Outschool Classes

Copy of It's about starting over andcreating something better.

This fall I will be teaching classes over at Outschool. I am running several year-long book clubs for various ages (including a mystery book club which I am so excited for), a Hitchcock film class, a 90-Second Newbery class, and a Common App essay class for those teens who will be applying to college this year.

I will be running these classes for students of all abilities (2E kids and teens are encouraged to sign up) and the teaching environment that I will be creating is one that is supportive and one in which all students have a chance to share their opinions and ideas. I strive for inclusion and positivity and look forward to sharing my knowledge with homeschoolers all around the world.

If you are interested in signing up please visit Outschool. If you have any questions let me know.

Slow start, strong finish

This picture is from September 2009. It is one of the first pictures I ever uploaded onto TAD Town. It is a picture of my oldest working on his math which at the time was basic fractions. He was 10 years old and in fifth grade. In sixth grade he would complete pre-algebra, seventh algebra, eighth geometry, ninth algebra 2, and tenth pre-calculus. That is a good, strong math progression and yet in fifth he was just happily doing his fractions in chalk in our backyard.

Autry working in her sketchbook.

My daughter is working through several AP classes this year, and she is a very strong student especially in writing. We did not use a formal writing curriculum for years, and overall started very slow in this area. She would write what she wanted when she wanted. When she was younger this was mostly in the form of a journal entry or short stories that she would write. We worked on a few formal programs starting in seventh and eighth and completed Writing with Skill in ninth. By tenth she was writing numerous essays for her AP classes, and this year she is writing essays daily. She has become an extremely strong, creative, and capable writer who enjoys the process.

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My point with these two examples is to show that starting slow can work. I touched on this idea previously in this post, but I wanted to discuss it once more as I see more and more homeschooling parents scheduling massive amounts of work for their young children. It is my belief that this is not necessary at all, and in some ways I find it to be counterintuitive. If you have high goals for your child once they are in high school and college that does not mean you have to start worrying about those goals when they are elementary or middle school aged. This only creates stress for the parent and takes away from the joys of childhood and self discovery for the child.

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This is not to say that we did no formal schooling when they were younger because we did. What I am trying to convey is that one can be formal in their studies but do so in a very relaxed and informal way. Academics took no longer than two hours all through the elementary ages for my kids. Middle school became a little more intense, and the kids probably averaged about three hours a day on academics. We never did academics five days a week, and I always made sure they had plenty of free time to discover their own passions and to just be a kid. Whether they were playing outside for hours a day, listening to audiobooks for days on end, or messing around on their computer, the kids had plenty of free time to do what they wanted.

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Slow to start has been very successful for us. The twins now spend hours upon hours a day working because they want to. They have very specific goals that they want to attain, and they feel up to the challenge. They are not burned out from long school days and hours upon hours of school work from when they were younger. Nor have they missed out on any essential skills necessary for the work they do today. Instead they were able to learn these skills very quickly at an older age rather than trying to grasp them when they were younger and not prepared physically or emotionally.

Slow start, strong finish.

Our Homeschool Journey – Part 1

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The twins are about to turn sixteen, and my youngest will be twelve next week. It is crazy to think about how old we are all getting and also how long we have been homeschooling. There has been a few bumps along the way in this journey, but it is something that I would never change. Homeschooling has brought all of us closer and has created a family lifestyle that I appreciate so much. Homeschooling has also helped shape the kids, and I have to say that I love the young adults they have morphed into. Truly, homeschooling has been a blessing to us in almost every way.

Looking back on this adventure I am not sure I could have predicted where we would have ended up. Of course we are not done with this journey yet, but I still could not have imagined the place we are today all those many years ago. When we first started out on this path the twins were 4 and my youngest was a baby. The twins had spent a year in preschool and although it was a wonderful preschool, I knew it was not the place for my quirky kids. I had already decided I was going to homeschool when they were elementary age but our preschool experience pushed me to get started even sooner.

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The kids in our early days of homeschooling. Often they were outside playing or inside playing. In between all that playtime we did school. By nighttime they were all tuckered out, and I would have some down time just for me.

So how did we start and what did those first few years look like? I started with researching on the internet, and I stumbled upon a wonderful site called Tanglewood Education. This small site was run by a mom who was homeschooling her children, and she had put together a year 1 curriculum. I was intrigued by the year 1 package because there were no textbooks (especially no Abeka books that were constantly being recommended to me), and it seemed to be made up of mostly classic books that I would love to share with the kids. Little did I know that my kids would go crazy for the books. This was the start of our homeschool journey.

Actually, no…Although I do think that was the official start, our journey really started when they were toddlers. I had so many board books and picture books in our house, and the twins loved them. They would actually choose books over toys most of the time, and I found myself reading to them for hours a day. In addition to that they had outdoor time and free play time that consisted of Thomas the Train toys or Legos. The rest of our days were spent cooking, playing in the sand, and exploring the world. The twins were learning everyday when they were little, and it was a joyous process to experience.

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Some of the books that were in our Tanglewood package.

Then came our Tanglewood box in the mail and the joy of learning and the joy of homeschooling become known to all of us. In the box was Story of the World and First Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer, a few I Wonder Why science books, some beginner readers and a handful of classic books for the kids and I to read together. It was a small little box, there were no extras in there like you might find today in many curriculum sets. It was perfect for our first year though. A nice, gentle beginning to our homeschool journey which I am grateful for. The pace was set for us, the tone of our homeschool was established.

Creativity Runs Wild

At TAD Town we often take breaks in our homeschool schedule when it is needed. Whether it is for an illness or just a mental break, I try not to stress if our schedule does not match a typical school schedule. After all a flexible schedule is one of the many benefits to homeschooling.

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This kid here was in need of a break from academics after a hard year of working. We called it a year in April, and he has been doing his own thing ever since. His days have been consisting of writing, audiobooks, cooking, mini-fig making, drawing, and song writing. Basically he has been using all his free time to be creative.

This is one of his songs that he wrote last month. Somehow the twins and I have gotten it stuck in our head, and we are all walking around the house singing “I Googled it. ” It has been very entertaining to us.

And this is a sped up video of one of his digital art works he did. The boy is starting to become very interested in working on his drawing skills especially on the computer.

Here is another picture he did.

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The boy has also discovered the world of custom Lego minifig making. This, along with baking, has been his primary area of pursuit these last 6 weeks. He has been watching how-to videos on the process and then perfecting it on his own. The only thing he needed for this was Sculpey, acrylic paints, different sizes of paint brushes, and toothpicks. The process of him learning how to do this has been very interesting to see. Boiling Sculpey mini-figs in my kitchen was not something I ever envisioned doing, but it has been fun to see the boy work so hard on a project.

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We have also been baking quite a bit together. I will admit every time he sends me a complex recipe online I am not exactly thrilled about it. I don’t find the joy in baking that he does, but once we start cooking in the kitchen I do find joy in being with him in the moment. Baking brings him so much joy, and it is wonderful to see that.

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Basically he has been having a wonderful mental break these last six weeks or so. We will most likely start up with academics again sometime in June. I know when we get back to it he will be ready for our routine and excited to be back in the swing of things. But in the meantime the boy is also enjoying his free time, time where he can follow his passions and work on all things creative.

Tea Time

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We have incorporated tea time into our homeschool routine since the twins were five and the boy one. It is not something we do consistently, but it is something we do enough for it to feel like part of our homeschool life. Lately though everyone has been so busy with their own academics that we have not had time to sit together and enjoy an afternoon break with good books and treats.

Luckily a few weeks ago the boy decided he wanted to start baking (thanks to The Great British Bake Off), and he made his first cake.

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We all decided that if we had cake, we might as well have tea. Actually some of us had tea, and some of us had coffee (that is a sure sign that they are growing up). Because it had been a while since we took the time to sit together with an afternoon treat, a warm drink, and some good books, some of us were very excited. Others were a little put out (another sign that they are growing up).

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The girl decided to share some haikus to everyone. Haiku is a passion of her’s right now. She loves to read it and write it, and she enjoys learning about some of the early haiku poets. She recited some from her favorite book, The Art of Haiku.

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The youngest boy read everyone some poems that he wrote while our dog Kingsley tried to eat the cake. He couldn’t understand why he was not invited to tea time.

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And by the end of it, after all the cake and tea, the oldest boy was even having a good time. He recited The Jabberwocky, an old favorite of his, and even smiled for the camera.

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One day I will probably look back on this time with joy and a little sadness. For one day soon they will be gone, living their own lives, doing their own thing, and I will wish them back. If only for a day, if only for a moment, I will want them around the table, laughing together, sharing poems together, and eating cake together, for it was a perfect moment in time.

Demystifying Homeschooling Methods

Here is a great talk hosted by N.A.S.H. from last week that I had the privilege to be a part of. It is worth a listen if you are wanting to learn more about homeschooling and the various methods.

N.A.S.H. - National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers

Did you know there are many different ways to homeschool? Do you ever wonder what homeschooling style would work best for your family? In the Methods of Homeschooling Teleconference, recorded on January 28, 2015, for National School Choice Week, our panel of homeschoolers discussed how their unique homeschooling styles works for their families. The panel included unschooling father, Dennis Wolf, eclectic homeschooling mom, Beth Suitt, curricula­-based homeschooling mom, Jill Harper, and roadschooling mom, Larah Ritchie. These speakers along with the moderator, Jai Cook, the Programs and Services Senior Director for N.A.S.H., will help you demystify the various methods of homeschooling.

(Our apologizes ~ there were technical difficulties recording this session. Some of the beginning introductions are missing.)

Questions addressed in this session include:

●  Can you use a different method for each child?
●  Has your chosen method changed since you started homeschooling?
●  What homeschooling philosophy have you followed?

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School Choice Week with National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers

Some days in our homeschool look like this:

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Other days will find us doing this:

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And other days we might be working on this:

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Our homeschooling looks different from day to day and from year to year. Some years we were more strict using an all-in-the-box curriculum, other years we were very loose. My homeschool also varies from my friend’s homeschool which is one of the great benefits to homeschooling. There are so many ways to run a homeschool and so many different resources that one can use.

Are you thinking about homeschooling and wish you had a little more information? Or are you new to homeschooling and want to hear from veteran homeschoolers? If so then N.A.S.H. has something for you.

N.A.S.H. is hosting a week of online roundtables from Monday, January 26, 2015 through Friday, January 30, 2015 in honor of National School Choice Week. These online discussions with veteran homeschoolers will cover topics such as how to start homeschooling, different homeschooling methods and curricula (secular of course!), homeschooling high school, and how to deal with the subject (that ALWAYS seems to come up) of socialization.

I will be part of the roundtable during The Methods of Homeschooling discussion. If you are thinking about homeschooling or you want more information on one of the topics please stop.

You can find more information on the N.A.S.H. website. If you would like to register for this event please click here.