Wednesday, December 29, 2010


It's that time of year when many high school students begin thinking about sending out college applications. One of the things they need on these applications is the score from their SAT test. SAT's can be frightening if you have never taken them before. Many homeschool students have never taken a test before. So it's probably a good thing to practice. You can find some practice tests online. I know there are tutors who specialize in SAT Prep Classes. You can also find many online SAT Courses. These are great ways to prepare for the test and to help get over some of the fear associated with it. Writing classes can be a huge help in this area.

Another way to prepare for the SAT is to play games. There are many SAT Games pages found online that can really help your student prepare. You would be surprised how much learning can happen while playing games.

I think the most important thing we can do to help our students prepare for this important step in their lives is to remind them that we support them no matter how they do on the test. Yes, the test is important for getting in to the college of your choice. But a lower than desired test score is not the end of the world. Let them know that they can take the test over again if they need to. If they don't do well on the test, talk to them about other options. I started out in a community college and then moved on to the university. By doing that I did not need SAT scores on the admission application. I simply submitted my transcripts from two years at the community college level. If your student freezes up during test time this is a great option. It is also a less expensive way to take some of the preliminary classes that most colleges require.

The night before the test, your student should eat a good dinner. Then go to bed early so they can wake up refreshed and ready to work. A good breakfast also helps.

Good luck to your student as they prepare to move on to higher education.

Friday, December 24, 2010

As we come to the end of the year

The last couple of weeks have been so busy. We have had parties to attend and we had a party at our house. There was baking to do and gifts to wrap. Oh, and we were supposed to have school as well. It was hard to find time to do our regular school curriculum so I started looking around to find something else to do. I thought a good place to start would be games to improve vocabulary. I found a great website full of games for this. The great thing is they have games in French, German, Spanish, and Lain. It's fun for him and I have plenty of time to get everything finished that I needed to do. He still plays all the great games at LearningGamesForKids too.

As we come to the end of this year, I have been looking back over the work he is doing. We still struggle a lot with reading. But I find him improving bit by bit. He does really well in math and he loves science. But reading is a struggle. At times I think about looking at special education tools for him. Most of the time I just think I need to wait for him to grow a bit more. I know in Waldorf circles they don't even start to teach reading until the kids are 8 years old. So why should I worry that my 8 year old doesn't read well yet. Like I said, his reading is improving all the time. He got a lo of Captain Underpants books for holiday gifts. Last night he was looking through them. I think they will help a lot with his reading. They are cute and funny and geared to a third grade boy. He spent a lot of time looking at them. And he was laughing at some of the jokes so I know he was reading them.

We're at the halfway mark in most of his subjects. I'm sure we will finish everything by the end of the school year. I'll post an update in a few months to let you know how things are going.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December What A Busy Month

December is such a busy month. It seems like we have been on the go so much this month that I have not had time to even do much of the holiday baking I love to do this time of year. I finally had to cancel a couple of activities this week just to have time to bake. We haven't even had any time to focus on school this week. I love our homeschool curriculum. It is easy to do. Most kids would have no problem working on it by themselves so that mom could be busy taking care of all the holiday preparations. Dakota just can't stay focused enough to follow through and finish a lesson by himself. It takes lots and lots of reminding him to pay attention and focus on his lessons to get any work done. Up until this week he has been doing very well on his third grade work. He is beginning to do a bit of independent writing. Although I usually have to spell a lot of words for him. He loves writing stories. He also likes to print them out so he can show them to other people. I found online writing classes that I may sign him up for in a few more months. It would give him basic writing skills and teach him some grammer and sentence structure.

We are just about halfway through third grade work in most of his classes. That makes me feel pretty good. We won't be struggling to finish on the last day of June this year. The work is a bit harder than second grade work is. Since he still struggles so much with reading, he gets easily frustrated. But we continue to move ahead.

I started out talking about our busy month. I can see that even I become easily distracted right now. There is so much to do. Fortunately the shopping is all done and the gifts are all wrapped. I even got most of the baking done now. We just have to finish frosting the cookies and they will be done. Then we will prepare for a round of parties. Tomorrow we are going to the homeschool holiday party. I will get up early tomorrow to bake something special for that. On Saturday, we will host our annual Yule party. I have the lists all made for that. We are serving mostly hors d'oeuvres so preparation will be fairly easy. On Sunday we have a party at Bob's job for the children. I'm still not sure what we will be taking to that event. Monday is Bob's birthday. We will either be taking him out to eat or I will cook something yummy for that. Then on Tuesday we will be going to a Winter Solstice party at a friend's house. Then we have a few days off. Before we have Christmas Eve at Gov's house and then Christmas Dinner here at home.

Like I said, busy, busy, busy. Well, I'm going to go frost those cookies now.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our Week and What We Are Learning

Kids love animals. I don't know a child anywhere who doesn't love animals. How about you? Have you ever met a child who does not love animals? Who knew that you could learn so much with animals. While surfing the web this week I cam across a great website for games to learn about animals Well, okay, they're not animals but amphibians. But they're still cute little critters. Anyway, this site has videos to learn about amphibians. And they have games to learn using amphibians. How about learning to spell while helping the little mouse get away from the cat. There are also word scrambles. I don't do so well on them. But I love the word search games. I love playing all the cute games on this site. Yes, I know they are kids games but I still love them. We've been using these games a lot this week. They certainly give a breather from working on other learning skills.

With all the excitement about the holidays it's hard to get Dakota to focus on learning. He would much rather be looking online for the next thing on his holiday wish list or watching the next holiday special on tv. It seems they are on every night now. A while back he started asking me about the Norse Gods and Goddesses. So I bought him a few books about the Norse and Greek Gods and Goddesses. I wasn't sure how much he was understanding about what I was reading. It can be a difficult subject to understand. But when I asked him questions about what he were reading he seemed to understand it. In fact, his reading comprehension was usually better than mine.

We have also been working a bit on multiplication again this week. So far he has been doing okay with 1's, 5's, 10's, and 11's. He still doesn't really care about multiplication, but he's willing to work on it a bit.

We're trying to get the house ready for our annual party next weekend. But so far that is going very slowly. I don't know why I scheduled so many activities for us this week. Oh well, it will slow down in a couple of weeks, right?

So that's what we've been doing this week. How about you? Are you doing anything exciting this week?

Friday, December 3, 2010

New To Homeschooling

This seems to be the time of year that people decide to pull their children out of school. Have you noticed that? Some people decide not to put their kids in school in September. But another group decide to not send their children back to school after the holiday break. So I thought that I would write a bit this week about being new to homeschooling. When we first make that decision to pull our children, I think the first thing we feel is a great sense of relief. It's over. The decision is made. Then we start thinking, "Oh, No, What have I gotten myself into?" It can be a very scary place to be. But it will be okay. The first thing you need to do is relax. Take a few deep breathes. Now go turn on your computer and do a yahoo search for homeschool in your state. I'm sure you will find several links to groups in your area. Read about each group and join all of the ones that sound like they would be a good fit for you. Once you have a joined a few local groups, start attending events in your area. Then check out the museums, art centers, historical places and environmental centers in your area. Ask if they have homeschool classes. Start signing up for some fun ones. You will want to take some time to deschool so only attend fun events for the first little while. Park days, bowling, game nights. These are all fun ways for you and your children to meet other homeschool families. After a while, you will want to start taking classes that have some educational value to them.

The next thing you want to do is make sure your library card is valid. Get a card for each of your children. Introduce yourself to the children's librarian at your local library. Let her know that you will be homeschooling. She will become your best friend very quickly.

Look at the ways your children like to learn. Do they like computer games? Or do they like reading books more? Maybe they would rather be actually doing things instead of learning them out of books. This is how you can narrow down your choices of curriculum. Also look at what works best for you. Do you want to spend the time researching everything and teaching like a school teacher standing in front of the classroom? Or do you want a curriculum that is all spelled out for you?

We love the curriculum that we have chosen. Time4Learning is all laid out for me. All I have to do is turn on the computer, log in, and let him start working. Some kids would be able to sit down and do their work by themselves. Unfortunately, my son has the world's shortest attention span. So I have to sit with him to keep him focused on his work. But the cartoon like characters keep his attention pretty well. I've also heard that they are having a get acquainted sale, only $4.99 for the first month. If you try it and don't like it, you just quit. No contracts, nothing.

If you're one of those who have just decided to pull your children out of school, welcome to the wonderful world of homeschooling.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Haircut

My son has, no had very long hair. He has often said "I'm not never gonna cut it ever. Not as long as I live." But any of you who have long hair know that it can be very hard to brush and even harder to wash. Being a little boy who is allergic to water, this is a real problem. Every time he has to take a bath it is a struggle of an hour or more to get him into the bathtub. Then, being who he is, it takes another hour or two to get him out of the tub again.

The other night after a particularly long battle to get in the bathtub I decided to have a talk with him. I reminded him how much he hates to take a bath and wash his hair. I also reminded him how much he hates getting his hair brushed every day. Then I reminded him of last winter when I didn't have any hair. I told him how my head would get so cold I couldn't stand it. Then I talked to him about his friend who is recovering from cancer and doesn't have much hair. I asked him if he thought his friend would like to have hair. Finally he said that he wanted to give his hair to some little boy or girl who didn't have any hair at all. He said it could be his Christmas present to them. I told him it was a great idea. We made plans to go out the following Monday and get his hair cut.

Over the weekend he kept thinking about it. One minute he was not sure he wanted to do it. The next minute he said he was sure he wanted to cut it. "It will just grow back anyway." Monday came and we headed off to Super Cuts. The lady struggled to cut off his braid. She had to go at it in little bits and pieces. She finally got the whole braid cut off. Then she went on to trim up the rest of his hair. When we got home I measured the braid. It was 14 inches long.

Yesterday we wrapped up his braid and sent it off to Locks of Love. There it will be made into a beautiful wig for a child who has not hair. From what I have read, it takes 8 to 10 braids to make one hairpiece for a child.

My new son.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Snow Queen

My friend Tree over at The Enchanted Tree is hosting a blog giveaway. She has been wearing her fingers out creating this whole array of the cutest bendy dolls ever. Believe me, they are so cute I've bought two of them already for myself. And your little ones will love them as well. To thank everyone who has been buying her bendy dolls, Tree has decided to give away this beautiful Winter Snow Queen Bendy Doll.

Check out all the wonderful bendy dolls that Tree has on her for sale page.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reading Reading Reading

We are still struggling with reading at our house. Sometimes Dakota surprises me and reads words that I had no idea he knew. Then at other times he acts like he can't read the easiest words. I don't know what that's all about at all. I know he understands what I read to him. His comprehension is good even if he can't read all the words. We keep plugging along with it. Right now I am having him do first grade language arts extensions to try to help bring him up to grade level in his reading.

A friend of mine told me that he would read if he found something that he really wants to read. So I've been looking for some things that he would like. For the holidays he is getting a series of books called Captain Underpants. I thought that would be just the thing for him. You know how 8 year old boys can be so focused on things like that. Underpants, private parts, and gross bodily functions seem to be the main thing they are interested in. Especially if those functions can make nasty sounds and smells. I also bought him a series of Percy Jackson books. He discovered Percy Jackson last month and thinks he is just great. I am really hoping these will spark his interest enough to get him going on reading.

Other than that we have been going to the Nature Center a lot lately. One of his classes this month was Amphibians vs Reptiles. I found some cool games to add to his knowledge of amphibians. They have videos, puzzles, and games at this site. I especially like the puzzles. But, this is supposed to be about kids learning. Oh well. I like playing the games a lot. One of the games is a lot like frogger that I used to play.

Have fun playing great learning games over this long holiday weekend.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beczak Beaks and Feet

Today we went to Beczak Environmental Center in Yonkers, NY. Beczak is one of our favorite places to go. The topic today was Beaks and Feet. Ms. Susan taught the kids about different kinds of beaks and why the birds have different beaks. Pointy beaks allow them to pick up seeds. Long pointy beaks allow them to sip nectar from flowers. Broad beaks help them scoop up fish. Curved beaks allow them to shred their food as they eat it.

Then she talked about feet. Webbed feet help ducks and other water birds to swim. Eagles have talons which enable them to hold their food in them. Other birds have Broad webbed feet that act like snowshoes to help them walk on top of mud and snow. Each bird is made perfectly for the tasks that they do.

After a trip outside to look for birds, everyone came back inside and made their own beaks and feet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Busy Week

We've had a very busy week this week. It seems like we have had activities almost every day. On Monday we had Geography class. I love Geography class. But it seems the kids are not as interested in it as the parents are. At one point toward the end of the class the speaker asked if there were any questions. Four hands shot up in the air. The speaker was all excited to answer so many excited kids. One by one she pointed to each child. And one by one the kids asked, "When is this class over?" The sad part is that one of those four hands was the speaker's own daughter. Tuesday was Lego Class. I am teaching a lapbook program based on legos. This was our third class in a series of four. All of the kids were pretty attentive except for one. You guessed it, my son. Besides being very frustrated with him, I was reminded again of the speaker from Monday's class. Boy could I relate to her. Wednesday we went to Montclair Art Musuem. Everyone was attentive to Ms. Peggy as she lead them on a tour of the museum discussing Positive and Negative space. They returned to the craft room to do an activity. They had a white piece of paper. They cut shapes out of black paper and glued them on to the white paper. Dakota made a pumpkin by gluing on the eyes, nose, and mouth. He has a good grasp of the idea of negative space.

Thursday we went to a class based on the Little House on the Prairie books. They read an excerpt from one of the books about a particularly long cold winter. It was so long that they used up all the candles they had. And there was so much snow they couldn't get anywhere to buy more. Then the kids made Button Lamps, Tiny Oil Lamps, and they hand dipped beeswax candles.

The button lamps was Ma Ingles idea during that long winter. She took a scrap of cloth from the rag bin and a button from the button jar. She put a button in the center of the scrap of cloth, then she tied the cloth around the button. Ma Ingles then asked Pa to go get her some of the axle grease that he used on the wheels of the wagon. Ma spread this grease all over the button lamp. Then she lit the lamp and suddenly they had light in the tiny dark cabin.

On Friday I was thinking about our busy week. I was dwelling on the fact that we had not done any school work all week long. As I looked over the curriculum that we use, and thought about our week, I started seeing how each activity we did fit into the curriculum. Geography class was certainly Social Studies. During Lego Class, we learned about Interference Fit and Friction. Science. As we counted the lego blocks, it turned into math class. The Art Musuem was of course Art. At the Little House Class, we had reading, science, history, and social studies. Oh and weather too.

What a great week we had of learning! About the only thing we didn't study this week was spelling. So to fill out the week I found some spelling lists that I could print out. I especially like the monthly holiday lists. I printed out the Thanksgiving list that Dakota used for handwriting practice.

We really did have a great week of learning. We study a bit about every topic and we had so much fun doing it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Language Development

Language is something we use every single day. Even if you are sitting at home by yourself you are using language with all the thoughts that are running through your head. One of the earliest things we want our children to learn is language. We long for those first days when our little one says "Mama". We dance with joy when he says, "Dada." But do we ever stop to think about where our language comes from? While searching around the web this week I found a site that teaches language skills. I found this great site that plays games to teach where our language comes from using Latin matching games. I love playing the matching games. They make me feel a little less "illiterate". Okay, I know that these are games for elementary aged kids, but they still make me feel good about myself.

A lot of the language skills that our kids are learning are based on the Latin Roots of the words that we use every day. I don't think most of us even think about that. I know I don't. I am trying to teach Dakota a bit of Spanish. I think it's important for him to know that language of his heritage. The more we dig into Spanish, the more I realize the similarity of the English words to the Spanish words and to the Latin root words. Flores - Flower - Flos. They are all very similar words.

I hope that learning where the root words in our language come from will help my son learn Spanish as well as improving his skills in English.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crafts in the 1800's

We went back to Historic Speedwell again this week. The class was about crafts from the 1800's. First the kids wrapped paper around a block of wood that had a piece of tin taped to it. They drew pictures on the paper. Some of the kids used the pictures that they had ready. Then they used a hammer and nail to punch holes in the tin. When they finished they bent the tin a bit so it would wrap around a candle. Of course Dakota had to draw a picture of a rocket. His favorite thing. I'm not sure that they had many rockets oin the 1800's. Tin punching was a craft that was practiced a lot as a way of decorating their homes.

After they finished tin punching, the kids all made a patchwork quilt. They hand sewed the pieces together to make a pinwheel. Then they layered the top and bottom together and sewed around three of the sides. Then they turned the project inside out and lay the quilt batting inside. Then the finished the last side. All of the kids agreed that it was a lot easier to go to the store and buy a blanket than to go through all this work. It took most of them nearly two hours with lots of help to finish their little 8 inch square quilts.

This will be our last Historic Speedwell class for this year. They will start up again with a new schedule in March or April. We will miss going there over the Winter. But we'll be back again in the Spring.
Before I end this today I just had to include this picture of the old tree they have on the property at Speedwell. His huge branch comes down and touches the ground and then goes back up. It's beautiful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homeschoolers and Testing

This is the time of year when a lot of homeschoolers I know are beginning to think about preparing their children for testing. One of the biggest issues for people, I think, is how to prepare for the SAT test. I think writing in general can be a scary thing for a lot of students. While searching around for more information on improving your writing skills, I found a great online writing program. This program teaches kids how to plan their time, how to develop their idea, and how to get it all done in the limited amount of time that they have during the SAT process. Not only do they have a program for preparing for the SAT, but there are writing programs for younger kids as well. Even elementary aged kids can learn grammer, sentence structure, and paragraph writing. It's a great program.

Testing is something that has always scared me. When I was in school I could not function on test days. I'm afraid that fear has passed on to my son. Even the short quizes that he does with Time4Learning throw him. He will do almost anything to avoid them. He will be working along just fine in his lesson. Then a test comes up and the acting out behavior begins. This is just one more reason that I am glad to be homeschooling. In the public schools here testing is required in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Even with excellent test prep programs, I don't think he would survive these yearly assessments.

Check out these resources and let me know what you think. I'd love to know how much they help your student take tests.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Great Giveaway at The Enchanted Tree

My friend Tree is hosting a great giveaway for Ecomom. If you haven't checked out Ecomom you need to go right now. They have a great line of eco friendly toys, household items, and baby products. You can buy anything from Smarty Pants vitamins to wooden Plan Toys to composting buckets. Check them out and then leave me a comment back to let me know what you think of them.

While you're surfing around check out Tree's husband's shop. Beuatiful glass products.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

Earlier this week I realized how fast Halloween has snuck up on me. I was thinking I had lots of time to hit a pumpkin patch and things like that. Suddenly I was in a panic when I realized that Halloween is on Sunday. So Dakota and I stopped by a pumpkin patch on our way home the other day. The pumpkin patch had a tiny little haunted house. It wasn't even as big as my living room. There was a heavy black blanket hanging over both entrances. Dakota decided he wanted to go inside. He slowly walked up to the door. Just then something inside make a noise. Dakota ran in the opposite direction screaming. I told him there was nothing inside that could hurt him. But he was not going back inside. There was a witch by the door of the haunted house. I told him to go stand by the witch so I could take his picture. He didn't want to get close to her, but he finally walked a little closer. He didn't realize how close he was to the door of the haunted house. Just then a big wind blew through. The blanket on the door blew open and brushed his leg. Well, yap, he ran screaming again. He kept saying "You go Mommy." Now I have never liked haunted houses, but I wanted to show him that it was not scarey so I walked inside. There was a stuffed figure on one side and a couple of other characters on the other side. Nothing big, just a few flashing lights and a little noise. When I came out I tried to talk Dakota into going in. But he wasn't having any part of it. He did finally pull the curtain back a bit and peek in. But he would not set foot in the place.

They were having a contest to see who could guess the weight of a big pumpkin. Dakota said 10 pounds. The guy went and got a pumpkin that he knew weighed 50 pounds and sat it next to the pumpkin Dakota was guessing. When he saw the two together, he decided that big one was 120 pounds. The winner gets the pumpkin. Personally I hope we do not win. I have no idea what I would do with a pumpkin that big. Dakota finally picked out a 13 pound pumpkin and two small ones. Last night Dakota and Daddy carved the pumpkin. I noticed today that a squirrel had pumpkin for lunch. I chased him away a couple of times. But a large chunk of the face is missing.

Our homeschool group's Trunk or Treating was yesterday. All of the kids came in costume. They wrapped each other up in toilet paper to create mummies. Then they had a relay race carrying marshmellows in big spoons. They played a few more games, then ran off to play. The moms got to sit and talk for a long time. It was so cold, I just wanted to go home. I think a great time was had by all.

Happy Homeschooling

School has been in session for a couple of months now. I was wondering how folks are doing. I was at several homeschool events this week. And over and over again I kept hearing, "How do I get started?" It seems that there are a lot of people who have not quite got started on this school year. They're still questioning what curriculum to use, do they even need a curriculum, what should they do first. One of the things I like to point people toward is an online resource for getting started. I think you can find the answers to so many of the questions we all had in the beginning by checking out resources like this. Sometimes you just don't want to ask the questions of another homeschooler. Sometimes you think you SHOULD already know the answer. But how could you? If this is your first time homeschooling or even if it's your first time homeschooling a fourth grader, it's normal to have questions.

I think one of the first things you need to do is to get really familiar with your state laws. Find other homeschoolers in your state. Find online and in real life support groups. All of this information can be found on the New Jersey Homeschooling Information Page.

The next thing you need to do is take a few deep breaths. If your children have been in school, take some time for deschooling for both your sake and your children's. You have to break away from the mindset that school happens Monday through Friday form 9 to 3. There is no reason why school can't happen on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Learning happens when you or your children make it happen.

Finally, get out and enjoy this new process. Enjoy doing things on your schedule and not on the schedule of the school system. Go to the park, the museum, the historical landmarks. Relax and Enjoy. And Happy Homeschooling.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I have been asked to write a review of the tiffin I bought from the wonderful folks over at Hip Mountain Mama. Hip Mountain Mama is a great family owned and operated business with an eye on offering the best Hip and Natural Products for Babies, Kids, and Mamas. They have a strong passion for preserving the Earth, raising their children in a conscious and natural way, and promoting other small family businesses. I hope you will take the time to head on over there and check them out. Anyway, here is what I wrote.

As a homeschooling family we are on the go a lot. We spend a lot of time eating in the car or at the park. So as part of my effort to “Go Green” I have started making reuseable sandwich wraps and snack bags. These bags work great for things like sandwiches or chips. They even work for some kinds of cut up fruits and vegetables. But what about a pasta salad or soup. I tried using glass bowls. I found some really nice pyrex bowls with plastic lids. These worked great for a while. But I have to tell you, they just don’t bounce off the side of a picnic table on to the concrete very well. Now that I am down to only one bowl left, I am looking for a better solution. I recently purchased a Tiffin from Hip Mountain Mama. This thing is the best for taking our lunch out with us. I can put soup in the top container, (It has the tightest fitting lid.) Then put a sandwich in another container. And some fruit in the third. Stack them up and flip the locks and lunch is ready to go. There is a little side car container that you can use for dips or salad dressing. If you look on Hip Mountain Mama’s web site you can find a set of bamboo To Go Ware to take along with your Tiffin. Then throw in a glass straw and a stainless steel water bottle and you have a wonderful lunch that absolutely will not end up in the trash somewhere.

The top layer of the tiffin has it’s own locking lid so you can use it by itself. It’s small enough to fit in your purse when you go out to eat. No more asking for a take out plastic or Styrofoam box to take your leftovers home in. You can even heat your leftovers in the toaster oven or on the stove top right in your tiffin.

I am so excited to have my new tiffin. I am also excited that Hip Mountain Mama asked me to write a review about the tiffin to let you all know what I think of it. It’s a great product from a wonderful environmentally conscience family owned business.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where Are the Books About Homeschoolers?

I'm excited to have my friend, Kerry, guest post on my blog today. Kerry is also a homeschooling mom. Here's what she has to say.

Where Are the Books About Homeschoolers?
by Kerry Jones
When I was growing up I knew maybe two people who were homeschoolers. When we first started homeschooling ten years ago, there was already a homeschool support group in our local area with 200 families in it. Today? There are at least five local homeschool support groups, and if I throw a rock in any direction from my house, I can probably hit the house of someone who homeschools. It is estimated that homeschooling is growing anywhere from 5-12% annually, and is now bordering on being considered a “mainstream” style of education.

When my sons and I head to our local library during the school day, it isn’t unusual to see at least four or five other homeschooled kids reading and doing school work or research there. As I watch them poring over the books, I begin to feel a question forming in the back of my mind: Where are the books about homeschoolers? Upon researching the answer to this question, I’m sad to report that the world of books has not nearly caught up with the reality of the growing world of homeschooling.

If you peruse just one shelf of your local library or bookstore’s children’s fiction section, you will find multiple books about school hi-jinks, school frustrations, school humor, and even school science fiction. But almost nothing about the adventures of your friendly, neighborhood homeschooler!

Why is that??

I don’t know how often you attend your local homeschool support group activities, but if you frequent them even a little you can probably agree with me that homeschoolers are interesting folks. In one single field trip, I can be picking pumpkins between a Rastafarian who raises Shetland ponies and a former missionary from Kenya. No, the lack of homeschool protagonists can’t possibly be from a lack of fascinating characters.

So what then? No talented writers among the homeschooled? Pshaw, I say! I don’t have to read very far into any newspaper to find some mention of an academic contest with a homeschooler as the victor. My guess is that some of our most talented writers of the next generation will have gotten most of their writing education at home.

That leaves me with a couple possible scenarios, then, for why more books aren’t written about homeschoolers and homeschooling. Either book publishers are rejecting homeschool-friendly submissions or homeschoolers aren’t making enough noise about wanting them. My guess is that it is a little of both. If homeschoolers don’t let publishers know that they are interested in more books that represent them, then publishers will just assume there is no real market for homeschool-centric reading material.

If that is the case, then there ought to be an easy fix for it, right?? We just need to make ourselves heard! And thankfully, there is even a remarkably easy way to do just that., a website featuring books about homeschoolers and homeschooled authors, has a whole page of contact links for the most popular publishers of children’s books. They even have a sample letter that you can use as a guideline when contacting each publisher.

My children and yours deserve to have more books with characters they can relate to on a real basis. Let’s make our voice heard so that no more people have to walk through the aisles of their local library and ask the question, “Where are the books about homeschoolers?”

Kerry Jones is a freelance writer and online marketing consultant in North Carolina. She has two sons, and has been homeschooling since 1999. She writes extensively about homeschooling and technology, especially the integration of assisted technology for homeschoolers with special needs.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Can't Read

We are still struggling with reading at our house. Dakota just does not want to read. We sit down to do our language arts program and all I hear is "Read to me." "I can't read it." "What does this say?" He just doesn't want to do it. The other day I got really REALLY frustrated with him. He was pulling his usual, "I can't. Read to me." I was in tears when I threw up my hands and said, "Okay, if you don't want to learn from me, you are going to school. I just can't do this any more." Well, at this point Dakota knew he had pushed me as far as he could. He sat down at the computer and read the whole story. He didn't miss a word. He didn't slow down to sound things out. He read the story smoothly and fluently. I had been had. This little monkey had me convinced that he really could not read when in reality, he just didn't WANT to read. As long as I was willing to read to him, why should he do any work. He still struggles with things like compound words. But I have learned that if I cover up half the word, he can sound it out and then usually he can figure out the second half pretty easily. We are playing some online games to help him figure out these longer words. I wish I could say that all of our problems with reading have vanished. Unfortunately he is still all too ready to claim "I can't do it." But now I am not so gullible to think that he really can't. I am learning the difference between I can't and I don't want to. Hopefully the I don't want to will come less and less often.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cooper Grist Mill Celebrate Apples

We were back at Cooper Grist Mill again today. This time it was for a celebration of apples. The kids each got a turn at peeling the apples with this really great apple peeler. I want one of these in my kitchen. (Especially with the 20 pounds of apples I have to turn into something in the next few days.)

Then they took the apple they had peeled and decorated it with a raisen face and apple peel hair.

Then they each took a turn at throwing quartered apples into a wooden trough.

Then they turned the crank that dropped the apples down through a chopper and into the pressing bucket.

When the bucket was full, Ms. Betty moved it over under the press. They put a wooden lid inside the bucket and then lowered the big screw like device down until it was pressing the apples. Soon we saw apple cider dripping out of the tray that lead to a gathering bucket. After a while the wheel became too hard for the kids to turn by hand. Ms. Betty gave them a lever to put in the spokes of the press. This allowed them to press the apples down even more and the juice came pouring down into the bucket.

Everyone was able to sample a bit of apple cider before we left.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homeschooling In New Jersey

I have to say that I love homeschooling. I especially love homeschooling in New Jersey. My daughter is a homeschooling mom in Iowa. When she tells me about all the hoops she has to jump through to meet the requirements of her state, it makes me happy all over again that I live in New Jersey. Each state has different laws that you have to follow to legally homeschool your child. Some are very strict. Others, like New Jersey have no laws at all. If you are new to homeschooling you might want to read a quick overview of homeschooling in New Jersey.

There are so many resources out there for homeschoolers. Whether you want to play video games or do a lap book or unit studies, you can find resources online for it. Lately I have been wanting to do more work learning about the individual states. I was reading a blog the other day where they are putting together a notebook for the states. They had a picture of the state bird, a map of the state, the state flower, and lots of other great information about each state. I thought this sounded like a great project that we might work on in the future. For now, I thought it would be great to play games about New Jersey to get to know more about the state we live in. One site I found had a puzzle to put together online. They also have a memory game, a word search, a game about state symbols, and a lot more. I think we will spend some time working on these games over the next few days. Then if he likes it we will work on putting that notebook together. I think that sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homeschool and Like To Write ABout It?

Homeschooling is so much fun. There are so many great places to visit.So many things to do. So much money to spend. Oh yeah, that's not always all that much fun. Sometimes it can be overwhelming figuring out which curriculum to use for your child. Maybe XYZ works for for child #1, but child #2 is totally bored with it. ABC works for child #3. And LMN is best for child #4. And you have to spend mega bucks on each of these curriculums only to find that they don't meet your needs. Would you like to try out a curriculum for free. Man do I have a deal for you. wants you to write a curriculum review for their program. They will give you a 30 day free trial if you will try it out and then write a review of what you thought of the program. What could be better than that??? You get a chance to use the curriculum for free. Your kids get to try out all the fun learning games and activities. And you can let all your friends know what you thought of it.

You can also check out the great online parent support community. Are you brand new to homeschooling? There's a group for that. Are you looking for other homeschoolers in your area? There's a group for that. Maybe you're a military family. There's a group for that as well. There are so many topics on the forums. I'm sure you'll find something to meet your needs. While you're there, check out the new cyber book club. It's only the second week so still plenty of time to join.

Have fun learning and exploring.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Handwriting of a Doctor

My son says he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. Personally I think he's more likely to be a doctor. You know what they say about doctor's and their horrible handwriting. Well, Dakota certainly has the handwriting for it. I think his is the worst handwriting I have ever seen for an 8 year old. I know he does most of his work online so he doesn't get a lot of practice with his actual writing skills. I have started trying to find resources to help him improve his handwriting skills. The other day I found some printable handwriting worksheets. I can even type in his spelling words and have them printed out as a worksheet. Whether you are working on compound words or contractions, geography words or even abbreviations, there is a worksheet for you on this site. Check it out and let me know what you think.

While checking for handwriting practice I also came across ways to improve keyboarding skills. Try as hard as I can I just can't beat NumPad Kennys. Oh wait, I forgot, these are supposed to be for kids not for grown ups. Gee I want to be a kid again so I can play all these cool games.

So we are working hard to improve writing skills this week, whether they be handwriting or keyboarding. Maybe by the time he's 18 his writing will be more like an astronaut than like a doctor.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Living A Simpler Life

As a child I always loved to look at pottery. I loved the way no two pieces were ever the same. I love the smooth feel of the glazed surface. And the roughness of the unglazed surface. I wanted to own some, but it was very expensive. As I grew, I continued to admire the look and feel of pottery. Whenever I went to a craft show or a festival, those were the first booths I would go to. I had to touch and admire it's beauty. I remember the first time I went to Clearwater. I wanted to stop and admire the beautiful work

I've often thought of taking classes so I could learn to make my own pieces. But even the classes were very expensive. Or very far away. So I would think about it. Wonder what the clay would feel like between my fingers. Dream of all the beautiful pieces I would one day own. Then the arthritus set in and I just didn't think my hands would tolerate the work any more. So I gave up even thinking about taking classes.

The last year has been extremely hard for me. Being diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then having surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation have taken a tole on my health. But it has also made me contemplate life. I realize how much I long for a simpler way of life. So I slowly started making changes. I bake my own bread now. I make candles to enjoy all through the long winter months. I don't know if they really add warmth to my house, but the make me think that they do. And I love the rich wonderful smells that fill my house. My husband comes home after a day that I have made candles and comments on all the wonderful smells that meet him before he even opens the door. I have stopped using paper products, using cloth instead of paper towels and washing dishes instead of using paper plates. I am slowly making changes to bring about a simpler way of life. I even make my own laundry detergent now. How wonderful my clothes smell now instead of smelling like commercial cleaners. I want to learn how to make soap next. But for now I purchase soap from Lolablue. Another truly great product.

As I have contemplated the state of my health and as I approached my 60th birthday, I have again been looking at the things that are really important to me. One of the things I knew I had to have, the top thing on my "bucket list" if you will, was the pottery I have admired for so very very long. I made up my mind that I was going to have it. I recently met two wonderful talented women, Dorothy and Angelica from Brookhouse Pottery. I have admired their beautiful work since the first time I saw their shop on I decided that this was the time for me to begin collecting the beautiful handthrown pottery pieces I have always wanted. I started with a plate. A simple dinner plate.

I am adding to my collection one or two pieces at a time. This year for my birthday my husband bought me two more pieces. My father-in-law sent me a check which I used to buy a few more things. And my daughter told me she is sending me a gift certificate to Brookhouse Pottery. Soon I hope to have a whole set of dinnerware, serving dishes, and many more things to decorate my home.

I have copied this from their website because they tell their story so much better than I can.

"Brookhouse Pottery came into existence about 10 years ago in Spring
Valley, NY. Our first studio was in a basement of a house next to a
beautiful little brook - hence the name Brookhouse Pottery. We started
out with an old manual electric kiln and a kick wheel (the electric wheel
followed close on its heels and soon the automatic kiln did as well). Our
glazes were commercial. There were many lost trials in those days and as
many exciting moments of achievement. Eventually we had a fair
collection of pots and were running out of space. We decided to try and
sell our wares and so, with an EIN#, a name, an account and a mission, a
partnership was born. We sold our pottery at fairs. In exchange for
lunches and dinners our husbands helped us carry the heavy boxes and
sometimes the boxes actually came home lighter. Selling that first pot was
so exciting. Today we are in Nyack, NY and have been for a few years. We
mix our own glazes and are always experimenting with different glazes
and clays to widen our horizons. To help us out we bought a pug mill
recently and to spice things up artistically up we aquiered a Raku kiln.
Just in the past recent months several local potters have joined in the fun.
We have a Raku party about every 6 weeks during the warm season. We
share materials, glazes, tips and tools and have a blast. These days we
don't sell at fairs anymore, but instead sell to a store, at a gallery and on
the internet ( or just click on our Purchase our Pottery link). We
are still excited to fill each and every order we receive. Thank you for
checking out our site. We hope you too enjoy our pottery.

Dorothy Brady & Angelica Jablonski"

So here I am in New Jersey, homeschooling my son, living a simpler life. Doing what I've dreamed of. And collecting my beautiful handmade pottery.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

I love homeschooling. I really do. But some days it just doesn't feel like I have a minute to myself. I'm busy from the time I get up until I go to bed. Often even after I'm in bed at night I lay there thinking about what I have to do the next week or the next day.

How I long for the days of long ago when my husband and I would go sit in the bookstore for hours. I have read entire books while sitting at Barnes and Noble sipping coffee and relaxing. Now when I go to the bookstore it's, "read me this book" or "I want to go play with the train." Mind you, he is much to old to be playing at the train station at the bookstore. Most of the others who are playing there are barely two. How nice it would be to go out with my friends and drink coffee and chat about the newest book or the latest magazine article. Well this week I have discovered something that will help meet that need, A Cyber Book Club. Imagine that. A book club where I don't have to leave home. I don't have to fight traffic to get to the bookstore. I don't even have to find a sitter. Just wait until the littles are in bed for the night. Then grab a nice mellow cup of tea. And log on to the Cyber Book Club. You don't have to fit into someone else's schedule or anything. Anyone can join and participate. You can log on any time, read the comments from others, leave some comments of your own. Relax and enjoy. What could be more easy?

Oh I know, a Cyber Support Group for Parents. Guess what? They have that as well. An online support group for parents. There are groups for every state as well as groups for different topics such as military families, or special needs families, even grade specific groups.

Wow! Support Groups. Book Club. I'm ready to join. How about you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

I just received One Lovely Blog Award.


Thank you so much for this award Tree.

The rules are to pass it on to 15 new blogs that i have enjoyed visiting.

Homeschooling on Hudson
The Magic Onions
My Faery Garden
Mountain Hearth Handcrafts
Prairieland Herbs
Journey of a WAHM
Ramble on Rose
Auroras Garden
Grinning Hippie
AmLo Farms
Christina's Kitchen
Homeschool Gardener
Hip Mountain Mama
Willow Avenue Pottery

Congratulations to all the winners of the Lovely Blog Award!

Instructions for winners:

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.

I hope you'll visit these blogs soon! They are awesome!! :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cooper Grist Mill Candle Dipping

Yesterday we returned to Cooper Grist Mill to watch a demonstration on dipping candles. First they had to cut the cotton thread to use for the wicks on the candles. In the 1800's candle wicks were usually made out of cotton, hemp, or linen thread that was tightly braided. Then they laid the thread over the notches in the holding stick. After all the wicks were on the stick they made the first dip. A regular sized candle that would be used around the house was usually dipped between 35 and 50 times before it was big enough to use. You had to dip the candles very quickly so that the wax that was already on the wick did not melt off. With each dip into the pot of hot wax, the candle got a bit thicker. In between dippings the candles were hung on a rack to cool off. If they were too hot when you dipped them, the wax would just melt right off.

Candles were usually made in the fall as the days were growing shorter and people began to prepare for the long cold winter. This was also the time when the beehives were full of wax. The farmer either harvested the wax from their own beehives or they traded with another farmer to get the wax they needed to make candles. Most farmers used about 50 candles a week during the cold months of the year. So it was a long process to get all these candles made every year.

The farm wife had to start a good fire in the front yard or maybe in the fireplace. Then she put water in the copper pot. After this was hot, she put in the block of beeswax. Then the process of dipping began. It must have taken several days to get a big enough supply for the entire winter. After the candles were dipped the ends had to be cut off flat so they would stand in the candle holder. The nubs from the bottom of the candle were thrown back into the pot to be used again. We were there for about four hours and the candles were not big enough to use after all that time. They still needed about another 20 dippings before they would be big enough to use.

Thank you Ms. Betty, and Ms. Sharon, and the other wonderful teacher (I'm sorry I forgot your name) who lead the class. We really enjoyed it.