18 January 2018

Ten Activities of 2017

I'm allowed to post about 2017 as long as it's still January, right?

2017 was an even busier year for us.  I know all of you with teens understand.  As homeschool children age, their lives become more active.  The same could be said of teenagers in high school.  It's a season of life, and like all seasons that have come before, it will pass by rather quickly.  It just seems rather hectic and eternal when in the throws of it.

However, even with all the chaos and all the activity, 2017 was a wonderful year for us.  Since I am still desperately trying to record memories for my children, I thought it would be appropriate to post what I believe were our top activities in 2017.  Here are ten, in no particular order.


We journeyed to Alaska, then Portland, for two weeks in June.  It was magical.  My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and this was their request for a party.  Since the trip, weekly we've had discussions on how we can return to this great state.  In the little bit of time that we were there, we actually saw quite a bit of Alaska -- by train, by boat, by car, and by plane.  Our children were the perfect ages to travel to the 49th state.  They enjoyed the trip as much as we did.


I've made it no secret that we've upped-our-math-game.  Basically, my homeschool philosophy for high school is:

1. Make sure they know Algebra.
2.  Let them teach themselves everything else.

I will let you know if it gets them into college.


My son runs daily.  Literally.  In 2017, he got pretty fast.  In 2018, he's hoping to get even faster.


It's how my daughter spends her spare time.   And by spare time, I mean 20+ hours a week.  But she loves it.  In 2017, she performed with two separate dance companies within her studio.  We had several weekend trips for classes, conventions, and performances.  We will be traveling even more in 2018.


It's how I spend my spare time.  And again, by spare time I mean 20+ hours a week.  Our homeschool program at the YMCA has grown tremendously.  We have close to 500 students involved!!  What started 5 years ago as PE and swim lessons has evolved into a complete alternative learning center.  We are in the works of tweaking the program a bit to make it more simple and sustainable going forward.  Stay tuned ....   


I would love to say that I still read aloud to my children every day.  Sadly, because of our schedules, that doesn't happen.  However, I did discover in 2017 how much I loved reading short stories aloud to my children.  Short stories are the perfect read alouds for teens.  Most can be finished in about an hour.  Then, if you don't pick up the book again for a week (or two, or three) you don't need to remember what chapter you're on.


My son spent all of 2017 earning his necessary hours for his provisional driver's license.  In November, he received his 6-month license which allows him to drive between the hours of 5 a.m. - 9 p.m. with a single passenger.  This has changed my life.  Seriously.  I wasn't sure if I wanted young teenage drivers.  But, my husband talked me into it.  He said, "I think your life will be significantly freed up once you have another driver in the house."  He was right.  I see light at the end of the hectic-lifestyle tunnel.


I think my son would rank driving much higher on the list than scouting, but nevertheless, it needs to be mentioned.  He spent two weeks of July at the Boy Scout Jamboree in southern West Virginia.  He will never forget that trip -- it was a phenomenal experience.  I believe the Boy Scout Jamboree is the way Scouts are rewarded for their perseverance.  We also helped our son make the decision to switch troops.  This will hopefully provide him with the necessary motivation to finish the journey.  Anyone who has managed a Scout's career knows that it pretty much takes a village to keep him motivated and encouraged til the end.  We're nearing the end now.

Grieving and Caring

We had our beloved boxer-lab mix euthanized in February.  Since then we have taken a rabbit and a Weimaraner into our home.  While searching how to spell Weimaraner correctly, I noticed Wikipedia describes the breed as stubborn, alert, intelligent, energetic, speedy, and aloof.  Ha!  This adequately defines the puppy we brought home in mid-August.


For almost ten years I've been educating my children at home.  I only have a fraction of that time left.  I do believe that 3/4 of the journey can be filled with games, costumes, snow forts, crafts, Legos, and all kinds of fun.  But during the last quarter of the journey, some consideration needs to be given towards my children's future.  I think we're on the right path.  And, we're still having fun!

19 November 2017

My Quarterly Blog Post Where I Post About Not Having Time To Post

Halloween 2008.  I only know this because digital photos tell you when they were taken, thankfully.
A dozen or so years ago, I used to regularly scrapbook with several women from our church.  Some of the women were younger moms (like me), others were empty-nesters, and the rest were somewhere in between.  I remember one evening in particular where many older women were sorting through past Halloween photos.  Each woman was having difficulty remembering which year went with which costume. At the time, my children had lived through maybe three Halloweens.  I thought:  Will there really come a day when I won't be able to distinguish when or where a picture was taken?

The answer to that question is:  Yes.  Overwhelmingly, yes.

Now comes the paragraph where I explain (like so many times previously) how I want to take regular pictures of my children's learning, events, and activities and very simply post it all to this blog like I used to.  However, it's not regular anymore.  Nor simple.  It's rather sporadic, and I can no longer remember which Halloween is which.

So periodically, I'll log back into Blogger and inform the few people who read this that I love homeschooling teens.  I could not imagine my children's high school years being any different.  I firmly believe that we are accomplishing all that we need to (and more!) for a college preparatory home education.  Plus, my children have the added enjoyment that comes from not being in traditional school.  Our routine still looks very similar to what it did in the beginning of our journey -- somedays structured and other days completely unconventional.  (Although, now we do much more math.)

Last week, we finished our first 10-week term with the Y Homeschool Program.  We have one more week of workshops following Thanksgiving.  Since I have difficulty blogging regularly, here are ten highlights from the past ten weeks.
  • We are all on LESSON 44 (!!!!) of our Saxon Math levels -- Algebra II for my son, Algebra I for my daughter, and Pre-Algebra for me.  (Side note: Last spring I told parents to work their way through Saxon 7/6.  I'll add to that challenge, and now say work through Algebra 1/2.  I can do Algebra II alongside my son, simply because of what I know from Algebra 1/2.)
  • To my children, I read Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (not the easiest read aloud) and Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (excellent read alouds for teens!!)
  • Along with Algebra II, my son is also in a Problem-Solving class that uses the book Crossing the River with Dogs.  The class promotes collaboration while teaching mathematical problem-solving strategies.  If you're looking for ideas for an upper-level co-op class, I highly recommend this book.
  • My daughter has been in a Creative Writing class and has completed three short-stories (that I know of.)
  • Both children were in a Psychology class that ended the term with this article.  Is there a correlation between smartphones and mental health in teens?  Most likely.  
  • Cross-Country ended for my son a little sooner than he had hoped for because of a recurring pain in his left foot.  Even with an abbreviated season, he still posted some respectable times for his sophomore year.  
  • Our YMCA program now boasts 400 students (and it continues to grow).  Originally, I was slated to work about 8 hours a week.  I'm averaging about 22 - 25 hours a week.  This is one of the reasons I am having difficulty blogging.  (And cleaning our house.) 
  • My daughter's ballet company performs their version of The Nutcracker six different times in four different venues over five weeks.  She began performances last weekend and will continue rehearsing and performing until December 15th.
  • We still have a puppy. 

  • My phone died.  Literally.  It started dying a slow death after we got caught in a monsoon at a Muse concert last June.  I managed to keep it alive until October.  I am not interested in purchasing a new phone right now, so my son managed to make my SIM card operable in an old phone of his.  I'm now disconnected from all apps.  It's kind of nice.  On the other hand, I'm taking even fewer pictures than before.  Fortunately, I can 'borrow' pictures off of my children's devices (which I did for this post) and they are now old enough to help me remember which Halloween is which.
I hope your Thanksgiving is grand.

15 October 2017

The Wells Fargo Wagon Is A-Comin'

For the past year, we have diligently worked to help our children learn some basic finance fundamentals, specifically in regards to budgeting and stewardship.  If you are curious to how we've managed this, read on ...

Last January, they opened their own checking accounts.

We have never been a family that paid money for specific chores because we believe that if a chore needs to be done, someone needs to do it.  Immediately.  If the dishwasher is clean, unload it.  If your clothes are dirty, wash them.  If the lawn needs mowed, cut it.  If it needs to be done, no one is getting paid for it.  Therefore, my children have never operated with an 'allowance' system.  However, over the past year, my husband became very convicted about our children having their own money.  If they wanted to see a movie, or grab food, with friends, they needed to be responsible for paying for these events.  Our children needed to have some concept of how much things cost as well as begin breaking the habit of always asking us for money.

Enter the checking accounts.

After some discussion and research, we decided to have our children operate with a monthly stipend plan.  Every month, at the beginning of the month, our children are awarded their stipend.  This is their own money for entertainment, clothes, cell-phone add-ons, toiletries, fast-food, event registrations, gifts for others, etc.  It is not a large amount of money, but it is a significant amount if you're not used to having any.  They add to the amount with any money they earn from odd jobs, babysitting, gifts, etc.  The genius of the plan is that my children now pay for everything they need, or want, independently.  It's beautiful.  My husband and I put 1000 texts on their phone every month for $5, and we have told them that we will pay for the shoes they need for their activities, but that's it.  [Running and dancing require specific expensive shoes frequently.]  Everything else they need, or want, they pay for.

It only took a matter of weeks before my children began to understand money.  They learned that they could save to buy big ticket items.  They learned, sometimes the hard way, that if they spent their money by the 12th of the month, and they were invited to a movie the following week, they would be declining the invitation.  They've learned that Suave hairspray works almost as well as a salon brand, and Walmart athletic pants are almost as good as Adidas.  They've also learned that if they spend a significant amount on Lululemon leggings, they are going to take really, really, really good care of those leggings.  My personal favorite has been when they've attended concerts, or races, or dance competitions, and wanted to buy a t-shirt from the event.  I've simply said, 'It needs to come out of your account.'  Instantly, they stop bothering me about said t-shirt.

They each have their own debit card, which I believe helps with the entire process.  They have access to their accounts online, so they are able to track their spending and balances.  They both have begun learning when they are able to spend and when they need to save.

With this system, our son was able to complete several requirements for his Boy Scout Personal Management merit badge effortlessly.  And, just so you know how well it works, in the first month alone, my husband and I came out over $500 ahead in our personal budget!  Ownership.

25 September 2017


Nine years ago, when I began this homeschooling journey, my children and I joined a local co-op. New parents were not required to teach a class their first semester with the co-op.  However, after a few months of involvement, all parents were expected to submit at least one course description for a potential class.

At the time, my children were seven and five.  I was still pretty unsure of how this whole homeschooling thing worked.  My husband and I had read several books about homeschooling, and we had already taught both our children how to read, so we knew that educating our children at home was possible.  Looking back, though, I didn't have a vision for how I was going to teach my children all the subjects.  At the time, I also had no idea what classes I could offer a co-op.  I remember telling my husband: Maybe I could lead a high school girls' Bible study [we had spent the past ten years serving in collegiate ministry] or a high school girls' Health and Fitness class [I have always enjoyed exercising].

A few weeks into my homeschooling journey, I quickly realized I wasn't teaching my children.  I was facilitating their learning by learning right alongside them.  That winter, I offered a Natural Disasters class for the co-op because, at the time, my son was fascinated by Natural Disasters.  We studied hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, tsunamis, and more.  Prior to the class, I knew nothing about Natural Disasters, but I had access to the library and the Internet.  I also had a willingness to learn about Natural Disasters spurred on by my son's love for learning about Natural Disasters.  The class turned out to be a blast, and the following semester I offered another similar science-based class.

Since that day I have gone on to facilitate homeschool classes in English Grammar, Shakespeare, Ancient History, Medieval History, American History, Science, Math, Magic Tree House, American Girl, Latin, Geography, IEW, and more.  This fall alone, my schedule at the Y includes: Pre-Algebra, Poetry, Logic, [critical thinking and math problem solving skills for upper elementary students] American Literature and Composition, a beginning and intermediate level of Henle Latin, and an ACT/SAT Prep class.  [Side note -- I have never yet facilitated a Bible study or an aerobics class for teenage girls.]

I've said this many times, but I firmly believe that everyone can homeschool their children.  I'm convinced.  It does not take years of training with advanced degrees.  It doesn't even take lots of organization and structure.  Believe me!  It does take a little confidence, a little independence, a love for learning, a willingness to 'look something up' if you are unfamiliar with it, an enjoyment of your children, and a vision for who you hope your children will become one day.  All the rest of the details can be learned along the journey.

I share this today because when I am out-and-about with my teens and the homeschooling topic presents itself, the conversation has shifted from what it once was.  Nine years ago, strangers would respond:

Oh, you homeschool?  I could never spend all day with my children.

Today, I'm often met with:

Oh, you still homeschool? Do you think you're qualified to teach all the higher-level subjects?

Yes, absolutely.  Still.

17 September 2017

Year Nine, Week Three

This week, we started our homeschool classes at the YMCA.  Along with teaching seven different classes, I also help to facilitate and to lead the program.  It really is an impressive site.  For the fall ten-week session, we have over 400 students enrolled in 104 different classes or workshops.  My children are taking a couple of academic classes [Algebra, American Lit, Biology] and a couple of classes for fun [Photography, Psychology, P.E.].  More updates on their classes will come.

I posted about our YMCA Homeschool Program earlier this year.  You'll need to reference that post to see a small picture of the 22-acre facility where we hold the majority of our classes.  This week, over the three days that we held class, I logged 40,000 steps.

This was just Day 1!

Our program runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Because my responsibilities require me to be out of the home more than my children, I have equipped them with several ways to complete their work.

I joked on Instagram that this is the working mom's solution to a Morning Time Basket for independent-learning teens.  I made a Bingo card full of English/Language Arts activities and assignments for eight weeks.  I stapled a couple file-folders together in lapbook format, and inside I included copies of everything they need to complete the card.  The folder is portable.  A completed Bingo card by October 31st wins a prize.

Our son ended the week with a canoe/camping trip to Lake Jocassee, South Carolina.  We have heard Lake Jocassee called the Tahoe-of-the-East.  He confirmed that the place is beautiful, and that we need to make a trip soon.

10 September 2017

Year Nine, Week Two

This was our soft-opening week.  We organized ourselves to prepare for a full-start Tuesday morning.

Dance resumed for my daughter.  She truly loves life when dance classes are in session.  This year, she will be at the studio upwards of 20 hours a week.  Unbelievable.  Her studio is a place that teaches character development as much as dance technique, and for that I'm grateful.  The most exciting addition to her schedule this year is the Beginning Combination class where she is the Teacher's Assistant [pictured above].  We're so excited for this opportunity for her.

Our son took the ACT Saturday morning.  Saturday evening, he ran a 17:11 5K.  Again, unbelievable. It was his first race breaking into the 17-minute-mark.  At the finish he said, 'Had I known how close I was to breaking into the 16-minute-mark, I would have run 11 seconds faster.'

03 September 2017

Year Nine, Week One

My new plan for this blog is to post weekly summaries as I find the time.  Doing this will enable me to compile some sort of year-end portfolio.  Every now and then, if I discover or learn something worthwhile, I'll document it.   This blog has always been more for my children's memories than anything else, and I want to follow through with that until we've completed this journey.

This week was a slow start.  I've always believed in not overwhelming my children with all the subjects on Day One.  Usually we do a week or two of math.  Then we add in more structure and subjects as needed.  My children start their community classes at the Y next Tuesday.   To be honest, most of this week was helping my teenagers go to bed and wake up at a reasonable hour.

We do have this new addition to our home that is somewhat messing with our sleep schedules.

My son is taking the ACT on Saturday morning, so he has been spending his 'school hours' working through practice problems.  He is in the throws of cross-county and has been encouraged with his training.  He had two meets last week.  Finally, and most importantly, he advanced a rank in Boy Scouts and earned another necessary Eagle-required merit badge. 

My daughter has faithfully worked her way through Pre-Algebra this summer.  She will begin Saxon's Algebra I next Thursday.  I am super impressed with the math knowledge she has gained.  She is not as quick or as confident as her brother is with the subject, but I believe she has far more knowledge of math than he did before beginning Algebra.  

My latest advice to home educating parents of teens has been:  If you only have one hour a day to sit down one-on-one with your student, spend that hour learning math. By this stage in the game, home educated teens can teach themselves any other subject. 

Last week, I gave myself a sizable goal of organizing many of our Alaska pictures before the school year gets underway.  If you were unaware, we spent the last two weeks of June in Alaska [and other parts of the Pacific Northwest].  We all agreed it was the best vacation ever.  It was in celebration of my parent's 50th Anniversary, which happened to be yesterday.  We have over a thousand pictures from our trip.  I'm still not sure what we're planning on doing with all of these pictures, but at least now they are all in one place.