Tag Archives: Guest Blogger

Guest Blog — Wordly Expression: One Home Schooled Child’s Triumph

Our friend Lindsey is BACK .  You will remember her, she has blogged for me before.  Lindsay is in her second year of homeschooling, and I am proud to say I was a big encouragement in getting her to ‘take the leap’. (see bottom of post for her other guest posts)


Wow, my SECOND year of homeschooling. It’s weird, I look back at when I think I wasn’t going to be able to do this, then I started doing it, realized its wasn’t as HARD as I thought it would be (it is a LOT of work- but not ‘hard’ work), and slowly but surely I gained the needed confidence and I homeschooled my kids. Here I am beginning my second year, I have to admit, I had some hesitation. Not like I did when I first started though! Oh no! When I first started I was terrified, this hesitation came from small doubts, such as, maybe he is ready to join the rest of the kids in school, maybe I wouldn’t have to fight them as hard as I did before, and he really isn’t getting as much socialization. Then? It happened. I looked at the results and couldn’t help but stare memorized. Had he REALLY come that far? When did that happen? You mean he’s spelling THAT much better? He never had that progress while he was in public school………

So, I jumped back on the band wagon, and we hit 5th grade running, a little more experience, a little more confidence, and a whole lot more comfort (for both of us- BUT a HUGE difference for him). Gone are the days of “I must answer right”, and here are the days of, “If I don’t understand it Mom can go over it again, no biggie.” Gone are the days of sweating bullets over grades, here are the days of grades tell us what we don’t really understand so we can spend more time on it. Yep- I’m happy to report? I have successfully deprogrammed my child from the public school mentality!

All this sounds great right? And it is, but what I REALLY want to tell you – is simply amazing. See, before my son left public school, I was looking at getting him tested for Dysgraphia, I was pretty sure he had Asperger’s, I knew something was going on but I wanted to try every natural route before implementing medication. He was behind in reading and writing, but writing was IMPOSSIBLE. I can still remember LITERALLY tugging at my hair when he would have a writing assignment in school. It would make me SO MAD, he spent 8 hours a day there, then he’d come home, not know how to write the assignment, homework would take 2 hours out of my life and leave me exhausted, drained, stressed out, and questioning what the hell he was learning in school if I had to spend TWO HOURS coaching him.

What exactly were they doing for him at school? Being a writer myself I found this fact exasperating. “Writing is talking and you have no issue with that!” I would tell him, (my son has an extremely skilled vocabulary, he is very personable, he often lacks the ability to be able to tell when he should STOP talking)- so? I figured that writing should be a breeze for him… shouldn’t it? Put your words/thoughts on paper, the end. During 4th grade, (my first year homeschooling), I was petrified of EVERY writing assignment. I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry. We’ll focus more on spelling and reading since he was so far behind in those areas, I mean I figured it must be hard to write, if you can’t spell or read and he was testing out at a 2nd grade level in those areas. We skipped a LOT of writing assignments, saving them for later. Over the summer we continued light schooling, and I gave him odd responsibilities such as, “Write the grocery list” , or “Make your chore list”, I also would ask him to help me find road signs on the road. I realized he was getting MUCH better at spelling and reading. Then, as though a light bulb literally came on and brought me out of the dark. Why didn’t I show him, how to do prewriting on a high school level? (Or at least what was high school for me). He is REALLY Mathematical, maybe if I showed him how to take a writing web (which he already knew) and plug those thoughts into an outline using letters and numbers? Maybe he could add them all together and write a paper.

The next subject we tackled in writing happened to be about Benjamin Franklin. The assignment was to write a paragraph summarizing Benjamin Franklin’s life. I decided, to show him how to take what he knew, web it, put it in an outline, and the told him to add it together. I was SHOCKED at what happened next. He produced a 5 paragraph essay paper on what he knew about Benjamin Franklin, it included opinions such as “I think Ben Franklin liked Science just like me”, and so much more. I just kept encouraging it. We are on our 3rd week of school right now, and that happened at the end of our first week of school. My son is now writing for fun, now he is writing at the end of every day, we had some tough subjects the other day, our school day went very long, and STILL, he decided to write a “chapter” to his current Autobiography. (Each chapter truly equals a paragraph but it’s adorable- seriously).

With that, I want to share with you, the story, written by a boy who at this time last year could hardly construct a sentence after 4 years in the public education system, who had a 2nd grade reading and spelling level, who hated writing as though it was the worst thing he would ever have to do. Here is,

“My Brothers and I”,

by A.S.

Chapter I:

Me Hi my name is A and I am 10 years old and I’m going to talk about my brothers and I. I am homeschooled and I love it. It is much better for me and I learn more than I did in school. I love my brothers so much that I don’t know what I would do without them. Sometimes, they do annoy me, and it makes me mad. So there is a little bit about me.

Chapter II:

My Family I have five members of my family including me and two dogs*. I have two brothers; P & L and I love them so much. My brother P is 6 years old and he has Autism that means he can’t think like I do. Then there’s my brother L who is 3 years old and he is very attached to me. My mom and my Dad are the best parents ever. My mom is 31 years old and she has ADD and I love her so much. Then my Dad is 30 and he has Asperger’s just like me. I have two dogs, one is named Cali and she is only 1 year old and is the most annoying. Then there is Sunny, and she is 1 too and she is my dog. I love my family so much.

Chapter III:

My Brother with Autism My brother P has Autism. It is hard for him to do certain thing. He can’t process things like I do. He has meld downs that means he screams very loud. It is hard for me to have a brother with Autism but I love him so much.

…….To be continued….. Never in my wildest imagination, would I have thought, that one year of homeschooling my son? Would change his approach to writing THIS much. Way to go buddy- I’m so proud of you!

Other guest posts:



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Getting to Know Your Child(ren) Again, What Are Your Kids’ Educational Needs & How Do You Get Started Home-schooling the Child Who’s Been in School Already?

Our friend Rebecca Hunter is guest posting for us again.  I think the JUMP to “home education” is worth talking about and discussing from every direction possible.  It is a jump that hold back many families that would be more successful educating at home. 

So, originally you decided to send your child or children to a public
or private school, but now you are considering changing your mind
because something isn’t going well for your child(ren) for whatever
reason.  Or perhaps you’ve had a spiritual change of heart.

For whatever reason, you are considering Home Education for your kids,
like I did.  It was a long and slow realization process for me and my
husband, it had been on my heart for a while… but I tried not to heed
“the call” for quite a while, largely due to a very difficult pregnancy
that ended in a c-section (which healed very slowly.)  My husband also
ignored “the call” for a long while, mostly due to his preconceived
notions and prejudice of home schooling based on the fact that his
step-mother had home-schooled his half-brothers (a lot of family issues
were involved there, as my dear husband was in college when his parents
divorced and the step-mother was seen as an interloper.)  AND we had
fallen hook, line and sinker for the socialization myth that public
educators promote, especially to special needs parents.  It took some
very horrific things being done to our oldest son, who has autism, by
the school staff and his peers before the blinders fell off and the
socialization myth was BUSTED. (MythBusters is our son’s favorite
educational television show and the analogy is apt.)

*NOT ALL SOCIALIZATION IS GOOD! And which definition of socialization are we using, when we discuss this topic?  Are we discussing “social opportunity” such as a group of kids all the same age playing at recess? Or are we discussing the real definition of socialization?  The answer is in the question here.  Look very closely at the root word of  socialization, it is “social“… as in socialist, socialism.  What public schools want parents to believe (social opportunity) and what teachers,  school administrations and the Depts. of Education from top to bottom are really promoting (socialist indoctrination of minors) two very different things.  Many good, well meaning teachers and administrators have bought into the very same myth that they are being required by their districts, teachers’ unions and boards of education to promote to parents, without ever realizing it.  There are good teachers and administrations out there, but sadly we are losing them at an alarming rate to retirement, career changes and the same socialist brainwashing our children are being subjected to.  What do YOU want your kids learning about with regard to how our Nation should be structured and led?

The social opportunity aspect is the one thing that often prevent parents from deciding to home educate their children, even when the desire to do so is present or the child is having educational issues that make home-schooling a much better fit than public schooling.  This need not be.  Home educated children can join in community sports
leagues, 4-H Clubs, scouting, religious youth groups, Boys & Girls clubs, etc. just the same as their publicly and privately schooled peers.  In fact, home-schooled children usually interact with kids and adults of all ages, rather than an artificially divided peer group of children all the same age, thus forming much more healthy and realistic
social skills than their publicly schooled peers.

Now that we’ve BUSTED that huge myth of “socialization” that hangs over the head of most every home educating parent in the beginning of their journey, let’s move on, shall we?

—–to see my take on Socialization read this — 

So, you’ve decided to bring your child or children back home to school them… now what?  When should you make that transition?  How do you proceed?  How do you know where your kid is at educationally?

Let’s look at the first question.  Most parents will make the obvious and easiest choice in removing their child from the school setting and bring them home: Summer break.  Some parents will choose the next option, winter or spring breaks from school to bring the kids home. Usually because it is easiest to make the transition during a time when
the kids are on a break from school anyway, especially if you are removing a child who’s been bullied by peers or staff… these kids usually need some time to decompress and become themselves again after a very stressful public school experience.  If you can give them a week or two or longer if they need it, that can be tremendously helpful.

However, your situation may not end up being one that can wait until a typically scheduled break in the normal school year.  Perhaps, your situation, like mine with my oldest, will require decisive action right in the middle of a school term. The beauty of home education is that YOU plan your schedule that works for your individual family.  If you want to school year round YOU CAN!  If you want to take 3 months off in the
fall rather than in the summer, or take 2 weeks off every season for vacations, YOU CAN!

Whatever choice you make in this, find out the laws in your state and follow them.  File any necessary paperwork with your district and or state as per your state law.  I also highly recommend you join HSLDA (the Home School Legal Defense Association, go tohttp://www.hslda.org  for more details.)  If a social worker or truancy officer ever shows up at your door investigating truancy or “educational neglect” complaints,
HSLDA will have your back and their help is well worth the cost of your membership fees.

We ended up removing our oldest son from public school in March, during the 3rd school term.  The first few weeks we mainly spent establishing a daily schedule that worked for us and evaluating where he was at in his core subjects (reading, math, phonics/spelling, grammar, science, history/geography), so I could thus determine what the educational needs were and where to begin teaching.  This is especially true with students who have special educational needs. (Just an FYI: In most states you can
home school special needs kids and still keep them enrolled in special  education/therapy sessions at a public school, if you want to… however there may be strings attached in regards to curriculum you can use to home school, where your child’s social security disabilities benefits are sent if you are choosing to receive this assistance… some schools may require you to participate in SSI Disability… or other issues can arise… be cautious and do your homework as a parent before deciding to
access special needs services via your local public school.)  You CAN also contract for special needs services yourself, especially if you have medical insurance.  Speech and Occupational therapy and other types of therapy can often be accessed from a private provider via medical insurance.  If your child has need of this kind of therapy, check into it and see what is covered by your insurance and work with your provider
to make that work for you.  Even if the provider is some distance away, you may be able to work with them to develop monthly or quarterly lesson plans for Speech therapy for example, that you can administer at home and keep track of progress to review at your next appointment.

If you aren’t sure where your child is educationally, you can find and administer a grade leveled placement test or standardized test (particularly good at the end of the public school year) to help determine this for you.

Another method is to get some library books or leveled readers that are at your child’s grade level and have the child read aloud to you (I recommend something they have never seen or read before to eliminate the possibility they have either visually or audio memorized it at school)…if your child breezes through it, try the next grade up, if the child struggles to read it, try the grade below… and so on until you can pinpoint what they can and can’t read.  Then pull out some spelling/phonics words from those books and see if they can spell them or not.  Quiz them orally in history of various time periods both in world history and American history to figure out what they know a lot
about and their areas needing improvement.  Same goes for science knowledge, oral quizzes are great.  Give them a journal and ask them to write in it 5-15 minutes a day for 2 weeks (time should be dependent on age… 5 minutes is a long time for a 5 year old… but not long at all for a 13 year old.)  This can give you not only insight into your child’s
interests or concerns, but will also help you in evaluating their writing and grammar skills to identify areas needing more work.  These should give you a place to work from in selecting your curriculum materials (try to find as many 2nd hand materials/textbooks as you can to minimize the cost if you do happen to make a mistake in your selections that doesn’t work out.)  Realize that making a mistake in
curriculum selection is not the end of the world… if it doesn’t work, resell it or give it away to somebody who can make better use of it and move on, or save it for the next child if you have younger ones when they get to that level/subject to see if it works for that one.  Your kids are all different and will have different needs, strengths and
areas needing extra work…that’s probably WHY public or private school wasn’t working out in the first place.

Math is another subject altogether.  Start by writing out pages of numbers, math facts, etc depending on your child’s age.  Think back on what YOU were learning in school at that age and see if they know those things or not… if not work backward from there the various math skills and determine their placement.  If they breeze though you might have a child gifted in math on your hands, explore their knowledge of the next
grade level set of skills.  Then find a good math textbook at their level and get to work. DON”T LET THEM USE A CALCULATOR FOR THIS! (Unless of course you have a 6th grade or older student who’s doing percentages or “higher math” like graphing equations for algebra.)

Elementary students need to get their math facts down-pat and learn to do multiple digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division before being allowed to routinely use calculators… regardless of the fact you can buy one for $2 and everybody has one on their cell phone nowadays.  Not only do they need to learn what the answer is… they need to learn the mathematical process of how to find the answer. (*After all, what if that weird thing called the electro-magnetic pulse that military experts have warned us our enemies could possibly use, really did happen?  IF it did, calculators, computers and cell phones won’t work anymore… learn the process of HOW to find a mathematical answer in their head or on paper and they will be able to figure it out even if all they have is a stick and some dirt to work out the problem.)

Don’t just use the papers that came home from school as a point to determine your child’s curriculum needs.  This can be unreliable and cause costly mistakes (voice of experience in this).  There are teachers who will give the students all the answers orally in class to make themselves look better and teachers who would give 2nd graders a
calculator to work out their math problems rather than actually teaching
the concept (after all EVERY HOME PROBABLY HAS A CALCULATOR THESE DAYS… and yes, teachers will justify it that way.  Many of the teachers are quite bad at math in the elementary grades themselves.)

If you have a struggling reader, buy a strong phonics program. Personally, I highly recommend Alpha-Phonics by Samuel L. Blemenfeld, because it excellent for both the beginning reader and for the student or adult that needs intensive remediation to learn to read better.  It is working wonderfully with both of my sons because it works on the
premise of “adding” one sound to the next as well as teaching sounds and letter blends/spelling rules.  They have learned already the concept of addition from math and with Alpha-Phonics we can carry that understanding over to a subject they both struggle in.  The oldest came out of public school nearly 3 years behind in reading and the younger son is 6 to 8 months behind in reading as well.  With an inexpensive
notebook/composition book, an inexpensive “slate” (small chalk or whiteboard & chalk or dry erase markers) you can make Alpha-Phonics work… or you can use a larger “board” if you want to.  I decided to spend the $25 or so at Kmart to buy a 20” x 34” whiteboard (I had an old chalkboard approx. the same size, but my boys struggled to see it well because both have some vision issues and the black background was
difficult for them to see writing on cloudy days no matter the color of chalk I used… this is not a necessary item for everybody, it was a personal choice we felt would help us.)  We have several slate sized chalk and whiteboards too that I found in the dollar bins at various stores.  The first lesson in Mr. Blumenfeld’s book reads: a m  am, a n
an, a s  as, a t  at, & a x  ax.  When I began teaching this to my boys I wrote it on the board and it looks just slightly confusing to me from the kids’ perspective (even though the concept of addition is there, it wasn’t as clear as I could make it.)  So I modified the way I taught it a little bit, by showing each word as a mathematical equation.

#1 a + m = am  #2 a + n = an  #3 a + s = as  #4 a + t = at  #5 a + x =

And so on through the lessons that introduce new words.  There is also
sentence writing practice included so there is some beginning grammar
lessons in there too for your K & 1st graders who are just starting, or
older kids who don’t know how to write out sentences at all.  (Which can
be a real problem with the Pre-K though 12 worksheet based curriculum
model most schools are using these days.)

How you teach depends largely on the number of children you have, their
personal educational levels in each subject, the children’s learning
styles and your preferences as “the teacher”.  Many home schooling
parents often recommend grouping or combining your kids into “classes”
for any subject where their educational levels will make this possible…
sometimes just because it saves YOU time and eliminates having to repeat
yourself so much. Science, History, Geography, PE and Music are all
great subjects to try this with if you have more than one child.  Think
outside the box.  Is there really any “real reason” your Kindergartner
can’t learn American History from the Pioneer Era at the same time as
your 4th grader? NO, of course not.  The kindergartner might not “get
everything out of it” that the 4th grader did, but that is WHY you teach
it again in jr. high or high school.  Is there any reason that they
can’t learn about dinosaurs, electricity or weather at the same time?
NO.  You will get to all of the important topic areas in time, so
combine your kids into subjects where you can and don’t stress yourself
out about it… it will help prevent your laundry room from overflowing
with dirty clothes in the long run.

Reading, spelling/phonics, grammar/English, and math are all subjects
that may have to be taught separately depending on the age and academic
level your children are at. If your children are close in age or
academic level you may be able to combine them for these subjects as
well, as I am doing with some of them. I have 2 boys who are very close
together academically in math and reading.  My younger son who has just completed first grade in the public schools is a little behind and is
reading at the same level as his older brother who came out of public
school a few months ago (severely behind in reading), so they are able to do some of their
reading work together, but not all.  I still make them do their oral
reading work individually with me, so I can evaluate their progress
individually.  The older one is a grade level and a half behind is math
and the younger one is almost ½ a year AHEAD in math because that is his
strong area.  The older one I also found out was unable to do simple
math addition and subtraction facts to 9+9= 18 and 18-9= 9 without a
calculator due to his teacher’s practices in the classroom and poor
curriculum at his public school.  So, academically both boys are
approximately at the same place in 2nd grade math.  In spelling ability
they are also in a similar place, with the younger one actually being a
little advanced of his older brother.  English/grammar, they are in the
same grade level but at different places in the same book due to the
older one having better writing skills already.

If you’ve never read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books for
yourself, go back and read “These Happy Golden Years” in which Laura
describes her experiences as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and pay
particular attention to how she decided to evaluate and group her
students into classes for their lessons.  Home schooling is essentially
like teaching your own children in a one-room schoolhouse (at your
house).  You can pick and choose what curriculum you use, your own
teaching style and where you need to begin based on your child(rens)
individual needs… the Ultimate I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan)…
for each individual student!  And those classes you do decide to group
and teach several or all of them at the same time… they learn to work
together (excellent skills for the workplace), become closer as siblings
through teamwork.

There are many good books out there on both teaching styles and
learning styles and curriculum types… do some research and find that out
about yourself and your kids, to come up with what will work for your
individual family.  Feel free to pick and choose… even take a little of
this and a little of that from different styles and make it all your

Once you get going after finding out where your kids are at
educationally, just keep on keeping-on.  It’s necessarily about whether
or not you finished such & such textbook series grade 5 in every subject
by the end of the school year (public school’s school year)… it’s about
did my kid get this concept?  Okay, now we are ready to move on to the
next concept.  If, not how can we teach this slightly differently until
the child does “get it”.  You’ll finish the books by-and-by WHEN your
child gets all the concepts in them.  Remember that almost all school
books are geared toward “summer knowledge loss”/ getting the kids who
didn’t get it last year up to speed” and review work usually lasts until
sometime after Thanksgiving!  By teaching the concepts thoroughly the
first time and eliminating the bulk of the review, you’ll eventually end
up ahead of schedule several years down the road of this journey. With
my oldest son’s educational delays, my husband and I decided to have a
year round school year with 4 quarters that are 13 weeks long.  We will
continue working though the school books we chose, before beginning the
next one even if we finish it in Nov.

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i did a guest post …

I did a guest post about home schooling …. http://www.peekyloulane.org/1/post/2013/01/guest-post-from-a-homeschooling-pro-in-my-opinion-if-youre-thinking-about-it-read-this.html check it out (and the rest of her blog too)

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Another guest blog

Lindsay is back …. this time touching on the media coverage of the possible ASD dignoas of the shooter from the  Sandy Hook Elementary School horror.


This morning I was on a thread when a woman asked a question. She pretty much asked why – “our community” (the Autism Community) was getting so upset about the “Lanza-Asperger’s” Comments- She also pointed out that the Media didn’t outright BLAME “Asperger’s” as a cause of the shooting. – I like answering respectful questions- but it occurred to me? That many friends on my page may have the same question- so let me answer it for you- here is what I said: …

For me? The hurt comes from years of advocating and trying to educate people as to what my son having Autism means, fighting tooth and nail for people, peers and even teachers to accept him. I have had so many instances where people were incredibly rude to me because they thought I merely had a “brat” and CLEARLY I sucked as a parent. I have spent many hours crying about how people treat me and my children since I had my child with Autism. I have lost friends, fought schools, and had to even educate some doctors – because SOME of THEM don’t even know what Autism means. For many of us- the fight is constant- many of us don’t always talk about it- but it’s there. It takes time to realize that while we know- you can’t KNOW what it is like to have a child with Autism if you don’t- or you can’t know what it’s like to have Autism unless you do- we tire ourselves fighting for one thing- not understanding nearly as much as acceptance. It has come a LONG LONG way since my son was first diagnosed nearly 4 years ago- and – because of how people read into this? It’s undoing much of our hard work.You are SO right that they didn’t “BLAME” Autism- but unfortunately not everyone pays attention to that fact- Not everyone sees it as you do- and let me just say thank you – for that- but others who WANT something to blame- have grasped on to the fact “Aspberger’s” was mentioned- and they THEMSELVES have now tied that to violence. Our children are already so displaced in all reality- they want acceptance – as parents we want that for them too- we want acceptance for us as Parents – and the sad truth is- that usually? We have to FIGHT for that.

Also the media has chosen what they say about Autism ALWAYS- it’s not always the most *educated* news out there. The truth is? Will people remember “Oh Light it up blue” as that is the extent of media coverage we get from time to time – or will they remember “1:88 is diagnosed with Autism” – No- now- the majority of those will remember “Oh Autism- Adam Lanza had that” – And I feel this put a target on me and my family in essence- should I still deck my house out in blue lights this year in April? Or do I have to fear ignorant people who will then see- and know- in THEIR mind- I may be “raising a killer” in my house- I assure you- it is a cause for concern on more levels than I can even mention- and I hope – that all my friends have read enough about what I have said over the last four years to at least know- they do NOT need to FEAR my children- they do NOT need to FEAR AUTISM.

♥ ♥

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Special Needs, Public School vs. Homeschool — a guest post

You may remember Lindsey  she has posted for me before. TWICE!  Once on being the typical sib of a special needs child, and once on honesty.

So for a good long while I had a friend who listened to my frustrations with public school, and often suggested I homeschool. I told her repeatedly, “I could never do that.”

She told me I was wrong.

She was right.

Last year my 3rd grade son (who qualifies for a diagnosis of Asperger’s), was struggling in school. Truth be told, it had been going on since 1st grade but I didn’t think it was the SCHOOL, it was HIM – you know- not applying himself. I was dead set in my ways of thinking, after all, public school provided socialization, public school KNEW what my son needed to learn, public school had trained professionals, public school HAD to be better, more patient and well equipped to teach my son what he NEEDED to learn.

Towards the end of the year my son was having anxiety attacks over tests, and then, one day- the smallest thing just made me realize that it didn’t matter if I THOUGHT I could homeschool him… it was what HE NEEDED.

MN 2012 001

Now I’m not saying that homeschool is the right choice for all parents, it’s a personal choice. As parents we all know what is best for our children. When I realized my 3rd grader still couldn’t read a regular clock- I was perplexed, he had learned that in 1st grade! Why didn’t he know how? Then… it dawned on me. They were merely teaching him to test and he wasn’t able to retain the information due to the high pressure he was feeling just to pass that test, he took 3 tests a week on average, he had 45 minutes of homework a night and he simply WAS NOT LEARNING. “No Child Left Behind” was leaving my child in the dust.

I sucked up my fear, and thought to myself: “This is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.”

No, it really isn’t.

I spent the better half of the summer looking at what I could use as an aid to help me. I didn’t have a clue of what to teach him. I found so many resources between the internet, Facebook and friends of mine who homeschool I was amazed. On August 24th we began OUR school year.

My Favorite Programs which are relatively inexpensive would be:

 Time 4 Learning

Time4Learning is an awesome program that offers a BASE curriculum for $19.99/month. It follows your STATE requirements and tells you what your child needs to learn to be at the same state standard as all children who attend public school. You can manipulate the age PER SUBJECT, so if your child is
like mine and excels in Math and Science but struggles in Reading and Language, you can manipulate the level of each subject so that it fits your child best. My son is in 4th grade this year and is getting close to entering 5th grade science. However we have gone down to 3rd grade for Reading and Language Arts. Overall this is my favorite program- not all things are online- you can print worksheets and it offers recommended reading for various subjects based on that particular lesson. All records are saved in a professional manner and can be printed so if/when you decide to send your child to public school, the records will be accurate and acceptable among all school districts.

Spelling City

Spelling City is my second favorite! You make your own spelling lists which then can be used in online game play OR generated worksheets. You can use these lists for vocabulary, spelling, sentence structure or handwriting. When we do a science chapter- I take all the vocabulary words and plug them in to spelling city, then I can assign tasks using those words for my son to do. It’s a great follow up. In addition- they offer grade lists for words that your child should know how to spell based on their grade. You can create tests, or activities from crosswords to multiple choice. They offer a free portion of the website – if you don’t want to go “premium” but for only $29.99/YEAR you can save all records, and it is good for up to 5 students!

I should also mention- this program saves all your records as well, and lists- each list can be grouped (if premium membership) into categories. Highly effective and fun learning. My son’s reading and spelling has improved IMMENSELY using this resource.

Ticket to Read

Ticket to read is a great “extra” if your child is struggling in reading.  It engages the child in a fun way. They are able to build a clubhouse with “award tickets’ which can only be acquired by reading and answering questions. It’s a limited program with prices varying from $10-$20. You purchase them in the form of Semesters and Summer. We use this program for “fun time” and it is great for reading comprehension. This program only works for up to 5th grade.

Aside from learning all the “how to’s” of homeschooling, I had another ‘obstacle’ of sorts. I was worried that no public school would mean no socialization and my son who is a social butterfly would become bored and resistant. The opposite happened.

Yes he still misses his FRIENDS – but the friends he had which since we moved he would make new friends anyhow. Overall, I’d say he doesn’t care because now learning is FUN and he is retaining much more information. I never realized how detrimental the public school atmosphere had been for him. The teachers (and his test scores) indicated he was right on track. Each year they would tell me at the beginning of the year he was behind in reading- I would enroll him in a SCHOOL BASED tutoring program- and by the end of the year he would be up to par- after 2 years of tutoring and him entering 3rd grade, and the teacher telling me – once again – he was falling behind for his age- I became suspicious. Once we started homeschool, I tested him myself to find out that my 4th grade student, was falling into a 2nd grade reading level. I had been doing everything at home they were telling me, I had him read into a recorder, I had him read to me, I had him do 2x the reading they required at school, yet nothing was getting better. Well, if you can’t SPELL it’s hard to read- and that’s what I learned.

The methods the school was using to teach spelling words was one that was just NOT working for my son. I switched the teaching method- and my son started flourishing.

At public school he was often picked on and told he was “weird”, he struggled with tests and teachers, he was getting to a point where I was fearing depression, and in such a young child – this made me worried.

I’m not saying ALL children need/ or should be homeschooled but what I will tell you is do not FEAR it as I did. Do not be afraid your child won’t socialize because without a ton of homework “after school” – there is more time and energy for sports and other extracurricular activities.

Never think you aren’t Smart enough to teach your child because odds are? Even if in some subjects are harder for you? You will learn with them. When I am working as my son’s guide through Science and Social studies, I find I am learning many things I have forgotten; only now as an adult I am able to retain so much more.

Don’t look at it as a HUGE task that just can’t be done, it’s fairly easy with all the information on the web, I assure you- it can be done. And I can guarantee you its much EASIER than you would think.

Now my son is excited for school and learning. We moved and it was rocky for a while, he was out of school for almost a month (besides little activities) – He was ASKING EVERY DAY – “When does my homeschooling start again?” He couldn’t wait to be back into it. Overall he is a happier child, he is learning far more- and as fast as children grow? How can you not at least be TEMPTED to spend every ounce of extra time with them? Structure and routine is key- everything in life is easier with that- in the end one thing I stand by- “Mama Knows Best” (or should I say parents do). So, if your child is struggling and you feel trapped and you are battling schools, do yourself a favor – in the summer – give it a try- you may be surprised at the results. I know I was!

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my guest post on The Modern Pioneer Family — New Frontiers In a Modern Age

I was asked to do a guest post on home schooling, a topic near and dear to my heart.  Here is part one:


pop on over and check out the entire bog — it is shaping up to be a lot of fun, and a lot of function too.


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GF / Dye-Free Christmas Cookies (and baking)

I am excited today to have my dear buddy, and fellow SN parent, Rebecca Hunter posting for me about.  Rebecca has a lot more expeince than I do in the kitchen. I have been trying to get a blog of her for a time and glad to finally have it done. 

(sorry, not the most professional decorating job here in this picture, but probably reflects your average baker)

After several of Aimee’s recent Facebook posts and my own family’s food restriction issues, I bought a set of all-natural plant-based food colorings from IndiaTree via Amazon.com and told her I would view this product for her and all of you.

A little background:  I am a 35 year old special needs mom of 3 kiddos, living in rural South Dakota.  My oldest son, Charlie (8 years), has Autism and Leaky Gut Syndrome.  Because he is highly addicted (yes, like a drug addict) to Gluten  (wheat protein) and Casein (milk protein) we have him on a totally Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet.  He has been on this diet for approx. 14 months and has been “clean & sober” since last Feb.  We can always tell when he’s gotten hold of something he’s not supposed to eat, because he begins exhibiting severe withdrawal symptoms within 3 hours of ingestion of prohibited foods.  He also reacts with hyperactivity to FD&C red, orange and yellow dyes.  My 6 year old son, Henry, has as yet undiagnosed (ADD /ADHD???). Henry reacts even more severely to food coloring, the entire spectrum including Carmel color results in not only severe hyperactivity, but also oppositional- defiance behaviors.  My youngest, almost 4 month old Anna is allergic to milk protein.  Thus as a family we are experiencing some fairly drastic food limitations.  This year is the first year I’ve felt brave enough to do much in the way of holiday baking, which for me seems strange as I am normally very accomplished in this area.  I first began decorating cakes/cookies at the age of 5 years when my mom took a Wilton Cake Decorating class and let me practice with her.  I’ve been using these skills for over 30 years, self-taught in the more advanced parts of the Wilton Method of  Pastry Arts and have been occasionally doing professional cakes for others since about the age of 15.  In 2002, I even baked & decorated my own wedding cake.

Earlier this month, Charlie had to bring 8 dozen cookies to his 1st 4-H meeting for his 4-H club annual fundraiser.  The actual baking of the cookies wasn’t really an issue (we did some Peppermint-Chocolate Chip shortbread cookies… my problems doing these were that I ran out of propane for my cook stove and was baking them 6 at a time in a small electric toaster oven!  And some “eggnog” flavored sugar cookies… just GF/CF sugar cookie dough to which we added rum extract, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.) Our problems came with the boys getting totally bored with plain white cookie icing.  (I did relent somewhat and said we could use the last of the sprinkles/colored sugars… just to get rid of it… I hate throwing away perfectly good baking supplies… as long as they didn’t eat any of the cookies that were decorated with them.)

After that experience, I went online to Amazon and bought a set of the India-Tree all natural plant based  food coloring (set of 3 “red” , yellow and “blue”).  When they FINALLY arrived via the mail (really the shipping was fairly prompt… no issues there…. The kids (and me too) were just chomping at the bit to play with this stuff!) and the baby was down for her evening nap, I whipped up a large batch of  poured cookie icing (aka ColorFlow icing)… this is just a Royal Icing (water, powdered sugar, meringue powder, vanilla) to which I add a little light corn syrup.  (I’ve not tried doing this icing for  those w/ egg or corn sensitivity yet, but if that is a problem one could experiment with egg replacer powder and maple or agave syrup.)  This icing is very “white” in color, so it takes quite a lot of coloring to tint it, especially in vibrant colors compared with a butter/shortening based icing.

We proceeded to try out our IndiaTree food coloring.  Overall I got the approximate results I was expecting after my years of cake decorating and my work in the last few years with using natural dyes on my llama wool and in mineral cosmetics.

The India Tree “red” food coloring is made from beets (if you’ve cooked beet you’ll know they turn everything they touch a pretty reddish pink), so I got the “Barbie pink” I was sort of expecting using the red dye at 30 drops in 2 cups of icing (I chose not to “waste” these rather expensive food colorings attempting to make this darker… who says mittens have to be red-red anyway, right?)  The yellow dye is made with cumin and tends to separate in the bottle… you really have to shake it up to emulsify this one to get an even color.  It did not take much to get a pretty yellow (10-15 drops in about a cup to cup & half of icing for a nice lemon yellow and a little less for butter yellow).  On the far right was our attempts using the blue which is made from red cabbage (this is about 35-40 drops of the “blue” in 1 ½ cups of icing)  obviously it is not really a “blue”, but we got a really pretty pale lavender with it…lovely on it’s on but it wasn’t what Henry was really wanting for snowflake cookies which he saw in a magazine I had.  In the picture our “green” looks a little more olive than it did in person.  I was quite disappointed with using this set to make green (you may or may not have the same result… I had another way to get where I wanted to go, but I’ll talk about this more in depth in a bit, I didn‘t want to use up the entire set in one night trying to get this one to green, as we have some birthdays and Valentines around the corner).  The attempt at green that we had resulting in icing in the grayish-yellow color you’d typically find on the outside of a boiled egg yolk… not really where we wanted to go for Christmas Tree and Wreath cookies… but then again after using Wilton’s Food Coloring Gels for 30 years, my standards are extremely high… I’m quite used to being able to take a paint chip sample and being table to match it with icing to an almost exact match.

In reviewing this product for you all, I’d have to say that if you have little girls or want to use this for cookies, cakes and cupcakes or whatever in the warm color spectrum from yellow , orange, pink-red, pink or purples, you’ll be really happy with the 3 color natural food coloring set from India tree.  If you  have boys who aren’t into pink/purple or want cool colors of blue and green or need Christmas red-red, black or brown (or some more unusual colors like gold or silver) look for another way to get there in advance of your baking project.

And now for the alternate method of how I got where I wanted this project of baking GF/Dye Free Christmas Cookies for the Kindergarten and 2nd grade Christmas Parties today to go.

Being too frugal to throw out our “frosting mistakes”, we used another type of product we had on hand (which most people probably don’t have in their pantry unless they also make their own mineral makeup) to tweak our “mistakes” into something we could use.  In my home-business I make goat’s milk bath/body products and also make handmade mineral makeup… so guess what groovy product I have a lot of on-hand?  If you guessed  Lip-Safe (aka edible) colored mica/mineral pigment powders, you are correct.  In years past, when I lived in Independence, MO as a teen/college student, we had a Cake Decorating Shop that carried food-grade mica and mineral pigments for this use, so I put 2+2 together and got 4.  I buy all my mica powders for making makeup from TKB Trading in California ( www.tkbtrading.com) and am friendly with the owner of this business having met Kalia at the Falls Park Farmers Market  (Sioux Falls, SD) in 2010 when she was visiting for her nephew’s wedding.  Typically lip-safe micas are used in lipstick/lip balms as well as foundation, blush, eye-shadow etc.  TKB Trading carries hundreds of these colored pigments.  Just be careful in ordering that they are all lip-safe colors if you will use them for baking/food uses and it really doesn’t take very much mica to get a nice result.  It is usually sold by the ounce and there are quite a few teaspoons of product in an ounce of mica.  Please be careful to check the additional info link on each mica color before ordering (especially the greens & blues) to verify they are lip-safe and therefore edible, as many of the purples, blues and greens are NOT LIP-SAFE because some of them contain ultramarines and/or chromium greed dioxide (these are eye, face, nail safe in makeup/nail polish, but NOT FOR LIPS/EDIBLE).

The pink we got with the India Tree dye on the left in the green container was o lovely we left it alone.  Most of the other colors (except our “green” which that gray-yellow was pretty scary looking… let‘s just say it was off putting enough you didn‘t want to eat it, especially if you still have a baby in diapers!) were pretty enough if they’d been what we were working for, but we really wanted something a little more vibrant, so we tweaked them to get where we wanted to go.

Gold icing (2nd from left) =1 cup of our India Tree yellow icing + 1 tsp of TKB Trading’s “Gold Basics” mica powder
Christmas Tree Green icing =  (20 drops India Tree yellow + 30 drops India Tree blue = grey-yellow “green”) + 2 tsp TKB Trading’s  “Green Apple Pop” mica (lip-safe green)  + 1 tsp TKB Trading “Blueberry Pop” mica (lip-safe blue)  Please note: I think you could skip the India Tree color in this one, use just a bit more mica and get a similar result.

Light blue icing = 1 ½ cups of our lavender (30 drops India Tree blue) icing + 2 tsp TKB’s Blueberry Pop mica powder

Christmas Red icing = 2 oz our India Tree dark pink icing + 1 tsp TKB’s Colorona Bordeaux mica (*TKB has a number of gorgeous reds to choose from that will get you in the red color group with your icing… however if you are vegetarian, please check the additional info link to double check the red you are ordering is a vegan pigment.) 

Silver Icing= 2 cups icing (w 30 drops India Tree blue) + 2 to 3 tsp. TKB’s Polished Silver mica + 1 tsp TKB’s  Pearl Basics mica.

One of the nicest things I found in my experiment of using my mica powders to tint icing was that in  Royal Icing or Colorflow cookie icing we got a slight shimmering  finish because the mica itself reflects light, so you can get “metallic” and satiny finishes with this method of coloring.

If I still just had all boys (and with all my nieces living far away), I probably would not consider ordering the India Tree food coloring again, because I can get Valentine‘s pinks and reds other ways.  But now that we’ve recently added a daughter to our family, I will probably order it again for the girly girl stuff, as it was easy to use and less messy to work with (the micas are easier to spill unless you also get some little jars to store them in … and if somebody sneezes there is going to be a big mess to clean up… happened several times as I have a cold right now.)

**Please verify all mica’s you order don’t contain epoxy (some of the duo-chrome micas do have this and I don’t recommend using them in lipstick or food), don’t contain FD&C dyes (as a few of TKB’s micas do) and that none of the mica’s you order contain bismuth (main ingredient in Pepto Bismol, and many people have sensitivity to it on the skin.)


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