Category Archives: Homeschool

one fraction at a time.

A hundredth of a second. That teeny, tiny moment before she says the words that you know are coming, the words you see in her eyes. A hundredth of a second and a hundred years all at once.

I think I want to go to “real” school.

I think I want you to go to “real” school, too.

And so it was.

And ever-so-quickly we made the calls, signed the papers, provided the proof that yes, we are indeed alive and living and in this place at this moment…something that on paper sounds simple, but is it really?

We both knew, in a hundredth of a second, that she was right, that our heart-guts were searching for answers and then oof just like that, our truths collided and we both knew this was the right thing to do.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Seven hundredths of a degree. That’s how far we moved. Seven hundredth of a degree to the north and just under three tenths of a degree east. A hop and a skip and a leap and a bound all at once.

I think we should move.

Me, too.

Words uttered months ago, maybe even years ago, in the darkness of a quiet room long after the chaos of life died down. 

The slow and arduous process began, and we found what we were looking for – or thought we did – until it was ripped from under us and we walked away with drooping shoulders and moist eyes.

And then doors opened, and fate – or something like it – stepped in. One bit of truth after another sang to me, to us. My heart-gut heard, and I said yes.

And we moved.

A world apart, but only the smallest part of the world.
And yet somehow still a whole, wide world apart.

Life changed, continues to change.
As it should.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Two hundredths of an inch. A movement so small, just barely there. That shift in your heart and in your head. The changing of who you are, bit by tiny bit. Ever-changing, we are. Millions of moments of milliseconds that make up a lifetime.

I’ve always been me.
I will always be me.

I know this to be true.

And yet I wonder.

We change, all of us.
And as we change, are we still us?
Is there a point, some magical point, when we have changed so much
me is no longer me, but someone else entirely?

Who I am and what I was.
Ever-changing and never-changing.

Defining and then redefining.
Fundamental changes expected, yet not.
The rush and go of life, the tumbles up and down…

Knocking away the rough edges gradually, almost imperceptibly.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

This is the story of our lives
Of all of me and all of you.
A package full of fractions waiting to be made whole.


I can do hard things!

She is a very diligent student. She is thorough and determined. She’s also incredibly sensitive. And when she doesn’t understand something, even a brand new something, she gets upset about it. I don’t know where she gets that. 😉 And it’s difficult for me. I don’t want to downplay her fears and feelings, but at the same time I don’t want to not push her. If we’re never pushed, we never move forward. It’s tricky.

Sometimes I take pictures when my children are feeling vulnerable, when they are struggling with something. These are pictures I never share with others. These are sacred moments between mother and child. These are pictures of conflict that beg for resolution. I don’t capture these moments to be mean, I do it so that I can show these pictures to them later. I want to remind them that once upon a time walking was hard for them. Once upon a time riding a bike was hard. Once upon a time adding seemed impossible. And look at you! You did those things! Was it easy to start walking, riding, or adding? No. But you did it! You did hard things! And it’s then…then they can really see themselves for who they are: someone who can do hard things.

On the dreadfully difficult days, this becomes our mantra: I can do hard things. It usually starts with me saying it quietly, reminding this determined little child of mine that she can indeed do whatever it is that we’re working on. I prod a few times and she whispers it along with me. We say it again, a little stronger this time. And stronger and stronger and stronger…until the tears are gone and we believe it. We both really believe it! And even once we’ve reached the pinnacle of belief, we keep shouting because once you know that you can do hard things, it’s hard to stop.

*This phrase isn’t just between me and my 8 year old, though she’s the one mentioned here. Some days find all 5 of us chanting it, cheering each other on. And I can promise you that there are days when I am shouting loudest of all. 

Simplicity and Slate

“Mama! Is this a real slate like Laura and Mary would have used?”
“Yeah. Kinda like that.”
“Oh my gosh, Carter! Look! It’s a real slate like for learning stuff. Like in the Little House books! Can we get it, Mama? Pleasepleasepleasepleeeeease.”

The girl knows I’m a sucker for books and that this will be an easy sell. (It was).

"Little House Best book ever! I'm reading the fith book!!!!!"

Little House
Best book ever! I’m reading the fith[sic] book!!!!!

We started the Little House series several months ago and we used to take a break between each book to read something else. But the end of book four was so sad and book five begged to be read and so we started it the next night. Every night I read to them. (The little kids get their turn earlier in the day). They are both completely capable of reading these books independently but there’s something about hearing it read aloud that makes it magical. And as long as they will let me read to them, I’ll continue to do so. It’s one of my favorite parts of having children. Seriously.

photo 1

We went on a field trip recently where there were covered wagons and beef jerky and a little log cabin. Her eyes glittered with excitement and happiness as she listened to the guide talk about the tiny house and how Laura’s house would have been much smaller than this one. Whoa! I thought. And I glanced at her and she mouthed the same to me. We were smashed into the tiny cabin with maybe 20 other people, double what it was built to hold. Can you imagine 8-10 people in that tiny little house? There was one small bed and a crib, a fireplace, a table, and a rocking chair. The loft was tiny but aching for little children to visit, but rules are rules and there was no climbing the ladder that day.

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As I looked around at the simplicity, I wondered where it all went wrong. Hear me out. I’m not glamorizing it. These people lived hard lives and I’m not asking for tradesies (because, for starters, I <3 my A/C).  They endured struggles that I can’t even begin to imagine. But as I read the books I notice that they never seem worried about what made them “happy” or what feels good but what kept them alive and what was the best for the whole family. Were they better for it? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t have an answer, but it’s a question I think about often.

I read a passage tonight about the family traveling to Silver Lake. It describes mile after mile after mile of nothing but a giant sky and blowing grass. My kids can’t even really imagine grass tall enough to blow. And, if I’m being honest, I can’t imagine miles and miles of nothing. We live in a rural area, but not that rural. (Although sometimes I wish we did).

My eyes and my voice are both tired. I stumble over a word or two as my mouth tries to keep up with my brain (ever a problem for me). Her eyes are flicking on and off but she leans in, hearing each word and letting my voice take her on a journey that starts on a bouncy wagon seat and ends with her dreams. Her book of dreams; that’s the book I really wish I could read.

~just write~

Why Everyone Should Homeschool

She looks up at me, excited but a little unsure. A smile and a little nod are all it takes. She sounds out the next word and skips down the rest. For a moment – for just a brief moment – her confidence wavers and she depends on me to steady it.

Head tilted, brow furrowed, eyes squinted, mouth agape. He’s running calculations in his head but it’s not adding up. Waiting on me, the one who’s supposed to have the answers. I gulp. “I’ve never been good at math,” I think to myself and then slap my own wrist. Your thoughts eventually become your truth, Bridget. And for the first time in ages (or maybe ever) I respond not with the lilt of a question in my voice but with authority.

I’ve got this. Yeah. I’ve got it under control. (For now.) But it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve had to look up at others and with a smile and a nod, they’ve steadied my confidence. I’ve looked with baffled eyes at people who’ve held my hand and pulled me onward – even if I didn’t get it right the first time or the next time or the time after that. I’m grateful for all the teachers I’ve had, both in school and in life.

In this season of our life, while we are doing school at home, I’ve come to realize just how many teachers children really have. Those little suckers are always learning, everywhere you go. Everyone you meet, every one you see, everyone you hear…they are all teachers. But as a parent it’s my responsibility to be the primary source of learning. And the same is true for you, no matter if your children go to public school or a co-op or if you use Montessori methods or Waldorf standards or if you unschool or whatever path you may be on with your children. Ultimately it’s our responsibility as parents to teach our children the ins and outs of living. Does that frighten you as much as it does me? Sometimes I can’t even handle my own thoughts, my own desires, my own deamons…much less all the ones of four tiny humans!

But here’s a little secret I’ve learned during our homeschool journey: The biggest lessons your children will learn won’t come from books or flashcards or their favorite educational app. It won’t come from that unit you slaved over to prepare or the vocabulary words you drilled into their heads. It’ll come from what they see you do, how they see you respond, the choices you make and how you work through the consequences, both good and bad.

Maybe you figured this out long before I did. If so, why didn’t you tell me? 🙂 And if not, here…take this tidbit and jot it down. It might come in handy some day.

Teach them to love reading by letting them see you read. Teach them to enjoy music by getting lost in a song. Teach them to cook by cooking with them. Teach them to respect others by being good and kind to all people, even when it’s hard. Teach them thankfulness not only by telling them thank you, but by telling them about the blessings in your life. Teach them to give by letting them see you give to others and by giving to them what they want the most: you. With the timbre of your voice, teach them when to speak up and when to shush. Teach them patience by waiting for them to stutter out the whole sentence without rushing them or by letting them scoop up hundreds of tiny rocks as they walk to the car, even if it’s going to make you late. Teach them gentleness by wrapping them up in your arms, even when they’ve messed up. Teach them faithfulness and self-control when you want to give up, but don’t. Teach them peace when you help them begin to navigate the waters of controversy (and if you have a two year old, you have controversy!). Teach them love not only by surrounding them with hugs and kisses but by giving firm correction when that’s what they need. Teach them joy by smiling at them and laughing with them, by celebrating with others and letting them see you soaking in the little things. And teach them that they are unique and special and wonderful by letting them see you dare to believe those things about yourself.

(Oh, wait. Some of that sounds kinda familiar.)

But there’s more. While I’m giving out tidbits, here’s another one: Teach your children, but also let them teach you. (This is the one that took me the longest to see and even longer to learn). Let a caterpillar inch up and down your arm and be mesmerized at how it moves. Take their offerings of sticks and rocks and treat them as the rarest of treasures. Look for the sparkles hidden in the gravel and the beauty of a little yellow weed. Watch them play with others at the playground – often there’s no us and them, just smiling, sweaty faces whirring round and round on the merry-go-round. Listen to them sing, with nothing holding them back. Watch them dance at the dinner table (and maybe even join them). Laugh at their terrible jokes and teach them better ones. Color – with or without staying in the lines. Swim (without obsessing about what you look like in your suit). Build things and paint things and create things and believe that they are masterpieces.

Be their teacher at home so that when they aren’t with you, your words will guide them.
Be their student so that they know they have something worth sharing; that they are good and helpful and useful.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. ~Deuteronomy 6:5-9{emphasis mine}


Looking Back at Back to School


Aug 10, 2011web-6


This year:
2013-2014first day_web

Eleven Book Series for Young Readers


You can’t deny that there’s something satisfying about a good stand-alone book.  By the time you’ve finished reading it you (usually) have a sense of closure for the characters and for yourself. That being said, I’m still a sucker for a good book series and apparently I’ve passed that on to my children. Here are a few of our favorites along with a brief description written by my older children (ages 6 & 8):

Magic Tree House (Grade Level 1-3) – A brother and a sister named Jack and Annie found a magic treehouse. When every book starts they go to the treehouse and they wish to go somewhere. Then the treehouse starts spinning and spinning and then when they get wherever they are going the spinning stops. Sometimes they go to Egypt, a castle, the Amazon, dinosaur times, or Hawaii. While they are there they learn new things.

Ivy + Bean (Grade Level 2-3) – These are stories about two girls who go on adventures. Bean is funny and sometimes doesn’t pay attention. Ivy is smart and quiet. They are best friends.

Nancy Clancy (Grade Level 3) – Nancy Clancy is Fancy Nancy but she grew up. She is a detective with her best friend Bree. I like these books because they have fancy words.

Flat Stanley (Grade Level 3) – Stanley got flat when a big board fell on him. Then he was flat and could go under doors. He could also get in an envelope and then he could go on fun adventures.

Roscoe Riley Rules (Grade Level 3) – This boy Roscoe doesn’t mean to break the rules, but he forgets.

Humphrey books (Grade Level 3-4) – It’s about a classroom hamster in Room 26 at Longfellow School. Humphrey stays in his cage during the day but when nobody is there he has some freedom. When he gets out he solves classroom problems and sometimes he goes on missions.

Ramona books (Grade Level 3-5) – These books are about a girl named Ramona. She has a sister named Beezus. Ramona is wild and gets in trouble a lot.

Little House books (Grade Level 3-5) – I love reading about Mary and Laura living in different places a long time ago. They lived in the woods, on the prairie, and a dugout.

Pippi Longstocking (Grade Level 4-5) – Silly Pippi lives by herself. She has a monkey and a horse. She tells stories that I don’t know if they are true or not true but they are funny!

American Girl historical fiction books (Grade Level 4-5) – There are a lot of American Girl doll books. Every American Girl doll has some books about her and the books tell all about how she lived.

Narnia books (Grade Level 5-6) – All about 4 brothers and sisters who discovered a magic world called Narnia. There was a witch who turned things to stone. There was a lion. A lot of stuff happened there that couldn’t happen for real like animals talking.


We’re looking for some new series to start as well! We have a few on hand already: The 39 Clues, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Series of Unfortunate Events, How to Train Your Dragon, Anne of Green Gables. What other book series do your tiny humans love?


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Ivey League Learning: Apps for Toddlers

So far this week I’ve told you about the apps that I use with my big kids for school.
But I can’t leave out my littler humans, can I?
Here are a few of the faves for our 4 and under crowd:

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.12.34 AM
Shape Builder Lite
(Free) or Shape Builder ($0.99)- A fun puzzle app. After you assemble the whole picture, it both writes and speaks the word. If I can’t find the two year old, she’s probably hiding in a corner of my bedroom with her sister’s ipod and playing this game. We have the free version.

Shape Puzzle
(Free) – Another puzzle app with animal shapes. 

Mickey’s Road Rally (Free)- We love Disney at our house and got the Mickey’s Road Rally a while back and it’s still a favorite. While I was writing this, I discovered that you can now only get it as part of the Disney Junior Appisodes Package, which is FREE! 

Endless Alphabet* (Free**) – This is the overall favorite app for all of my kids. And, admittedly, I kinda sorta like it as well. You move the letters around into the correct spot and as you move each one it makes it’s own sound. Once you have all of the letters in place, it acts out the word. Not only do you have letter recognition and letter sounds, but also vocabulary. And these aren’t words like CAT or DOG, but words like BELCH (the one I hear most often) and GARGANTUAN. When they hear the music start up, they all flock to the ipad.  Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.14.21 AM

Rocket Speller* (Free) – This app is similar to Endless Alphabet, but with a completely different word set. There are levels and as you complete stages, you get to build rockets. 

Toca Doctor ($2.99)- This app is far from scientifically accurate, but still a lot of fun! Clean up a scraped knee and put on a bandage, help a bloody nose stop bleeding, put cogs in the brain to make it work. I originally got this app when I was free for a limited time, but my kids love it enough that I would pay $2.99. 


*I also mentioned this for the big kids, but wanted to list them again because all of my kids really love them and have learned a lot!

**When this post was originally published this app was free. It is no longer free.

Previous App Posts: Apps for English Language ArtsApps for Math, Science, and Social StudiesSpacial Thinking AppsJust For Fun Apps

Ivey League Learning: Just For Fun Apps

So far this week I’ve focused on education apps, but we have a few just for fun apps that we like, too.

Angry Birds Star Wars ($2.99) – Pure family fun. Every single person in our family has played this game. The kids will take turns trying to beat a level. I’m a little bit of a meanie because I won’t let them play it on my phone. That’s my game! 🙂

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.21.15 AM

LEGO Friends (Free) – My 6 year old daughter loves this game. It seems simple and boring to me, but she loves it. It was also a great marketing tool because she learned the names of all the LEGO girls. Well played, LEGO. Well played. (I honestly don’t mind. LEGOs are my favorite toys and I don’t mind buying more. 🙂 )

Temple Run: BRAVE ($0.99) – Temple Run plus Disney’s Merida? Win-win! Run, jump, catch coins. It’s just your basic video game, but with Merida!

Tap the Frog (Free with paid upgrade available) – I admit it. This one is addictive. The little kids can’t do this one very well at all, but the big kids do enjoy it. I probably like it the most though.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.22.22 AM Talking Ben (Free) – We started with Talking Tom. When Asa was a baby he would laugh and laugh and laugh at Talking Tom. He accidentally got erased from the ipod and was replaced with this funny pup. He copies you and will do several silly things if you poke or tickle him. You can also help him mix up some potions.



Jake & the Neverland Pirate School (Free) – The little kids really like this one, but the big kids like it some as well. You complete tasks in your pirate training school taught by Jake, Izzy, and Cubby!

Previous App Posts: Apps for English Language ArtsApps for Math, Science, and Social StudiesSpacial Thinking Apps
Coming Up Tomorrow: Apps for Toddlers

Ivey League Learning: Spacial Thinking Apps

Another set of our favorite apps for you today! These are the kind of games that the kids don’t even realize they are learning when they play.

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Jelly Car2 ($0.99) – A puzzle game where you control the track and the car. The graphics are barebones, but it’s still a fun game. My oldest really loves it. Jelly Car 3 has just been released for $1.99 and a lite version is available for free.

One Touch Draw (Free) – Connect the dots without picking up your finger. Once you’ve mastered the basic idea, new levels expose tricks to trip you up like one way streets and points that move you to a different spot!

Doodle Fit Lite (Free) – This app looks a little bit like Tetris at a glance, but the pieces aren’t falling from the top. You have to arrange the shapes given to fit in a specified area.

TanZen Lite (Free) – Similar to Doodle Fit. Arrange the pieces in the correct way to form a certain shape.

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Cut the Rope (Free or $0.99) – Cut the rope so that the pieces fall just right and let the little monster eat the candy. Makes you think about cause and effect and properties of physics.

Doodle Find (Free) – Fun little app that asks you to search for certain items in a sea of other items. It may ask you to find four doughnuts out of the 50-100 other objects in the grid.


Previous App Posts: English Language ArtsMath, Science, and Social Studies
Coming Up Tomorrow: Just for Fun Apps
Later This Week: Apps for Toddlers

Ivey League Learning: Apps for Math, Science, and Social Studies

Yesterday I talked about the ELA apps that we love. Today I have Math, Science, and Social Studies apps that we use with our preschool and elementary children.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.33.59 AMSky View Lite (Free) & Sky View ($1.99) – This app is really cool. You point your device towards the sky and it can tell you which stars or planets you are seeing. It can show you where the sun and moon are at any given moment and what time it will rise or set. The paid version gives many more options and info about the stars and other objects that you can see, including Hubble and the International Space Station.



Sushi Monster (Free) – Designed to meet common core standards, this app focuses on addition and multiplication facts. Use speed and accuracy to feed the hungry monster.

Splash Math ($9.99) – Each Splash Math app is designed for a different grade level. It is also aligned with common core standards. Students answer questions and get to build an aquarium bit by bit as an incentive.  You do have to purchase each grade level separately, which can add up quickly, but I was pleased with the content and my kids like it. Each app is equivalent to one year’s worth of math worksheets. I believe there may be free trial versions for each level.   Kindergarten*   First Grade   Second Grade   Third Grade   Fourth Grade*   Fifth Grade*
*K is a little different because it is designed with jungle animals instead of marine life. Fourth and Fifth Grade apps are outer space based.

Math Ninja ($1.99) – You play the part of a ninja and you are trying to protect your math treasure from Tomato-San and his robot army. Sounds crazy but we blew through the free trial version quickly and the kids begged for the full version. Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.31.55 AM

Bobo & Light ($4.99) – We have all learned so much from this science app! It’s fun and interactive and tells about lots of unique and interesting science facts. It covers topics such as lasers, lightning, and bioluminescence. Even the baby likes to play with the lasers.

Pocket Frogs (Free) – Raise and breed frogs. Sounds boring, but it captivates my kids. And it’s free!

Stack the States ($0.99) – Learn about our states, capitals, state flags and mottos, and geography in this fun app. In the paid version you can have multiple players set up on one device. I’ve learned as much as the kids! (There is a lite version for free).

Awesome Eats (Free) – This fast-paced game helps kids identify fruits and vegetables and promotes healthy eating habits. There are also new levels that show more about recycling!

Previous App Posts: Apps for English Language Arts
Coming Up Tomorrow: Spacial Thinking Apps
Later This Week: Just for Fun Apps, Apps for Toddlers