{SQT} Crafts, Field Trips, and Coffee

Still no progress on those jack-o-laterns. Maybe this weekend.

1. Admittedly, I got side tracked by all the cool crafts in The Creative Home Projects Bundle. I wasn’t going to do any more bundle promos this year, but I snapped up this bundle because it contains tons of projects and tutorials I’ve been saving on Pinterest anyway. It’s less than $20 and on sale until midnight tonight. If you’ve been crafty in quarantine, or are looking for some great handmade Christmas gift ideas, be sure to check it out. Sale is over!

2. We did manage to take a field trip. The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum has been on my to visit list for a few years. But Fulton and Teddy have the biggest interest in U.S. military history, so I made an executive decision to check it out. The boys had pretty much the entire museum, which is inside my dream home (an airplane hanger- large, open, and accessible), to themselves. I took along my real camera to try to snap some memoriable photos.

Look at all that flat, open space!! And it’s filled with planes and weapons!
Teddy with some firepower.
We also visited Cape May Point State Park to check out the boardwalk trail through the wetlands. Plus, bonus lighthouse views!

3. I realized while we were in the Outer Banks earlier in the year, that I couldn’t capture photos the way I had the last time we visited. On our last OBX trip, years ago, I’d taken most of my pictures with my Canon DSLR. But I stopped lugging it around a few years back and relied exclusively on my iPhone for all my photos since. It occurred to me that while the camera on my phone is handy, and very good, it’s not a “real” camera with an adjustable lens. Seeing the difference between this year’s OBX shots, and those from before, inspired me to dig out my DSLR and try to take more pictures with my “real” camera again. Our field trip was the first time I actually remembered to charge the battery and take it along anywhere. I was so rusty, I couldn’t even remember all the camera’s basic settings. But it was fun. I’m looking forward to relying on it more, especially as I take photos more with an eye towards posterity and fine art again (not that that’s apparent from the pics above) vs. what will look good on social media.

4. I’m really trying to make up for all the field trips Fulton and Teddy have missed over the last three years. Next month, Tony and I will take Fulton and Teddy to Gettysburg for a few days (while the older three get one on one time with my parents), and there’s a few more historic sites and museums in the area I hope to visit while schools aren’t taking field trips and/or the weather’s nice. Next week we’re off school but, I think I’m going to be too busy finishing costumes to attempt anything but a library outing.

5. I find a week off at the end of October is always a welcome respite for the kids and I. By this point, I’m usually starting to slack off in my routine as well as second guess all my curriculum choices. After a week focused on Halloween and a glut of candy, I’m usually able to jump back into things and keep going knowing Thanksgiving is less than a month away, and Christmas break is inching closer too. But honestly, I shouldn’t complain. Homeschooling is going pretty well….I will just love it more after a week off.

6. Wondering what that ‘Buy me a coffee!’ link at the top is about? Okay, well I’m telling you anyway. Basically, it’s a way for people to support my work with as little as a $3 donation (as much as a Starbucks mocha latte grande coconut milk frappe moolatta ex-squeezopoly). I like writing and creating stuff for my friends and readers. People who subscribe to my blog, newsletter, and support me through ko-fi.com motivate me to keep writing. Social media followers are great, but unfortunately due to algorithms, people who only follow me on Facebook or Instagram don’t always know when I’m posting. And frankly, I’m tired of sharing anything on those platforms knowing 1.) most of my followers won’t see it, and 2.) any useful information I share on those sites won’t be easy to find down the road; it just gets lost in the scroll and is forgotten after a few days. If you like what I write, please subscribe to my newsletter, and if you’re so inclined, buy me a coffee. Especially as my book release approaches, or any other writing projects develop, I will offer goodies to my supporters through those avenues first. Once I hit five “coffees” what would you like to see? A live Q&A? An exclusive ebook? An in person meetup? Photos of me doing something ridiculous? Let me know- and thank you for your support!

7. Now that I’ve finished watching Mad Men, I’ve started watching movies on Amazon Prime while I cook dinner (which is my “prime” viewing time). What have you watched for free on Prime lately? I’ve tried a few Wes Anderson movies, and the 80’s classic Heathers. I’m also open to any TV series recommendations. Just nothing too scary, or heavy. I don’t want to cry into my potatoes at dinner.

I hope you’ve got some fun fall plans scheduled for the weekend. On Saturday, I’m going to drink mimosas at a ladies church function. Yay fall! Write down your plans then link them up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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{SQT} Birthday, Anniversary, and Nature

Teddy turned 10 on the 8th! (Somehow the big event didn’t make it into last week’s Takes.) We celebrated with grandparents, ate cake, and Teddy managed to receive two of the most complicated board games in the history of boardgames. (Axis and Allies and Legends of Andor [which contains HUNDREDS of cardboard pieces to punch out].) whispers…affiliate links The same game of Axis and Allies has been going on since Saturday. I think it’s now a permanent fixture in our living room.

Teddy was born six weeks premature. When he came home from the hospital, he was the size of this baby doll. I used to take a picture of him with the doll every year on his birthday, but have missed the last several years. This year, we tried to resurrect the practice and this was the most cooperation I could get from him.

We bought pumpkins and started decorating for Halloween over the weekend but I sort of petered out after a couple hours of creating ghosts from trash bags. I still have a stack of decorations in the living room I think we’ll put up this weekend…maybe?? At this rate, I’m just hoping the pumpkins don’t rot before we get around to carving them.

On Tuesday the 13th, Tony and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. We fed the kids, put on Ghostbusters and walked down the street for a fabulous dinner. It’s a pretty swanky place we rarely visit, and even then, usually just for drinks and a cheese board. We sat outside, enjoying the fall weather and did the usual reminiscing. Once home, and while we were supposed to be putting the boys to bed, we danced to our wedding song. Fulton and Teddy were not amused, but their room really does have the best dance floor.

Fulton and Teddy refuse to believe Tony ever had so little hair on his head and face.
Older and wiser but still looking good! I had to text this picture to my mom so she understood why I wasn’t calling her back. It’s a rare treat when we can get out on our actual anniversary.

Wednesday I took the younger three to a nearby state park and tried out the handicap trail. Enthusiasm was low until we spied a snake sunning on the side of the path. Then it was a mixed bag of anticipation and disappointment for the rest of the hike. Fulton was really hoping for more animal sitings even though we were louder than a pack of elephants coming down the trail.

Thursday, I took the teenagers to the mall. It was supposed to be just Edie and I, but Addie and Byron both asked to tag along (this is despite the fact that Addie could just drive herself there anytime she wants). Everybody bought some items, and I got ideas for Christmas presents, but my biggest take away from the trip was that today’s incarnations of 90’s clothes are just awful. I mean, 90’s clothes had issues, but what I saw in Forever 21 could only be considered 90’s lounge wear for seniors from the Penny’s catalogue. I mean, I guess if you pair a crop top with it, it’s cool now???? Who but my great-aunt was wearing this stuff in the 90’s (sans crop top)?? I also learned that Hot Topic is selling 80% of the same t-shirts they did when I was in high school.

Lastly, if you’ve been reading #7QT for any amount of time, you’ve probably clicked through to Katherine’s blog, Gloria in Excelsis Deo. She’s a long time linker upper and her son Thomas has been fighting cancer. As hard as it can be to read her posts, I’m glad she’s writing through it all. Please keep her family in your prayers.

How was your week? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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{SQT} Conquering Long Division, Resurrecting The Bull Moose Party, and Costume Planning

It’s been a good week. Nothing too exciting to report, but I’m not complaining. October is usually insane, but right now, things feel less

and more

And I can live with that.

Recently, I attended a homeschool mom’s social for the first time in forever. Last year, the few socials that were held conflicted with scouting or other stuff, and I can’t remember if I went much the year prior. (Getting up at 5:30 a.m. to put a kid on the bus can kill your mom nightlife.) It was nice to get out and sit around a bonfire and chat. The weird thing is, I’m now the old experienced mom. When did that happen?? So many moms I started homeschooling with have either stopped homeschooling, moved away, graduated their last student, or they can’t come to socials thanks to BIG KID NEEDS (i.e. organized activities). Thankfully, I’m extroverted so I have no trouble just sitting and chatting with moms I’ve only met a few times and who are only a few years into their homeschooling journey. I remember those early years with lots of littles and it was just…..crazy. I’ll gladly commiserate, and share a drink with anyone in the thick of it. There’s things I miss about a house full of little kids but, it’s nice to be past that point.

Speaking of homeschooling, I taught Teddy long division over the last couple weeks and it went 100x easier than with any of his siblings. He just ‘got it’ and I made a point of letting the bigger kids know. Sure we’re reviewing and sometimes he forgets a step, but I give him one reminder and he jumps back into it. It’s amazing. I feel like if I can’t teach him anything else this year, it will still be a success.

We got our mail-in ballots this week. You know I don’t talk politics around here, but I wanted to throw out the idea of bringing back the Bull Moose party. Ideally, we could resurrect Teddy Roosevelt (does anyone know if his head is frozen somewhere?), but in a pinch I’d be happy to step in and be the new face of the Progressive Party. (Bull Moose was actually a nickname since the mascot was a moose.) My platform is that I will walk everywhere with a big stick and alternate between speaking softly and yelling “Bully!” when someone least expects it. I will also move the White House to the Dakota territories and instead of a presidential debate the other candidates and I will take turns wrestling a grizzly bear cub.

We attended a fundraising event for Shriner’s Hosptial at the Philadelphia Zoo on Saturday. Attendees were allowed to enter the zoo before it opened to the public, which was great- no crowds!- but it also meant we had to wake up early to arrive on time. The upside was most of the animals were waking up and getting fed as we walked around. The flamingos were especially feisty and we spent at least ten minutes watching them eat, groom, and bite each other. I somehow managed to take zero pictures of the action. But look- a rhino!

Did I mention it’s October? That means I’m making Halloween costumes…or at least I’m saving cardboard and planning costumes. Addie finally got her employee discount card so I’m excited to stock up on EVA foam for helmet making. I like foam for headgear because it’s lighter and lasts longer, but I still prefer cardboard for most other pieces. If you’re looking to stress yourself out this month by creating unusual video game characters, know that there’s lots of vendors on Etsy selling patterns for all those weird costume pieces your child needs in a couple weeks! You can get them as pdf downloads, so even if you put everything off until a few days prior, you can quickly find, purchase, print and assemble the item you need with only a few sleepless nights! Ask me how I know!

How was your week? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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Creating Self-Motivated Learners: How to get your kids to do their school work.

If there’s one question I’m hearing more and more frequently this fall it’s “How do I get my kids to do their school work?”. Parents who are overseeing distance learning are stressing out because their kids need seemingly endless amounts of oversight, and homeschoolers are second guessing every piece of curriculum they’ve purchased.

I am not a perfect homeschooler, and I’d be lying if I said my kids always did their schoolwork on time and to my specifications. But I can honestly say that I don’t worry about it all that much anymore. More often than not, my kids do their work and if they don’t it’s very easy for me to figure out what went wrong and correct the matter.

I gave a talk on ‘Creating Self-Motivated Learners’ last summer at a homeschool conference and I thought I would dust off my notes and type up an article for anyone who’s interested. I know a lot of folks are doing online talks, live streams and what not, but I really like putting down all my info in a blog post (#oldschool) so people can find the information in the future via my homeschooling page, Pinterest, or a Google search. So if you’re wondering how to get your kids to do their school work, here’s six ways (+ one) to help your kids do their work without endless nagging and yelling. It’s written with homeschoolers in mind, but I think most of it could be applied to distance learning too.

how do i get my kids to do their school work

1. You need clear rules and consequences.

I share this advice quite a bit, and most of the details are in this post, but I truly believe it makes life SO MUCH EASIER to have very clear expectations laid out for your kids at an early age. If your kids aren’t completing their schoolwork when you ask, what are the consequences? Are there consequences for other undesirable behavior in your house? Your kids need to know if they don’t follow instructions regarding school (or cleaning their room-whatever!) there will be swift and consistent repercussions. We have always had rules posted and because the kids know what I expect, and what will happen if they break a rule, there is no bargaining, or trying to get away with something because “they didn’t know”. If your child isn’t completing work, or stops doing something the second you walk away, look at whether or not you need to outline clear rules and consequences. You want your kids to form the habit of doing work right away when asked, and not questioning you.

Young kids don’t understand the benefits to completing work, or really the importance of school, in general. You can’t reason with them. They won’t care that “they’ll fail 4th grade” or “not get into college”. They just know they don’t want to sit and do work right now. Save your breath trying to reason with your little kids. You do know best. Young kids just need to follow the rules.

And remember, children who refuse to do work, turn into teens who refuse to do work. So it’s important to work on creating self-motivated learners as soon as possible. If you’re jumping into homeschooling or distance learning with older students, and they refuse to do work, setting rules and consequences will help, but getting other teachers, tutors, or someone beside you or your spouse to serve as an external motivator may be key. Kids who don’t want to turn in work on time for their parents, will sometimes happily turn in work for an online class, community college professor, or to please a coach who requires a student remain in good academic standing. Consider bringing in outside help to help with accountability so the question of, how do I get my kids to do their schoolwork, no longer falls solely on your shoulders.

As they get older, they’ll get in the habit of doing work independently during the allotted time. Eventually, they’ll become internally motivated (“I want to get this done so I can practice soccer.” or “I want to go to a great college.”) vs externally motivated (rules, consequences and rewards). Older kids understand delayed gratification; younger kids- not so much. Talk to your teens about how not completing work can harm their future plans. What matters to them? You can be flexible with their schedule (let them do school work late at night) or coursework (take electives of their choosing) and in general let them help plan their academics.

2. Offer sincere praise for a job well done.

Not gold stars for just showing up and doing the bare minimum, but praise when they’ve learned something new, overcome a challenge, not given in to the temptation to skip a problem, or completed something in the best way possible. There are plenty of opportunities to offer praise to your children and congratulate them on a job well done. Schedule a park or library day, bake a cake, do something special to celebrate. School is hard work, but it doesn’t always need to be difficult on everyone. Don’t always focus on the negatives, or it all seems negative. Work on fixing the problems through clear guidance and abundant, well-deserved praise.

3. Learn to recognize how your child’s personality affects his or her approach to schoolwork.

Your children will all respond differently to your expectations. Some will get right to work, some will stall, some will argue, and some will cry. Some children will seem to never understand the consequences that come from late and unfinished work, and others would sooner die than get less than an A. Start with the same goal in mind for all your kids (which is working independently) but know that you will need to tweak your methods to help each child excel in their own way. In my home, one child does best when working for online teachers, one does well with regular accountability checks from me, and another turns in work on time and doesn’t approach me unless she has questions. As a homeschooler to five kids, I couldn’t oversee everyone all the time. I needed to figure out how involved I needed to be with each one, and where outsourcing worked best so I could dedicate my time to where it was most needed.

4. It takes time for kids to build up the endurance and focus they need to work independently for long stretches of time.

I do not expect my fourth grader to sit and work as long as my high school junior. I started with small chunks of time intersperced with lots of outdoor breaks for my kids. I slowly built up the amount of time they were expected to work independently. My oldest son still takes breaks to move around, but sitting still for an hour lecture is not a problem. However, I never would’ve expected that of him in elementary school. Start with 15 minute chunks and lengthen the time from there.

Make sure your child clearly understands their assignments for the day, or week. They should know exactly what they’ll be working on during each chunk of time so they don’t need to stop and ask questions. Let them know when they can ask you questions, and when you will correct their work each day, or week. Having a daily checklist, or morning one-on-one meeting might help. Some kids will always need more help staying focused and on task. It’s not a reason to give up and say it’s impossible. It just means you need to help that child more. Their focus will improve, I promise.

It helps to limit recreational screen use. Nothing in modern entertainment or in the online world is designed to hold our attention. If your child is spending lots of time watching games or videos that cater to a short attention span, she will be undermining any efforts you take to help her sit and focus for more than a few moments at a time. Try to reduce screen time and see if it doesn’t help.

5. Identify other factors that might be causing your kids to resist working independently or zap their motivation.

First look at your own actions; are you sticking to your guns or are you letting them interrupt you constantly or not complete work on time? If you don’t follow through on the consequences you’ve laid out for them, they will keep trying to see what they can get away with. Are you reminding them multiple times to turn in work because you don’t want to give them a bad grade (or watch their teacher do the same)? It’s hard, but you need to step back and let them fail and feel the consequences of their actions. Sometimes finding the answer to “How do I get my kids to do their schoolwork??” means doing nothing at all. If you constantly rescue your child or do things for them, they will come to believe themselves incapable of doing things for themselves-which is the exact opposite of what you want!

Next, make sure they understand the school material, and that they don’t have an actual learning disability that is keeping them from performing at grade level. Even with a learning disability, your child can learn to work independently with different accommodations, perhaps a slower pace, or a change of curriculum. And it’s important to note that just because your children do not all work at the same pace, it doesn’t mean your “slower” child has a learning disability. They might just need to take more time. Don’t force all your kids to work at the same pace. If your child can’t get their work done, it might simply be that they can’t do the work. Make sure they are working at their level and not the level you’d like for them to be at.

If your child really does not click with a particular curriculum, it’s perfectly okay to switch. I don’t recommend doing it constantly, but if something creates tears everyday, there’s no reason you can’t switch it up, even temporarily. Sometimes that’s all a child needs to get over a rough patch and move on in a particular subject.

6. Keep a consistent daily schedule.

Kids like to know what to expect (even when they say they don’t). When they know every day they sit for 20 minutes to do math and then they can run around for ten minutes, they won’t stop and ask you every two minutes when they can take a break. When they know they get to sit with you for fifteen minutes every morning to go over reading questions, they won’t interrupt you feeding the baby because they know they can ask you tomorrow.

7. What are long term benefits?

It’s frustrating to create self-motivated learners. It requires a lot of work on your part in the early years, so why bother?? First off, it makes it a lot easier to manage your house and homeschool when you can get at least some of your little people to sit still for even small chunks of the day. Knowing you can focus on the child who needs it the most at any given moment (with minimal distraction) makes for less stressful homeschooling all around. Children who work independently, and follow a regular school schedule, can keep learning even if a grandparent needs to take over, or if mom needs to go on bedrest, or stay with a sick sibling in the hospital. As my kids have gotten older, their focus has helped them learn skills of their choosing. They understand that learning is built upon year after year: they need the boring lower level classes to take the high level ones they’re truly interested in, so they take them without complaining. And as they approach college, they have an idea of what they want to do, or continue to learn about, and my job has become assisting them to reach their goals vs telling them what to do.

That’s my two cents. I hope I answered your question on “How do I get my kids to do their schoolwork??”. Let me know if you have any questions below, and be sure to check out more of my homeschooling posts HERE.

42 Things About Me

After a fabulous early birthday massage last Saturday that included the liberal application of scalding hot stones across my entire back, I’m “back” to normal. Thanks for the prayers!

Tomorrow is my 42nd birthday! We’re going to celebrate with my parents, and Tony and I will get to attend an outdoor concert as well. On Sunday Addie turns 18 and the rest of my grey hair comes in.

In honor of my birthday here’s 42 things about me you may not know.

  1. I have one younger sister. (I know you’re reading this. Thank you again for the shirt. I will eventually share a picture.)
  2. I grew up next door to my grandparents.
  3. I can play the saxophone.
  4. I can tap dance.
  5. I grew up at a Methodist church that the entire maternal side of my family attended, and where my almost 90 year old grandmother has been the organist since before I was born.
  6. Tony was the first Catholic I was friends with.
  7. The first time I went into his house and saw all the religous stuff I was totally weirded out.
  8. For many years I wanted to be a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, until I realized I didn’t love dancing enough to do it 8 hours a day.
  9. I studied journalism in college because I wanted to write for Rolling Stone Magazine.
  10. My husband and I met in high school through a mutual friend.
  11. We attended different colleges for our freshman years and then both transferred (during different semesters) to the same college and graduated in 2000.
  12. We’ll have been married for 19 years this October 13th.
  13. I drove a 1986 Plymouth Horizon in high school and through college. It was often held together with duct tape, and I carried various fluids in my trunk because it was always leaking stuff and would occasionally not start.
  14. I was our high school mascot, Comet Man.
  15. My first job after college was as a newspaper reporter in Auburn, NY (about 40 min outside Syracuse).
  16. I HATE cold weather and only moved to the snowiest place on the East Coast because I wanted to be near Tony.
  17. I converted to Catholicism the Easter before we were married, not because I was “forced”, but because I believed in what the Church taught.
  18. The month after Byron was born, Tony and I moved back to Lancaster, PA from NY to operate a Victorian bed and breakfast we’d purchased. We were both 25.
  19. We sold the business after two years and moved to NJ to be closer to Tony’s job.
  20. We moved to NJ when I was 30 weeks pregnant with Edie. (Would not recommend.)
  21. I hate birth stories and when I get with a bunch of moms and they launch into birth stories (like moms ALWAYS DO), I want to stab my eyeballs with red hot pokers.
  22. My favorite book is Anna Karenina.
  23. My weakness is gummi candy; bears, peach rings, Swedish fish, sour patch kids, etc. The kids CANNOT leave it in the house.
  24. I got a tattoo when I was 19. It’s a Celtic cross with the inscription “In this sign, you will conquer.” My only regret is I didn’t think to have it written in Latin.
  25. I did a European tour my senior year of college. I drank way too much (thanks to all the gregarious Australians in my tour group) and subsequently lost my passport in Paris.
  26. My favorite stops in Europe were Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, St. Peter’s in Rome, and everywhere in Venice (where I also really hurt my ankle and wound up in an Italian ER).
  27. I have dark brown hair and brown eyes. Tony has blue eyes and light brown hair. Only one of our kids has dark brown hair and brown eyes.
  28. I am 1/16th Russian Jew on my father’s side.
  29. My great-great grandfather was a Mennonite bishop (on my mother’s side).
  30. I interviewed Cardinal Avery Dulles twice.
  31. I attended the 2000 NY State Fair the day the governor attended. Striking workers were outside the gates of the fair protesting and my job was to get a comment from the governor on the protest. I couldn’t get near him so I waited until after he gave a short speech, and stood with the fair attendees who wanted to shake his hand. Once I had his hand in mine, I held it tight, identified myself as a reporter, and asked for his comment. He was flustered, but managed to get out an answer, and I let him go to take my notes.
  32. Chore I mind the least: laundry.
  33. Chore I hate the most: dishes.
  34. I have a book that’s going to be published by Our Sunday Visitor.
  35. I dressed up like our school’s principal for Halloween my senior year of high school.
  36. The furthest west I’ve ever been is Kansas City.
  37. I spent a summer working at the Red Caboose Motel in Lancaster, PA where you can sleep in an actual caboose.
  38. When I was 11, I got a gun for Christmas.
  39. I’ve never had a cavity.
  40. My middle name is Diana.
  41. I never read a book cover to cover more than once.
  42. Except for the occasional slice of pineapple with ham, or slice of apple pie, I HATE fruit.

Share an interesting fact or two in the comments below, or write a whole post dedicated to seven (or more?!) facts about you. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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{SQT} A Field Trip Picture, an Invalid, and Don’t Skip a Lesson

Contractors came to install our roof last Friday morning so, in order to avoid the noise and music floating down our chimney, we went to the beach, which provided the perfect opportunity for those back to school photos I’m so bad at taking.

St. Bruno’s: Continuing to find any reason at all to take a field trip to the beach.

It was cloudy and cool, but not crowded so we enjoyed salt water taffy, arcade games, pizza, and crab fries. Teddy wore his Patrick Mahomes jersey and got some love, even deep in Eagles country.

Saturday was crazy with running around. Tony and I had spent days figuring out a way to make sure we could get everyone where they needed to be on time and still make it to Mass by 5 p.m. And then we woke up and discovered Tony’s car had a flat tire, despite being parked in the street away from the roofing debris. Unfortunately, the flat tire refused to budge, even with Tony’s gentle sledgehammer persuasion, so we couldn’t get the doughnut on. All our plans went out the window and I spent most of the day as a chauffeur. In between trips our dog pooped in the house and Teddy somehow DROVE THROUGH IT and tracked it all over the house.

I thought the one silver lining was the dumpster the roofers had left in our driveway. There was plenty of room inside, so, to save ourselves a special trip to the dump, we decided to toss in pieces of a large fence we are slowly taking down. I considered it my workout for the day as I lifted the pieces up and tossed them over the side. Sure it was hard work, but I could handle it! Later that night as I got up to roll Fulton, then Teddy, then Fulton again and so on, I noticed my upper back was sore. I manged to fall back asleep each time I woke up, but that morning as Tony tried to snuggle close, I found myself in too much pain to do so. I got out of bed and decided to eat something so I could take some pain medicine (ibuprofen on an empty stomach always makes me nausious). But as I reached up to grab the cereal boxes, I realized something was very wrong with my back and I collapsed on the floor.

I was incapacitated and unable to do anything except take pain medicine and tell family members how to arrange ice packs on my back for the rest of the day. Of course Sunday is the one day a week we forgo nursing, and I didn’t have any luck calling in someone at the last minute. Skip ahead to today and I’m doing better. I’m still not transferring the boys into their chairs or doing much of the rolling at night, but I’m able to do pretty much everything else, even if I’m still sore and stiff. I did rest, but it’s very had for me to sit around and do nothing. I’d already scheduled an early birthday back massage for tomorrow so I’m hoping with a liberal application of some hot stones, I’ll start feeling even better.

Thankfully there was football on Sunday to distract me. I don’t have the time to follow it as closely as I used to, but I do enjoy watching the games. Fulton and Teddy are very much into learning all the teams, and the rivalries within each division and conference. I’m hoping it spills over into homeschooling and it improves their geographical knowledge.

I mentioned the new SMA drug a few weeks back and I’m excited to announce that both Fulton and Teddy will be starting it next week! Please say a prayer for no side effects!

Lastly, anyone who’s done DuoLingo knows about the insane amount of reminders and notifications you get from the app that encourage you to “keep your streak going”. And heaven forbid you want to take a break; the Duo owl lays the guilt on pretty thick. If you weren’t aware, there is a whole bunch of memes about the Duo owl. My older kids started sharing them with me awhile ago, but now that we’re all back to competing against each other, we reference the memes quite often (and search for new ones). Because I don’t want you to miss out, I’m sharing a few favorites, but any Google search will turn up a bunch more. Save them and keep them handy for those times when you want to skip a lesson!

That’s all from me. Thankfully, the muscle soreness hasn’t extended to my fingers and I can still type out this quality blog post for y’all to enjoy. Write down your own Takes and link them up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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What My Special Needs Parents Did Right: An Interview With Emily DeArdo

Being a special needs parent can be overwhelming and frustrating. It’s not that we don’t love our kids, but it’s hard to be a caregiver, parent, and now for many of us, the primary educator and therapist day in and day out. Sometimes we get angry, and yell, or cry and it’s easy to feel guilty; to wonder if our kids know how much we love them, and how happy we are to care for and raise them, when we’re so often burnt out and exhausted. What can we can do as special needs parents to help our children become happy adults?

To find some answers, I reached out to my friend, Catholic author Emily DeArdo to share what she feels her parents did right in raising her as a child with epilepsy and Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Read the rest at Accepting the Gift.

{SQT} School, Saying No, And Saying Yes

1. Yes, we did school on Labor Day, and no I still haven’t taken any “official” first day, or 13th day of school photos. I have taken photos of some of our history themed art crafts, and items at JoAnn’s that I want to go back and snap up once Addie finally gets her employee discount card, but otherwise I am too busy educating my offspring and conversely, finding places to hide from them when it’s not school time. 

2. For once I am not overwhelmed with outside commitments I should’ve said no to, but instead only juggling the occasional drop off and pick up of various children. So life is good because it’s safe enough for me to make a four hour sanity saving run to Target when necessary, and my mental space isn’t always taken up with all the things I need to be doing for other people. 

3. However I keep trying to find more work for myself. Things like “Maybe I should volunteer to run this church event!”, or “Perhaps I should organize an online conference!”, or even “Now would be the perfect time to start a podcast!”.  I guess old habits die hard. So far I’ve managed to keep myself from starting any new projects. Instead I’ve been trying to just relax, read a book, maybe scrub the toilets a bit more, and keep on top of all the school things in the least stressful way possible for a change. It’s nice and I’m finally understanding why most people don’t volunteer for everything or take on ambitious personal projects. Besides, I still have a piano bar to finish, a vintage bike to restore, and numerous photo albums to assemble if I’m feeling bored. 

4. The first full week of the month in our town is bulk trash pickup which I think Tony is coming to dread since I love finding “treasures” to bring into our home. I am not a crazy trash picker who collects anything I think I might possibly use at some future time. Instead, I look for things I know we need. I scored an excellent condition desk for Byron’s room early this year. We also have a lovely faux leather couch and chair I rescued a few years back. This week I finally found replacement dining chairs. Our IKEA chairs all started falling apart after ten years of hard use. I didn’t want to buy new IKEA chairs and have the same thing happen, and I didn’t want to buy an entirely new dining set since I really like our table and bench. Thankfully, this week someone left out three sturdy vintage dining chairs. I’ll probably never find a matching fourth, but I was quite pleased. In addition, there were four like new outdoor chairs with cushions and some vintage Christmas decorations. Sure, you sometimes get surprises, like that mysterious pair of pants mixed in with the decorations, but all in all, I like to think I’m doing my part for the environment. 

5. This week we finally got to resume the process to become foster parents. One of the few silver linings to come out of all this COVID stuff is that we will get to do all our training ONLINE instead of hours of in-person classes that were going to be difficult for Tony and I to fit into our schedule due to the distance and times offered. There’s still months between us and a potential placement, but at least things are moving forward again. I was told by our new case worker that no new foster parents recruiting is happening for the rest of the year, and that we are one of the few families that got our paperwork in right before things shut down. In between then and now, offices have been closed and reorganized and we were assigned two new people to handle our case. There was also a brief window of time where I thought they’d lost all our paperwork but thankfully, it materialized.

6. Our ultimate goal is adoption, however the ages of children we will be able to accept will change given that Addie turns 18 at the end of this month. So the spacious girls’ room upstairs will be off limits to foster kids because they can’t share a bedroom with a “random adult” even if it that just happens to be our daughter. We can take a child aged 0-2 years who would share our room, and a boy to share Fulton and Teddy’s room. Honestly, I’m not sure how it would work to have baby or toddler  in our house right now, and we’re not sure we want another bed in the boys room even though “technically” it could work. But we’re going to go ahead with everything, get licensed and perhaps try emergency or respite care first and go from there. It will be easier to stop accepting placements, keep our license up to date, and restart later, rather than scrap it all now and restart later. I figure we’ll just keep going at whatever pace we can and trust that it’ll work out the way it’s supposed to. 

7. As part of my French lesson plans with Fulton and Teddy, we’re watching Cartoon Network shows in French. I don’t know how much it’s actually helping us learn anything, but but the shows are still funny which has to help the learning process… or at least that’s what I tell myself anyway.

What randomness is happening in your homes? Write it down then link it up below. You can use a link from your blog or Instagram. Be sure to include a link back to this post, or the hashtag #SQT or #sevenquicktakes, so your readers and followers can enjoy the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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Welcome Back to St. Bruno’s: 2020-2021 Curriculum Picks

We’re wrapping up our second week of school so it’s the perfect time to share my annual curriculum post! It’s littered with affiliate links so feel free to click and toss some pennies in my hat. (More links coming as I get time to add them.)

After only homeschooling Edie and Bryon for the last three years (while Addie took all her course work through Queen of Heaven Academy and the local community college), I’m now back to homeschooling Edie, Fulton and Teddy for all their subjects, plus overseeing a French course for Byron. But as I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’ve had lots of time to plan and think about what I wanted to accomplish this year and so, two weeks in, I still feel pretty good about my goals and choices. (Which is better than some years!!) And for all the complaints, tears, and times I want to gouge my eyeballs out, I think I’m mostly enjoying myself. I think it’s because I’ve made homeschooling my focus for now and included things that I enjoy learning and doing. However, my mom has been visiting and helping with the housework; once she leaves, everything may go down the toilet, but hopefully not.

Family Subjects

I used to do “family subjects” on a set day of the week. All the kids did religion crafts, science, history, listened to Shakespeare, art projects- whatever! on one day instead of regular academics. I also used that day for errands, trips, etc. But as the kids got older, and Addie did more online courses (beginning in middle school) the family subject day fell by the wayside and everyone did mostly their own things all five days of the week, with only a family reading of Shakespeare persisting on Fridays. Once Fulton and Teddy were enrolled in school, I brought back family subjects in the form of a “morning meeting” since “morning basket” sounded too juvenile. Except for the periods around Fulton’s surgery and our move, it worked well. Once Fulton and Teddy came home in March, I introduced them into the morning meeting mix. I like bringing everyone together in the morning, and I like the fact that despite the range of ages, everyone can learn together. Addie, as a graduate, no longer needs to wake up in time for morning meeting (much to her relief) and Byron is exempt as well as his college classes are in the morning. Below is what Edie, Fulton, and Teddy are learning at the beginning of their day. (*Edie doesn’t study these subjects with us during morning meeting.)

  • Prayers – We start by reciting the Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Our Father in Latin. Kids at our parish need to have those prayers memorized in time for their Confirmation so we added them last year for Edie’s sake and we’re just keeping at it for Fulton’s.
  • Latin – We’re memorizing the Credo in Latin and English. We hear it every week in Mass (in Latin), but I’m not sure the kids have it memorized and we never hear it in English since we rarely attend the Novus Ordo. I just thought it would be useful. For the last trimester, I’m going to introduce some Minimus to the younger two since we’ll be covering ancient Rome in history.
  • Shakespeare – At least three plays this year, starting with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We read No Fear Shakespeare and then watch the play.
  • Art Appreciation – Monday – We’re using Ambleside Online’s list of artists for the year. You can download prints and learn how to discuss art here. We don’t do narrations, we just talk about what we like/ dislike.
  • Music Theory* – Tuesday – Since Fulton and Teddy aren’t studying piano, I’m just reviewing basic musical theory with them (how to read music, etc.) because I think it’s an important skill. Teddy would like to take voice lessons but it’s tough with COVID so, we’ll work on this in the mean time.
  • Religion/ Liturgical Year* – Wednesday – Using Catholic Heritage Curriculum’s 4th grade religion text Saint’s and Seasons of the Liturgical Year. The older kids got bombarded with activities and books on the subject, but it dropped off the radar for awhile. I’m doing my best to make sure Fulton and Teddy get some of the same experience.
  • French* – Thursday – Totally came out of nowhere, but Fulton and Teddy expressed an interest in learning French (maybe due to Byron?) so I pulled out some materials I got back when Addie was younger and expressed an interest in learning it, and am using them to introduce basics words and phrases. I also like the Learn French with Alexa YouTube Channel.
  • Music Appreciation – Friday – We’re following the Ambleside Online composer schedule for the year. Edie (who enjoys classical music) can listen while she studies, and the boys listen while getting stretched or at lunch time.

Byron, 11th Grade

  • Three courses a semester at the local community college for dual credit. For the fall he’s taking a math, Art History, and Art with Computers.
  • French Glencoe Bon Voyage! Level 1 – I purchased the workbook, student text and teachers book. I know enough French to teach this level, maybe level 2 as well, but I need to practice a bit more to get up to speed. Byron’s interest in learning French stems from his scout group’s plan to do a pilgrimage to Chartes, France in 2021.
  • Religion – The high school CCD class at our parish led by our pastor. I decided to put Byron and Edie back in CCD since my plan to just “find something religious for them to read” hadn’t panned out. Of course, in-person CCD classes are on hold at the moment so I’m not sure when this class will actually start back up and how Father will handle remote learning for his class.

Edie, 9th Grade

I wound up not enrolling Edie in any online courses and instead created several classes on Google Classroom to collect and grade her work. I’ve used Schoology (another learning management system) in the past, but since my older kids already have Google accounts, I found it easier to work with Google Classroom. For the few courses I’m not monitoring through GC, I’m checking work and tracking her grades in a spreadsheet. (To learn how to use Google Classroom in your homeschool, please check out my new book. )

  • Math – Teaching Textbooks Algebra – Edie used the free trial and enjoyed it so we’re giving it a go. The fact that it’s fully online now and doesn’t require 4,293 discs made me finally willing to commit to the program.
  • English – The Good and the Beautiful – This seems to be the new curriculum company taking the homeschooling world by storm. I like that it’s all inclusive (literature, memory work, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary) and the student can work independently. Edie isn’t a huge online class fan, and works well on her own so this felt like a good fit. I can give a better review once we’re a quarter of the year in. Most of the work is completed in workbooks, but the writing assignments will be submitted in Google Classroom.
  • History – The History of the Ancient World – I love the Story of the World series. Yes, there’s anti-Catholic stuff in some of the books, but I love how complete they are, along with the activity books. So it was a no brainer that I selected their newer high school level book for Edie. I’ve been trying to read it along with her, and I really enjoy it. It’s not a dry history text. I also purchased their teacher’s guide and use that to help create weekly question assignments, and quarterly essays, in Google Classroom.
  • Classics – I’ve selected a few Greek plays (The Oedipus Plays, Lysistrata, The Bacchae), along with The Iliad, for Edie to read this year since she’s studying ancient history. I’m having her complete a couple quizzes on Spark Notes each week related to the assigned readings, along with a paper at the completion of each play. I’ve staggered the Classics assignments so she’s not writing papers for this class, history, and English at the same time. All the work is submitted through Google Classroom.
  • Science- Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Physical Science – We had all the texts and answer keys from when Addie took this her freshman year so I simply purchased the Student Notebook, which gives space to keep notes and record labs, along with a detailed daily schedule. I’m creating the quizzes in Google Classroom (using Google Forms) to help me with correcting and grading.
  • Logic – The Discovery of Deduction – I really wanted Edie to continue with Logic, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her, so we’re doing this book over the next two years. I find the style of Classical Academic Press more engaging and entertaining than other Logic programs (my older three all did The Art of Argument and didn’t hate it and even enjoyed parts of it.) She’s completing the workbook but submitting essay questions on Google Classroom.
  • Korean – How to Study Korean.com Edie also has an interest in learning Korean thanks to her love of K-pop. She’s going to use the same website Addie learned from, but at a much slower pace.
  • Religion – High school CCD class. We’re still waiting for her Confirmation to be rescheduled.

Fulton, 7th Grade

  • Reading Horizons Elevate Program This covers reading instruction, basic grammar, and spelling. There is a library of readers available on the site that we use (with comprehension questions). Fulton also uses Spelling City on his iPad for spelling tests (and to play games when I need to work one on one with Teddy). This program also lets me know the Lexile Level Fulton is at so I can select additional books for him to read from our bookshelves, or the library, at the correct level. This program is designed for dyslexic readers ages 10 and older and I highly recommend it.
  • Math – Abeka workbook and test booklet- My favorite program for elementary math. He reviews math facts with a simple flashcard app on his iPad.
  • Religion – CCD at our parish. Faith and Life Series. Typically the kids meet once a month and parents are expected to teach the majority of the material at home. For now we’ll be turning in work once a month instead of classes.

Teddy, 4th Grade

Teddy’s choices are pretty straight forward. I like Catholic Heritage Curriculum (CHC) workbooks and I like Abeka. No need to try anything new or get crazy. It’s fourth grade. Been there, done that.

  • Writing/ Grammar – CHC Language of God, Level C
  • Spelling – CHC My Catholic Speller, Level C
  • Literature – CHC The Treasure Trove of Literature and the Art of Understanding It, Level 1
  • Math – Abeka Math Grade 4 workbook and test booklet
  • Religion – CCD classes. Faith and Life Series (I don’t really like this series but it’s what’s required.)

Specials for Fulton and Teddy

Things like art and music were always called “specials” in the boys schools, so I got in the habit using that term myself even though it annoys me. The following classes the boys do together in the afternoon, except the last one.

  • Monday – History – The Story of the World Volume 1 (SOTW)– This is my fourth time doing the ancients, though, in looking through my old lesson plans, I’m not sure how much I did the last time with Fulton and Teddy since it was the year I decided to put them in school. So for them it’s all new, or at least feels that way. I have the audio book version and the activity book, and we’ve started hanging a timeline on the dining room wall. I enjoy studying ancient history so honestly, this is fun for me.
  • Tuesday – Art – We’re primarily doing art projects from the SOTW activity book. Some require more help from me than others, but again, I really like this stuff and when I enjoy it, I tend to be a more cheerful teacher. It’s also my goal to help the boys learn to do more art on either Fulton’s iPad or Tony’s Samsung tablet. Drawing can be very frustrating for them and I’m working on learning how to find ways to make it easier for them to express themselves through digital art. I’ll have to update you on how it goes.
  • Wednesday – Science – CHC Behold and See 4 – This text focuses on the study of the human body and health. I’m using it along with some Usborne books and a lapbook. The boys love science and this week while studying the brain and nervous system we watched videos of brain dissections and I made a brain cap for us to take turns wearing. So science is a lot of oral narrations, fun discussions, and general weirdness more than anything else. The lapbook is more so I can create a fun record of what we’ve learned.
  • Thursday – Nature – I know, nature study. WTH am I thinking right? But rather than yelling at my kids to go outside and “Draw something! I don’t care what it is! Just stay outside and look at nature!” I’m actually going outside with them and focusing on a specific part of the natural world to study. Right now it’s birds. I’m using The Handbook of Nature Study and a simple bird guide. As the weather cools off, I want to get to some local parks with paved trails since it might be the only activity they’ll get for awhile outside church and the library.
  • Morning Stretches – Everyday at 10 a.m. – During this time we listen to either an audiobook (currently The Iliad for Boys and Girls on Librivox) or the terms classical composer. I needed to schedule a set time in the a.m. for stretches because otherwise I forget, the nurse forgets, or we don’t get to it because it’s hard work and by 3 p.m. (the time I initially set aside for stretches back in March) nobody has the energy or patience for them. So far we’ve been consistent, though audio books are the clear favorite over classical music.


We’ve got a good schedule going. I’ve given generous blocks of time for each subject so that if something is challenging, or we want more time, we have it. But usually there’s gaps between each subject block so Fulton and Teddy can play, go outside, or generally yell at each other. (And I can decompress.) I’ve scheduled time to check work with Edie and Byron and am trying to help them manage their schedules and workload in the least intrusive way possible. I’ve learned I need to step in more to help, but still give them plenty of room to figure out what works for them. It’s a delicate balance.

If you’ve made it this far, you must be a homeschooler! But also a disclaimer- if this looks overwhelming please understand the ability to pick curriculum, create lesson plans, and schedule my day came from years of homeschooling. I also had tons of time to plan this year which helped immensely, especially when it came to creating all of Edie’s Google classes. Plus, I know first hand how fragile all this really is. I think it’s probably my best planned out year ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s fool proof. Don’t compare your homeschool, or distance learning school, to mine. I’d love for my year to go as good as it looks on paper, but I know we can have a great year if that doesn’t happen. Homeschooling works in all kinds of ways. Go easy on yourself.

Now link up below! Share a curriculum post or a regular Seven Quick Takes! Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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How To Work Full-Time And Homeschool

For someone like me who has always been fortunate enough to homeschool my kids full-time and not worry about needing a full or part-time job to help with bills, the thought of doing what I do PLUS working seems downright impossible, but there are families doing it, and doing it well. They demonstrate that despite many beliefs to the contrary, you can work full-time and homeschool. I tracked a few working homeschoolers down to find out how they manage to meet both the demands of their children’s educations and the demands of their jobs. It’s a piece I felt compelled to write because never before have so many parents reached out to me to share their desire to homeschool, but also their concern about taking on so great a task while still working full-time.

The overwhelming response I received from working parents in the homeschool trenches was – you can do it. It won’t be easy, but it can be done, and your children can benefit from being homeschooled, even as you and your spouse both work full-time. I’ve organized their answers below so you can learn from them some of the best ways to balance a full-time job on top of homeschooling.

how to work full-time and homeschool

Get on the same page with your spouse.

It helps to have both parents in favor of, and enthusiastic about, homeschooling. It can’t simply “fall on mom” to take care of everything because mom is working too. Because it requires extra planning, coordination, and sacrifice for everyone, finding a way to work full-time and homeschool will work best when both mom and dad want to make it work and actively contribute to its success.

“We always knew we wanted to home school, but with the need to pull 2 incomes (At least!) in the state of NJ, we knew we had to be open to some career adjustments to make this happen. We’ve both always maintained full time PLUS part time employment.” – Lauren, mom to two elementary aged children.

“We chose homeschooling out of necessity because of the following: 1)  I taught in our neighborhood public middle school in a major city and saw first hand the sub-par academics and lack of respect and discipline among the students. We didn’t want to subject our young son to this environment at the time. 2) Even with two incomes, we could not afford the local Catholic school tuition nor did we have the time to fulfill the volunteer hour requirements.” – Christine, mom to four students ranging in grades 10 to a college graduate. Her oldest was homeschooled K-12, while her younger three were homeschooled K-8/9.

“I came from an unusual (at that time anyway) homeschooling family in which both my parents worked full time during the same shift plus away from home. At the time I was in Kindergarten, my parents learnt about homeschooling from a newspaper ad (this was in the 90s before the internet was a thing) as well as some people at church and considered giving it a shot. It worked so well academically (it’s really hard to mess up with first grade) that they were willing to continue with my next youngest sibling all the way until we graduated twelfth grade. I’m glad they did.” – Ava, homeschool graduate whose parents both worked full-time

Get organized.

With so many spinning plates, it’s crucial to the success of your homeschool that you and your whole family are organized. Otherwise, things will fall through the cracks; school assignments, business reports, housework, bills, and maybe even your sanity! Put in the time to plan so things can run smoothly, and so you can see where outside help is needed.

“It’s worth the effort, but it takes commitment, exceptional time management and communication skills, creativity, perseverance, and self-discipline. Be a good example to your children.  Don’t procrastinate on the little things.  Use time wisely!!” – Christine

Maureen Wittmann of Homeschool Connections stressed the importance of learning time management, creating routines, meal planning, and keeping a calendar among her 20 Tips for Working Homeschool Moms.

Determine what can go and must stay. What is non-negotiable? What can be let go? In your to-do journal, on page one, write down your non-negotiables. Perhaps it’s read-aloud time during lunch. Or nature walks on Saturday mornings. Or weekday Mass. Then write down what can be removed from your schedule, or given to someone else in the family. It could be that you’re doing too many outside activities or assigning mere busy work to the children. It may be as small as changing to a low-maintenance haircut or discontinue changing out decorative sofa pillows with the change of the seasons. Or as big as turning over a volunteer leadership role to another person for now. Eliminate the extraneous things that don’t help you reach your homeschool and/or business goals.” – Maureen

Get help.

Even SAHM’s who homeschool get help from online classes, tutors, community college courses, mothers helpers, etc. It only makes sense that working parents should too. Or maybe you’ll decide that you can handle the math classes, and dad will take the writing classes, but the housework, or the driving, or something else needs to be outsourced. Don’t forget to connect with other homeschoolers to get the support and community you need when you can’t figure out the perfect schedule, the ideal curriculum, or magic time saving solution on your own. (They can also be great for carpooling.) You don’t need to work full-time and homeschool all alone.

Remember that as your children get older much of the housework, and the schoolwork, can become their responsibility. Make sure you’re not putting more work on your plate when delegating chores, and teaching kids to work independently can free up your time for more important matters.

“Every family’s different, but there were several factors that made it do-able for us: The support of my grandparents and decade older siblings who were willing to rearrange their schedules so that there was always an adult with us during elementary years. They didn’t really oversee our study but they were around if we had a question or if someone came to the door with a question. We utilized a curriculum that included all materials, lesson plans, tests, answer keys, report cards & transcripts, advisors you could contact, was fairly flexible with submission deadlines, etc…It wasn’t the cheapest program but it gave my parents the assurance that we would be academically alright so long as we completed the courses.” – Ava

“Be realistic about limitations.  Don’t hesitate to outsource some subjects if needed. Our children attended co-op classes through our homeschool group enrichment program which was conveniently located at our parish. Over the years, we worked in tandem on the childcare duties.  Whenever my work schedule overlapped my husband’s, we would arrange for childcare.  Sometimes the grandparents would help out.  Other times we traded childcare with another homeschool family whose parents also worked full-time.” – Christine 

“I delegate a chore chart daily and whoever is up first [with their] bed made, gets to pick their chores. We also have a smaller home, which has its advantages when you clean it yourself! My children are still in primary/ formative years, and I absolutely feel like I’m in uncharted waters with both my husband & I working full time…BUT…I have found others!  A number of parents are pulling their children out of public school this year, and they both work full time.  I am encouraging them to form a “support pod” with me as we navigate these shores together. ” – Lauren  

Give it to God.

By choosing to homeschool your children, you can not only put your family’s faith at the center of homeschool, but you can learn to really put your trust in God as you embark on this adventure. (I mean that’s one way of thinking about it right??) In other words, pray! God will strengthen you to work full-time and homeschool, and He will give you guidance if you just make time to listen to Him. Pray with your kids and remember to turn to God when you feel completely frazzled and overwhelmed (like all of us!).

“Make time to pray everyday! Live your faith and integrate the liturgical calendar into family life.” – Christine

PRAY!!! This could be both first and last on this list of tips. It is certainly the most important. Don’t let the busyness of the day interfere with your prayer life. Have a set prayer time with the children. Get time before the Blessed Sacrament. Get to Mass a little early so you have time to reflect and talk with our Lord. And, get those kids praying for you – every day!” – Maureen

Give it time.

Brand new homeschoolers of all stripes (parents and kids alike) need time to acclimate to homeschooling. Be patient with yourself and your children as you adjust to your new schedule and routines, and tweak things as necessary over the first few weeks. Learning to work full-time and homeschool smoothly will not happen overnight, but it can happen.

“Stop. breathe. You CAN do this.  Especially now, in this climate of COVID, meetings from home, remote learning/remote employment. If you’re already working mostly from home, this is a no brainer.  If you’re working partially from home, talk with your spouse and your boss and explore your options, have a conversation before you say “There’s no way they’ll let me do this” or “There is no way I can handle this”. Be flexible with the demands you put on the children and on yourself.  It takes at least 2 full years to really get “into the groove”.” – Lauren  

Any other advice from other working homeschoolers out there? Share it in the comments below! Or feel free to ask any more questions you may have. Don’t forget to check out the Homeschooling Page for more tips and information!

{SQT} A New Drug, Another Hug, And Record Love

Happy Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month! Last Friday the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of SMA. This is the THIRD drug approved for treating SMA. I was talking with our neuromuscular doctor from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about whether or not risdiplam (brand name Evrysdi) is a good fit for Fulton and Teddy and he mentioned giving Tony and I time to discuss our options. I had to laugh. OPTIONS- plural! Ten year ago there was nothing, now we were discussing one of several options to treat our sons. The drug they currently receive (Spinraza) is given via lumbar puncture into their spinal fluid whereas the new drug is a once daily pill. Both medicines work in a similar way, but if we switch to the oral medicine, the boys won’t experience the side effects they’ve had from the lumbar punctures (which have gotten worse for Fulton). Depending on insurance approvals, we hope to switch them over in September. Fingers crossed! It took eight months from FDA approval of Spinraza to finally getting insurance approval and their first dose (which was three years ago this month). We have no reason to believe it will take that long this time, but who knows?

Friday was also exciting because we got hardwood floors laid in the hallway and Fulton and Teddy’s bedroom. We tore out the orange shag carpeting shortly after closing before realizing we couldn’t go ahead with the floor right away as originally planned, so we’ve been making do with the subfloor for over a year. No sooner had we saved up to do the floors when COVID hit and inviting strangers into our house for the day didn’t seem like such a good idea. But now it’s done and it only took eight hours of noise on a rainy day to complete! At least no one could hear my cries of frustration over the air compressor.

Saturday morning Addie and several other homeschool grads from our parish were recognized. It wasn’t the large homeschool graduation I’d originally envisioned, but it wound up being better than I expected. Our parish priest gave a commencement address during his homily, handed out diplomas after Mass, and we ever got some pictures. It was nice to mark the occasion with families and graduates we’ve known since we moved to New Jersey fifteen years ago. We’ve given up hope on having a large party any time soon, but we had Tony’s parents with us that day, and Addie got an ice cream cake so I think she knows how proud we all are of her.

I’ve gotten questions from several families recently who want to homeschool, but both parents work full-time. It’s a predicament I’ve never personally found myself in, so I’m trying to find families who’ve successfully homeschooled while both mom and dad held down full-time jobs (work from home jobs count). If you’re willing to answer a few questions for an upcoming post, or know someone who might, please email me! Thanks in advance!

After months in lockdown, we were finally able to visit with my grandmother this week. She’s been unable to have visitors to her nursing home in Lancaster, PA for months, but thankfully, she was able to leave to stay with family at her vacation condo in Ocean City. We travelled down to see her for the first time in person since, I think, Christmas?? It was great to visit with her and share a hug.

Only slightly less exciting that seeing my grandmother and the new SMA drug was scoring Michael Jackson’s original Thriller record and Prince’s Purple Rain record for $1 a piece at my local Goodwill. I also snagged the Grease and Rocky III soundtracks on vinyl for the same low price. I left feeling like I robbed a bank. What a thrill!

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{SQT} Homeschooling and Weekly Adventures

I don’t always write about homeschooling, but when I do, it’s because it’s August and I’m usually thinking about how great the next school year will be. Never mind the challenges of the last school year, this year is going to be different- I’m going to be different! Everything is going to go according to plan because my lesson plans are NOW done in color- COLOR! Moving forward in my delusion… (affiliate links below…but just a couple).

1. Last week I spent all my time writing up some posts so now any time someone asks me a homeschooling question I will be able to send them to my Homeschooling Page. I mean, I’m happy to email/ chat with people about their homeschooling questions, but I repeat myself a lot and nothing is better than good ol’ blog posts for sharing information in perpetuity.

2. If you didn’t purchase the homeschooling bundle I was promoting, know that you can buy The Catholic Homeschool Audit Workbook and Using Google Classroom in the Homeschool now – on sale! The Audit Workbook includes a code so you can download as many new pages as you need. Use the workbook every year to plan your big picture goals and evaluate what is working and what isn’t. And if you’re homeschooling older kids, I cannot recommend enough a learning management system like Google Classroom. I’m setting up several classes for Edie this year, and Byron’s decided to add a home-based French course to his college classes so I’m setting that up too. People always want to know how to get kids to do their work, or keep track of high school grades for transcripts; the answer is an online LMS. It’s great for kids and adults who misplace papers, and the ability to view deadlines in a calendar format and set reminders is huge for making kids responsible for completing work on their own without nagging. I’ve used Schoology with great success, but I love the simplicity of Google Classroom.

3. I interviewed Cheryl Swope for a recent Accepting the Gift post a couple of weeks ago, and since then have also finished her wonderful book Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education For Any Child. Tony and I have long been fans of classical education, but after years of homeschooling, and numerous challenges, it got discouraging for us when it seemed impossible to live up to those standards. Even though the upcoming school year will be unique, it was good to reread those classical sentiments again and remind myself of what Tony and I were inspired by all those years ago. Once I put Swope’s book down, I started reading and rereading some more classical education titles and articles to continue pumping myself up. August was so nuts the last few years, my planning was always hurried and rushed. It’s nice to take my time again, read inspiring books, reread our own mission statement, and really think about what I want to accomplish this year.

4. Even as someone who hated waking up at 5:30 a.m. to start getting Fulton ready for the day, I will somewhat miss the external motivation created by having my kids enrolled in school. I needed to get up and get the boys out the door by a set time. And knowing when they’d get home each day meant I carefully planned to make sure stuff was done by then. When you have an outside job or demands, you need to do stuff at a set time or face the consequences. But as a homeschooler, you don’t have those external forces at play in your day in the same way. And on one had it’s great! We have all sorts of flexibilty. But on the other, it places all the responsibility on my shoulders to get up and get going by a certain time. It’s on my shoulders to check work, keep everything moving on schedule, and stay on task. It’s hard to keep up momentum without any reward or consequence. I mean sure, I love the feeling of a good day, when everything gets covered. Conversely, I know that sleeping in, straying from the schedule and skipping subjects will come back to bite me in the butt, but it’s not like I’m going to be fired or lose a bonus. I realized that that’s part of what homeschool burnout is, just the gradual wearing down of your resolve until you don’t have it in you anymore to keep everyone and everything on task. Studies have shown that will-power lessens over time, so it’s easier to resist something at the start of the day, vs the end, but that we can strengthen our will-power with practice (like a muscle). I think the same can be said about a lot of qualities – patience, fortitude, persistence. I’ve certainly become better at these things, in regards to homeschooling at least, through hard work, teaching my kids to do more for themselves, and dropping things that create unnecessary stress, but I think everyone reaches their limit. Even a powerlifter can only add so many weights to the barbell. External motivation pushes us and forces us to get stronger or meet goals whether we want to or not (or we face unpleasant consequences). But finding enough internal motivation to reach the same levels of strength in the above qualities, day in and day out, is hard. School provided external cues to stay on task, plus respite that made it easier for me to tackle everything when the boys were home. So while I’m looking forward to the flexibility of the coming year (and all my usual grandiose plans), I’m also a bit fearful of holding myself accountable for everything on my plate. I keep telling myself I just need to pray more, then I’ll be able to tackle it all with a smile, easy peasy!- but who will hold me accountable for that?

5. In other news, Hurricane Isiaias blew threw on Tuesday and left us without power for the day. Thankfully, our neighbor let us plug into his generator to keep our fridge going, and the power came back before the medical equipment ran out of batteries. It was just long enough to be fun, and not inconvenient or stressful. Temperatures stayed cool enough that we managed without the air conditioning and since grandparents were visiting, there was always someone willing to play a board game, read a story or engage in an intense Nerf/ light saber battle.

6. Today we’re getting hardwood floors laid in Fulton and Teddy’s bedroom and the hallway. I’m excited to get it done, but of course the installers are arriving at 8 a.m. and I’ll want to minimize trips into the bedroom during the day so I guess we’ll be setting up the living room as a changing station/ storage room? I’d love to take everyone somewhere for the day but COVID so hopefully the weather cooperates and we can at least be outside most of the time. It’s a week of fun adventures!!

7. When MDA camp got cancelled for the summer, I immediately (like, within the hour) starting researching other summer camps for the boys. By the end of the day, I’d signed them up for Camp Fatima in North Jersey, in the hopes that the August camp wouldn’t get cancelled. Well, it did but the camp sent awesome camp boxes this week filled with supplies to hold camp activities at home. There’s a program booklet that gives each day’s theme and the box has all the craft supplies. Plus the camp will be sharing activities online each day related to the camp. The MDA did offer online activities for campers, but back in June, we were so burnt out on Zooms, neither boy was enthusiastic about participating. Now, especially with a full box of supplies, they seem eager to get involved. I think it will be a great way to segway back into a school schedule. I’d held firm to a morning school review time all summer, but over the last couple weeks, my afternoon educational time hasn’t happened consistently. I’m planning to start our school year earlier than usual and I think getting back in a grove with these camp activities will be just the thing.

How was your week? Buy one of my books, then write your post and link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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A Classical Education for Every Child

Cheryl Swope, an educator who has created an entire curriculum designed for children with special needs (available through Memoria Press), used to receive one to two emails a week from families curious to know if providing a classical education for their special needs child was possible. Now, following the upheaval of COVID-19, she’s receiving at least one to two emails a day from parents seeking an alternative to public school or distance learning.

Swope and her husband adopted a set of twins with multiple diagnoses, many unknown at the time of placement, and despite a background in education, she chose to homeschool them in a classical tradition. Her experience and advice differs wildly from what most special needs children will experience in the classroom, but what Swope shares in her book Simply Classical, and her curriculum, is exactly what many special needs parents are looking for in their child’s education.

Read the rest at Accepting the Gift.