Tag Archives: homeschooling

Time To Call the Waaaaaaaambulance; Some Food For Thought With Your Whine

Complaining; it is at the root of every homeschooling mother’s desire to tap into that box of wine by 3 p.m.  Or Mike’s Cranberry Hard Lemonade…whatevers in your fridge chillin’.

Yes, I had a sucky Monday, which was not surprising because it’s impossible to start two weeks in a row off on the right foot.  I’d like to not blame it on continuing to wake up before dawn and instead shift the blame to a horrible habit of complaining and whining that has already taken hold.

The kind of complaining that first gets you fired up and angry and emailing your husband expletives at work (and he has to question, “Are you just thinking these things or saying them to the children?” No, no honey, saving the sailor speak for just you.) It’s the kind of fussing that fuels more and more until no one is happy, everyone is short-tempered and the day is miserable.

And if I must be honest, it’s the type of complaining that wears me out and makes me question my homeschooling goals. It hurts to be told over and over that something I spend a ton of time and effort planing and organizing  is bad. And while, when pressed, the children will admit to not really hating school, it still stings and forces me to wonder “Why don’t they love learning? Why aren’t they excited about what we’re covering? Why must it be SO HARD?”

Thankfully, yesterday is not everyday, in fact it’s not even most, or many days. But complaining and whining has been allowed around here for apparently too long and yesterday was the final straw. How do I break the habit of complaining?

I don’t think there is one magic cure-all, so it will definitely be an ongoing process. And first off, it starts with me, and my complaining. “Why aren’t you at your desk? Why didn’t you put your work in the box to be checked? Why do I need to keep repeating myself? blah, blah, blah…” I can spew complaints and sass at a mile a minute, and I feel very justified in doing so when the kids are breaking the rules, however my kids are picking up on my talk and throwing it right back at me. Granted, that is a behavior to be punished, but it would be a lot easier if I wasn’t teaching them the very habits we’re trying to curb.

Complaining is a habit not isolated to homeschooling children. How many “mature” adults in your life spend all their time complaining? I know people who have harped on the same problems for years and years; it’s all they can talk about, they feed off the attention. I’m sure you know a few martyrs. Nothing makes them happy, and frankly, it’s hard to be around them. They don’t want solutions, they just to hear the sound of their voice and sympathy. I don’t want my children to turn into such people! How could I stand to be around them?

My husband and I needed to outline very clear-cut rules for proper school behavior. Without them, it’s always a struggle of kids pushing and testing the boundaries of what is allowed. My husband amazed me last night by talking with the kids over dinner about our complaining habit by referencing the Mass readings from the last several weeks, especially Galatians 5:16-24, the Epistle from the 14th Sunday after Pentecost.

I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. [18] But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, [20] Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,

[21] Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. [22]But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity,[23] Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. [24] And they that are Christ’ s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Obviously, we glossed over some of the fornication and drunkenness parts, but focused on the fact that “wraths, quarrels, dissensions, etc.” are fruits  of the flesh, or of the world, and that engaging in such things makes it hard to get to heaven, whereas fruits of the spirit include mildness, patience, and peace and draw us closer to God.

The next week’s Epistle also from Galatians adds

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. [26] Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying on another. Gal. 5:25-26

[8] For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. Gal. 6:8

You reap what you sow. Fruits of the spirit will yield a happier homeschool, whereas constant complaining, and other fruits of the flesh, will simply continue to wear us all down.

Of course the kids couldn’t argue with that. Our expectations were not arbitrarily picked to make their lives miserable. No, they were goals for our whole family to work towards, outlined by St. Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Ghost. We even discussed the proper way to approach difficult school work by also referencing St. Benedict’s rule:

If it happens that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a sister,
let her nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority with all meekness and obedience.
But if she sees that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the limit of her strength,
let her submit the reasons for her inability to the one who is over her
in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride, resistance, or contradiction.
And if after these representations the Superior still persists in her decision and command,
let the subject know that this is for her good, and let her obey out of love,
trusting in the help of God. -Chapter 68

With God, all things are possible, even the multiplication tables and long division.

So now, it’s a matter of working out an incentive or punishment system to help the kids, and ourselves, remember to stick with the fruits of the spirit and not slip back into the fruits of the flesh. Some suggestions I received via social media included doing extra chores, doing extra worksheets, giving the kids more say in their curriculum, empathy, time out, military school, and hard liquor. I’m leaning towards an incentive chart that will eventually allow us to all go out and get frozen yogurt, because currently I’m always looking for an excuse to eat some fro yo.

How do you discourage complaining?


Filed under Catholic, Homeschooling

{FF} This Ain’t Your Average Social

I walked into the run down corner liquor store with a skip in my step. I breezed past the line of old men getting lottery tickets, the humming case of malt liquor and straight to the back of the store where the treasure was kept. Glancing at my watch, I maneuvered my way back to the register, purchases in hand, just smiling as the other customers looked me over. I placed the two boxes of wine on the counter and could hardly contain my grin. What did the young man ringing up my order think of this preppy housewife with a fool’s smile plastered across her face? If only he would have asked I would have gladly told him, and the world! A boxed wine tasting at my monthly homeschool mom’s social!!!!! Squeeeeeeeeeeee! I may have danced out of the store even though I didn’t get to proclaim my good fortune publicly.

After our rosary, we got right to work. I brought forms and instruction sheets and we had six wines to try. Some moms declined to taste, (did they think my offer to let them swish and spit into the hostess’ kitchen sink was insincere?) and only chatted and sampled the snacks.


The whole evening just reeked of classiness.

So since this is ‘Five Favorites’ I’m going to share the top five wines…out of six. (But I think there was talk about doing this again next month…or next week, so I’ll update if things change.)

Franzia’s Pinot Grigio, which I brought, was easily eliminated  with its most flattering comment;

“Why bother? I’d rather have soda.”

I may or may not have left that behind at the hostess’ house as a “present.” Thanks again for having us all in your house until the wee hours!


The Last Supper and a table of boxed wine; clearly a Catholic household.

5. Franzia’s White Zinfindel averaged a 2.6 on a scale of one to five (with five the “happy face score”). The highest score came from a reviewer on her sixth sample who was not swishing and spitting. So, if you’re hosting a party (Baptism, Confirmation, etc.) this would seem to be the wine you break out once everyone’s having a good time.

4. Also scoring a 2.6 was Almaden’s Mountain Burgundy, by far the most hotly debated wine of the evening. One mom passionately wrote,

“Yuck! If I could give it less than a one I would! It is not ‘soft and elegant’ [as written on the box]. False advertising!”

She later amended her review to add it had a ‘full bodied throw up taste.”

However other moms described it as sweet, “knock your socks off” good and “[I'm] shocked that wine in a box can be yummy. A little sour, but a good box.”

Therefore, if you’re hosting a dinner party and are worried about where the conversation might go, serve this wine and everyone is bound to be caught up arguing about it for the rest of the night.


This was right before the cat fight broke out. Kidding!

3. Folonari’s Pinot Noir came in at 2.9. For a red wine, it didn’t make my face go all puckery and a few other reviewers noted fruitiness. Even the reviewer who said “Blah, with notes of meh” gave it a three. It also had a slightly high-end looking box that clearly proclaimed “Italian Wine.” Whether it’s delivery or DiGiornos, stuffed shells or Spagettios, Folonari’s is guaranteed to add some class and, at the very least, not horribly offend anyone.

2. One of my favorite’s, Franzia’s Sangria garnered a 3.5. (The truth is out; I’m a wine snob.) The score would have been higher except for a Russian judge that snuck in and gave it a one, writing “Perfume fragrance with a sickening sweet medicinal flavor.”

I for one, find Sangria the perfect accompaniment to blogging, and Christmas cookie swaps. (Bring the burnt ones. No one will care!)  One mom even suggested indulging in a little Sangria before visiting the Maryland Science Center, based on personal experience.

So for educational outings and building camaraderie between moms, Sangria for the win!

1. Hands down the best wine of the night, if only because it was packaged LIKE A PURSE, was Volere’s Merlot Pinot Noir blend at 3.8. Regardless of how it tasted, I think all the ladies in attendance were enamoured with a wine that could probably be snuck into a movie theater, band performance or homeschool kindergarten graduation. Sure, everyone will wonder what all the ruckus is in row E, but IT’S WINE IN A PURSE. I rest my case.


Chauffeur Joe Wetterling prepares to take his lovely wife, and their purse of wine home.

Now don’t forget to pin, bookmark or print this post so next time you’re faced with the dilemma of selecting a quality boxed wine for under $20 you don’t need to ask the opinion of some twenty-something wine clerk who doesn’t understand the needs of the homeschooling mom community. My friends and I, we’ve done the hard work so you can reap the rewards. It was a tough job, but ….okay so it wasn’t but now you can head back to Hallie’s a little wiser anyway.


Filed under Five Favorites, Food, Homeschooling, Humor

Learn From My Preschool Mistakes; A Letter To Myself

photo (13)

Dear Self,

I’m you, only I now have five years of homeschooling under my belt…plus six more kids…KIDDING! I’m here to set you straight, and save you from at least a million melt downs. I know what you’re doing and thinking. I know you’re not willing to listen to other moms with more experience because, “they don’t know what Addie is capable of” or “their kids are undisciplined” or “look, her seven-year old still can’t read Chaucer; who’s she to tell me anything?” But you need to listen to me.

Just because you’ve read ‘The Well Trained Mind’ and ‘Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum’ a thousand times doesn’t mean you’re Susan Wise Bauer or Laura Berquist. You already have the next 14 years of classical education mapped out in your head down to the hour, when all you really need is the ability to take it one day at a time and plan a few weeks in advance.

My advice to you as you attempt preschool.


-buy that $45 Pre-K lesson book. You’ll use it for three weeks before you realize you don’t need a book to tell you to read stories to your daughter, hand her coloring pages, crayons and counters.

-attempt to spend three to six hours a day “doing school.”It’s not defiance that’s making her get up and run around, it’s the fact that she’s a child. If she sits still for three or four 15-20 minute chunks spaced throughout the morning, you’ve done enough. By second grade, she’ll be sitting longer without so much as an eye roll. I promise.

-forget that’s she’s only four, and has the maturity of a four-year old. Just because she may cruise through the Pre-K numbers workbook doesn’t mean she’s ready to be pushed into the K Math book.

-stop in a the teacher supply store. It’s like heroin. Better not to start. Also, homeschool conferences are good. Buying all the preschool curriculum from every vendor just so you’re “prepared” is bad.

-assume she can write all her letters as well as she can identify and sound them out. Let her trace or scrawl them on blank paper to her  heart’s content. A sloppy letter A is a sloppy letter A, not her way of trying to ruin your morning, so don’t let it.

-start Latin. Seriously, it will go so much better if you just don’t even try it. Don’t worry, by fifth grade, she’s a pro.

-assume that teaching Bryon and Edie will be the same as teaching Addie. What’s working now may not work in the future and that’s okay. Be flexible and prepared to change materials to meet the needs of the kids. Forcing them into a program that doesn’t work wastes time and causes tears. Especially when you’ve spent $150 on some fancy pants preschool program at the teacher supply store/homeschool conference.

You know why you don’t see older homeschool moms with lots of kids stressing about PreK or kindergarten? Because there’s nothing there to stress about. Teaching algebra is stressful. Making sure your child can read, comprehend and write a paper about Shakespeare is stressful. I know mom’s who are losing their hair over college transcripts and you think you have the right to worry/complain about “Addie not working at grade level with her peers” if you purchase the wrong Hooked On Phonics edition?


If at any point you start getting angry, or Addie starts to cry or anyone mentions hating school, just stop for the day. If this becomes a regular occurrence, you need to reevaluate what you’re doing.

Here’s what you need to focus on.


-go to the library more and read more books. Don’t forget CDs of stories and music.

-select Pre-K level crafts and activities. Addie will honestly love it even if you think it is totally lame. I know you want to buy every product from the Illuminated Ink website but those projects are years off. Save yourself the frustration.

-plan more playdates with other moms. I know the apartment is small but choose nice days and stay outside. This is important for you as much as the kids.

-offer lots of praise on a job well done. Four year olds don’t need to be berated about school work; lazy high school students do.

-be a mom. Don’t become a different person when it’s school time. Your children don’t need a professor or 1950′s Catholic school nun; they just need you.

-warn Tony that things around the house will change. By adding the role of teacher to your jobs as mom and homemaker you will always struggle to find the right balance. He will come to see this himself in time and look for ways to help you. Never hold back your concerns from him. He wants you to succeed and he will help you set your priorities.

-be consistent in your discipline. You’re too strict with Addie and Byron and Edie is getting away with murder. Sit down with Tony, set some clear, age appropriate rules and consequences and stick with them.Take care of it now or it will come back to bite you in the butt. I’ve got the teeth marks to prove it.

Despite lifes ups and downs, I’m still happy with our family’s decision to homeschool. We have the most wonderful children, and I’m confident homeschooling is helping them reach their full potential, despite my imperfections. Hang in there. I know you’ve got this.


Filed under Homeschooling, Most Popular, Tips and Tricks

{SQT} Awesome Online Elementary Homeschooling Resources


online homeschooling


Here in no husband land, we’re still narrowly avoiding the nighttime zombies and mama’s pre-dinner meltdown. I’m down to my last quarter box o’wine with four days to go. Can’t…hold…on…much…longer…. I’m seriously considering  dragging around a king-sized pillow drapped in one of his dirty t-shirts. I’m definitely not a poster child for moms that excel in the absence of a husband.

How about a quick post regarding online stuff, since I’m hanging on the computer all day hoping to catch my husband on Google chat???? Alrighty then… Here are seven of my favorite online resources.( If the thought of me carrying around a pillow has freaked you out, go ahead and skip back to Jen’s for more Seven Quick Takes. I’ll understand.)


1. Wikimedia Commons

Unless you’re a hermit, you’re probably very familiar with Wikipedia. It’s basically how I answer any strange question my kids shoot at me. But for images, including historical maps and photos, I’m all about Wikimedia Commons. With few exceptions, all the images are in the public domain. It’s a great resource for finding timeline images. Need a map of the U.S during the civil war? They’ve got it. A map detailing the path of the Oregon Trail. BOOM! It’s there. Pictures of trenches and soldiers during WWI? No problem. And it safe. A Google image search can turn up all sorts of crazy things I wouldn’t want my kids to find, but with Wikimedia, there’s less chance of surprise boobage. Plus, most pics will link to the related Wikipedia article if you have questions.

2. Timeline Index

If you’re studying a certain time period and want to find saints, scientists and other historical figures outside your textbook, check out Timeline Index and search by era or person of interest.

3. Spelling City

Enter in your child’s spelling list or select one of the many ones already listed by grade level, theme or curriculum. Then walk away and let your kids play games, write sentences and take quizzes on their words. I’ve used it as a stand alone program and as a supplement.

4. Studyladder 

I love, love, love this site. It’s one of the few I’ve paid for, though the free membership allows you to try lots of the games. Each of my kids has a profile and I can select games in all subject areas, even science, music and consumer math. Activities include downloadable booklets, worksheet and videos. Many subjects are aligned to Common Core Standards. Plus by completing parent selected tasks, kids earn points to outfit their online bedroom. My kids like changing their bedrooms, and avatars, on a daily basis. Currently, Byron is sporting a mustache and cowboy hat.

5. Starfall

For children just learning to read, there is no better free program than Starfall. It’s grown considerably since I started using it with Addie four years ago.  But the stories and games have engaged all of my children and  helped with their reading skills. Whenever someone starts getting burnt out on reading, I let them spend a week on Starfall and inevitably they come back refreshed.

For preschool and kindergarten printables my favorite sites are:

6. Making Learning Fun

7. First School 

First School can seem overwhelming in its complexity of choices but you could create an entire preschool program using nothing but their printouts. Make Learning Fun is a new favorite of mine that I discovered when looking for road letters for Fulton to trace. If you’re the type of mom who wants to find activities for your youngster at the last-minute or ease into schooling at your child’s pace without purchasing a ton of materials, these sites will be a blessing.

Did I miss any? What sites do your elementary aged children enjoy?





Filed under Curriculum, Homeschooling, Seven Quick Takes, Tips and Tricks

Because Homeschooling is NOT a Living Hell

Lest I leave you all thinking my life resembles the 5th ring of Dante’s Inferno, I now present you with a brief synopsis of our second day of homeschooling.

Our schoolroom the night before the first day.

I don’t think we need to rehash yesterday.

Black frowny faces with tears courtesy of Addie.

Now, day two.

By 8 a.m. this morning all the kids decided to start their work early while still clad in their pajamas. This was not my idea, in fact I kept ignoring their requests for help. I  explained, through gulps of my coffee, that while they chose to begin school at that hour, I most certainly did not.

So while the first day of school did not go as well as I envisioned, it obviously was not so wretched as to sour them on schooling altogether. As far as I’m concerned, that makes Monday one for the win column!

By four o’clock on day two.

Things got a little messy (I’m still questioning my own judgement on the use of a sensory rice bin) but no more than usual and thankfully, despite more rain, the kitchen stayed dry due to all of Tony’s hard work yesterday.

Throughout the course of the day, nothing extraordinary transpired. And wonder of wonders, Teddy didn’t scream during history! He only sang his version of Bob the Builder while I read, still pausing at all the right moments. (Baaaaaaaaa! Go, go, go, go! Baaaaaaaaa! Go,go,go,go!)

I forgot to play classical music at lunch but I did chase the kids around with leftover crab legs. See, one set of legs  looked like a monster hand with a thumb. I kept waving it at them, like it was my hand, and hissing “CRAB LEGS! WATCH OUT!” I considered saving the legs for bedtime,when the sight of them creeping over the edge of Byron’s bunk-bed would result in hilarious consequences,  but that might ruin my chances of winning mom of the year, which I easily cinched up after day one of homeschooling.

Dinner was grilled, but it was my evening dance moves that were sizzlin’. Tony and Byron worked on Latin in the schoolroom while I ran in, sang some MC Hammer hits and did an awesome running man. When Tony implied I was “distracting” Byron I ran out singing, “You can’t touch this!”

Yes, things were back to normal.  Flush from my sustained exertions, I decided to celebrate with a hot fudge sundae. Bring it on day three!


Filed under Homeschooling, Humor, Photography

The First Homeschooling Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

Today’s post was supposed to be a humorous look at our first day back to school. I had it all planned out in my head. First day of school pics with me in my classy denim jumper, joyful reflections of Fulton listening to stories as he began preschool plus some of the gritty details; sloppy handwriting, complaining over math, etc. Instead I apologize in advance for a grammatically incorrect rambling brain dump of a post. Proceed with caution.

I thought the rainy weather was an omen that my decision to return to school on Labor day was wise. My husband was off work and would be around to help with screaming kids and assist with easing the household back into a school routine. Except he was going to morning Mass, which was fine, however he went to a diner for breakfast afterwards, stopped to do some errands and didn’t get back until I was two-thirds through my day and had already driven half my children to tears.  (Pretty impressive on my part huh?)

Sure, my life can be humorous, but it’s anything but scripted. The fact that I thought I knew what the next 24 hours had in store, and how I could translate it into a blog post, show’s I’m still a student myself in some ways.

Here, in Amy Welborn bullet points, are the highlights of my day:

  • Set a 9 am alarm on Fulton’s iPad cued to a track of the Angelus being recited. Plugged the iPad into a speaker we got by sending in four Pringle can UPC codes and was disgusted when said audio set up did not actually play the Angelus at the designated time.  I don’t know what I’m more upset at, the quality of the speaker, the quality of the free alarm ap or me for not just buckling down and reciting the Angelus myself.
  • Piano practice resulted in lots of tears. I don’t know what to add except that I hate piano, my kids hate piano but I don’t want them to hate me when they’re older because I let them give it up. Is there a psychological description of what this is called besides insanity?
  • Math resulted in tears. But seriously, after only a month off  I don’t see how she could have forgotten all that information. I would show her a problem, she’d explain to me every step, and then collapse into her chair a blubbering mess when I asked her to do the work herself. The dramatics were straight out of Masterpiece Theater.
  • After 10 minutes of use, Fulton’s sensory / fine motor skills rice bin made our dining room look like a package of Uncle Ben’s exploded.
  • Thankfully, Edie was very excited to start school. She did her work promptly, helped Fulton with his activities and then chose to sit at her desk and color. Someone’s  already thinking of Christmas.
  • And did I mention how Teddy screamed the entire time I tried to read history? Oh wait, not the entire time, he synchronized his breathing with mine so when I paused he did too. Story of the World Volume One sounds awesome when read at the top of my lungs. I’m going to call Peace Hill Press and see if they want me to do an audio book version for frazzled moms with screaming toddlers.
  • Two walls in our new kitchen, which includes the new school room, have been ruined by a new leak in our roof. So I was a bit distracted from things by the need to throw towels on puddles. When Tony did finally make it home, he spent the majority of his day trying to find the leak while asking me stuff like “Did the kids do Latin yet?” But, to his credit he tried to help Addie with math while I tried to pray the Little Office only to have her voice her concerns loudly in my direction because, apparently,  my spiritual growth needs to be trumped by her math tantrum.

Yeah, I’m trying to better myself at the same time I’m kicking off a new school year. I’ve got the kids on a schedule, me on a schedule and I’m going to pray more.  Ora et labora and all that jazz. Despite trying this all before I somehow think that because I’ve written a fresh list, or posted new rules things will go differently this year.

I ate a brownie sundae at 2 because I feared drinking wine at that hour would freak out Fulton’s nurse. I didn’t really start feeling slightly less deranged until Cari posted this video of He-Man. I watched it twice, had a good laugh, which speaks to the effectiveness of the video since the whole time it was playing Addie was asking me questions because she just ‘didn’t get it” and, amazingly enough, I didn’t send her into tears again.

We had leftovers everyone liked for dinner. Fulton and Teddy ate without complaint or mess. We listened to “The Planets” by Gustav Holst and the meal didn’t disintegrate into jokes about Uranus, although Tony kept snickering. The kids didn’t argue in the evening. Everything turned out fine, and as I tucked them all in, they hugged and kissed me as I promised them I’d be more patient tomorrow. Which always makes them smile; are they happy I’m trying to be more patient or scoffing at what they know will be another failed attempt?

Today we start day two. At least I know it can’t be any worse than yesterday. Pictures might be forthcoming…but no promises.



Filed under Homeschooling, Humor

Pinning All My Hopes And Dreams On…2012-13 Curriculum

We’ve named our homeschool after St. Bruno the Great. He was awesome and therefore, so is our homeschool…at least in title anyway.


August messes with my head because, on one hand, I’m all “Yay, we’ve finally wrapped up another school year! No school for a month!” while on the other, I’m completely “Aaaaa! Only a month until we start another year of school! I need to write up lesson plans and completely overthink how and why I homeschool!!”

So now that it’s T-minus 10 days (give or take a beach trip) until things start back up, I’m in heavy duty neglect the laundry and scum in the tub planning mode. Thankfully, things are coming together. This will only be my sixth year of homeschooling, and while I continually make mistakes and revise (some times I feel like this whole experience has been a rough draft up to this point) we have found some things that work across the board for our family.

I love learning what other families use for homeschooling, even thought it often sends me into a frenzy of late night researching and second guessing my own curricula choices. In this post, I thought I’d list all the exciting books and text we’ll be using for school. If you’re one of my non-homeschooling readers, I will try to keep you in mind and keep it funny while still being edu-taining for other homeschooling moms. (You can visit my Must Haves page for links to many of the texts. Links provided for other books so you can see what the heck I’m talking about.)

Addie, Grade 5

  • History- Story of the World Year One. Her second time through. I’ll expect her to do much of the reading on her own. I hope to update my History Downloads with some of her favorite books from this year. Tony found some musty tomes on Amazon he’s convinced she’ll love. That is, if he can ever let them out of his sight.
  • Math – She will finish Abeka 4 and start Abeka 5. We also use the test/ speed drill books. I love Abeka. Addie hates it. She’s excellent at math so I win. Ha!
  • Writing – I invested in the Institutes for Excellence in Writing series…finally. But only because I found it so dirt cheap at a conference used curriculum table. (Although because it cost more than $50 Tony almost passed out.) The older three will follow the IEW format using their history, literature and science books for inspiration. I haven’t been satisfied with the narrations I was getting from my older two. Other writing programs combined with assigning more narrations wasn’t helping. I’m hoping this program will help them glean the important details from what they’re reading and convey them more clearly.
  • Spelling – Sequential Spelling with Byon.
  • Literature – Booklist in progress. With Addie, I can usually assign one book a week.
  • Latin- This is Tony’s territory. To the best of my knowledge, he’s using Catholic Heritage Curricula’s program with some supplementary readers for Classical Academic Press thrown in. I know Latin is central to our family’s classical homeschooling philosophy but when it comes to teaching it myself I…zzzzzzzzz.
  • Art – After two years of drawing books and Discovering Great Artists, I decided Addie and Bryon could use a little more formal drawing instruction. I thought the Seton Art 4 book was a step in the right direction.
  • Music- Addie is really gifted with music IF SHE WOULD JUST SIT AND ACTUALLY PRACTICE. I refuse to let her quit piano because I know she would hate me when she’s older but she wants to take another instrument so I said fine, but you have to keep working on the piano so when you get tired of the harp/violin/flute/dulcimer all is not lost. She agreed.
  • Geography/Mapwork – Although SOTW is great with including mapwork in their curricula, since I did not purchase activity books for years 2,3 and 4 I constantly forgot mapwork. We have a globe that I use often but I was not convinced my children knew anything about geography or reading a map accept that New Jersey was the pink state. I purchased the Map Skills work books Level D for Addie and Byron to make sure all the bases are covered.
  • Logic – The Well Trained Mind recommended some brain teaser books for 5th graders to start preparing their minds for the next phase of the trivium. I purchased the Mind Benders Book A1 for Addie and she’s excited to have a ‘puzzle book’ for school.
  • Science -  Most families I know have that one subject that sort of falls through the cracks every year. I love history so we’re on top of history, but science, Meh. I like science but, in the grand scheme of things elementary science just wasn’t that important. This year however, I picked up Christian Kids Explore Biology for all the kids. It’s not the perfect program, but I’m tired of hobbling together science curricula that always falls short or looses steam. (I’m looking at you Physics Kit! Ages 8+ my butt! Try 38+….) We’re using that with the Usborne Science Encyclopedia and Handbook of Nature Study. Addie and Byron will do most of the unit reviews, and experiments, while Edie can focus on the coloring pages and simpler activities.
  • Religion – We try to be very liturgically minded in this house, but I noticed that while my kids were great with traditions (Our Lady of Guadeloupe= Taco Night, Feast of St. Lawrence = BBQ, St. Nicholas Day = chocolate in shoes) they’re weren’t always the best with catechism answers or prayers. So in addition to their CCD work, which is minimal, each is using a Seton Religion Book this year. Addie and Byron will work together on Religion 4.

Byron Grade 3/4

  • History – Story of the World Year One
  • Math – Abeka 3
  •  Writing – Institute for Excellence in Writing
  • Spelling – Up to this point, every spelling program I have tried with Byron has failed to help him learn to spell. Not phonetic based, not copy it a million times based, not play fancy games on the computer based. Nothing. I could say, well he’s just a bad speller like his father and I, and just keep giving him workbooks that teach him nothing, frustrate him and waste our family’s time and money. But, at the suggestion of a friend, I’m trying Sequential Spelling. It can’t make him spell any worse than he already does. And Addie’s going to do it too because she’s an excellent speller and will excel at any program so why not just kill two birds with one stone?
  • Literature – Booklist. Always tough to plan lit for Byron because he reads at a different level than Addie did at the same age so I can’t necessary use the same books. (Shakes fist at children.)
  • Latin – I’ll just add our kids get all their grammar at this point through Latin. I don’t think kids retain intense grammar at this age, but that’s just my opinion. Tony and I think it’s more important for them to be exposed to good writing (and intelligent conversation) where they will absorb good grammar naturally.
  • Penmanship – Handwriting Without Tears 3 – Hopefully I won’t cry when I try to teach him cursive. If you saw my husband’s handwriting, you know I’m fighting a losing battle.
  • Art- Seton Art 4
  • Music – Attempting to play John Williams on the piano as much as I allow him to.
  • Geography/Mapwork- Mapwork D
  • Science – Christian Kids Discover Biology
  • Religion – CCD materials, living la vida liturgical and Seton Religion 4.

Edith Grade 1

  • Phonics – We’re picking up with Explode the Code Book 2 1/2. I love this series and wish I would’ve used it with the older two.
  • Reading/Literature – I decided to use real books instead of readers this year. I looked at suggestions from Veritas Press and The Writing Road to Reading as well as what was on my bookshelf already. Although she can read, Edie prefers to snuggle on the couch and be read to. I’m hoping the use of real books will motivate her to take the initiative and read more on her own.
  • Math – Abeka 1
  • History – Story of the World Year 1, with me reading all the chapters aloud.
  • Writing- I’ll work with her, using the IEW format, to create narrations from her literature books and history selections.
  • Penmanship/Copywork – She’ll continue to work on handwriting by copying her memory work and some narrations.
  • Memory Work – This is another subject I always drop the ball on. Yes I know these little ones are sponges just waiting to soak up all these interesting facts, prayers, bible verses, etc. but I really hate practicing this stuff over and over again. I don’t want to memorize it! This year, I want to record all the memory work in advance on CD and let her listen to my soothing voice with headphones on. Hopefully, recorded mama can keep her cool reciting a Stevenson poem for the 50th time. Here’s some of the things we’re hoping to work on. 
  • Art – Activities from the SOTW Year 1 activity book
  • Music – I’m going to attempt the Introducing Your Child to Classical Music program again this year but playing the songs at lunch time. I’ve already got the playlist set up on iTunes. I just have to shove sandwiches in their mouths and hit play. Then BAM! – Mozart effect.
  • Geography/Mapwork – Maps from the SOTW 1 activity book
  • Science  - Same as the other two but using Usborne books for younger children and lots and lots of coloring! Thankfully, Edie loves to color.
  • Religion – CCD materials and Seton Religion 1


Fulton will also start PreK but that’s another post for another time. I’m exhausted after typing all that. But it looks impressive right? Except for those spots where I keep saying “drop the ball” but, overall one gets the impression my kids are on their way to Harvard right? Right?!?!

If you homeschool, DO NOT leave me a comment criticizing one of my choices. We are blazing ahead with this stuff come hell or high water. I will be off school the month of December; criticism must wait until December when I can add a new book to my Christmas list. If I have one more box of books delivered to the house now, I think Tony will cut up my Visa.

Otherwise, I’d love you supportive and reassuring comments. Now back to my lesson plans!


Filed under Curriculum, Homeschooling

Summer Ramblings Of The Blah, Blah, Blah Variety

Did you ever have that feeling on a Monday night that your week was shaping up to be one of the longest yet one of the fastest weeks in you life? Like you would feel all 168 hours of it in the marrow of your bones, yet you would see and remember none of it as it zipped by at lightning speed?

It’s the kind of day that two glasses of wine at dinner does nothing to relax and an iced coffee at 6:30 p.m. does nothing to invigorate.

But I can’t complain, because, ignoring the 5 hours I logged behind the wheel yesterday, I think my fatigue is related to all things rather stellar. And honestly, any time I need a pick me up I just glance at the new clock I bought for our kitchen. I’m going to devote an entire post to ‘the clock’ at a future date, but let me entice you by saying, on a scale of one to ten it’s ninja awesome. Like, a ninja tossing chocolate-covered bacon throwing stars right into my mouth awesome.

We’re also enjoying another influx of out-of-town family visitors. The kids are in their glory between the break from school and the amount of new people in the house who take a genuine interest in all the things I can no longer pretend to understand/ appreciate. I am so tired of being lectured on Star Wars characters or the rules for their homemade basement carnival games. Finally there is fresh blood willing to listen to the character differences between episodes and the finer points of Byron’s game called “I’m Starving” which to me, looks like a big mouth hacked out of cardboard propped against an old shelf, but apparently, is on par with Dungeons and Dragons in strategy.

I’m also at the apex of school planning. You know that giddy, delicious feeling when you open all the new boxes of curriculum, stoke the glossy covers, inhale the scent of fresh paper,  then scream at the kids to stop playing with the packing peanuts. Cracking open the crisp binding on a new workbook makes me stroke my knuckles and cackle with delight. In the works is a trip to the dollar store to pick up school supplies which we’re all pretty stoked about. Plus, I have the added excitement of pimping out a new school room. It’s small, but I’ve got a whole cabinet packed to the ceiling with books and three used school desks ordered off of ebay. (Aw yeah, some old school bling in da house!)  I cannot wait to push each child’s desk into its own corner and let them work beyond arms length of one another for a change. Tony thinks it’s not going to go as smoothly as I imagine. I keep putting my fingers in my ears and singing “La,la,la,la, la, independent work spaces are the answer,la, la, la, la now cook your own dinner.”

Summer is slipping through our fingers like so many melted creamcicles, but we’re licking off each drip and savoring every moment. I should be ready for September, and all its looming responsibilities, despite the distractions. Namely a playdate bonanza. Two weeks, plus all the families I’ve been meaning to schedule stuff with all summer, equals exhaustion! Yay for procrastination! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to kill myself in order to full-fill all my half-hearted promises. I can’t wait. And I know Tony is pumped for two weeks of   last-minute dinner attempts scraped together from food-like substances currently trapped at the bottom of our freezer.

I would call this a summer to remember, if I thought I would have any brain cells left by the end of August.

How are you wrapping up your summer and easing into school?



Filed under Homeschooling, Humor

The Force Of Homeschooling And My Dark Side

When I started homeschooling I knew “Seton” families and “Calvert” families and unschooling families. I assumed that once you found a curriculum, or method, you liked, your course was set for your duration as a homeschooling family.

I watched as my oldest blossomed at an early age under the Catholic Heritage Curricula reading program, and then the Abeka Math program. My goal was to start my son, with a late October birthday, one year behind my oldest daughter, with a late September birthday. I’ll admit, my underlying motivation was to see Byron receive his First Holy Communion the year after Addie. I just couldn’t see making him wait two years, when *I* was sure he would be ready.

Perhaps Addie just set the bar to high, or maybe I expected too much of Byron but after keeping pace for a year or so he started struggling. By this point he was enrolled in CCD one year behind Addie, but his reading skills were not as strong as hers. The CHC reading program that worked so well with Addie was torture for Byron. Addie cruised through her second grade CCD year, and seemed to memorize each answer the moment she completed reading it from the catechism. So long as I  sat and reviewed her work with her, she learned and retained information easily. Once her First Holy Communion was under her belt, I turned my attention to Byron, hoping the same practice and drill would elicit the same well versed responses.

We began Byron’s second grade year still trying to work with CHC and throwing in any supplementary material I thought could help. While he was making steady progress in all his subjects, he was not “where I thought he should be.” And unfortunately, not where some other people thought he should be either. Thankfully, Byron was spared any labels, and the comments that were uttered did not leave any lasting impression. “How’s Byron’s reading? What are you doing for him? You need to make him read more.” I was more stung and hurt than him. After bragging about my “prodigy” daughter, I found myself sticking up for my son, who I finally accepted, might not be made in the image of his sister.

We approached May and I fretted over his prayers and I lost sleep worrying about his interview with the parish priest. My anxiety would sometimes manifest as anger and of course Byron suffered as a result. He became convinced he couldn’t do it, and he couldn’t understand why the answers he needed to memorize didn’t stick in his mind.

However, in the end, he did pass his interview and he did receive the sacrament of First Holy Communion in a smashing white suit. We crossed the finish line but at such a cost. It was a shot between the eyes for me; my unrealistic goals and expectations could ruin my job as a homeschooling mom, make it 10 times harder all around and drive all the joy of learning from my child.

I wish I could say, I found the perfect curriculum for Byron after that and things got better. Heavens knows I’ve looked, and tried and bent over backwards to accommodate his unique learning style, but some days, it’s still a struggle. I decided against keeping him one grade below his sister and instead gave him a workload two grade levels behind, which is where his birthday would have placed him in the local public school anyway. I never told him. I just slowed down our progress in some areas and replaced a book or two and it’s been a huge improvement for us both. Most noticeably, he’s finally learned to love reading. Thankfully, years of slow gains did not drive him from the printed word.

While outside comments quieted down, I still struggled with my own feelings of inadequacy; as if the differences in learning exhibited by my children were completely related to me and not them.  Could he have learned with that program if I was a better teacher? Am I failing to give him the specialized attention he really needs? What if there is a perfect curriculum out there for him and I haven’t found it yet?

And then today, Byron went and did something amazing.

Recently, he’s taken a keen interest in everything Star Wars. We’ve checked out all the books from the local library on the series, and he’s read them all multiple time, asking for help with all the difficult words. He watched all but ‘Revenge of the Sith’ numerous times (while under the care of grandma-totally not my doing) and drawn detailed movie scenes, character portraits  and built 3-D models from cardboard. But today, as he quizzed his uncle on obscure Star Wars trivia and answered every question, in detail, that was asked of him, I finally realized his complete potential.

He can memorize dates, facts  and misc. information. He can watch or read a story, pick out the main characters, plot, setting and summarize the story in chronological order. He can discuss all these things, with an adult, with conciseness and clarity, using complete sentences  while maintaining eye contact and good posture, without fidgeting.  Yes, it’s Star Wars, not Shakespeare, Roman History or Algebra but it shows what’s possible when his passion is ignited.

He’s taking the skills we’re trying to teach him and applying them to what he loves and learning as much about it as possible. Isn’t that the goal of homeschooling, especially a classical education? To give our children the tools to learn whatever they want? To form them into knowledgable, well-rounded adults, capable of seeking out information beyond the status quo? Today, at age eight, it’s Star Wars. Tomorrow it may be art history, biology or theology. Whatever he picks, he will be prepared to tackle it. Finally, I can see that and not worry about the little things.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect curriculum or magic formula for all children. Each child will have their own strengths and weakness that will force you out of your comfort zone. But just when you think, it isn’t enough, they surprise you, and if you’ve put their needs first, they will grow into the educated people you prayed they’d become.  It’s been a learning journey for us both. Someday I hope Byron will understand how much he has taught me.


Filed under Homeschooling

Give me an H! Homestretch Pep-talk. Rah, Rah, Rah!


That was my train of thought yesterday morning as I tried to gear up for the coming week; our second to last week of school. Next week family is in from out-of-town, then we  have our last week. Followed by a week at the beach. Naturally, everyone is coming down with ADHD.

All my kids activities, except piano lesson for the oldest, are done. All their friends are done. All my friends are done. But we persevere. Just two more weeks; I can do this! (I want you to imagine me jumping on the couch in full Arsenio Hall fist pump action. That is what I do to freak out the kids and let them know I mean business.)

It’s been a rough trimester what with me nearly succumbing to a salivary gland infection/ brush with death, Fulton’s surgery hopscotch and the ongoing Tower of Babel construction , I mean, new kitchen project we’re still plugging away at.

I know that if my kids were in school, their last two weeks would be full of games, track and field days, picnics and very little actual work. But we’re playing catch up and I’m hoping to squeeze a lot of actual education stuff into 9 full days (yes, we’re off 4th of July too.) And I’ve scaled back my original expectations. I know full well we’re not going to construct anything else in that Physics kit (because it hates me and I hate it)  so I’ve X’ed it out. Same with the WWII troop movement maps, color coded by battle. I will take some of Byron’s drawings of soldiers with X eyes surrounded by explosions and aliens and just stick that in the portfolio.

So, deep breath in, slow breath out. I can do this. I, and everyone else, can stay healthy. We will not stray from our bare bones daily routine, ever. We are like a crazy homeschooling post office that is going to wrap up this year and deliver the goods;  neither sun, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these homeschoolers from the swift completion of their appointed studies.

Despite the call of the warm outdoors and the green pool with its murky, yet cool water the baby insists on drinking, we will persevere. When grandma shows up with ice cream, we will persevere. When we wake up Monday sleep deprived and sunburnt from the weekend’s full social agenda, we will persevere. Cataclysmic thunder storms that fry our wireless router? We laugh in your face Mother Nature! I will finish this school year if I have to hardwire this computer all 2001.

(Despite my husbands best effort with the sledgehammer, he was unable to fix the Mac Airport, though he did comment on the durability of it’s construction.)

But my biggest motivation is just to be finished. To have another year under my belt. To compile the work from September to now and know, with some amount of certainty that my kids learned something. It is worth it in the end. Would I get the same satisfaction if my children were in school? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I will be able to take that pride that comes from a job well done and use it as fuel to feed the frenzy of planning that August brings. And coffee. Lot’s of coffee fuels my planning. I like to think that if you add enough creamer, it’s sort of a meal replacement shake.

Are you finished with school? How do you motivate yourself through those final weeks and days? Do you view the new school year with apprehension and dread or with giddy joy and renewed ‘I can do it!’ attitude? Confess it all in the comments!

Perhaps I need to create a homeschool mom pep squad or cheerleading team. “You can do it, you can do it, rah, rah rah! Drink your coffee plan your lessons, sis boom bah!” And then if I really knew my stuff, I’d translate the cheers into Latin. The construction of pom poms would constitute 3 art credits. I might be on to something…

Leave a Comment

Filed under Homeschooling, Humor