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Would you Like a Cookie?

I have something fun planned for you all in the next day or two. You've been such a tolerant group as I wrote my way through September and most of October with one homeschool post after another... I just really want to show my appreciation for you, stay tuned.

But for now, to hold you over, how about a fabulous cookie recipe? Great!

 Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour 
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or sunflower seeds, or walnuts, or...?)
  • rounded 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine the oats, flour, salt, cinnamon and coconut in a bowl. In another bowl, combine and whisk together oil, vanilla and syrup. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until all is moistened. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. At this point, if I have the time, I like to cover the dough and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes, but it isn't essential.

Form dough into equal-size balls, place on cookie sheet, gently press down balls (but don't flatten), bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, then remove from pan, let cool on a cooling rack

I know what you're thinking...

Yes, go ahead and serve these for a quick breakfast (with a piece of fruit).

I'm lookin' out for ya.

Homeschool Socialization

Yes. It really does happen.

I find the topic of homeschool socialization to be a little exhausting. I'm sorry, I just can't find the energy or inspiration to write anything particularly interesting about it. Hasn't it already been answered a thousand different ways?

Well, I think this about wraps it up for my homeschool series! I'll gather all of these posts and place them on one page for easy reference. Through writing about our early days of homeschooling, I've gotten to know many new people over the last month, which has been wonderful! One fun thing that's come of this series - come November I'll be a regular writer over at Simple Homeschool - which promises to be a great time!

Okay, back to the more random blogging I have come to know and love.

Homeschool Mom - Self Care for the Teacher


{ Early morning walk through campus. }

I can't believe how long I've been writing on this topic - you are saints!

Disclaimer: I homeschool one child. In two short months she will be 13. She's old enough to stay home for a few minutes if I want to go for a run or drop something at the post office. It's easy for me to come here with my fancy schedules and oodles of free time (ha) sharing all that I have and make it seem effortless. But, I repeat - I homeschool one child. Those of you out there who are homeschooling four children between the ages of 4 and 9... or six children between the ages of  7 and 17. You are the heroes here. I could never do what you do.

Having said that, I do work very hard each day. My time as a homeschool mom is both rewarding and exhausting beyond measure. I wouldn't trade any of it, I just don't want to lose me in the mix.

Before we came to our decision this year, there were the usual prospective homeschooler thoughts that rolled around in my head. Among them, I worried about me. I love my family, they are my favorite people and I love being with them more than anyone else. But...

I love solitude too. Love it.

I have many ideas that need exploring, many daydreams that need tending.

I also like earning my own money, and this venture has been extremely limiting in my ability to produce any of that. Though I knew that would be the reality going in. So, given that my job is one of great responsibility, is a full time position, and is performed entirely without salary...

I pay myself in self-care.

And I carry no guilt about this whatsoever. Now, given our limited budget, my paycheck does not come in the form of weekly spa treatments or yoga retreats with one of my favorite teachers, but I do make self-care a priority. It doesn't have to break the bank.

This is how:

  • I wake up early, just to be alone in a quiet house. I try to get up about 2 hours before anyone else.
  • Sometimes I go for a walk in the brisk early morning air.
  • I go to bed early (we all do actually) - 10pm feels very late to me.
  • Showered and dressed every morning. A little time spent putting myself together makes me feel ready, present, and focused. Not really sure how a little lip gloss and blow dried hair makes this work, but it does.
  • Communicate openly about needing time for studying, or just to be alone.
  • Exercise - make an appointment with myself to do so. Everyone is better for it.
  • Yoga - my home (mat) practice these days is brief and gentle, that's okay. Living my yoga is a complete practice in itself. Everything is yoga.
  • Cook amazing food everyday. Preparing food is my meditation.
  • Candlelit dinner every night. (everyone should do this)
  • Enlist others to cook! This is fairly new and fantastic for us. Adam cooks a couple of times a week now, mostly on the weekends - it's been great for everyone.
  • Take the time for art and craft, without guilt. Consider it free therapy.
  • Surround myself with pretty. A scented candle, a bouquet of flowers, a stick of incense, a fresh set of coffee table books from the library (I'm loving The Story of Tea.), fresh linens on the bed, and so on. It truly is the little things that make for the greatest moments of joy.
  • Savor a perfect cup of tea or a glass of wine.
  • Check out and enjoy a big stack of magazines from the library.
  • Buy and wear pretty pajamas.

Above all, I try to keep a sense of calm, to feel grateful for this choice we've made and the freedom to do so. Some days I have only fifteen minutes alone, other days two hours. Either way, I've quickly learned to squeeze every drop of bliss from these moments of solitude.

And so I wonder... homeschooling or not, how do you take care of you?


There really is no finer time of year. Today was filled with a trip to the farm, the apple orchard, the library, and a soccer game. Between the library and soccer we came home to make a pot of lentil soup. It was ready and waiting for us after the game. I love planning ahead a little and feeling prepared. It made for quite a relaxing evening. I hope your family is enjoying this October weekend as well. Take care.

Homeschool Budget

It will cost as little or as much as you decide.

Most of the time, families do not decide to homeschool because they can afford to. Technically, on paper, most of us cannot afford to. We do it anyway.

I look at it similarly to having a baby... if we waited until we could afford to... well, you've heard that saying before. Homeschooling is similar. Sure, finances are a practical point of consideration, but for most families that have taken the leap it's more about what they are willing to sacrifice than it is about finding a pot of gold to accommodate this dream.

We have always felt the cost of education with Emily attending private school through her elementary years. So in some ways, this is easier for us. In other ways, there are new and different challenges. Mainly, my time being mostly devoted to our little homeschool. Gone are the weekdays where I could sew, draw, or write endlessly... all the while bringing in a few hundred extra dollars weekIy to our household.

Many families homeschool on one income.

Tightening our belts is essential, but it builds character, right? Sure.

I won't lie to you, it's hard sometimes. Like on our third day of homeschooling when my husband's car broke down on his way home from work to the tune of a $4,000 plus repair (that would be a head gasket and transmission at once). This is a car that still has a car payment! And guess what? It turns out it isn't worth giving $4,000 worth of repairs to. Of course! Needless to say, we've been a single car family for about six weeks. I've learned that rolling with the punches is crucial at this point in my life. Yes, I feel frustrated and trapped when I just want to get out of town and head to the apple orchard at 2:00 on a Wednesday... but... we deal with it. In the grand scheme of things, having only one car just isn't that big of a deal. It's new and different, but soldier on we will certainly do. Besides, we really do have 8/10ths of the things we need (or would like to do) within a 5-10 minute walk. We are not hard pressed.

Recognizing that homeschooling could cost as little or as much as we choose, we needed to hash out a plan to have somewhat of an idea of our output for the year. I'd say we are somewhere in the middle. We are not ultra frugal, borrowing everything for free from the library (which you can certainly do!), and we are not hiring private tutors or studying the Far East by moving to Japan for six months either (phooey). Given the style of learner Emily is, and the hopes she expressed for the year, we came up with a somewhat loose plan, it is not etched in stone. We are fine with a little give and take.

Some things cost money (for us).

  • $650 - curriculum - we've chosen to use a formal curriculum for each main subject.
  • $60 - basic school supply set-up - this includes jazzy new backpack, notebooks, gel pens, folders, planner, etc...
  • $40 - homeschool co-op, per semester 
  • $35 - team sports, 3-4 times per year
  • $150 monthly discretionary budget - outings, museums, theater, special classes, etc. (if this money is not all used, it can roll into the next month and maybe an interesting weekend away or camping trip can be planned)
  • $80 new(ish) computer for Emily (we purchased a rebuilt desktop from the local computer shop, already had an extra monitor, keyboard and speakers)

All said, the initial start up for us was less than one month's tuition at her previous school, and the additional monthly expenses will be a fraction of that amount. Still, my lack of paying work time each day does ultimately leave us with less income and is something we need to pay careful attention to.

Many activities and resources are free (or very close to).

  • weekly poetry group at the library
  • hanging out with friends - potluck gatherings
  • many free events, lectures and performances at local college(s)
  • Uconn sporting events (soccer and hockey tix are just $2-$5 each)
  • hiking followed by picnics
  • library book sales
  • library events (explore the roots of latin dance!)
  • library museum passes
  • hanging out at the library
  • where would we be without the library?
  • family movie night (an institution around here for 10 years running)
  • walking to the cafe for a cup of tea
  • the internet

This list could go on and on... homeschoolers, if you have experience in this area, please share in the comments!

Where do you spend money,  where do you conserve?

So there you have it, a snapshot of how we are making it work. I love that we all have choices. Sometimes in life we choose to take a leap of faith, not because we can afford to, but because we can't afford not to.

Education, time together, and quality of life are priorities for our family. We tend to go without things like extensive travel, new cars, better real estate (for now!), new clothes, frequent dining out... you name it. For us, an exciting weekend afternoon is spent hiking as a family or with friends, hanging out at the library, and ending the day with a simple latte or ice cream. The crazy thing is, we often feel we're living large because there is a contentedness that comes with this deliberate and conscious way of living. It's a slow and gentle life, but it is rich and full of possibility each and everyday.

Thursday Afternoon Home Ec Swap

Each Thursday afternoon we set aside some time for what the girls (Emily and her best friend) like to call Home Ec. Though there are very home ec type activities taking place on any given day of the week already, this reserved time involves a special folder to hold recipes, instructions and notes - it also involves a carefully crafted plan on behalf of my friend and myself (with of course heavy recommendations from the girls).

This time together is obviously sweet for everyone involved, but there is a deeper beauty to these home ec classes that I'd like to share today. You see, my friend and I take turns hosting home ec so the non-hosting mama can have a couple hours to herself... to do with as she pleases. A priceless gift for any (homeschooling) parent. Last Thursday was my friend's turn to host (they made cocoa butter lip balm for those interested, home ec is the best!).

How would I use my two hours alone? Sleep, write, study, stare at the wall... 

Carefully considering my options, I decided to unearth my very messy studio. The poor thing has been sitting patiently under the maple tree for far too long, wondering when I might return. Not too inspiring in this sad, cluttered state...

Oh, but what two simple hours can do. This sharing of homeschool duties with another family is a very good thing, for everyone. I was so happy to have these two hours to myself on a weekday afternoon. Having a full schedule really encourages me to make the most of those little pockets of time in which I find myself alone. I will always use it with perfect intention, even if my intention is to simply close my eyes and rest awhile.

I can think and breathe so easily in this space now. I might even like to create a thing or two! I've got something in mind just for you... a little thank you for supporting us through the early weeks of our homeschool journey. It will be ready for you next week, so be sure to visit then. It'll be fun, I can't wait to show you!

Okay, back to the week ahead... I hope yours is moving along beautifully.


Homeschool Organization

The style in which we homeschool has quite a rhythmic feel,  which (5 short weeks in) we seem to really love. Emily was very clear in 'idea stage' of things that she wanting routine and structure. Can do kiddo - I've got your back. I've already shared how I've put her requests into action with our environment, curriculum and daily rhythm. Today I'll share a few other tools that I use to keep this homeschool ship afloat, mostly from my end. Consider this an insider's tour of the administrative offices (ha!). I spent some time over the summer thinking about a system and style that would best help me to feel organized... because if the homeschool needs to have a easy going, yet steady and predictable rhythm, so does the mama!

Homeschool laws and requirements (such as record keeping, work portfolios, reporting, etc.) vary from state to state. Some demand quite a bit of documentation, others not so much. Here in Connecticut, there is very little that homeschoolers legally need to do or account for. I think it's probably one of the most liberal states in the country in that regard. Actually, we are required to do absolutely nothing by law to homeschool our children. We are encouraged to submit a letter of intent (stating we are homeschooling) to the state, but that is voluntary. So technically, I don't need to keep track of a whole lot - but for me, I find maintaining records, plans and a general sense of order helps me feel like my head is screwed on straight. And that is a good thing.

Designated Space for Me

That little turquoise chest of drawers (which now has handles) and the wooden box that sits on top is my mision control zone. The chair right next to it is naturally my spot at the table so I have all of my homeschool mama gear at arms length. It makes me feel like a superhero. 


Planners, staplers, paper clips, blank journals, records, dictionary, reference material, paper cutter, "done" box for Emily to put completed work, my markers and pens, folder containing every bit of museum, science center, historical house, pick your own farm, etc, info within in a 100 miles radius. Many other things reside here as well.

It's impressive how much is packed into that wooden box.

I keep all sorts of project supplies in the chest of drawers. It's so much more exciting to pull out fresh gel pens, poster board, graphic papers, etc. when we decide to make a certain project for an area of study.

I try to model using print materials as the first (and sometimes only) place of research. Especially for those easy to find in a book questions like spelling a word, a grammar rule, major bodies of water in Cambodia...

But for those her worry we are in the dark ages, Emily can whip up a powerpoint like nobody's business. We just like an accoustic approach much of the time.

The pretty folder in which I keep all those brochures and upcoming events.

Pretty is essential.

All sorts of good things inside...

As I sit and think about the month (or season) ahead, I can easily pull this out to pencil some outings into our calendar. Keeping things like this within reach allows me to take care of a little scheduling while Emily sits across the table, busy with her work at hand.

Let's get into the nitty gritty now... The Planner!!

There are a few sections to my planner, starting with our weekly lesson plans. It's a simple three ring binder with tabbed sections and a few pockets folders (for keeping track of additional, printed curriculum materials). This is how I stay on top of things. I love taking a few minutes each day to pencil in what's in store for the following day. Referring to our texts and teacher manuals as my guide.

Generally, I have an idea of where we are headed as we use a curriculum, much of the year is mapped out for us. We add and enhance as inspiration strikes. All that we hope to accomplish day to day is logged here. I find it totally liberating to not have to locate something in my cluttered mental filing system. It has proved too often in the past to be a hopeless state of affairs. It turns out this three ring binder is my new best friend.

A couple of things I've learned about lesson planning:

  • Planning more than a day or two ahead does not work for me. I started the year thinking I would lesson plan a week or two in advance. Well, life shifts and the unexpected happens everyday it seems. Staying present to the work of only a day or two ahead prevents a GREAT deal of erasing and rescheduling. (Of course, upcoming events or outings are plugged in further in advance.)
  • I only use pencil when planning. See above about all that erasing I did early on. The green pen that you see checks off completed items.
  • I really like the selection of printable forms on Donna Young's site. I chose this one. It is a two sided weekly plan, giving me plenty of space for all of our areas of study and I love the spacious notes column for the brain draining I need a place for each day.The fields are left blank so I can add my own text/categories which is great. If her website overwhelms you (it's fantastically huge), start at the site index.

Grade Keeping

These pages keep track of Emily's grades. I'm not all that into it, but I do it because it matters to Emily. It's actually been a good tool to help her ease up on the outcome and focus more on the process. Early on I was clear that I would not be grading every little thing that came across my desk, that sometimes learning just needs to be learning. She has quickly developed an appreciation and understanding for that. I do grade enough to keep a good sense of things - both excellent and not not so excellent examples of work are represented here.

The form I chose to use is the Single Subject Grade Form. I like that looking at just one page, I can see the entire year for a particular subject right in front of me. Love that!

Homeschool Co-op

We are part of a homeschool co-op and Friday is our day to meet weekly. I keep a section in the binder for her class schedule, handouts, etc. relating to the co-op. I should mention this co-op is for teens and pre-teens, hence the absence of classes for younger ones. But as homeschool families go, there are often young siblings present! There are classrooms/playrooms for them with loose programming. I'll write a more in depth post in the future about the co-op as we gain more experience with it. So far so good though!

Daily Schedule/Record

I really love this section, on simple lined paper I keep a journal of sorts. While the lesson plan is just that, a plan, this section is a written record of how the day truly evolved. Some states (especially high school level, for accreditation) require hours to be accounted for in particular subjects. I like it as a point of reference looking back on the days and weeks. More so than the keeping time of things, I love these pages for the opportunity and space they offer to record thoughts about the day's particulars. For example, "fantastic effort in math today, this operation really landed for her... need to figure out a way to make physics a little less dry, how the heck do I make physics less dry... love the characters she's developing for her written dialogue between a federalist and an anti-federalist" - you get the idea. These pages are a great tool for me.

In praise of the five subject notebook.

I read ahead a lesson or two in each of Emily's subjects, taking notes, planning project ideas. A simple five subject notebook has been my saving grace to keep all of those notes in one easy place. I also have a section in here for "notes and ideas" that has been handy as well. You know, for when Emily mentions she'd like to make duct tape purses next week... if I don't write it down, it's gone!

Even the mama loves a good set of colorful gel pens...

Taking a little time to develop this organizational plan has given me tremendous room in my days. All of the day's details and support materials are within easy reach, and I feel like I always know what is happening. It's great to have a clue! Also, I think for Emily this will be an added keepsake to her experience as a homeschooler. Most importantly, when these housekeeping details are in check, I have the mental space available to stay present for Emily's life and learning. Which is really the most important detail of all.

Homeschool Philosophy

This one is going to be hard to write. It would have been so much easier to leave this topic off my list. Why didn't I think off that?

Oh well, here I go... A family's parenting and education philosophy is a deeply personal, carefully thought out set of ideas. To then put it out there fully for the world to view can feel rather vulnerable. I can't imagine sharing every single point that has shaped our philosophy, but I will cover a few things.

Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, I have seen the village and I don't want it raising my child. ~Unknown

That would be my husband's short answer if you were to ask him why we homeschool. He cuts to the chase. Of course, this is partly in jest, though not entirely. It's a weird world out there and not one that we feel supprts or fosters the human potential within each of us (speaking from our experience, in our community - actually, please understand than any and all ideas in this post are simply are own, in no way do we think others need to feel the way we do.).

"May you live all the days of you life." ~Jonathon Swift

My immediate and extended family has learned more than we've cared to about life, loss, and starting over through the last eight years. We don't always have the control we'd like over the circumstances in our lives, but the intention that we meet each living day with is ours 365 times a year. For us, it doesn't feel right to have Emily spend the majority of her time in the system, going through the motions. I don't need her to be "good at school" to prove her worth. My hope and goal is that her love of learning and life runs so deep that her potential each day is fully unleashed, not to be contained.


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~Mary Oliver

Many, many things I hope. I want Emily to feel life's unlimited potential now, as well as in the future. I don't want her to feel life begins someday, after a certain course of study has been completed, graded, authorized, and a piece of paper stating those things has been issued. If we are to truly get the most from higher education, doesn't it seem reasonable that the years prior are spent developing an open-minded, inquisitive nature?

"Dumbing us down..." ~John Taylor Gatto

Okay - so this appeals to the conspiracy theorist within. But seriously, seeing as we are the richest nation in the world, and not one industrialized society is impressed or inspired by our educational system... I don't know... isn't it possible that a system carefully crafted to produce poor results and undereducated people could ensure a corporate government's need for an oppressed society? Can you imagine the threat of an ultra intelligent, free thinking nation? Yowza. 

"Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world." ~Maria Montessori

What more can I say? I have held these words close since our family entered Montessori school eight years ago, they've been a guiding light ever since.

"Sometimes, some people, just need a low stimulus environment." ~our Homeopath

There is a vibe to our homeschool that does not exist down the road amongst the 600 plus middle schoolers. This energy is a tonic to my girl's days. I don't expect most people to understand the value of this for our family. Interestingly, I have a hard time understanding the need for speed and the general (accepted) pace of life today. To each is own, right?


Honestly, this could be a never ending post. Our reasons for homeschooling right now are truly many. My intention was to share some of those reasons, I've certainly done that! Thank you for keeping an open, supportive mind as you've read through these personal thoughts. It is important to remember that no matter what our differences are, that we still support one anothers beliefs just as we hope others support our own.

Have a great day everyone... and if you are wondering... yes! The prints of my owl painting are here and will be in the shop around noon today. She is a cutie.