Homeschool Zoom Chats with Shelli

New! I’m offering Zoom chat sessions in my store for parents who are currently homeschooling or are considering homeschooling. There are three options:

One-on-one chat – Set up an appointment with me, and we can talk for one hour on any homeschooling related topic that you want to talk about.

Six-session Homeschool Series – I’ve created a series of six sessions where I will explain how we have homeschooled in a child-centered, eclectic, project-based way while also knowing we need to prepare our boys to apply for college. I’m hoping to create a support group for homeschooling parents, if participants are interested.

Getting Started with High School –  A one-hour session. We are completing my son’s first year of high school. I spent most of his middle school wondering how we’d do this, but it’s not that hard. I’ll share everything I know.

I don’t know if anyone will be interested in these Zoom chats, but I’m putting it out there because I have loved helping parents over the years with their questions about homeschooling. I have written long emails, enjoyed a lot of correspondence and made some good friends. I know many families are considering home education, so I want to be available to help in all ways. Unfortunately, I can’t offer the Zoom sessions for free, but I hope you will find them very reasonable.

Please help me spread this information. If you have enjoyed my blog posts and other resources, please share it on your social media platforms. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! ❤️

December 2021

Owl ornaments made by my eldest son.

Season’s Greetings! For everyone who celebrates it, Merry Christmas! Happy New Year to Everyone, and I hope whatever you celebrate, or however you are feeling about this time of year, you are at peace and healthy. I know some people get very sad and lonely around this time, and my heart goes out to them.

In the past, I used to go through my year’s blog posts, and I’d link to my favorites. It made me glad that I was keeping a blog with lots of details because it’s amazing what I’d forget a few months later as we dived into new projects and activities. I would happily remember all the field trips we had been on too. This year is different because I haven’t been writing as much. As the boys get older, I don’t feel like I should share details about their projects, hopes and dreams on the Internet, but I’m always happy to share those details with family and friends, if they ask. 😉

This year was also different because I suffered through a tragedy in January that has been with me all year. As time passes by, I have more perspective on it, but it’s something I will always have to live with. We are also living through a pandemic, so we weren’t on the move as much as we had been in the past. We did all our homeschooling and lessons at home and remotely, and, frankly, this opened doors for my boys that otherwise would not have been opened, and I’m so happy and thankful for that. Finally, we all got vaccinated, and this gave us more freedom, so we started taking some trips, albeit with precautions. We limit our social activities to people who are taking the pandemic as seriously as we are. Unfortunately, we don’t know many people like that here, but we’re thankful for those who do.

I have felt some ups and downs this year, but it is ending on an “up.” I’m feeling happy and excited for the future, and I think we’ve come to a point where we are managing this new normal in a way that works for us. I’m excited that my 9th grader is half-way through his first year of high school, and things are going well. I can’t even express how much he has on his plate. He has big dreams, and he’s working hard. I’m so thankful for his new piano teacher who truly believes in him. Likewise, my young birder is moving along in his lessons and learning more and more about birds on his own and through Outschool classes. Meeting other birders has really inspired him.

I have poured myself into making sure that both boys’ have what they need to progress in their lessons, so I haven’t been doing any particular project of my own lately. (Unless you count decluttering here and there…. But that’s a bottomless pit.) I never think that my homeschooling is perfect or that I have all the best resources for these kids. It’s a constant search and reevaluation, and there are times that I wish I had the money to hire tutors. But then I look at how far they have come and how well they are doing, and I think we will get through this, and we will smooth out any kinks one way or another. I’m very thankful for my husband who reminds me that I’ve taken on a herculean task.

I do take the time to take long walks and read, though. Currently I’m reading All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. I highly recommend all his books, if you need something beautiful, light, humorous, and heartfelt. It’s especially a must, if you love animals.

I also pulled my copy of the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson from my shelf because I have promised myself to read a little poetry everyday, which was one of my first loves as a young girl. That is, I loved writing poetry, but I didn’t study poetry, and I was a very bad poet. But I have a vast collection of poetry books, and I’ve read about half of them. I need to correct that. Anyway, one of the first poems in this collection has become an instant favorite of mine. I will close this post by sharing it with you. It inspires me, and I hope it will for you too.

Before I do, I want to say again: May this Season Bring You Joy. Thank you for reading my blog, especially if you have kept it bookmarked despite my infrequent posts. I hope you’ll share something with me about your current holiday celebrations or your current homeschool projects or hopes for the future. May this next year be fair and better for everyone.

***

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

-Emily Dickinson

The Future Holds Promise

Just a quick thank you to those of you who reached out to me after my last blog post. I want to reiterate that while I do have many worries, I am generally positive and happy. Though we never found that ideal “village” to raise our kids in, we have made the best of what we got, and I’m so thankful that my husband and I can work together at home and give the boys our daily attention. Though the past two years have thrown many sad events in my path, I knew I needed to ride the waves instead of fighting them. But I don’t like writing blog posts and giving the impression that everything is perfect because that doesn’t help anyone. I hope I strike the right balance when it comes to that question of “what is too much to share online?”

Having said all that, I am indeed looking forward with much anticipation. I’m pleased with our school year so far. Sometimes I look at the calendar and wonder if we’re getting too behind, but then I wonder if I am pushing forward too hard? If both those things cross my mind at intervals, then we’re probably right on track! But we have never and will never look like a traditional school. We are goal-oriented and not “follow the public school calendar” oriented. My boys thrive with being goal-oriented because they both have goals, so they are motivated to work even if they don’t always love the work.

We recently reached a point where we felt we could take a trip because my youngest son became eligible and was vaccinated with the COVID vaccine. (Can you guess where?) We also took a lot of other precautions so that we could keep ourselves and others safe while we traveled. The main purpose of our trip was so that our eldest son could meet his new piano teacher face-to-face. What a joy that was! Most of his lessons will be done remotely, but we hope to go again sometime. We also decided to extend the trip a few days so we could spend a few days in the mountains and do some hiking. I will share a few photos from that trip in this blog post.

Both boys are taking more online classes this year, and so far I’m pleased with how it’s going, but I’m not sure it’s saving me time. It’s a different kind of busy. But it feels good to be the support person and not the plan-all-the-lessons person. I’m hoping to pull together a blog post about my younger son’s 5th and 6th grade curriculum because I’m way behind in that. Eventually I’ll create another PDF resource about 9th grade, but that won’t come until the year is complete.

October 2021

The past two years have been some of the most difficult of my life, although I see how things could be much worse, so I remain positive. I see life as a miracle no matter what it dishes out. But I won’t lie. While I appreciate the good things in life, there’s a lot of sadness, and there’s a lot I worry about too. In the spirit of being real, I’ll share some of those worries in this post.

I worry about the next few years and how we’ll get through the boys’ high school years, both practically and financially. I worry about elderly parents that I’m not in a position to help because of other obligations and especially during a pandemic. I worry about how much longer the pandemic will have an impact on our decision-making, travel plans, and the boys’ opportunities to join summer programs, which could be important for their future endeavors. I worry about the state of the world and how that will affect my sons’ futures. Sometimes I walk around with a lump in my throat, wondering how we’ll work everything out. Will it work out? Or will we have to give up on things we feel are important?

It’s not easy having a kid with musical talent who dreams of entering a field that needs very specialized training early in life, especially when we are not musicians ourselves. We have made so many mistakes. We are still learning, and we’ve been knocked down more than once, realizing we went down one path when we should have been on another. It would be a lot easier if we lived somewhere with better resources, or if we were wealthy. We are not poor enough for the significant need-based scholarships, but we’re not rich enough to pay for the right stuff. We’re stuck in between, and, well, it stinks.

I think what’s worse is not having anyone to talk to who can understand.* No one wants to hear about our problems because we’ve got it good, so what’s there to worry about? It’s hard to meet moms with kids who have special talents and needs. Other homeschoolers aren’t always helpful because every homeschool family does things differently (and rightly so), but it can leave one feeling rather lonely too.

I imagine every mom feels this way to some extent. You or your family member has some pressing need that’s unusual, so there aren’t many people around who understand it. You feel strongly about something that’s not popular, or you feel pulled in many directions because so many people need you, including friends, extended relatives, or a wider community. The guilt is there, but you can only do what’s in front of you at any given time.

There’s more I could say, but that’s the gist of my worries. This isn’t an easy path, but I wouldn’t trade it. And I know this too shall pass.  I’ll get back to the positive stuff real soon. I promise.

*I do want to thank the people I have met through this blog and on social media who are very supportive, especially my one email buddy. Without you guys, this would be an extra lonely journey.

September 2021

During the summer, I got up early to take my walks because it’s too hot here to take them any other time of day. Above is a photograph of a sunrise I happened to capture on one of my walks. It’s also symbolic of the path I’m on right now. I have to retrace my steps over and over in daily life. Sometimes this can feel like a grind, but if I pay attention, every day offers something new.

August 2021

This long year at home has given me a new appreciation for hostas.

I have finally completed the paperwork and put together the portfolios for my boys’ 8th and 5th grade years. This is something I do every summer. I save their loose papers in a 3-ring binder along with anything else from the year, such as brochures from field trips and programs from classical music concerts (sadly not included this time because of the pandemic). I also have daily charts I check off, which is how I keep track of attendance. Most importantly, I write up progress reports (as in accordance with the law in my state), which lists all of their work, including curricula, books read, test scores, and my comments, etc. These are several pages long. This year my 14-year-old had a resume I included too. (I did not have a resume at 14. This kid is something.)

This year feels really special to me because my 14-year-old has completed the 8th grade, and now he’s entering high school. And I got him here! I had help from his dad, of course, but I can safely say I did most of facilitating and all of the organizing. When my boys were younger, I also did all the teaching, but in the past couple of years, my eldest son is mostly self-taught. I find curriculum for him, and he does the work. I make sure he stays on task, and I help him when he gets stuck.

When kids get to a certain age, they can tell you when they need more help. They also tell you what they’re most interested in and what they want to spend their time doing, although they may not say it in so many words. You’ll figure out, if you’ve been observing them with an open mind. They’re mature enough to realize that they will need to spend some time on stuff they don’t like, but as long as they see the purpose for it, they are okay with that.

My younger son has completed the lower elementary grades, which is another milestone. Wow. Sixth grade will be more challenging, and my job will be to keep him on task so that he’ll be ready for high school in three years. I tell him he is lucky that I’ve already homeschooled his older brother, but in truth, he offers me plenty of challenges because he’s different than his brother. His education is not a repeat of his older brother’s education.

Starting next year I will be doing less teaching than I ever have because we’re going to be using Outschool and other online classes more. I know the boys will enjoy this change, and it feels like a relief to me too. They are getting to a higher level of learning, and I just can’t do it all. The online classes are fun for them, and I love how they’re interacting with other teachers and kids even if it’s all virtual. But the year may still be my busiest yet. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Besides wrapping up last year and planning next year, I’ve been enjoying watching highlights from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with my boys, and even more close to our hearts is the 18th Chopin Competition. It’s an olympics of sorts for piano players. You can already watch the entire preliminary round on YouTube, and the 1st round will begin in October. You can read about the competitors here.

What are you looking forward to this coming year, and what’s keeping you busy now?

July 2021

“Summer has a mind of its own.” I read that somewhere long ago when my kids were little, and I think about it every summer because it remains true. Every summer is different, and it never quite turns out how I plan it. For example, I thought I might have more down time this summer. Ha ha…No.

Currently my 14-year-old is in a virtual music summer program, and it’s fantastic but intense. On the weekdays the program goes from 9:00a.m.–9:30p.m. with breaks and four hours of practice time built into the schedule. There are some activities on the weekends too, but less, and the weekend mornings are free. It might sound like a rigorous schedule, but it’s pretty typical for a music conservatory or summer program. And my 14-year-old loves it. He’s in his element and interacting with other pianists. (Yes, I wish it could be face-to-face. Hopefully next year.)

I’m happy to see him engaged, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by how much can be done on Zoom. (I’m sure it helps that most of the kids want to be there.) I have enjoyed watching some of the faculty recitals, “interactives” (i.e. studio classes) and master classes with my son too. If my son is performing, I am always there for that.

It’s not easy being in a house with a piano playing over four hours a day, making sure lunch and dinner is right on time because the day is very regimented, and helping in other ways too. I’m also spending extra time with my 11-year-old because his brother is busy, and I’ve got my regular chores too. I love it, but I’m a tired mama.

My husband is also being put to the test as he has given himself a crash course in sound engineering and microphones. He helps my son set up all the equipment, and we both help make recordings of his performances. Simply put, it’s a lot of work to be the parents of a serious musician. I could probably write a book about it, and maybe someday I will.

My plan this summer was to plan my 14-year-old’s 9th grade literature class, but I’m not making very much progress with that. Oh well. Somehow it will get done, though maybe it won’t be everything I imagined it would be. Summer has a mind of its own, and homeschooling in general has a mind of its own. We can plan and plan, but ultimately, our kids will lead us down the path they are meant to go. Every day and every experience opens new avenues, and sometimes the detours end up being the road we were looking for all along.

May 2021

This VIEW!

May has been a brighter month for me. Earlier in this year, when I learned we would have to prolong our isolation because the COVID vaccine was not approved for kids yet, I fell into a sad slump, which was made worse by other circumstances. However, similar to the experience I had last year — when I realized we were going to be stuck at home for a very long time vs. a 2 week lockdown — I eventually accepted the situation and felt much better. (I am a huge fan of the word ACCEPTANCE. For many years now, I’ve realized that this is a magic word. If you wield it, it has power.)

It goes without saying that beautiful spring weather can lift anyone’s mood. We’ve had a beautiful month, and I’m soaking up the breeze, the birds, flowers and plants. I love sitting on my front porch. It’s my favorite place to be.

Smoky Mountain National Park

After being at home for nearly two years (we had other health issues we were dealing with before the pandemic), we finally got away for a week this month. We rented an Airbnb in the mountains of North Carolina, and I’m sharing photos from that trip in this blog post. The best part of that trip was the view from the porch of our Airbnb. Never in my life have I been so lucky to stay in a place with a view like this. We went birding along the Little Tennessee River Greenway, hiking on the Bartram Trail, and one day we went into the Great Smoky National Park. (We’re planning to go back because there’s so much we couldn’t see in one trip.) We got groceries, ordered take out, sat out on that porch and played games. We had a terrible cell phone signal and no wifi, but we had cable television, which we don’t have at home, so we watched our favorite cooking competitions, Chopped and Iron Chef, and another guilty pleasure, Shark Tank, but that was the only T.V. we watched.

The view at sunset.

Now that we’re home I feel refreshed, and I’ve enjoyed thinking about the homeschool lessons that my boys need to finish up for 5th and 8th grade. They will work until mid-June, and then they’ll enjoy some virtual summer programs. That will slide us into August when we have birthday month, and hopefully by early October we’ll all be fully vaccinated, and the boys can resume face-to-face lessons and other activities. We are especially looking forward to attending music concerts in person again!

William Bartram Trail

At the end of April my 14-year-old received some happy news. He won 2nd place in the state piano competition again, and on top of that, he won 3rd place in a regional competition (8 southern states). You can view his latest performances on his YouTube channel, if you’re interested, and I know he’d love for you to subscribe too. 😉

Little Tennessee River Greenway — Great place for birding. I will share my bird photos someday.

I am also happy to report that I have finished a short PDF resource about homeschooling 8th grade. I have no idea when I’ll have time to post it in my store, but I’ll try to do that soon. Meanwhile, if you have any questions for me, you know where to find me. 🙂 I hope spring is lifting your spirits. Please leave me a message, if you have a moment, and tell me about your favorite part of spring.

Gosh I’m going to miss that view.

April 2021

I’m living in this space where I feel a deep sadness on one side and a deep contentment mixed with joy on the other side. It is very weird. I feel quite unmotivated to do certain things, yet I stay busy. Where I find joy hasn’t changed very much: my family, the light through the window, my garden, books. I savor these.

We are entering the final stage of our school year. It’s around this time that I give up on any grand plans, and we just focus on our priorities. I’ve talked a lot on my blog about how I set certain priorities for each year, and this has helped me focus on the important stuff when we get crunched for time or start to have spring fever. Right now we’re dealing with both those things. I know we won’t finish everything I set out to do at the beginning of the year, but we’re getting the big stuff done.

We can and do homeschool through the summer, but I’ve learned that the summer tends to have a mind of its own. I want to give the boys a break from the lessons I assign them, and I don’t make them do any lessons while they are in their summer programs. They really look forward to these. I was hoping we’d have face-to-face programs this summer, but very few schools are offering that, and, of course, they shouldn’t unless they can follow strict guidelines. The boys do well with Zoom, though, and they have fun. My 11-year-old will be participating in his first summer strings program and another program on animal behavior, so he’s really excited.

We’re looking forward to mid-June when the summer programs begin, and that’s my goal for finishing 8th and 5th grade. However, if we need to, we’ll find time to tie up loose ends after the summer programs end. My official start date for 9th grade (high school!) and 6th grade is September 1st, but you never know. We may start some stuff early. Summer is overlap time, but lessons are always low-key.

How are you doing? What joys are you finding this spring? What plans do you have for this summer?

March 2021

These daffodil bulbs came from my Dad’s property, and there’s a good chance they were originally planted by my great-grandmother. 🙂

Hello to anyone who still cares to read this blog. 🙂 I have been quiet here partly because there’s not much new to say. As you know, we are still stuck in this pandemic, though I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. With a few spring-like winter days, our hearts are uplifted and looking forward to when we can start going places again.

Unfortunately, my extended family and I experienced a traumatic event in January as well as the loss of two family members. My husband, boys and I remain at home unable to visit grieving family face-to-face. This is another sad event during this time that is sad for so many people, and it’s not always easy. But I’m still grateful for so much that it’s hard not to be happy with life in general. It’s the tough times that make you appreciate the good times, so I’m grateful to them as well.

white crocus

I have to admit, there are some things I like about being stuck at home. I used to worry that we could not get as many homeschooling lessons done as I wanted because it takes a lot of time to get ready to go places, drive there, come home, etc. Of course, everything we did was very valuable, but this year, I think we’ve had more time to dig into academic lessons. I believe this because my 5th grader is a little further along in math than his brother was in the 5th grade. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s helping me plan something different for next year. Likewise, my 8th grader is making progress in all his subjects, though he has much more to balance considering he spends more time on music practice and theory.

Similarly, I can do the laundry more regularly, and I can predict which evenings I’ll feel like cooking a bigger meal. There’s something to be said for staying home. But, it can also feel a bit more like a grind, so when the weather warms up, like today, I told my boys to forget their afternoon lessons because we all needed to take a walk. And we did. I even have a little time to start this post before dinner.

camellias

One of the things that has gotten me through these past few weeks is reading a new textbook I bought for my son’s high school literature course, which I’m planning to teach him next year. I love it. I feel like I’m in college again, but this time, I don’t have to cram. I can read it slowly and savor everything. I forgot how much I love to read short stories!

Although I probably would not recommend it to any young person now, I’m very grateful that I was an English major in college. As a young person, I was very sheltered from the larger world. I kind of marvel at my younger self — I was so naive! But as an English major, though it did not prepare me for a lucrative career, it helped to open my eyes to the world, and it gave me so many valuable life lessons. It also made me a more compassionate person because literature offers a lens to see into other ways of life and how no one way of life is better or worse than any other. As I get older, I see that this kind of compassionate knowledge is missing in so many people. Most people I meet see the world only in black and white, and they don’t understand that it’s actually made up of many shades of gray. But who can blame them when the media, politicians, and even religious institutions will only paint the world in one stark shade with no room for nuance?

It’s for these reasons that I have enjoyed picking out the literature that my son reads for his homeschool lessons. (He reads a lot of books on his own too.) I have and will try to pick a broad range of titles that will give him many lenses to gaze through. I hope over these next few years, he’ll begin to see the world in all its complexity, and this will be one link in a long chain of lessons he has learned at home to prepare him for adult life.

purple crocus

Please leave me a message and tell me how you are coping during this pandemic. I hope you are well and that you’re keeping your spirits up.