Friday, February 27, 2009

Show & Tell ~ Pages in the Kansas House of Representatives

February 25: Three Kansas Homeschoolers worked as pages in the Kansas House of Representatives. Their sponsor was Rep. Sheryl Spalding of Overland Park.

Pictured left to right: Rep. Spalding, Nicki (age 12), Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Mackenzie (age 12), and Jake (age 14).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and get a Real Life and Education

Book Review by Tracy Million Simmons

The Teenage Liberation Handbook:
How to Quit School and get a Real Life and Education
By Grace Llewellyn

I’m not typically the kind of person who spends a lot of time wishing I had made different choices in the past but this book really makes me wonder: How would my life be different if I had gotten my hands on this book as a teenager? Would I have actually had the courage to quit school?

This is a book where you must start by reading the introductory chapters. The “Nice Little Story” is a bit hokey but it certainly illustrates the point – that teaching kills not only the desire to learn but makes children doubt what they have already discovered for themselves. Grace Llewellyn talks about her own history in the introduction. She had a fairly short-lived career as an English teacher. She came to the profession young – fresh out of college and quickly became dissatisfied with, not only the job, but schooling in general. She quickly came to the conclusion that the system itself is flawed beyond redemption. She had discovered the writings of John Holt and soon became determined to write a book specifically for teenagers – to encourage them to forget school and jump right into life.

The book is definitely geared toward teenagers. I must admit that I found myself wincing a couple of times at the style of presentation, but I know that as a teenager I would have loved her bold style and approach.

The first part of the book, “Making the Decision,” makes many thorough arguments against the necessity of school. She talks about the fact that the primary focus of school is completely contrary to the basic tenants of democracy. Democracy is about freedom and even the most basic things, like when you are allowed to go to the bathroom are controlled in a school setting. Never mind issues like what you like to spend your time doing or what you are interested in learning about.Schools are based on the assumption that teenagers don’t know what they need to learn, they don’t know how best to learn it and that schooling itself squashes the love and desire to learn right out of you. Her points resounded loudly with my memories of being a teenager, and I was a “model” student in school. I was fairly involved in school activities and was pretty much a straight-A student. I probably even claimed to enjoy school through most of my teenage years though I remember feeling often frustrated with many, many aspects of my education.

Part two of the book is titled, “The First Steps.” It covers everything from approaching and convincing your parents to dealing with the potential legal issues of not being in school. She discusses the importance of a self-imposed vacation, also known as time to “deschool” in other homeschooling handbooks.

I found part three to be especially interesting. Titled, “The Tailor-made Educational Extravaganza,” it is basically a how-to guide for unschooling the various subjects you would be exposed to in school. What was interesting to me is that the suggestions in this section are precisely the types of things I began doing on my own once I got out of school. They are things I have started doing in my own life as I have rediscovered the joy of learning and my own personal passions in life.

The last section of the book is titled, “Touching the World – Finding Good Work”. This covers job opportunities, volunteering, apprenticeships… It’s basically an extension of the previous chapter – only focusing on turning your passions and interests into something more.

I know that for many the idea of dropping out of school seems completely against all sense. We are so indoctrinated to the idea that school equals success. One chapter in Llewellyn’s book focuses on the many successful people in history who either didn’t attend school or were complete failures as far as school was concerned. She makes a good point that, so much of the time, it is the people who never conform who become truly successful. People who follow their passions, either by default or defiance, often end up making the next great discovery or running the most successful businesses. Among the most well known that she mentions, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

I finished this book having fantasies of giving it as a gift to every teenager I know. I imagine that many of them would not be able to take even the title, seriously. I’m sure that many of their parents would want to see me hung after giving such a gift, especially if it did have any influence. But I wonder what a difference it might make if even one teenager got the message and left school to take charge of their own life and education. It would be a journey I would definitely want to be a part of – if only as an observer. I know that I won’t hesitate to recommend this as reading to the next teenager I come across who expresses any kind of frustration with school.

first published on the original KS Homeschool website, January 2006

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Show & Tell ~ Isaac's Gymnastics Meet

Isaac, age 11, competed in the KC-Coed Invitational gymnastics meet on January 25, 2009. He placed fifth in his age group.

Congratulations, Isaac!

We welcome Show & Tell submission from Kansas area homeschoolers at any time. Simply send your entry, titled "KAHN Show & Tell" to goobmom23 AT yahoo DOT com.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Arts Bash

A Writing Contest for Homeschooled Authors

The Book Arts Bash celebrates untrammeled creativity, and promotes the integration of writing across the curriculum. We put homeschooled students' best work on the desks of literary agents, best-selling authors, and other industry professionals, to encourage young writers and connect great minds.

Deadline for entries: January 1, 2010

Complete details can be found by clicking here.

If you have a writer in the family, you might also be interested in the Kansas Authors Club Youth Writing Contest and the Karnowski Youth Poetry Contest.

Monday, February 23, 2009

College Admissions for Kansas Homeschoolers

Re: House Bill 2197

News for homeschoolers who are residents of the state of Kansas.

The Kansas regents schools had announced a year or so ago that they were going to automatically take as many homeschoolers as they could who had at least a 21 on the ACT. They were doing this under their 10% exceptions window. This bill, if passed, would guarantee admission to those homeschoolers with a 21 on the ACT and would still leave the 10% exceptions window available for admission of others (homeschoolers or not) who don't meet any of the criteria for automatic admission.

This bill passed on 2/20/2009.

Thanks, Shelley, for the clarification on the intent of this bill.

Online Games

updated 3/24/2009

I will add some favorite online games to this page as I discover them (read, I get the links from my kids) or they are suggested to me. Feel free to send suggestions via email to goobmom23 AT yahoo DOT com.

Bloxorz The aim of the game is to get the block to fall into the square hole at the end of each stage. There are 33 stages to complete. (Harder than it looks.)

Clip Book (create your own animations via Cartoon Network)

Club Penguin

Crayon Physics (The demo is free to download for a trial run.)

Fantastic Contraption, an online physics puzzle game. (Play free online or pay to upgrade to the full version.)

Jelly Blocks Connect the colored blocks to advance to the next level.


Spelling City Spelling games, make your own list or chose an existing one.

Whizzball, from Discovery Kids, play existing puzzles or build your own.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Enjoy Parenting

Here is a parenting website that I find very inspirational. It's certainly a nice change of pace from all those parenting magazines you see in the check out lines at the grocery store. This site has from-the-heart information from a parent who is living the life. I especially recomend it to those who are just beginning the parent journey, but anyone looking to get out of a rut and change the face of their parenting technique, improve family life, etc., will find thought provoking information here.

The site is, with Scott Noelle.

From the website:
The greatest gift you can give your children is to enjoy parenting them!

That's the conclusion I've come to after years of studying the best available information on alternative, holistic, and natural parenting — applying it with my own family, and coaching like-minded parents.

Are you saying it doesn't matter how I parent, so long as I enjoy it???

I'm saying that enjoying IS how you parent when your parenting is most successful.

Sign up for the Daily Groove to get an inspirational tidbit related to parenting in your email box each day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense

Book Review by Tracy Million Simmons
Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense
By David Guterson

First, I should say that when I picked up this book, I was already a homeschooling convert. I believed in homeschooling and, as a personal choice, was beginning to lean toward the route of unschooling – doing away with the traditional aspects of “schooling” altogether.

None-the-less, I picked up David Guterson’s book because I am always on the lookout for intelligent arguments that examine all sides of educational issues. Guterson did not disappoint me.

Guterson is a high school English teacher whose own children, three boys, are homeschooled. My husband also teaches in a high school, so I was especially interested in how Guterson came to the decision to homeschool and how he reconciled homeschooling with his career as a teacher.

He presents a very balanced picture of the pros and cons of homeschooling. Using his father, a lawyer who is pretty much against homeschooling, for a reference point – you get good, solid reasoning from both sides of the homeschooling vs. public education debate.

Using examples from students in his classroom and his own children at home, the book is filled with many personal experiences that help you to see where Guterson is coming from. He addresses many of the typical concerns about homeschooling, like socialization. But he also addresses many concerns you don’t usually deal with in books about homeschooling. He presents some very intelligent arguments against homeschooling as presented by his father and some of some of his friends. As interesting as the arguments themselves, are Guterson’s responses – the acknowledgement of the validity of the arguments as well as his reasoning for going against the arguments anyway.

In the introduction (pg. 9) he writes, “I have not encouraged parents to withdraw their children from schools, nor have I meant to offer homeschooling as a panacea for our nation’s educational ills. Finally, I do not claim any sort of moral superiority for homeschooling parents nor do I hold them up as exemplary. My central notion has been a simple one: that parents are critical to education and therefore public educators – and everyone else – can learn much from those who teach their own.”

As strongly as I feel about homeschooling my own children – I found this book to be an excellent tool for sharing, especially with friends and family who are not quite convinced that homeschooling is the way to go. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is just beginning to consider homeschooling as an option or to someone who would like a gentle way to introduce the subject to less-than-enthusiastic friends or family.
first published at the original KS Homeschool website, January 2006

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unschooler's List

by Tracy Million Simmons

I count my blessings that I ran across the idea of unschooling early in my life as a parent. Not that I was entirely convinced, in the beginning. The idea of no school was intriguing and felt right at an instinctual level, yet I had a lot of questions about how it was going to work. I mean, what if… in spite of all the wonderful things I had read about children who were allowed to explore the world at their own pace and pick up knowledge as it appealed to them… what if MY children never learned to read, or couldn’t recite their multiplication tables, or didn’t care about memorizing the state capitals, or decided cursive handwriting wasn’t important…

Unschooling is most certainly a term better applied to those of us who have been schooled so thoroughly that we have trouble sorting the valuable information from the invaluable. For our children, it’s all just about living life.

Nearly ten years after beginning my own unschooling journey, I am now the mother of three. In school terms, I would have a fourth grader, a second grader, and one almost ready for kindergarten. We rarely use those terms, however. We keep them handy to toss out to the occasional person who questions, but grade levels only grow more and more meaningless as time passes.

I still have occasional anxieties. What should one think about a fluent and voracious reader who doesn’t write? What about a child who writes things daily, but doesn’t know the order of the alphabet? How about the child who refuses to count the numbers 9 and 13 simply because he doesn’t like them? Is there something, as mother, I should be teaching them? Will they hate me someday for not forcing them to learn?

Although, I don’t believe there is such a thing as knowing all the answers, this is the list (constantly growing and changing) that I have developed to quell my own fears. I share it freely with the understanding that unschooling is as fluid and diverse as the lives of the families who take this path. What we do changes with each child, with each season, even with the time of day.

  1. Trust. Faith in our children is the key. We have to believe in the innate goodness of our children. They are capable as individuals. This isn’t something children grow into. It is what they are. They know. They understand. They see. The most valuable thing they can learn from us is that we trust and believe in them.

  2. Forget about what we are NOT doing. Far too often the focus of unschooling becomes what we are not doing. When we find ourselves starting to describe our philosophy in negative terms (we do not follow a curriculum, we do not do worksheets, we do not limit our learning to school hours, we do not force the memorization of facts and figures), we need to stop and consider the message we are communicating. Unschooling isn’t about creating a vast landscape of things not done. It’s about doing. We interact with our children and respect them as individuals. We follow their interests, and we follow our own. We explore and learn alongside them. We are open to new ideas and experiences in a multitude of shapes and forms. We act as facilitators when their interests lead them to subjects we can not personally help them with. As unschoolers we DO, rather than do not.

  3. Know that not every day will fulfill our vision of a “perfect day.” There are going to be days when they sleep in, eat too much junk food, and argue like cats and dogs. We may have moments when we worry that they are frying their brains on too much television or endless hours of video games. There will be days when they can’t think of anything to do, or the things they do think of require our help and we just aren’t going to be in a place to give it. This doesn’t mean we have failed. This is life. Life happens. Life goes on.

  4. Everything is educational. We must stop dividing the world into activities that we deem educational and activities we deem not. Everything we do—whether we call it work, play, veg time, or study—has value. Their minds are growing and processing information, each at a particular and unique rate and process. Don’t panic when all they do is play. Look intensely at that play and know that there is value in it.

  5. Let them lead, but don’t be afraid to offer some direction. Just because we have decided not to set the agenda, doesn’t mean we, as parents, are without good ideas. It’s okay to introduce new topics and ideas for daily activities, but also be prepared to change course and let go when our ideas are not well received. If it was a really good idea (in your mind) go ahead and do it yourself, without the kids.

  6. When in doubt, observe. On the occasional day when we find ourselves truly questioning the decision to unschool, become a scientist. Study your subject in its natural habitat. Observe. Keep a book between yourself and them if you need a disguise or distraction. Watch what they do. Listen to what they say. Watch until you see and you are comforted. They are creative. They are full of information. They are thinking, generating new ideas, and reviewing old concepts. It’s coming out in a myriad of ways, but it’s there. Set aside your judgments and you will see.

  7. Whenever you get really stuck, explore your own interests. Unschooling parents are hardest on themselves when they forget that they should be learners, as well. Make sure we are exploring the world with the same zeal and passion we expect for our kids. Set aside time each day to delve into our own projects. Do an in-depth study of a topic of interest. Learn a new skill. Master a new language. Make sure there is always at least one item on the list of things to do that you are exploring entirely for your own benefit.

  8. Find a support group. Online or in person, find a group of like-minded individuals where the subject of unschooling or child-led learning can be explored. Look for people who energize you with their discussions. Find a community that supports you when things are rough. Unschooling can be difficult when everyone around you spends their time discussing curriculum or simply sending their children to public school. It’s not necessary to avoid those who do things differently, but it’s always nice to have someone to turn to who understands, more clearly, the principles that guide you.

  9. Don’t let anyone tell you there is a right way or wrong way to unschool. Know that even the most seasoned unschooling parent will not necessarily have the answers you are looking for. Keep your mind open to ideas and concepts, but don’t let yourself feel threatened by those more set in their ways. Assuming there are hard and set rules, after all, for unschooling, would be defeating its very purpose.

  10. Find record keeping strategies to quell your specific fears. Some people are comforted by turning daily activities into “schoolish” lingo to categorize achievements. For some, just keeping a journal or scrapbook is enough to surrender to the varieties of a life of unschooling. You might save every scrap of paper your child writes or draws a picture on. You might keep a list of every book you read together. Whatever it is that makes you feel more comfortable, just do it, and enjoy the process. Your needs for documenting your child’s education, just like their needs for structure and variety in daily life, will change over time.

If there is anything I have learned in my time as a parent and an unschooler, it’s that no matter what you learn, there’s always something else you don’t yet know. Unschooling allows us to embrace the change that is life. We are all growing, learning, using our minds and our hands in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of skill and fluency. This doesn’t change with time and age.

Or, at least, it shouldn’t.

Unschooling is all about becoming. Whether you are just beginning or have not thought of education in terms of school in years—embrace the change, embrace your children, and make it all about living life.

This article first appeared, titled "Thoughts on Unschooling" in the Nov/Dec 2005 issue of Live Free Learn Free.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Addictive Physics Game

Here's an online game that will challenge the whole family; mine has been huddled around Fantastic Contraption for most of the evening, cheering each other on, taking turns adding wheels and rods to create our contraptions...

Mucho fun. And hey -- it's physics!

Thanks to my friend, Melissa, for the link.

Upcoming Writing Contests

Here are a couple of writing contests to put on your calendar if you have kids who enjoy writing. These are both affiliated with the Kansas Authors Club, and there is a contest for adults, as well, for you aspiring writing parents out there.

Please note that the adult contest begins accepting entries on April 1st, and the kid contest begins accepting entries April 13th. Please don't submit your entries prior to that, just start getting them ready.

Here's a link for the guidelines for youth entries. This contest accepts both prose and poetry entries.

There is also a contest for young poets, ages 5-18. Click here for guidelines to the Karnowski Youth Poetry Contest.

Kids are invited to enter both the KAC Youth and Karnowski contests.

If you have a writer in the house, you may also be interested in the Book Arts Bash.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2009 Conference and Curriculum Fair ~ Midwest Parent Educators

I have never attended the Midwest Parent Educators Conference and Curriculum Fair, but there are some families in our homeschool groups who enjoy attending the curriculum fair portion of this event each year.

On Friday and Saturday, April 17 - 18, Midwest Parent Educators will host their 2009 Conference and Curriculum Fair at the KCI Expo Center ( The Conference runs from 9:00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. on Friday(registration opens at 8.00 a.m.), 8:00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Saturday, and features an exhibitors' hall (with over 150 booths) and a wide variety of workshops.

For more information about the MPE Conference please go to or call the MPE Office at 913-599-0311.

The registration form for the conference can be found at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tour of Homegrown Homeschoolers’ Blogs

Watch out! Samantha has been doing a lot of baking (especially artisan breads) and her blog is likely to make you hungry.

Also adding that I docked both pizza's (as in poked it with a fork) so the sides would rise when baking but the center would not. It also supposed to allow steam to escape. While I was rolling out the dough my daughter said "Hey Mom, you should dock the crust." I said "Huh? What's that?" and she proceed to show me. I learn a lot from my foodnetwork obsessed daughter.

Looks like lots of creativity and fun games at Life is Learning…

We had a rousing game of "Gravity vs. Anti-gravity" this afternoon in the driveway. To the uninformed bystander it probably looked similar to a make-shift game of field hockey.

Gravity defended the garage, and Anti-gravity defended the street. (I was back-up to Anti-gravity to reduce the time-outs needed to retrieve the ball from the street.) Tennis rackets were used to hit a soft ball back and forth on the driveway. A line going across the driveway divided it into sides. The grass was out-of-bounds. No score was kept, but each side rejoiced when a goal was made. Good blocks and good shots were also celebrated by both sides.

My boys came up with the names based on the slope of the driveway and who had gravity on their side and who had to hit against gravity. I thought it was so clever!

Cindy has a new reader in her house.

When did you wake up, Katie?
6:55. I've been reading.
But at 6:55, it was still dark, honey.
I know. I used my flashlight.

And Jill reminds us that,

It's time again for the Great Backyard Bird Count. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audoban, the GBBC is an easy way to get your kids involved in nature study. My children and I have done it the last two years.

To be involved all you have to do is spend 15 minutes counting birds in your area February 13 - 16. Then you go to the GBBC website and log your totals. That's it! The website is full of great information, lesson plans, regional bird lists and this year a special certficate to print out to award to participants. It is a very praiseworthy thing. But do it quick! You only have Sunday and Monday left to count.

I keep a list of blogs, Kansan and otherwise, to give you a little glimpse at the day-to-day lives of homeschoolers. It can be found in the right-hand side bar. If you would like your blog added, just let me know.

California Unschooling Conference

September 10-13, 2009
San Diego, CA

Massachusetts Unschooling Conference

Wakefield, Massachusetts
August 27 - 30, 2009

Washington State Unschooling Conference

NW Unschooling Conference
Red Lion Hotel ~ Vancouver, WA
Memorial Day Weekend, May 21-24, 2009

New Jersey Unschoolers' Conference

A Radical Unschoolers’ Conference Retreat
Lebanon, New Jersey
April 28-May 1, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Error on state test slips past everyone -- except East High student

From The Wichita Eagle

So while taking his state writing test last week, the East High junior saw something that didn't make sense: The word "emission" -- as in "the emission of greenhouse gases" -- was spelled "omission."

"I thought, 'Surely they're not talking about leaving out carbon dioxide altogether.' It just didn't make sense," said Stanford, 17. "It had to be a mistake."

Thanks, Shelley, for the link.

Real Life Guitar Hero

Celebrate Lincoln's Birthday at Union Station

It looks like a fun weekend to visit Union Station.

Saturday, Feb. 14 - Monday, Feb. 16

Purchase a ticket to Science City and for just a penny more, you can visit Union Station's exhibit on Lincoln called The Tsar and the President, Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln.

Other Activities:
FREE cupcakes for kids inside Science City
Available from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday through Monday, until they're all gone

Take your photo as Abe and Mary
Life-size cutouts are located outside the exhibit entrance. Put your face in the cutout and pretend you're the President or First Lady!

Design your own penny
The U.S. Mint is releasing four new penny designs this year in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday. At Union Station, try your hand at designing your own penny. Take your creation home or leave it behind for display at the Money Museum inside the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

$1 off American hamburgers at the Harvey House Diner
Don't go home on an empty stomach! Bring in Union Station's Lincoln Birthday ad in the Kansas City Star (Thursday,Friday, Saturday or Monday) and receive $1 off any hamburger purchased at the Harvey House Diner.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Child a Real Education With or Without School

Book Review by Cori S. Bird

Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Child a Real Education With or Without School
by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver

Recently a friend and fellow homeschooler asked me if I am a revolutionary at heart. As homeschoolers we naturally all have some degree of revolutionary in us. If we didn’t we wouldn’t have chosen to go against the status quo and keep our kids home so we could take control of their education. In the interest of continuing my own at-home education, a few weeks ago I read Guerrilla Learning. I chose it because of its covert sounding title; it seemed so subversive. How could my “inner-revolutionary” not be attracted?

The authors freely admit the book is not intended for those already homeschooling, citing an effect of preaching to the choir. They want to reach the millions of public schoolers in our country simply because that is the path chosen by the overwhelming majority. To this end, they offer much in the way of analysis of our current public education system, through both historical support and real-life examples. The authors are quick to give credit for the term “guerrilla” learning to John Taylor Gatto, a former teacher in the public school system and outspoken advocate against that system. Especially intriguing is the information regarding the foundation on which our public school system was laid. Llewellyn and Silver examine the aspects of public school that make it counterproductive toward real learning. Public schools “decontextualize information,” “higher level skills are neither taught nor tested,” and “the compliant are favored over the willful.”

Llewellyn and Silver hold up a mirror in which parents may recognize their sneaking suspicions of a standard public school education that isn’t providing “enough” for their children. “You don’t think there’s anything especially wrong with your kids’ teachers or their school – but you want more for them. More learning, more growth, more inspiration, more opportunity….”

Interestingly, the authors don’t demand all parents should keep their kids home, rather they offer the viewpoint that we should let go of the idea that learning takes place only in school. Instead, they propose, view school as only a small part of the whole. Get rid of our hang-ups about grades, standardized tests, and competitive classrooms. Show our children that while we may opt for the public school system, we need not make them slaves to it.

In keeping with that theory, the authors continue by providing readers with the “five keys to learning” in order to equip us with the tools to free our children and ourselves. As parents, they tell us, we have the right and the responsibility to facilitate the real learning that is necessary for the rich lives of our children. The “keys” as indicated by the authors are opportunity, timing, interest, freedom, and support. The authors first enumerate the “five keys” and then spend time providing descriptions and examples of each. Llewellyn and Silver include exercises at the end of each chapter for both parent and child. The exercises are intended to provide an understanding of the keys and insight into how each works and could be implemented. Readers are challenged, for instance, to remember a subject about which they had no interest and had to learn as compared to a subject in which they had much interest and wanted to learn. The outcome of the experiences is obvious. It is our job as parents to recognize when our child shows an interest in learning, and to provide the freedom and support for that child to pursue it.

Although the book is geared toward public schoolers, I found Guerrilla Learning not only an enjoyable read, but one worthy of parents on any educational path. Llewellyn and Silver have written a book that offers valuable information about our country’s public school system. They have provided a concept of supplementing, even circumventing if necessary, that system for the enrichment of the whole child. They have attempted to equip the reader with the tools necessary to implement that concept. With the tools the authors provide, a reader can truly begin the construction work of a real education. To quote Silver and Llewellyn, “In a nutshell, guerrilla learning means taking responsibility for your own education.” That revolution sounds good to me.

first published at the original KS Homeschool website, June 2006

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kansas City Museum

The Kansas City Museum’s First Sunday Family Fun Day is a fantastic way to share a great family moment and have a little fun too! The event, held on the First Sunday of every month, allows children to have fun while also having an exceptional learning experience. There are historic games and scavenger hunts held on the grounds to play. For the artsy person in your family, there is an arts and crafts area. There’s historical information and exterior panels surrounding the Museum for the history aficionados and if you are lucky enough, you might get a free old-fashioned treat.

Kansas City Museum debuts
“Record Your Own History”

When: Sunday, March 1 from 12-4 p.m.

Where: Kansas City Museum

Admission: Free

Address: 3218 Gladstone Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64123

Family histories are passed down in many ways such as through journals, letters and songs. Visitors will embark on a journey through their own family histories at First Sunday Family Fun Day from 12-4 p.m. March 1. Families can learn and experiment with some of the different ways people have passed down their family histories, such as through oral histories and story quilts. Listen to “Story Songs with Emily Tummons” in the StoryTarium.

Check out other events and programs at the Kansas City Museum by clicking here.

A Colorado school district does away with grade levels

It's not about homeschooling, but a public school endeavor I thought worthy of note.

The change that's getting by far the most attention is the decision to do away with traditional grade levels – for kids younger than eighth grade, this first year, though the district plans to phase in the reform through high school a year at a time. Ultimately, there will be 10 multiage levels, rather than 12 grades, and students might be in different levels depending on the subject. They'll move up only as they demonstrate mastery of the material.

from The Christian Science Monitor
by Amanda Paulson
read the entire article here

Sternberg Museum of Natural History

The Sternberg Museum of Natural History is worth the stop if you find yourself near Hays, Kansas. It is even worth a bit of a drive. Hays is located at the crossing of I-70 and Hwy. 183.

The museum is not a particularly large museum, but for me that was a bonus because I didn't get tired of looking before I got to the end of the exhibits. We started on the third floor where they had a great display of life-size automatons complete with sound effects. The T-Rex was most impressive to me, though the kids enjoyed the smaller dinosaur that was chewing grass.

They have a walk-through prehistoric sea diorama and a neat collection of flying reptiles (third best collection in the nation according to the literature). The literature also boasts that the museum houses some of the most complete mosasaurs and plesiosaurs in any museum.

The lower level consisted mostly of what I remember as a kid as being more typical natural history museum displays, fossils and educational displays. They were very clean and well put-together, however. The world-famous fish within a fish is on display there along with numerous other fossils discovered by George Sternberg and family.

They had a neat little film dedicated to the history of the museum which has been associated with Fort Hays State University since about 1902. Many of the displayed fossils were collected right here in Kansas which makes the museum especially interesting to a native.

Sternberg has the most impressive discovery room I have ever seen at a museum. When the museum guide led us through the door she said, "feel free to touch everything" and left us to explore on our own. There was plenty to keep us occupied. My kids enjoyed a series of shelves full of animal pelts that they could pull out and examine at their leisure. They were able to compare the softness of a skunk (minus the smell) and a beaver. They were able to get an idea of the size of a coyote vs. that of a bobcat. They also had a full size buffalo pelt out for examination.

I could have spent more time looking at the slides under the microscope that was set up to display on a computer screen if my kids had been more into that kind of thing. They had drawers full of fossils, insect and butterfly collections, as well as reference books for identifying just about anything you can imagine in nature. They even had an excellent display, near the window, for determining what types of cloud formations there are in the sky on the particular day you visit.

The discovery room also had some live animals in aquariums. Most of these were displayed at child-height with a ledge the shorter ones could stand on to get a better look. Some of the adults laughed at having a live crawfish on display, but it was the first time my kids had ever seen one. They also had some native Kansas spiders that were pretty impressive. One was set up in a unique cage so that you could clearly see her web and the way she maneuvered in it.

The Sternberg Museum is definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thinking Sticks

If you are looking for mind sparks on natural learning, check out this site by Sandra Dodd, Thinking Sticks: Playing With Ideas.

Martial Arts: Topeka

click on image to view it larger

Master Overbey is holding an organization meeting on February 18th at 10am to discuss the formation of martial arts classes for homeschooling families.

Please RSVP to confirm your attendance by phone 273-9988 or e-mail:

Annenberg Media

This link came via Shelley, who says:

The website is sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation and provides free online viewing of instructional videos in a number of high school subjects, along with some supplemental online text material (some of the videos are intended for professional development of high school teachers, but they say many of the videos are also suitable for viewing by students).

Thanks, Shelley!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

For Those New to Homeschooling

I’ve recently come across a number of families new to homeschooling, both online and in person. Unfortunately, many have arrived at homeschooling as sort of a last-defense. Things, for one reason or other, were really not working out for their kids in the traditional school setting.

I say “unfortunately” because I think this must be the toughest route to homeschooling. I think it’s easier for those who begin exploring from the standpoint of wanting to live a more family-centered life. When you’ve been forced to make a choice (which often involves some major lifestyle changes) because your child is suffering, there’s a whole lot of pressure, adjustment, and anxiety to deal with all at the same time.

So I’ve been thinking about the sharing some of the advice I hear from seasoned homeschooling and unschooling mothers that I know and they ways (I hope) we have been helping to ease the transition for some of the new members to our playgroups.

I think the thing most of them need to hear is that it is okay to step back, bring your kid home and focus on getting to know each other again, and take time to figure out what works best for your family. Especially when kids are pulled from a school setting in the middle of the school year, there seems to be a lot of pressure on the homeschooling parent involved to jump right in and recreate school at home. Sometimes this pressure may come from a spouse or other family members, but sometimes it is just fear driving us to “do things right” and “fix” something that has gone terribly wrong for our children.

Successful Homeschoolers Don’t Necessarily Recreate the Classroom at Home

I think one of the biggest misconceptions of homeschooling is that it should look like a classroom at home. There is a stereotype of kids sitting around a kitchen table with noses in textbooks, a mother busy giving lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic in the mornings, and maybe covering geography and biology in the afternoon before a quick “field trip” to the zoo.

Maybe this happens in some families – but it is completely foreign to my experience. I’ve met homeschoolers who follow a prepared curriculum and others who have never cracked a textbook (though they’ve often devoured hundreds of regular old books). I’ve met those who do spend significant time doing something school-like at the kitchen table and those who wouldn’t recognize their kitchen tables for the variety of places they go and the multitude of tasks they do (and don’t even both to categorize as educational or not).

There are those who are going places all the time, exploring their neighborhoods by car and bike and various other modes of travel. There are those who spend a majority of their time enjoying the comforts of home, rising when the moment feels right, eating when hungry, engaging in this or that when they get to it.

If your first efforts to homeschool leave you feeling stressed and frazzled and you or your child in a mess of tears and hair pulling, don’t think you are not capable.

Just stop what you’re doing. Start exploring new ways of doing it. And know that it’s okay that you haven’t found what works for you and your family right at the start.

A Break from School is a Good Thing

If you haven’t run across the term, deschooling, now is the time to Google it. Or you can go read this article, Deschooling for Parents, by Sandra Dodd and then follow her links at the bottom of the article. I couldn’t put together a better collection than Sandra has here.

I think there is great value in deschooling whether you plan to follow a more traditional homeschool approach or a completely radical unschooling approach. Giving yourself permission to take a vacation from school, as well as schoolish ideas, will help you get back in touch with your child and figure out where you want to go from here.

Focus on Healing Yourself First

So much of what happens to our kids goes beyond our role as a parent and caregiver. I listen to people start talking about why they’ve pulled their kids out of school and inevitably stories of their own school experiences are brought into the mix. Our own experiences with schooling, those of our spouses, family, friends—stories both good and bad—have a huge impact on how we cope when our kids encounter some of those same (or different) hardships. Some people who felt they did fine in school will find themselves re-evaluating their own experiences and realizing they weren’t so great after all… or that the parts they fondly remember really had nothing to do with their education.

Sometimes we need to stop and think about how we got to the place we are at, better understand our own experiences and backgrounds in order to begin to formulate our own ideas and gain the confidence we need to be successful homeschooling parents with happy, homeschooling kids. I’ll write more about this in the future, taking from my own experiences and maybe interviewing others to get some different perspectives.

In the meantime, here are some more links to get you started on your journey.

Mind the Gap, by Diane Flynn Keith

A recovering Type-A Mom, by Lisa Heston

What Is Unschooling? by Pat Farenga

What is Unschooling? at

There are a number of blogs and websites linked in the right hand column. Many provide great glimpses of daily life of homeschoolers and through them you will find tons of links worth exploring.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Thinkfinity is described on the website as having "free educational resources for everyone." It is sponsored by the Verizon Foundation.

There are lots of links to online "educational" games here, as well as topics in history. Might a good resource or a place to find inspiration when you need it.