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.

Our 8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum with High School Planning

As I type this post and think back over this past year, it feels like one of the longest homeschool years we’ve ever had. I’m sure that’s partly because we spent it isolated at home during a pandemic, but it’s also been a lot of work because my son is in the 8th grade, and it’s the last year before high school. Wow. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far! When I started homeschooling all those years ago, I had no idea how it would go, but I’m glad it’s turned out good.

As I wrote last year, I am creating PDF resources with all the nitty gritty about our curriculum just like I used to write blog posts, but now they are even more detailed. I have written 8th Grade with High School Planning to complement the one I wrote for 7th grade last year. It’s a bit shorter (at 10 pages) because it’s strictly about the curriculum, but I’ve also included my plans (so far) for each subject in high school and links that have helped me figure out how to award credits and create a transcript for high school.

In 8th Grade with High School Planning, you’ll find the the resources we’ve used for all the major subjects:

Writing
Literature
Vocabulary
Math
Science
History
Foreign Language

I was also happy to realize recently that Payhip, which is the company that I use to sell my digital products on, has created a bunch of cool new features for me to use, so now my store looks like a real website by itself. Please check it out.

I’m taking advantage of two new Payhip features. First, my products are set to “pay what you want.” There is a minimum price, but most of my minimums will be $1.00 unless it’s something much longer in length, such as The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Yearswhich will have a $3.00 minimum. But basically this will allow some people to pay a bit more, if they can, and if they feel my work warrants it. But if you can’t pay more, a dollar it is. My main goal is to help people, but I truly appreciate all the support I can get too.

The other new feature available on my store is a blog, which I don’t really need since I have this blog, but I thought I might use it for some quick, inspiring homeschool tips. You can check that out here.

What else should I do for my store? If there’s anything else you would like to see me write about, please let me know. I appreciate your support very much. If you can’t buy my PDF resources, that’s okay. If you can share my blog or store on your social media outlets, I’d really appreciate that too. And I always love hearing from you, even if it’s just to chat! Thanks so much. 🙂

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.

December 31, 2020

Foggy morning sunrise

Happy New Year!

I hope you have had a good holiday season. I have not felt like writing much this month. There was a lot of holiday prep to keep me busy, but I’ve also had mixed feelings of sadness about the ongoing pandemic and other events as well as some contentment and gratefulness for my daily life. All of this puts me in a quiet mood.

I have been thinking about the future, though, and I’m excitedly putting together plans for my eldest son’s high school years and my younger son’s middle school years. I’m still in the early stages of planning. I do want to take the time to write a pdf resource that will outline how we handled 8th grade, and I’ll write a blog post or two about my younger son’s 5th grade. But this may not happen until late spring or early summer. I’m writing at a snail’s pace these days.

In the past, I wrote more regularly on this blog, sharing details of projects and whatnot, and this helped me when it came to end-of-year record keeping. Now I don’t have that to look back on. I’m going to have to scratch my head and remember what we did. 🙂 But I won’t have to work on that until summer. I don’t mean to rush things, but as we turn our attention to spring, I can’t help but take note of everything that will need to be done.

In the near future, I’m excited that my boys will be taking some courses on Outschool. By sheer good luck, I happened to find a science class for my eldest son that is using the same textbook he’s reading right now. So he’ll have a live teacher to help him through the second half of it, and the class will include experiments and activities. I’m glad he’s going to get a taste of an online class because he’ll be doing much more of this in high school.

Today I’ve been doing a little housecleaning. Twice a year I go through our homeschool room and declutter, rearrange and organize it in a way that will better meet our needs for the days to come. I am creating a bit of a science laboratory in there in anticipation of this class. 🙂

As far as books, I will share what I’m reading right now, which is a middle grades novel set during the Revolutionary War. Forge by Laurie Halse Andersen is the second book in the Seeds of America Trilogy. Even though it’s written for youth, it doesn’t feel that way to me. It’s a story that makes me want to keep reading. It is extremely well-researched, includes quotes from primary resources, and most importantly, it gives us a new perspective of this war because its main characters are slaves. I assigned the first book, Chains, to my 8th grader this year as part of his literature unit, but I loved the book so much that I wanted to keep reading the rest of the series. My son wanted to read the second book too, but I told him he’d have to wait until he finishes his other assigned books. 😉 I would highly recommend these books to anyone, and they are appropriate for adolescents, though they don’t shy away from difficult subject matter.

Also, if you have emailed me, and I haven’t written you back, I’m sorry! I will hopefully find time to keep in touch in the new year, and I hope you’ll also keep in touch with me and let me know how you’re doing.

Hopefully one year from now, 2021 will be ending on a brighter note!

November 2020

Greetings & Happy Holidays. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and that you’re looking forward to the winter holidays in December. We had a pleasant Thanksgiving, but the best part has been taking a few days off from our regular routine to play and putter around the house. Boy, I needed that! And the boys needed it too.

There’s much going on that I can’t write about in this space, so let’s just say that this homeschooling mama is growing older, and she’s feeling tuckered out. I turned 49 in October! It’s hard for me to believe that. When I was a young girl, a 50-year-old was old old. LOL Now poof. I’m almost there. Of course, I don’t consider it old anymore, but I do notice a lot of changes in my body. *groan*

But life is mostly good, and for this, I’m grateful. At this age, I have learned to appreciate all the good, simple things. Being alive is on the top of that list. And healthy. I like to rake leaves and trim the foliage in the flowerbeds. I love watching birds, and I love the blue sky, and I love rain too. I have a cozy home, and I love my family. I get a little time here and there to share my thoughts on this blog, and somehow that’s like meditating for me. It helps me breathe and sort my thoughts.

This isn’t to say I don’t see the darker side of life. We are still waiting out this pandemic, and we are more than ready for a vaccine, but we know that life will stay somewhat altered for a while beyond that. This isn’t fun. I know many people who are over 50-years-old who are being negatively affected by this pandemic. You don’t necessarily have to catch COVID-19 to have it take away your freedom to be with loved ones or access to proper healthcare, which has other negative consequences. I also know plenty of people who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously, and they don’t wear masks or take any precautions, and this is frustrating because their decisions impact us. We’re having to stay home for an entire year because we can’t trust going out among the general population for anything except essential shopping. Thanks a lot, I say.

Sigh. But life goes on, and we savor the good and try to let the other things go. This too shall pass.

If there’s one good thing about being stuck at home, it’s that we can do a lot of learning and reading.

My 5th grader just finished up a fantastic class on outschool.com. (If you don’t know about Outschool, you should really check it out.) He took a 10-week zoology class with a great teacher who made the class fun. It met twice a week on Zoom, so it was in depth, and he did a lot of homework for it. He also took a class about birds from this same teacher over the summer. Outschool has been great, and I plan to use it more as my son’s needs grow.

As a family, we have been enjoying the series How the Universe Works, which is available on Amazon Prime right now. We’ve watched a lot of documentaries about space, but we’ve never gotten the detailed information that we are getting in this show. Keep in mind, it’s a few years old, so with rapid technological advances, some of this information is already out of date. In addition, we usually don’t like documentaries that repeat information and images over and over again (you’ll see a lot of explosions), or use dramatic language to describe nature, but the basic information is so good that we can overlook that.

As for books, we are all diving into our favorites. My 11-year-old won’t give me back my Kindle! He is devouring chapter book after chapter book, and I haven’t even kept track of everything he’s reading. My husband is supplying him with plenty of series. As long as the books have animals for main characters, my son is happy, and I’m thrilled he’s reading so much, so he can keep my Kindle. 😉 At the moment he’s reading the Seekers series.

My 14-year-old is enjoying the classic science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert right now.

As for me, I’ve always got a few things I’m reading, but for my bedtime book, I’m reading The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. I just started it, but so far, so good. It’s entertaining and informative, and since I’ve learned a lot about the research of birds in documentaries, I feel like I have some knowledge and background which makes me thoroughly enjoy this book.

I also recently finished re-reading the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, though I’m questioning now whether or not I really read it as a kid. I thought I did, but I sure didn’t remember anything from the book! Maybe I just saw the movie. (I don’t have the greatest memory.) Anyway, I enjoyed it, though I see where teaching this book today would be tricky. You definitely need to read it keeping in mind the timeframe it was written and perhaps juxtapose this book with some more current but also wonderful books written by black authors. I would recommend Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which is also set in the 1930s. Do you have any other recommendations?

How is your homeschooling going, or what plans do you have for the holidays? Please tell me in the comments below.

October

October is well on its way and the weather has been beautiful. I’m even starting to see a little color on the trees too.

Our homeschool year is going as expected, and it’s keeping me extremely occupied, to say the least, which is why this is a short post. This year is the most challenging as I homeschool both 8th grade and 5th grade. The 5th grader is no longer in the “easy grades,” as I like to think of them, and we are consumed with thoughts on how we’ll manage high school next year for my 8th grader. I spend my days checking my notes, making sure we’re ticking off the to do list and staying on task. It’s not always easy, and I juggle a lot, but I also make sure I preserve time for myself so that I have the energy to do the work.

The boys are older, and there’s so much to look forward to. I appreciate staying busy while we sit out this pandemic, but we also have those humdrum days when we just want to fast forward a little bit. I can’t wait until we (as a society) can get back to some sort of normal, if not exactly the same normal we had before.

Recently we went to the botanical garden, took a leisurely walk, and I cherished every moment. There were many flowers blooming, and I enjoyed using my camera. Outings like these have always kept me sane, and I’m happy to share some of the images with you. Please tell me how you’re doing in the comments. I hope you are well and that you’re getting out into nature too.

I promise I’ll write more next month. 😉