Why I changed my mind about standardized tests for homeschoolers

Cover of the IOWA Assessments that my eldest is taking.

We are almost finished taking our standardized tests this year, and for my 15-year-old, it’s the last year that I’m required to test him by law. Yay! But I’ll probably test him every year now because he wants to prepare to take the SAT. When he was in the 3rd grade, I thought testing him was a waste of time. (I still don’t think that age should be tested.) As he got older, I found it useful, and it’s a good tool for a homeschool parent. There’s a difference between the testing that goes on in the public schools and the testing I do here at home, although my son takes the same kind of test, and he does it all on his own. (Someone actually accused me of cheating since we could cheat, if we wanted to, and that’s extremely insulting to me. I would NEVER cheat, and my husband and I teach our kids to not cheat and ALWAYS be honest.) The difference is that I can create a relaxed atmosphere around the test taking.

Here is why I like administering standardized tests in my homeschool:

1. We can schedule the test whenever it works in our schedule. I always test my boys around May/June, and I test for the academic year they are in even if they haven’t finished all the coursework for that year. (We homeschool lessons year-round, if we find time during the summer.) But I can pick the week and make sure we’re free of other obligations.

2. We test over a few days, which is recommended by the manufacturers of the tests, so the boys only take one or two tests on any given day.

3. On the days we do the tests, I don’t require the boys to do any other lessons that day, although my 15-year-old did do more math homework in the afternoon this year.

4. Since all we have to do is take the test on those days, it gives us time to go for more walks and relax or do whatever those days. So it’s actually a less stressful day for us!

5. I always tell the boys to not worry about how they perform on the tests. It’s truly a tool for me to see which subject areas they may need a little more instruction in. But so far, it’s given me huge peace of mind that we’re doing okay.

6. For my eldest son, and also my younger, testing them every year starting at the end of middle school will give them practice for if/when they take the SAT/ACT. (By state law, I’m required to test them every three years starting in the 3rd grade and ending in 9th.) They already seem more relaxed about taking the tests. They like to tell me about the test and what they found easy or what they had to guess at. (The tests are written in a way that they couldn’t possibly know the answer to every question.)

Who else is giving their kids a standardized test this year?

If you have any questions about standardized testing or homeschooling general, I’d love to help. Check out the resources I offer, and if you can’t find something helpful, send me an email.

January 2022

My daffodils are blooming early, and they will always remind me of my dad who died in January 2021. He had given me these bulbs. They were growing on a back corner of his property, and they may have originally been planted by my great-grandmother! I have many more around the front of my yard.

It’s the last day of January, and whew — I’m glad it’s over. This has been a very busy month, and it has been cold outside with a few days of almost warm. It also has been a month of remembering….remembering loss from last year and remembering pre-covid times when everything was so much easier. I have been doing lots of random things like going to physical therapy, and I have been ordering specimens for my son’s biology labs. I also baked a loaf of bread for one of his science experiments. I haven’t baked in a long time, but I was pleased to have the skill when it was needed. I finished another James Herriot book, and I discovered that I absolutely love Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I’m so lucky to have musicians in my house!

The project that has taken the most time, however, is my 12-year-old’s new YouTube channel! Yes, we have taken the bird project to new heights! This year my 12-year-old is in an online ornithology club, which has really inspired him to dig deeper into the world of birds, and then I wondered if he might enjoy recording the birds in our yard and starting a YouTube channel. I was right, and he’s so excited about this. Every few days he’ll put the camera outside, picking a new place or a different angle, and we’ll put the seeds out there. Then we go inside and hope the birds will show up. They usually do. (And we’re at the window with our binoculars.)

This project is teaching my son more than just how to record birds. We have sat together to edit the film, and I’m surprised that he has so much patience to go through the recordings! He picks out the best parts, and I’ve shown him how to trim them. We are also going to learn more about video editing together, and I can see that it won’t be long before I won’t need to help. You never know where this could lead.

Naturally, he is most excited about getting new subscribers on his YouTube channel. So if you feel inclined, I hope you’ll subscribe. You never know, I might be fostering a YouTube star. LOL. Or, maybe Mr. Cardinal will become the star. We’ll see. 🤣

Here’s one of my favorite videos. Please go to his channel and click on “videos” at the top to see them all. And then you’ll understand why I’ve been so busy. This kid likes recording!

 

How has 2022 begun for you? I hope it’s starting out well.

Our 5th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Since my youngest son is an avid birder, I’ll share some bird photos I took on a trip to Franklin, North Carolina. This is a song sparrow.

Every year I have written a blog post about the curricula I’ve used for my boys in elementary school. (Once we get to middle school, I’ll share all the nitty gritty details in my PDF resources.) This post will cover what I used for 5th grade for my youngest son last year.

You might notice that it’s not an exact replica of what his older brother was doing when he was in the 5th grade. Younger brother is a completely different kid, and he’s going at a different pace. This is as it should be. However, it’s also partly because I had all these resources and didn’t have to search for them like I did when I was doing 5th grade with my eldest. All these factors make a big difference.

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments. I write detailed email responses, if I get good questions. Also, if I’ve written a review of these resources, I’ll link to it.

Tree swallow

Language Arts

He finished Fix It! Book 1 (IEW) and Michael Clay Thompson’s Grammar Town and Practice Island. 

I created Type 1 and Type 2 writing prompts for him as explained in Twelve Writing Assignments Every Middle School Student Should Complete.

He worked off and on in Language Smarts Level E from the Critical Thinking Co. It’s extra practice.

He began the Michael Clay Thompson vocabulary program with Caesar’s English I. 

This kid is an avid reader, and it’s a challenge to keep enough books on hand for him. (Getting him a Kindle really helped.) He’s flown through series such as The Secret Zoo, The Familiars, Wrinkle in Time, Seekers, Guardians of the Ga’Hoole, Harry Potter, and The Land of Stories as well as single books that aren’t in a series. Right now he’s waiting for another Redwall book from the library.

Mourning dove

Math

He finished four Life of Fred math books last year, including all of the intermediate series. After trying to go further in that series, however, it didn’t seem like a good fit for him anymore (my eldest son did stick with Life of Fred for a while longer but eventually switched as well), so he switched to Khan Academy for the remainder of the year. For 6th grade, we’ve got a new curriculum, which I’ll share in another post someday.

Science

I took a real shift in science this year. Learning about science had always been part of our natural, weekly routine when my eldest son was younger, but due to a lot of factors — shifting interests, the pandemic, and how my younger son learns differently — I decided to begin outsourcing science. By this I mean online classes, and for my youngest son, Outschool.com has been an incredible resource. He enjoys the live Zoom classes. I’m also grateful for these classes because he continues to be very interested in studying birds, and if this keeps up, he may go into the sciences for a career. I want to make sure he has a good foundation in science.

So, in the 5th grade, he took the following classes on Outschool:

      • Zoology Semester Course (10 weeks) by Marc Cuda*
      • Wild Animal Wonders: Introduction to Bird Biology, Ornithology Just for Kids! (8 weeks) by Teacher Carmen
      • Wacky World of Science Summer Camp for Middle School Learners (6 weeks) by Patch Kulp
      • Extraordinary Birds Part 2 by Marc Cuda (He had already taken Part 1)

Aside from this, we also read How to Think Like a Scientist by Stephen P. Kramer, and we continued to watch science and nature documentaries on an almost daily basis, which we’ve done since our kids were babies. (So they enjoy them!)

* If you want a review of the teachers on Outschool, send me an email. You can also read teacher reviews on the site.

Carolina wren

History

History lessons were informal. My husband is a history professor, so both my boys benefit from his insights from time to time. In the 5th grade, my 5th grader read a bunch of books:

He read Story of the World, Vol. 1: Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer by himself. He liked this book more than my older son did.

Together we read Everything You Need to Ace American History In One Big Fat Notebook, and we both liked it. As we went along, I also read history related storybooks and middle grade books that I had picked up at library book sales. We continue to do this in the 6th grade.

Foreign Language

He continued to take weekly Mandarin Chinese lessons with a tutor online last year. Hiring a tutor was the best thing I could have done to make sure we stuck with a foreign language study. We still don’t keep up with it as well as we should, but we make progress because of the weekly lessons, and my youngest son is pretty good at reviewing the vocabulary a few times each week.

Tree swallow

Music Education

My 5th grader completed four years of cello lessons in August 2021! I can’t believe how time flies. 

Last year was really weird because we were stuck at home due to the pandemic, and we continue to be mostly at home now, although that’s slowly changing. There were outside activities I had hoped to get my 5th grader involved in, but it hasn’t been possible. It’s extremely frustrating, and I don’t know how this will affect him in the long-run, but I’ll always be grateful that we were already homeschooling when the pandemic started, we have each other, and we started using Outschool!  What a lifesaver that has been! 

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?

Crash Course in Homeschooling

If you are considering homeschooling, these are the first things you need to consider:

  • You need to know the laws regarding homeschooling in your area. In the U.S., homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but the laws pertaining to homeschooling is different for each state. You need to find out what is expected of you, if you make this decision. After finding out the laws, I would find a homeschool support group (most of them are on Facebook), and let others in your area guide you. I know in my state of Georgia the law sounds more complicated than it is. So begin by doing an Internet search for “homeschooling laws in ______” and enter your state in the blank.
  • You need to consider whether or not you will be sending your child back to a more traditional school setting after a period of time. If you are sending them back to school, then you need to pick a curriculum that will “tick all those boxes” and keep them on track for the school’s agenda. If you are going to keep on homeschooling, then you have more freedom to pick curriculum that might allow your child to explore their interests and really dig into learning.
  • If you know the laws in your home state, and you know how you want to homeschool, then you need to figure out how to schedule your time. See my blog post about this. If you have to work full time while homeschooling, this can be very difficult, but it’s not impossible. I’ve known families who do this. They might homeschool on the weekends or in the evenings. They take turns with their spouses. They give their kids assignments they can do alone while they’re working, and then they sit with them during their off hours. Or they might employ a tutor or use an online class. Or, in non-pandemic times, they might enroll their child in community classes or in a homeschool co-op. Other homeschooling families might help them by taking care of their kids on certain days, etc. You need to get creative, if you want to homeschool and work full time as well.
  • You don’t need to panic! You can do this. The most important academic skills your kids need to pass all those standardized tests is math and writing (grammar, etc.). (Or math and reading, if they are early elementary.) If you don’t have time for anything else, just concentrate on those two subjects. Your child is not going to fall behind because they didn’t go to school for a year or two. Reading books and watching documentaries together can go a long way toward learning about science and history, and you may find that by learning together, you and your child enjoy it more.
  • Take it one day at a time. Once you tackle these few things, you can slowly add more, if you want to. Or maybe you’ll see that your child is doing just fine while they are homeschooling, and you’ll want to keep doing this. Good luck!

I know that finding curriculum is probably the most difficult part of homeschooling. There are so many resources out there that I can’t possibly list all of them here! If you click here, you’ll find a list of all the materials I’ve used while homeschooling elementary school, and here are a few comprehensive curriculums that I am aware of:

Oak Meadow
Time4Learning
Moving Beyond the Page

Other good resources:

Royal Fireworks Press — This press prints quality curriculum for gifted kids, but any kid could use their materials when they are ready for it.
Outschool — Lots of online courses by freelance teachers using Zoom.
Cathy Duffy Homeschool Curriculum Reviews — Offers reviews on hundreds of homeschooling curricula and resources. Notice that in the right-hand margin of each review, she alerts you to the religious perspective of each curriculum. Be sure to look for secular, if that’s important to you. (My blog is secular.)

For those teaching preschool/kindergarten, I suggest this post that I wrote:

The Only Preschool (or Kindergarten) Curriculum You Need Is Your Enthusiasm

I also offer some short, easy-to-read PDF resources in my store for elementary and 7th grade.

I’m always happy to chat with people or answer questions about homeschooling too. Please e-mail me!

July

Homeschooling is the road less traveled, and that makes all the difference.

Everyday my boys teach me something new. They teach me about life, about the world, and they teach me how to be a better parent. Homeschooling, also, is something I learn about everyday. Experience is the only thing that can teach you how to homeschool your own kids.

Despite the pandemic and despite the fact that we haven’t left our house in over four months (except for shopping, etc.), this has been a magical summer. My eldest son, the pianist, was accepted in the Interlochen Arts Camp, and we were sad when we realized they would have to cancel this year’s camp, but instead of cancelling it, they offered an online version. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but it ended up being better than we hoped. I’m simply amazed at what can be done online. Of course, it’s better in person, but Interlochen proved that learning, camaraderie and all the arts can continue online, and even after the pandemic is over, I hope people see that connecting, learning and working online is something we should do more of. If used wisely, the Internet can be a positive place for people who otherwise would not have access to the opportunities it offers.

My son had a wonderful time. For three weeks, he was immersed in music education with other like-minded and talented kids. He had private lessons, studio lessons, a master class with a prominent piano professor, many different classes about music, music history and theory, etc., and I thoroughly enjoyed the industry seminars — live, Zoom interviews with famous musicians and composers. My son also performed in three live-streamed recitals.

The best part for me was watching him interact with his peers and participate in classes, and this experience made both my husband and I realize that he needs more — no, NOT socialization (he already has that) — time spent in his element. This is who he is. He’s a musician. He speaks a special language, and he needs to be with people who speak the same language. I’m so grateful to Interlochen for providing that for him.

I think that all parents should consider it their job to help their child find “their people” or “tribe,” whichever term you prefer. This doesn’t mean you reject the people you already have around you, but every kid is unique, and some of them have special talents or inclinations. Helping them find others who share those same traits could open wide, positive doors that you can’t even imagine, especially if you don’t share the same traits. It makes me sad that so many parents are blind to this or don’t want their kids to find their tribe because they want their kids to be more like them.

The biggest criticism that I hear against homeschooling is about socialization. People think homeschooled kids are not socialized, whatever that means to you. Homeschoolers know this isn’t true. Our kids are better socialized than traditionally schooled kids, and one of the reasons is because we can allow them to explore the world freely, letting them try on different activities and pursuits until they find the one (or many) that best fit. In doing so, they find others who like similar stuff and think like they do. And because of this, our kids find a place for themselves in this world very early, and this builds a tremendous amount of self-esteem. For the rest of us, it takes years of adult life to find our place — I didn’t find it until I reached my thirties.

And I can hear the critical people saying “But kids need to learn how to cope and work with people who aren’t like them.” If you’re thinking that, are you kidding? You don’t think our kids are going to meet people who aren’t like them? Who disagree with them, discourage them, criticize them, or are neutral towards them? THOSE KIND OF FOLK ARE PLENTIFUL! Finding your kindred spirit is harder, but it’s essential for a life well lived.

I’ll come down off my soapbox now. While my eldest son was in camp, I spent a lot of time with my younger son, playing games, taking walks and reading books. It’s been nice to hang out at home for a summer, and we’ve had lots of time to care for our garden beds and potted plants, which you can see in the photo above. I even planted an herb garden.

Now it’s getting hot, so the afternoons are unbearable outside. It’s a good time to work on the boys’ portfolios. I’m still wrapping up this year’s work, and I’m preparing for next year’s lessons, which will start in September. I have so much to do that it’s overwhelming, if I think about everything at once. All I can do is peck at my task list bit by bit. Somehow it will all get done.

I hope that you’ve had a good summer despite the world’s affairs. Please take a minute to tell me what you’ve been up to, and if you find my blog helpful, I would greatly appreciate you sharing it on your social media sites. Thank you!

Pandemic Homeschooling

Below are links to posts I’ve written specifically for parents who find themselves needing to homeschool during the pandemic. If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to email me. I would like to try to help.

Crash Course in Homeschooling

Scheduling Your Homeschool Day

School Closures vs. Homeschooling

Stuck at Home? Need to Teach Your Kids? Try these ideas.

If you are seriously considering switching to homeschool long-term, and you have elementary level students, I recommend my 48-page PDF resource The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years. You can find it in my store.

 

Another 4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Every year I have shared my homeschool curriculum twice. Usually I write a post at the beginning of the year with my goals for that year, and at the end of the year, I give you a review or a “what actually happened” post. This is the first time I haven’t done that. The only excuse I have for not sharing anything about my youngest’s 4th grade year is that I have been tending to higher priorities. (That’s better than saying “I’ve been too busy,” right?) 🙂

(For 7th grade and higher, I have decided to create PDFs and sell them for a small fee because this is a lot of work. I hope you’ll check out my store.)

But now I can share a brief review of “what actually happened” this year for my 4th grader. That is, here is the main curriculum that he completed this year. I hope this helps you as you prepare a curriculum for your own child. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions, if you have them. There’s a lot of great curriculums and ways to homeschool out there. This is just one example!

Language Arts

I always maintain that my first priority in teaching the language arts is letting my boys develop a love of reading. I don’t push a lot of grammar or writing until that happens. Finally this year my son has fallen in love with reading! By my calculations, he has read 68 books to himself and counting. (32 graphic novels; 36 YA novels) In addition, I read four novels out loud to him as well, including Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, and The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras. (Those last two we are still reading.)

For poetry, I have been reading from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid.

For grammar, he worked in the Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Program. I had him re-read some of these books to himself, and I read out loud from some of them too. Then he worked through all the exercises and worksheets associated with these books:

    • Grammar Island
    • Sentence Island
    • Grammar Town
    • Practice Island

I have also used Language Smarts Level E from the Critical Thinking Co. This is a huge workbook, and it’s helpful, but it wasn’t my main priority for him this year. We’ll probably dip in and out of it next year too.

Math

Nothing new here. He completed the same math curriculum that his older brother completed in the 4th grade:

    • Life of Fred: Honey
    • Life of Fred: Ice Cream
    • He practiced multiplication tables with flashcards
    • He practiced long division problems using some worksheets I gave him. He’ll continue doing one problem a day throughout the summer.

Science

We did a lot of science this year, which was a priority I had made for him.

He has a special interest in birds, so in addition to all the things we’ve done over the years to help him with this, we did the following this year:

This year I used Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding to teach some basic science lessons. We started with volume 1 because these books build on each other. Since he’s a little older, though, I was able to go more in depth on our lessons, which was fun. However, while I love this curriculum, it requires a lot of reading/prep work on my part, so I’m not sure we’ll keep using it. If you are a science buff, and you just need a guide as to what to teach with some kid activities, then you’ll probably love this curriculum.

We also subscribed to the Tappity App on the iPad, and my ten-year-old loves it.

Social Studies (includes History)

This year we did not make history a part of our one-on-one lessons, but my 4th grader did a lot of reading on his own for this subject.* He has been reading bothThe Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and Story of the World volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer.

We also watched the following documentaries this year:

*Note: I’ve written a lot about how I pick different priorities for each year because it’s very difficult to dig deep into every subject every year, which, for me, is a big part of why we homeschool. I prefer to dig deep instead of spreading ourselves thin over several subjects. Over time, we shift our priorities (or not) as necessary.

Foreign Language

Both boys decided last year that they wanted to focus only on Mandarin Chinese for their foreign language, and I finally realized that if we were going to make this a priority, we needed to get a tutor. After looking in vain for local tutors, I found a great tutor on Wyzant.com who does weekly half hour one-on-one lessons with each boy, and she goes at their individual pace. I couldn’t be more happy with this. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can too — I follow along with my 4th grader because we’re going at the same pace. This summer I’ve been making some Chinese games to help make studying more fun!

Art

We have continued to use Drawing for Older Children and Teens: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too by Mona Brookes when time permits, and occasionally we draw in our sketchbooks together.

Music Education

In August, my 4th grader will be celebrating three full years of weekly cello lessons with an excellent teacher that we love. I’m so proud of him. I don’t know how I managed to birth two talented musicians, but it’s been a joy to watch the progress!

That’s 4th grade (the second time around) in a nutshell! What grade is your child (or children) in? What were the highlights of your year? 

Thanks so much for reading. If you find my posts helpful, I would really appreciate a share on your social networks. Thank you!

What We All Can Do

I have felt a range of emotions as I read and watch the news over the past couple of weeks. I generally try to see things from all points of view, and sometimes the media makes this hard to do. That’s why I read a wide range of media. I wish I could help more, but I think the best thing I can do is continue listening, learning and helping my children learn.

No matter what your political leaning may be, I think we can all agree that learning about other people and their experience is a good thing. During this time, it’s especially important to focus on why #BlackLivesMatter, and there are plenty of resources to do this. I try to read or watch a little something everyday — I don’t have a lot of time — but I bookmark a lot articles that I want to come back to later. I don’t typically share things on my blog that I haven’t already read or used, but in this case, I thought I would list a few of the resources I’ve found in case it might be helpful to anyone.

This is how I plan my homeschool too. I read booklists, and I slowly sift through materials until I find what I think will be most beneficial to my boys. I have already been planning a literature unit for next year that would include historical fiction set in the U.S. This way I can combine literature and history for my soon-to-be 8th grader. Of course, I wanted to include plenty of black writers in my list, so in this blog post you’ll find a few of the titles I’m looking at. While I might not include them all in my literature unit for next year, we’ll probably get them and read them anyway.

This is not an exhaustive list! It’s only a few items that I’ve found. Please share your own articles, books and resources in the comments below because I’m still looking! (I also want to thank my friend Diane Magras for recommending a few of the middle school literature books.)

Middle School Historical Fiction by Black Authors

Flygirl by Sherri Smith

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Betty Before X  by Shabazz

Helpful Articles During This Time

For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies

What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

10 Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black

Anything on goodblacknews.org

For Adults to Consider

A History of Race and Racism in America, in 24 Chapters – A good list of literature to consider, if you want to explore this topic. Some of the works on this list are racist (so be sure to read the descriptions in this article) and others sought to destroy it. Some of my favorite books from my youth are mentioned on this list, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Roots by Alex Haley, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

If you enjoy watching movies, you might like to peruse this list: Movies to Watch to Educate Yourself About Racism, Protests on Time

Book: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum (There are many books on this subject that you can easily find by doing a search. This book has been around for a long time, and it’s been updated. I have been wanting to read it for some time.)

Talking to Kids About Racism & History

How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books That Can Help

Civil Rights Then & Now by Kristina Brooke Daniele

And Because I’m Raising Musicians

19 Black Musicians Who Have Shaped the Classical Music World  ❤️

 

Again, please feel free to add additional resources that you find to be helpful in the comments below. Thanks!

May

Strange Month

May 2020 has been a weird month, and I know that I don’t have to explain why to anybody. I hope whoever is reading this is okay, and you aren’t struggling too much. We’re okay. We’re still staying home for the most part and only going out when necessary. I don’t like having to stay isolated, but we’ve got each other, and we have a comfortable space to live, so I don’t have much to complain about.

One good thing about homeschooling and working for yourself is that you learn how to create your own schedule, and you develop self-discipline, so in some ways, it’s been easier for me to self-isolate. On the other hand, our old schedule is gone, and I used to use our weekly appointments as a kind of anchor or guide that would direct my small, daily goals. When everything shut down, I floundered for a bit (who didn’t?!), but then I realized I could shape my daily schedule again in a productive way. I have found that getting up early on certain weekday mornings and taking a long walk really helps me mentally, and then I have more energy afterward to think about my other small goals for that day.

Good News

We received some exciting news this month. My 13-year-old won 2nd place for 7th grade in the GMTA state piano competition! Whoo-hoo! He really deserves it after all the hard work he’s put in.

He’s going to premiere an online #StayAtHome recital on YouTube in June. If you would like to join us for that, please send me an email, and I’ll include you on my list of people who will receive the link. It’s not going to appear on his YouTube channel, so you’ll need that link.

Found a friend on my son’s pitcher plants. (Anole)

It’s Time for All that Fun, End-of-Year Work

I was reminded recently that I need to create progress reports for my boys, which I do every summer. In a progress report, I use a bullet list to show what subjects, curriculum, books, projects, etc. that the boys worked on in this past year. I am required to do this by law, but it’s for my own records. I have realized that it’s an important piece of record-keeping because as the boys grow up and begin to apply for various programs, schools or scholarships, we will need to have these lists handy for those applications. I’m learning that it’s important to keep track of EVERYTHING, so I’m glad that I was already a good record-keeper. Despite this, I learned this past year that there’s MORE I need to keep track of, such as a list of all the music my 13-year-old pianist has learned to play. Yikes! Starting that list a few years and over a hundred pieces later, it was a chore to whip up! But now it’s done, and I just need to remember to add to it as we go along.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you homeschool, and your child is ever going to apply for anything, you might want to keep records, especially if they are doing a lot of independent projects!

Next Year Plans

I’m also starting to think about plans for next year, which is fun, and I’m giving myself the whole summer to work out our plans. I have a stack of historical fiction set in the United States on my desk, which might give you a clue as to what I’m thinking about. But there’s a lot more than literature that I need to plan. In order not to get overwhelmed, I use the previous year’s progress report, and I go through each subject one at a time, trying to decide if we’ll keep doing what we’re already doing, or if we need something new. It’s slow work, but it’ll get done. And, of course, we continue to tweak the course of study as the year goes along, which always happens. My plans are flexible.

Note: If you want to see what my plans were for 7th grade, the whole game plan is in my shop.

Wrapping Up This Year

We don’t have any definite date set for “the last day of school,” and in fact, our school year continues through the summer. I’m going to give my son a couple weeks off before his summer camp begins, which is online now (but that’s better than nothing)! And we always take a lot of time off in August because it’s birthday month. But if there’s any work that I was hoping my son would finish, and he’s not quite finished with it, he’ll continue with it throughout the summer, and then I’ll probably decide that it’s done, and we’ll just move on to whatever we’re going to do next year. I have learned that it’s very hard to finish every curriculum, book, resource that we have, but I can remember back when I was in school, and teachers would not always finish everything on the syllabus either. I think we get a lot more accomplished than I give us credit for.

What Else?

Let’s see. We are raising four monarch caterpillars! Not as many as last time, but that’s not a bad thing. We haven’t had to worry about running out of milkweed, but we did have to bring them inside because they were being preyed upon by wasps. 😦 So we hope the four that we have will survive. We have two chrysalises so far, and we’ll probably have two more by tomorrow. 🙂

Mrs. Cardinal with one of her chicks (which you saw in the nest in my last post).

We’ve also enjoyed birdwatching this year. The cardinal chicks that I featured in last month’s post have survived, and we’ve seen them partaking in our sunflower seeds alongside Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal. (This is what we affectionally call the pair of cardinals we’ve been feeding for 2~3 years now.) We’ve also watched many other bird chicks in the yard, including brown thrashers, bluebirds, and these beautiful Eastern Phoebes. 🙂

If you have actually read this far, THANK YOU. I hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me how your month is going. Please take care and stay safe. 🙂