The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 6 No 47 December 2, 2005
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2005 Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net. All Rights Reserved.

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Notes from Heather:
-- Real Life Relaxing
Helpful Tips
-- Tea Time!
Question of the Week:
-- Your Questions
Reader's Response
-- Your Answers
Heather's Picks
-- Chronic Illness Groups
-- Subscriber Information
-- Sponsorship Information


One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is when
you discover that even when you feel like you are failing your
children as a teacher, they still continue to learn, grow and thrive.
I'll never forget the day I realized it was okay to read books to my
children for hours in bed in my pajamas while pregnant and mis-
erable. Up to then I had struggled with attempts at using formal
curriculum and lived with the guilt of not really "doing" school. My
boys were frustrated when I tried to get them to write... or do
math... or just about anything that required a few minutes sitting
down desk-style! So (yup!) I became what most would call a
relaxed unschooler. But wait! Don't stop reading! I really do
believe there are many legitimate ways to home educate. This is
just what works for us! What I really want you to see is this:
If the Idoni family can do "nothing" and raise absolutely brilliant
children (grin), then *I* should be able to relax a LITTLE BIT.

For a crash course in getting to know our family, here is a 5 year
old article about us and how we came to our style of schooling:


Keep in mind the boys you are reading about are now 5, 8, 10,
13 and 15 and have VERY different lives! My oldest completely
"owns" his own education and now uses textbooks, outside
co-op classes, college level courses, and self-study. I have no
idea where he is heading, but he could probably be a college
history professor! My 13 year old all-boy young man is simply
passionate about ballet and spends several days a week at
dance classes. He also is part of a ballet theatre company and
loves the stage. He was, and still is in many ways, my shy one.
Go figure! My 10 year old, whom I predicted would be an early
reader if I left him alone, did indeed become my youngest reader
at age 7 1/2. He took an Alpha-Phonics book and went to his
room. Except for occasionally coming out to ask a brother about
a new sound at the beginning of each new lesson, he indepen-
dently taught himself to read in 3 days. That was pretty amazing!
I'm glad I let him wait till he was ready. With him I would have
been tempted to push earlier. (I do recommend Dr. Raymond
Moore's "Better Late Than Early" for anyone struggling with boys
and reading!)

We've had many changes in our lives since that article was
written. For one, I now own and run a local children's bookstore
part-time, counsel local parents, prepare high school transcripts,
and run the boys to MANY more activities than we ever were
involved in 5 years ago. We no longer have goats and chickens,
but we did get a VCR and then a DVD player. Now we seem to
own as many movies as the rest of the world! We also do a small
amount of computer games. (I have stopped short getting them a
"play station" and will continue to try to draw the line there until
they are adults!! LOL) I can see a difference between my younger
and older children (who weren't raised with the visual stimulation)
and I wouldn't do it over again if given the chance. Still no TV, so
we have less heartache than some who struggle with that as well.

Actually, our boys primarily still just play Legos(tm)... and read.
They appear to be intelligent, social, creative and happy. They
choose what they want to study and so far have exceeded what I
would have planned for them.

So... if you are worrying about not "doing it all", just remember you
are probably doing plenty! On those really bad days when you
have given up on "doing school" -- when you are sick, pregnant, or
just feeling a little anxious -- remember this strange unschooling
mom who "does nothing"... and is doing fine. :-)

It should at least help you relax a LITTLE.



[Here's your chance! Send YOUR ideas along to

This week's helpful tip is from Tara in North Carolina:

Tea Time!

This summer I was inspired by the articles floating around home-
schooling emails on tea parties and decided to give it a try. I
dusted off my tea pot and cups, and put on some Mozart. As I got
out all of the fancy things and began preparing it, it didn't go un-
noticed by my children. They watched me quietly and were whis-
pering to each other about what I was doing. They asked why I
was doing it, and I just answered "You'll see." Then I told them
each to get either a poem or artwork that they loved and wanted
to share with the family. You should have seen them take off!
They busily prepared, anxious to find out what we were going to
do with all of this fancy stuff.

As we sat down for our tea, they each picked which cup they
wanted to use. They were so still, and careful to take care of it all.
They waited patiently as they took turns filling their cups and
spoke quietly while the music danced around us. Then I turned to
the first and asked her to share what they had brought for all of us.
My first daughter showed a picture by Van Gogh, the second one
by Renoir. We all discussed the pictures together and let it lead
us into all kinds of interesting conversation. My son chose a poem
by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of his favorite authors. We savored
the words that painted the poem and delighted in them together.
Before we could finish they all wanted to know when we could have
our next tea party. Suffice it to say, we were hooked!

It has begun a wonderful tradition that the kids can all grow up to
remember fondly. It also is a way for them to think through the
things we have studied, to find their favorite to share. It is giving
them a personal connection with us as a family, the music, and
the lovely things that are brought. I have passed down to each of
them a beautiful gold spoon that was a gift from their grandmother
to me for my bridal shower, and plan on getting each of them tea
cups and pots a little at a time for Chrismases as they grow. My
hope is that they will have them to treasure, and remember these
times all of their lives.


Have you a burning question that you can't ask just anyone?
Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if a wise subscriber can't help you out.

This Week's NEW Question

I have been seriously thinking of homeschooling my 11 year old
daughter. Our public school system is in the middle of a strike
and I have kept her home due to the unsafe situation. I am
wondering how to get started and where I might be able to find free
or inexpensive curriculum. I am a stay at home mom and cannot
afford to fork out hundreds right now due to my husband's job being
downsized. I appreciate any helpful hints. -- Michelle in Ohio


Do you have an answer for our reader?
Send your responses to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Last Week's Question

"I have twins in 5th grade that I am homeschooling. This is our
second year. I have fibromyalgia and get tired very easily. There
are days we don't do school. We have even gone a week without
any formal school. I feel very guilty when we don't do any school
but there are days when I just don't have the energy. They, of
course, are not motivated to work on their own! Should I really
push myself to make sure we do school almost everyday?"

Your Responses

[NOTE: 18 thoughtful answers were received in response to the
above question! A file with all the responses is being sent to the
mom who asked, but regretfully I could only print 1/2 of the replies
here. My sincere thanks to all who responded! (Publication does
not necessarily imply endorsement of suggestions or resources.)]


I have 2 children as well, although my son is almost 16 and my
daughter is 11. I don't have fibromyalgia and there are days and
sometimes weeks that we don't do any formal schooling either.
There are days that I don't have good days as well as days that
my kids don't have good days. Sometimes we still try to do
school and there are times that we just say to heck with it, let's
have an off day. I don't think that you should be concerned,
everyone "skips school" sometimes for all different reasons.
Maybe you could just set a goal and say that you will do "formal
schoolwork" 3 days a week, and you could do them on the days
that you feel up to it. The other days could be used for catch up
days for any work they can do on their own, whether it be writing
a story or working ahead in math and you could reward them for
their efforts. My best friend is homeschooling her grandchildren
and she and her husband are pastors. It seems like they are
always on the go, but she has decided that if her kids never learn
anything else academically that they are still better off morally
being at home instead of public school. Just ease up on yourself,
it will all get done, maybe not in the time you would like it or feel
that it should, but it will all work out in the end. Who decided that
you have to have school 5 days a week anyway. Maybe we home-
schoolers could invent the 3 day school week!! -- Christy


I have migraines and knew there would be "those" days when I
began homeschooling. So I leave "easy" work that I can oversee.
Paper rewrites, math drills, sight reading and so forth. I do not
have to engage in explaining a new concept and the girls get the
benefit of repeating, reworking or practicing the old stuff. As I have
older and younger and I also have the older play "teacher" on that
day. Creative work that is sometimes lost in our harder academic
work is also a great idea. Most of all begin teaching them to self
motivate. Learning is not teaching and self motivation will get
them farther in life than an head full of meaningless trivia - unless
of course you are the guy from Jeopardy. -- DeeKay


You are not alone. I have chronic back pain in that sometimes it
just aches and I do stuff anyway and sometimes I can't twitch my
toes. You do what you can when you can and discover that your
kids (5th grade is old enough!) can do a lot of work with out you
telling them every step. Some days, maybe you really should just
get some exercise knowing you'll feel rotten during but better later
and worry about school work when you are feeling better, but
there's no reason you can't sit your children down with an activity
while you exercise, is there? Some days, just get the basics
done. Some days, push and get extra done. I sit my 4th grader
and kindergartner down where I can see them, tell them what to
work on, and discuss it with them from the floor where I'm
stretched out at the worst. Some days, we don't do school work,
we just work on household stuff, but that is more than made up
for by our working on the basics (math and language arts) every
day, not just week days and not taking the summer off completely.
Does it work? Well, the 4th grader is now doing algebra on her
own because she gets it first try and rarely even discusses it with
me, just shows me her finished work. The kindergartener is doing
3rd grade math, again, on his own. They both ASK if they can do
school work. They are on grade level or above in all subjects. It's
Saturday 12:30 and the K student is outside 'helping' Daddy after
doing his usual school work and chores some time ago and the
4th grade student is finishing up her chores. She'll do math and
language arts today and then go outside and help with the farm
chores as well. -- Voni


I don't think you should feel guilty about not "doing school"
every day. Your children are at an age when they are able to do
some self teaching. On those days when you're just not up to
school, let them dive into books dedicated to a subject they are
interested in. Let them write creative stories about any subject
they wish. If you have younger children, let the older ones school
the younger ones. Children need down time too and with today's
busy schedules, these quiet days can be great tools in redisco-
vering creativity in play, cooking, reading, etc. I even have some
workbooks where the children can just pick up and keep going on
the days when I have too much going on to give them my undivi-
ded attention. This way I know they aren't juts laying around
doing nothing, but practicing reading and writing skills. Even edu-
cational videos can be of great use at times like this. -- Bethellen


I would not push yourself to the point of overstressing and making
yourself worse. It can be a tough balance - I would want to
encourage my kids to be consistent and disciplined as they get
older...as the mom of three children (23, 22, and 19) I do know
that encouraging them in these areas can be harder once they
reach their teens. Don't be too hard on yourself, take it a day at a
time. My suggestion would be (on a day when you are feeling up
to it) to make up a list of 'approved' educational type activities that
your twins could do. Things like educational board or computer
games or videos, independent reading, worksheets that they can
do without much input from you, crossword puzzles, journaling or
letter writing, or crafts or art, etc. There are a lot of things that fall
into the educational category that would keep them learning. (My
kids used to make up games for each other using facts from our
science or history unit studies to play with each other.) You could
require them to choose three things from your approved list, and
then they'd be free for the day. Then you could feel as though they
accomplished a little something and rest easier. -- Karen in KY


Dear Mom who doesn't homeschool every day - or even a week/or
weeks at a time! You are not alone! I have a child away in
college, a child almost in college, and a fourth grader still at home
with me. My whole h.s. experience was like how you are descri-
bing yours and still is! Eek! But, you know, it worked. It still IS
working. Children learn despite or should I say in spite of what we
do or don't do. I've realised that there are seasons in life where
adults and kids alike will go through different spurts of creativity
and then, boredom. Zeal, then apathy. Taking things in like
sponges, and then bam! shutting down from brain over-load.
Sickness/health. You get the picture! The important thing with
homeschooling is that you love and enjoy your children. Allow
them to be who they are and allow God to lead them through you,
an important but alas, faulty vessel. Remember, in your weak-
nesses, to allow God to be your strength and relax. Your kids
will love you and God all the more! Hope this helps - my tiny bit
of encouragement! Oh yes! On those horrible feeling days do
you perhaps have the energy to read to them or with them?
Color and draw and doodle? Play cards? Watch the history
channel or a good movie/video? They will learn! Most importantly
they will learn how you deal with a less-than-perfect day or days;
and isn't that what it's all about?! -- A Kindred Spirit


I have two children that I school at home, they are in grades 1st
and 3rd. I myself suffer from Fibromyalgia along with chronic
fatigue, there are days that I am very fatigued and tired. I have
found that if I have them bring their school books and sit on the
couch or bed with me and do school it helps. You also may find
that making them reasonable for some of it will help. We have
taught our 3rd grader to check her email from the teacher and
download and print off her lesson plans. We are in a online
school and we have also taught her to be able to sign on the
website and do her lessons, we have set up parental controls
on the computer and I make sure that I am in the same room as
her when she is online. Hope these ideas might help make it
easier on you, I understand what it is like to suffer from constant
pain and fatigue. -- Mother of 2 in Colorado


Hello! I too have Fibromyalgia and homeschool and work outside
the home on a modified part-time-full-time basis. There are days
that I can't get out of bed or when I get home I'm completely worn
out. So we have school in the bed, on the couch, in the car, etc.
I don't know how you do your homeschooling: hardcore to a
definite predetermined schedule and curriculum or as I refer to it,
everyday life school. I homeschool driving down the rode, in the
shower, in the bath, in the bed and I have my husband that also
shares the responsibility, and a Grandma that can guide my
children on worksheets that I have copied or go with Uncle
Leonard to hunt, skin and gut a deer (sorry to any that are
opposed to this, we're country folk) or let Great Aunt hazel teach
them how to bake a chocolate cake!! My daughter has been
forced at times to be an independent learner (she is 7). But that's
ok, she doesn't need me holding her hand constanly and she can
ask me questions while I'm in the bed. We do include multiple
generations of family members to homeschool. She loves it and
she is just where she needs to be. She can tell you all about
Fibromyalgia, it's science!!! Just don't give up, I refuse to let the
"fibro" monster take away something that God has laid on my
husband and my heart to do for our children. When all else fails
turn on national geographic and let them have a science day!!!!!!!
Hope this helps! HANG IN THERE!!!!!!!


I've never sent a response to this list before and this is my first
year homeschooling but I thought I'd give it a shot. I homeschool
my oldest daughter who is in first grade this year. I also suffer
from an illness, actually in my case several and I have days
where I am not up to homeschooling myself. But I don't think
there's any reason to feel bad about it. I believe children will
eventually learn all they need to know whether they miss school
a few days here and there or not. I actually have met a few moms
who don't do formal lessons and their children seem to learn what
they need to know just from living, they are unschoolers. I've been
wanting to meet other moms who have an illness but also home-
school like myself so we could encourage one another on our
"unique" homeschool journeys. Well there's my .02 worth. -- Dori


Looking for fellowship with other homeschooling
moms with chronic illness? HopeKeepers Magazine
sponsors a group for Christian homeschooling moms
here: http://www.restministries.org/life-homeschool.htm

Need a more inclusive community? Check this one out:


[Note: Last issue I told you about a wonderful chat for
homeschooling parents at http://www.HomeschoolChat.us
Due to technical difficulties, the chat was not accessible
on the day that most of you attempted to visit. We are very
sorry for this inconvenience and hope that you will try again
to visit soon. Everything is now in working order!]


There are opportunities for you to be a sponsor of this
newsletter. If you are interested, drop an e-mail to
marketing@stretcher.com with "Homeschoolers-Notebook"
as the subject. We'll send you some information on how to
be a part of this ministry!


All contributed articles are printed with the author's prior
consent. It is assumed that any questions, tips or replies to
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the "Homeschooler's Notebook". [Occasionally your contribution
may have to be edited for space.]

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