My Family Spills the Beans on the Best Moments of 2012

December 31, 2012

Okay. Right this moment I’m sitting in the family room at 8:22 PM on New Year’s Eve surrounded by my children and my husband. So I thought I would ask them to take turns telling me their favorite memories from 2012, and perhaps give a peek into an aspiration or two for 2013.

I think I will start with volunteers. There are no volunteers. This is going to be harder than I thought.

Lilienne (almost 11): My favorite memory of 2012 is meeting country artist Hunter Hayes, and I aspire to play on a private school’s volleyball team in 2013.

Lydia Hope (13): “My favorite memory is learning French, and I aspire to learn geography and be able to map the world.”

Adrienne (14): “My favorite memory is driving without a license, and in 2013 I aspire to work in a mirror factory; that’s a job I can see myself doing.” 🙂

Olivia (17): “My favorite memory is our family trip to Six Flags, and I aspire to not plan ahead.

Franklin (19): “My favorite memory of 2012 is my first career win (as UT Ice Vol’s goalie), and in 2013 I want to build a tower that reaches to the heavens thereby creating a bunch of new languages.”

Taylor (21): “My favorite memory is playing soccer with Hispanic children at school, and in 2013 I want to focus less on work and take a more happiness-oriented approach to living in the now.”

Lauren (22): “My favorite memory is my wedding day, and in 2013 I want to find more time for writing.”

Nick (23): “My favorite memory of 2012 is meeting the woman of my dreams, and in 2013 I want to give more money to charity.”

And I cannot let my husband escape the questioning:

Tim says that his favorite memory is having lost over 50 pounds this year, and in 2013 he wants to write a whole lot more.

(Author’s note: If you know Nick, I obviously have had to edit his comments to be suitable for publication. Actually, I’ve had to edit a whole, whole lot of what was actually said during this session. We’ve had a heck of a time LAUGHING OUT LOUD. Ahem.)


Takeaway: It is much easier to write my OWN blog posts vs. asking for input from the family. Wow.

Happy New Year, Y’all! 🙂


25 Fabulous Education & Parenting Quotes

December 30, 2012

Little girl with alphabetDon’t you just love a great quote? Over the years I’ve compiled my own list of quotes that have inspired me as a parent and as an educator. I thought I would share a few of them with you. Perhaps one or two may hit you wherever you are right now.

1.   He is educated who knows how to find out what he doesn’t know.  ~ George Simmel, German Philosopher

2.   I think this wise; the greatest service we can do to education is to teach fewer subjects.   No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life. ~ C. S. Lewis

3.   Read at every wait; read at all hours; read within leisure; read in times of labor; read as one goes in; read as one goes out. The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.  ~ Cicero

4.   Learning how to learn by learning how to think makes a well-educated person. Learning how to learn not only expands the mind. It also gives you a lifelong asset. Once you have it, it stays with you for the rest of your life.  ~ T. Kaori Kitao (1999)

5.   The greatest maxim of all is that children should be brought up as simply and in as domestic a way as possible, and that (not interfering with their lessons) they should be as much as possible with their parents, and learn to place the greatest confidence in them in all things. ~ Queen Victoria

6.   Let them get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with diluted talk from the lips of their teacher. The less the parents ‘talk-in’ and expound their rations of knowledge and thought to the children they are educating, the better for the children…Children must be allowed to ruminate, must be left alone with their own thoughts. ~ Charlotte Mason

7.   Look on education as something between the child’s soul and God. Modern Education tends to look on it as something between the child’s brain and the standardized test. ~ Charlotte Mason

8.   Education is a matter of the spirit. No wiser word has been said on the subject, and yet we persist in applying education from without.  No one knoweth the things of the man except the spirit of man which is in him; therefore, there is no education but self-education, and as soon as a young child begins his education, he does so as a student. Our business is to give him mind stuff. Both quantity and quality are essential. ~ Charlotte Mason

9.   He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the best view of them. ~ Aristotle

10. The life of Abraham Lincoln is by most accounts an amazing study in character formation. Yet he was notoriously disorganized; he even had a file in his law office labeled “If you can’t find it anywhere else, try looking here. ~ John Ortberg

11. When I was a newly-wed and didn’t know how to cook, I asked my grandmother for her chili recipe.

“Well, first you cook your beans.”

”What kind of beans?”

“Any kind you want.”

How many?”

“As many as you need.”

”Okay, then what?”

“You brown your meat.”

How much meat?”

“Depends on how many beans you cooked.”

”Okay, supposing I make it that far, then what?”

“Well, you just season it till it tastes right, and that’s all there is to it!”

I think homeschooling is much like that: different grades, different children, and different life circumstances keep us from having one constant “recipe.” We often play it by ear, “taste” it and adjust accordingly. ~ Jenny Calvin, a very wise homeschooling Mom

12. I believe that education is all about being excited about something! Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message. ~ Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter

13. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. ~ Aristotle

14. Today I am going to give you two examinations, one in trigonometry and one in honesty. I hope you will pass them both, but if you must fail one, let it be trigonometry. ~ Madison Sarratt, Professor of Mathematics 1916-1978, Vanderbilt University

15. Excellence never goes out of style. ~ Seen on a billboard

16. The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.  ~ Abraham Lincoln

17. If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things. ~ Vincent Van Gogh

18. Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason, mastery demands all of a person. ~ Albert Einstein

19. If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all. ~ Michelangelo

20. I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.  ~ Anne Sullivan

21. Education is a state-controlled manufactory of echoes. ~ Norman Douglas

22. Education is the process of casting false pearls before real swine. ~ Professor Irwin Edman

23. Education is one of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get. ~William Lowe Bryan

24. Education is hanging around until you’ve caught on. ~ Robert Frost

25. Education is one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.

~ Bertrand A. Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician, and writer


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

9 Maxims for Homeschool Happiness

December 28, 2012

Family Walking Through Snowy Woodland In light of the beginning of a brand-new year, I thought I would share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the years that I think has been pivotal in the raising of my children.

So below you’ll find a compilation of my best tips for raising smart, motivated kids who learn and work with excellence (most of the time).

1. Develop good habits yourself. Be a good example of reading for pleasure. Let your children see you doing the things you want them to develop a love for doing such as

reading, writing, exercising, eating well, or whatever may be on your list.

2. Always remember that you are what you teach, and you teach what you are.

Ouch. I revisit this maxim frequently, especially when I see my bad habits showing up in my children. This is a variation of the first maxim.

3. Neatness counts. We are all more relaxed and focused when our homes are RELATIVELY neat, right? I am not talking about extremes here. I assure you that my house is not a showplace; we live and work here. I’m simply talking about being able to see the family room floor. Kids function better in order than they do in chaos.

Yeah, let’s move on. I get hives thinking about how organized my house is not.

4. Have expectations and enforce them. Expect honesty and trustworthiness every day. Expect cheerful obedience the first time you ask your child to do something. Sullen faces and attitudes do not belong in a happy home. You are the Mom (or Dad). You get to be the one in control of what behavior and attitudes are acceptable in your home.

5. Have a general routine. Find what works for YOUR FAMILY. Children need a sense of what is coming next. Our routine here is very laid back now that my baby is almost eleven and the other three girls are teens. It was much more regulated when we had a lot of young children.

6. Know where you are headed. A little planning is all you need for each quarter of your homeschool year. (Refer to The Self-Propelled Student Planners for help in this area if you need it. These planners have changed my life!)

7. Teach your children to enjoy the feeling of a job well done. Intrinsic motivation will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

8. Expect mastery learning every day, in every subject. Before long, students begin to expect it of themselves. That is a really cool thing and will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

9. Trust your instincts.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

Top Five Regrets and How to Avoid Them

December 22, 2012

Portrait of senior manI was fascinated by the following article found (To read the piece in its entirety, click here: Top Five Regrets of the Dying.)

As you read these top five regrets, keep 2013  in mind.

It might just be time for a change.


Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die


by Susie Steiner

Susie Steiner is a novelist and freelance journalist. She was a staff writer and editor on the Guardian for 11 years, specializing in lifestyle features. Her first novel will be published by Faber & Faber in spring 2013. Follow her on twitter (@susiesteiner1) or via her website,



7 Bad Things Good Moms Do

December 21, 2012

houseclean1Here is my short list of bad things good Moms tend to do. Check it twice and see if you see yourself in any of these blanket statements.

1. Moms don’t take time for themselves: no hobbies or interests besides family = bad.

2. Moms put themselves last. They feel guilty if they think of themselves at all, actually = bad.

3. Moms worry about everyone else and never think about their own health and sanity = bad.

4. Moms wear themselves down by doing good things for their kids that their kids should be doing for themselves = bad.

5. Moms think they are bad Moms if they go out with their husbands on a date regularly = bad. (Note: two bads don’t make a good.)

6. Moms don’t delegate = bad.

7. Moms think they are good Moms because they are so devoted to their children that they never take a break and get really, really burned out as a result = bad.

Bonus Bad Thing: Moms don’t exercise. Ever. = bad.

Now, of course I mean BAD in a whimsical way. You know, like I’m bad if I eat the entire bag of Hershey’s kisses myself.

That doesn’t make me bad; it makes me…well…one who makes bad choices. I make bad choices sometimes, but I’m getting better at valuing my health and my energy level the older I get.

But I let myself do all 8 of the above-listed bad things for too many seasons of my life! The results were not good; not good, I tell you.

Sometimes we as Moms need to be reminded to be GOOD TO OURSELVES, and by being good to ourselves, we are doing the best thing for our families as well.

Now, don’t go overboard.(Yeah, like THAT’S gonna happen…!)

But enjoy life with the ones around you, understanding that you are an important member of your family. Take time for yourself today.

Feel free to come back and share what you did for YOU. I’d love to hear about it. 🙂


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

10 Critical Things Parents of Young Children Should Keep in Mind

December 18, 2012

Family grocery shopping.Here they are in no particular order, as they are all kinda important in the whole scheme of parenting. 🙂

1. My young children are my responsibility in every sense of the word. I (and my spouse) have the authority to make all decisions regarding them; We are in charge, but we can also choose to abdicate this authority.

2. If I don’t like the way my children are turning out, I have the ability to change that. Starting Today.

3. If I can’t stand being around my own kids, chances are good no one else can either. Refer to #2.

4. Children need understanding and praise, and I am the primary one to provide these.

5. Children need discipline and boundaries, and I am the primary one to provide these.

6. It is impossible to love my kids too much. Smother? Spoil? Yes, but neither of those is actually love. Refer to #4 and #5.

7. My children need my spouse and me and our influence in their lives. There is no substitute for loving parents and a supportive home environment.

8. Sometimes I need a break from my children and vice versa. Sometimes I may even need caffeine, chocolate, and a seratonin booster.

9. My children will become a product of their home and educational environments. Combining the two provides an incredible launching pad for future success! Refer to #7.

10. It doesn’t take a village to raise my child. Refer to all of the above.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

SAT Perfect Score Conclusion (Probably)

December 17, 2012

YTo conclude the last few blog posts’ worth of examination of Dr. Tom Fischgrund’s Perfect Score Study of 600 perfect-SAT-scoring students and their families (breathe here), I’d like to point out that the students who were the subject of the study did not revel in their perfect scores.

Sure, they were happy about their scores, but they didn’t define who they were by test scores.

As Dr. Fischgrund found,

“Perfect score students would probably never have been able to succeed if their parents never took the giant leap of letting their kids have some control over their academic lives.”[1]

Letting go and allowing our children to have a measure of control academically is vitally important.

Yes, I was very, very encouraged by the way the Perfect Score Study results echoed the results my family has had. The similarities were almost eerie.

It should not surprise me that strong family values are so important to academic success because apparently the Moms and Dads in this study set expectations when their children were young and didn’t allow them to slack off at home.

They were able to motivate their young children, and as the children matured, the parents were able to take a more hands-off approach to their young teens’ learning.

Once the teens became high school seniors, they had a sense of purpose as a result of developing one or two core passions before graduation. They had a direction to pursue after high school. They could see the bigger picture.

Parents, we have not only the responsibility but also the privilege of having the greatest influence on our children.

Would your children say that you and your spouse are the primary influences in their lives?

This is what I get from the Perfect Score Study: kids succeed with support in the home. I’m not talking about simply success on the SAT; I am talking about success in life!

Scoring well on the SAT or ACT is not a goal in my home-educating family. I want that to be perfectly clear. What I am laying out for you here is the fact that young adults who have been given the opportunity to be independent learners, who master each day’s work before moving on to the next day’s lesson, will be equipped to score well on the College Board exams.

Does that mean I think these exams are good things? No, not necessarily. I hate that so much hinges on them, and I guarantee they are not predictors of success in college or beyond. They are hoops through which our young people must jump if they want to head to college, and especially if they want to earn scholarship money for college.

All three elements of the Self-Propelled advantage ~ self-mastery, self-learning, and mastery learning ~ will absolutely give your children an advantage in scholarship competitions.

Beyond that, a firm family foundation will give your children an advantage that goes way beyond that type of success. There is nothing that can replace the value of family. 

[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 74.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

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