What’s our goal?

I’ve been asking this question recently. I’ve always asked myself. Incessantly. Constantly. Obsessively even.  I’ve decided to share the love.  I asked my sweet hubby what his goals were for the kids yesterday.  Pretty simple.  Study the Donner Party for our possible road trip over Donner Pass this summer and improve the kids swimming skills.   Easy peesy. 

Today, I asked the kids their goals for the day.  The Fairy wanted to work on her Young Chautauqua performance and Choir homework.  Since she’s been working so hard on handwriting and since we read for over an hour last night, I decided to forgo those things.  I added some multiplication practice to the list via times attack and a rousing game of King of the Mountain.

Young Chautauqua is this great program where children research a historical figure and create a monologue as that figure. The Fairy chose Annie Oakley.  The challenge with Annie Oakley is that she is so legendary, that it’s hard to find the truth behind the legend.  Following the advice of a past YC family, we’ve chosen one spine as our resource.  It’s quick to point out legends vs facts.  Problem is, its an adult book and requires a fair amount of my time to keep her on track.  It’s good but tough to squeeze in while the Hero sits in the background begging for someone to play.   We’re getting there but the great thing is she’s starting to take some initiative and dive into the big book. I hadn’t expected this and was holding her back without knowing it.  How often do I do this as a parent? As a teacher?  Hopefully less with time.

The choir is for Options, our lovely one day a week enrichment program.  The choir teacher is an angel on earth and the children love her. They can do things for her that baffle the mind.  Harmonies and songs with multiple parts singing at the same time.

Ah, and King of the Mountain. I just made it up. Darn, I love doing this stuff. It’s flash cards and not much more. The kids stand on the floor each doing flashcards at their level.  For each answer they get right, they move up one step.  Today the Hero won and the Fairy was a bit frustrated, but the sweetness of the Hero shone thorough.  He started calling out ridiculous answers.  We both knew he knew the answer.  But he wanted his sister to be where he was.  Of course, I had to give the ‘adult answer’ of ‘nobody wants to win because you hold back’ and ‘always do your best’, but inside I was tickled at what a sweet boy he was. He knew his sister was frustrated and he wanted to ease her frustration and have her join the fun again. 

For his goals, the Hero wanted to do a timed test.  This is a new idea for the Hero.  He’s watched the Fairy work on these but now it’s his turn.    He was so excited to be a big boy homeschooler doing timed tests and insisted on doing 2 timed tests, one addition and one subtraction.  We started on minus 1 and 0.  After all, he is just in Kindy and he finished all of them on time. He was beaming.   Honey, if you love timed tests we can do them all the time!

Of course, I added his daily reading practice to his goal list for the day.  As we sat down to do his reading I realized that he is well on the path. I felt it more than anything;  an ease, an understanding, a lack of strain or force.  He’s still working on bob books and not quite to Lord of the Rings, but the path, while not flat, is now at least paved.  It was my turn to beam.  Two kids on the reading path.  What more could a homeschooling mom want?

Now if only my goals were so simple.  A perfect balance of  happiness, work, play, school, effort, rest, peace, intensity.  At least I can say that I’m meeting my families goals and I guess that since my goals are really all about meeting their needs that my ginormous list of goals didn’t need to be so ginormous after all.


Glorious Winter Day

I got to see myself as a child today.  Really. In real life.  It was time travel.  Must have been. 

I took the kids roller blading on our great bike path. It was a beautiful winter day. Warm, sunny.   So roller blading and biking was the order of the day.  The Hero is getting so good on his bike, but he still likes to stop and chatter. The Fairy on the other hand wants to feel the wind on her face and fly as fast as she can on her wheels. 

At one point, we stopped at one of our city’s sweet art displays. This is a platform with a sign that says ‘Gather people to equal the weight of 50 infants or xyz butterflies’…and basically the art sculpture would move.  Of course xyz was a number. But as a mommy and birth junkie, I knew how much babies weighed and had no clue what butterflies weigh.  The fairy and I assumed 50 8 pound babies and came up with 400 pounds. Between the Fairy, Hero and myself, we figured we had about 235 of those pounds.  So, we stalked anybody walking past and asked them to join us in our quest to  reach 400 pounds.  Not too hard we thought.  We did have two people join us.  They clearly weighed more than the 165 pounds we needed.  No movement.  We grabbed a few more folks.  Still no movement. Finally, with one more rollerblader, it moved. We had to jump up and down and think heavy, but it moved. Very exciting.  We enjoyed our adventure, our gathering of community and our mini math lesson.  Tomorrow I think we’ll figure out how much the artist thinks an infant weighs.  Thank goodness it wasn’t my infant. Ouch!

With happy hearts at our accomplishment, we headed back to the car.  I felt a woosh of time travel when I saw the fairy blading like a long, leggy deer.  Bell bottom jeans, a 70’s inspired shirt and a grace and confidence that I remember from my young ‘wheelie’ days. Only difference is my wheels were quads.  She definitely looked cooler in her blades.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day with some lovely friends.  I asked the boy reading question. You know the one…We’re reading Bob Books, but where do we go from here?  The Hero is bored out of his mind, he is not ready for the next step and he couldn’t care less about Daisy Meadow and her Rainbow Fairy books that were my secret weapon when teaching the Fairy.

Mama Kathleen says ‘He’s fine. He’s doing way more than my son was at that age.  If you give him some space he’ll make a leap eventually’.  I knew I could count on her for that.  Thanks! 

Mama Kris offered some lovely practical ideas. Some old Dolch word readers which are designed so much better than most of the early reader crap in our modern world. And, the idea that she read a page with her new reading son, then has him re-read the page. Brilliant.  Well, the hero was not real convinced.  Wish me luck. We’ll see how it goes.

Mama Blimes is asking about my spelling plan that I’ve been raving about.  I figure I’ll type it here so that when I forget to use it, I can be reminded.  How smart is that? 

My spelling plan. I’m using the Sitton Spelling ‘No Excuses’ list which Blimes herself suggested I use.  I started at the beginning with the K list, moved through 1,2,3,4, 5 and we’ve officially moved on to 6th grade words.  Can I brag? Should I get her signed up for a GATE program?  ; ) 

I followed the basic Spelling Power plan of pretesting the words each day and rotating them through. I’ve decided that 6 words is a good number for us. 5 feels wimpy. 10 too much.  But, if the words are tough I may stick with 4.  We got tripped up on a bunch of tough words for 2 weeks and I think it would have gone more smoothly with less.

Each day that we do school (no Tues), I test her on the words on the list.  Add words to take her to 6. Then have her practice the 6.  The only fancy thing I did was use a ‘week at a glance’ type notepad and jot the words on each day.   It used to have magnets but the darn thing fell apart, so now I have to magnet it to the fridge manually. How lame.  So, the idea is that each week, I end up with this on-going list of words to use as a master review.  This way I get to check comprehensive spelling. 

Then I also write the words on a post it note and leave that on the window by the kitchen sink and grill her occasionally on the words.  The main way I have her practice them is to write them each 3 times during school. Nothing fancy, Blimes and it’s the website you recommended. Don’t know how helpful this is but maybe my excitement can rub off.

The Fairy has been under the weather and getting a massive dose of television. The Hero has been tagging along for the ride.  Try telling the 4yo he can’t watch TV while his big sister lays on the couch moaning and lapping up Cyberchase for 10 hours a day.  Talk about low tide homeschooling.  (If you aren’t familiar with the Tidal Homeschooling reference, check out lovely and wise Mrs. Wiley over at The Bonnie Glen. You’ll never look at your down days the same!)

Last night, the Fairy perked up a bit and was off cuddling with Daddy. So, I seized my opportunity to do a little school with the Hero. No way was he interested in Hooked on Pre-K Super Workbookand Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers,  so I grabbed the Scrabble: Junior Edition. This is the first time we’ve played it since he ‘got’ the whole reading thing. As soon as I opened it, I realized OOPS, it does much bigger words than the CVC words we’ve been working on along with all sorts of phonograms.  Hmmmm. “Well,” I thought “we’ll give it a shot”. 

It turned out great.  In the end, the Fairy and Daddy joined us for a rousing game.  I got to put on my creative homeschool mama hat to explain the phonograms that were confusing. This is actually one of my favorite things about homeschooling.  I do so love being dramatic.  

So, there is ‘boy’ and ‘toy’ on the board so I decided to grab that phonogram and run with it. After a little story and performance (man, I should be on broadway!) we discussed how o and y are friends and they say OY! (with a good accent) and toss their hands up like a Y.  So, he was reading boy and toy.  JOY!

The hero thought this was great fun and we all enjoyed a family game.  Thankfully, the Fairy is feeling much better today and going to out and play with the BOY!  (as I turn to the Fairy reading over my shoulder and say “Get dressed and go out and play with your brother!”). 

With JOY here at Bear-A-Boo Academy,


I was in a bad mood. My son was in a bad mood. The Fairy, however, was determined to have a wonderous day of school.

 It all started over breakfast while reading about Richard the Lionheart.  As usual, our breakfast history reading results in mommy’s rant about how to parent warring countries (see this post for details).  Today, however, the Fairy decided to take the high road.  “Mommy”, she says “this reminds me of the Valley of Vengance”.  The Valley of Vengance is from a book called A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears.  Very cute. Very different.  I highly suggest you read it! 

 So, in the Valley of Vengance, everyone is getting revenge on everyone else and nobody really knows why they are fighting, but nobody is willing to stop the cycle.  Yes! Thank You! My daughter is very astute to see that this is so much like our warring world in the middle ages and also today.

A bit later, I swoop down to find Greensleeves perfomed on youtube. It was also mentioned in the The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance, Revised Edition … the World: History for the Classical Child) about Richard (we’re on first name basis by now).  The Fairy remembers that Richard’s friend (Blondel or something like that) supposedly sang the song at towers and dungeouns all over Europe to find his friend. And when Richard sang back, he knew that he’s found his imprisoned friend.  So, we go find lyrics.  For 20 minutes The Fairy and I belt out Greensleeves at the top of our lunges. She was still singing it that night while cleaning the playroom.

Later in the day, the Fairy picks up a junior version of Robin Hood (A Stepping Stone Book).  Instantly, she jumps up and insists I read it.  In the very first paragraph it mentions Richard the Lionheart. ‘Yes, Grasshopper, you learn well!’.  With her curiousity peaked, she sits and reads the whole book. 

 At bedtime, she starts discussing the robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  She thinks Robin Hood is a great guy.  Or course, I have to bring up the ethical issues of robbing from the rich as well as the problems with the fudal system.  “HEY!” she says “You taught us about that last fall in co-op”.  Why yes, Yes I did!  ‘Oh Grasshopper, you learn so well’! 

Ahh, what a perfect day filled with perfect connections.  Just one more connection though…this one is out of context, but not to be forgotten.  We’ve just finished a book about puffins being returned to an island where they had become extinct.  This took place on an island off of Maine.  So, while eating dinner, the Fairy points to her map placemat and says “Hey, There’s Maine. That’s where the puffins are”. Yep-a roonie!  Thanks to Shelley for a reminder to go buy Puffin cereal. What a yummy connection. 

Making connections at Bear-A-Boo Academy,


In our co-op, I’m teaching a class. Don’t ask what it’s called. I’ve refused to name it.  It’s something about inventions, creativity, problem solving…Ah, heck. I don’t know what it’s about.  The kids call it Contraptions.  Rotten brats! 😉  How dare they name MY class.

But anyway, it’s a great co-op class. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for one. I teach it to the big kids (7 – 13) because the little kids scare me. They are a bunch of cannibals waiting to tear off my finger nails. Really! you haven’t seen these kids. The Hero is quite a leader and he kicks butt when surrounded by a group of his peers.

Seriously though, the big kid class ROCKS! It all started with a booklet from Mindwares.  I can’t find the booklet on their website, but I’ll try later. And, the booklet itself is currently lost in my post-co-op messy car. 

So, this booklet is a list of challenges and materials for those challenges. If you have a grape, a toothpick, a straw and a rubber band, can you design a car?

Now, I’m known by some, to complicate things greatly!  But I’m working on this.  Four months ago, I took this class idea, complicated it beyond recognition and then, in a moment of brilliance (or fear), simplified it down to be the most simple co-op class in the world.

Here’s the basics. I bough everything I could think of that kids could build with.  Pipe cleaners, paper plates and cups, aluminum foil, practice golf balls,lots of masking tape, paper bags,  golf tees, toothpicks,  (these are quite deadly! Just ask the Fairy) puff balls, fishing bobbers. Ugh, I can’t remember everything. I’ll add to this list later.   And, I bought the cheepo disposable aluminum cooking tins to store it all in.

All these items go out along the wall.  Then the kids gather around me with rapt attention and we discuss some idea around inventions or creativity.  First day, we spent a lot of time on mistakes and how inventors make mistakes all the time…we don’t call them mistakes in this class, if you make a mistake it’s actually a lesson in what DOESN’T work.  Etc etc etc.  We even ate chocolate chip cookies…the yummiest mistake of all time. Um. Well, actually, the Hero, the Fairy and I ate them all for breakfast on the way to co-op.

Other topics we’ve discussed are collaboration, what invention do you look at and say “I could do that”, how many inventions revolve around gross chores. Prototype versus working model and how both are very acceptable in this class.  Hmm. I’ll have to get my folder to remember the rest and it’s lost in the car too.

Then, with much anticipation, I turn the kids loose with the materials and a challenge. The first week the challenge was build the tallest thing you can build.  Another week we found a solution for a gross chore.  Build something that flys. 

They disappear and I talk to my good friend Mama C.  for the remainder of the hour.  We drink coffee, chat and quietly mock the children’s creations while fantasising about how much better our creations would be if only the children would get out of our way.   

The children are deeply engaged in their projects each week and could easily spend more time on them. It’s delightful. They do not get to take their projects home because they eat through my materials like locusts.  So, the only slight issue someone should be aware of with this class is the clean up. Because I’m picky about organization, and also because the kids would use my entire 80$ budget up in one week, this class needs grown-ups to clean up the mess.  The kids could do it, but they’d ruin more than we do and then I’d have to buy more materials.  But, honestly, it’s just another excuse to continue drinking my coffee and chatting with sweet Mama C. 


Ahhh, history. Nothing like history to teach your children to war with their neighbors and just otherwise behave badly.  We do love studying history though. We read Story of the World over breakfast and then picture books during lessons.

 So, recently, we’ve been reading about the Crusades and all the other bad behavior surrounding Jerusalem.  Well, my mommy’s heart can’t resist tossing out a little parenting lesson. It goes a little something like this…

 ”Alright” In my best parenting voice, “If you two (the Muslim army and the Christian army) can’t get along over Jerusalem, then I will put Jerusulem away.  Nobody can have Jerusalem.  And, if you can’t get play nice with Jerusalem when you get it back, I’ll just throw it away. You KNOW I will. I threw away Atlantis and I threw away Brigadoon. Don’t you think for a second that I won’t throw away Jeruselem because you know I will!”  Now this goes on for probably 15 minutes with the Fairy and the Hero rolling on the ground, insisting that I can’t throw away a country while at the same time begging me for more. 

Now, please, no commentary about me judging these faiths. I’m certainly not judgeing either of them. Personally, I believe that war has nothing to do with faith and only reflects on mankind…and that Mankind would be much nicer if Mommy’s ruled the world.  If you are Muslim or if you are Christian, just don’t go try and take over your neighbors back yard and we’ll get along fine.  And Yes, I do understand that the conflict goes much deeper than that, but heck, my kids know who fights over Jeruseulum, so what do I care what any overly sensitive blogosphere folks think about my monolog.