Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

Boredom is not the enemy

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014


The most common advice given to parents when faced with a bored child is to load up that kid with chores. The thinking goes that the child will never utter the words again to avoid mopping, vacuuming, and laundering.

Other advice:

Leave the child in it and eventually he or she will come out of it.

Remind kids that life isn’t always interesting; that we all have to do things we don’t like.

Less punitive advice:

Send bored children outdoors.
Post a list of possible activities and hand it to the child.
Remind the child of all the toys and supplies at hand.

For me, these responses to the “I’m bored” cry feel inadequate. I know when I express a feeling, I want someone to “get it” at minimum. I want my feeling recognized as legitimate or valid—at least, understandable given my circumstances. Offering me solutions or punishments for being bored, frustrated, lonely, tired, cranky, or sad feels dismissive.

On the other hand, being confronted by a bored gaggle of kids when they have a house overflowing with toys, books, play equipment, video games, movies, and siblings can be utterly exasperating!

Here’s a down and dirty guide to boredom and kids

(feel free to use, edit, disregard as suits you and your family)

1. Agree with equal amount of emotion in your voice. Like this:

“Mom, I’m bored.”

“You’re BORED!? Oh man I HATE that feeling.”
“I remember feeling bored when I was a kid. Drove me NUTS!”
“Boredom is SOOOO BORING! Ugh. Yuck. I get it.”
“Don’t you hate how you can be bored even though you have cool toys and games to play? I get that way sometimes.”

Let that stand. You don’t have to solve it. Sometimes just getting it is enough.

2. Resist the temptation to solve the boredom with practical activities. Instead, offer support in “handling” it, like this:

“How have you solved being bored before? Can you remember? What usually works for you?”

“Sometimes when I’m bored I have to sit for a little bit to think about how I might get to the other side. Want to pull up a chair while I’m in the kitchen and sit here with me while you think about it?”

“I remember the last time you were bored, you took the dog for a walk and you came back with a new idea of what to do. Do you think that would work this time? Or do you have another idea for what to do when you are bored?”

Or ask the question: “Do you mind being bored? Sometimes I like doing nothing—as a change of pace, just sitting around doing absolutely nothing at all. Do you ever like that?”

3. Invite the bored child (the one who is really struggling to find anything to do) to hang out with you until the child has a new idea of what to do.

“I hate being bored. I wish I had time to play a game with you. I’m washing dishes and I would love it if you would create a musical playlist for me to listen to while I do them. Would you mind doing that until you figure out what you want to do instead?”

“I was about to fold laundry. I know that probably doesn’t sound like fun, but until you know what you want to do, I’d love you to come talk to me to keep me company while I fold clothes. Would you mind doing that?”

“I’m on the computer right now. Come here! Look at these photos (story, pinterest images, facebook feed). Sometimes when I’m bored I just scroll through these news feeds endlessly. Not very productive, eh? Want to show me something online that I haven’t seen today?”

The goal here is to recognize that boredom is a condition of experience, but it doesn’t have to be overcome. Companionship is often one way to “heal” it for the moment allowing new ideas to come forward.

4. Suggest (after you may have tried the three ideas above) a project that is messy, that the child has wanted to do but you have put off, that is involving.

The key to overcoming boredom is “surprise.” Boredom is about relentless predictability. All of us get tired of that. Our toys bore us because they are familiar. Our books bore us because the newness has worn off. Our siblings bore us because they are always there. Our parents bore us because they are such adults all the time.

To rise above boredom means upsetting the stability and predictability of routine and familiarity. If your child is truly at the chronically bored place, it’s time to involve new experiences and those usually require time, companionship, and big messes.

  • Painting
  • Brand new board games
  • Hammers and nails
  • Taking apart old radios, bicycles, furniture, computers
  • Modeling clay
  • Baking
  • Sewing
  • Video games
  • A six part movie series
  • Having friends over
  • Planning a party

In other words—boredom may mean that life has become a bit dull, a bit of a drudgery, a bit repetitive.

Even in the academics, this happens. If you have been using the same set of workbooks for the entire fall, it may be time to put them away for a week and do all hands-on activities for math, language arts, and science. Just change the tone and energy of the home.

Alternatively, use them in a new setting: at the local Starbucks, go to the library, hang out at a park, “do school” at a homeschool friend’s house where you all study together for a day.

Boredom is real. It’s not the enemy. It doesn’t mean your child is misbehaving or willful. Boredom is not a sign of lack of gratitude or ingenuity. Boredom simply is—it’s another feeling that human beings have that deserves respect, support, and love. Like all of our feelings.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by greg westfall (cc cropped and text added)

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It all counts

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Today’s thought: It all counts

The dish washing,
the foot rubbing,
the tub bathing,
the skip counting in the car,
the singing at the tops of your lungs together off key,
the carefully copied passage,
the shopping for groceries,
the spontaneous walk in the neighborhood,
the sorting the laundry into the right colored piles,
the charging of the dead phone,
the pause to text your sick mother-in-law,
the five minutes you take to regroup,
the gentle way you overlooked your child’s Big Mess,
the fifth book read after lunch when you usually only read three,
the naps (oh yes, the naps count!),
the petting of the dog,
the recitation of a few historical facts,
the listening carefully when your child explains how to beat level five,
the eye contact,
the cuddles,
the enthusiastic cheer for small successes and big ones,
the science experiment you finally got through with all the right ingredients,
the trampoline jumping,
the needed and taken break…

This stuff also counts:

The short word,
the worry,
the rushing,
the aimlessness that takes over when exhausted,
the bickering,
the harsh tone when a child is simply being a child,
the endless pages of material a child already knows,
the push, push, push to work harder on what a child isn’t ready for,
the conversations with a spouse overheard by the child,
the missed opportunities to play,
the loss of contact with a teen,
the blankness that sets in when sick of homeschooling,
the lost moment when a child was excited but you were distracted,
the anxiety that something’s wrong,
the blues,
the bad math book that you spent too much on,
the co-op where a bully mistreats your one child,
the not-taken, much-needed break…

You get to choose what will count in your homeschool.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Martin Novak |

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Two ways to grow teens

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Rolling thunder!

Teens present a challenge to parents who are used to the cozy snuggly younger years of wide-eyed curiosity about lady bugs. Teens can become bored by the wonder of the world around them as they navigate the far-more-interesting-to-them inner world of their thoughts, emotions, and yearnings.

That first teen—how I pity her or him! Parents don’t want to be awakened from the dreamland of their perfect, precious child. They want to prolong innocence and enchantment.

Teens want risk and adventure. They want to prove to themselves that one day, they will in fact be competent adults who live in the world outside the living room walls. They can’t know that they will be successful in that world until they get their hands on it—until they are out in it!

How do we—the anxious parents of these gawky, voice-changing, hair-growing, newly curvy bodies—give them what they need without panic and anxiety?

There are two critical pathways to the expansion of self:

1. Witness
2. Encounter


One way to grow is to increase your exposure to a world that is different from your familiar one. We adults do that every day by reading the news, or watching television, or listening to radio. We “witness” the events from around the globe via film or satellite, we read interesting discussions about those events, we listen to interviews with people who live in the midst of those events, and we receive stories through movies, memoirs, and novels of people who live very differently from us. This “witness” to the experiences of others expands our worldview and rearranges what we understand as normative or important. We discover our values differently when they are held up next to the values of others (whether those others live down the street or across an ocean).

For teens—they “witness” a larger world in much the same ways, if they are given the chance! They have the Internet—which offers them Twitter, Facebook, bulletin boards for affinity-related discussion, news organizations, blogs like Tumblr, and more. It’s easy to want to limit the use of the Internet, but it’s almost impossible to do so successfully (teens can work around just about any limit you set). It’s even better to create conversation around what they learn there and to be a willing conversation partner for the cognitive growth that is happening at breakneck speed in that space.

They also witness the larger world through novels and films. These two vehicles help teens to absorb the motivations and complexities of being human in unfamiliar (or very familiar!) contexts. They can read, take time off, read more, and process it all safely at home with you.

Witness provides teens with a chance to explore unfamiliar territory at arm’s length. The experience is under their control. They can shut down the computer, they can turn off the television, they can close the book. They are free to sample or deep dive, to agree or disagree without consequence to their life’s situation.


Encounter is the more challenging, more impacting way to grow. Encounter is not at arm’s length. Encounter means being overwhelmed (all five senses) with the experience so that you can’t escape it nor package and manage it. For instance, you might “witness” what life is like in Iran by reading a book like Reading Lolita in Tehran. But to encounter life in Tehran, one would have to go and stay there! Travel is one level of encounter (visiting a place for a short stay). An extended stay working in a foreign country is another level of encounter. Moving to live in a foreign country is the most intense form of encounter.

In terms of raising teens, encounter can look a few ways. It is meeting someone who embodies whatever life experience and values are his or hers (that differ from your own). It is befriending someone who comes from a different background. It is visiting the sites where other views take place (for instance, going to a temple for a visit when you are studying about that religion, especially when it is not your religion; another example—visiting a plantation in the South when you grew up in the North hating plantations as representations of slavery).

Encounter is eating the food, hearing/speaking the language, wearing the clothing, adopting the customs.

Encounter is deliberately putting yourself in the uncomfortable position of being with someone different from yourself and allowing that experience to impact you.

We help our teens grow when we give them both opportunities. They love risk and adventure! When you allow them to develop affinities, to explore their curiosities, and to meet/know people who are different from them, you help their brains! They will experience the kind of cognitive growth critical to being critical thinkers and healthy adults!

Cater to their natural inclination to take “thought-risks” and put them in contact with material and people who challenge their assumptions. Celebrate the results (whatever they may be!). Remember: no teen retains the values developed at 14 and 17. Are you today the same person you were at 15? I doubt it.

Everyone adopts positions to try on like shoes when they are teens. So let them adopt away! If you create space for a teen to imagine herself into a viewpoint, she will also have space to move through and out of it too, if she gets more and new information from witnessing or encountering!

It’s an exciting time to parent, if not a little nerve-wracking at times. Try not to grip too tightly, and enjoy the ride.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Lin Pernille Photography LLC (cc text added)

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Be more interested in the thinking than the thoughts

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

When someone shares a strong opinion—even when unsubstantiated by facts and data—it’s easy to feel that it is your obligation to enlighten said person with the “truth” —the truth that has eluded them until they happened upon your smarter, more capable mind.

A child is necessarily younger and less experienced with the world than you are, so their opinions will come from a different (more limited) space. But those conclusions and thoughts are no less logical to the child, no less important, no less “true” in his or her own mind’s eye.

I don’t know anyone who has kept every opinion formed at age ten throughout the rest of life. Kids, teens, young adults, heck OLD adults, routinely revise their notions of what is true, right, and good all the time, as they add experiences, information, and relationships to their lives. Our job as parents isn’t to “safeguard” a particular set of ideas or beliefs (no matter how much we may hope that our kids will adopt a particular set).

Our job is to value cognitive processes that show our kids are learning to reflect on their thinking. We don’t do this to manipulate our kids or anyone else to adopt our way of thinking. We do it to enhance the powers of thought that our kids are exhibiting.


When Johannah first became interested in animal rights, she wanted to find a way to make a difference. For her, that meant adopting veganism as her lifestyle. It would have been easy to forbid it (since I had to cook for six other meat-lovers in the family and her choice would be inconvenient) or to combat it with my experiences (I grew up vegetarian and I “knew” that she wouldn’t want to be one forever) or to rebut it with my own set of facts about health.

But what I could see in her commitment wasn’t an opinion about animal rights nearly as much as it was an expression of how she “took in” impacting information and then applied it to her life. She was showing me that when she took something seriously, she would make a corresponding choice to back it with her actions! What an amazing development in a young person—to not just rant about ideas, but to put into practice a highly inconvenient lifestyle choice to back up her convictions!

As a result, our family accommodated this choice. In fact, two more kids chose to become vegans as a result of watching this commitment lived out. We had lots of discussions about how we make commitments and to what causes. It was not easy for my three vegans to understand my choice to not be vegan, for instance. Just my own lifestyle provided them with a chance to learn how to peacefully co-exist with difference—different experiences, thoughts, choices, facts.

Today, only one of the three is still vegan. They have their new reasons for why they live differently now. These new choices show growth in how they nuance commitments and what they believe. As I suspected, their ideas morphed and grew just like mine have over a lifetime.

When our kids become passionate about a belief, or when they are exploring ideas that may even seem uncomfortable to us, this is a chance to be supportive of the cognitive development happening right before our eyes! It’s a wonderful thing to see a mind choose to think independently of the family culture—to branch out to find information, ideas, and commitments all their own. It doesn’t mean our kids will even land or stay with these ideas for good. Lord knows most of us shift identities and beliefs again and again throughout our lives.

Rather, our children, teens, young adults are doing the hard work of becoming—becoming people who know how to think for themselves, using the resources, experiences, and reasoning skills available at that stage in the journey.

All we have to do is buy soy milk, hummus, and Earth Balance margarine, while listening intently to the passionate plea to end violence against animals.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Jess Yu |

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Your secret weapon

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

You thought I’d tell you what it is in the first sentence? Oh heaven’s no. You will have to read a bit to find out.

You know how you have kids who don’t want to “do school” or resist a new curriculum or say they hate assignments or projects? You know how you keep telling them that at some point they will just “have to learn to write” or they “can’t write fiction forever” or they “can’t play all day”?

It’s one of those things where you kinda sorta freak out a bit when that resistance really gets going—in the form of fights, tears, refusal to even write one sentence, a willingness to outlast you.

So, are we on the same page?

The tendency is to view yourself in those moments as a teacher who deserves respect and authority by virtue of being the home educator. You think you have the right to expectations because you are in charge. You can’t understand why that sweet little munchkin is becoming such a curmudgeon!

Here’s the thing, though. You’re at home. You’re the mother or father. Your kids know that there is negotiating space. That’s what home is. It’s the one place where “have to’s” have less power. Home is supposed to be a relief from the stress of the outside pressures of life. Enforcing “school” at home feels so contrary to the natural untidiness, lack of schedule-ness that home is supposed to represent in life.

You need to embrace home as a home educator first—really allow yourself to notice and enjoy its properties (you know, like waking up when you want or wearing pj’s until lunch, or cuddling with a blanket on the couch for read aloud time).

For those formats and practices and programs you wish to see flourish in your home, then, you need to embrace them through that lens.

You ready? Here’s your secret weapon:

Stop talking, start doing.

In other words, if you want a child to write in a new form, stop telling your child to write in that form.

Wake up, gather paper and pencil, and after breakfast, without a word (that’s the key here), start writing. Write the kind of thing you are expecting your child to write. You might be writing a thank you note. You might be writing a short essay on paper dolls. You might be copying a quote from a book you love. You might write a non-fiction paragraph about Pocahontas.

Simply start.

Your kids may hover around you saying, “What are you doing? When do we start math? Mom, can I have more orange juice?”

You might respond: “I’m writing about Pocahontas. In fact, I can’t remember: does anyone remember the name of her tribe? Can someone get me the book we were reading?”

Keep writing.

Someone asks, “Mom what am I supposed to do while you are writing?”

You reply, “I don’t know. What do you feel like starting with today? I’m going to work on this. You’re free to help me. Or you can get going with math. But I’m doing this.”

Then do it. Keep going.

You’ll be shocked. Some will join you. And because YOU are doing the assignment, you will discover just how difficult it is, too. You’ll have some raw direct experience of just what it is you are asking your child to do!

At some point in the next few weeks of doing a couple of these, you will see that your kids start to participate. You don’t simply flip over to telling them to take over, but you can say, “If you want to work on your own version of this, I’m happy to help you while I complete mine.”

Be open to collaboration, to multiple children doing one project, to everyone helping you with your project. This is HOME. Not school. Not about grade levels. This is about giving your kids a chance to watch a process before they have to engage in it or learn how to do it. This is your chance to model and lead by silence, rather than lecture and enforcement.

Try it!

Stop talking. Start doing.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Sergey Khakimullin |

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Focus more on the subject and less on the child

Monday, October 27th, 2014

NaaD 34 Ariana blog

I want to let you in on the fruit of a lot of late night reading and middle of the night insomnia. The question pawing at me like a nocturnal kitten: What works in parenting? I’m plum worn out from the sad accounts of kids who are clearly bright, sharp adults who rendered the verdict on their childhoods: thumbs down.

I know that we parents come into the task completely green. Sure, we were parented, but we rarely feel qualified to be parents on that basis alone. We head off to websites and books, retreats and conferences looking for models that will ensure that OUR children will have good lives and grow up to be responsible, cheerful, good people. We want guarantees, because life is fraught with chaos and surprises (both welcome and unwelcome).

We trust experts and friends and religious leaders and therapists and anyone who seems authoritative and successful in their own right. We trust methods untested. We hope we are doing right by our kids.

What I am starting to see, though, is this odd trajectory.

The kids who claim to have had happy childhoods were not their parents’ projects.

Rather, the children who grow to be successful, happy adults are the ones whose projects were absorbing to their parents.

See what I did there?

In other words—if you focus more on the stuff that you and your kids care about (the big wide world of learning—books, birds, boats, Beowulf, beauty, bobcats, Broadway, battles, buoyancy, bodies, baked goods, Barbies, Bilbo—and those are just some of the subjects starting with the letter ‘B’!), you will create a much more bonded relationship with your children and they will learn how to be competent adults, than all the character training you impose, expect, exact, and create through whatever parenting method you choose.

Focusing on how to parent your child is less powerful than joining your child in the shared adventure of living, it turns out.

In the end, what leaves the best impression on your kids is your hearty, enthusiastic participation in the stuff of life—and sharing those experiences with your kids as though they are welcome and a constitutive part of your own experience!

Some of that exploration will be parent led, some of it will be child led, but all of it will be experienced with wide-eyed wonder, a lack of judgment (no more—does Minecraft really count? are Barbies dangerous?), and an investment of real time—time you don’t have—time that could go to other stuff like chores, bedtimes, math pages, and baths.

Our homeschools thrive when learning is what we care about more than parenting. Ironically, being a good parent gets tossed into the bargain, when we do. Punishment, teaching responsibility, lectures about character, holding kids accountable to adult standards of behavior—these don’t seem to produce the results we think they will.

But jumping into the middle of an adventure—reading, playing a video game, building a bonfire, hiking, calculating to produce a quilt, joining a dance company, visiting the zoo every week, playing with words, baking cookies, acting out scenes from Shakespeare—these do more to “parent” your kids than you realize.

Go forth and be interested in life…bring your kids along. They’ll thank you for it when they get older.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Brave Writer mom, Ariana (cc).

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Keeping it real at home

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Silver Mask

I’m about to make a bold statement.

The source of unhappiness at home is pretense.

Pretending in homeschool looks like this:

  • Defending your homeschool to others when you secretly doubt your effectiveness.
  • Showing off the good parts, while hiding the parts that embarrass you.
  • Continuing to use the textbook even though you know it causes pain, just because you paid for it.
  • Endorsing a philosophy of education you don’t actually use (you say you believe in studying the classics, but never read them; you want to believe unschooling is the best way to educate, but you undermine your child’s self-directed learning when it doesn’t match what you thought it would look like).
  • Ignoring a child’s struggles because you don’t want to have to pay for specialists or tutors.
  • Telling yourself that the schools are really really bad so that you can justify your “very bad, no good” year, instead of facing it.
  • Letting your relationship with your kids whither instead of putting in the effort to hear what’s going on for them and making adjustments.
  • Slavish devotion to a method over caring about real learning.
  • Acting as though you are okay with a practice when you really really are not.
  • Ignoring abuse, conflict, disrespect, or volatility in the home, and assuming that those things don’t impact your homeschool.
  • Refusing to consider all options (including the ones you say you don’t believe in) when what you are doing is clearly not working any more.
  • Being more interested in the politics of homeschool (common core, legislation, rights) than in homeschooling.
  • Tweaking your vocabulary to fit the homeschool community’s approved language rather than being true to your own way of thinking.
  • Hiding your child’s behavior or educational failures from others (kids who are dangerous to themselves or others, kids who refuse to cooperate, kids who act out in embarrassing ways—drinking, sexuality, theft, cyber bullying).
  • Withdrawing from “society” to avoid accountability.

I have often quoted a saying for which I have no attribution (in fact, if you google it, I am the one who comes up as the author of the quote!). Let me post it here:

“You can’t cheat the dark gods.”

The truth will out!

Whatever is going on with you is going on with you. No amount of cover-up or smooth-over will fix the problems you face. Moreover, who you are is an essential part of your homeschool. If you hate the classics (no matter how much you persuade yourself that they are essential to education), you will sabotage your homeschool to avoid reading them.

If you do distrust gaming as a way to learn, you will never be happy when your child is on the computer. You will look for ways to manipulate the system to stop your child from doing the very thing you secretly hate and distrust. Which leads to tension and stress in the relationship—inevitably, absolutely, take that to the bank.

If the context of your family is “walking on eggshells” to keep the volatile member from exploding, the energy for learning will be used up by an attempt to control the out of control member—and then you’ll wonder why homeschool is not peaceful or happy or working.

You are not responsible for the reputation of homeschool.

Let me repeat that.

You, sincere-trying-really-hard homeschooler, are not responsible for how other people see you or homeschooling.

You have one responsibility: to create and hold the space for a peaceful environment in which your family can grow and learn.

That’s it.

There are scads of ways to get there and as many as there are families. It is right and good to tell your public school mom friend that sometimes you worry that the work you’re doing with your kids is not on par with the local schools. If that’s a real fear, it’s absolutely humanizing and truthful to say it out loud. It doesn’t mean you will change course or decide to put your kids on the big yellow bus. It means you are facing the depth of your own anxiety—just like the public school mom who wonders if the second grade teacher is any good this year.

It is right and good to admit that one child’s ADD or behavior problems is impacting the health of the whole family. Once you admit it, you can begin to seek help for everyone. You are not blaming anyone. You are protecting everyone’s well being.

It is right and good to ditch the program that makes YOU unhappy no matter how many people say it is the best thing since frosted cake!

It is right and good to admit that it’s easier to fight for the right to homeschool than to homeschool. Start there.

Be real. Everyone wants to support a person who tells the truth. Everyone hates the person who pretends her way into perfection (right?).

You have a universe of choices—keep them all on the table. Be attentive to the muscles in your body. If you feel yourself tighten, you know something is not right. Find out what it is, say it out loud, do something about it.

Keep it real.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Elliot Bennett (cc cropped)

What to do if you’ve been avoiding writing

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

An email I received:

What do you do if you’ve been avoiding writing for a long long time?

The child in question is 14. He is male.

My reply:

First, congratulations! Thank you for not damaging your writer. It is far better to ignore and avoid writing than to require it and create writer’s block due to applying methods that harm the child’s natural ease of self-expression.

Any child who has simply “not written” can be taught/encouraged to find his or her writing voice no matter how old. The older the child, the more swiftly this process can happen. Why? Because older children (12, 15, 17!) have been speaking fluent English for many more years than their younger siblings. They have read more words than new readers. They’ve handwritten or keyboarded to the point of near fluency (spelling, punctuation, how to make that weird cursive ‘r’, where the question mark is on the laptop). They have thought about ideas and have mastered facts that were unfamiliar to them at ages 6, 8, and 10.

When we turn our attention to writing with a child who is already a teen, we are greeted with a person who is truly ready to write! So if your way of avoiding all that trauma that attends most writing programs was to ignore it—well done! You’ve waited for the key moment to make real progress. I’ll help you with that in a minute.

If you are the parent of a teen who won’t write because the programs you used have created writing paralysis (a block that is bigger than “I don’t know what to write,” but is more like “I hate writing and will never use it therefore I will not do it now or ever, forever more”), you have a slightly different issue but no less solvable.

Here are the two strategies.

1. For the writer you neglected to cultivate: Start from scratch! You can. Start by listening to him, having great conversations, jotting down some of the great stuff he says in words out loud to you. Read back what he says to his dad or siblings or to him later in the day, talking about the content of what he said.

Begin with copywork—song lyrics, humor, his favorite quotes from books. Do it at the same time with him, copying your favorite quotes. Read your quotes to each other. Pick quotes for each other as a surprise. Light a candle or eat brownies or use fountain pens or create an entire passage by snipping the words from magazines and gluing them in order on a page. Make a collage of favorite quotes! Make up your own quotes!

Freewrite—about anything, about everything. We have prompts on our blog, but you can get them anywhere. With teens, you want the topics to be interesting to the teen. Provocative positions are often best: What makes X band better than Y band? If you could change one law, which one would it be and why? If 18 year olds can be asked to fight for our country, does it make sense to say they aren’t old enough to drink alcohol? What’s one part of your education you’d like to take control of and how would you do it?

Get into fan fiction or NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or blogging about gaming or online discussion with kids who have similar hobbies or texting or Facebook or whatever drives a kid to write without thinking about “school.”

Play with words—use them, write big ones on a white board to stump each other, recite Shakespeare or poetry or quotes from Seinfeld.

Then, over the course of a year of this kind of practice, talk about moving into some preparation for college. Look at the Brave Writer online classes or local classes in a co-op or junior college. Move one bit at a time, but first, focus on reading, copying, freewriting, and language play. Like you would at any age.

2. For the damaged writer, the same process applies, but you have to rebuild trust and that happens through this little conversation that you need to have.

“Son, gulp. I’m just realizing that the writing programs we’ve used have been really unhelpful to you in becoming a competent, comfortable writer. I feel awful about it! Can we start over? I promise to pay attention when you say something is boring or isn’t working for you. I want us to start with writing that has meaning for you. Here’s a brownie. Let’s talk.”

Some version of this with more or less apology depending on how much damage is there will work. Brownies or going out for Cokes helps.

The goal with any child or teen is to recognize that the writing voice is already alive and well within. It may be hidden from view or afraid to come out, but some attentiveness to your child’s speaking voice and some humility about how difficult writing is for many kids will lead to breakthroughs. Start where your child is. Kids can go from not writing to college level comp between 16-18.


Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Richair |

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4 essential conditions necessary for a homeschool to thrive!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

If you were unable to see our first Homeschool Alliance webinar last Friday you can watch it now online!

Make Your Fantasy Homeschool a Reality from Julie Bogart on Vimeo.


Please note: the discount code mentioned has now expired.

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It’s a trap!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Don’t stumble into it! Surely you can see it coming a mile away. As you watch the smudgy shape on the horizon become bigger and more real, you have two choices:

To stand there and let that perfectly coiffed, smart, capable homeschooler with the engaged happy learners and the bright smile dim your shine with the enormous shadow she casts…


…you can step aside, into your own pool of light, and lift your eyes to the sky—its boundless open expanse of reassuring space to grow and evolve and become.

You have that choice every day.

The perennially eager learners are a fantasy—children are like us.

Some days they are engaged and enthusiastic.

Some days they are bored and whiny.

Some days they are content to simply follow the program, too distracted or tired to commit energy to creativity or imagination.

Some days you have so much fun—then you tuck in your darling dear to hear him declare that he never has any fun.

You can’t control how your children respond to your best efforts and conscientiousness.

You can’t manage your children into “model unschoolers.”

You can’t keep up with your best friend or the fantasy homeschooler you think lives in another state, doing it more skillfully and with ease.

What you can do—what you can do right now today—is to be present to the children, home, and life you have. The small moments that accumulate to create the feel and memories of your family are happening all day today.

You can help establish some of the mood of your family simply through paying attention to:

  • a smile directed at you
  • a clutter-free space on a table for lunch or copywork
  • the spontaneous sharing between siblings
  • diligence even if displayed for only 5 minutes at a time
  • humor and little jokes
  • completion of one subject’s demands today (even if all the others fall through the cracks)
  • one line of quality writing in a read aloud
  • picking a flower from the back yard and putting it in a glass of water
  • eating something yummy
  • snuggling a child
  • explaining a concept and seeing the light go on this time!

More goes right than you appreciate.

Keep a record of what goes right today and side-step the visage of model homeschooling. It takes self-will and discipline.

I know for me, I get caught into the snare of comparison when I spend too much time looking at photos of other families. I project my biggest fantasies onto the happy smiles. As my mom says, “Facebook shows us faces, not lives.”

We can’t know the lives behind the images. If the stories we make up in our heads make us feel worse about our own lives, we are literally stepping into the trap and are immediately whipped upside down, hanging by a snared foot, from a tree branch.

Instead, get off the well-trimmed path.

Make your own way through the forest and notice what you notice. It’s quite possible that if you move away from examining what other people do, and pay more attention to the amazing tenacity of effort you give to your family, you will discover much to be proud of.

I dare you!

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Yuyuyi |

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