Commemorative Stamps For A Childhood Passed

As of tomorrow morning at 5:43 a.m., my baby will be a teenager.  I’m not sure exactly all the emotions that a mother is supposed to feel at this moment, but whatever they are, I’ve been feeling all of them.


I feel so sad about losing the cuddlebug who used to twirl my hair in his fingers to be able to go off to sleep.  Who sucked his little toes like they were covered in brown sugar.  Who laughed at the tiniest things like they were the biggest joke he’d ever heard.


I feel happy for all the incredible childhood memories I have of him digging in the backyard for dinosaurs, dressing up as whatever ninja, knight, or superhero had his current fancy, climbing trees, playing with his dogs, and building legos like his life depended on it.

teenpicI feel proud of the young man he is becoming who cares about everyone around him, keeps his family in stitches, adores the outdoors, is passionate about science, and still occasionally finds it not totally uncool to cuddle with mom for a few minutes.

My baby is turning 13.  And that is simply worth commemorating today.

A Thousand Words Thursday



012(H-T standing on one of the amazing rock faces in our local mountains)

Our mountains can’t help it that they are gorgeous.  Don’t hate them because they are beautiful…

Are We Unschoolers or Do I Just Have PMS?

unschooling Do you ever just get antsy?  I don’t know if it is hormones, a genuine mid-life crisis, or seasonal affective disorder, but I’ve got this sudden hankering to really change things up.  (You can relax, sweetheart.  I don’t mean you.  I’ve just now got you trained to take out the trash before I ask…why would I want to go messing with that formula?!)

But the one thing that has been nagging in my brain for almost a year is this whole unschooling business.  Thanks to great bloggers like Jena at Yarns of the Heart, and Teresa over at Tech Trek, I’m feeling more and more intrigued about the idea.  I mean, there has always been a LOT of child-led learning around here, but OCD-afflicted as I am, I could still never fully let go of the structured days (and my youngest has always really craved structure as well). 

So I’ve been asking myself the question…what if we did it as an experiment?  What if we took the first semester of next school year and gave it a whirl? (did you catch my use of “semester” there?  I’m really primed for this unschooling thing, eh?)   Calling it an “experiment” takes the pressure off, and allows me to chalk it up as experience if we don’t take to it as well as I think we will.

I sat the boys down on Monday and gave them an intro to what unschooling might look like.  They had never even heard the term – – that’s how traditional our local homeschool circles are.  So the first thing Uber did for the next six hours was research unschooling and what it would mean for him, and what it would mean for his transcripts, and what it would mean to have to tell your friends you are an “unschooler.”  (Geez, he gets enough flack among his buddies for being a vegetarian!) 

But watching him go through that particular identity crisis was really interesting for me.  First of all, it made me see that in some ways he is already an unschooler.  When he wants to know something, he figures a way to find it out.  And it also made me see that a lot of our thoughts about learning are tied into what other people think of how we learn.  (I know that you unschoolers have known this for ages, so forgive me for the late catch-up)

Anyway, now that my kids have wrapped their heads around it, they are already getting psyched about next school year.  Uber was asking if we could start school in August instead of September.  Yes, I know that true unschoolers don’t think about a “starting date” for when to begin learning, but it is fun from a mom’s perspective to see them get excited in general about learning – – unschooling or otherwise. 

This could be a life-changing experience for us. 

Or it could just be PMS.  Time will tell…


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When Even A Meme Is Too Much…

I’m experiencing severe blog guilt today.  I’ve neglected my poor little Topsy-Techie blog for the past several days, and of course you lovely folks by proxy.  My schedule has been overwhelming for the last week.  The blog course I’m leading has eighteen students!!  For a mom who can sometimes get deluged homeschooling two, this has been quite a wake-up call!!  I thought about creating a fun meme to fill space, but couldn’t even get to that.  So tonight, I’m just leaving you with a cartoon.  Just to assuage the bloggy guilt.


Homeschool PE – – Shall we ski or go running in the mountains today?

It’s been cold, dreary, and rainy this week, so our physical activity has been limited.  Our choices have whittled down to ski jumping, running through the mountains, hula hooping, or fishing. 

Well, at least those are the Wii game discs I can locate at the current moment. 

Yes, we have been reduced to virtual phys ed.  Our goal is to do some kind of physical activity each day, so when the weather outside doesn’t cooperate, technology comes to the rescue!  My only worry is that for all I know, any muscle we build may be virtual as well.  But since the most we generally lift around here is about…well, whatever weight a mouse might be…I’m guessing virtual muscle will fare us just fine. 

The boys tend to view their Wii Fit “class” as something to taunt their public schooled friends about. 

“So, dude, what’d you guys do for PE today?  Dodgeball?  Oh,  wow.  Bummer.   Me?  Oh.  Well, I don’t like to brag, but lets just say that with all this boxing practice I’ve been getting lately, I wouldn’t pick a fight with me right now if I were you.” 

Granted, most kids suffering through the sweaty stench of  locker rooms and the humiliation of being picked last for the half-court basketball game would probably give their gym socks for a chance to take PE via the Wii.  After all, Mii’s don’t usually call you nasty names when you miss a catch.  Or give you wedgies as you wait to shower.  And where else can you start out PE class fishing by the lake and finish up with a nine hole round of golf? 

Now before you get your wagging finger too exhausted, please know that we fully understand our bodies need the real deal – – actual outdoor moving and grooving.  But… when that isn’t possible, knowing that those little armless cuties are always ready to go nine innings with us is quite a consolation.


Carnival of Homeschooling #164 – the Hardwired Edition

Welcome to the 164th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling – – hosted by your favorite techie host…Topsy-Techie!  My lot in life was to be a tech-lovin’ mama raising two geeklings and one resistant-to-technology hubby.  Therefore, I’m afraid that this week you have been thrust into our flashing, beeping, multimedia blog world where the following warning ALWAYS applies:

A very small percentage of people may experience technology-itis when exposed to this blog which often includes flashing lights, strange patterns, and beeping noises. Even people who have no history of techonology-itis may have an undiagnosed condition that can cause strange symptoms while reading this blog.

These symptoms may include any or all of the following:

  • feeling sudden and extreme gratitude for children who cannot name at least twelve different programming languages
  • strong and sudden urge to take your family to a park – – any park
  • severe and painful sympathy for homeschoolers whose idea of lapbooking is reading “Intermediate Photoshop 4.0” on the laptop

Immediately stop reading this blog and take a moment to do the “thank-God-I’m-not-one-of-THOSE-homeschoolers”  happy dance if you experience any of these symptoms.

But since you’re already here, you might as well learn about some of my all-time favorite hardwired homeschool tools as we look at this week’s carnival submissions, right?


Keeping a family healthy, happy, and organized isn’t easy, but I’ve  found one tool that definitely makes it come somewhere in the realm of the possible.  Cozi is a free family organizer that lets you keep track of your family calendar, shopping, chore, and to-do lists, and can send you email or mobile reminders.  It’s a must have application for keeping all those balls in the air. There is even a journal feature for tracking those precious family memories. For more great family insights, check out these posts:

Beck’s Bounty shares an inspiring story of how a big brother can be just the right tutor for a struggling reader

Yarns of the Heart takes us with her as she watches her firstborn fly out of the nest into his first college days

DebtFreeDestiny gives us hints on some ways to celebrate Valentines with our families that won’t break the bank

Network From Home spills the beans on everything you wanted to know about working from home

The Informed Parent gives other homeschooling parents the heads up about truancy laws

Corn and Oil weighs the cost and benefits of living a simplified life


bubblesI’ve already decided who should get the next Nobel peace prize.  It  is that wonderful person who created the Bubble Wrap application for the iPhone.  If you don’t trust my assessment, then hand over your iPhone to any screaming child in any bus, train, or pediatrician’s waiting room, and you will understand.  Complete peace and harmony reigns supreme.  But if that didn’t fill your parenting hint quota for today, why not check out these posts?:

Inspirations For Mothers teaches us the power of stillness explains how to build confidence in your homeschooler

The StoneAge Techie shares her experiences occupying boys with very different energy levels

No Fighting, No Biting reviews a parenting book designed to help parents protect their kids’ childhood in a world where kids are growing up too quickly

ObiMomKenobi has to let her son flouder and flop and make mistakes – – a difficult thing for a mom even with the most enlightened of outlooks


Wanna have fun – – I mean Phun?  Then head over to this incredible intermixture of physics and art that will have you and your children entertained and educated for hours on end.  Or check out these great posts for more creative and imaginative ideas:

Lionden Landing enjoys the Jewish celebration of Tu Bishvat by making bagel birdfeeders together

Home4Skool passes along an innovative idea for displaying a child’s artwork

Reese’s View of the World showcases an irresistible display of a child’s drawings of his family

Welcome To My Brain looks at the amazing things that can happen with Webkinz, some recycled materials, and a lotta imagination

Barbara Frank Online teaches how to use quilting as a homeschool tool


MAA In a strange irony, we are now able to experience history in ways we never have before.  Online multimedia tools can now bring history to our doorstep, and give us the feeling of truly “being there.”  I have personally always loved history when it had a face on it.  That approach is the core behind a terrific website, Meet Amazing Americans,  by the Library of Congress that puts the “story” back in hi-story!  For other great ideas on homeschooling history, look through these posts:

Once Upon A Family uses a hands-on approach to studying about Mycenaean warriors.

The Expanding Life wants to know how much do we really know about women’s history?

Home Education Magazine opens up the world of archaeology with some awesome archaeology resources

The Reluctant Homeschooler compares a textbook-style teaching of American History with a literature approach.

Why Homeschool shares a fun approach to learning history via old Christmas catalogs

Homespun Juggling looks at our American presidents from inside of a homespun comic strip.

My Domestic Church celebrates the President’s Day holiday with some hands-on learning


I find that writing is one of the most difficult subjects to homeschool.  Even if you have experience as a writer, it can still be difficult to convey the principles and concepts of good writing to your children.  Thankfully, I have a terrific resource to turn to for help.  Time4Writing offers online courses for students of all ages, from elementary school through high school, and for all different styles and genres of composition.  It is a one-stop shop for writing instruction.  For even more great writing ideas, check out these posts:

Rachel Starr Thompson explains how delaying the action when writing can slow down the pace.

Home School Dad opens up his blog to a guest poster who not only has advice for teaching reluctant writers, but also happens to be his wife!

The Thinking Mother gets her curiosity piqued when three of her homeschooling friends all start using the same writing program.

In Our Write Minds looks at the benefits of letting kids enter writing contests

SmallWorld continues her WordSmithery series with an entry on similes


For me, choosing my favorite techie reading tool is like choosing my favorite chocolate in the Russell Stover’s sampler.  It does not compute!  But one resource that I often recommend to homeschoolers is the Book Adventure reading incentive program.  Kids come to the site to find books based on their interests, and they can also take quizzes on the books they have completed.  Then, parents can let them choose prizes from the site, or customize it with their own rewards such as a free video rental or a breakfast out with mom or dad.  The blog submissions below have even more great info on books and reading:

Wired For Noise shares a four-step plan for teaching a four year old how to read

Dewey’s Treehouse dedicates a photo post to some of their favorite out-of-print books


Learning a foreign language is easier and more portable than ever, thanks to mobile applications such as Buddy the Bus which lets kids read and interact with a story in five different languages. You can even record your own voice to customize the game further.  For other ways to help your homeschooler build their multilingual skills, peruse the posts below:

Adventures in Daily Living reviews another tool for the iPhone or iPod touch that can help students brush up on their Latin

Spanish Country Travel invites readers to experience the Spanish language and way of life with posts about how to pronounce Spanish letters and holidays and celebrations in the Spanish culture


I’m convinced that the current economic crisis was created by people who never really learned their math facts.  With all the great math tools and programs available today, no one should ever be able to use that as an excuse.  ALEKS math curriculum is a fully intuitive and interactive program that not only can tell what your child has and hasn’t mastered, but also the most effective way to help him or her get a handle on new material based on their learning style.  You can discover even more great math ideas in the posts below:

Kim’s Play Place shares her insights after switching her homeschool math curriculum

Guilt Free Homeschooling makes math fun with 10 math exercises you can do with a bingo game


Unless you are a homeschooler yourself, it is difficult to understand the ins and outs, ups and downs of the daily life of a home educator.   We have to think about things like socialization, record-keeping, doubting family members, and whether or not that errand at the cleaners counts as an educational experience. Sometimes we could use a helping hand, or a listening ear. Time4Learning online homeschool curriculum takes the worry and work out of homeschool and leaves room for enjoyment of learning.  We’ve been using this program for three years now, and I don’t regret a single solitary lesson-plan-free day of it!  If you’d like to see what helpful advice other homeschooling bloggers have to give, check out these posts:

Hilltop Homeschool explains how integrating technology into her grandson’s homeschool helps keep his right-brained learning style engaged

Huber Hof Academy looks closely at the ins and outs of FSA testing in BC

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers takes on the “socialization” issue by examining the social impact of educational choices

Our Curious Home has a wishlist of questions she wishes non-homeschoolers would ask her about homeschooling

Andrea at the Atlanta Homeschooling Examiner bemoans the paperwork of a homeschooling mom

Two Kid Schoolhouse has fun with homeschooling questions such as: “You don’t get snow days, do you?”

Kerugma lays out the 4 R’s of curriculum planning

Life Without School ponders the idea of what is “lazy” and what is “learning”

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Online Curriculum Choices

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I’m a member of several homeschool Yahoo groups, and someone posted a question today that really surprised me.  Her daughter was obsessed with the computer, and she was wondering whether there were any homeschool curricula out there that were computer based.  After reading the question, I did one of those classic Scooby-Doo double takes.   Say raht??

I tend to forget that not everyone is already aware of the great online options homeschoolers have for learning.  So I’m dedicating today’s Friday’s HHH post to those out there who just might be looking for some more info on online homeschool curriculum.

One of the curricula that I have consistently been bowled over by is Time4Learning.  This is an online multimedia program for grades Pre-K through 8.  With T4L, the lesson planning is all taken care of, and the record-keeping is done for you, so you can concentrate on simply supporting your child’s love of learning.  I’ll never forget the first day we started using the curriculum and I heard my son guffawing from the bedroom.  His language arts lesson actually had him in stitches!  This is my son’s third year with the program, and I am still every bit as impressed.  The American History course he is taking this year is the most comprehensive and interactive romp through history I have ever encountered!  Check out my Time4Learning page for more about the experiences we have had with this outstanding (and affordable) curriculum.

Our oldest son also has had really positive experiences with online homeschooling.  He is currently enrolled in a private online school called Wilostar 3D Academy.  The idea behind this accredited program is that you attend your classes via an avatar who interacts for you.  The highlight of the curriculum is the collaborative aspect of it.  Classmates work together to create 3D projects based on the subjects they are studying.  Conferences are held daily to bring the students together to discuss what they are learning, as well.  This is the perfect school option for my homeschooled social butterfly who thinks this is definitely the next best thing to hanging out in the halls with his “buds.”

These are the two online programs that I have the most personal experience with, but there are plenty of other choices for online learning as well.  Check out some of the below options for technology-based home education: