Monday, September 28, 2009

RANT!: In Which I Challenge Jezebel & Salon Letter-Writers to a Round of Fisticuffs

In spite of our flu-ishness, I've been in an obnoxiously sunshiny mood. (I would skip everywhere if I weren't afraid of barfing.) The kids are starting to feel a little better, and we were able to sit outside today and enjoy a cool fall afternoon. Each of the kids received a letter from their French penpals, which really made their day. (Oh, cute French penpals, with your lovely curly European cursive and your adorable French phrases sprinkled throughout your newly-learned basic English! I wish I were an 8 year old French girl growing up outside of Paris who loves riding her horses. Sigh.) So we sat on our back deck and wrote our replies in English, with our newly-learned, very basic French phrases placed wherever they seemed appropriate. I'm sure the penpals are going to be delighted to find out that Allie's favorite color is pink or that Ian's birthday is in August. De rien, mes amies.

In one of the homeschool blogs I stumbled across this evening, I found a link to an article in Salon posted today and written by a homeschooling father of two. I thought it was a very basic, pretty innocuous telling of the reasons their family homeschools, the questions and reactions they face, and the answers/occasional half-truths they give. My reaction to it was that it told of many situations I could relate to (and have dealt with in a similar manner), that it would hopefully show people that homeschoolers are a diverse group of people and not just the fringes of the right & left, and, holy cow, how cool would it be to homeschool in Brooklyn.

BUT THEN. Then! I noticed with amazement that there were already almost 400 replies to the story. Admission: I have a weakness for reading responses to articles, and I know I shouldn't click there because I only get all wound up and surly, but I always do. My husband will back me up on this. At least once a day he'll hear me yell, "G! You'll never believe what this idiot said on (local news website)! Grrr!" And he will say, "Why do you always read that stuff?" And I will say, "Because I can't stop myself." And it's true. So, folks, of course I clicked. My goodness, the hate! The hate and the judgment, the name-calling and the insults! Here's a snippet of one of the stand-outs so far:

"The main reason for home schooling is not the low quality of American public schools; if parents cared about that they could volunteer to help in schools. {Yup, I tried that. I enjoyed it. It didn't solve anything for us, though.} Nor is it developing that intense, almost pedophilic contact with their children. {OH MY. Is this how your mind really works? It's kind of creeping me out a little.} It's to keep their kids away from those of darker shades and non-Evangelical Christian beliefs. Most of these parents don't have great educations to begin with {Hey! I'm SUPER SMRT!), and they want to protect their children from the Godless Communist Socialist beliefs they might encounter out there in the real world.
"Children raised in such kennels {Nice touch!} are perfect for manning the picket lines around abortion clinics and staffing the crowds at teabagging events. They don't think, they can't think, and therefore they are the perfect cannon fodder for wars against health care, or real wars for that matter. Whatever reasons you may have for locking your children in the closet {That horrible, dark, frightening closet called Brooklyn}, Mr. O'Hehir, they're not the reasons that the vast majority of loons are doing it."

(Whoa. Okay. Let's be calm and be kind. It's easy to do, honest. Mr. O'Hehir made it clear that he does not homeschool for religious reasons, and also cited the statistic that only 36% of families that homeschool do so specifically for religious/moral instruction. And that's different than sending them to a private religious school how? And how is that not the right of the parents? And finally, how are you to know that these kids are going to grow up and follow the same path as their parents? You can see the future? Lovely for you, Captain Hateful. Way to get it all out there.)

(Pause while my son, who should be in bed, plays a song on harmonica he titled "Velociraptor Jump." It's as good as it sounds! "Velociraptors jump, Velociraptors sneeze/Velociraptors run and wish they could eat cheese." Anyway, he needs to get back to bed...) (Thank you for the distraction, kid. You're the bee's knees.)

Anyway, that's one of the more extreme replies. (Although let me take a second to give a mean look to the person who called the author a dick because of what he named his kids.) There are a few letters of support, but a ton of letters calling homeschooling parents controlling, selfish, elitist (!) and stupid. Too many based their opinions on "a" (as in, one) homeschooled kid they once met. Here's what I wish I would have seen:

"Wonderful! I'm so glad you're a father who cares about your children and are able to do what you feel is best for your family. It sounds like you are providing many rewarding experiences and opportunities for them. Best wishes to you and your family." (And this is NOT to say that anyone who sends their children to public/private/parochial schools do not care for their kids. What I am saying is everyone should be supportive of families who strive to make the best lives for their children. If your kids are doing well in public school, that's fantastic! If your kids love their private school, that is also fantastic! And if your kids are homeschooling and happy, then, huzzah, fantastic hats off to you as well! We're all parents and we all want our kids to be happy and do well. End of story.)

BUT WAIT! I then decided to take a look at Jezebel. (Oh, timing.) I like Jezebel a lot. I do not, however, like this stupidly-titled article, "Why Are Homeschoolers So Annoying?" Once I got past the title, I agreed with some of the first part of the article. Mr. O'Hehir did make some unkind generalizations about public schools, and I thought those were counterproductive and unnecessary. That, however, was followed by an admission of the real reason the O'Hehirs were turning her off (other than their "snootiness.") Jealousy. That's it. Homeschoolers are annoying because they get to go to museums and learn about Hinduism and be creative and have fun. How dare they.

And don't even get me started on the reader replies to that.

Anyway, I apologize (too late) for this overly-long, poorly written rant. It's just that the overwhelming amount of misinformation, rigidity, and judgmental attitudes (from all sides) is saddening. We're just going to keep on doing what we do for as long as it works, and we'll be happy. I'm grateful that I can stay home with my kids. I'm equally grateful that there is the option to send them to public school, where there are teachers who work hard to share their knowledge and provide a good education for other people's kids. I wish the same for everyone. The end.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lazy List Sunday Night (I Have the Flu, Yo.)

Yoinked from the Deliberate Life blog:


The Well-Trained Mind (Worth it for the recommended reading/resource lists alone.)


The Internet. Sweet, sweet internet.


I've found a use for everything I've ever purchased, so I can't complain about anything at all.


The Lukeion Project: My son did the class on Troy, and we still talk about it.


More Lukeion classes, probably.


I really can't pick just one.


Free international travel. (I don't ask for much.)


Rainbow Resource
. Their catalogue is so thorough, with great reviews on so many books and products.


Teacher File Box. Not homeschool-exclusive, but worksheet-o-riffic and drill-tastic. I say that with much love.


Anyone who reads this: Tag. If you're into that sort of thing.

things could not be better/things could be a little better, yeah.

I had been so sickeningly up-with-people this week. Everything was going beautifully! Lessons were completed, Latin was memorized, books on Magellan were read without complaint. We went to storytime at the library on Tuesday and saw lots of friends there. We went to one of our group game days on Thursday, and although it was supposed to be word game day and my kids refused to move away from Pokemon Monopoly, they had a blast. Friday we went to an apple orchard, and it was just blissful. The kids learned about farming, were able to taste-test different kinds of apples, helped make cider, went on a hayride, and picked their own Winesap apples (yum!) When we got home, we had a huge package from our awesome Greek penpal, Panagiotis, waiting for us. How (how?!) could it possibly get any better than that?
Saturday we all got the flu.

Monday, September 21, 2009

TIHWDI, Pt. 3: Last Week Was Pretty Great

We went to the lovely Outer Banks for a perfect camping trip:

Ian got a spiffy new guitar and is learning to play The Essex Green's "Late Great Cassiopeia" for his guitar school's upcoming show. (I know, he's so cool. That's how we raise them.)

We went to a Greek Festival in Raleigh:

Aaaand we saw They Might Be Giants at the NC Museum of Art's amphitheater!:

Lucky, lucky us.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Is How We Do It, Pt. 2: Sunday Night

Right now, I'm preparing the lessons for this week. I'm surrounded by printers, paper, books, and folders, am watching Bottle Rocket, and am already on my third Coke Zero. This is what we're using this week (after the ACTION SHOT!):

Eyewitness Books: North American Indian
Tools of Native Americans (Kavin)
History Pockets: Native Americans (Evan-Moor Publishing, who print many of my favorite resources and are also the people behind Teacher File Box, which I use daily.)
Eyewitness Books: Explorer (for Ian's homeschool group presentation on Magellan)
Explorers Fandex (more Magellan magic)
Ancient Greece (Moore)
Tools of the Ancient Greeks
You Are in Ancient Greece (Minnis)
Spend the Day in Ancient Greece (Honan)
The Ancient Greek World (Roberts/Barrett)
City States (Wright)
History Pockets: Ancient Greece (Evan-Moor)
(Dude, we love Greece.)
+ worksheets from

Prima Latina Student Book
Prima Latina Teacher Manual

Grammar & Spelling:
Red Hot Root Words Book 1 (Draze)
Building Spelling Skills 2 (Evan-Moor)
Building Spelling Skills 4 (Evan-Moor)
+ worksheets galore from Teacher File Box

Greek Alphabet Code Cracker (Perrin)

Random House Book of Poetry for Children
The Golden Fleece (Colum)
Independent reading: Ian: Mysterious Benedict Society (Stewart)
Allie: King Arthur tales
Read aloud: Spiderwick Chronicles, Bk 3 (DiTerlizzi/Black)
+ poetry worksheets from Teacher File Box

Find the Constellations (Rey)
DK Guide: Space (Bond)
Atlas of Space (Scholastic Reference)
+ worksheets (Have I mentioned Teacher File Box? Also: NASA's websites)

Homemade worksheets galore.

Writing letters to:
-Penpals (Panagiotis in Greece, Fara, Victoria & Chloe in France, & Roberto and Andreas in Italy)
-pick an author (will let kids decide. Ian wrote a letter to Brian Selznick last year and got a great letter back within a couple of weeks. Let me take a moment to *really* recommend his book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (Check out the website. Become obsessed with automatons and Georges Melies.) Beautiful. We also love The Houdini Box, and we just found Amelia & Eleanor Go for a Ride, which he only illustrated, but it's wonderful. Check them all out. Do it now.)

Field trips:
Library story time on Tuesday. Will look for more stuff on Magellan & will practice library skills
Friday: Apple picking
(Nothing much planned this week due to the craziness of every week this summer. It's time to slow down a bit. Maybe.)

-Will *finally* start practicing our play about Bellerophon, Pegasus, & the Chimaera. The sets are ready, and the kids are just waiting for me to print out the script they wrote.

They also have daily journal writing, art, music, and recess.
And that's it.

This Is How We Do It, Pt. 1: Your Questions, Satisfactorily Answered

Q: Why do you homeschool? Is it for religious reasons? Do you have a problem with public schools?
A: We do not homeschool for religious reasons, and we don't have problems with the public schools, other than I think they're too crowded. When I pulled Ian out of elementary school in the middle of 2nd grade, there were 26 students in his class. I read an article in the News & Observer the other day that quoted Ian's friend's (and former classmate's) mother saying that there were now 33 students in each class in the 4th grade (Ian's current grade.) I have nothing but respect and awe for teachers, and do not feel that my kids were failed or let down. However, Ian needed particular attention in math and was getting behind, despite hours of homework and tutoring in the evening. He was too advanced in reading and writing, though, and was getting bored with his assignments there. Allie was behind in spelling, but was too far ahead in math. Finally, I feel that by homeschooling, I can offer a broader education, teaching my kids Greek and Latin, mythology, exploration, astronomy, etc., and can cater to their interests and strengths. Finally, we just have a lot of fun. That's the why.

Q: How do you do it? Do you have a schedule?
A: Yes, I do have a schedule. I spend a few hours every Sunday evening preparing lessons, printing worksheets, planning art projects, scheduling field trips, and deciding the subject rotation. Not all homeschoolers do this, but I do because it helps keep me focused and on track. However, I'm not super-strict: if it's a pretty day, we'll spend some time outside reading or exploring. If there's a class or activity organized by our homeschool group, we'll make time for that. If I want to go to the zoo, then darn it, we're going to the zoo. It's not all Spongebob and pajamas, though.

Q: What curriculum do you use?
A: I make my own. I like to be a little flexible in what we do & when we want to do it. If we want to study polar explorers for three months, then we will. (And we did.) Using that same example: I do try to tie in all subjects...For history, we studied the heroic age of polar exploration. For geography, we studied the poles. For science, we studied the climate and life at the poles. For spelling and grammar, we learned words relating to exploration, and I made grammar & punctuation worksheets featuring explorers, stories, Robert Scott's journals (minus the commas and capitalization so the kids could correct it), etc. And so on. We're fortunate that we have a decent library of books to choose from, thanks to great local used/new/independent/homeschool bookstores, a large homeschool population in the area that put their books and supplies on Craigslist regularly and have good yard sales, and of course,
Another reason we don't use prepackaged curricula is because, as I mentioned before, my kids aren't just on a 4th (or 2nd, or K) grade level in all subjects. Ian tests at an 8th grade level in reading, grammar, and writing, but struggles (and never gives up!) in math. I can give Ian big honkin' books to read and expect more from him in writing, but take our time in math and make sure he understands the concepts before we move on. Allie's the exact opposite: I can't go fast enough in math, but I'll just say that her spelling is adorable and creative and her grammar is free-form, and we have to review constantly to make sure she gets it.

Q: Do you think the kids are getting the socialization skills they need?
A: Yes, or we wouldn't homeschool at all. Strangely, I have the most outgoing, friendly, social, LOUDEST, happiest kids EVER. (Strange because my husband & I both are fairly introverted. The kids always amaze us.) They have lots of friends in the neighborhood and in our huge, busy homeschool group (more on them later.) They go to game days and park days. They have friends over often. Ian has guitar & karate lessons, and Allie will probably start something soon, once she can decide what she wants to do. (Drum lessons? More swim lessons? Back to Girl Scouts? Start karate? I guess we'll see.) So, nope, I'm not at all worried about my well-adjusted, extroverted, mile-a-minute kids.

So. There some very basic answers. I'll expand on each a little throughout the week. (You're welcome!) Right now it's time to crack open a Coke Zero, put in a movie, and start getting ready for the week ahead. I love doing this. I really do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A lot of people have been asking a lot of questions lately about our homeschool. We're getting ready to go to the Outer Banks on a camping trip, but when we return I'll start posting more about what we do. I plan on discussing what books we use, how we socialize, our schedule, and how it works for us. Feel free to write with any questions you might have and I'll be giddy to reply.
Have a swell weekend! I'll put up some pictures here when we get back.

"Some days are fancy days." -Allie

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

letters to the president

On Tuesday, like many other schools across the country, we watched President Obama give his speech on education, responsibility, and accountability. We began that day by discussing goals: by defining the word, talking about the difference between short-term and long-term goals, understanding why they're important, and figuring out how we can achieve them. The kids then wrote a paper listing their goals, picked the one they thought was most important, and illustrated it.We followed that by talking a little about the President and why he is qualified to speak about working hard to meet your goals, taking responsibility for your education, and being accountable for your own actions. The kids enjoyed learning about his childhood and thought he was very interesting.It was then time for the speech to begin. My kids paid close attention and were suprisingly quiet throughout. When it was over, they were quick to point out their favorite parts of the talk, how likeable the President seemed, and asked if we could start homeschool at 4:30 in the morning. (Um, nope.) They wanted to know if it would be okay if they wrote a letter to Obama (they love to write letters...more on that in another post), and of course I said that would be wonderful.
Here's what they wrote:

Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for the speech you made about education and responsibility. I liked when you said failure doesn't define us, it teaches us to try again, and when you said how other students became great heroes, inventors, and leaders. Also I liked the story about your mom. I am in 4th grade in homeschool. I like to study Greece. My goal is to become an archaeologist. I liked how your speech inspired me to reach my goal. You do an excellent job as president. I am glad I saw you twice in North Carolina when you were campaigning. Thank you for working so hard for us! Your Friend,

Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for the speech you made about education and responsibility. I liked when you said your mom woke you up a 4:30 in the morning. I also thought it was very inspiring and made me want me to work harder. I also liked how you reminded us to not quit and to keep trying. I am a 2nd grader. I like math and art. When I grow up I'm going to be a zookeeper. Thank you for your work. You are a nice man.
Your friend,
They also enclosed the drawings they made of their most important goal, and Annie, my four year old, included her lovely drawing of her being a famous "arter." Then they addressed the envelope and ran outside to put it in the mailbox. They told me they should hear back from Obama "in about a week." I told them to relax and be extra-patient.

I thought it was a terrific, inspirational speech that was perfectly targeted to any school-aged child. And it motivated me to be a better teacher.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

you're welcome for the most pretentious kid update ever

I was stringing tape around the baseboards of the girls' room so I can paint tonight, and I overheard my seven year old daughter teaching my four year old daughter Latin vocabulary. Adorable.
That's all for now. We've been too busy to update, which is a good thing, I think.