All About My First Week–Homeschool Journal Week 1

This is our first week of J-Man’s weekly journal of adventures and learning. In these installments, he will be sharing what he is up to and what he is working on. These entries will be in his own words. It will be fun to see how he develops a writing style over time. 

I was climbing a tree and got to the top.
I was climbing a tree and got to the top.

This week I went to music camp, played minecraft, and asked questions. Like what 2.0 means.

I got a library card.
I got a library card.

I also listened to a story and saw a puppet show.

I was reading a lot of Roald Dahl books.
I was reading a lot of Roald Dahl books.

I like these books because they are fun. I like James and the Giant Peach because it has an adventure. My favorite character is the centipede. He is actually a pest. My favorite part was when the peach fell on the Empire State Building, because there was an airplane and cut the seagulls off.

Jack and a new friend on the Port tour
Me and Kai


I met Kai and homeschool kids. We had fun at park at the water playground.


jack and big grouper
Watching big fish

We went to the aquarium and boat port. I liked to see the lobster. I learned that river otters look like seals. They can perform tricks.

Next week I want to go to the Minecraft club and do gymnastics. I want to learn about our country. I want to learn about the presidents and the monuments. I want to be balanced next week because I want to learn more stuff and play more.



Getting It All Done and Other Fairy Tales


I had such a utopian vision of what our days were going to look like. J-Man would wake up around 8:00 AM happy and excited to start the day. We would talk about our plan for the day in a morning meeting as we ate the home cooked breakfast that I made. We would get set up for the day and then do a little yoga, finally settling in to whatever Jack and I planned to focus on for the day. When he was working independently, I would do laundry, dishes, and stop treating my house like a victim of neglect.


It took one day for me to see that this was not going to work. First, I grossly underestimated how long the activities we planned would take. The cool thing about working with J-Man is that I get to spend time with him and see what he enjoys. I get to learn more about his strengths and areas where he needs more help. We spent hours on a dream catcher that turned out beautifully, and in the process I found out he has had nightmares lately that he hadn’t told me about before, but these conversations took time. So, more than an hour past when I imagined we would be done.

So, then we started reading together and I was doing the whole, “Oh! No! What will happen to Sophie?” (because I haven’t read the whole thing yet). I was thinking we would have this great conversation about predictions and evidence in reading, and he said, “It’s OK Mom. I know she’s OK. I finished already.” He was reading to humor me, but also because he wanted to snuggle up and share something he enjoyed.

The take away is this: We won’t get to everything I would like us to do in a day. Some days, we might not to get to any of them because we may have an urgent need to get to the beach, but what we are getting is closer everyday.

My house is still a mess, I am four days behind on the blog, and I am behind on my work for my etsy shop, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Are you making it all happen? Share your tips for organizing your days! Please!

Help For New Unschoolers/Homeschoolers

I am a natural researcher. When I am interested in something, I dive deep into finding out as much as I can about it. So, if you are just starting out, like me, here are some of the resources that I have found absolutely invaluable in helping me understand that 1) this crazy idea was maybe not crazy, 2) what is homeschooling, unschooling, school from home and all the other terminology, and 3) what do I do now?

I started thinking about unschooling because I want J-man to get to experience true student-centered inquiry based learning, which is becoming increasingly incongruous to the direction that state and district mandates are leading public schools. As an educator, I spent eight years focusing on increasing inquiry in the public school class room with inspiration from the likes of Sir Kenneth Robinson’s hugely popular Ted talk (if you have not seen this stop everything and watch it now) I knew I wasn’t doing enough fast enough.

This Ted talk really spoke to me, and when I got a chance to hear him in person at a last spring, I felt my resolve to jump off the bandwagon grow stronger. You can watch his video here:

I was super fortunate enough to see my geeky super crush, Alan November, at a conference last summer. He made my brain explode about the ways in which schools could be using technology. When I first saw this talk I listened for how to use tech in the traditional school setting, after stripping away the construct of the classroom, I could see how learning real technology could blow the world of research open, not just for me, but for J-man as well. This keynote speech is over an hour long, but it is totally worth it, if you are at all interested in the role of technology in learning. Seriously, if you think you are using google correctly, Alan November will blow your mind. I watch this video about every three months to remind me. Did I mention I am crushing on him. Seriously. I love everything about this guy. I could listen to him for hours. And I have.🙂 Here is the video from his keynote address where I saw him last summer:

So, once we decided that we really want to create the learning environment that Sir Ken Robinson and Alan November inspire, off we went to Barnes and Noble! Sadly, our store did not have much that looked helpful to me so I settled on The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith. Get the handbook here.

The Homeschooling Handbook gave some fundamentals that I needed and helped me with terminology. I skipped the chapters on the legal stuff, because I already knew that we were probably going to enroll in an umbrella school ( for more info) and the chapters on education theory were pretty familiar to me, as I had to learn this to be a teacher. This is a great first read though for when you are trying to decide if this choice is for you.

I then moved on to The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings, here’s the link: Learn Dangerously! I love this book, even though I don’t really think it will have informed my practice all that much. I felt a real connection to the author. I can be pretty anxious (if you know me well and are reading this, please do not elaborate in the comments section). She discusses some of my worst fears and big concerns in her book. So while, I didn’t get a whole lot of “how to” I felt like there was a treasure trove of “it’s totally OK ifs” Hopefully, when the school year starts and the magnitude of this decision hits me, I will be prepared. I will perhaps revisit the chapter where she is hyperventilating in the laundry room, and I will realize that she made it and I can too.

I have also visited many, many blogs. The one that I felt was the most comprehensive for my needs was Blog, She Wrote, written by Heather Woodie. Maybe it’s because she was a teacher, but this source was, perhaps the most reassuring source so far. It not only showed me what homeschooling looked like (what to do with the stuff) it also shared what the stuff was. There were history quests and book study ideas. There were art projects, math work, and science experiments. While I might not use the same materials she has chosen, the sheer amount of information she shares is remarkable. You should visit her sight. No, really do it now:

I would venture to say that none of the homeschooling or unschooling parents I have met jumped into this without research. I am sure if you are still with me after my shameful Alan November musings, you are probably either trying to decide or are looking for support. Where are you in this process? What resources were the most helpful to you? Let’s talk pool our resources and help each other!




More on Motivation

So, as I have been sharing with friends and family that we will be homeschooling next year, I have received an almost uniform response that experienced homeschoolers would probably not be surprised to hear: “What about socialization?” and “What about diversity?” and most recently “Don’t you think you could work with the school to enhance his curriculum?”.  In a sense, these are the easier responses, because, really, almost every homeschooling/unschooling blog addresses the socialization issue at some point and there is plenty out there about making sure your child has real-world exposure to people from different cultures and different backgrounds. The really hard question comes more as a statement, “I can’t believe you would homeschool.”

I have worked in public schools in Florida for the last 18 years. For the last 11 years, I have been semi-administrative as a reading coach and then the coordinator for two different International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programmes. We have built our whole family life on the cycles of public school life, and for the last 17 years I have felt the sacrifices my family and I have made in serving other children have been worthy and almost noble. The change has come, for me, because my son

J-man baby picture
The first picture of J-man.


A bit about the J-man here:

From the first time I ever saw his face, I looked into his eyes and could see that he was unusually intelligent. I know that most parents think this, but there was almost an eerily alert quality to his gaze that convinced me that there was more going on here than with the average little tyke. Like most one year olds, J-man loved hearing his favorite stories read to him. The great Where’s Spot marathon of 2009, saw J-man recovering from his cleft palate surgery with nearly non-stop narration of his favorite book. By the time he was two and a half, he was reciting entire books in the car, and by four he was reading on his own. This is not that unusual, except he was choosing to read National Geographic books about dinosaurs written on the 2nd-4th grade levels.

When it was time for my little buddy to start school, we fell in love with the concept of Montessori. Here is a place, we thought, that he will get to advance at his own pace and have the autonomy to choose his daily activities. He excelled at Montessori. He was writing stories  with the letter manipulatives and illustrating stories that he and I would make up at bedtime.

He ran out of vowels at the end. He had just turned four in this picture.
He ran out of vowels at the end. He had just turned four in this picture.


In his second year at Montessori, once he was one of the older students in the class, he started to have challenges both behaviorally and academically. He tended to want to choose materials that were more appropriate for his new younger friends, and his behavior started regressing dramatically. So when it was time for kindergarten he came to school with me, and started in the International Baccalaureate.

Here his behavior in class got better, though he started showing anxiety when presented with problems without concrete solutions or that required creativity. He became a perfectionist, fearful of trying difficult challenges, if he wasn’t sure he would do well. At the same time, we had introduced him to some math videos for him to watch at night as he was going to bed, if he wanted. He advanced quickly and soon was doing far more advanced math than his kindergarten curriculum.

The problem here is that the public school curriculum would have him still working with addition until 2nd grade. He is reading far above level as well. Some people say that I should just try to skip him up a grade, but that really isn’t the answer either, as emotionally he is a little young for his age.

So we plan on letting him lead the charge on making friends that he likes, that might be younger than him, and studying what he wants which will likely be further along than what his friends in traditional schools will do.

So far this summer he has fallen in love with Roald Dahl, and spontaneously started what we called an author study in school. He is keeping a binder of all of his robot drawings and practicing descriptive writing by describing their capabilities. I feel pretty good about letting him take the lead, because he is already doing it. He is a sponge, and my job is to let him soak everything up!

The Decision to Change

welcome to the future

First off, this is not a blog that is anti-public school, anti-charter school, or anti-private school. This blog is not really anti-anything (except hardboiled eggs, which I can’t stand!) Instead, this blog is pro-J-man and pro-my family. It supports listening to your gut, but doing your due diligence. All of the opinions expressed in this blog make sense for my family based on our particular set of circumstances and values. We hope that by sharing our journey, we can inspire or help others to make decisions that work for them, and maybe open up possibilities for others that may have, before, seemed like long shots.

This blog chronicles our journey to make a new way of life. Our goals for this year are few, but significant.

You don't say!
You don’t say!

Goal 1: We want to take back control of our time.

I have always said that there is nothing in this world so precious as time as it is the one commodity in life that you can never get more of and assuredly will run out of too soon. Yet, even knowing this, I have allowed my time to be controlled by a series of choices that piled on top of each other resulted in our family feeling harried and frazzled much of the time. We were always “going” and rest time was never really resting. I may have looked like I was home for the weekend, but my mind could not stop spinning about the fifteen projects I was working on from work. Consequently, I started to realize that I was never fully present any where. This year, I will be consciously reducing my obligations and working to eliminate multi-tasking. When I am with J-man, I will not begrudge him time I could be spending on other things. He will be the thing. A colleague said to me recently, that teachers’ kids often get shafted for attention because we are spending all of our time trying to help everybody else’s kids. I don’t want this anymore.

Traditional school is all about time. We do this at 8:00 and something else at 9:00, and that worked for me. I was great at school. J-man is doing fine too, but he has to wait all day to really dive into topics and books that interest him. Add homework to the mix and he often does not have any time to pursue his own interests. By homeschooling, he will be learning through those interests.  He will own his own learning time. The fact that nobody in this house will have to get up before 6:00 AM is an added bonus.

Goal 2: Live simply and appreciate our blessings.

To make this change happen, we will use my retirement to transition to a new and probably less reliable sources of income (more on this later). We will have a year’s worth to live on to get set up, which will give us time to make the shift smoothly, if we simplify our life. Right now we live like we have more money than we know what to do with, which is definitely not the case. We eat out or bring home take out, regularly. We have Direct TV and Netflix. We have expensive cell phone data plans, and I have an expensive Michael’s crafting habit (which would be fine if I actually focused on just selling). In short, there are places where we can cut our spending to make it possible for us to focus on what is important and live a life that is peaceful. No one will be happy all the time, but I think a feeling of overall peace is certainly attainable.

A brain so powerful, we see sparks, or it might have been Disney fireworks.
A brain so powerful, we see sparks, or it might have been Disney fireworks.

Goal 3: Lastly, but most importantly, allow J-man to learn and grow at his own pace with a curriculum designed specifically for him.

J-man is nearly obsessed with robotics. On the weekends he writes comic books about robots, draws blueprints of potential robots he would like to make, and watches documentaries about robots. He already has the potential with just this topic to cover science, reading and writing, art, and engineering. We could add in math with the materials lists. The bonus: he would be so excited to do this that he would barely be able to stop to eat. Right now, he fits this in as a robotics club one day a week and what we can do on the weekend. I can’t wait to see how far he can go when he has the time to really focus and someone to guide him on the way.

Have you ever made a DECISION that felt like it needed all caps to express its bigness? How did you decide to take action? Are you, too, choosing to take control of your child’s education? Let’s have some tea and share our stories!