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Category Archives: Homeschool

Keeping up with the “norm”

In high school I had a theory that I was the epitome of average.  Average height, average weight, average intelligence, average interests, average hair color…. you get the idea.  There was nothing about me that stood out.  I was normal.

Not much has changed in the many odd years since then.  I’m still pretty average.  But I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means, especially in terms of life.  What does normal mean?  And how do we create a life that exceeds the standard of status quo?

I think for many of us we are stuck in the rut of the vision of normal.  You know, TV normal, I guess:  a house in the suburbs where our 2.5 children go to school each day and do extra curricular activities in the afternoons; we work a standard 9-5 job; we have a dog named Rover and cat named Fluffy that are as well behaved as our children (even that half of a child); we grow old, put the kids through college, marry them off, have grandchildren we dote on when we’re not traveling the world with our retired spouses… blah, blah, blah.  Ok, it’s probably slightly different for everyone, but the idea is usually the same.  And we continue on…

Life far outside of this standard can be scary.  It may excite some of us, and maybe we dream of an out-of-the-box adventurous life, but we catalog that as a dream and continue to live the reality of the status quo.  Believe me, I understand.  I am right there with you.  When the Husband started talking about homesteading I freaked.  What the…?!?!  The Husband is not a status quo kinda guy.  But I am.  Remember?  I am the epitome of average, normal, and standard.

After years of the Husband trying to convince me to try a more alternative lifestyle, I took my first step with the choice to begin homeschooling the Princess.  It was like a gateway drug or something.  Life snowballed into what it is now.  Ok.  Wait.  Let me back up.  We really don’t live that alternatively.

For start, we have a very nice house much like you would find in a nice middle-class neighborhood.  No alternative energy sources (although we would like to move in that direction at some point), no big farm with meat animals and acres of fruits and vegetables and herbs for self-sustaining food, and definitely, no non-chemical, non-processed, anti-everything life choices.  Overall, we are still pretty ordinary although I suspect it has much to do with me still resisting.

But we do have chickens and a turkey.  We do homeschool our children.  We do plan and plant a garden in an attempt to supplement our processed and outsourced foods.  We do live out of the main town areas- no HOA and no Target or Chick Fil A around the corner (sometimes I’m sad about that).  Ours is not the ordinary middle class life.

Photo by: Gina Lumsden Kropf

But let me be clear, there are so many ways that our lives and choices can lead us away from “normal.”  Take my friend Gina, for instance.  She, her husband and her daughter moved to a tiny apartment in New York City.  Hers is probably a lot more glamorous than my out-of-the-box life, but it’s not the standard choice to raise a family in the city.  There are the families that travel the world; families that go to 3rd world countries to live, work, and aid; families that live completely off the grid.

No matter what our life may be, changing from the basic suburbia life is changing from the idea of normal.  So, why is stepping outside of this Norman Rockwell life so scary?

I think a big part of the concern is just simply that it’s not how we grew up.  When we look back at our childhoods, many of us are filled with nostalgia and want to recreate those childhood experiences that we fondly remember.  I mean, look how completely fabulous we turned out, right?  Perfectly well-adjusted adults.  Clearly, the only path to that perfection lies with the “normal” life we had as children.

Another part of the concern is what others will think of us.  As the perfectly well-adjusted adults that we are, we obviously don’t care what others think of us, except we do.  We don’t want people to think we’re crazy for piling the family in an RV and taking off around the country for a year.  We don’t want people to think we have fallen prey to the cult of the tiny house movement when we move our family of 4 into a 300 square foot home.  We want people to know how amazing our children are because they receive tangible recognition through awards and grade advancement they receive through the school system.  We may not admit we care what other people think, but we do.  It’s part of human nature to care.

I guess the question is, how do we overcome these fears and concerns to become the us we could be instead of the us we are trapped into.  I don’t have the answer for everyone else, but I can share the answer that helped me be more open to the Husband:

Small steps and a time commitment that was long enough to honestly try it, but not so long that we couldn’t go back.

Like I said, my “gateway drug” was making the choice to homeschool.  I gave it a year and if the Princess and I were not stupider I would try again another year.


The thing about homeschooling is that it is becoming more and more of a norm than it used to.  In fact, nationwide homeschooling is growing at an average rate of 8% per year, (  and in North Carolina it is growing at an annual growth rate of over 10%.  So really, trying homeschooling for a year was a small step away from the norm.

Of course, it was still a step away from status quo, however a small step, but being exposed to my dear friend Dee gave me the encouragement to take that small step.  I could argue that homeschooled kids are unadjusted to society and weird and not up to par, but Dee’s oldest son who was homeschooled through 8th grade, then went on to private high school and later NC State University proved every notion I ever had of homeschooled kids wrong.  When John went from homeschool to brick and mortar school he had no problems making friends, he was academically on par if not ahead of his peers, he quickly became a leader in his school, and he was very involved in many different sports at the school.  On top of being such a phenomenal person where school is related, he is also a beautiful citizen of the world having spent several months in Ghana helping to train a local community in sustainable farming.  When I think about John and Daniel who is following in his older brother’s footsteps with just as much impressiveness, I can not believe that homeschooling is anything other than normal.  Sure, Dee and Rob get so much of the credit for their inspiring sons, but I continue to meet homeschooling moms, dads, and children that are inspiring, impressive, extraordinary, and wonderful- this is the homeschool norm.

You may be asking what my point is.  I think my point is exactly what I said earlier.  Find a small step, make a definitive time commitment and try.  For me it was trying homeschooling and realizing that while it may be a step away from MY norm, it really wasn’t a step away from THE norm.  Not to mention that the longer I’ve done it, the more normal it has become.

One more question I want to pose and attempt to answer.  Why step away from the comfort of the norm we know?

This is an easy answer:  the potential for a most extraordinary life.


Continuing with my example of homeschooling… I could have chosen to continue with the brick and mortar school that I’ve known and was comfortable with.  And had I made that choice, my kids would probably be fine.  I mean, the kids would learn, they would make friends, they would participate.  But what are my kids getting by being homeschooled that they wouldn’t be getting if they were sitting in that building every day?


Oh.  my.  The List goes on….  the opportunity to study Renoir in depth, the experience of digging deeply into the study of the human body, a class specifically on mathematics in art, hands-on history learning making cuneiform tablets and a mummy from chicken, a spontaneous field trip to an obscure town in northern North Carolina where the original state constitution was written and signed, the chance to learn about robotics and build your own robot….  And perhaps most importantly, the time to live and learn and play as a family, to build roots and make a history together.

So yeah.  an out-of-the-box, not “normal” life provides extraordinary potential that you might never find if you can’t just take that small step.

Why your teen should take a Safe-Relationship Class

My oldest daughter and I are very close.  We always have been.  I’m sure a big part of our closeness has to do with the 10 years that it was mostly just me and her.  She did everything with me.  One friend once said that if you did something with Karmen, you knew you were doing it with her daughter.  She was my shadow until she grew so great that she out shined me.

Our closeness goes beyond proximity.  We talk about pretty much everything.  Some things I’m glad I know, and some things I could do without knowing, but I’m glad that she is comfortable enough telling me.  We’ve mostly always had this kind of openness, except maybe a dark period from 17-18 years old.  Even during that time we weren’t completely closed off.  And of course, since then we have only managed to grow closer even as the physical proximity has grown.


Despite how close we have always been, she kept a very big secret from me.  Last year she told me that secret and oh what a crappy mom I am that I never knew.  What a crappy mom that I believed us to be so close, and had no idea.  What a crappy mom that I failed my daughter in such a huge and phenomenal way.

You see, when she was 14 she was raped.

This blog could go on right now about our society’s rape culture and the objectification of women, but that’s not for this post (although excellent subjects to discuss).  This post is about something much simpler, more personal, and possibly more important.

So, here it is.  Teach your children about safe relationships.

My daughter got caught in a terrible situation with a boy that was damaged.  She wanted to help him and he manipulated her.  She wanted to be there for him and he took advantage of that.  She didn’t realize that when he was hurt or broken, it wasn’t her place to fix him.  She let that boy do something to her that changed her forever.

But let’s be real here.  We haven’t always been the strong independent women we are today.  So many of us have let friends, family, and especially significant others use us and mistreat us.  We allow it for many reasons.  We want to be accepted, feel loved, get to do something, get something, or any number of other reasons.


We aren’t sure of our voice when we are young.  We don’t always know what is acceptable.  We worry that saying “no” will mean losing friends or love, and we definitely don’t know that as unlikely as that is, even if we lose friends or love they are probably not worthy of us anyway, and we will move on to greater things.  The world will not end because we chose to stand up for ourselves.

Did you know:

One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

And the CDC says:

23% of women and 14% of men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.

CDC Teen Dating Violence

This is fairly discouraging information.  So what can we do to help our teens?

You could give them a copy of Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, but you assume your child will read it and can comprehend the pretty deep subject matter.  (And if you are purely secular, this is a Christian book.)  I haven’t done research, but I would say there are a great number of books that you could try.  I do suggest reading a bit to ensure the book guides your child in a way you are comfortable with.

You could talk to your child.  And definitely should.  However, I don’t know if you noticed yet, kids don’t always listen to us.  In fact, I would say most of our children at some point decide that we parents are stupid and know nothing about anything.  But ok.  Our angels do hear some of what we’re saying and it does sink in despite the most headstrong of kids so keep talking every chance you get.

In the meantime, consider sending your child to a Safe Relationships Class.  Here your child has the opportunity to hear from someone else, a professional, that can give your child direction (and reinforce what you are saying to them already.)  At a Safe Relationships Class an experienced individual such as a psychologist could sit and talk with a group of children about what it means to have a safe relationship, what is acceptable and not within a relationship, and what your child can do if they find themselves in an unsafe relationship.

There is a lot to be said about talking about giving kids the opportunity to talk about relationships in a group, with a trained professional leading.  Strangely, kids can feel more comfortable talking about things so personal and intimate when a parent is not around no matter how close the parent-child relationship.  And let’s be honest, hearing others’ struggle with the same or similar situations/problems makes us feel stronger.  Kids are no different in that way.

We can always assume that our kids are honest with us (I did), but when bad things happen honesty sometimes get hung up in fear, shame, sadness, or any other number of bad feelings.  Don’t take a chance.  Arm your child with the information, strength, and courage to stand up against unsafe relationships.

As for my daughter, she is healing.  At 22 years old, I am proud to say that she has found her voice.  She is a strong and independent young woman who doesn’t take shit from any boy, friend, or even her family (except sometimes me).  She stands up for herself and what she believes in.  She cares about other people, but she cares about herself more.  I admire the young woman she has become.  She is my hero for everything she has endured, but still coming out of it such a beautiful soul, so very courageous, and so absolutely determined to be something great.  I can’t imagine how she managed so much awesomeness, but here she is.  Absolutely Awesome.

When I’m Failing My Kids

I guess today was just one of those days, or maybe this week was just one of those weeks.  The kids have had colds for what feels like months now.  I think the weather is what’s causing us problems:  30 degrees one day, 70 the next.  Anyway, because of all of the sniffling, coughing, puking… blech… school work has been pretty low on our priority list.  I have pretty much let all school go so long as the Princess has done the bare minimum of Language Arts and Math.  If I were a great Mom I would probably have been spending all of that extra time snuggling sick kids, because that is way more useful of my time.  Alas, I have been taking advantage of the kids’ lethargy to put on the TV for them and then spend my time trying to catch up on the house cleaning.

Today I woke up feeling very much like a failure.  I took a look around and the house (for all of my cleaning) is a complete and utter pigsty.  The kids just spent 3 hours this morning playing playstation, watching TV, and checking in on their Kindle games.  (Of course they’re not reading on the Kindle because that would be too much like… not playing.)  I’m not sure when the last time I bathed the kids… hell, I can’t remember the last time I bathed me.  I’m pretty sure the kids had bubble gum and fruit snacks for breakfast and cheeto puffs and koolaid for lunch.  And school?  Yeah right.  We are so far behind my plan that I can’t even fathom where to begin to catch up.

I’m a failure at this whole homeschool thing.

To be fair, I’m kinda a failure at everything lately.

My blog?  Well, there’s nothing.  My homestead?  I don’t know if my chickens even know me anymore and my garden got as far as clearing out the boxes and then a big fat nothing.

I guess the truth is, I feel like this a lot.  Like I’m failing.  Some days, like today, it’s hard to look around me and see a great amount of accomplishment.  And I can handle being a personal failure, but I really hate that I am failing my kids.  And today I woke up feeling it more than other days.  So now what?

Well, of course I text my friend Kristie to tell her I’m bailing on all of my commitments to become the Super Homeschool Mom I am supposed to be!  I will have a schedule that we will all adhere to with great diligence.  I will cover every subject, every day and leave no educational stone unturned.  I will be home with the kids instead of always, always, always in the car so I will easily find time to clean and prepare masterfully planned meals.

My  new plan was in line with the Charlotte Mason approach.  (You can read about this awesome educational philosophy here.)

After Kristie stopped laughing at me…  She reminded me of some things.

  1.  My kids are still really young.  The Princess is really the only one even of school age and she’s already a grade and a half above level.
  2. We ALL have those days, moments, seconds where we feel like we are completely and utterly failing our kids whether we homeschool or not, but we all pick up our bootstraps and move on and somehow our kids usually turn out ok.
  3. I may not give the kids all of the education that I hope and dream and just plain expect of them, but we all continue learning every day and what they don’t get over the next 8-12 years, they still have a lifetime to learn.
  4. Finally, she reminded me that this just isn’t me.

Yeah… I’m just not the hardcore scheduling type.  I’m far too laid back about life in general to become some kind of homeschool Nazi.  I admire those moms that are, but it’s just not me.  And if I’m not true to myself then I’m not really able to be a successful homeschooler.  Plus, one of the many things I love about homeschooling is that we can learn any time, any day, any way.  So what if we’re behind?  Sometimes we get way ahead, sometimes we get way behind.  In all, we’re probably right where we’re supposed to be.

I can’t say that it surprises me any, but I find that a lot of us homeschooling parents struggle with this failure that I am currently suffering from.  I think one of the biggest contributors to this struggle is that no matter how far we get into homeschooling we are all too often still caught in this idea of “grade level” and we still define our kids by that grade level based on age.  We can be somewhat lenient about this when our 7 year old still can’t read, but when our 12 year old still isn’t writing well we begin to stress that he/she is almost in high school.  The Princess is currently 9 and in 4th grade.  Except that she’s doing 6th grade Language arts and 4th grade math and 7th-8th grade writing and 3rd grade science.  What grade is she really in?  I think one way we can help ourselves and our kids is to stop defining them by their age/grade level, but rather by their ability and interests.  Remember that kids truly learn things when they are ready.  The 7 year old just learning to read, picks it up so much faster than the 5 year old being forced.


Another thing that is tying us down to our failure is the comparison of what we are supposed to be teaching.  A 4th grade student at the local public school would have Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, Library, P.E., and Computer.  Do I cover all of these?  Probably not well.  But on the other side to that, my kids get a much more in depth lesson on Art with some art history and hands-on activities, technique studies, and a trip to the art museum.  So why am I worried that I haven’t done much science this school year?  Instead of spending time each week skimming the surface, we dug deep and now the kids have a much better and more profound understanding (and more importantly interest) in Renoir.  And next year we might not do any art, but do some very deep studies in biology instead.  Isn’t education more important if the lessons encourage students to enjoy learning, be curious about everything, and know how to study and learn topics from multiple angles and multiple levels?  Ultimately, didn’t we remove our kids from the school system so we could give them the education they deserve, not the very basic education they would otherwise get?

Ultimately, to get myself out of the failure rut (and for those of you feeling in that rut too) I think the first step is remembering that we are awesome.  If the kids are happy and healthy (as in, not eating only Cheeto Puffs for lunch every day) then we are probably doing a pretty decent job.  Once our self esteems are mostly out of the gutter, we need to re-evaluate our homeschool plan.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with scrapping your current plan and starting fresh with something new.  Most of us that I know do that several times a year anyway.  And maybe your new plan can incorporate some of the things you feel like you’re failing on.  For us, we actually are going to move to a more Charlotte Mason approach, albeit more laid back to suit my style.  Finally, remember the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place.  There are probably a lot of reasons for each of us, but I can almost guarantee none of us would say to do exactly what they’re doing in the local public school.  So don’t hold yourself (or your kids) to that standard.  It’s ok.

One other note… you are not alone.  You are not alone.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  We ALL feel this way at least some of the time, although probably most of the time.  So, don’t be afraid or nervous to talk to other homeschool moms and get support and encouragement.  We are at our core a community.

Don’t Let New Year’s Resolution-Making Be Cliche

It drives me crazy when people dismiss holidays because they are “cliche”.  The couple that doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because they believe in showing love every day, or in this case the individuals who don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because NY’s Resolutions are just made to be broken.  But what if they’re not?  What if these special days and the activities related to them are not just cliche’s, but rather opportunities?  Opportunities to redirect ourselves to be better people.  Reminders to ourselves that while we may believe in showing love every day, we don’t always DO it.

No.  We don’t NEED these holidays to remind us to be better.  We don’t NEED one day to tell us what to do, how to do it, when to do it.  But it doesn’t hurt.  And while WE may not need these annual reminders, some people do.  So why not embrace these holidays?

So, in that spirit… let’s talk about New Year’s. (more…)

Christmas when you’ve lost faith

I grew up in a Christian family.  I was born to a traditional Southern Baptist family, and attended church, Sunday school, and Vacation Bible school until I was 8 when my mother converted us to Catholicism.  At 9 I began attending Catholic school, going to Catechism classes and Vacation Bible school.  Steeped in the Catholic church and all of its traditions I was by all accounts and measures a complete Christian.

I have spent the last 22 years carrying on that tradition.  I have taught my children to know God and Jesus.  They have all been christened and the oldest two have gone through their first Penance and first Communion.  I have read the Bible to them.  I have taught them to pray.  I have taken them to church and signed them up for vacation Bible school.  My oldest daughter attended Catholic school for the first 6 years of her education and before I even considered homeschooling, I toured the local Catholic school for the Princess.

Christianity is what I have always known. (more…)

Homeschool Home Tour

A few months back my friend Kristie and I were having a fabulous bitch session, I mean… oh hell.  I can’t make it any more flowery than that because that’s exactly what it was.  We were bitching.  Hot topic:  Husbands.  It wasn’t a husband-bashing, not really.  It was more a venting of all of those husbandly quirks that at one time we probably found endearing but after 10+ years of marriage we now find extraordinarily annoying.

The one topic that we kept coming back to was housekeeping.  Ugh.  The mere mention of that word sends me into a fit of vexation.

But I get it.  I do.  I like a clean house.  I love having a clean house.  I love things neat and organized:  easy to find; everything with its own place.

The question is not if I like it that way, it’s do I have the time and energy to keep it that way? (more…)

The Morning Basket

A lot of my friends have really loved the idea of The Morning Basket that we’ve been doing this school year.  I would like to take credit for this amazing thing, but it’s definitely not a unique idea.  There are so many variations of The Morning Basket with so many awesome ideas all you really have to do is look.  Of course, what good would this blog post be if I told you to go look elsewhere?  So, let’s talk about how awesome MY morning basket is.  🙂 (more…)

The Wonderful Homeschool Co-op Pt. 3


Welcome to part 3 and my final post on Homeschool Co-ops.  You can read about Year-Round Open Co-ops in part 1 and Subject/Curriculum Specific Co-ops in Part 2.  This final type of co-op is by far the biggest and most involved co-op.

There are a lot of ways I’ve seen this kind of co-op done, some successful and some not.  To be honest, unless you are an amazing planner and organizer, and have a fairly vast group this co-op can be an epic failure.  I am more than happy to participate, but I do not envy the mastermind behind putting these types of co-ops together. (more…)

The Wonderful Homeschool Co-op Pt. 2


Despite what many people think, homeschooling is definitely NOT an alienating experience.  But sometimes we get asked, or even ask ourselves, how do we get social experiences?  What opportunities are out there for our kids to meet other kids, and where do we parents find other parents?

The answer is simple:  The Wonderful Co-op! (more…)

The Wonderful Homeschool Co-op Pt. 1

Eating Hanging Donuts at “Messy Day Co-op”

One of the scariest parts of homeschooling is the feelings of isolation that come about because all of those stay-at-home moms you were friends with and had playgroups with now are sitting in carpool taking their kids to and from school, participating in class events, volunteering as the classroom mom, the Library helper, etc. or have gone back to work now that their little ones are in school.

The homeschool mom has lost her tribe of friends to hang out with and the homeschool kid has lost his/her friends to play with at the playground.  What now?



Co-ops are excellent ways to meet people and make friends.  And there are so many different types of co-ops that it’s hard not to find something that fits you and your kiddos’ interests and needs. (more…)

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