Humble Homeschool Beginnings

January 25, 2013

IM000689Many moons ago, when I started home educating my first child, I didn’t even know I was doing it. Nicky just naturally gravitated to books and floor puzzles and mazes and all sorts of logic-related stuff, and that’s the kind of thing we had around the house for him to fill his days with. (This was way before the Computer Age, y’all.)

And by the time Nicky turned three, I was expecting child number three. I laid around and read to those first little critters an awful lot in the early days.

Before long, the card-carrying, diploma-waving teacher in me decided I needed to set some goals and add some structure to my oldest child’s day.

Here is a short list of the personal goals I had when I “officially” began home educating my first child, Nicholas, at age four:

1.   Present new information in various forms: workbooks, readers, texts, etc.

2.   Test when necessary to make sure information is learned to an A level.

3.   Move on to the next thing, letting my child’s readiness be the guide.

Because I had that degree in elementary education and had taught school before having my own children, it never dawned on me that children would enjoy learning if left to themselves. I was prepared to entice and cajole my son into formal learning.

Isn’t that a strange thing to say? But it’s true. My experience in the classroom had taught me that children had to be pushed and pulled along, for the most part.

In my experience as a mom who was home educating her child, however, I found that Nicholas moved very, very quickly through his lessons because he could go at his own speed. He didn’t need to wait for the class to finish up; he was the class!

Nor did he know that he should not be enjoying this thing called school. Ah! But that was the difference! It was not school; it was learning at home. We weren’t up at the crack of dawn, gulping down breakfast, scrambling to find matching shoes, and running out the door to catch the school bus, separated from everything related to family.

Instead, learning was a natural thing done in the comfort of our own home along with family, on a schedule that worked well for us, not for an entire school system. What a cool thing it was to be able to tailor learning to my student! What an improvement over group learning!

I wasn’t just providing the opportunity for learning; I was there to ensure that learning took place, the learning of all the subject matter, not just 75 or 88 percent of it, but all of it. And then we moved on, directed solely by my son’s desire to learn—a desire which was surprisingly voracious.

Why would I want to send my child to a school when he could have such fun learning at home and could move at his own speed? And hang out with his sibs? And eat real food?

I simply did not want to miss out on time spent with him either. If I put him on a school bus, that meant forty fewer hours per week I would have to spend with him, times thirty-six weeks in a year. That equals 1,440 hours apart per year. Multiply that times twelve years, not counting kindergarten, and that comes out to 17,280 hours—roughly three full years of his life spent elsewhere.  Yikes! Why did I have a child only to entrust him to someone else to influence, mold, and shape? That didn’t make any sense to me.

I knew my son could learn better at home than he could anywhere else. For now, home education was for us. We’d worry about high school later.

Additionally, at age four, Nicky had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This was quite a shock, of course. And years ago, there was no way to accurately test blood sugar at home as there is now.

Another reason we decided to keep Nicky at home was that we knew we could keep a better eye on his health challenges than any school nurse could.

If your child has chronic health issues, learning at home is certainly a wonderful option to explore.

Thus began our home-education adventure. Home-education adventures all have unique beginnings. What did yours look like?

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling 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.


Help! I’m a Self-Learner, and I Can’t Figure This Out!

January 22, 2013

Questions curriculum questions picWith the advent of the Internet and search engines like Google, many of us have become self-learners simply because information is literally at the tips of our fingers.

It’s AWESOME, isn’t it?

Yes! It’s so awesome that my daughter Lilienne, who will be 11 on Saturday, deduced recently that school really wasn’t necessary once you learned to read because you can now look up everything you want to know on Google as you need to know it.

I concur with her….to a degree. Nowadays we have no excuse not to know the answer to a question (that actually has an answer) aside from lack of time to research or laziness or lack of motivation or something lame along those lines.

I’m not a Webhead, but I enjoy playing around with my websites and junk online. I can usually figure stuff out on my own with a little persistence, sometimes accompanied by tears and frustration. Recently I ran into a situation where I needed to figure out how to put an RSS feed both here and on my Author Page on Amazon.com.

Step one: I googled something about RSS feeds. Well, after going here and there ~ info specifically for wordpress blogs, etc. ~ I wasn’t getting it. (Perhaps a mental block because I was born about the time color television hit the American scene.) Google really wasn’t helpful. Not because I was lazy, but because I was kinda overwhelmed with the lingo.

What is a self-learner to do when stumped?

Step two: Ask someone else who might know the answer to the question at hand.

I asked my fabulous son-in-law, Brandon, but he couldn’t help me right that minute. I asked my daughter Lauren, who is a whiz at setting up Websites (www.beadboxbargains.com) but she had something else going on at the time, so she couldn’t help me either.

So I did what I do best: I moved onto another project and forgot all about it.

Until this week during a conference call with my publisher who asked me if I had put my RSS feed from this very blog up on my amazon.com author page. Heh heh. Oopsie. No, I hadn’t done that yet.

After the call, I mentioned to my husband that the RSS feed thing was driving me nuts, and I was fixin’ to cuss (not that I would actually ever DO that. no way. not me.)

Yesterday Tim came over to my desk (one of them, anyway. I have desks all over the house) and he told me how to add the widget and what to put in the URL. I knew how to do the widget thing, but the URL is what had stumped me.

Isn’t widget the cutest word EVER?

Tim had done a little research for me and figured out the missing piece to the whole thing! Wasn’t that nice of him? Yes. It was. Thank you, Tim. And now I will make him salisbury steak and smashed potatoes for dinner tonight. 🙂

So now I have an RSS feed!! AND I’m still a self-learner because I learned how to do the RSS feed thing. I know you think I’m not a self-learner because I had to ask around, right? I can read your doubting mind.

Self-learning simply requires knowing where to go to find out what it is that you don’t know.

I had to ask someone else ~ multiple people, in fact ~ before I found someone who was able to help me learn what I needed to learn. I now know how to set up an RSS feed.

Self-learners tend to think they shouldn’t ask for help; they should be able to figure things out on their own. That is not always true. Asking for assistance is a really good way to learn at times, although seeking out the answer yourself first is kind of the rule of thumb in our home school.

But if you’re stumped, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling 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.


Now This is a Graduation Speech!

January 12, 2013

female graduation portraitStressed for Success?

By David Brooks

(Joanne’s note: This high school graduation speech was NOT given to home-educated students, but I have kept this as encouragement, and I’ve put in bold those aspects of Mr. Brooks’ speech that speak to the beauty of home education.)

“Many of you high school seniors are in a panic at this time of year, coping with your college acceptance or rejection letters. Since the
admissions process has gone totally insane, it’s worth reminding yourself that this is not a particularly important moment in your life.

You are being judged according to criteria that you would never use to judge another person and which will never again be applied to you
once you leave higher ed.

For example, colleges are taking a hard look at your SAT scores. But if at any moment in your later life you so much as mention your SAT
scores in conversation, you will be considered a total jerk. If at age 40 you are still proud of your scores, you may want to contemplate a major
life makeover.

More than anything else, colleges are taking a hard look at your grades. To achieve that marvelous G.P.A., you will have had to demonstrate excellence across a broad range of subjects: math, science, English, languages etc.

This will never be necessary again. Once you reach adulthood, the key to success will not be demonstrating teacher-pleasing competence
across fields; it will be finding a few things you love, and then committing yourself passionately to them.

The traits you used getting good grades might actually hold you back. To get those high marks, while doing all the extracurricular activities colleges are also looking for, you were encouraged to develop a prudential attitude toward learning.

You had to calculate which reading was essential and which was not. You could not allow yourself to be obsessed by one subject because if you did, your marks in the other subjects would suffer. You could not take outrageous risks because you might fail.

You learned to study subjects that are intrinsically boring to you; slowly, you may have stopped thinking about which subjects are boring and which exciting. You just knew that each class was a hoop you must jump through on your way to a first-class university. You learned to thrive in adult-supervised settings.

If you have done all these things and you are still an interesting person, congratulations, because the system has been trying to whittle you down into a bland, complacent achievement machine.

But in adulthood, you’ll find that a talent for regurgitating what superiors want to hear will take you only halfway up the ladder, and then you’ll stop there. The people who succeed most spectacularly, on the other hand, often had low grades. They are not prudential. They venture out and thrive where there is no supervision, where there are no preset requirements.

Those admissions officers may know what office you held in school government, but they can make only the vaguest surmises about what
matters, even to your worldly success: your perseverance, imagination, and trustworthiness. Odds are you don’t even know these things
about yourself yet, and you are around you a lot more.

Even if the admissions criteria are dubious, isn’t it still really important to get into a top school? I wonder. I spend a lot of time meeting with students on college campuses. If you put me in a room with 15 students from any of the top 100 schools in this country and asked me at the end of an hour whether these were Harvard kids or Penn State kids, I would not be able to tell you.

There are a lot of smart, lively young people in this country, and you will find them at whatever school you go to. The students at the really elite schools may have more social confidence, but students at less prestigious schools may learn not to let their lives be guided by other people’s status rules – a lesson that is worth the tuition all by itself.

As for the quality of education, that’s a matter of your actually wanting to learn and being fortunate enough to meet a professor who electrifies your interest in a subject. That can happen at any school because good teachers are spread around, too.

So remember, the letters you get over the next few weeks don’t determine anything. Picking a college is like picking a spouse. You don’t pick the “top ranked” one, because that has no meaning. You pick the one with the personality and character that complements your own.

You may have been preparing for these letters half your life. All I can say is welcome to adulthood, land of the anticlimaxes.”


50 Words the SAT Loves

January 8, 2013

Stack of booksShortcuts. Who doesn’t love ’em?

Today I’m sharing 50 of the most common SAT words for your learning pleasure and that of your college-bound kids.

I have a feeling that most of my eight faithful readers will already know the majority–if not all–of these words listed below.

At breakfast, why not read some of ’em out loud to your kids, and see how many words they may already be acquainted with?

Toddlers exempted.

Ready? Go!

  1. abstract: not concrete
  2. aesthetic: having to do with the appreciation of beauty
  3. alleviate: to ease a pain or a burden
  4. ambivalent: simultaneously feeling opposing feelings; uncertain
  5. apathetic: feeling or showing little emotion
  6. auspicious: favorable; promising
  7. benevolent: well-meaning; generous
  8. candor: sincerity; openness
  9. cogent: convincing; reasonable
  10. comprehensive: broad or complete in scope or content
  11. contemporary: current, modern; from the same time
  12. conviction: a fixed or strong belief
  13. diligent: marked by painstaking effort; hard-working
  14. dubious: doubtful; of unlikely authenticity
  15. eclectic: made up of a variety of sources or styles
  16. egregious: conspicuously bad or offensive
  17. exculpate: to free from guilt or blame
  18. florid: flowery or elaborate in style
  19. gratuitous: given freely; unearned; unwarranted
  20. hackneyed: worn out through overuse; trite
  21. idealize: to consider perfect
  22. impartial: not in favor of one side or the other; unbiased
  23. imperious: arrogantly domineering or overbearing
  24. inherent: inborn; built-in
  25. innovative: introducing something new
  26. inveterate: long established; deep-rooted; habitual
  27. laudatory: giving praise
  28. maverick: one who resists adherence to a group
  29. mollify: to calm or soothe
  30. novel: strikingly new or unusual
  31. obdurate: stubborn; inflexible
  32. objectivity: judgment uninfluenced by emotion
  33. obstinate: stubbornly adhering to an opinion
  34. ornate: elaborately decorated
  35. ostentatious: describing a pretentious display
  36. paramount: of chief concern or importance
  37. penitent: expressing remorse for one’s misdeeds
  38. pervasive: dispersed throughout
  39. plausible: seemingly valid or acceptable; credible
  40. profound: having great depth or seriousness
  41. prosaic: unimaginative; dull; ordinary
  42. quandary: a state of uncertainty or perplexity
  43. rancorous: hateful; marked by deep-seated ill will
  44. spurious: not genuine; false; counterfeit
  45. stoic: indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive
  46. superfluous: extra; unnecessary
  47. tenuous: having little substance or strength; unsure; weak
  48. timorous: timid; fearful
  49. transitory: short-lived; temporary
  50. vindicated: freed from blame

So how’d you do? If you knew every single word, you WIN! Comment below, and I’ll get your prize to you right away.

Meow. 🙂


25 MORE Fabulous Parenting & Education Quotes!

January 5, 2013

Family and dogA couple days ago, I gave you a list of my absolute favorite quotes in the areas of parenting and education. To me, parenting and education naturally go hand in hand. One begets the other. But I digress.

Here are the next 25 on my list of fabulous quotes. I hope you might be inspired by one or two or more of ’em.

26. Education is Man’s going forward from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.  ~ Kenneth G. Johnson

27. Education is [A process] which makes one rogue cleverer than another. ~ Oscar Wilde (1856-1900) British poet and dramatist.

 28. Education is the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the ignorant by the incompetent.  ~ Josiah Stamp

29. Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.  ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer.

30. Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.  ~ George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English statesman and author.

31. Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance. ~ Will Durant (1885-1981) U.S. author and historian.

32. The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned in it, teachers and taught. ~ Henry Brooks Adams (1828-1918) U.S. historian and writer: The Education of Henry Adams.

33. Public schools are the nurseries of all vice and immorality. ~ Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist.

34. Education has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ~ G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962) British historian.

35. They say that we are better educated than our parents’ generation. What they mean is that we go to school longer. They are not the same thing. ~ Douglas Yates

36. Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education. ~ Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician and writer.

37. It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. I believe that one could even deprive a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness if one could force it with a whip to eat continuously whether it were hungry or not.  ~ Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U.S. physicist.

38. The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.  ~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American author, editor and printer.

39. I’m sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life. ~ Petronius (d. circa 66 AD) The Satyricon.

40. True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success, the glorious inequality of talent, of genius. ~ Felix E. Schelling (1858-1945) American educator.

41. He was so learned that he could name a horse in nine languages; so ignorant that he bought a cow to ride on. ~ Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, author, scientist, inventor and philosopher.

42. A college degree does not lessen the length of your ears; it only conceals it. ~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American author, editor and printer.

43. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. (Sound familiar?) ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer.

44. The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s time. ~ Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) American journalist.

45. Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire. ~ William B. Yeats, poet

46. You can lade a man up to th’ university, but ye can’t make him think. ~ Finley Peter Dunne

47. Education: Being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it’s knowing how to use the information once you get it. ~ William Feather

48. An educated man is one who can entertain a new idea, entertain another person, and entertain himself. ~ Sydney Wood

…And, for all us homeschool moms who never learned all the classical composers and great artists and a gazillion other things, but knew enough to instill a love of them in our children, there’s this one:

49. Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master. ~ Leonardo da Vinci.

50. You are what you teach, and you teach what you are. ~ Joanne Calderwood

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, 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.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, 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.


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. 🙂

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, 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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