More Writing, Less Blogging

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It occurs to me that it is almost the end of September and I have not finished the two books I told myself I would publish before the end of the year. So I will slow down the blog posts and focus on writing. One book is the second volume in the Izzy Adventures Series (bilingual books) and the other one is the fourth volume in my How To Homeschool Series, i.e. 101 Tips for Second Grade Homeschooling.

English-Russian cover of Kitten in the Storm

English-Russian cover of Kitten in the Storm

At this point, just in case you are wondering, I should probably mention that, through it all, I am not motivated by money. Here’s a financial tip: if you want to get rich quick, do not take up blogging or writing. I am doing both simply because I enjoy myself in the process. I have the publishing bug, what can I say? Continue reading »

Pushing the Publish button after typing my heart out gives me more thrills than a chocolate eclair. OK, so many not as many, but it’s right up there with vegan banana split topped with locally produced honey or watching the sunrise over the ocean or strolling through the Champs-Élysées. You get the picture.

The second volume of the language series is pretty much written, I just have to review it. The other book is just a little past the planning phase. Nevertheless, I have great hopes to be finished with both by the end of this week, which is our first fall break of the school year. What else am I going to do with my newly acquired vast chasms of time? (Sorry, Thomas Jefferson!)

One of these days I will plop myself on my therapist’s armchair and ask her why I cannot just walk outside my front door and smell the roses. Well, besides living in the mosquito capital of the American South East. Until then, I will be here typing while my children play, still bewildered that they got a whole week off from school.

Expect two blog posts a week for the next foreseeable future until I place the books into the capable hands of my designer. And thanks for reading.

Sabbath Schooling For Real

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Last year, I blogged about Sabbath Schooling (that’s teaching for six weeks and taking the seventh week off) but I made it clear I did not apply it literally in our homeschool. This year, I decided to take it seriously. I dislike burnout as much as anybody else and taking breaks more often seems to be the formula to keep burnout from visiting us again and again.

Heritage Day Schedule

Seeing all the artisans and their crafts at Heritage Day reminded me of my book projects.

Of course, the children love it. They work very hard and a break feels good to them, too. Am I working them too hard? I don’t know. But they are getting older and starting to complain about school. It’s a sign I must be doing something right. Maybe. At any rate, my mission in life is not to keep my children happy. It is to make them competent. Continue reading »

We still do our daily devotional and instrument practice (violin and piano). We still read books together. We still attend their orchestra practice, violin lesson, piano lesson, soccer practice and tae kwon do training. But it makes a big difference that our mornings and early afternoons are “free time.” We make sure they get fresh air by playing outside and limit their computer time.

The surprise? They want to do history. They like it so much, they do not consider it “school.” They asked me to read them a chapter a day from The Story of the World volume 3. This is great news because on busy weeks we might have to skip history and focus on math and language arts. Since we get a chance to skip ahead, hopefully we will not get behind in history like last year.

Math Manipulatives

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Math manipulatives do not have to break the bank. In fact, one could use beans as counters. But it’s so nice to have blocks, tiles, teddy bears, cubes, interconnecting cubes and other such math visual aids.

Recently, I realized my first grader was a little overwhelmed by first grade. Not terribly so, not to tears, but just enough to cause behavioral issues. Children misbehave when they are either bored or overwhelmed. This first grader was overwhelmed by some of the abstract concepts and bored by some easier ones.

Boy and girl arranged colorful tiles in patterns

Tiles arranged in different patterns.

Although I believe school should be made attractive to children, I am not the kind of homeschooling mom who believes in entertaining the children in order to make them learn. We use songs to memorize concepts up to a point. Learning is hard work and it prepares the children for the hard work they will have to put forth as adults. So I don’t make things “easy and fun” too much. But I pay attention to their frustration level. Continue reading »

If they feel that school is fun, I think I have failed in some way. School is fun and learning is fun in and of itself, because it educates you, not because it entertains you. Educate, the word, is made up of two Latin roots. One means “out” and the other one “to take.” Education is the thing that takes you out of yourself and into a new place. You have changed your mind by acquiring knowledge. You have been taken into a new you, a new experience, a new way to experience life. And the process continues as long as you let it, by reading and learning for the rest of your life. Now that’s fun.

Girl stacks a wooden block tower

One-inch blocks used as bricks for a tower

So now that I have bored you with my philosophy of education, let me get back to the subject matter: math manipulatives. We pulled out different sets of tiles and blocks and let the first grader go to town with them. They got stacked and rearranged in different ways according to her fancy. My third grader joined in because it looked like so much fun. It was therapeutic for everybody.

Yes, we step away from the books and play with 3D objects to understand two tens three ones and six tens five ones. But we also use these manipulatives for fun. It’s good for the kids to play during school with the very objects we use to teach them abstract concepts.

Why Left-Wing Politicians Feel Threatened by Homeschooling

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This week, the US Department of Education Secretary, John King, spoke at a breakfast and his comments on homeschooling have startled most people who follow the issues in this country. While he admitted that some homeschooling parents do a great job, he expressed concerns that homeschoolers at large do not get “rapid instruction” and “diverse learning opportunities” like their public school peers.

Education Secretary John King and President Obama

Education Secretary John King and President Obama

What Obama’s Education Secretary got wrong is that homeschoolers do get an amazing array of educational opportunities, which public school students can only dream about. Also, the “rapid instruction” in public schools renders 2/3 of eighth graders incapable of reading proficiently. Should we be interested in education which promotes “rapid instruction” methods? Continue reading »

Let’s face it. We all know some homeschooling families who don’t do much with their children in the name of this or that principle or simply out of laziness. Recently, a library director told me people like that have been around since the 60s and 70s. She was around back then. Unschooling can turn out some great results and then some not so great results.

At the end of the day, who can measure success and how? Some kids are not gifted in math, but they excel in foreign languages. Other kids play the violin and have very little interest in computers. I get it. But there are those families who neglect their “homeschooled” children just like there are public school families who do not stay involved in their children’s homework, activities, and friends.

When the family does not work together for the education of the child, the child suffers. As a result, the family suffers. The breakdown happens at every level.

But just because some people make a mockery of their freedoms does not mean all people should lose their freedoms. Just because some parents give homeschool a bad name does not mean that all homeschoolers should be given a bad name.

Make no mistake about it! What you hear out of the mouth of John King is the same message in a Democratic White House and Congress. I don’t usually get political on my homeschooling blog, but this statement from Obama’s Education Secretary tells me the Democrats are scared of private initiative whether in business or education.

Their agenda is clear, too: they want a Nanny State to keep everybody in check. With less than two months before the election, I think you should vote and vote wisely.

Rehearsals Have Started

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We have only seven more rehearsals until our children’s first concert on the stage of the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville. The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra operates six different ensembles for children on different levels of music skills. Our children auditioned this summer and got into Overture and Preludium respectively.

KSYO Preludium Practice

My son (in red shirt) during his first practice with KSYO Preludium

This experience may be a tad more exciting for me than for them, although I can see they like playing in their groups. They made some friends over the summer during String Camp and they were excited to see them again now that they are in the orchestra together. Continue reading »

Music lessons give people different memories and thoughts. Some have never had lessons and regret it. Others think it is really expensive to pay for music lessons and an instrument (it is not). Some people I talk to used to take music lessons and do recitals and then something happened in middle school. They gave up and got interested in sports.

I cannot tell you how many people have told me this. “I got interested in sports and my parents got tired of coaxing me to practice. So they gave up. I gave up. And now I see these adults who can play an instrument and they don’t even make a living with it, but they can just sit at the piano and play. I regret my parents did not insist with my music lessons.”

My experience is that my parents did not make me practice. So I got by with the most basic practice on my own and made it through eight years of violin and four years of piano. If I had been encouraged, I would have better skills. Nevertheless, I am able to help my children right now and can play what they play probably for the next few years.

This helps a lot, because in this way I can work with them at home in acquiring new music, for instance, while during their lesson their teachers focus on things that I would not know how to teach or challenge them with. It’s a team effort and the teachers are happy when they find a parent who understands music theory and practice.

Based on these testimonies and my own experience, I will continue to make sacrifices and keep my children’s music lessons going. Practicing is the hardest part, of course, but I keep telling myself they will thank me one day. By faith, we can move this mountain.

Pittman Center Heritage Day

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Once a year, the little town of Pittman Center celebrates Heritage Day. The event starts at 10 and offers guided tours of the local museum, music, a dog show, Southern food, several play areas for children, and horseback rides. Many vendors bring a booth with their wares: arts and crafts, mainly. The local school has a fundraising booth, mainly offering sugary treats concocted, God bless them, in the Land of Low Nutrition.

Daddy and children at Pittman Center Heritage Day

Daddy and children at Pittman Center Heritage Day

Many things are free: take a picture by a rusty truck decorated for fall, listen to country music, walk around, watch a dog show, let the kids jump in the pumped-up play area, and walk through the Heritage Museum. You must pay for food and arts and crafts. Continue reading »

We have not been there in a long time, so this year we decided to take the kids and show them an authentic Southern event. Our area was built on arts and crafts, before tourism became a thing. So Heritage Day is a history field trip, if you will, and a social studies one as well.

We were disappointed. There were very few people in attendance, the music made me wonder if they could not have booked somebody slightly better, and the food, of course, was junk. I don’t mean to sound negative, but that was just my impression around 1:30pm. Maybe it’s an inaccurate snapshot of an otherwise glorious day.

It was really hot that day and maybe most people came in the morning. Whatever the case may be, it was not something that made us want to put this on our calendar year after year. Having said that, it’s really close to our house and if we have nothing better to do we can always stroll through it. Doing things as a family of four always leaves an impression on the children, even if it’s not something to rave about.

Tuesday Tome Week 38 – The Silver Chair

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The Silver Chair did not seem very interesting to me at first. It took more than half the book to even understand the title. I felt confused by the whole layout of the land described and the Marsh-Wiggle called Puddleglum. (Uh, what’s a Marsh-Wiggle?)

The Silver Chair

The book begins with Eustace helping a school mate, Jill, while she is being chased by bullies. They both escape to Narnia just in time before the bullies get to Jill. Folks, this is 1950 and C.S. Lewis knew enough about schools in those days to put a bit of them in his books. The bullies today work just the same, if not worse.  Continue reading »

It made me realize there is a whole theme about education through Narnia. Peter complained about the school Edmund started attending. In fact, Peter claims the school Edmund started attending made Edmund a traitor and a liar.

Jill’s bullying in The Silver Chair makes me thankful we are able to homeschool and spare our children the grief. She attends an Experiment House where children can do what they want and teachers believe that if they just talk to the children with the right words, they can elicit the correct behavior. Sounds like the progressive education of the 21st century we see all around us, doesn’t it? Well, it all started 20 years before Narnia was published and so by the time Lewis wrote about it, it was developed enough to be analyzed and mocked by an intellectual of his caliber.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Professor wonders, “What DO they teach them in these schools?” when he realizes the children have no Logic principles. In yet another place, the question is repeated by another character.

The Christian overtones become very clear in The Silver Chair. Puddleglum sacrifices his health by stomping out the fire with his own foot in order to stop the witch’s spell. The children are given directions by Aslan, directions which must be memorized and obeyed (Scripture memorization?).

When they wonder what will happen if they do what Aslan told them to, Puddleglum reminds them that Aslan never told them what would happen. He just wanted their obedience. And as long as you listen to his words and trust they are the best for you, you will have done your duty.

Prince Rilian is tied to a silver chair when he comes back to his right mind, so that he may not escape from the Underworld. Reality and fantasy blend and become very confusing. The children don’t know if they should release him or not, because he is a totally different person when his “fit” comes over him. I could go on and on with examples of how deep this book goes into the Christian journey with its ups and downs, confusing and clear moments.

For those familiar with Plato, you will of course recognize his allegory of the cave. Lewis is a genius in coming up with a story which can show children philosophical principles.

Why People Don’t Homeschool

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A Romanian blogger detailed recently how she decided to enroll her child in fifth grade this year, after looking at three possibilities: private school, middle school attached to a high school (which implies the teachers would be infinitely better than in a regular ol’ middle school, since they are qualified to teach secondary education), or a five-day homeschool co-op (if you will, a homeschool school where all the teachers are parents who hold university degrees in their subject).

Funny education comic

Today’s classrooms focus on testing and less on art.

The blog post is titled, “Why We Feel Threatened by Homeschooling” and yes, it is in Romanian. The link above will take you there if you can read that language.  Continue reading »

Now homeschooling is not exactly legal in Romania, but it can be done if one enrolls in a school abroad, in the UK or the US for instance. In that case, it is called correspondence school and should you get inquiries from the authorities you will be left alone.

She ended up choosing a fourth possibility: staying within the same K-8 school her daughter has attended so far. Her post is long, but in short she said, “I did not have the courage to homeschool. I did not have the courage to assume the responsibility of my child’s education. It’s easier to have somebody else to blame if something goes wrong.”

She was perfectly honest about this. She admires her friends who homeschool, but she says she prefers to leave the responsibility in somebody else’s lap. Then, she said, it will be easier to blame the classmates or the teacher or the principal or the government for whatever goes wrong in her child’s education.

There you have it, my friends, straight from the heart of a very honest person. Most people do not homeschool because they would rather blame somebody else than themselves if something should go wrong.

Healthy Taste of Knoxville

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Today is the day when Homeschool Ways will take the show on the road. We will have a booth at an event called The Healthy Taste of Knoxville. This second annual event is held on Kingston Pike, the main highway that goes through Knoxville, just two blocks away from the University of Tennessee campus.

Knoxville Veggie Fest

The official poster for the event

It was a few weeks ago the organizers approached me and asked if I would like to bring my books and any information I may have about homeschooling to this show. They told me during the show last year a lot of people were inquiring about “alternative choices” in lifestyle and it included food, education, and spirituality. By a lot of people we mean over 1,000.

Continue reading »

I have personally been a vegetarian since 1992, so I could share a lot about healthy eating. I could even have a food blog. But, there is only so much time in the day and I have other priorities. By the way, my doctor tells me I am one of her healthiest patients when she sees me for my annual checkup.

The organizers said, “We would love it if you could bring information about homeschooling. People who are open-minded about changing their diet are also open-minded about schooling options for their children.” Isn’t that the truth?

Well, I’m glad to serve!

For clarity’s sake, let me repeat the main facts below.


What: Health Fair and Vegetarian/Vegan Tasting (Gluten Free, too)

When: September 18, 2016 1:30PM-4PM

Where: 3611 Kingston Pike, Knoxville TN

Why: To taste delicious foods and learn more about health

How: FREE and FREE parking


Your humble correspondent will have books available for sale about homeschooling. I prepared vegan burger samples to share with folks. Many vendors will be present to share delicious vegetarian and vegan free samples. Some vendors will have items for sale.

Last year, this event drew over 1,000 people, and they expect it will double this year. The weather seems to be at least overcast but never fear, the event is inside. The building looks like a gym. There will be parking attendants to direct you. If you follow the posters on the road, you should have no problem finding it.

The Knoxville Police Department has sent us some officers as well, so do not be alarmed if you see a police presence. They are there to help smooth out the traffic going in and out of the campus. See you there!

The Things We Dare Not Tell

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Homeschooling blogs abound, but what are the things we dare not tell about our homeschooling experience? Just like in anything else, there is a fine line between encouraging and discouraging our readers. We share our successes to encourage others and we end up discouraging those homeschooling moms who are already not very self-confident.

Woman with sealed lips

Sealed lips

We share our vulnerable moments to encourage homeschoolers and risk being ridiculed by moms who put their children in the public school every morning and never think twice about dropping their children off in a building for the next seven hours. “See, that’s why I don’t mess with homeschooling. Life’s too short to pour over algebra with my kids. Plus we need a second income to afford a vacation and nice clothes every year.”  Continue reading »

Whatever you do with a homeschooling blog, there will always be the things you do not share. Let’s get the record straight. There are some things that are better left unsaid. It’s nobody’s business but your own. In this day of TMI (too much information) and oversharing through social media, it’s good to have a sanctuary of privacy for your family.

I believe privacy can be overrated as well, but there needs to be a circle of inner intimacy and privacy around your homeschooling experience. If nothing else, to protect the innocent in our lives.

As I thought about these things, I came across this poem from public domain. It deals with some issues of privacy due to prideful silence and it’s probably not 100% applicable to homeschooling blogs, but it’s a great poem and I thought I’d share it.


The Things We Dare Not Tell

by Henry Lawson

The fields are fair in autumn yet, and the sun’s still shining there,
But we bow our heads and we brood and fret, because of the masks we wear;
Or we nod and smile the social while, and we say we’re doing well,
But we break our hearts, oh, we break our hearts! for the things we must not tell.

We see but pride in a selfish breast, while a heart is breaking there;
Oh, the world would be such a kindly world if all men’s hearts lay bare!
We live and share the living lie, we are doing very well,
While they eat our hearts as the years go by, do the things we dare not tell.

We bow us down to a dusty shrine, or a temple in the East,
Or we stand and drink to the world-old creed, with the coffins at the feast;
We fight it down, and we live it down, or we bear it bravely well,
But the best men die of a broken heart for the things they cannot tell.