Homeschool Classrooms or Co-ops

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Homeschooling is becoming more and more popular thanks to the internet and the low quality of public education. The internet offers plenty of resources to help Moms and Dads everywhere put together the very best educational standards for their children. It has also provided the means for other homeschooling parents to connect and exchange ideas. For many parents, this means the days of isolation and loneliness are over. We can find the information we need to help our children, or we can find someone else who knows.

Some Moms are taking it a step further. Community groups of homeschool educators are forming all over the place. This means that we can open our homes up to other kids and parents to facilitate more group learning. Or, we meet in a neutral building. In the US, these homeschool classrooms are called co-ops.

In effect, we are creating the classroom experience within our homeschool. For some this is hugely beneficial and a positive experience. You can meet other parents with similar lifestyles and ideas in person. You can spend time with them as friends. And your children can enjoy the social experience of learning with others. But isn’t this part of what you were trying to avoid?

There are many homeschool educators that prefer to teach their own children. It can avoid the rigidity and distractions of mainstream educational establishments. So how would a homeschool classroom be any different? Here are the pros and cons of teaching your children with others:



A classroom with children other than your own can be an exciting place to learn. There will be a renewed energy for the activities. Other children have different expectations, experiences and strengths to your own. This can make life a little hard in the classroom at times, trying to adapt ideas and activities to suit so many participants. And the children that are disinterested can quickly become bored and distracting to the other children.

A classroom setting, rather than the kitchen table, is also more educationally beneficial. You may have a room dedicated to studying, experiments and learning. Older children may benefit from teacher-led activities such as presentations and lectures. Perhaps your classroom has rows of chairs like those from companies like Classroom Essentials Online? This can work well to focus the attention of the audience to the speaker. But is it too rigid?

Many homeschool enthusiasts prefer the teaching model led by the students. The things in life that interest the child are explored in depth and provide for many areas of the curriculum. The child effectively directs the educator who in turn offers resources rather than lessons. It’s more about self-discovery. Can a classroom setting truly facilitate that? It’s worth considering the input of a child’s peers. Their enthusiasm for different topics, subjects, and hobbies could inspire your own children.



When you teach your children alone at home, this provides a very focused and tailored education model. Perhaps you’re feeling that your kids are missing out on the wisdom or variety offered by other teachers? Why not consider a homeschool classroom? Bringing other parents in to deliver fresh ideas and new approaches can be very useful. Many parents already do this. A classroom environment could provide all the resources needed to expand this further.

This involves the letting go of the educational reins. Other people will approach teaching, learning and education in different ways. These methods may go against your preferences. They may not be best aligned with your child’s preferences either. But until you try it, you won’t know. There are so many wonderful home educators out there. Many are parents just like you with the same ideals and goals. You are a valuable resource to your children. Other parents could be just as valuable.

You could become a much-appreciated resource to other children, too. Expanding your teaching skills can be inspiring and motivating for you. We all feel a bit stale and bored with things from time to time. Approaching education with other children in mind can be just the refresher you need. In some places, educating larger numbers of children in a formal capacity may require registration. You may be considered to be a school. Check with your local authority.


Field Trips

Field trips can always be the cause of a lot of worries. Sure, they’re your own kids, and you’ll do all you can to protect them. But it is still difficult to juggle the different activities to intend to complete as well as making sure learning is taking place. Smaller children can be over-excited about the change of venue, and be determined to engage in activities you’re not so keen on! So what happens when you add another family or two to the mix?

You can take advantage of a second or third homeschooler by splitting the kids up by age. This means each parent can really focus on the tasks relevant to the curriculum. Hopefully, it will mean that each child gets a lot more out of the time you are there. The other parents will also have their own resources and ideas to add to the mix, bringing more choice to your own teaching. And child-led learning with their peers may inspire them to find new interests.

This can also cut into your valuable family bonding time. Do you like to have family outings that create wonderful family memories? Perhaps it would be intrusive to invite another homeschooled family along. And for children that are wary or shy of others, it can make the experience quite unpleasant. Being out with another family encourages you all to come back together afterwards to discuss things. If having others in your home doesn’t suit you then this may not be practical.


Set Hours

Another major problem with co-educating is that both families are then committed to a timed schedule. The freedom to dip in and out of lessons, to self-explore, or to allow the child to fully lead their learning may be lost. Strict school hours and rigid lesson hours are part of what many home educators want to avoid. If you make an appointment to meet up with another family, you are then required to fit in with a more rigid plan. This can be particularly difficult when working with a child who has special needs.

You may be the one who needs to start dinner at a particular time or pick up other children from school. Your routines may be disruptive to another homeschool Mom’s schedule. It’s difficult to find that balance and that freedom to dip in and out as your child needs. How do you know if your child will be ready for learning at a particular time of the day? Would they be more receptive later on or earlier? You know your children better than anyone. Coordinating the hours you wish to co-teach should be possible if you can discuss this in detail first.

Older children may benefit from appointment based learning. As they approach the age for employment, keeping appointments for interviews and core work hours is important. If you’ve always adopted a flexi-fit model of child-led learning, why not try a schedule for a few days with another parent? You can start with a one hour slot each morning if that suits everyone.

Home educating is hard enough without having other families involved. However, don’t cut yourself off from the families near you that also homeschool. You may be missing out on some wonderful opportunities and resources. It can be tricky to make friends and find the perfect fit. And a homeschool classroom (or co-op) isn’t for everyone. Give it a go and see if it works for you.

How To Go To College For Free

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My son has a birthday coming up soon. He will be nine. The last nine years have gone by fast. That’s an understatement, of course. Any parent knows that statement is an understatement. Parents of college students tell me that the next nine years will go by even faster, though it does not seem possible. I trust them, though, and I am bracing.

TN Governor Bill Haslam explains Tennessee Promise

TN Governor Bill Haslam explains Tennessee Promise.

I am also looking into the College Nebula. Here’s what I have found out so far:

  • If you are a Tennessee resident, you can send your child to college for free through TN Promise, a program started by Governor Haslam a few years ago. You might want to inquire in your state for a similar program. Start with your homeschool support group and a Google search.
  • Community college is not glamorous, but it might be the only thing your family can afford and so it is better than no college at all. In Sevier County, where I live, high school graduates can attend community college for free. If your long-term plan is a four-year degree, you should contact the four-year institution where your child plans to transfer and check with them about accepting credits from community colleges. An example from my backyard: Vanderbilt University will not take credits from Walters State Community College, but the University of Tennessee in Knoxville will. In fact, UT even has articulation agreements with Walters State for specific majors, i.e. all your freshman and sophomore courses are lined up on a list for you to follow to make sure you will be fully transferable come junior year.
  • If you plan on sending your child to expensive colleges, you should definitely start saving. We all want scholarship money, but the truth is we might not all get it. Or we might get some, but not a “free ride.” Having savings is a must. Some people like 529 plans, but there’s a problem: what if your child does not want to go to college? You will get penalized when you withdraw that money for purposes other than college, to the tune of 10% of the amount. They consider it a tax. So have savings, but maybe not in a 529 plan.
  • If your child is already in high school and you have no savings, you might want to find a late stage college planning advisor in your area. They can do a lot for you: file your FAFSA, re-organize all your assets so that they don’t stack up against your child when the Financial Aid committee looks at the overall family picture, find scholarship money at out-of-state colleges for your child’s major etc.
  • Susan Wise Bauer told me where a child goes to college is not that important. What matters is to graduate that child without debt. She went on to say that she has a lot of friends who attended expensive colleges and now their lives are burdened by debt. They cannot make choices according to what they want because of all the debt they have incurred. Their lives are governed by that debt. So think about your daughter who might want to homeschool her children one day. If she has $75,000 or more in college loans, she has to go to work to pay it back. It’s “Bye-bye dream of homeschooling my little ones!” for her.
  • Definitely have a plan to graduate your child from college in four years. None of this “I’m changing my major” business in the middle of their sophomore year. Don’t declare a major if you are not 100% sure. Shadow a professional before you decide what to do. Another option: take care of the prerequisites in a less expensive four-year institution or a community college. Even better: look into dual-enrollment courses while your child is in high school. That way, they can graduate at 18 with a high school diploma and an associate degree.

Continue reading »

These are just some thoughts to get your started on your college planning for your homeschoolers. High school graduation will be here before you know it and, hopefully, we will be ready in every possible way.

Tuesday Tome Week 42 – Parenting Isn’t For Cowards

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When I got desperate about one of my children’s attitude recently, I reached out to a friend who told me about Parenting Isn’t For Cowards by Dr. James Dobson. Most things coming out of Dr. Dobson’s mind are 100% pure gold for the family and this book is no exception.

Parenting Isn't For Cowards

Maybe it hit me right because I felt my need for a better way to handle my children. I was ready for its message. This book may not have the same impact on you, because you may already know how to apply its principles or you may not agree with his discipline methods etc. To me, this book was the right thing at the right time. Continue reading »

In a couple of days, I had a different child on my hands. That’s because I changed by acquiring some parenting skills I did not have before. The whole experience inspired me to write a newspaper column about reaching for help instead of resorting to unhealthy behavior to deal with crises in our lives.

This book also sparked interest in other books by Dr. Dobson and Dr. Kevin Leman, which I should have read a long time ago. I will review them all in here if I have not done so already.

Dr. Dobson points out what to do with disrespectful, disobedient children. He also gives an overall view of the entire parenting experience. His chapters on teenagers will raise the hair on your back. My problems with my six-year-old seemed like small potatoes compared to what lies ahead in the teenage years. Yikes!

Perspective helps though. It’s good to be reminded this is a journey and nothing is final. It’s not over till it’s over.

2016 Aquarium Science Classes

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This is our fourth year attending science classes at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg. It’s a bit shocking for me to write that, but it’s true. Four years already? At first, it was only my son and I going there. My mom was living with us at the time and she kept my daughter, age three at the time.

Boy and girl at Ripley's Aquarium

Before the class, they look at the fish.

The following year, they each attended their own class, but soon the Preschool class was canceled and my daughter joined my son in the K-2 class. Last year, they were perfectly matched to the K-2 class, as my son was in second grade and my daughter in Kindergarten. Continue reading »

This year, we had to make a decision: do we put them in K-2 or 3-5? The curriculum is different from last year. They change teachers and curriculum every year at Ripley’s, so that was not the issue. The issue was, should we challenge the little one or bore the older one?

Boy and girl touch jelly fish at Ripley's Aquarium

Touching the jelly fish

We decided to challenge our daughter, who is in first grade this year, and allow our son to study on his grade level. So they are both in the class for Grades 3-5.

They have already had one class (September). The new teacher did a great job and the kids had no problem following the presentation, answering questions, participating in class, and performing the experiment.

Children performing an experiement

Experiment after the lecture

They learned about different science disciplines and the scientific method. It’s a great beginning and we look forward to the rest of the year. My son has been scoring very high in science in his nationally standardized test every year so we must be doing something right in our homeschool. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Tuesday Tome Week 41 – Have A New Kid By Friday

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Dr. Kevin Leman’s humorous writing style will make reading this book a breeze. He goes straight to the heart of the matter in this book, helping parents in crisis deal with their disrespectful, disobedient children in only five days.

Have A New Kid By Friday

Guess what? It’s not the children. It’s you. The parent. That’s right. You have been tolerating the mouthy monsters and the eye-rolling routines of your children. You have been swinging from one extreme to the other in your parenting style – from being permissive to being an authoritarian. OK, so maybe you haven’t, but that’s what Dr. Leman says.

No wonder your children are confused and think that anything goes until it doesn’t, but then mom or dad calm down and it’s back to no respect for them because they love me and they will give me anything I want.

The middle ground – the place where parents should strive to walk on – is called authoritative parenthood. You control the purse, the car, the TV, the internet, the play dates, the toys, everything. Use all this to your advantage. The children have nothing. Nothing. They are simply children.

You have everything. The parent. You own everything in their lives and can control every aspect of it. Including meal times? Yes. They will eat lima beans if they are hungry. Yes, they will.

The thing is, children must be loved no matter what they do. The relationship with them comes first. They should feel they are accepted and loved by their parents at all times. At the same time, they need to have a sense of responsibility and thankfulness for all the things you provide for them.

If they feel entitled to everything and they lack for nothing, you are doing something wrong. He gives you exactly what to do for the first five days and then you start applying everything you learned. The most important thing is you don’t yell, lecture, or coax them into doing anything. Once you state what they have to do, if they refuse, you let it go.

Chances are, a few minutes later, they will come to you with a request. Maybe it’s time to get into the car to go to soccer or it’s time for their afternoon snack or it’s time to go over to John’s house for a play date. Guess what, Junior? Not gonna happen. WHY, oh why, mommy? Because of the way you disrespected and disobeyed me earlier. Calmly, state your case and stand your ground. Then, let it go. Don’t lecture them. Don’t give in, either.

This is a great book if you have the courage to change the disrespect and disobedience around your house. But if you don’t, then don’t waste your time reading it. The second half of the book is simply a question and answer format – because Dr. Leman knows there are many different situations in parenting.

Fire Prevention Week

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October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week in the United States. Most cities organize parades and information workshops to mark this important event. We can all use a fire drill now and then. Since our children are not in a school setting, where they do actual fire drills, we should all, as homeschooling parents, make sure we cover this important safety topic.

Fire Safety Game

Download the PDF and play this game with your children to teach fire safety.

We have taught our children what to do in the event there is a fire. We have an escape route and a meeting place outside. Of course, we check our smoke detector batteries regularly.

Many videos online can help your children understand fire safety better. My children watch Danger Rangers and they have actually taught me some things. Or, at least, they have surprised me by telling me out of the blue about something they learned on Danger Rangers.  Continue reading »

The other day, in the kitchen, my daughter asked me if I used to put pan handles toward the back of the stove when they were babies and toddlers. Yes, I used to do that, and I even used to put the pans and pots on the back burners, just so I could put them out of their reach, I told her.

She then told me that she saw something about that on Danger Rangers. I was glad all over again that we found a great educational cartoon series for them. It was a sweet moment and it did remind me of the times when they were so helpless and small and reaching for everything.

Here’s a game you can play with children, called Fireman Says, to instill the best responses to what can happen during a fire. Click on the link and scroll to the bottom to download the PDF. It was created by, where you can also read alerts about nightgown recalls. Children look so cute in PJs and nightgowns, but we should never forget to check these garments for fire safety standards.

My TEDx Talk

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Back in February, I gave a TEDx Talk on Dracula and Multilingualism. The video was supposed to be uploaded to the internet in April, but the technical crew got behind. It happens to the best of us. I will not hold it against them.


Yours truly on the TEDx stage at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Five months later, in the middle of September, the videos finally got edited and uploaded. All the talks are interesting to me, even though I may not agree with everything being said. It’s about ideas worth spreading. Exploring new thoughts and concepts keeps you sharp.

Looking back on the experience, I can see I learned a lot while putting together my own talk, refining it, and learning it by heart. It was stressful at the time, but worth it. Continue reading »

The most important thing I learned was that I could not do it with my husband and children present. It was like the part of my brain that deals with them took over the part that handled the presentation and I could not recall anything.

It was during the rehearsals that everything was going fine until my husband and children stepped into the auditorium. I could not remember anything anymore, though I tried. I finally told them they would have to wait in the green room. And we knew that on the day of the actual presentation they would have to be out of sight.

Before I had children, I thought women without a career outside the home were simply not motivated enough or ambitious enough or, maybe, they just lacked professional skills. Now that I am a mother, I know that those of us who choose to stay home and focus on the children (1) have that choice and (2) want that choice.

It was fun to present a TEDx Talk, but it was even more fun to learn about myself and to have a memory to share with my children and husband after the fact. They drove me in and then they picked me up, after they had fun in Knoxville on their own. And now there’s a video they can watch of what they missed. It’s all good.

Tuesday Tome Week 40 – Bringing Up Girls

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Of all the books I have been reading from Focus on the Family, this one brought me to tears several times. Oh, and I promised myself to be tough and just “get the principles!” I knew what Dr. Dobson was trying to do. He was being Oprah – making me cry about raising a little girl. And I was determined not to let him.

But he got me anyway. Once I read the poem about the hope chest song, I lost it. But there is so much more to this book than just sentimental ideas and feel-good little poems to move a tired mom from bitterness to sweetness again.

Bringing Up Girls Cover

Dr. Dobson shares not just research findings on raising daughters, but also simplified brain facts. The brain of a girl is different from the brain of a boy. Sorry, feministas of the world, we are simply different from the guys. Different does not mean inferior or weaker. Different means different.  Continue reading »

We are told the self-image of girls is very fragile. Successful women like Oprah Winfrey and Chris Evert kept pushing themselves to achieve in order to feel like they had some worth. While the whole world was wowed by their feats, Oprah and Chris and others like them went home wondering if they have any self-worth. See any successful women around you? They are probably pushing themselves to succeed because of their low self-esteem (emphasis on probably).

There is also practical advice on how to interact with daughters. One of such advice is how to teach the art of conversation by using a game with a tennis ball: talking together is a game called conversation. It only works if the ball is tossed back. When a person throws a question at you and you hold it by not answering fully or properly, you are not playing the game right.

The book also covers some manners and gives at least two other books we could use to teach children manners. Of course, Dobson insists on making clear that a daughter’s relationship with her daddy will haunt her for the rest of her life. (I know because I married somebody who looks like my dad, though they could not be more different in other ways).

Then, there is the relationship with their mammas: promiscuity happens in girls who are not well-connected to their moms. You probably know one or two girls who made that mistake in their life, as I know some.

Dr. Dobson shares a John Adams quote which is essentially about homeschooling (in a broader sense) and, at the very least, it is about parenting. Here’s brief part of it: “The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families. In vain are schools, academies and universities instituted if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years. The mothers are the earliest and most important instructors of youth.”

More practical advice: are you too exhausted to put your children to bed? You are making a mistake. Children share things at bedtime that they would not otherwise share with their parents. So be there for one last talk and build a stronger relationship with your children by listening.

The female brain is explained in the book, as I said above, and, frankly, I understood myself a little bit better. Expect a full presentation on hormonal changes from birth until adulthood.

“Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, but boys are made out of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.” I used to see that on my children’s newborn nightgowns. From this book, I found out these were quotes from Robert Southey, What Folks Are Made Of. You learn all sorts of things when you read.

The book ends with a list of resources for further study – lots of books and CDs to listen to with your adolescents or pre-adolescents when the time comes.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 5

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The children enjoyed Warlords of Japan or Chapter 5 because it is right up their alley with shoguns, battles, and the Japanese art of war. They take tae kwon do, which is Korean, but it’s martial arts and it comes from the Far East, so they feel the connection.

wind poem craft

Wind poem craft hanging in the tree – our wishes and silly poems registered for posterity

Of course, my heart skips a beat at all the violence in the chapter, but it’s history and the children need to understand freedom does not just happen. Throughout the centuries, no matter where you go in the world, there have been battles for freedom and control. Continue reading »

They learned new words like shogun (military ruler), daimyo (warlike noblemen), samurai (Japanese knights) and sumo wrestling. I showed them sumo wrestling on YouTube and they got embarrassed at the costume. They could not believe the size of sumo wrestlers, either. Welcome to the world and its many different cultures and traditional sports.

We made a wind poem. I asked each of the children to tell me some wishes. When they ran out of wishes, we wrote some silly poems on the remaining strips. The writing has to be done vertically, according to Japanese tradition, on narrow strips of paper. We then taped them onto a plastic rod and put it in a tree near the house.

This craft is recommended in the Activity Book. Japanese participating in the Star Festival used to write poems and wishes on strips and hang them outside. As the wind caressed the strips of paper, the festival participants hoped their wishes would come true.

Of course, we discussed the difference between superstitions and prayers. It was a good learning moment.


Tuesday Tome Week 39 – The Last Battle

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My daughter, who is six, says that The Last Battle is her favorite book in all The Chronicles of Narnia. I don’t think it was my favorite, but it was definitely a great book to read.

The Last Battle

The allegories to the Christian journey continued and culminated with the last scenes where all the characters come back. We had to go back to the first volume to remember if the first king of Narnia, King Frank, was a policeman or a cabby (he was a cabby) because we had forgotten such details.

It was good to recount who was who and who did what and when. The children remembered more than I did, which is a good thing. I have enough things to remember as it is. Information overload is the story of a mother’s life.

One thing we have been doing more and more of is highlight humorous passages. For example, the kids laugh when a character says, “Hallo! What are we stopping for?” or “aii-aii-aouwee!” or “ow! ow! What d’you do that for!” They are beginning to take literature in and react and respond to different scenes and turns of phrases, the silly ones for now, but others later on, too, I am sure. That was my goal all along.

Once literature speaks to them directly, they will reach for books again and again. It’s like anything else. You cannot force them to love music (or Jesus). You put them in the presence of music (or Jesus) over and over and then music (or Jesus) works its (His) magic. Continue reading »

Further in and further up, the two commands toward the end of the book, are such metaphors. In our Christian walk, we are encouraged constantly to come further in (closer to the heart of God) and further up (raising our standards and conduct accordingly).

The whole confusion between Aslan and Tash should clarify once and for all – if anybody has ears to hear – the confusion between true religion and the false religions of the world. In mixing reality with the shadow of reality, C. S. Lewis reaches for Plato again, showing us his scholarship and power of synthesis.

Lord Digory complains, “It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what DO they teach them at these schools?” While everybody laughs at his remarks, I am not laughing. Unfortunately, most schools these days have abandoned the classics for newer methods and play learning. I am not just referring to government schools but also to private Christian schools and some homeschools as well.

While Classical methods are on the rise among homeschoolers, many still resist the idea of a thorough, challenging curriculum which includes Greek philosophers. They refuse it in the name of Christ. There’s no arguing with such folks, either, because many of them have decided “pagan” ideas should not be shared with their children.

To each his own, but I have spoken with several mothers whose children walked away from the faith after they took Philosophy 101 in their freshman year in college. A little introduction (at the very least, in high school) to the ancient ideas that laid the foundation of the Western thought and civilization would have inoculated their children against unbelief. Just sayin’.