Category Archives: Time off

Dear Icelandic Volcano…

…I see you took my warning seriously. Wise decision. I’m going in 2 days, so please behave yourself. Now, once I’m there, if you feel the need to let loose with some ash, be my guest. I wouldn’t mind being stranded there for a few extra weeks.

Goin’ home to Ohio for 3 weeks…see ya’ll later! ♥


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Spring Fever

I’m still trying to figure the direction in which this blog is moving. I just can’t bring myself to do weekly round up-type posts. Although I enjoy reading them at other blogs, I find them boring to write. I already do something similar for my records, albeit in a very abbreviated format, and cannot get myself to do another, more detailed version here. I prefer to have something interesting and stimulating to write about; witty if I can manage it. But lately our homeschooling just isn’t providing adequate material for posts. We have a routine, and to be honest our homeschooling is a bit like an old married couple: comfortable, unexciting (usually), and a little dull. You might even say we’re in a little bit of a rut.

We’re really enjoying spelling (cause it’s new) and science, but everything else is just a little stale. Even history isn’t thrilling us anymore. Esa’s disappointed with the colouring pages in the Story of the World Volume 2 activity book, and I have to agree that they’re not that great. (The ones in activity book 3 are even worse; the drawing is terrible.) Math is going well, but we’re not doing much supplementing with stories or activities. We’ve not done art or poetry in weeks. He really dislikes Writing with Ease, in particular dictation. I think it’s a fantastic curriculum, but it can be a little dull. Okay, very dull. He enjoys the narration, and the reading selections have provided us with introductions to books that we otherwise might not have discovered, which is great. Handwriting is a boring but necessary evil. We’ll be starting cursive writing soon, which will liven things up a bit.

I think the real problem is that we’re feeling a little burnt out. If I made a little more effort to supplement, or take him on educational visit somewhere, we might be able to inject some life into our homeschool. But I just don’t have the “umph” for it right now. Spring is here, the garden is blooming, we’re planning to go to the US in a few days, and my mind is just elsewhere. Maybe what we need is to just unschool for a while. Lots of read alouds (also lacking right now), lots of time in the garden (if only it would stop RAINING!), read about herbs using A Kid’s Herb Book, maybe do some nature journaling, and just have an overall relaxed approach for now.

In other news, I have started yet another blog. 🙂 My interest in veganism is providing me with a lot of material to write about, and since I don’t want to bore my readers, who mainly come here to read about homeschooling, I thought a separate blog was a good idea. If you’re interested, here’s the link:


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Sometimes I Don’t Like Living in England…

…and sometimes I love it. We had a weekend break in London. The weather was glorious and whilst strolling the bustling London streets I felt…at home. Strange, considering I’d love nothing more than to buy a cottage out in the country and live a slightly hermit-like existence, burying myself in my books and enjoying a quiet life virtually stranger-free. But I loved it in London. No one looked twice at the white woman wearing a headscarf. It made a lovely change from being stared at, spat at, and called “white Paki.” The people were actually friendly.

But it was more than just the lack of racism. It’s just such an amazing place. Bursting with history, crammed with people speaking all languages; I heard French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and many more that I didn’t recognise. Beautiful architecture, wisteria in full bloom climbing up the terraced houses, a myriad of adorable and tempting boutiques, maddening one-way systems, surprisingly clean streets, endless places to eat, constant police sirens; the noise was ceaseless.

I was a typical tourist, gawking at everything, snapping photos left and right.

On Saturday we strolled through Notting Hill, then visited the Natural History Museum. Here is the entrance:

And just look at that ceiling…

When I’m rich I’m having that in my house. Well, not that one, but a copy. Just waiting to win the lottery (which I don’t play) or for a rich relative (which I don’t have) to die. Any day now…

On Sunday we did the touristy thing and walked along the Thames. Here are some highlights:

Harrod’s, which I really wanted to go into, but didn’t have time:

The iconic red double-decker:

The Big Pickle, more commonly known as the Gherkin:

I love this style of terraced house:

Another row of houses I love, this one with a bit of Wisteria. (Other houses had Wisteria leaking from their very pores, but I couldn’t get shots of those.)

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

Esa and Hubby, posing with the London Eye and Th Houses of Parliament our new mansion in the background:

St. Paul’s Cathedral and some other stuff:

Some interesting sand sculptures, which the tide washed away not an hour later:

We also went into the Tate Modern (to use the restroom), which was a monstrous and rather ugly building, but I felt cosmopolitan going in.

In truth, I probably wouldn’t  be happy actually living in London, but it sure is a fabulous place to visit. ♥


Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Family Life, Holidays, Second Grade, Time off


A Very (Mr.) Happy Birthday

I was feeling a bit low last Friday. Our two weeks of holiday were coming to an end and I really would have loved to have another week (or 3) off. But by Sunday I was looking forward to resuming lessons and trying out Song School Latin.

Saturday was Esa’s seventh birthday. I decided to throw him a real party. In the past we’ve either done something as just the three of us; stayed home, ordered pizza, and watched a movie; or just had a cousin or two over to play for a bit. I’ve always made him a cake and made a fuss over him, but he’s never had a real party.

It was, however, still a modest affair as birthday parties go. We played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey (homemade), musical chairs (which made me a little uncomfortable because I don’t like games where children get “out”…they always look so sad, and it’s supposed to be a party after all…), pass-the-parcel, and the piece de resistance: a piñata (again, painstakingly homemade.) The piñata was filled with fantastic goodies: party crackers, mini Mars bars, Kinder hippos, Pop Rocks, chocolate coins, Love Hearts, and loads more.

The piñata took nearly an  hour to bust. Initially, the children were blindfolded and allowed 3 swings (they were allowed to feel for it first). After each child had had 2 or 3 goes, we did away with the blindfold. At one point, the piñata broke away from the string, and the children shouted with joy, but my husband, who was enjoying it more than anyone, shouted, “Wait! It’s not open! I’ll reattach the string and you can keep bashing it!”


So, the fun went on for another 30  minutes. By the time the piñata was well and truly busted, the stick they used to bash it was broken and those poor kids barely had the strength to gather up the goodies.

Not really. The sight of chocolate was like reviving salts- they dove after the stuff.

As I’ve mentioned before, Esa loves Mr. Men. We decided to do a Mr. Men-themed party, so we had plates, cups, napkins, and banners all in Mr. Men. He requested carrot cake, which I iced and decorated with Mr. Happy, his favourite Mr. Man.  He also received a Mr. Happy mug, a SpongeBob calendar, a Lego annual, Tonka trucks, some money, and agamefor thexboxthathegotfromhisdadandIknowIsaidI’dneverallowhimtohaveonebut theyworemedownandreallyhe’sbeenveryrestrainedandI’mnotallowinghimto playittoomuchsopleasedon’tshootmeeventhoughI’mahypocrite.


Posted by on November 29, 2010 in Family Life, Milestones, Second Grade, Time off


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I Should Be Cleaning, But…

…I need a little break. (This post was written yesterday)

Speaking of breaks, we’re right in the middle of one. A nice, long one. Two whole weeks. Last week my husband was off, so that was taken up with a religious holiday and the busyness that only seems come about when husbands are at home. You know how it is; you don’t get a moment to yourself.

So, I’m supposed to be cleaning the house, as I do on Sundays, and especially this Sunday because the moment my husband leaves for work, my real holiday begins and I don’t want to spend it cleaning. I want the house spotless (which it isn’t), otherwise it’ll bug me and I’ll squander my precious time cleaning (which I have been).

What have we been up to lately?

We’re cruising along nicely. To be honest, there just isn’t much to mention that’s interesting. We’ve not changed curricula, we’ve not changed methods, I’ve not discovered some great new resource or book…

Things have really changed from last year in that sense. We’ve settled down, found our groove.

Last year we were quite focused on History and Reading. This year math and writing (as in usage, not handwriting) are taking centre stage. Having more math facts memorised has made math easier and more enjoyable for Esa. He loves being able to go to a shop and see something for £6 and something for £4 and know straight away that it makes £10, and no, he doesn’t quite have enough money to buy both things. Our chanting method has worked a treat and he enjoys practising his facts. This is what I love so much about homeschooling: we do what works for us; we’re not stuck with a book or way of doing things that makes learning a chore, or worse, impossible.

Confession Time

Okay, I have ordered a new Latin curriculum. (Yes, another one…but the other 2 will get used next year). I’ve heard a lot of good things about Song School Latin. Initially, I dismissed it because I’m not a fan of sing-song type…things, but after having a look at it I think it just might work for us. Esa learns really well with chanting and the workbook sections look fun. Best of all, it seems easy to implement with no prep work and shouldn’t take long. I’ve ordered just the text which comes with the CD from Book Depository with 10% off, so it was only about £12. I’ll comment  more once it arrives and we give it a try.


Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Family Life, Latin, Second Grade, Time off


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Five Weeks Down

We’re on holiday this week. Well, supposed to be on holiday. My husband is doing some DIY and every 5 minutes he’s calling me to help him with something. On day one I was pretty patient- he did need my help and I was so thrilled that he was finally getting the work done that I was happy to help. But it’s now day two, the work’s only ¼ of the way finished, and I’m getting fed up. I want to draw and paint, not hold boards above my head, measure things, and assess brightness of lights. Then again, if I don’t check on his progress every now and then I certainly can’t complain that things aren’t right once it’s all done.

So, in between stints of being Barbara the Builder, I’m writing.

Right, enough moaning, on to homeschooling.


I’ve decided to drop Latin for the time being. We’ll pick it up in 6 months or maybe at the start of 3rd grade. Lively Latin is too advanced for Esa as it contains writing and grammar that he’s yet not ready for. I thought we’d have another go at Minimus, but our schedule is just so full that something had to go. The funny thing is, I had a little premonition that we wouldn’t be doing Latin this year. I was sitting at the computer, just before the start of second grade, doing some planning. An evil little voice whispered in my ear, Latin’s going to wind up getting dropped. I banished the voice with: No! We will do Latin. Latin’s cool and will add style and panache to our homeschool! (forget the academic benefits, right?)

But, alas, my instinct was right. Something had to go and I think he’ll get more out of Latin if we wait 6 months or even a year.


Math facts: the bane of our mathematical pursuits. When we first began using Singapore Math, I had every intention of having Esa memorise his facts. Later. Next month. In the summer. A year went by and apart from 2+2 and 5+5, he didn’t have any facts memorised.

So, we did the flashcard thing. Within a week we were both dreading those 3×5 cards. He didn’t learn a thing.

I thought we’d just leave it then. Maybe he’d pick them up as we went along. Maybe it wasn’t necessary for him to memorise facts; I’d teach him to count on his fingers, which is what I did do.

No, no, that’s no good. I don’t want him, at 30, still counting on his fingers. Can you imagine it? Well, I can, because his father does it, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight.

Ok, so we’d ditch the cards and take it slowly. But what would be actually do? Then I had a brainwave: chanting and dry erase. Chanting is pain free, kids seem to like it, and it works. We’d chant some facts, pointing to them on the dry erase board, with no pressure to memorise, then when he had some down, we’d add more.

I began with the facts that make ten, omitting the 1+’s and 0+’s. I also presented them using the commutative property, so we’d chant 2+8=10, 8+2=10. Done this way, there were only 4 sets to learn:

2+8, 8+2

3+7, 7+3

4+6, 6+4


He learned them quickly and easily and he can recite them in his sleep. But best of all: he enjoys our few minutes of chanting and quizzing and it is helping him with his work.

We’re now adding the other doubles (3+3, 4+4, etc). Once he has those down, we’ll fill in the rest. He’s also noticing more patterns. This is working a treat.


Prior to 2 weeks ago, we had only done science once in our homeschool since second grade began. It’s just not happening. How could it be that I have this great science curriculum, that I’ve praised to the hilt, but we’re not using it?

Simply put, it takes a lot of prep work. It’s do-able, but it’s time-consuming to prepare. And with everything else I have to do, it’s just getting left out. You know how it is: you do math, handwriting, reading, spelling, grammar, copywork, and history, and you’ve saved science for last because it’s going to take an hour or more and you wanted to make sure you got all the essentials in for the day, then the time comes to actually do science and you look at the clock and sigh and say, “we’ll do it tomorrow.” The next thing you know it’s Friday, something comes up at the last minute and you have to be somewhere and science just doesn’t happen.

Next week, repeat.

At least, that’s how it works in our house. Despite how much we love science, it’s getting left out. And all that prep-reading and set up are killing my enthusiasm. BFSU takes a lot of prep work. There is a lot of reading to do, and it isn’t scripted, so you’ve got to take notes because the instructions are interlaced with the science-y bits. I often have to read through the lessons 2 or even 3 times to make sure I’ve got it all and I know what I’m doing. There have even been times when I’ve left something out, or had to stop mid-flow to refer to the book, and that’s a big momentum killer. I need something with a little more hand-holding.

So, I’ve decided to give R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey a try. This was my second choice after BFSU. They have great try-before-you-buy samples that don’t require any registering or obligation; you simply click on the link and a pdf file opens up.

I’d heard lot of negatives about R.E.A.L.: that it was babyish, the labs didn’t always work, it’s not in-depth enough, needs supplementing, and some of the labs were downright pointless.

But, I decided that none of the those negatives matter… he’s six and this isn’t our only shot at science. We’ve got lots of time to go more in-depth, read, and explore. But if the programme we’re using is too much hassle and it’s just sitting there and science isn’t getting done, then it doesn’t matter how great it is.

The most important criteria for a science programme for us are:

  1. It’s enjoyable
  2. It’s easy to implement and doable
  3. It ignites a love of science
  4. Promotes the use of the scientific method
  5. Leads to further scientific study

RSO, from what I can see so far, meets all of those requirements.

Initially, I agreed with the views that RSO was babyish. The funny drawings and tone of the lessons did make it seem a little young. But I now see it as lively and fun. It’s a very sound curriculum and there is a lot of overlap between it and BFSU. The main difference with BFSU is its seriousness. There’s not a single picture or drawing in the book (since it’s geared for the parent), and although the tone is inviting and encouraging, it’s very sober and no-nonsense. But my son is 6. He’s energetic and silly and giggly and thinks science is fun. So where’s the fun? I want him to love science.

BFSU is too grown-up for us right now. Too controlled and managed. It’s not messy or silly…or fun, sadly. Maybe it is; maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m making it not fun.

The biggest problem of all: Esa’s losing his interest in science. I’m really shocked that this is happening, but it is. Week after week he asks me, “when are we going to do something in science?” The lessons in BFSU are more like demonstrations and discussions. There’s little for him to actually do. I find myself saying to him, “Once we get a bit further on in the programme, it’ll be more exciting.” But we’re nearly 1/4 of the way through and if anything, there’s been less for him to actually do. He’s bored. Yes, he’s learning about scientific concepts, but he’s uninspired by it.

To be fair, not all the lessons are this way. Some have gone well, and some of the lessons Esa really enjoyed. But he wants to make things and mix things and feel like an explorer. R.E.A.L. Science will give him that. When I look at RSO I can see the fun.  BFSU volume 1 has no chemistry activities. I’ve told Esa that we’ll only be doing Biology for now, but that we will later be doing chemistry…a whole year of concoction-making, mess-making, kitchen-science fun.

So far we’ve done the first 2 units and Esa’s really enjoyed it. We’ve spent 2-3 days each week doing science, supplementing with The Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encylopedia and library books. Science is getting done and we’re loving it.

Update: We’ve since gone back to BFSU. RSO wasn’t the great curriculum it first appeared to be. It was truly a fact-based learning programme and we very quickly became bored with it. We’ve realised just how great BFSU is and I’ve made a few adjustments (it *was* my fault that it wasn’t fun) to how we do our lessons and it’s now working beautifully for us. Science is now fun and inspiring and now that I’ve realised just how great this programme is, I don’t mind the extra work involved. The things worth doing often do entail hard work. 🙂

I am not being paid or otherwise benefiting from this review. I simply want to share our experiences and opinions. Chances are things will change as we go…as they often do. We could be back to BFSU before you can say “fickle homeschoolers.”


Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Family Life, Latin, Math, Science, Second Grade, Time off


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The Holidays Are Over…Time to Get Back to Work

We’ve had a few glorious weeks off which were spent lazily and indulgently; they went by far too quickly. The week before last Esa and dh along with 20+ members of his family all went to Scotland and stayed in this gorgeous Jane Austen style, seaside house for a week. I had obligations at home, so I stayed behind. I spent much of the week working through The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (I can’t begin to tell you how great this book is for homeschoolers and anyone wanting to learn to draw) drawing, and painting. It was lovely having a week to myself (the house stayed so clean), but it was just a little too quiet.

Esa was a little out of sorts during his holiday. The family thinks he was missing me, but I think it was because he’s was coming down with a cold and not feeling well. He perked up, however, when he learned how to ride his bike without training wheels.

The day he came back, he lost his first tooth. It’s been a week of milestones.

Last week saw us returning to lessons; we’re doing a gentle summer school with 4-day weeks, reviewing a few things, continuing with science, art, and handwriting, and taking a jaunt through prehistory.

We aren’t doing anything all that special for prehistory. We’re using the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History along with some library books. We’ve got a dinosaur colouring book, too, but I can’t seem to find any other activities or colouring pages for prehistory. We’re doing a timeline and I’m having Esa memorise the different eras.

Our books for second grade have arrived and I’m really looking forward to September.

This year I’m more concerned about saving time. Last year I was happy to spend  hours and hours planning, preparing, and putting things together myself. Not so anymore; I want to spend less time fussing about with things and more time doing.

I bit the bullet and purchased the teacher’s manual for Minimus. I had a 10% off voucher from The Book Depository, which helped, and I know I’ll be able to resell this once I’m finished. It’s a must-have, I think, and fleshes out the programme nicely. I thought I could create my own supplementary activities and worksheets, but when I sat down to do it, I just kept sighing and drawing blanks. The teacher’s manual also provides the answers to the exercises, which saves me even more time.

Writing with Ease level 2 workbook is another time-saving purchase. I spent so much time creating copywork pages and struggling to guide his narrations for writing…I can’t be bothering with that anymore. The workbook will make writing pick-up-and-go.

The only curriculum we’re using that is teacher intensive is our science programme: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I can live with this. We love BFSU so much that it’s worth the prep work.

I see some changes on the horizon for this blog as well.

There for quite a while my life pretty much revolved around homeschooling; I spent vast quantities of time reading and researching methods, curricula…I read every book and article I could lay my hands on. I don’t regret this; all this preparation was necessary and has shaped our homeschooling. I think it’s helped prevent too much floundering and has contributed greatly to our success.

Homeschooling has broadened our horizons so much that we now have so many interests and pursuits that researching homeschooling isn’t necessary anymore. My enthusiasm hasn’t waned…I feel comfortable with what we do and now it’s just an integral part of our lives; it isn’t something that needs investigating, it’s something that we live. We’re living a life of exploration, investigation, and education…which is the whole point. 🙂

That’s not to say I won’t be researching curricula and reading articles from time to time; I certainly will, and I’ll still talk about it here. But I think I’ll be talking about a broader range of topics on this blog. (Art, which I’ve developed a passion for, is something I blog about here.)

We shall see.


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