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Thank you notes, the write way


Now that the Christmas gifts have all been ripped open, the boxes shoved under the couch, and the paper crumpled up and stashed in the corner, it’s time to write the thank you notes.  My mother-in-law instilled in her children that the gift never even gets played with before the thank you note is written.  Consequently, she raised 6 children who are excellent thank you note writers.  We’ve tried to pass this on to our own children.  And by we, I mean Fiddledaddy, because it is not unusual for me to completely drop the thank you note ball.

Thankfully, my children inherited their father’s letter writing gene, and they will immediately put pen to paper and craft the most beautifully written notes of gratitude and thanks that I’ve ever seen.  I’d love to be able to say that I’m doing something write right, but it’s not me.  I truly believe that a lot of their letter and note writing skills have been developed over the last couple of years as they’ve corresponded with their respective American Heritage Girl’s pen pals.

I was awfully proud this week when both of my girls, with no prompting whatsoever, wrote lovely thank you notes to their grandparents in Texas.  They addressed their own envelopes, pilfered stamps from my desk, and then raced out to the mailbox to put the flag up.

What I have concluded is that note writing is a habit best developed early.  And not only does it demonstrate good manners, but it also teaches a sense of responsibility.

Mom’s Homeroom has a video discussion and demonstration that clearly lays out the hows and whys of getting your children to write thoughtful thank you notes.  The steps are very easy to follow, and present a step by step approach should your child suffer from writer’s block.  Click on this link to get to the videos on writing tips, and the thumb nail for the Thank-You Notes Done Write video is at the bottom.  These are excellent videos to give you some guidance to draw out the inner-writer in your child.

There are also some really well written articles referenced at the end of the video that cover letter writing skill building and they can be found here.

This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.




Homeschooling and the Socialization Question


I’ve received more than usual amounts of emails regarding how to begin homeschooling lately.  When someone asks me how long I’ve been homeschooling, my stock answer is, “Eight long years.”  Fiddledaddy will tell you that I quit homeschooling every Friday, only to begin again on Monday.

If you catch me at just the right moment, I will advise you, “RUN. RUN LIKE THE WIND.”

I will be the first to tell you that it’s not for everyone.  Each family must weigh their own reasons and resources before deciding to undertake this endeavor.  I know many families who have children who thrive in a school setting.  I also know many families who have children who thrive in a homeschooling setting.  There is no right or wrong answer.  It’s a very personal decision.

With that said, I wanted to address some of the questions that I’ve been receiving.  Of course that all important socialization issue comes up most frequently.  Perhaps the most important aspect of homeschooling, even perhaps more important than the curriculum question, is the area of support.  Because as I can tell you from first hand experience, the moms are in (perhaps more) need for a listening ear, and social support.  When I first began homeschooling in 2004, I was parent to a Kindergartner, a 3 year old, and a newborn.

I spent a good deal of my day face down on the linoleum.  Or in the fetal position. In other words, I felt isolated.

I searched through online groups in my area, and after checking out several, I finally found a co-op type of group which not only offered classes, but also extracurricular activities.  This group was a lifesaver to be certain.

After a few years, the group disbanded, and I found myself feeling like a lone wolf once more.  This time I took matters into my own hands and began a once weekly play group which met at a local park.  I put together email addresses from contacts from my old co-op group, and sent out an email to determine interest.  We had our first meeting on a Friday afternoon, 5 years ago.  Through word of mouth and social networking, this group has grown.

I can tell you that these families have become some of my dearest friends, and closest support system.  Our children have grown up together.  It is a group that has ebbed and flowed over the years.  I’m blessed in that this has been a group of people that are very open about their struggles, and there is an abundance of grace as we all navigate these treacherous waters together.

I’ve wondered if our situation is an anomaly, or have other homeschoolers elsewhere been able to find support systems.  I was reading an article on the Mom’s Homeroom website addressing the importance of finding a support system when choosing to homeschool.  The article offered some of the standard and very important benefits to finding community.  But they did go farther in offering helpful suggestions for ways to search for homeschooling help and support.

In fact, I was very pleased to see ideas shared that I had never thought of.  I think it’s a great jumping off point.

If you are considering homeschooling for your family, know that you don’t have to go it alone.  Each state does a fantastic job of getting the information regarding requirements and community groups.  A great place to start would be your state’s Homeschool Convention.

And speaking of which, I’ve already begun the countdown for our Florida Homeschool Convention in May.  I’m already giddy with anticipation.  Packing may have commenced.

This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.


A messy desk…

…is the sign of a cluttered mind.

A week or so ago I received an email from Emme’s Classical Conversations tutor.  She was asking all of Emme’s classmates to search their carts for a fellow student’s missing book.

Warily I approached Emme’s cart.  If you’ll recall, this is the same cart that I drag around at the homeschool convention, in an effort to look like I know what I’m doing in the exhibit hall.  It also houses all manner of snacking options as I sit through two days worth of lectures, hoping to soak up all available knowledge to sustain me through the homeschooling year.  It also serves as a fancy foot rest and picnic table.

But I digress.

When Emme began Classical Conversations, I knew that a backpack was not an option, unless weekly trips to the chiropractor were desired.  I outfitted her cart with what is described as a “Cart Apron” which is code for fancy cart cover with multi-exterior pockets to maintain optimum organization.

Cart Apron fail.

I rifled through Emme’s cart and did not find the classmate’s missing book.  I sent the following text to the mom:

“I searched Emme’s cart, also known as the black hole, and came up empty.  But I did find something that I think was a member of a food group at one time…”

Honestly, on Monday morning I make sure that her cart is neatly organized, color coded, and alphabetized.  I think that once she gets to class, she dumps the contents out onto the floor, runs it over with the cart itself, and then stands across the room with her eyes closed to pitch everything back inside.

Not unlike the method in which she loads the dishwasher.

I often question how it is that we share the same DNA.

I cannot even talk about the state of her bedroom without hyperventilating.

This is most unfortunate for her room mate and sibling arch enemy, Cailey (the neat-nick), who must share a 10 x 9 foot sleeping space with her slob of a sister.  Their desks are side by side in the family room, and clearly illustrate the vast difference between these two siblings.

Exhibit A:  Emme’s desk

Exhibit B:  Cailey’s desk

Please note the beautifully crafted origami decor.  One such origami constructed box houses her ear buds, WHICH ARE NEATLY WRAPPED AFTER EACH USE.  Occasionally Emme has need of her sister’s desk to use the Mac computer, and this act has caused Cailey’s head to actually explode.

I found a list of ideas to help with the messy school work dilemma on the Mom’s Homeroom site, and I’ve begun to implement a few suggestions, especially the one about providing the proper tools for her work environment.  But honestly, after talking to my mother-in-law, as well as my sisters-in-law, I think I’m fighting a losing battle, as this issue is clearly hereditary.  She hails from a long line of slobs.  (Not the mother-in-law mind you, but all of her 6 children.)

I don’t know how Emme functions, yet she does.  Organization really throws her for a loop.

As long as she’s getting assignments completed and they are legible, should I just CHILL OUT?  Or. Is there hope that I can steer her into an organizational direction which will benefit ALL WHO HAVE TO LIVE WITH HER NOW AND IN HER FUTURE?

This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

The hole-in-the-wall gang

We have a child residing in our home who is rather prone to SPECTACULAR melt downs.  And I have to say, because my best coping skill is AVOIDANCE, there’s a big part of me that would prefer to ignore the bad behavior in an effort to avoid the fallout.

But by doing that, I would be creating a monster, and would therefore totally suck at this whole parenting gig.  And thankfully I have Fiddledaddy to gently encourage me to stick to my guns, or else the whole ship will go down in a flaming heap of crappola.

Last week a situation arose in which one of our children was in need of discipline.  Therefore, this child was sent to the timeout corner.  I really can’t even remember the infraction, likely because ALL THE HORMONES have caused valuable brain cells to die off prematurely.  Like breast feeding didn’t do enough damage.

Anyhoo.  The child in question while positioned in the time out corner vented a good deal of their frustration on our hapless and not-so-well constructed mini-corner.  It’s more of a bend, really.  The aggressive manner of the venting presented itself as a knee shaped hole in the drywall.

This caused the guilty child to FREAK OUT even more upon realizing the damage inflicted on the innocent wall.

And isn’t it wonderful that this is the time of year wherein we like to have ALL THE WINDOWS OPEN in an effort to usher in the crisp winter-like air?

After all was said and done, this particular child of mine accompanied Fiddledaddy to Home Depot and purchased (with their own money) a wall repair kit.

There was some talk of the prolific use of duct tape (as is not an uncommon element in many of our home repairs) but I vetoed the motion.

I bring this up not only to make you all feel better about your parenting prowess, but to illustrate a point that came up when discussing this issue with close friends.

I had recently read an article at Mom’s Homeroom on Tips for Handling Temperament Traits.  And let me tell you, these tips are INVALUABLE when dealing with 3 children with very very different temperaments.  One of the ideas presented had to do with activity level, in that if your child has a VERY HIGH ENERGY threshold, a parent needs to heed the signals that indicate your child needs to blow off some steam.  And the tip involved was “Avoid using confinement as a method of discipline.”

Parenting fail.

The issue we were discussing with our friends is that we’ve all noticed behavioral problems (especially among our high energy children) have been a good deal more noticeable since our sports season has ended.  These kids were getting a LOT of exercise during the swim team season.  And now?  Not nearly as much.  We were lamenting that it’s not like when we were kids and our parents kicked us out the door after breakfast, and didn’t expect to see us until dinner.  Days were spent riding bikes, climbing trees, chasing wildlife, and building forts.  It saddens me that we aren’t able to provide these freedoms for our kids (for many reasons which would be an entirely new discussion).

The solution as we see it is to get creative and provide more chances for our kids to run themselves ragged.

It’s either that or I’m going to have to invest in duct tape stock and boxing gloves.

During the off season (sports wise) how do you ensure your child has the opportunity to blow off steam?

This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Encouraging the Reluctant Writer

I gave Cailey a writing assignment from her Intermediate Language Lessons this week.  The instructions said that she was to select a fairy tale from an expansive number of titles, and simply re-tell the story in her own words.  On paper.

What she interpreted:  “Now you are to take a sharpened #2 pencil, and jab it into your own eye socket.”

This is a child that has been raised being read to, including all manner of fairy tales and other literary works of art.  And get this, SHE EVEN READS HERSELF.  Besides, she’s seen all the Disney movies.  Especially the ones where the mother is killed off before you can settle down and enjoy the popcorn.

You’d think that she’d come up with AT LEAST ONE fairy tale idea to jump start her creative juices.

No.  Instead she moaned, groaned, flopped around on the floor for a while, cried, begged for mercy, and finally simply got angry.  That’s my favorite.

I don’t get it.  I write.  I make my coffee money by writing.  Her older sister writes.  Her sister has written two entire books.  (One which I inadvertently washed in cold on the cottons cycle, and one that I accidentally deleted FOREVER on her computer profile…she writes under an assumed name now, in the bowels of her closet…)  But still, she writes.

There’s a good deal of shared DNA here.  And yet, the second born wants no part of writing down thoughts, ideas, stories, or even a grocery list.

Evidently, I have a reluctant writer.  Which is a shame since we all know how important essay writing is for test taking and college work.  Both of which are in her future.

I did find some help when reading an article at Mom’s Homeroom on how to conquer essay writing fears.  Most of our states have adopted something called the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) which is a nationwide group of goals that help with consistency in school districts.  There are Common Core expectations for writing an informative or expository essay per grade level.  This gives you an idea what your child should master and when.

But what I really liked about this article was a way to break the writing down into easy components.  In other words, as the title of the article implies, the child is showing the paper who is boss.  This is where the acronym comes from:  Brainstorm, Organize, Support, Scan.  Easy to remember, easy directions to follow.

Therefore, far before Cailey joins Classical Conversations in the 7th grade, and will be expected to produce two papers per week (using IEW), we’ll be taking bite sized pieces to solving the writing puzzle.  I do believe that every child can be taught to write, even if they are certain that writing will lead to pain and misery.

At the end of the day, Cailey had written her fairy tale story in the form of Cinderella.  But with a bit of an edge.  And I can divulge that the evil step-mother bore a striking resemblance to the writer’s bedraggled mother.  But sadly, she met with an untimely death.

And the remaining characters all lived happily ever after.  Or at least until the next writing assignment.

“This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.”

The Dating Game

I have had my head buried blissfully in the sand over the whole boy/girl business when it comes to my very-soon-to-be-teen, and younger tween daughter.  I look at the dating scene as WAY FAR in the future.  Kind of the way I was in denial about PUBERTY as they were losing their baby teeth.

And yet, here we are.

It is different with girls.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be.  But it is.

When Jensen announced his engagement to E a couple of years ago, at the tender age of 5, we all thought it was adorable.  Premature.  But adorable.  There was some hugging and a few stolen kisses, but nothing that got out of hand (E’s parents may have an altogether different point of view, as they are the parents of the daughter).  I can tell you that in our household, Fiddledaddy was secretly proud of his little man.

I suppose this could simply be blamed on the gene pool.  Fiddledaddy had to fight off the elementary sized girls of his youth, while I was known to lure the older neighbor boy over to my side of the street with promises of chocolate.

And then I was engaged in the 4th grade, even procuring an adjustable ring.

But then it happened.  Boys have begun entering the fray, buzzing around my oldest daughter.  This is not all bad news, since I’ve noticed that I get WAY better customer service from the teenaged boys at the McDonald’s drive-thru whenever she rides shot gun in the van.

Now this is all I’m at liberty to divulge.  You cannot even begin to imagine the blog fodder that this new stage of parenting has produced, but out of respect for my daughter, and the fact that she can read, and all of her friends can read, my lips must remain sealed.

But it’s killing me.

Anyhoo.  I am now forced to face harsh reality that dating is eminent.  But when?  Fiddledaddy and I have discussed the age of 16, but it will completely depend on her level of maturity.  So it could be 30…

I was looking for answers at one of my go-to parenting websites, Mom’s Homeroom (and yes, I’m biased, I have worked for Mom’s Homeroom…LOVE them), and happened on an article discussing how parents can wittingly (and unwittingly) control their children’s social lives.  Then the subject veered toward that of dating, and I have to say that I was surprised to read, “nearly half of all 11 to 14 year olds have already been in a dating relationship.”  WHAT?  This was a study conducted by a Chicago youth marketing and research firm in a study of over 1,000 tweens.

Now, in its defense, the article did go on to say that these tweens rarely spend time in person with their dating partner, since they rely on texting and social media for communication.

Someone needs to define dating for me then.  I’ve always been under the assumption that dating (insert air quotes) is when a young man drives up to the home of a young lady and escorts her out on a, you know, date.  Now in our home, that ritual will include a prelude of forms to fill out, and then a demonstration of how well we clean our guns.  And perhaps to be topped off with a viewing of Fiddledaddy’s mug shots from his time in the state penitentiary.

As it is now, I’m concentrating on stressing the importance of developing FRIENDSHIPS.  I am blessed to have a relationship with my daughter that includes her ability to pour her heart out to me.  I am walking across delicate eggshells as I gently guide her through this precious time.  I know that it may not always be this way, and I will treasure and use this time well.

And now I wanted to ask those of you who have braved these waters before me, when and how did you map out the dating guidelines for your own teenager?

“This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.”

When homework threatens your sanity

When Emme  started Classical Conversations in August, I was pretty sure that we’d be in therapy by Labor Day.  She was shell shocked at the work load after the first week, and the next week after that she simply stuck her head in the sand and mentally willed all the work away…while singing her happy song.

I wonder where she got THAT coping mechanism?

In order to get through her work load, I felt like I had to drag her through thick mud.  Often we (and by we I mean WE) wouldn’t get the last of the work done until late Sunday night, and there have been occasions that she would be typing away early on a Monday morning prior to her class at CC.

Needless to say, the environment in our home hasn’t been pleasant.  And add to that the fact that we’re dealing with PUBERTY (her) and MENOPAUSE (me), well, as you might guess we’re all playing fast and loose with our grip on reality.

I now have an idea what parents have to deal with in the area of HOMEWORK when their children are in the school system.  More than one of my friends call homework the albatross that hangs around their neck during the school year.

There is an article that I gravitated to at the Mom’s Homeroom site about how to keep kids on track with regard to their homework.  I was surprised to learn that as a general rule, kids should have 10 minutes worth of homework per year they’re in school.  For example, by the 6th grade, a child should expect about an hours worth of homework.  But as I know from talking with friends, and from the article, those minutes drag on far longer.

The reasons for the delay can vary from your basic procrastination, DISTRACTION (LOOK!  A CHICKEN!), feeling overwhelmed, and just plain old bad study habits.

Emme suffers from a variety of each of these variables, it would seem.  But just when I thought I would go bald from tearing my hair out, her father, sensing the tension and tiring of his wife crying in the closet, stepped in to find a solution.

On Tuesday of this week, Fiddledaddy took Emme out to breakfast for a planning session.  He explained the importance of budgeting her time, and urged her to take ownership of her work load.  After all, the child hates for her mother to nag her, and the mother hates to nag.  This would be a win win scenario should it work.

He took her through each of her subjects and asked her how much time she needed for each.  He then showed her how to schedule out her day, including those times when she is out of the house for sports and other activities.  When she saw this on paper, she concluded that she couldn’t afford to put things off, lest she lose out on her beloved extracurricular activities.

And you know what?  This week has gone so much more smoothly.  She has budgeted time in the mornings, with more time in the late afternoon after events, and sometimes even after dinner if needed.  Ideally she should have been done by Friday afternoon, but there is one paper she still needs to write on Sunday.  But she’s only looking at one subject, instead of the usual 3 or 4.

Baby steps.  But in my opinion, huge strides.

Someone mentioned to me that there is about a 6 week breaking in period with regard to Classical Conversations, and we are just now hitting week 6.

And I’m happy to report that no one is in therapy.

What I’ve learned is that time management skills are best learned, at any age.  And if you happen to look into my housekeeping skill set, I really ought to be taking copious notes myself.

“This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.”

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t (how allergies shape our family)

Even though I started our home school year in mid-July (which now seems like an ETERNITY ago), I found myself drawn to an article on the Mom’s Homeroom website entitled “10 Things Your Child’s Teacher Needs to Know.”  Since I am my child’s teacher and I talk to myself all of the time, the article seemed appropriate.

But on a serious note, one of the items on the list included medical conditions and allergies and the importance of informing a teacher or any care giver about any possible problems that might arise.  Skin issues and allergies are a large part of the reason why I home school my son.  But my heart goes out to the parent who isn’t called to home school, or financially can’t swing it because of work, and yet still has to entrust her child to someone else 8 hours a day.

Last week I came across an online discussion regarding an uproar when one school district banned peanut items from the school property.  I could not believe how many parents were up in arms about their rights being infringed upon by a very small minority of parents who have children with peanut allergies.

And in all honesty, a number of years ago, I might have done some significant eye rolling myself, as my first born is a huge fan of peanut butter, and when it was difficult to get most other proteins into her, I knew I could always count on peanut butter.  I might have felt put off if someone told me that I couldn’t pack a peanut butter sandwich in her lunch.

But then my second child came along, and she developed a mild nut allergy.  But since she can sense if a nut is within 10 feet, she steers clear of anything nut related.  And as I said, her allergy is simply an inconvenience, not life threatening.

But then I had the third child.  Jensen suffers from severe atopic dermatitis which can be set off by environment, pet dander, dust mites, and food allergies (which include fish and nuts).  And as I’ve recently discovered, his allergy to nuts is on the severe side.

He’s never ingested a peanut, to my knowledge, but we’ve noticed that simply being around peanut butter will send him into a full blown atopic dermatitis flare up.  We are now extremely cautious about peanut butter in the house, and have had to make it known to Sunday School teachers and the like that he cannot be around peanuts.

On Saturday we attended a family party.  Jensen had been eating some (plain) crackers and I noticed that his lip was beginning to swell considerably.  I searched the snack table, read ingredients on the boxes, and came up with a hypothesis that he had selected one of the crackers from a plate that also contained a cheese ball which was covered in pecans.

So, he didn’t eat the actual nut, his cracker simply was close to it or may have touched it.

I keep Benadryl in my purse at all times, and I quickly gave him 2 tablets.  Then I stood and watched him closely, one hand on my keys and one foot out the door ready to whisk him off to Urgent Care (where everyone knows our name).  After 10 minutes or so, the swelling began to recede and he was back to his usual party antics.

That served as a huge wake up call for me.  Quite a while ago, the staff at Urgent Care issued us a prescription for an epi-pen which we didn’t fill.  I never considered his allergies to be severe.  Until Saturday.  Now I will be filling the prescription on Monday, and I will always be prepared.

(Disclaimer:  This is not me and my son. This woman has far too much patience to be me, and my son would have the pen pointed at his head.)

I think that unless you have a child who faces a potential life threatening allergy, it is difficult to see the world from their perspective.  Now I want to shake those people who are inconvenienced because they feel their rights are being infringed by a school district banning peanuts.

I have to be hyper-diligent about what my child eats when out of the safety of our home.  I have to also instill a sense of danger and fear in him that he cannot put anything in his mouth out in public without checking with me first.  I hate having to do that, but it could potentially save his life.

Now even on those days that I’m foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, I have to remember that I’m grateful we’re able to home school.  And I hope to convey an urgency that we need to exercise tolerance and understanding for those families which must deal with life threatening medical conditions.

Even if it’s inconvenient.

“This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom.  Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.”