Homeschooling Over the Holidays

Homeschooling Over the Holidays  (as in the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year)

Whatever your cultural background, each year contains holidays, some longer, some shorter, some with lots of work, some with less work.[1], [2], [3], [4] And, as usual with the more complicated holidays, the kids are excited and Mom’s nerves are frayed (because Mom is usually the Holiday Fairy who makes it happen, and Mom is only one person, and if anyone else asks her how many more days there are until the Holiday – not nearly enough – she is just going to cancel the whole thing). There is too much to do and, with homeschooling, no getting away from the kids to have enough quiet time to either sort things out, or do whatever it is that needs doing. How do veteran homeschoolers concentrate on lessons while the clock is ticking and the children are licking (the beaters)?   In busy years, thoughts may arise such as,

  • “Maybe I’m not cut out to be a homeschooler?”
  • “Do any schools that take enrollments only between the end of November and the beginning of January?”
  • “What about a boarding school?”

Many homeschooling parents (who want to remain homeschooling parents) amend their schedules when seasonal demands increase. If scheduled lessons are a feature of homeschooling life then Mom decreases the lessons or puts them on hold. Shifting the family curriculum to ‘Seasonal Independent Living’ or ‘Home Ec for the Holidays’ can take the pressure off. Even at the high school level, there is no universal law that says, “It is hereby mandated by the Great State of Confusion that each and every homeschooling day will consist of each and every subject being studied.”  To keep burnout at bay during The Holidays, you can shift focus and zero in on Home Ec and Art with perhaps Religion and Community Service time increasing as well.

Home Ec:  Cleaning the halls

In a homeschooling family, Mom does not have to be the only Holiday Fairy making the magic happen. From laundering that special tablecloth, to putting away the extra groceries, to cooking special treats, the children can lend a hand.  The children’s increased holiday energy can be channeled into chores that may not be done as often as you would like:

  • vacuuming every corner of the house (if only in your dreams)
  • rearranging the furniture to accommodate card tables and chairs for guests
  • getting one of those nifty fuzzy duster gizmos and at least getting all the obvious dust removed, even if the furniture polishing doesn’t quite get finished
  • raking leaves before the first snowstorm arrives (if you’re in a temperate area)
  • cutting the grass (if you’re in a semi-tropical area)
  • tidying wood chips where the lawn would (if you’re in a Pacific-northwest maritime area)
  • sweeping the sand off the sidewalk and back into the ‘lawn’ (if you are in the Southwest).

Home Ec is as important as learning math, handwriting or pronouns — no one lives at a school with house elves.  Some children may stay at school if their parents can afford boarding school or they stay in dorms later on in college, but still no one lives-lives there unlike the Home that where, if you show up, they have to take you in — and a home must be maintained.[5]

Home Ec:  Decking the Halls

Decorating for complicated holidays is probably fun the first ten times you do it on your own, but after that it is not quite the thrill that, when we were children, we imagined it would always be.  One way to ease the job is to employ the children in the hall decking adventure.  Crafts that add to the holiday fun, but yet are kid friendly might be:

  • making paper snowflakes[6]
  • popcorn strings[7]
  • popcorn and cranberry strings
  • a card star from old greeting cards[8]
  • a string of brown paper bag gingerbread people
  • folded or cut German paper stars[9], [10], [11], [12]
  • home made candles [13]

Take your time over the holidays and make your home. Repeat the traditions of your own childhood and your husband’s and tell the children stories from when you were little. Make decorations that are kid-friendly.

Art:  Useful crafts

Many families send winter holiday cards and like doing so because, especially in the military, it is nice to stay in touch with old friends who are far away by sending them a special card. Special paper and Italic calligraphy (learned from the Getty-Dubay handwriting books[14])  make charming greeting cards. A more involved family project is extra-special cards for close friends or relatives using the instructions from books specializing in pop-ups[15].

Art:  A flair for the dramatic

The Holidays are a time of rich dramatic offering.  Many group stage special holiday performances tailored to the seasonal theme and attending a production counts as time for subject areas such as literature, drama or religion.  If the performance is culturally different from your own cultural outlook, you can enter the time under social studies.

Community Service:  Volunteering

On military installations, the entire community is often involved in various holiday celebrations. These activities can be good learning experiences outside the family circle. Chapels have an extended schedule of services or provide seasonal programs. Community theaters and choral groups produce holiday programs. Teens, who are collecting specific credits for high school graduation, might include:

  • ‘Office experience’ for collating and folding bulletins (and the attendant chore of keeping them in a useful place where others can find them later)
  • ‘drama’ for a holiday pageant
  • ‘literature’ for participating in special readings
  • ‘music’ for choral presentations
  • ‘religion’ for in-depth  research of traditions

Military installations may have food pantries for families who cannot afford all the Holiday trimmings, or may conduct clothing drives. These activities take the focus away from the commercial side of major American holidays and provide more memories than just the ‘what I got’ variety.

Social Studies:  Holiday differences overseas

Cultural differences between the U.S. and the host nation can provide learning opportunities. How, if it is a part of the culture, does the host nation celebrate the winter holiday? What are the differences between how the host nation celebrates and how the children remember celebrating in the United States?

Children can make unique souvenirs of the overseas tour with illustrated and captioned booklets of the differences they see and/or how your family celebrates. Small booklets are easily made with rubber cement, cereal box cardboard, scraps of fabric and manila paper, or typing paper that has been folded in half and sewn into a ‘signature.’[16]

Math:  Budgeting and baking

If gifts are a part of your holiday celebration, the children can practice their money math skills through buying gifts for the family.  Children use basic math skills if they have a specific amount of money already saved throughout the year (perhaps a dollar per week for the younger children, and more for older children), and then must divide the total either among the immediate family, or for extended family members if that is your practice.  Dividing a limited amount of money for the purchases of multiple people, and perhaps the gift wrapping materials, is a primary lesson in budgeting.

Holiday baking also provides math practice with the usual half cups of this, three-quarter teaspoons of that, and either halving or doubling recipes.  The children can confirm their pencil and paper exercises for increasing or decreasing recipes with actual measurements.

History:  Why do we do what we do?

Holiday observances did not spring out of nowhere.  Someone, at some point, found relevance in choosing to include a certain decoration, cook a specific food, or follow a particular schedule.  What was the relevance?  Does it still apply?  If not, why not?  Children can complete a unit study on the cultural significance of the holiday celebrated by the family.

Life isn’t all academics. Life is about relationships, discovery, harmony and love. So recapture the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day by taking time to relate to your family. Discover the tender joy of being in harmony with the natural rhythms of family life.

[1] Muslim Families Activities

[2] Christmas lesson ideas, A to Z’s Home’s Cool

[3] Naaseh Venilmad

[4] Pagan homeschooling, A to Z Home’s Cool

[5] Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House

[6] Easy-to-Make Decorative Paper Snowflakes

[7] How to string popcorn  (includes warning about pets trying to eat the popcorn while it is on the tree)

[8] How to make a Christmas card star

[9] How to make stars

[10] Froebel star

[11] 3-D stars

[12] Paper stars (German language; included for illustrations of colored stars)

[13] Beeswax rolled candles

[14] Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting instruction books

Write Now: The Complete Program For Better Handwriting

Italic Handwriting Series Book A

Italic Handwriting Series Book B

Italic Handwriting Series Book C

Italic Handwriting Series Book D

Italic Handwriting Series Book E

[15] “Joan Irvine: the Pop-up Lady”

[16] Bookbinding 101:  Your first book


Homeschooling styles and methods: Waldorf schooling

Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and founder of the “science of the spirit,” to which he gave the name Anthroposophy, also developed a school for the children of the workers of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette company in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 [1].   The name of the cigarette company gave its name to Steiner’s style of schooling.

For young children Waldorf schooling emphasizes art, music, handicrafts and physical movement (Eurythmy). The schooling philosophy divides children’s developmental ages into three stages of about seven years each: birth to change of teeth, change of teeth to puberty, and adolescence.  Waldorf schools teach from an Anthroposophist viewpoint, a viewpoint that has its critics, but the homeschooling parent, as always, can choose only those aspects that best fit her talents, philosophy and disposition.[2]

A distinctive aspect of Waldorf schooling is an emphasis on the children making their own books rather than reading only from textbooks. These books can be handmade using Manila paper, cloth, glue and cardboard, or the book can be an art sketchbook from the store. Either way, they are individualized records of the child’s interests and work and make excellent ‘souvenirs’ of the homeschooling adventure.


[1] Soul Economy:  Body, Soul and Spirit in Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner, 1977, 2003,M1

[2] Foreword, R.A. Jarman, The spiritual basis of Steiner education, Roy Wilkinson, 1996,M1


Copyright 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling styles and methods: unschooling

John Holt[1] was the first writer to use the existing word, “unschooled.” Holt used the word to mean children who learned outside of school, instead of the word’s meaning of people who have never been to school.

Holt was an elementary schoolteacher before he wrote his first book, How Children Fail.[2], [3] During his teaching years, Holt found flaws in classroom style instruction and worked to reform public schools, going so far as to propose an underground railroad to help children escape from the effects of compulsory schooling laws.[4] After he discovered homeschooling, Holt changed his focus from school reform and started the magazine Growing Without Schooling [5]. He initially used the term ‘unschooling’ as a synonym for homeschooling but the word has come to mean a separate form of self-directed learning.  This use of ‘unschooling’ contrasts with the various styles of school-at-home teaching that usually characterize homeschooling.

Like homeschooling, unschooling has also experienced a fractalization similar to that in homeschooling:  the greater the number of people who participate, the greater the number of styles that develop.

Perhaps the ‘eclectic’ style of homeschooling could be thought of as a middle-of-the-homeschooling-road style of unschooling:  no set curriculum, no set list of materials, and no set style of learning.  Eclectic homeschooling though, can still include formal lessons (depending on what each family chooses), so it could probably be categorized more as possibly ‘unschoolish’ than actual ‘unschooling.’

The practice of unschooling is raising children with parental encouragement, conversation and support.  An everyday example of the unschool style is the time of life of small stay-at-home-children between birth and whatever point they are assumed to be educable and are sent off to school.

At the far end of unschooling lies ‘radical unschooling.’  Radical unschooling does not mean unschooling by politically radical parents, although that would not be surprising.  Radical unschooling is allowing children to grow up ‘just living’ and making their own decisions about many aspects of life usually controlled by parents, such as mealtimes or bedtimes.[6]

Regardless of whether a family’s unschooling style is more eclectic or more radical, the intent of unschooling is not to ignore the children and allow them to age without direction.  The intent of unschooling is attentive, engaged parenting that supports the children in their interests and activities:  life as learning, rather than learning separated from living.[7]


Interview with Canadian publisher, Wendy Priesnitz

[1] John Holt


[3] Google Books version

[4] John Holt and the origins of contemporary homeschooling, Patrick Farenga, 1999

[5] Growing Without Schooling

[6] “Is there a difference between a Radical Unschooler and just an Unschooler?”

[7] Wikipedia article

Copyright 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling Styles and Methods: Unit study

What are unit studies?

Homeschoolers usually think of the unit study method as a group of lessons that use a variety of approaches.  These approaches can work together to focus on a smaller part of a larger subject (perhaps a multi-media report on the “Lost Battalion” of WWI[1]), or may spread out to look at many aspects of a single subject (George Washington’s political path plus the kind of house he lived in, what he ate, the popular music of the time, etc.).  All the children in a family can take part with each one working at his or her level.  Unit studies can be the main style of the family’s homeschooling (as with the Konos[2] program), a part of each new subject, or a special treat.

Parents can allow the unit study to be as wide or narrow as they or their children wish.  Parents can set aside an amount of time for the project – usually a week or two – or they may allow it to continue until the kids run out of steam.  As with any homeschooling method, no single unit study style is t.h.e. official way of spending time with any material.

The goals people have for a unit study are as varied as there are people using the style.  Pieces of music have different aims; few trendy dance club managers invite polka disc jockeys to perform, even though composers of polka and techno music may all mean to get people dancing.  Likewise, painting the nursery walls using Jackson Pollock’s style could be a workable way to camouflage dirt in a toddler’s room, but most parents prefer room decorations with more structure, such as blocks of color arranged in a design, or nursery pictures.  In the same way, the result of a unit study could be anything from journal entries tracking the study, a completed Lap Book®[3], [4] or a 4H project or Scout badge.

Commercial unit study programs often work ‘across the curriculum.’  A ‘store bought’ program may include writing assignments for English, worksheet activities for handwriting, illustrations for art, physical information for science, and different levels of information for working with children of different ages.

As with most things, people of different levels of creativity and skill put together commercial unit study programs.  Some programs are original, but some are plagiarized information from books whose copyrights have expired and are now in the public domain.  This is a problem within the commercial sphere of homeschooling, not just unit studies. The practice of ‘buyer be aware’ coupled with making only a small first-time purchase after asking around may keep any poor choices, such as ‘unit studies’ that are little more than elaborate worksheet exercises that children paste onto construction paper, from knocking a big hole in a budget or ruining a long stretch of school year as the shortcomings show up.

Where do I find unit study materials?

For homemade unit studies, idea starters might be:

  • the calendar, for notable days, holidays or the birthdays of famous people[5]
  • a history book for pinpointing ‘little known facts’ that hide behind the larger events of history
  • a science project book, for interesting experiments that can be researched as to whether the experiment was famous or significant, such as Galileo’s insight into freely falling bodies
  • children’s interests

Parents can think of any focused area of study as a unit study.

Parents who prefer prepared programs can find unit study suppliers using a search engine.

[1] Blood in the Argonne:  The “Lost Battalion” of WWI, April 2006 review in The Journal of Military History

[2] Konos program

[3] Lap book trademark

[4] “Winter Vacation Book”

[5] “A Birthday a Day,” Rebecca Rupp, Sep/Oct 1997,  Home Education Magazine

Copyright 2006, 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling Styles and Methods: Umbrella schools

What is an umbrella school?

An umbrella school is a type of home education support with which parents can register/enroll the children so that the school keeps a record of the children’s progress for the family.

“Umbrella schools” also overlap with correspondence schools, and distance-learning providers.  Any of these providers may use scripted lessons, tests and a log of daily reports, or may just give an outline of recommended studies, but let the families choose how the children will complete their studies, and if that work was satisfactory.  The common function among all the services is record keeping.

Are umbrella schools a homeschooling requirement?

No, although the church school requirement in Alabama[1] comes close.  Umbrella schools are a service available to homeschooling parents.  Fees, the services from the school, and the requirements of the families vary among the providers.

Umbrella schools are useful if you live in a state with cumbersome requirements although Pennsylvania takes exception to the practice.[2]

How do umbrella schools work?

Some schools provide books and workbooks; others let the family choose what to use for the children’s learning.  Usually the family provides agreed upon information so the school can construct records for the children:  hours of study/schoolwork, subjects, and perhaps evaluations.

Umbrella schools can also be a way of coping with a teen’s high school records for those of us who, in Cafi Cohen’s words, “. . . say, ‘I would rather walk ten miles in a snowstorm than write a transcript,’ and happily delegate the paperwork.”[3]

[1] The Code of Alabama 1975, Title 16, Chapter 28 School Attendance

See:  Definitions

[2] Pennsylvania legal attitude towards umbrella schools

[3] “Independent Study/Umbrella Schools.” Cafi Cohen’s Homeschool Teens and College

Copyright 2006, 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling styles and methods: eclectic homeschooling

What is eclectic homeschooling?

As early as the 1980s, homeschool writers applied the term ‘eclectic’ to a style of homeschooling that is non-specific in terms of sticking to the ideas of a particular style of schooling.  Parents who homeschool eclectically may pick the parts they like best from schooling models such as:

  • the replication of mainstream school in the home
  • Holt’s unschooling
  • Montessori’s real work for small children
  • Steiner’s spirituality
  • Mason’s emphatically twaddle-free regimen


How does eclectic homeschooling differ from other specific styles of homeschooling?

The chief marker of eclectic homeschooling is the lack of a single method for schooling children.  Instead of tailoring their days according to someone else’s prepared plan, parents select methods that fit the child, the moment, and the material.  Part of this ‘freedom to choose’ is common sense.  For example, few people try to teach non-bike riders to ride bicycles by having them read about the physics of balance and inertia, friction and momentum.[1]  We just get behind the kid and push.  Just as eclectic homeschoolers may use parts of other homeschooling methods, we all vary our approaches to learning different skills.


What are the benefits of eclectic homeschooling?

Perhaps the best part of eclectic homeschooling may be less stress than with boxed programs.  Parents who use a packaged curriculum may find that while one part of the package works well for their children, another part may be a round hole into which they try to pound their children’s square, rectangular or triangular learning pegs.  When this happens, neither children nor parents are often happy.

The same situation might crop up if a parent feels a connection with the philosophy of an educational visionary, but the child does not.  A highly organized mother with a more … go-with-the-flow … child might feel stressed when they are unable to make it through a full day using the mother’s highly organized series of lessons from the curriculum that works so well for those decades-worth of satisfied parents (according to the advertisements).  Conversely, a highly organized child turned loose in the garden with the instruction to glory in nature and become one with the butterflies could very well stomp back into the house and demand worksheets she can complete and then file in a notebook. 


What are the drawbacks of eclectic homeschooling?

Perhaps the most common drawback of eclectic homeschooling is anxiety.  Parents may feel a lack of reassurance about this non-specific path’s destination, a destination that hides behind the event-horizon of the future, and behind the glare of the rising sun.  Who knows what the new day will bring?  Who knows where this road will lead?  

Our society’s schools come with projected outcomes, and this is the accepted state of things.  Students (a label that is the kids’ job title) study programs assembled by experts and those programs include X, Y and Z.  When the students graduate, they receive diplomas indicating (although never guaranteeing) that they are competent concerning X, Y and Z. 

Unfortunately, for the homeschooling parents who were probably organizationally schooled themselves and thus have a learning model already in place, the path macheted out of the jungle of homeschool advertising, and illuminated only by the light of learning as filtered through the leaves of the syllabus-trees, have no such implied … indications … of competence.  Will that final step along the homeschooling path bring the learner to the gates of a shining city of educational attainment with a fanfare, or, as the critics contend, will the rocks of unaccreditation, strewn by her amateur parents through their choices of books with hokey history, marginal math, spurious science, and wrotten writing, send the innocent child spiraling off the cliffs of ignorance into the roiling sea of unemployment?  As the child goes off into the world, will the parent be praised or prosecuted?

It was enough to keep me awake at night.

Another parental anxiety is the welfare of the children.  More than one parent has asked, in essence, “what if I break my kids?” as if the parents would go wild with power and purposefully teach their children untruths just because they can with the children not knowing any better.  I have read comments from mothers saying, “I like a strict program.  It keeps me accountable.”  I always wonder how these parents nurtured their children through infancy and toddlerhood without “accountability.”

‘Breaking’ kids is unlikely even if you invent a world, populate it with beings whose discovery CNN or Fox News have not yet presented for 23 of the past 24 hours, write its history yourself, and invent languages for it all.  Consider J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Children whose parents imbued them with such a mythical upbringing would not make that journey without learning something, but who is likely to do that, even given total power over their children?

A perceived drawback to the eclectic style of homeschooling is the time seen to be lost through the piecemeal choosing of materials and strategies. Some parents feel that taking the time to find the right ‘fit’ wastes time, and that buying an established schooling program presents the least ‘danger’ to their child’s future. But using materials you later discard might be a form of refinement.  Instead of limiting your view to one outlook (adhering to a specific method), or cluttering the forest with too many trees (trying to get it all in), you might be pruning deadwood that restricts your view, and become more aware of why you need to prune. 

Determining what you do not want is as useful as determining what you do, and parents may find that they homeschool themselves in the process of the journey of homeschooling their kids.



Eclectic homeschooling is yet another of the choices available to parents as they work to raise their children well.  To me, this style of homeschooling provides the most flexibility for both parents and children and almost seems to be the foundation that we hope education was meant to be.


[1] How you steer a bicycle


Copyright 2006, 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling a child who has never been to school

To begin homeschooling a young child who has never been to school a simple routine of handwriting, simple math, being read lots of stories, coloring pictures, singing songs and playing should be sufficient.

Whether or not to ‘schedule’ depends on your personality and that of your child. Handwriting is easily done with workbooks such as the Italic handwriting series by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. These books have entertaining and educational exercises for the child to write. Other names to look for in the search for handwriting materials are Zaner-Bloser, D’Nealian, and Palmer. A web search using these names as search terms will return many handwriting websites.

You can begin math using simple workbooks from the grocery store and a cheap manipulative such as Fifteen Bean Soup. I found the soup mix to be an excellent manipulative because it is so versatile. ‘Beans’ represent the ‘whole’ yet the ‘parts’ can be easily seen.

   4 pintos                 8 beans
+ 4 limas               – 4 pintos
   8 beans                  4 limas 

If you are teaching multiplication, 6 x 4 is easily illustrated by four rows of six different beans and then allowing the child to count the 24 beans. The ‘six’ is obvious, the ‘four’ is obvious and the ‘twenty-four’ is obvious.

For more technical math advice read the Math Whiz Basics in Ann Lahrson-Fisher’s, Fundamentals of Homeschooling.4

I found that reading is best taught through the parent reading aloud while the children are very young and continuing until homeschooling is finished.Young children love listening to the same stories over and over so recording the books is a voice-saver. I’ve found that newer tape recorders with microphones pick up the recorder’s motor hum so making tapes nowadays is a challenge. A superior method is to record stories onto a digital voice recorder and save the file to your computer’s hard-drive. Convert the proprietary sound files to MP3 or WAV files and then burn them to a CD-ROM.

Science for a young child can be introduced by reading magazines such as Your Big Backyard or Ranger Rick 6. Highlights for Children 7 has a good range of articles as well.

I don’t care for ‘social studies’ and preferred history and geography. For this you can look for magazines from the Cobblestone publishers8. Historical fiction is another relatively painless way to learn about The Story of Mankind 9as is reading the book of the same name by Hendrik Willen van Loon, the winner of the first Newbery Award in children’s literature.

Geography can be studied by familiarizing the child with maps. One way is to make your own atlas of your house, your neighborhood or your town. You can make the book before it is illustrated or bind together pages that are already filled in. The library has books on simple bookmaking. A nice addition to the study of Geography might be a coloring book of the state where you’re stationed. Sometimes the state’s department of natural resources publishes such books and some can even be found online.

Children often enjoy drawing their own pictures and looking at those drawn by others. A nice little series for simple art appreciation using postcard size reproductions of famous paintings is Mommy, it’s a Renoir! by Aline Wolf10.


Notes to How to Start Homeschooling

4. Ann Lahrson Fisher, The Fundamentals of Homeschooling: Notes on Successful Family Living, Nettlepatch Press, 2002

5. Valerie Bonham Moon, “Reading Lessons,” Home Education Magazine, March/ April 1997

6. National Wildlife Federation

7. Highlights for Children

8. Cobblestone Publishers

9 Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Story of Mankind, W.W. Norton & Company; Millennium edition , 1999

10. Aline Wolf, Mommy It’s a Renoir, Parent Child Press, 1984



Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.


Many mothers on homeschooling email lists ask for advice on preschool homeschooling. My advice is invariably to let the children play. Although your child is the oldest he has ever been and time seems to flying away there are still years left for him to practice formal schooling, if that is what develops.

Handwriting can wait. What do small children know about that needs to be written? Small motor muscle movements are still developing and some children haven’t even yet learned to run with much coordination. If running or throwing or jumping are still movements needing more control than the child has, why expect him to be able to manipulate a pencil so that the result is ‘legible?’

Coloring books may be most useful for the development of small motor control. The lines of the picture give boundaries but the area to be colored allows large movements. One Waldorf school curriculum doesn’t introduce form drawing until second grade. Another is at first grade.

Read-aloud stories are good for young children. They hear the language spoken grammatically and they connect the sense of words with the arbitrary marks they see on paper. To a young child ABCDEFG makes as much sense as the same letters in the Cyrillic alphabet would to a non-Cyrillic reader. The stories also feed the imagination and may give the children inspiration for drawings or for imaginative play.

Physical movement is important for children. Researchers have connected physical movement to proper physical development. The traditional ‘work’ of young children is running, jumping, climbing, crawling, dancing and rolling. The ‘preschool classroom’ is a playground. Also, get music. Lots of music.

Buy toys that aren’t already ‘done.’ Blocks are a good example. Children can take blocks and make all sorts of things out of them: houses, raceways and sailboats are a few of the constructions I’ve had in my living room. Cardboard boxes are another good toy, or laundry baskets; both make good ships. The ships can turn into forts or caves with the addition of a blanket. Tricycles are useful, as are wagons. Sidewalks and chalk are good toys for encouraging writing. Children who balk at pencil and paper may well scribble up an entire driveway. Trees are handy toys because they are so big the child can’t lose them and Mom doesn’t have to put them away. They can be lain under, leaned on, have a swing dangling from a sturdy branch and they inspire dreams of climbing. From some you can even get apples. Definitely get trees. (Disclaimer: if you get a tree, keep an eye on the children. I am not responsible for anyone falling out.)

What to do for ‘preschool?’ Let the children play.


Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Mothering and fathering compared to standardized instruction

Apart from all the ‘how to’ information, you can ‘start homeschooling’ by continuing as you began with your child. Many of us carry a notion of education as a formal activity that occurs while seated and holding some kind of wood product: pencils, paper or books. Our learning model focuses not on how we ourselves learned but rather how we were managed, how our crowd of 25 or 30 was controlled. We were in rows or lines, we spoke when we were allowed to speak, we sat when directed to sit and stood when told to stand. Sitting during standing times or standing during sitting times was an infraction. We learned when we were told to learn and what we were told to learn — or at least that’s what we remember.

For organizational and safety reasons crowd control is necessary because of so many small bodies in one room. Thirty little people in a room for five hours at a time, for days, weeks and months in a row with no control would be bedlam. Teachers need to announce standing time, sitting time, talking time, reading time. Homeschooling is different because our homes generally do not contain large numbers of children. It isn’t necessary to make three children walk in line to get from the living room to the bathroom — the idea is ludicrous. Mothers of larger families will already have devised organizational methods to cope with meals, outings and other group activities. These mothers may find they need a bit more organization in their homeschooling than mothers of fewer children.

I’m on the ‘back’ side of raising four children, one publicly-schooled and three homeschooled, and my impression of that time is that compared to standardized instruction, involved mothering and fathering, informed mothering and fathering, ingenious mothering and fathering, and insightful, inspired, integrated, intelligent, intentional, interested, intuitive, inventive and invested mothering and fathering, are at least equal to the standardization, if not superior.


Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Opinions are like noses — and you’ve got your own

The ways of starting homeschooling are probably less varied than are the ways of continuing homeschooling, just as the beginning of a baby’s life is simpler than the way that baby conducts his life after gaining maturity. For myself I formulated rules after fielding the ‘how do I start’ question numerous times.

  1. Tightwad: Hold onto your wallet. Before you sign on the dotted line check around. “Canned” curriculums or “schools-in-a-box” sometimes act as if ‘one size fits all’ and one size often does not. Sometimes you will find elements within a curriculum that either do not work well with your child or are things you find discomforting. Also, what works with one child doesn’t always work with another. Do what feels best, but be a careful shopper.
  2. Chill: Homeschooling is flexible. If whatever you’re doing doesn’t work you don’t have to answer to a bureaucracy before you make a change. It’s your decision how to proceed.
  3. Deep-6: If whatever you’re using isn’t working cut your losses. You won’t get your money back by continuing to use something that isn’t working, and you and you kids will feel stressed. Yes, there is something to be said for finishing what you start (another reason to check around before you buy), but if what you’re using truly isn’t working – dump it. You can save your finished/discarded materials for sale at support group curriculum sales. Just because it didn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.
  4. One Right Way: There is “one right way to homeschool” but it varies from person to person and from interest to interest.
  5. Choice: Remember that homeschooling is a continuing choice. You have the freedom to continue to choose to homeschool or to make another choice.
  6. Private or Public?: Be aware that enrolling your child in online public charter schools will return your child to the public education sector. Instead of homeschooling you will be enrolling in a public school home-study program. This isn’t to say that this is a wrong choice just be aware of all the ins and outs of the program you are considering so you can make an informed choice and be aware that your choice may re-enforce the bureaucracy’s view of how ‘homeschooling’ is to be done.
  7. Survival: If you have a good babysitter or co-op friend for babysitting, send her home with wine or chocolates after babysitting. It can’t hurt.


Note:  If you are reading this at a site other than Tossed by the Fates, and no attribution is given to hard-working and generous Valerie Bonham Moon, the person(s) using this text is passing my work off as theirs, the slimy rotters.  If you paid for this information, you were schnookered.  There isn’t much I can do about plagiarists, but I thought you should know that about the site you’re visiting.

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Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

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