Welcome Back…. You do strictly homeschool, right?! Uh… Uh…

This summer has been a whirlwind. We have been here there and everywhere trying to make as much out of the summer as we could. While summer isn’t over, we do have to start getting back to our regular schedule.

I’ve met alot of people this summer and had alot of conversations about homeschooling and what that means. Since so many people concern themselves with labels I thought I would clear up how we run our school at home.

I have a Master’s Degree in Post Secondary Education and spent alot of time writing and auditing curriculum. This included developing mixed media classes where a portion of the classes were online and on ground. As I took my conversations from this summer and compared it to what we do in our own home I had an aha moment. While obviously our children are still in primary school; in our home we do what could be considered a mixed media learning environment. We are enrolled full time at K12 and like the structure, curriculum and support of the teachers and staff. However, I also choose to supplement with my own lessons – generated from a variety of resources. I would say that we teach our kids mixed media via virtual and home school. (Whew! There! I said it! Now we have a label too…..)

What I find interesting is that people are so quick to label the type of education without taking the time to understand the format of it; and how it applies to what the child truly needs. Our kids need opportunities to explore subjects more (for example last year we started a virtual Science lesson about the layers of the oceans and what animals are in them; then we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about all those creepy critters on the very very very very bottom of the ocean. How did they get there? How do they see? What do they eat? Do they get cold down there? How can they make that blue light glow?) On and on the questions went, we kept looking up information. This is called understanding a child’s curiosity to learn; and NOT ignoring it. The love of learning is like a fire which must be stoked; and never squelched because of a label or particular predetermined view you have of a delivery style/type of education. Questions are the fire; the fuel is the way you respond.

Please don’t let the label of the educational delivery style deter the way you teach your children, please allow the children’s curiosity and love for learning to drive the path of the education. Ask yourself this, if you were at my home and we were doing a K12/Virtual lesson on triple digit addition – would you not allow your child to participate because it isn’t pure homeschooling? If the answer is Yes, wow – guess what all kids have to learn triple digit addition, does it matter if it comes from K12 or pure homeschooling? If the answer is NO, bravo your an open minded educator.

Be open and understand that every child learns differently, it’s all hard work but if mixed media works – don’t judge others, support others – everyone’s is on a path to educate their children and help them become strong, smart, free thinking, open, well-educated and successful adults. (And success doesn’t always mean marrying a billionaire, having a Stanford education, developing the next successful IPO and wearing a perfect Prada suit to work. For some it means virtual/homeschooling, climbing Mt. Everest and calling home for money because you’re trying to decide if you want to be a fashionista or a famous rock star).

Hope everyone has an amazing school year!! 🙂

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

Oak Meadow Curriculum Giveaway

Remember the awesome iPad Giveaway DenSchool had a couple weeks ago? What an amazing organization and now they are partnering with others to giveaway something to help prepare your curriculum for next year!

We have teamed up with DenSchool and Teaching with Cents to bring you this great giveaway from Oak Meadow! Enter today on the Giveaway Tools form below.

One lucky reader will receive a Complete Curriculum Package (of their choice) from Oak Meadow. Imagine that, everything you need for homeschooling your child next year – for FREE!

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DenSchool has reviewed curriculum packages for Grades 3, 4, and 6 – with an 8th grade review coming in August!

Contest Information:
*This great giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, ages 18+.
*Giveaway ends on July 24th at 11:59 p.m.
*DenSchool Contributors, immediate family members, and group giveaway bloggers are not eligible to enter DenSchool giveaways.

IPad Giveaway from DenSchool


“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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Summer Classes Start June 17th – (Early Bird Discount!)

This summer DenSchool will be offering self-paced, teacher supported classes. Some of the classes are Accounting, Algebra, Art, Beginner Guitar, Social Studies, English, Science, Journalism, World History….the list goes on and on. Remember these are not just for High School learners. Normally these classes are $59.00, but if you order by June 10th the cost is only $29.00; that’s more than a 50% savings!  These classes offer flexibility; with a 9 week format and learners are free to complete the class at their own pace taking more or less time. They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all the courses.


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Note: This is a sponsored post by DenSchool. Please see a full disclosure on giveaways.



Second Chance Ranch & Rescue

We took the opportunity, on the recommendation of a friend, to take a home school class out at Second Chance Ranch & Rescue in Rainier, WA. It was truly a treat to take the girls out there, they had a great time!

As soon as we got there we were greeted by teacher/trainer Amy. The girls were both very excited, as they carried around their bike helmets their eyes got bigger and bigger with all 50+ beautiful horses they had on the property. However, after walking around, Emma generated a certain bond with a particular horse. This kindred soul was called Greatful – a retired race horse, 18 hands in size, strikingly gentle and handsome, from a local racetrack in Auburn. Katie took the time to get down to E’s level and talk to her about how it was ok to cry and be scared but that at one time Greatful was afraid of people as well – just like she was afraid of him. E trusted Katie enough to let her teach her how to feed Greatful a carrot, and once E accomplished that she bonded with Greatful, and Katie, with ease. Even after looking at all the other horses she didn’t want to be with anyone else but Greatful. E’s spent the rest of the aftenroon writing about Greatful in her journal, as well as telling her story at dinner time.

K, a little braver, wasn’t quite as afraid to feed the horses, until she had two carrots in her hand and walked by five horses in stalls to get to a white horse she desperately wanted to feed. As she was walking by, all the horses tipped their heads out of the stalls and because she is so tiny she was face to face with all of them. As a parent, looking at it, it was a tad funny because the horses all new and wanted what she had in her hand. However, in her little mind all she knew was when she zigged a horse came down to greet her, and when she zagged a horse said hello! Amy came right over and explained to K that the horses wanted the carrots and they thought she was going to give them. She took K over to the white horse and fed it. On the way back around the barn, the horses were still checking her out, but this time she thought it was pretty hilarious and went and got more carrots to feed her new friends.

K had one more hurdle to overcome in riding. She was so excited, but when she got ready, standing next to Greatful she panicked. The more she panicked, the worse her Sensory overload became. It became so much that she was rocking back and forth in my arms and shaking. Amy and Mommy to the rescue. I lifted K up and took her over to Greatful and had her put her hands on the blanket under his saddle. Amy stepped in and softly spoke to Kayla explaining the Greatful was also afraid at one time, but to try touching different parts of his saddle and shoulders. As soon she was at the same height as Greatful and touching him and the saddle she started to calm down. I told her she wouldn’t get another chance to ride because I was afraid she might go through this again. Amy walked around to one side and I lifted K up and as soon as she was on the saddle, her entire self just relaxed and a huge shine came over her face. I went to go walk with her and she said “No, MaMa, you can stay – I got this.”

I was really blown away by not only those situations with my kids, but the time the staff took with all the kids. Amy taught the kids about grooming the horse and gave them each a chance. She explained about the farrier and horses nails. She talked about saddles, what they eat and exercise. The kids had a ton of questions and she patiently answered all of them. After riding they were treated to a show by another horse from Germany called Konjak (I thought it was Konji, but the twins have promptly corrected me!). He did addition problems, played hide and seek, gave hugs and kisses and poses for pictures. What a great group!

Amy, the trainer, and Katie, the owner, were amazing with all the kids. They both have a lot of education and experience with kids and animals. They both took the time to help the girls over their fears and created a sense of confidence. The classes are more than reasonably priced, as well as the riding lessons. While we only took a beginning class, we will be heading back to take a few more classes.

Please go out and visit, or contact Amy or Katie for the next class. They also offer riding lessons at a very reasonable rate. By visiting them, not only are you supporting local business, but your supporting a cause near and dear to our heart, animal rescue. We promise, you won’t regret it!
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The school year is on the horizon and while I feel our own sense of overwhelming lists of things to do, I wanted to take a minute to celebrate our personal path and all those people I spoke to, and those I didn’t who made a conscious choice about their children’s education this year.

While many know I’m a staunch supporter of structured alternative schooling so kids can explore their desire to become what they want to be as an adult, some don’t know that I struggled with my own decision to homeschool our kids. I spent three years before they were even school age researching the best methods for educating children from private school, public, charter, Montessori, co-op, private tutor, homeschooling, the list goes on…. As it came closer to the time to make a decision I acted like I was very self-assured in what I was doing, but inside I was quivering like a leaf in a windstorm. What I learned this last year is that it isn’t about what you know, it’s about what you believe you can do. If you have confidence in the fact you can teach your kids, you can. If you trust you can’t teach your kids, you can’t.

When I hear people say “it takes a Saint to homeschool” I snort internally and think what a smug declaration. I’m no Saint, I’m a parent – who is strong-minded (and that’s an understated use of a word) to provide a healthier opportunity at life for our kids than what we had. Teaching your kids is about desire and passion for an improved future, and understanding it’s a journey – putting one foot prudently in front of the other as to not dive off the cliff, but just skate the edge – learning all the while. And by the way, when you ascend the cliff of teaching your kids and you get ½ way through the year, you’ll pat yourself on the back in reflection and say – “damn, I knew I could do this, I just had to do it”.

Providing alternative education for children in a country where education gets a lot of lip service for enhancement, but not a lot of achievement by politicians is a mandate. Your child’s education must be taken control of by you as the parent – not left to the government. I’m not anti-government, when I hear from US friends living in Norway, Germany and Korea that their kids are receiving a better education in a foreign country than most US children obtain – how could you ever expect your child to be marketable and a contributing member to society if they can’t compete with others in their own generation. The answer is merely that you must handle your child’s education, the government has tried and failed – with no accountability – to get the US to be competitive in education. Hopefully that will change, but for now it is what it is. I’m not a proponent of waiting around and seeing, I am a proponent of current action and the ability to be flexible if circumstances change.

The bottom line is this – educating your kids on your own without a net is scary as hell. I promise you this though, for selfish reasons it’s the most enlightening, heartwarming, educational (no pun intended) and freeing experience you will have the privilege of being involved in. Helping your child to understand a subject and seeing the light turn on, watching you when it all connects or seeing them follow their passion and develop is worth every second of giving up your career, self-doubt, self-sacrifice, second guessing, sacrificed purchases, coupons clipped, personal shopping trips given up, date nights missed, hours of sleep gone, lack of inspiration, hair pulled out, frustration ridden days and tearful arguments with your spouse over life changes. It’s worthy every ounce of everything you have to give because every child hungers to become what they aspire to be, and if your role in that is alternatively educating them, isn’t that the least you can do to help them succeed?

“I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be comprised to serve a greater principle.” – Andrew Carnegie

Fun Summer Activity

While trying to figure out some fun ways to come up with combining learning and summer, my husband mentioned an idea, which has taken on a life of its own.  The general idea is to enter a whole bunch of fun, inexpensive or free, and responsible ideas for summer activities into a hat and let your kids draw to “pick” the activity. The thought is to still get some school work done, while breaking the monotony of summer boredom that can set in with young kids.

I sat the twins down and asked them what fun things they wanted to accomplish this summer?  First was having a camp out in the backyard, next was Super Hero Day, Princess for a Day, and on and on the ideas came. They were so excited about the concept that they wanted to start immediately!  I put them all in a table in Word and then cut them out, reviewed them with the kids (where they added about 7 more!) and threw them in a magic hat.  We played rock paper scissors to see who would draw first.  Our first fun day was Orange Day – where everything you wear is orange, and I painted their fingernails orange.  They even invited their Auntie to participate, which was a fun way to get family support. They were very excited to get up and get going.  It was a nice change to the normally sleepy and resistant kiddos I have early in the morning.

Below is a list of some of the things we came up with, to help you brainstorm:

Go to the local Beach for the Day

Go to the Ocean for the day (about a 2-hour one-way trip)

Go to the Movies

Pick a New Park Day

Art Day (making your own Art Gallery & they have added they want to have an Art Show for their family)

Take Your Bikes to the Park Day

Teach the kids to walk our dog on a leash

Explore a new water/spray park

School Work

Making and Delivering treats to family members

Picking up litter day

Super Hero for a Day

Backwards Day (where you also have to talk backwards!)

Scavenger Hunt with Daddy Day (this one I’m excited about – it will be one where you have to drive to places and take pictures, but you could also do this activity in your local neighborhood)

Opposites Day

Purple Day

Pink Day

Where’s Waldo Day (travel around and take pics with Waldo, then send off to family members and plot the pictures and locations on a huge map)

Orange Day (already done!)

Learn to Cook your favorite dinner

Learn to bake your favorite treat

Movies at home day (this is next)

The list and the options are endless, ours goes on so much I am not sure we will get it all done before summer is out.  The rule we made was if the kids draw something that requires travel (such as the Ocean) we are allowed a day or two to plan it and if the weather allows it.  The idea is to be spontaneous, but responsible as well.

On a side note, I was thinking of taking pictures of each of the days and generating a small memory book for them.  Our kids really enjoy looking at pictures so this would be a wonderful keepsake of a fun summer memory.

Have a fun summer!

Parent/Teacher Role in Home Schooling

While I love the fact that we home school, being new to this I have struggled with the boundaries between the parent and teacher role. I want to be an excellent parent and when I think of that I think of someone who is compassionate, caring, encouraging, loving, kind, and supportive; challenges their children, supports growth, requires respect and good manners, but allows freedom and independence while encouraging alternative thinking. Aren’t those the very same qualities I would look for in an excellent teacher? Yes.

Over the last seven months of home schooling, I’ve learned that there is a blurred line between teacher and mother. I always thought they would be well defined. Prior to becoming aware of this I allowed myself to go over without transition into the role of teacher. Murphy’s Law number one, without a bit of a defined change there is chaos. I would feel overwhelmed by wanting to answer every question, pay attention to every whim, listen to every story, read every emotional queue and sometimes that just isn’t reality. Now I say to the girls, we are starting school, I need you to put on your student hat, raise your hand, wait for others to speak and we will address each need one at a time. This I feel is a teacher role, not a parent role. As a parent, I juggle 100 balls up in the air and deal with them all at once and hope not one falls. As a teacher, I must recognize the difference between vying for Mom’s attention and true needs for assistance and support. I find by explaining to them that we are now in a student/teacher situation eases their transition as well. It generates a verbal definition of transition and helps them to respect each others learning boundaries. As my daughter says “no questions are bad questions” and I agree, but learners need to encourage each others growth – not have  a competition to see who can speak the loudest to get the attention first.

Some naysayer will say ‘don’t you provide that same time and attention as a mother?” The answer is yes, I do, but defining boundaries during school makes all of us more successful. As with life; work, home, education, family – everyone has boundaries and transition it’s part of life and it gives us room and energy to evolve.

“Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Home School Lesson: Water & Energy Conservation

Recently in Science we started talking about the continents and the oceans. While we’ve got the seven continents down, the oceans are a bit of a struggle and there were many questions about how water gets to the oceans. So we backed it all the way up to our house and tied in water conservation.

Talking about water conservation with your kids is so important. We even came up with a jingle to remind our selves: no more water (clap/clap/clap – no more earth (clap/clap/clap) – no more us.  While that may seem extreme to teach to 6 year olds – that is the harsh reality of their future. The Earth and its dependent’s survival are solely dependent on water. Did you know that roughly 70% of our bodies are made up of water and up to 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water*, but only 1% is actually accessible to us**?  97% of water is salt water, 2% is in glacier*** and that leaves the 1% we can use to be distributed for agriculture, consumption and other tasks. At the rate we use water it is estimated that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will have to find alternative sources, but there really is no alternative.

While that may seem far off to you, when I look at my kids I can envision their kids and their kid’s kids and what we can do now to help the future. So I asked the girls to come up with ways to conserve energy. They came up with a lot of standard ones: don’t leave the front door open, close the refrigerator, turn the heat down, shut the lights off, etc… but it was the water ones I found to be most impacting.

We thought about every time we turned on a faucet we saw water – which could have been saved for use going down the drain. Kayla came up with a test – while one of them brushed their teeth the other tookDixiecups and filled them with the water that would have been left on while brushing their teeth. They came up with 10 medium sized paper cups full of water – that’s a lot of water. They took that water and rinsed out their mouth and their tooth brush when done, wash their face and watered all the plants twice. That’s a lot of uses for that water. 

The other lesson was the bath tub. Most young kids take baths, but Emma asked what about that water that runs before it gets hot? She took one of my stock pots and turned on the water and when the water had gotten hot for the bath – she had filled one stock pot with water. We took that water and used it to boil spaghetti for dinner and the remainder we used to wash a few small dishes after. They both agreed its one thing to talk about it, but entirely another to see it in actual action. It is much more important to drive the point home.

Now, that’s conservation and it’s a lesson we can all take in. Teaching our kids about conservation – or in this case our kids teaching me, was a valuable lesson in protecting their future and their children’s future with actions today.






Home Schooling??!

When we started researching home schooling two years ago I was determined to make better educational choices for our children.  As a parent, you want to provide opportunities for your children you did not have.  After much research and knowing the temperament of our children, we decided homeschooling was our best option.  It provided a challenge, we set our own schedule, and it opened up a world of external learning beyond four walls and a door.

Since we have started home schooling I will say there is, as with many groups, a segregation amongst different reasoning for home schooling.  Some will say you aren’t a “pure” homeschooler if utilizing a state funded program.  Some will say you are not a homeschooler if you do not generate all your lessons from scratch.  Still others will say whatever medium you choose to teach your children with do it.  However, you choose to home school, we are all part of the same community.  We were choosing this lifestyle because it was our educational choice; not because of religion, learning disabilities, gifted children, etc…  It was just a better opportunity to provide a more hands on role in our children’s education.  Becoming part of this community, it was very eye opening to see segregation in a community where external parties put everyone in the same homeschooling category.

As a parent who teaches, one of my greatest joys is watching, our own children express their interest in different subjects.  When we started, it was all about writing, lately it’s been about science and reading, sometimes creative writing.  Neither one of them enjoy math, but they give the same response “we know we have to do it….”  As we have moved forward, I have encouraged creative thinking and exposed the girls to as much material as I could.  When I started the journey, I felt constricted by the curriculum, which was provided.  Moving forward I found often I was adding more materials, as well as finding outside opportunities for learning.  When you start home schooling you will be nervous, but as you learn your children’s abilities and gain self-confidence with being their teacher you will expand your horizons.

I am asked many questions about home schooling, which I welcome.  I wish I could be the spokesperson for it, but I’m still a newbie and not a veteran yet.  Therefore, here are a few things I would tell someone starting out:

  • Ignore the people saying it’s a bad decision to home school, even if they are family.  It will be your greatest battle, and honestly why should you care.  As long as your partner/spouse and you are on the same decision path, that’s all that matters.  When the kids are flourishing, these will be the same individuals who take credit for your work, ideas, and thriving family.
  • Be disciplined, set a schedule and be flexible, but try to stay to about the same amount of time and time of day; this helps kids to understand this is the time we do school.
  • Have a good place to work, but don’t forget home schooling happens anywhere!  Just make sure there are no distractions.  Distractions lead to dancing, laughing, and little schoolwork.  (although laughing and dancing is strongly encourage in our house, just not during school J)

so·cial·ize /ˈsoʊʃəˌlaɪz/ Spelled [soh-shuh-lahyz] verb, -ized, -iz·ing. verb (used with object) :  to associate or mingle sociably with others: to socialize with one’s fellow workers.

so·cial·i·za·tion  Spelled [soh-shuh-luh-zey-shuhn] noun :  a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social  skills appropriate to his or her social  position.

Please don’t expect this to be an issue.  Our kids spend more time socializing with other kids and they for sure have their own identity.  In fact, they are more secure in who they are because of our home life and spend more time out doing great things solo and with their friends.

  • Do develop a community of supporters to ask for help and encouragement when needed.  These people may be new as well, or be veterans; another person’s perspective on a subject may provide answers or help when you’re at a roadblock.  Having a sense of community is an important aspect of home schooling.  Whether that community is in person, on line, local groups, or other families; it helps to understand others and gain insight from parents who have been there done that.
  • Do ignore all those people who look at you as if you are a Saint from another universe because you home school your kids (and when they say “I could never do that” and you want to provide an encouraging notion – just let it go.  If they know they can’t, then they know themselves.)  Let’s face it, it is not easy, but the rewards way out weight the challenges.
  • Have fun and be flexible!  Remember, learning happens everywhere and not on a schedule.  You choose to home school because of freedom.  Do not ask for freedom and then demand learning happen on a schedule.  That’s a bit of a double standard, don’t you think?
  • Know who you are and be steadfast in your personal identity.  People will throw all kinds of personal questions at you once you tell them you home school.  Be open to answering them, curiosity is human nature.  Educating people about your home schooling path may help others dismiss some of those ridiculous notions about home scholars and squelch fears they have about getting started.

You will face adversity and varied opinions because you home school.  You may find a greater compassion and understanding for other groups, which face the same adversity for their personal choices.  Overall, it’s important to know thy self.  That should be the cardinal rule of home schooling.

One of the things I did not count on was all the support, answers, conversation, and open arms many of the homeschooling community members provide.  Bottom line, do what works for your kids, relax, and take it easy, it will all fall into place.  Challenges will be on going with new subjects and new materials, that is just education.  However, on a personal level, after 6 month of home schooling, my nerves are at bay and I am confident in what I am doing, you will be too.  That’s an invaluable lesson.

Good luck!