundreds of other homeschool families. I so appreciate you, and the sacrifices that you have made. Your work is often under appreciated and overlooked.

I will miss you terribly. I will miss your friendship and your constant encouragement. I know, you will not be that far away, but you know my flair for drama. It is a gift.

I type these words as I cry bitter tears. Face down in an airport terminal.

God has opened a wonderful window of opportunity for you. I’m excited to see what He has planned in your life. You will be such a blessing where you have now been led.

Because of you, and all of your work, my children have made life long friends. And so have I. You have planted seeds here that will continue to grow and flourish. Do not ever doubt that.

I’m excited to see how God will use this opportunity to shove coax some of us out of our comfort zones. Ahem. And in the last few days, I am encouraged by some of the moms who are stepping forward to keep a few programs together. I have little doubt that we will eventually evolve into a strong support group. I hang onto that.

Thank you again and again.

You will be greatly missed.

Cootie Free Environment

Once a week, we are involved in a homeschool enrichment program which is taught by moms and sponsored by our homeschool group. This is a wonderful occasion for our kids to be exposed to different electives and learning opportunities.

And to, well, other kids.

Afterwards, many of us head to the local park for a little lunch and play.

This week, we took a detour before heading to the park. Because I determined that my lunch should come in a grande Starbucks cup. With whip cream and a straw.

I had my 3 kids in the van, plus Emme’s BFF. Cailey and Jensen occupied the middle row, and Emme and BFF sat in the cheap seats, way in the back.

I kept the music off, and tried to listen to the conversation between two 9 year olds in the rear of the van. Which was not easy, since the middle row occupants are compelled to tease, torture, and generally FREAK OUT with each other. It’s in the van by-laws.

I get my best information when I can steal a listen to a 9 year olds musings. With another 9 year old. They determined that when they got their braces, blue should be the color of choice.

Let me pause here to make an observation. A question, really. How is it, that a 9 year old can romanticize about getting braces? Especially a 9 year old who lived in the same house with a mother who had to endure 18 months of adult orthodontia humiliation and torture. A mother, who I might add, does not suffer in silence.

And btw, I chose “clear” for my color of braces. Not something I recommend. Because “clear” is code for “yellow” (or light brown if you’re a coffee drinker) and only serves to make the experience all the more humiliating.

Emme and BFF also concluded that Lucky Charms have WAY too much sugar, and spinach should be stricken from the food pyramid altogether.

There was also talk of fashion and possibly boys, but I couldn’t be sure because that’s the moment that Cailey chose to swipe a toy from Jensen, who then thwacked his guilty sister with the business end of his Blues Clues blanket. Screaming and yelling followed. But, not by me.

I wisely chose to maintain my composure, since we had a van guest. But I did manage to shoot the stink eye into the rear view mirror at the middle row occupants.

Once we were safely ensconced at the park, I joined in on the conversation of the other bedraggled homeschool moms. And since I was WAY amped up on caffeine, I felt rather chatty.

We were discussing that all important “socialization issue” that comes up every time we feel a need to defend our homeschooling choice.

And we all smiled as we looked around the playground at our children. A 14 year old girl was pushing Jensen in the baby swing. REALLY HIGH, just the way he likes it. I made a mental note to warn her that he will on occasion, barf, but will insist on not stopping. I’ve learned to simply stand way back between pushes.

A few yards to the left, 6 or 7 boys and girls of various ages were playing tag. This game also included a dad. And other assorted kids were involved in skateboarding, rough housing, and general horse play.

This was a playground full of children ages 3 to 14 or so, all playing together, with no segregation according to age, race, or sex.

That socialization thing?

Not an issue.

Now, That’s Funny

Interestingly, I was perusing the internet, pricing tuition for boarding military schools. A school that is located in, say, a harsh climate.

And then I found out that my little blog was nominated for a 2008 Homeschool Blog Award, in the category of “Funniest Homeschool Blog.”


I’m both amazed and delighted. And I so appreciate the nomination. Thank you. Voting begins today through November 21st.