Beginning the college application process

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We are in the ending stage of the college application season, and I am so happy that we are nearing the end. I cannot explain how drawn out the application process is or all that goes into it. Applying to colleges is not just about the initial application. It is about researching schools, visiting campuses, writing essays, and communicating. It is a year-long process and one that the student needs to be in control of but one the parent should support along the way.

If you have a junior in high school right now, you should already be starting this journey. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Have your student begin researching schools. They should start by researching online. To get them started discuss possible majors, locations, and college size with them.
  2. Visit some schools that are close by to get a feel for different campuses. Touring a university or college helps high school students get a better idea for what they like or don’t like. I found it also gets teens excited about the process.
  3. Run the net price calculator at various colleges. This will help you get a better idea on the cost of sending your child to college and will help you eliminate some schools that are too expensive.
  4. Begin working on essays – It’s never too early to start thinking about essays. If your student will be using the common app (which they most likely will for some of the schools they apply to) the essays prompts are already available.
  5. Register your student to take the SAT or ACT. If they have already taken the test discuss with them if they think they could score higher on a retake. One thing I learned during this whole process is that test scores are still a huge factor in the decision making. If there is a chance your student could score higher have them retake the test.
  6. Start working on their transcripts and course descriptions if you haven’t yet. Ideally you have been keeping records for the last three years. If you haven’t give yourself plenty of time to get everything in order.
  7. Have your student begin contacting people that they would like to use for recommendations. It is better to get this set up now while you have time. Having strong recommenders is another vital component so don’t leave this until the last minute.
  8. And finally – try to let your student do as much of this as they can on their own. This is their first major decision of their adult life. They should be figuring out where they want to go/what they want to major in for themselves. They should also be the ones reaching out to colleges, professors, and recommenders. It is a learning process and will help prepare them for the next four years of their life.

Looking Ahead to the Next School Year


To be honest this last school year did not quite go how I envisioned it. My time was taken up by several health issues and therefore I was unable to be as involved in homeschooling as I would have liked. Even though the kids are older and are very independent homeschoolers they do need some structure and someone leading them along through their days. This is especially true for the girl who craves interaction and feedback from me while doing school work.

Looking back though I do realize that we finished all the work we set out to even though it didn’t feel like we did. The twins had several online classes and those went great, and they learned that they love online, live classes. Tru finished all his math early and had time to go down several rabbit trails on his own. Their first year of high school English went great as did science. They fulfilled all the credits we set out to at the beginning of the year, and their love of learning is still there. I worried that the pressure of doing high school right might have taken away from the joy, but it didn’t.

The younger boy worked through Bravewriter’s Arrow again this year. I cannot say enough about this program. For an advanced child in writing it has been a perfect match. He enjoys the books and feels like the instruction does not talk down to him. There has been a few times that we needed to skip sections because he already knew what was being discussed, but for the most part he was happy to read the weekly notes and to work on the passage. Because he is a writer, this program speaks to him. It is the highlight of his day.


The boy worked on math here and there, but this was a real struggle this year. I feel that his very low processing speed had something to do with this and I am debating whether we should seek out further testing. History went great towards the end of the school year. He discovered The Kane Chronicles and then moved on to the Percy Jackson books. Along the way we studied ancient history and myths to go along with it. Overall I was very excited about his sudden interest in history.

Next year I am buying very little curriculum, and I feel so good about that. The twins are enrolled in an online private school that is free. They are in five classes each, and I couldn’t be happier. In addition to these classes they need to keep up with math, and they need to take chemistry. I am still looking for a chemistry class for them, but I feel good about their upcoming school year. My goal is to be more involved in the oversight of their learning and to have daily feedback for them. I know this will be appreciated by them both.


For the boy we are going to go through the Arrow one more time (this will be his third year) and then we will move on to the Boomerang the following year. He also will be working through Thinkwell math at the recommendation of his older brother. This is all the formal school he will be doing. One aspect of him that I had re-affirmed this year is that he fills up his days quite nicely. He works on Scratch, he writes, he reads, he listens to audio books, he draws, and along the way he learns quite a bit. I don’t want to get in the way of his self-learning as he goes through the middle school years.



Happy Spring!!


Although the weather has been warm all winter where we live I have still been looking forward to spring. This winter has been a little hard here at TADTown. Between illnesses (I actually have been under the weather for almost a week now but just knowing it is spring makes me feel better), moving, and the homeschooling blues it has been a slow and somewhat depressing season.



I woke up this morning though feeling better about everything. It is amazing how longer days, blooming flowers, and a closer summer can make one feel more optimistic. And today the teens had a workout session in Laguna, so I decided after their class we would all go down to the beach and walk around for a while.








We didn’t have a very long time to stay as they all had music lessons an hour later, but any time spent down by the ocean is worth it.


Happy Spring everyone!!

The California Zephyr


The kids and I took the California Zephyr this week from Sacramento to Chicago. We have been on several long train rides before, but this was our first time on this route. The route takes you through the Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies on your way to the Midwest. It was truly breathtaking and made all the better with the cold weather and snow that covered the ground for most of our trip.

We had to get up at 2:45 in the morning in order to get to Sacramento in time for our 11:00 departure time. The kids were not too happy about this but they did fall asleep right when they got into the car so it was not too bad for them. We arrived in Sacramento with time to spare so we explored the station before boarding the train. It is an older station that was in the process of being restored. It was quite charming especially with all the pigeons living in it.




Waiting to board our train in Sacramento

Waiting to board our train in Sacramento

Finally we boarded our train and set out on our journey. It would take us a little over 48 hours to get to Chicago which meant we would be on the train for two nights. Because of the long journey I decided we needed a family bedroom so the kids would be able to stretch out and enjoy themselves. The family bedroom has ample seating during the day and four beds at night and includes all your meals. The only downside is that there is no private bathroom, but the space seemed more important to me than the convenience of a private bathroom. I was glad to have all the room on the long journey as I am sure the kids would have gone stir-crazy in a smaller room.

The kids spent a good deal of their time reading in our room. Decca also entertained himself on his iPad.

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And of course we all spent time looking out our windows. In the family bedroom you have two windows on both sides of the train. The views were spectacular from the moment we got out of Sacramento and headed towards Reno and the Sierra Nevadas.




The first day passed fairly quickly and before we knew it we were getting ready for bed. The kids were so tired and the train was so peaceful that they ended up going to sleep around 8:00.



The next day we were up early (it was still dark out) eating a nice breakfast in the dining car and then making our way to the observation room. The observation room is my favorite place on the train, but you have to get their early to get a seat. We stayed a few hours that morning because the view was so spectacular that we did not want to leave.


The twins were half asleep when I forced them to eat breakfast.







Later that morning we had the opportunity to step off the train in Colorado. It was only 14 degrees so the kids and I didn’t stay long. We did stay long enough to play in the snow and to find icicles.



The rest of out trip we enjoyed the views of the Rockies, elk and deer in the mountains, eagles over the Mississippi, and the excitement of getting closer to our destination. I took so many pictures in my excitement but will only share a few more.

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Viewing the many eagles by the Mississippi was the highlight of the trip for me.

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In a week we will be on The Southwest Chief heading back home and I am sure I will have more photos to share then. Until that time I will leave you with this picture of Santa that my youngest son got while on the train. It may be hard to spot Santa, but he is driving that old train.

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Weekend Recap

We had a busy weekend the here at TADTown. My brother flew in to visit for a few days which is always fun. While he was here we ran in a race to benefit pancreatic cancer. You may remember that my uncle passed away this summer from pancreatic cancer, so we ran in his honor.

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Running with the girl, she soon left me and finished far ahead. 🙂


After the race


With my mom

It was also my mom’s birthday this weekend.


It was wonderful to celebrate her brother and her together on the same day. And being November, the weekend provided me with an opportunity to reflect on what I am thankful for: my children, my health, and my family. Happy Birthday Mom!!

Writing Fun

The kids and I are still enjoying this wonderful site full of writing prompt ideas.  Here is the latest prompt that we all worked on.


The kids and I sit around the table together, and I show them the prompt. Then we write (yes I write with them) for fifteen minutes or so, and then we share what we have written. There are no rules, and we never criticize or correct. It is purely a fun exercise that is supposed to get the creative juices flowing.  Here is what the kids wrote for this latest prompt:


It was early in the morning, and I was already ridding along on my dinosaur looking for people who needed an ambulance. As I was passing though the forest I noticed a 10-year-old boy lying beside the road looking injured. “Hello boy” said I “what’s the matter?”

“Nothing is wrong” said the boy, “I’m in perfectly good health.”

“But, your holding out your wand arm!” said I. To which the boy replied: “what does that even mean!”

“To call the dinosaur ambulance you have to hold out your wand arm!” said I. “Oh…” said the boy, “well I’m fine so go away!” and so I rode off.

Later that day I had just stopped to rest when I noticed the same boy standing a few feet away with the police. “That’s the guy!” he shouted. “The crazy one!” The police walked over. “Sir” said the tall one “you know that it’s illegal to ride dinosaurs right?”

“Buddy buddy please!” said I “I have been doing this job for 500 years and I have never been arrested!”

“Sorry pal” said the short one “but the laws the law.”

“Since when” said I.

“Since yesterday” replied the tall one. And so I was arrested and sentenced to five long years in Oklahoma. I knew I had to escape from the horrors of Oklahoma, so I summoned St. George using the ancient vegetarian restaurant incantation and escaped to California. THE END


Day 2: #DinosaurAmbulence
 I wish people would take my job more seriously! Honestly, how many strangers have I thundered past_ strangers, mind you, who look as though they haven’t a life’s commitment of their own_ who stand still as statues and look after me, then recover their shock to call after me:
 “Get a life, you no-good dinosaur-riding…!”
 My dinosaur, whom I have affectionately named Lola, usually smirks after these onlookers and makes a sign at them with her tail that is understood to be very rude amongst dinosaurs. I try not to pay attention to them; my job is far more important.
Today, we only received two distress signals from across the ages. Lola can sense when anyone from any time and anywhere needs our help, and then she takes me there. I make things right; Lola eats things that are wrong. First, we came to the aid of a very rich Georgian Lady who was bombarded by a host of dead cats which were thrown at her by peasants (Lola ate the cats). Then, we  saved a knight from your typical castle-siege in which boiling oil and the heads of your enemies are thrown at you (Lola ate these two, and tried to drink the oil). All a normal day on the job.
-The dino-riding, time-traveling paramedic.


I ran with a stupid man on my back. He saves people. I eat them.

“Go faster T!” the man yelled.

T? Puff… what a stupid name! It’s Tyrannosaurus-Rex, T-Rex, puff. Stupid name. But humans don’t understand me. I started hearing wonderful music and ran towards it.

“What the heck are you doing T?” asked the man. “Bad T-Rex.”

A pet? Is that what he thinks I am? I felt the need to roll-over and squish him, but that would be a waste of my lunch. As I stopped in front of the house, the man slid off me and entered the house. Hours later he returned. I opened my mouth. He screamed. The man was delicious.

Edgar Allan Poe Costume Party

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This weekend the kids and I hosted a costume party for our gifted group. We decided to have a costume party  where the kids could come dressed up as any historical or literary character. Tru decided to be Edgar Allan Poe, and this decision led to our theme, an Edgar Allan Poe party.

It took me a while to gather decorations for our theme. I searched online for ideas and went shopping at resale shops, costume stores, and Michaels.

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I also used some items I had around the house such as old typewriters and a chalkboard. I aged a few copies of his poems, made up badges for the teams, and gathered candy, only black and white, for the party.




After gathering the materials, we set up in the party space. I was very lucky to have my mom and my good friend help with everything. I wouldn’t have been able to do it all without them.

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The kids played Poe-inspired games, danced to music, and had their photo taken in my DIY photo booth.

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It was a fun night for all and one I hope to have again next year.

Today at TAD Town

We are recovering from a wonderful camping trip the twins and I took with our homeschool group this weekend. It was quite fun and educational but very exhausting.






We are enjoying our Biology books that came in the mail this weekend. There is nothing like new books to revive a student’s interest in a subject (I am not going to name names but the student is very artistic and learns best with living books as opposed to textbooks).

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I am in the midst of planning a costume party for Saturday. I decided to go with an Edgar Allen Poe theme this year, and  we are all having a good time planning the party.

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Tru has decided to go as Poe, so we have been at thrift stores today trying to put together an outfit. So far we have the shirt and jacket. Luckily we have a few more days until the party.   🙂

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This evening I am sitting at my desk writing this update and spending far too much time on Pinterest looking for ideas for our party. The twins are finishing up a lesson in Biology, and Decca is in the kitchen with my mom helping her cook.

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 Kingsley is in there too although I am not sure his help is as welcomed.

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In fact I am sure it is not! 😉

Happy Monday everyone!!

A Great Idea…

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I had a great idea that I wanted to try out this year. I thought the kids and I could go to the library twice a week and do school there. Our library recently completed a renovation and it is now a great place to hang out. It is in a wonderful location close to the beach with a nature trail, new reading/study areas, an expanded children’s section, a used library bookstore, wifi, and iPad s that you can borrow while at the library. It is also going to open a cafe soon, and once that is complete, I could see us spending hours there.

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This morning, after the twin’s training session, we headed to the library. I was feeling great, thinking to myself how awesome it was going to be to study in a new location out of the house. We were driving up PCH, the ocean was beautiful, the kids were singing some jazz songs, life couldn’t be greater. We pulled into the parking lot and I was happy that it did not seem too crowded. The kids and I gathered all our backpacks out of the car and headed into the library. That is when the first thing went wrong.

The second we walked into the library they decided to have an emergency evacuation drill. All of the patrons had to evacuate the library which took quite a while. Then we had to stay outside while they checked the whole library. The entire process probably took twenty or thirty minutes, and the boys were so impatient during the whole thing. They wanted to go, and I should have listened, but I was determined to spend some time there. After all, in my mind, it was going to be great!

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Alas I did make the kids stay and by the time we got in and settled everyone wanted to leave. Tru felt distracted by all the noises and people. Autry felt weird studying in a library. Decca was into it for a bit, but then he picked up on the twin’s angst. I decided to move to a different section to see if that would help.

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It didn’t, but the twins were willing to read while Decca looked around. After reading for ten minutes we headed to the used library bookstore where we were looking for a few old books to make a kindle cover from. This instructable diy is going to be our project this week, so I thought we would at least accomplish this first step while we were there. The kids all found a book to use as a cover and Decca found a few extra to read.


I am not going to give up on this idea of  mine. I don’t know, maybe after homeschooling for years, I finally feel the need to get out more. After all the kids are so easy now (I love having older kids!) and I love the idea of getting a tea at the cafe and sitting around reading on my iPad while the kids do their work. Or maybe since they are older now I should leave the kids at home for a few hours and head to the library by myself. Quiet time, hot tea, a great view, what more could I want?

School Pictures


I don’t know if they were easier to corral back then or not.

If you read this post then you know that I like to take “school” pictures of the kids every year. Of course I like to take pictures of the kids all the time, but I try every year to get a nice, close-up, and somewhat formal picture of each of the kids.

The first four weeks of this school year have been great so far, but they have also been somewhat hectic. The kids are in quite a few activities, so I haven’t had that much time to think about the pictures or to take them. Last Friday the kids and I went out to the nature preserve to collect a sample of creek water for a microscope activity that the twins were working on. I grabbed my camera at the last-minute thinking that I would take a few pictures of the twins for our weekly update. When I started taking pictures I realized it was a beautiful day out, and here we were in the nature preserve, and I decided right then and there that I would snap some school photos.


Decca walking down to the creek happy for the time being.

I should also mention that I had our dog with us. Our very adorable, energetic, and strong (and by strong I mean that he can pull me anywhere he wants to go) dog with us. So there I am in the nature preserve with three kids, one who is starting to get very hot and impatient, and one dog who is looking around for coyotes, bobcats, or other dogs to antagonize. These are the circumstances I found myself in when I decide to take these school photos.

What was I thinking?


Autry’s “official” school picture

I took Autry’s photo first and I was very happy with how it came out. Good thing too as Decca was starting to complain about the heat and how he wanted to go home NOW. Up next was Decca and he stood still for about five seconds before he collapsed on the ground from heat exhaustion, refusing to get up. Tru starts to tell (or was it yell?) his younger brother to get off the ground. Kingsley starts pulling me one way or the other. He is on a scent. Autry gets frustrated.


Decca’s “official” photo

I can see this is not quite going the way I expected, but I only have one photo left. Can I do it in the chaos I find myself in? I would like to tell you that yes I could take the picture, and that it was amazing. Alas, that was not the case. I had time to take the quickest shot of Tru, and it did not turn out at all.

I actually thought the picture wasn’t too bad, but Tru hated it. And since he is now a teen he did not hold back in telling me exactly how much he detested the photo.  I suggested we do a retake like they do in schools. Only our retake would happen the same day just a few hours later.


Tru’s “official” photo

Tru and I headed back out to the nature preserve with Kingsley and shot some new pictures. We did some with just him and then we decided at the last-minute to take some with Kingsley.  Kingsley brought all his charm and personality to the photos and it shows.


I love back to school pictures. I may not always have the best plan to take them, and I am often lacking the time and perfect condition in which to take them in, but I usually end up loving the pictures. What more could I ask for?