Sleeping Beauty

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Background: I remember waking up before 6 am on school days, waiting for the bus before the sun even came up. Sleep was something I valued so highly that I actually remember stating it as a reason I didn’t think I’d ever have kids. HAHA, JOKE’S ON ME!

As an adult, I spent the early years of my children’s lives waking up every hour and a half all night, every night–we were not blessed with good sleepers. My oldest then decided she needed to wake up at 5:30 am every day for several years. Finally, at almost 11, she has started sleeping in. Can you blame me for not wanting to wake everyone up early to catch a bus each morning? The tween is still complaining about our breakfast reservations at Disney last fall requiring us to get up early during vacation.

Granted, by 3 pm I’ve hit a wall and don’t want to think anymore so post-lunch schoolwork doesn’t fly around here, but even when the tween sleeps until 10, we can still get everything done before eating lunch. And if I get that extra time to relax and drink my coffee in the morning . . . can I really complain? I’m sure I could, but I won’t. One of my most favorite things about homeschooling is being able to adjust based on our natural rhythm. We’ve had periods where we started schoolwork immediately following breakfast, others when we had an alarm go off at a specific time to get started, and have tried a variety of different guidelines pertaining to delaying schoolwork (ie “if you play nicely with your sister without arguing, we can start schoolwork later!”). Currently, the girls have a list of acceptable activities they can pick from before schoolwork gets done. It’s not completely filled with educational options and I freely admit it does not ban all electronics (though we have done that on occasion!), but it includes things that help set a better tone for the day and is devoid of the things that send attitudes, focus, and patience levels down the drain. It may not work forever, but it works for now, and the beauty of homeschooling is that “for now” is all we need to deal with. When it stops working, we can change it!

Do you have early birds or night owls in your house? What time do you generally start schoolwork for the day?

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Tools of the Trade

It’s that glorious time of year when school supplies are everywhere and people start posting beautiful photos of their homeschool set-ups. I freely admit that I am a sucker for school supplies, whether we need them or not. So what if I have a dozen empty 3-ring binders on my bookshelf? Can you ever really have too many sharpened pencils and spiral notebooks?

Well. Yes, you probably can, but sometimes the sales are too good to pass up. We just rearranged our family room to incorporate our schoolwork area so my shelves are currently nice and organized. I suspect it won’t last long though! At what age should humans be able to put things back where they found them, the WAY they found them? We have apparently not reached that milestone yet. Here is our current arrangement.

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If you can’t tell, I completed the shelf in the top picture first–that’s our “curriculum/resource” shelf (plus some Outlander and fantasy books that didn’t fit on the “reading books” shelf. Fortunately, those cabinet doors hide stacks upon stacks of construction paper, lined paper, chalkboard, and half-filled notebooks. The two smaller shelves house the random stuff and baskets of junk–I mean, leftover supplies–that have nowhere else to live. And, of course, you also can’t see the twirly bin of pencils, markers, notebooks, rolls of tape, empty glue bottles, and sticky scissors that lives in the living room. Or the giant box of picture books that still need to be sorted through and then shelved or donated. Or the stacks of mostly-used workbooks that should be recycled but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of yet because what if I decide to use some of the unused pages this year? Let’s just focus on the good stuff today and forget all of those things exist.

And there, at the top of one shelf, sits my very favorite homeschooling tool EVER: The Laminator. “Why do I need one?” you ask. Why DON’T you need one is the real question. You can make posters, reusable worksheets, checklists, bookmarks, signs, reminders, labels. You can preserve artwork or awards certificates or other Really Important Things.

Besides, if Ryan Gosling loves it, it’s clearly worthwhile. What’s your favorite homeschooling supply item?

Luxury funny homeschool memes 105 best Homeschool ics images on Pinterest

Put on your Sunday clothes

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I will freely admit that here have been periods of my life when I have worn pajamas all day long. Life with babies and toddlers just kind of lends itself to staying cozy unless you’re leaving the house, right? There’s no shame in that! Those days are well in the past for me but I have to say that comfort is one of the keys to our homeschooling. I don’t stay in pajamas anymore, but I do tend to save my “nice shirts” for special occasions. Like, you know, leaving the house. I sometimes even break out my “dressy jeans” for the occasional Mom’s Night Out.

Though my almost-11 year old takes great pride in crafting her ensemble each day, my 8 year old lives in pajamas unless we are going somewhere. Fortunately, most of her pajamas happen to be selections of her comfiest regular clothes, so if friends happen to walk by our house, it’s not completely insane of me to let her go outside in them. And it cuts down on laundry, okay? Simultaneously saving the planet AND being comfortable seems like a win.

While we lovingly call some of the kids’ more creative outfits “The Homeschooler,” I do think our school uniform is basically pajamas. How about you? Do your kids get dressed before schoolwork or do you tend to lounge around in PJs?

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The Mondays or The Fridays?

Fresh homeschool meme Great Homeschool T Shirts

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I had my second daughter and realized that coordinating the sleep schedules of more than one child is somewhere around the seventh circle of hell. Now, I freely admit that I am a coffee addict. I’m not even sure it’s the caffeine that I enjoy so much as the sweet peace of drinking a hot cup of coffee (okay, two very large cups) in the mornings before we start schoolwork. And during schoolwork. And sometimes after schoolwork.

Mondays in our house are not terrible, since everyone here does better with routine (and our morning schoolwork means I don’t have to start listening to incessant Minecraft talk until well after the coffee has kicked in), but it’s not unheard of for at least one of us to have a serious case of The Mondays when it comes time to get started. Even if we push our start time back by an hour or so (while I enjoy another cup of delicious coffee), we generally get into our groove eventually.

When Friday rolls around, however . . . that’s usually when we start to crumble. Back in high school, our English department had “Friday Reading Day” across all of the classrooms and you could read anything you wanted during English class. I always thought that would be a fun thing to institute but we hadn’t quite reached a point where my youngest could read by herself comfortably until partway through this past school year, so we haven’t started that yet. Instead, Friday became “OMG Go Do Something Quietly Without Asking Me 10,000 Questions Per Hour” Day. Whatever works, right?

Sometime around May, I finally decided to start hosting Field Trip Fridays through our local homeschool group. It seems to be a popular idea–both among the children and for other families–so I volunteered to continue hosting throughout the new school year. It sounds charitable but really it just keeps me from having to make us all suffer through actual work on Fridays when we feel like doing annnnnnything else but school. And it definitely sounds more educational than banishing the children to their rooms to play just to get some peace and quiet, right?

Which day is harder for you and your family in homeschooling, Monday or Friday? Do you do anything special to help everyone get through it?

Sweet Freedom

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You may have noticed my meme addiction. I can’t help it, I love them, especially funny ones. This came up in one of my searches though and it struck a chord. It’s so, so true. When people ask why we homeschool, a million different reasons come to mind on any given day, but the freedom is very high on my list! Freedom to follow our interests, freedom to take vacations when we want, freedom to figure out each individual learning style and cater to that. We’re not tied to a school calendar each year, we can switch curriculum when we need to (except now because I finally bit the bullet and paid for a year of our online program so NOW THAT IS IT AND I PROMISE TO STOP OBSESSING). We can make our schedule work for us instead of slotting ourselves into one created by someone else. My husband and I are nerds, I freely admit it. We LIKE learning new things. The prospect of learning cool stuff alongside our kids was one of the biggest selling points of homeschooling for us.

While the freedom is incredible, it can also be daunting, especially for families new to homeschooling. “How will I know we’re doing enough? How much time each day is too much and how much is too little?” I’ll be perfectly honest here–some families spend hours upon hours doing schoolwork. We . . . well, don’t. Especially in the younger grades! If we got half an hour in working on math and reading for kindergarten or first grade, that was awesome! I don’t track hours spent reading or experimenting or baking together or doing crafts or drawing or taking nature hikes. We just do it. Kids are constantly learning, even if they’re not sitting at a desk! My kids are getting older so now we spend maybe an hour or so on “book work” each morning (which is now on the computer), and come fall we will add in a little bit more with writing (I’m such a nice mom, I’m giving them the summer off from that while they do math, science, social studies, language arts, and Spanish, ha!), but I’m certainly not looking to replicate school hours in our house.

If you’re homeschooling, accept your rebel status with pride! You’re already a weirdo by societal standards, so you might as well embrace it. And if you have that independent spirit, you can bet your kids probably inherited it. I know mine have! That doesn’t make it easy, but it might help sometimes when they’re driving you stark-raving mad and won’t just learn their $%#$%*^%$ math the way you’re teaching it or are ignoring the #$%#$*^@ directions in their workbooks in order to write a short story instead of an informational paragraph. Face it, you’re all weirdos and if you have the freedom to buck the system, sometimes you can pass that along and let them do it too. Just not too much, because then Mommy might need to lock herself in a closet to binge on leftover Halloween candy.

Jinxed it!

Next time I smugly say that I have our curriculum planned for September, just smack me right upside the head. I don’t think I’m *ever* done. In fact, I can’t recall a single year where we actually used the things I had planned on using for the entire school year without switching at least some things partway through.

Apparently, this year is no exception. The online curriculum we have been planning on recently went up in price, so instead of a monthly subscription, we can only be grandfathered in if we pay for the year upfront. As a compulsive curriculum-switcher, you can see why this would make me nervous. As the clock ticks down toward my deadline for paying for the year, I am, of course, awash with doubt.

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We are in possession of an entire treasure trove of options that I could piece together, but . . . online. Independent (for the most part). Silence all at one time for a glorious hour of the morning while I drink coffee and do Very Important Things (like blogging and spreadsheet-making and color-coding our schedule for the year). This is the first curriculum the girls have actually really loved and begged to continue with, and all I need to add to it is some writing. Why would I not jump on that?

Because I am me, readers. Because there is always more curriculum out there to explore, always more shiny new books to buy and shelves to fill. Besides, what kind of crazy homeschooler would I be if I couldn’t lug a wagon full of books to park meetups so newbies could see various things in person? IT’S FOR THE GREATER GOOD, OKAY?

I’ll keep telling myself that. In the meantime, I have 5 days to decide what I’m doing and I’ve only changed my mind 73.4 times in the last week. Wish me luck!

Decisions, decisions.

I don’t know about you, but I am a planner. I like spreadsheets and checklists and color-coded schedules . . . all of which I like to create, fawn over, and then generally ignore because that’s not how homeschooling works in our house. Still, I desperately love my spreadsheets, so I make them to make myself feel productive and prepared.

When it comes to curriculum, I start researching options around April, which is when I start to get sick of everything we’re using and planning for the fall staves off the insanity. We decided to try out an online curriculum back in May and the girls love it, so we’re keeping that for the coming school year, which leaves me with just activities to figure out. Back when my oldest was four, we started  in a homeschool gym & swim class–the fact that she refused to participate in gym for the first 3/4 of the school year and refused to swim until January are a story for another day! Regardless, it was the first in a series of weekly homeschool activities that we’ve had every year up until now. Every year I tell myself we need to do fewer things so we have time for one-off or monthly classes that pop up, field trips, library trips, playdates . . . and every year we are so over-scheduled that we don’t have time for those things. The girls are each planning to take four dance classes in the evenings so the prospect of daytime free to (GASP!) do schoolwork and do things spur of the moment is awwwwwfully attractive right now. Then schedules for various homeschool activities start coming out and I forget everything and want to do all the things.

It’s fairly common for newbies to express dismay at when their kids will see other kids or whether there are any opportunities for socializing (hahahahahahahahaha). In our area, it’s more like there are too many amazing options to choose from, which is a good problem to have. For someone trying to cut back on scheduled activities, though, it makes it very difficult to make a decision about just one thing to add to our schedule!

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Summer break? What’s that?

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Ahh, summer break. When the weather is nice, other kids are off school, and people swarm to our favorite places. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t exactly hibernate all summer, but yes . . . I am that mean old hag making her kids do schoolwork all summer.

We don’t always school year round–in fact, we’ve done a wide variety of different schedules! I think each year has been different. We’ve ended our school year in April or May and started the next in July, gone all summer to finish the previous year’s curriculum before fall hits, taken a break all summer and started up again in September, and started the new school year in May/June. The flexibility of homeschooling is definitely one of my favorite things about it, so we do what works for us based on what we have going on or how much time we’ve taken off (uh, because there are some years we take all of December off, or winters where the kids pass sickness back and forth and we get nothing done for weeks, or years where the weather gets nice in April and we are soooo over schoolwork).

Alas, my main reason for homeschooling through the summer is two-fold. 1) To keep me from losing my damn mind when they’ve forgotten how to add or WTF a noun is come September, and 2) to prevent my children from becoming giant a-holes toward each other during the summer. I mean, we do probably an hour, MAYBE two, of schoolwork per day all year round–they have all day then to do what they want. But when summer rolls around and I think, “Gosh, I’m going to be a nice mom and let them have time off of schoolwork!” they act like they can’t even function without snarking at each other all day long. I have no clue why an hour of structure changes the whole tone of the day, but it does, so by George, that’s what we’ll do. Don’t get me wrong, they still have jerky days when I send everyone to their rooms to read so I can have ten minutes of quiet before one or the other comes down and asks for something, but at least those days are slightly less frequent if we stick to our normal schoolwork routine.

I’m also mean and like to see my kids glare at adults who ask them how summer break is going. Ha!

Do you take summer break, school year round, or mix it up?

A little bit o’ Q&A!

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One of the things I really enjoy is reading blogs by other homeschoolers–and sharing them, particularly when it comes to “answer questions/misconceptions about homeschooling.” Recently, though, I came across one with “and how I wish I could answer people” and I thought it was going to be a fun read. Who doesn’t want to see homeschoolers come out with honest (and maybe snarky) responses to the dumb questions homeschoolers are asked every day? It turned out to not be snarky in the slightest, which was nice and all, but it made me think about my own “how I wish I could answer” leanings. So here you go. Enjoy.

  1. “Aren’t you afraid your kids will be weird?”

Answer: Are you freaking kidding me? They’re among the weirdest children I’ve ever met, and you know what? So are a lot of their friends. But they’re so happy and confident in their weirdness that it’s truly glorious to see. I didn’t embrace my own weird and nerdy tendencies until college and I’ll be damned if my kids have to suppress their own until then.

  1. “How will they ever learn what it’s like to live in the real world?”

Answer: Pardon me while I die laughing. I considered myself pretty well prepared for adulthood after going out of state to college, holding down steady jobs in addition to school, and dealing with “grown-up” bills in an apartment all the while. As it turns out, adulting sucks and that was a big shocker. My kids have the chance to explore their interests before college (hello, I changed majors 6 times in my freshman year alone), they can converse with people of all ages (I was the kid who couldn’t bring herself to speak to friends’ parents because I couldn’t figure out what to call them), and they’re–get this–KIDS. I’ll make sure they understand what adulting means when we get closer (“sorry kids, life is going to suck real hard while you adjust to that”), but you can be damn sure I won’t send them out into the world without understanding alarm clocks and deadlines, k?

  1. “Are you qualified for that?”

Answer: ….Did you just call me stupid? Let’s be real, folks. I mean, I did pretty well in both 3rd and 6th grades so I would think I can handle grasping and relaying that info in my thirties. Most of the homeschoolers I know are pretty highly educated anyway, and even if they’re not, I trust that most of them can stay a lesson ahead of their kids and Google whatever they don’t know. I did help my kids learn to walk and talk and wipe their own butts and make quesadillas so I feel pretty good about guiding them along in our chosen curriculum and making sure they turn into decent human beings who aren’t ALWAYS a-holes.

  1. “How will they make friends?”

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Answer: I assume all kids make friends in a similar fashion (say, by talking to one another) and let’s just say my kids are happy to talk to anyone and everyone. Cashier at Target asks what child’s favorite cartoon is? Insert painfully long explanation about Voltron. Fellow child at the park yells, “EXPELLIARMUS!” at the top of his lungs? Instant BFFs. See someone wearing a Doctor Who shirt? Nerd out session initiated. They might be weirdos, but they are incredibly adept at spotting other weirdos and managing to talk for 16 hours straight about Minecraft or dinosaurs or WTF-ever their passion of the day might be. And if their friends are homeschooled, well . . . let’s just say they have EVEN MORE TIME to spend hanging out with those friends and Skyping with those friends while they do art and Facetiming with friends while they play Minecraft and visiting the zoo and park and museum and playground while everyone else is sitting in school.

  1. “What if your kids want to go to school someday?”

Answer: Look, I’m not a total dickhead, okay? If my kid really wanted to try school and was old enough to have valid reasons and understand the reality of the situation, sure, I’d let them. When my kid was in kindergarten and wanted to go to school because she wanted to have recess (newsflash: your life IS recess, kid) or get a backpack or ride a bus or see her friends, yeah . . . not so much. Plenty of families end up sending their kids to school eventually, especially around middle and high school. I don’t intend to send mine at any point, but I wouldn’t deny them the opportunity if that’s what they really wanted. That said, my kids (the middle schooler especially) sure as shit realize what a sweet gig they’ve got at home. They can stay up late, sleep in, get their work done, and do what they want the rest of the day. We can plan all the field trips and playdates they desire, load up on evening dance classes that would be really damn hard to handle if they were at school all day and then had homework, and decide together what works for us and what doesn’t.

  1. “Can they get into college?”

Answer: I can’t even be snarky about this because it’s totally a valid concern even among homeschooling families, but yes, yes they can.

And lastly, my favorite . . .

  1. “Where do you find the patience to do that every day?”

Answer: Oh, sweetie, bless your heart. On a good day, my patience level is probably around a 3 out of 10. Maybe a 4 if anyone has had the foresight to bake cookies for me, and this is only until 2 PM rolls around. After that, it’s every child for herself around here as long as it doesn’t involving making annoying noises anywhere in Mommy’s vicinity or asking for the fifteenth time whether dinner is ready. We made a choice to homeschool and most days we all love it and the freedom it gives up, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lose my mind on a regular basis. I just thank my lucky stars that my children are finally old enough to go entertain themselves for longer than three minutes at a time. To all the parents of young ones out there–someday you too will get to experience the sweetness of silence once more. Until then, I highly recommend planning a monthly Mom’s Night Out with your homeschooling friends so you can recharge without going on a murderous rampage.

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Me, on a regular basis.

Oh, math.

Math comes up a lot in homeschooling discussions–usually along the lines of, “OMG, how will I ever teach upper level math?” I, on the other hand, was very much a math nerd in school. Heck, I even majored in math for 6 weeks of my freshman year of college! We’ll just ignore those nightmares where I’m back in high school and can’t remember any calculus equations for a surprise exam.

Imagine my horror when my oldest child (Goose) told me she hated math when she was 6. “But math is FUN!” I insisted. We spent the next two years fighting over freaking addition problems every day because I had this beautiful image of sharing my love of numbers with offspring. I resorted to turning every. single. problem into something Harry Potter-related. “If Hedwig is carrying four letters and Errol is carrying seven, how many letters do they have all together? If there are eight baby mandrakes and they’re potted in two equal rows, how many pots are in each row?”

If ever there came a time when I threatened public school, it was back then. Like, quite possibly every day back then, but you know how it goes. I had to release every sparkling dream of math bliss into the universe and turn the reins over to a computer-based curriculum just to end the frustration.

Goose still doesn’t love math and jokes regularly that her math-lovin’ sister is clearly the favorite, but hey . . . one out of two ain’t bad, right? At least she can turn to humor and her awesome art skills to get through it.

Is math enjoyable in your house or all-out disaster territory?

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She hates Roman numerals, in case you couldn’t tell.