Homeschooling, Parenting

Writing Advice: Quasi Podcasts

I attended a Smithsonian American Art Museum Teacher Workshop because I liked the exhibition, Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities. However, fifteen years later, I remember the writing advice more than the art. Whether your children have writing assignments, or you have reports, the following might be helpful.

Smithsonian workshop participants were given MP3 players for classroom use—cheap ones but still a free toy—and told to replicate an experiment in a Bethesda school. Those students wrote about works of art, recorded their work, listened, rewrote, and rerecorded. The steps were repeated until the students were satisfied with their quasi podcasts. 

The Smithsonian employee in charge thought it was “educational bubblegum,” and therefore, was surprised with the process and the results. Students heard mistakes that they missed when they read their work. This was especially true when a word was overused. By listening, students also quickly realized when more explanation was needed.

The school emphasized working in groups. One interesting result was that students were more willing to offer helpful advice when they listened to a peer’s work compared to reading a peer’s work. I wonder if it’s because listening is slower than reading.

Have you received unusual academic advice?

Homeschooling, Parenting

Parent-Child Conferences

Let’s admit it. Too many times, we homeschoolers shake our heads at the operations of traditional schools. (Other parents and traditional teachers do so as well.)

Some things, which are beneficial in a traditional setting, would never work for homeschoolers. Parent-Teacher Conferences are an example. We would be talking to ourselves, which we already do too frequently.

However, I wish I had realized the benefit of Parent-Child conferences, commonly known as Teacher-Student conferences. I could have:

Affirmed my sons’ progress.

Asked their frustrations.

Voiced my frustrations.

Worked with them on a strategy to overcome our weaknesses.

Asked about their goals.

Explained my goals.

These discussions would have avoided a lot of angst in our home.

Are there any other “school” ideas we homeschoolers should consider and perhaps incorporate?


Enough Is Enough

When I homeschooled, the boys and I saw quarterly plays at a nearby university. We liked The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe so much we bought tickets two years in a row. My husband joined us the second time.

During the 40-minute drive to the auditorium, we listened to a book on tape. On the way home, we discussed the one-hour play. Math worksheets were waiting at my boys’ desks—for after they wrote about the play.

Once, I invited another homeschool family to Ramona, which was based on Beverly Cleary’s series. My friend had taught at a local school before homeschooling. During the drive, I told her my lesson plans.

“Mollie, the field trip fills the day,” she admonished. “Getting there and getting home with a short debrief is all that can be expected. Enough is enough.”

It was freeing to think like a professional, and not a mom who worried about not doing enough—especially as Spring gave us more opportunities for outings.

Is enough being enough for you?


Homeschooling Is Bigger Than Us

Due to lack of time and money, our children attended their first homeschool convention when our oldest was entering the teen years. Back then, attendance was at its peak. Aisles were jammed. Lines were long.

Our boys roamed while we shopped. Their favorite activity was talking to the vendors of curriculum that we used. Who would have guessed?  Over two days, they returned again and again to one publisher to offer advice and critiques concerning the software flaws that frustrated us.

One child asked for a writing program I had not considered.

We gave each twenty dollars to spend. Their choices surprised us but not as much as their reaction to a convention center overflowing with homeschoolers from multiple states.

Our sons absorbed that homeschooling was a movement bigger than our family, bigger than our local homeschool groups. Our family was part of something gigantic.

I found that a homeschool convention yielded more than curriculum and advice. It was perhaps more worthwhile for my sons than for me.

What are your convention plans this year?

Homeschooling, Parenting

Experiencing Disorganization

The Spring race season brings the anticipation of both familiar and new race venues. In June 2018, my husband and I looked forward to a 10-Miler an hour away. The advertised course was unique.

We started before sunrise to have plenty of time. It was a good decision because the directions were confusing, which resulted in us exiting and re-entering the highway twice. Upon arrival, there weren’t signs for parking. We wandered the complex with other cars. After parking, there weren’t directions to the race-packet pick-up. There was no visible start line and no signs pointing the way.

How could a race with over 1000 participants be so disorganized? Our confidence in the race organizers dropped and our stress mounted with each challenge. And our race-morning adrenaline was already high.

This was one of those times I experienced the result of someone else’s disorganization rather than mine. It was a lesson I did not forget. Disorganization has real costs to others.

My children were grown, but I was still teaching. If I was disorganized, I not only wasted my students’ time, but also reduced their ability to learn. Their confidence in me as their teacher diminished. Sobering.

A Successful Ending