Thursday, October 16, 2014

Notes on Reading from the Homeschooling Mom

How do I get my kids to love reading?

The simplest answer is to be a reader. Enjoy reading. Read with your kids. Read out those passages from your books that touch you. Even if they don't seem to be listening, they are seeing that reading is important to you.

Throw out any ideas you have about "standards." They aren't written in stone. Children are not standardized. It is better to watch what your child enjoys and then tailor book picks to those interests. And don't think you can offer the same choices to your other kids. Each child will have their own tastes. Some interests may cross, but that doesn't mean they will all want to read the same thing.

Accept whatever they want to read. Try not to belittle them for picking a book that is too easy, or snub their choice of a comic book or picture book. Even a book without words will do a better job of igniting a love of reading than that "classic" that you yourself have not read.

Keep trying. Sometimes it is simply a matter of the right book at the right time.

Click on the graphic to enlarge

Monday, October 6, 2014

Shifting Identities

Coming to my blog makes me feel guilty lately. It's been so long since I posted a comic strip.

Life as a part-time unschooler has been wearing on me lately. I love my job and I love being mom to creative homeschooled kids, but at the same time I'm frustrated. My focus has shifted. I'm not the one home with my youngest and last homeschooler. I don't bring her to as many activities as I used to bring her siblings to. I can't even convince her to come to work with me regularly, which I considered an advantage of working in the library. I miss being around my kids.

At the library, I meet a lot of children and their parents, as well as children with babysitters. The majority are on the public school path. I don't see as many homeschoolers here. There simply isn't that large a population of homeschoolers in our area. To the patrons, I'm the library clerk (or librarian, as most don't know the difference). I feel a loss of identity here, or a second identity forming, as if I were a superhero or spy, living a double life. I can hear the intro...

Strange visitor from an alternative reality, she is Homeschooling Mom! Protector of learning, advocate for her kids, and who, disguised as Cristina, mild-mannered library clerk, fights for truth, knowledge, and a homeschooling lifestyle!

Except I don't talk about homeschooling much at work. Homeschooling isn't something we do, it's who we are. Instead, I compliment kids who borrow books my family loves. I recommend biographies by Mike Venezia to young readers because they were engaging to all of my children. I suggest graphic novels for reluctant readers (which some of their parents don't approve of--"You mean...comic books?"). I've reassured parents that it's OK to let their kids read books below their reading level if the children really love them. It's weird, I feel like I'm trying to homeschool the community.

Lately, my time has also been eaten up by my volunteer work at the library and the nature center. Each have big events coming up on the same weekend. These are also separate identities with their own sets of responsibilities. Superman had it easy. I'm stretched a bit thin.

To maintain my sanity, I try to do some creative things, even though I don't have the time or energy for comics. Here are my latest CD creations. I'm hoping to add more soon. Because I don't have enough to do!


Spirit of the Wind


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Carnival at Why Homeschool

Carnival of Homeschooling The latest Carnival of Homeschooling: Introduction to programming concepts edition is now online at Why Homeschool. Please support this carnival by the founders of the Carnival of Homeschooling and visit some of this week's contributors!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Little Classical Unschooling

Last week, Sierra decided that she wanted more structured learning. She didn't think unschooling was working out for her. I said okay.

I neglected to mention that taking ownership of her education is one of the reasons I decided to try this method.

We set aside time to sit outside and discuss how she learns best and what she is interested in. I always fall back on the classical trivium since it's a very logical setup. Each year, I throw books and information in her path from where we would be on the trivium if she were classically educated. This year would be the modern age and physics. When I'm working in the children's room at the library, I scan the shelves for interesting books on various physics topics and biographies. We pulled down an old Science-in-a-Nutshell levers kit I had saved from the older two. I'm thinking I'll have her build a bridge at some point. Math will be freestyle. I'm planning on using our bathroom dry erase board for writing problems. She's also expressed interest in learning about different places, so she started the year reading about Australia. London will be next.

At the same time, I've started watching Sailor Moon with her. She watched it a while back with her big sister. The two of them learned that it was much better in the original Japanese with subtitles than in dubbed English, so that is how we are watching it now. My kids enjoy anime, and seeing it this way has given me new respect for the style. Did you know some of the earliest anime movies were inspired by art coming out of the Disney studios? I thought that was interesting.

Right now, Sierra is reading Watership Down and the final Skulduggery Pleasant book by Derek Landy. We still get together with other homeschoolers on Wednesdays and she's still volunteering at the nature center cleaning cages and feeding the resident animals. I hope I'll have the time for some museum trips as well. And because it is harder for me to keep track now, she's started telling me what she's doing so I can keep notes of everything for the quarterlies. 

Life is different, but still very much the same.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Carnival of Homeschooling: Songs Stuck in my Head edition

Ever get a song lyric stuck in your head? That is my life. Songs spin around my brain like a soundtrack accompanying my life. Situations are set to music, or a song springs unbidden to mind and stays there until I stop and listen or look up the lyrics to figure out why my subconscious wants me to hear this right now. I always learn something from the experience. And so I invite you to join me for a lyric-inspired  
Carnival of Homeschooling: 
Songs Stuck in my Head edition!

My girls, baking cookies without me!
"To everything (turn, turn, turn)/ There is a season (turn, turn, turn)/ And a time to every purpose, under heaven." ~ Turn, Turn, Turn adapted for song by Pete Seeger from Ecclesiastes, chapter 3
This spent a lot of time in my head over the past few months. Change seems to be the rule around here for the last year, starting with my daughter's first year away from home at a university, continuing to my husband's job loss and then my own change of taking on a part-time position at the library. Now he has temporary work he does from home and gets to be the stay-at-home parent. Life is about change and transition and seasons.  
~Dewey's Treehouse sees transitions in their house as well. Mama Squirrel thinks "I seem to have worked myself out of a job" in Old Homeschool Moms

A unicorn I made from old CDs

"Starry, starry night/ Sketch the trees and daffodils/ Catch the breeze and winter chills/ In colors on the snowy linen land" ~ Vincent by Don McLean

I always loved this song. I introduced it to my kids when I taught them art, as I think it does a good job of capturing the spirit of what it means to be an artist, that relentless need to create.
~It's never too soon to develop a love of art and crafts in your child. Journey-and-Destination offers instructions for your child to make a needlebook in Handicrafts: A Simple 15 Minute Sewing Project.

My kids enjoying a day at the Renaissance fest

"Just do what you love/ Do it for you/ Smile every day..." ~ Do What You Love by Ryan Huston
I read the book "Do What You Love, the Money will Follow" when I was a teen. It guided my life to where I am today. I have taught the principles of this advice to my own kids, and was happy to find Sir Ken Robinson backing me up with talks and books about finding your passion. I do my best to help my children find their passions and facilitate their learning according to those passions.
~ Project-Based Homeschooling was surprised to read an article about why one artist thought "do what you love" is terrible advice, mainly because the article seems to contradict the author's own message. See if you agree in Why Do What You Love is Not Terrible Advice.
A Blue Jay in our yard with its fledgeling
"You who are on the road/ Must have a code/ That you can live by" ~ Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, & Nash
I was a little lost when I first started homeschooling 15+ years ago, classical education became my first method of choice. The logic of it appealed to me, and it taught me to love learning as much as my kids did, if not more.  
~Sandbox to Socrates offers a video interview with Dr. Christopher Perrin, publisher of the Classical Academic Press. This is well worth the time. The interview covers a wide variety of topics, including an introduction to Classical Education, the Common Core, and much more in Great Conversations: A Podcast With Dr. Christopher Perrin.

Marking the years in birthday celebrations
"Life is what happens to you/ While you're busy making other plans." ~ Beautiful Boy by John Lennon
 It's interesting watching the back-to-school frenzy from my new position in the library children's room. The library was busy this weekend. Teachers looked for books for their lessons, parents brought children to work on homework, and many seemed to be scrambling to find particular books needed as part of the Core Curriculum. Their days are so full of plans and rushing to get to the next activity. I'm glad I have time to enjoy life with my kids, even with the part time job. The time we have with them as children is very short in the grand scheme of things. We would miss so many wonderful, spontaneous learning experiences if we had to fit our life into a school schedule.
~ Susan at Don't Worry About the Flies doesn't have posed school photos of her daughter. She looks back on her daughter's childhood, a life full of love, adventure, and relaxed learning, in Unschool Pictures.

My daughter with one of her lizards
"I hear babies cryin'/ I watch them grow/ They learn much more/ Than I'll ever know" ~ What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
It's hard for me to answer the question, "Why do you homeschool?" The short answer is that I love being around my kids and I can't think of a better way to spend my days, but there are so many more reasons I do it. That's why I continue with it, no matter what challenges come up in our lives. 
~ Why Homeschool? shares their reasons for homeschooling in The PEPSI reasons for homeschooling.

I hope this week's Carnival leaves you with a spring in your step and a song in your heart. I want to thank all of the bloggers who contributed posts this week. The Carnival is nothing without the contributions of bloggers like you!

If you would like to join the next Carnival, consider submitting an article to the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Carnival at momSCHOOL

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling: The Ages and Stages edition is now up at momSCHOOL. Please take a moment to read some of this week's submissions.

Next week, I will be hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling right here on Home Spun Juggling. I can't do it without my fellow bloggers! Please consider submitting a post about your homeschooling experiences or ideas. I would love to hear from you. Just
e-mail CarnivalOfHomeschooling (at) and put Carnival or submission on the subject line and include the following information:
Title of Post
URL of Post
Name of Blog
URL of Blog
Brief summary of the post

Monday, September 1, 2014

Homeschooling Does Not End with Home Education

We drove our oldest back to the university today and helped move her into her dorm.

This year, she knows and chose to room with the three girls sharing her dorm room. I thought it looked like a Brooklyn apartment. It's two levels, not a lot of storage room, and only one shower for them to share (luckily, there is a second bathroom, just a toilet and sink, so she's doing better than if she were home with us!)

Moving back has concerned her. She knows money is tight. She's worked hard all summer at the library while taking a summer course online. There have been several times when she wondered if she should quit school because she sees herself as our biggest expense.

I see this as a continuation of our homeschooling methods. I know she is happy there. She is learning illustration techniques I don't know. She is networking with artists and living with other art students. And in this environment, she is still shining with her unique perspective and creativity.

We made sacrifices to keep them home. Why would we do anything different now that they are starting to test themselves in the world?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Show and Tell


My son designed the costume above for a cosplay contest at the library. He is the League of Legends character, Karthus. He must have done a good job. The League of Legends players at the event knew who he was. It's unfortunate there was only a first and second prize, as he was in a close race with the girl who received second place. Ah well. There is always next year!

~~~~~~~~ ☼ ~~~~~~~~

I still volunteer at the library, even though I now work there part time. We got a donation of computer games recently. Many were too old to work in today's systems, so I took them home. I had an idea about turning them into art. The top dragon is my first piece. It was OK, but I saw flaws that needed correcting. The second came out much better. I'm planning to make more, possibly to sell. I want to try other creatures. Maybe I'll make a unicorn or pegasus next.

I need to take pictures of my daughters' creations. Hopefully this will be continued.....

Carnival at

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling: Back to School edition is now up at! Please take some recess to enjoy some of this week's submissions!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer "School" for the Whole Year

I don't know about your area, but around here the Back-to-School frenzy has already started. The newspaper is full of ideas for "what to do" with your kids while you are waiting for school to start. There are also suggestions for getting your child back into "school" mode. Parents and teachers worry about students getting back into a "normal" sleeping routine and fret over summer brain leakage. One parent in the article talked about how she had gathered her children's school clothes and summer assignments together to prepare for the start of school.

Wait a minute...Summer assignments? I thought one of the joys of summer vacation was the lack of homework? Sad but true, I've heard this from parents at the library. Some schools assigned four summer reading book reports. And just to make certain kids are well rounded from the experience, the schools specified two reports on works of fiction, one on a biography, one on a work of non-fiction.

I shake my head over it all. 

How I loved summer! I spent most of it wandering around our backyard. I remember lounging in the hammock reading "The Wind in the Willows," not because someone told me to, but because I wanted to. I watched TV. Sometimes I played with other kids, but not usually. Other kids complicated my quiet world and most of the time with my two older siblings usually ended in fights or tears or both. I preferred sitting with our chickens and in later years, our pigeons. I set up my plastic animals and used my Matchbox cars to play safari. I would peel the bark away from sticks to use as toys. I collected morning glory seeds and pretended they were coffee beans. I had unlimited time to draw. Most of the time I simply moved dreamily about the yard making up stories in my head. I'm sure it looked like I was bored, but I wasn't. The things I did and learned during the summer always stayed with me.

It makes me wonder: Why are we surprised children forget so much school learning over the summer? Schools try to cram a myriad of information into kids during the school year with the main goal of a passing grade on a test. For what purpose? To move up to the next grade and do it again? How is that incentive? I never got the hang of school math when I was little because, to me, it was all endless numbers on a page. In summer I built a dollhouse (geometry) and learned how to make miniatures to scale. I didn't consider it math, and so I decided I was terrible at math. For me, history was wars and dates in school. In summer, it was trips to places like Colonial Williamsburg or the Cloisters. I didn't consider this history, so I decided I was terrible at history.

I'm grateful I had the opportunity to homeschool/unschool my kids. I'm glad I gave them the room to be creative and spend their days like I spent summer. Learning should not be an "old grind". Learning should be endless days of summer--thinking, doing, exploring the world around you and within you.
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