Monday, April 30, 2012


We love vacationing at the beach every year. My children would rather go down to the low country and sink their toes into the white sand than anywhere else. The island we stay at has one store and they sell all the tourist stuff plus turtles. Little baby red eared slider turtles to be exact. The children love looking at them and beg to get one. Every summer we tell them no. That is until I lost my mind! Knowing that we would homeschool this year, I told the kids they could each get one turtle during our summer vacation. I had a tank from my classroom that I figured we could use. The turtles would make a great science project. We could measure their weight, shell length and width, learn about turtles, etc. The kids were ecstatic and could not wait to get to the beach. 

Now I had not fully done my research on these little critters. When I said we would get turtles, I did not know that they would get upwards of twelve inches when fully grown! I was thinking around four inches. So being a person to keep my word to the children, I still allowed them to pick out a turtle each. Hopefully, the turtles will grow slowly.

We went to the beach store the first day of our vacation. Egee picked out ‘Harriet’ and Little Man picked out ‘Franklin’. They were happy and we hoped that having two reptiles did not violate the no pets rule of the condo. 

Franklin was finicky. He would not eat. This was not a good sign and we thought surely the little fellow wouldn’t survive the week. Harriet ate everything, so we knew she would be a keeper. However, one day after returning from an outing, we discovered Harriet a float upside down in her tank. The little bugger had died after two days in our care. Egee was devastated.
We called the shop and explained that the turtle had died. They were understanding and told us we could get another, no charge. So back in the van and off to the shop. Egee picked out another Harriet and the man encouraged us to have another one just in case Franklin didn’t make it. He said it was on the house. So now we have three turtles! We named the third little one Ozzy.

It has been nine months and the turtles are going strong. We had a rough patch during the winter when they stopped eating. I just knew it was a matter of time before one killed over. Harriet almost did! We came home one evening and she was upside down in the tank. I rushed to rescue her and we put her in a small tank with little water. She came through it and has tripled her weight.

We love watching the Three Amigos (the term we use for all three). Each has a different personality. Ozzy is still the smallest of the three. He is catching up to the others. They are growing by leaps and bounds, but still small in terms of a red eared slider. That is fine with me! 

Ozzy, Franklin, and Harriet

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Nihon Goshin Aikido (NGA) is a way of life for my husband and children. My husband began training in this martial art as a teen. Then life happened and he quit. When we married, he still had a burning desire to continue the art and with my encouragement began to train again seven years ago. He has obtained the rank of ShoDan (first degree black belt) and is in the process of testing for NiDan (second degree black belt).

Egee and Hubby

          My daughter decided to follow him into this rare art at the age of five. She has completed the Little Samurai class and the youth class. Two weeks before her tenth birthday she obtained the adult rank of GoKyu. I am so proud of her!

Egee (yellow belt) working on mugger's throw

          My son took up the art at the age of four. A typical little boy preferring kicking and striking to blending. He completed the Little Samurai class at the age of six and has entered the youth class. He thinks he is hot stuff now that he has a youth yellow belt.  

Little Man receiving his youth yellow belt.

             How does this affect my life? I am the Aikido mom. The dojo is our second home. They participate in lessons four days a week. That equals seven to eight hours of class for my daughter and four hours for my son. The payoff is seeing my children mature and learn how to handle different situations. Being a bench mom, I have learned many techniques for self-defense just by watching my children’s classes.  

Working on technique 

             NGA is not the typical showy aikido that most are familiar. NGA uses various martial art styles (judo, jiu jitsu, karate) along with small circle aikido. It is a true self defense style. The art does not compete with others. Students must learn to cooperate with each other through a Uke/Nage relationship of trust. Many different personalities train at the dojo and every student works together.  

          My daughter is learning how to take on leadership within the youth class. The experience is an eye opener for her. She is normally a quiet and reserved child, but now is learning how to command the attention of others. She leds exercises many times during the week in the youth classes and oversees lower ranking youth students. She loves teaching the younger and lower rank students and hopes to become an instructor one day like her father. 

Youth class with Sensei

My son likes the comradery of the other boys in class. The physical aspect of kicking, punching, strikes are his forte. His constantly looks to see if I am watching him do his technique. He wants to impress me. I can’t resist a cutie in a uniform!

Little Man working with Egee

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Friday!

We normally do not have any kind of formal schooling on Friday. Instead, we do household chores (home economics), run an occasional errand (business education), and relax.

To start the morning off, I made the rounds in the garden. The green beans have popped up. The frost zapped pepper plants are putting out little leaves. The pea pods are swelling. The lettuce is finally getting larger. The chives are growing higher. The peaches are getting bigger. The grapes are putting out more leaves and recovering from the frost.

Random Garden Pics

frost zapped beans recovering and new beans sprouting


lettuce and some spinach







Little Man saw a loose dog as we tended the garden. The little schnauzer seems to be an escape artist for he comes around about once a week. Little Man of course wants to keep him. Especially after the library class yesterday.

“Momma what if he is like the dog in the story?”
“He isn’t like the dog in the story,” I told him.
“Can we keep him? I want to name him Buddy!”
“No, we are not keeping him. Don’t feed him,” I said.
“But he looks hungry,” he groaned. The dog didn’t look starved. 

When I continued to hang out the laundry, Little Man recruited his sister. Now it was her turn to make all the comparisons to the dog in the story. I reassured her he was not like the dog in the story. Little Man had promptly gone in to get the dog some kibble. Egee went to put fresh water in the outside dog bowl. I warned him not to feed the dog. Then I told them to come in and leave the dog outside so it would go back home. What did that little dog do, but to sneak inside as the door closed. He proceeded to make himself at home. I had to be the bad guy and toss him back out. It broke Little Man’s heart, for he had already made big plans for this dog. Hubby would definitely not like it if he had come home to another animal. Off we went to the grocery store and the little dog was not around when we returned. Thank goodness!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Stormy Day!

 The rain is much needed since we are in a moderate drought. The garden seems to become a brighter hue of green after a good rain. I’ve got to work on my rain barrels. We made a few from trash cans a couple years ago, but they just don’t work well. I keep putting it off and then miss out on a good rainfall to secure water for the garden. Now that the majority of my garden is planted, I will have to start working on the barrels.

           The children and I worked on their State Unit books today. Pennsylvania was the second state to enter the Union. We reflected upon what we had studied about Pennsylvania during the revolutionary war. Little Man was excited when he saw a drawing of Benjamin Franklin. He remembered Ben and that he lived in Philadelphia. I read aloud from a children’s book of Pennsylvania. They listened intently and looked at the pictures. Egee completed her map of the state by adding major cities, rivers, and mountain ranges. Both children colored the flag of Pennsylvania, as I read various pages from another book on the state’s geographical features, animal life, early settlers, and short tidbits of famous Pennsylvanians. Egee had a research page and used the internet to help find the answers to various clues. She is getting better at doing this type of task.

           After our morning school work, we had leftovers for lunch. Then we went to the library class. Mrs. Nancy had invited the Humane Society to speak to the children. The Humane Society used a therapy dog to help out in the presentation. A beautiful australian shepard named, Milo, made the class all the more interesting. All the children fell in love with the dog. They learned how to properly care for an animal and what happens to an animal when it is brought into the shelter. They were encouraged to pretend and act out various scenarios with Milo. Overall, they had a good time.

          Egee’s new friend came to library again. The little girl has been as excited as Egee to have someone her age to talk with and not just her brother. Since this was our last class with Mrs. Nancy until the fall, I exchanged contact information with the girl’s mother. Maybe we can get together over the summer months to let the girls play. Egee was excited to hear this.

         We rushed off to Aikido. Little Man was stubborn tonight doing his technique. Egee was trying with all her might to work with him and help him, but he did not want her help. Finally his class was over and Egee stayed for the adult class. I believe she likes the adult classes more than the youth classes now. At least when it comes to working on her techniques. Right as the class ended, the storms unleashed. More of an electrical show and not a torrential downpour. Oh well, it will be a nice night for sleep!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Beautiful Day!

A beautiful day today. Bright blue sky, birds chirping, horses frolicking in the pasture, seeds sprouting, children playing, and a nice breeze to enjoy. I was not sure if this would have been the case at five-thirty a.m. A knock on the bedroom door with the words “Sister’s stomach is hurting and I think she is going to throw up!” Stopped the peaceful slumber and I forced my way from the bed to the hall bathroom. Since starting our homeschooling journey last fall, we have only had one sick day occurrence. Luckily the early morning episode was short lived, but she wanted mommy to rub her tummy and lay beside her. I obliged and soon fell back asleep beside my baby girl. A couple hours later, I awoke to Little Man on the other side of me and Egee still snuggled in tightly. The dog was desperately trying to find a place to jump up and join the slumber party!

          Needless to say our day of school started late and we modified the schedule. On days when the children have woke late and not in the mood to do our core curriculum, we read. It is I who reads and the listen. We have been studying about westward expansion and listening to the Little House on the Prairie series. I picked up a few books from the library on American folklore during our last visit, so we settled in and I began to read. Little Man had not been impressed by Yankee Doodle. He, however, came running when I read a story about Davy Crockett. He loves tales about hunting and fishing. Several stories later we finished and everyone was in much better spirits. Egee loved the story of That’s Good, Not Good. It was a humorous tale for her. This is what I recall (I returned the book before writing this post.):

“Two men were up flying in an airplane. The plane was gliding in the sky.”
“That’s good.”
“No, the engine didn’t work.”
“That’s not good.”
“No, they had parachutes.”
“That’s good.”
“No, the parachutes didn’t open.”
“That’s not good.”
“No, there was a haystack below them.”
“That’s good.”
“No, there was a pitchfork in the haystack.”
“That’s not good.”
“No, they missed the pitchfork.”
“That’s good.”
“No, they missed the haystack.”
“That’s not good.”

She has wanted to tell everyone that tale all day! Now to teach her “Who’s on first.”

A trip to the library to return books and videos was the next destination. Both children love going to the library.
           Back home with books on Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia for both children. We are working on a unit about the fifty states. We began the our school year with the founding of colonies. Worked our way through the American Revolution. Explored the Oregon Trail. We are now studying the States in order of how they entered the Union. Last week, we explored Delaware. Egee is learning how to look up information on the computer to complete her explorations. Little Man is too young to do this, so we will read books geared to his level. Tomorrow we will explore Pennsylvania. Hopefully, they will remember much of what we have already learned from our studies of Benjamin Franklin and William Penn’s Pennsylvania.

              A quick errand then back home to tend the garden. Egee is really starting to take an interest in gardening. She wants to help with the watering and weeding. Little Man likes digging holes to transplant the potted veggies. We were hit by a late frost two weeks ago. Unfortunately, we were of town and I lost a few things in the garden. Some plants have started to recover, and we are tenderly nursing them along. Yesterday we transplanted more tomatoes and peppers. I am hoping to have a nice crop to make salsa, spaghetti sauce, and other goodies. I learned to can last fall and can’t wait to can fresh veggies this spring and summer.

            The children played the rest of the afternoon, until it was time to leave for Aikido. Normally this rounds out our day of homeschool. Little Man had his one class. Egee had two classes. It is hard for her to be the only girl in the midst of little boys, but she is a trooper. She really likes to work with the adults and once again she is usually the only female in the room. At least, I know she will be able to take on any male that may bother her!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Back in the Groove

Our schedule has been messed up slightly with a trip to Nashville and then a series of library classes in the mornings. Although we have been busy learning (trips to the zoo, science center, TN state museum, historical sites), we have not completed any of our basic curriculum. So today, we sat back down at the dining table and proceeded to work. Nothing like doing school work in the pj’s.
Daughter with her workbooks worked diligently on spelling, math and reading comprehension. She was happy that I let her pick any page in the math workbook to complete. I was thrilled to see she had picked a page on converting decimals to fractions and fractions to decimals along with reading a bar graph.
Son was at the computer finishing up the remaining bubbles in ABC extension, ABC’s and 123’s. Everyone was content and working. Son did a great job reading his story today. Reading has been challenge for us. He doesn’t like to sit still for long and becomes frustrated. We have been doing little by little and he happens to be catching on to the process. I try not to compare him to his sister. She took to reading in leaps and bounds. He would rather analyze how things work and not worry about the need to read. My saving grace with him has been the frustration he encounters when playing games on the gaming devices and needing to know what things say. He doesn’t like to ask for help and he must do so to know what the game has said. This has definitely piqued his interest in learning to read.
First part of the school work was finished in an hour so we ran errands. Each child had some leftover money from our trip and they had found hula hoops. While on our trip we had eaten at the Wildhorse Saloon and one part of the entertainment was a hula hoop duo. The kids had been amazed at some of the tricks they had seen and wanted to get hula hoops to learn. Being the mom/teacher that I am, I see this two fold - exercise and learning experience. So, I let them use their remaining money and added a bit to it. It has been an afternoon of hip gyrating action!
After lunch and hula hooping, it was time for daughter to work on her book. (Daughter has been working on writing a book for her library class with Ms. Terri.) She has twelve pages of a rough draft. (These are pages for her children’s book.) We are now working on revising the rough draft. I have read the draft and make suggestions, then she has implemented the suggestions and added to it. Next week she should have her final draft ready and her pictures/drawings laid out.
The children played with their hula hoops later in the afternoon. Daughter turned her imagination back two centuries with her hoop. We have been listening to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books. The children have been engrossed with the Ingalls way of life. Daughter and Son decided to turn their play into that of yesteryear when children used hoops and sticks to play. It has been wonderful to see them act out the things we study and do in their play. The neighborhood children are even beginning to ask to play these things when they come over.
The final part of our official school day was Aikido (martial art). Daughter participated in the youth class and the adult class tonight. Two hours and fifteen minutes of training four nights a week has greatly improved her skill set. She truly enjoys the time at the dojo and the skills she has learned. Son participated in the youth class. Although he was not as focused as his sister, he loves being around the other students and learning.
 A semi-typical day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Homeschool?

Why homeschool? A question that I pondered for years. As a formally trained educator, I was ‘taught’ how to teach children. The various philosophies of different psychologist and educators on how to deliver content to students were crammed into my brain. The real world classroom was much different than that in the college classes we were prepared to teach. As technology has progressed, teaching changed. Students no longer cared to learn the basics when they could ‘google’ the answers. To the modern day student, the need to learn is not relevant. They can just do an internet search to find the answer and write it down. They don’t see a need to truly learn the why of a subject. It is sad to have to teach basic math skills to fourteen year olds in order to complete the basic mathematics of physical science problems. Students that cannot add single digit numbers in their head and rely on calculators for everything is a sad state of education! How did they make it to ninth grade?

As I trudged through the years of trying to teach students how to solve problems, think for themselves, and learn the content I presented, I became a mother to a precious baby girl. How I wished to stay home and take care of her. I wanted to homeschool, but at that point in our lives it wasn’t feasible. My husband is self-employed and trying to grow his business. My job provided the insurance coverage we needed. Everything changed however, as I saw my own daughter enter the public school system. Although she was in a very good elementary school, I noticed that everything was geared to testing. They took standardized tests in the fall, winter and spring! Luckily, she is a very smart little girl and learning comes easily. However, she is a perfectionist and the testing was reeking havoc on her emotionally. Many tears and stomach aches on testing days. Why should any six, seven, or eight year-old have to endure these pressures? Homework that equated to busy work had to be done to prepare for the endless tests. I had had enough of her homework. What were they doing all day in the classroom? My own students didn’t have that much homework in my course. Most of them wouldn’t do it anyhow. So with my younger son getting ready to enter kindergarten, I decided the time had come to take charge of my own children’s education. Losing an income and insurance was scary, but my children are worth it. My husband’s business has grown to cover my leaving the workforce and insurance and the new adventure began.
It is funny that when my colleagues found out I was leaving the teaching field to homeschool my children, they didn’t know what to say. As educators, we had been led to believe only we can teach children. Homeschool children were inferior to children in our schools. They weren’t socialized and couldn’t possibly do well in the real world. Massive lesson plans must be created.  State and National standards adhered. Test should be conducted. Some told me that at least I would know how to teach my children, since I was a teacher. Others confessed that they could never teach their own kids.
I planned and scheduled for our first days, weeks and months. I was a trained professional. I was treating my homeschool like a regular school. We sat down at the kitchen table and began. Let me tell you fourth grade and kindergarten is not the same as ninth and tenth grade! My son does things his way or the highway. He hates being wrong and does not use writing utensils to write. My daughter would be in tears from the amount of work I gave her. I didn’t think it was that much. What was I doing? My plans for fun learning experiences and explorations were being met with resistance. This was going to be harder than I expected.
I had to stop and think. What did I really want my children to learn? To hate education? No! I wanted them to embrace learning. What should I do? They must learn the three R’s. The state mandates they learn science and history on top of that. So I stepped back and reevaluated what is truly important.  Who came up with the idea that every fourth grader or kindergartener had to learn x, y, and z.  Why should it matter what we learn and when?  Many of our founing fathers were not formally educated and look at the caliber of men they were.  Not every child is going to become a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, teacher, etc.  I know that when children learn about things they are interested in, they tend to branch out even further into the learning experience.  I never thought I would consider the world of unschooling. But parts of unschooling intrigued me. It wasn’t as structured. We could go with the flow. So I decided to adapt to what my children needed. We don’t unschool. I provide a bit of structure and guidance to what we are to learn. We are eclectic in our schooling and this seems to be working.
Reading and history are conquered at the same time. Historical fiction novels for my daughter knock out two subjects in one. Books on science and our monthly visit to library class with Mr. Jack explore science topics. We have some weeks that are devoted to science fun! Luckily my daughter likes her workbooks for grammar, spelling, and math. She also has a grammar class with Ms. Terri at the library. My son does computer based work and the occasional workbook page. The writing utensil has slowly started to become just that! No longer a car, gun, or projectile at least most days. He even finished kindergarten early and proudly calls himself a first grader. We are happy in the learning process. Field trips and excursions add to our learning environment. I believe I am learning just as much as they are!
Is there a right or wrong way to homeschool? No! Each family is different and must find their own path. Would I put my children back in the hands of the public schools? No! Even on the most trying days, I believe their education is far better than that is the public schools. How wonderful it is to hear them reenact historical events in their play. The Oregon Trail is every little boy’s idea of fun. My daughter is finally reading for enjoyment. We have stumbled upon the BoxCar Children mysteries and she is devouring them! My son is in love with addition facts. He counts and adds everything! Sometimes I have to tell him to stop adding. Who would have thought.
I wouldn’t trade the ups and downs of being a Homeschool Momma for anything!