2019-2020 School Year, Medical Drama, Planning

2019 = Dumpster Fire

Time for a monthly update! 😀

At the beginning of December I had surgery to remove the rogue organ. Happily, the surgery was successful and everything came back benign. We have spent most of December recovering, working on celebrating the holidays, and just decompressing.

One thing we did differently this year was to celebrate the winter solstice, or at least pause and note that the days will gradually be getting longer. I tend to have seasonal depression each winter and the post Christmas/New Year’s let down typically is the hardest on me. January 2019 was full of snow and we all went stir-crazy in a way; and I’m hoping that shifting our focus mentally from “each day is a slightly longer day” as opposed to “each day is another day closer to insanity” will help make the seasonal depression not as bad. We’ll see if January 2020 also brings us a plethora of snow.

For the solstice we lit a metric ton of candles and ate dinner by candlelight. The kids adored it and it was a lovely little nod to the return of the sunlight.

From now until we resume school in January, I’m working on the schedule and reflecting on the last six months. One thing I have wanted to do for a while is shift our schooling focus from the traditional school calendar (August – May) to align with the regular calendar (January – December). I have this fever dream of working from January – Thanksgiving, then spending Thanksgiving to New Year’s resting, planning, reflecting, and so on. January would start a new “grade” for the kids in terms of work and books, but they would get a new “grade” with their traditionally schooled counterparts in the fall to make it easier for things like 4H and swimming lessons, or anything else that tends to be grouped by grade.

Montana requires us a specific amount of hours to be completed per year, which the law defines as basically the fiscal year. So as long as I hit my hours in the correct time frame; I can school whenever and however I want, follow whatever schedule I want and so on.

I haven’t fully committed to this idea yet but it definitely is appealing. New books and a fresh beginning to align with the New Year may also help us all from going bonkers during the winters as well.

Circling around to the surgery, I’m finally starting to feel much more normal. I’m still tired a lot and still haven’t been cleared to return to ALL of my activities; but I can drive, my incisions have healed enough that I can stop wearing jammie pants everywhere, and I feel much less brain fog from the anesthesia. I still have lingering concussion symptoms, mostly in the form of headaches (which I can tell are from the concussion as I have to take acetaminophen and ibuprofen to stop the pain), but hopefully 2020 will be the year I get my brain back to mostly normal.

I hope everyone has had a good holidays and that 2020 brings in a lot of good changes and whatever else is needed to be a happy, healthy human.

2019-2020 School Year, Medical Drama

This is probably the wildest homeschool year yet

I love how my last post here was our curriculum choices following the hit-and-run. Suffice to say, those choices were woefully optimistic.

In addition to the soreness and fatigue from the accident, I ended up spending six weeks in physical therapy so I could turn my neck again without pain, and I ended up having a concussion. I still have concussion symptoms – memory loss, brain fog, word-find problems, and so on. I’m improving slowly, but you can imagine how that threw a giant wrench in my homeschool plans.

I decided this was going to be THE YEAR that I got all my check-ups, eye appointments, dental cleanings, etc done. I had been having symptoms of an issue for 2 years, but thought “eh, I’ll deal with it later”. I finally decided to look into that, and it turns out that I have (what I call on Instagram) “Something Interesting That Shouldn’t Be There”. Initially we were going to take out Something Interesting That Shouldn’t Be There, but looking at a variety of factors; we decided to remove Something Interesting and the organ it’s attached to so that we don’t have future Something Interestings.

Last week I had a biopsy of the organ to make sure we aren’t dealing with something Serious, and also to have a clear plan on how to remove said organ.

And that brings us to this week.

Naturally, alllll my plans made this past summer were out the window. I had to massively LET GO of expectations and just do what we could, when we could. In addition to all my health stuff, we still have a plethora of recurring appointments each week. There were many weeks where I felt like a colossal failure.

But despite all this health stuff, PT, the appointments – the kids are making great growth. We have basically done whatever school I feel up to doing whenever I feel up to doing it. It’s worked well.

My child with learning disabilities is almost on grade level for reading and math. That child has been getting explicit and intense instruction on reading and math since April.

My sixth grader has been exploring philosophy as a possible career choice. And she’s built some interesting games in Python.

My second grader is discovering that math is fun.

My fourth grader is discovering that reading is fun.

All three kids won special awards at 4H for their first year accomplishments AND they received money won from their blue ribbons at the Fair.

The kids have all pulled together to help me with keeping the house picked up, helped out with each other, and have spent a lot of time playing with one another.

I have thrown out using weeks because that was making me freak out – in Montana we have to measure hours anyways. I’m eyeballing some exams for December, or January depending on when the surgery is. This more relaxed schedule has been SO helpful.

With the surgery looming, I have ample time to get all hands on deck. Planning out menus and shopping lists so my husband can take it over without having to worry, getting the school planned (hello loop scheduling) so my autistic kiddo (and all the kids) can have some semblance of normality in a really abnormal time. Getting the house as cleaned up as possible and then teaching everyone how to maintain it.

Honestly I had beaten myself up massively over the last month or so for “not doing enough” but in retrospect we have done SO much. The kids have had a lot of learning about the judicial system, how insurance works, the human body – all stuff I couldn’t have planned out. They have all shown growth in the subjects we are hitting. It’s incredible.

I plan on detailing what we’ll be doing homeschool wise for the surgery, once I figure out when that is. If there’s one thing I’ve had time to do, it’s think about what needs to get done vs “the extras”.

2019-2020 School Year, Books, Planning

2019-2020 Curriculum Choices

It’s been a few months, which means I should work on regularly posting how our homeschooling adventures are going.

I came to a nice happy place of blending Wildwood Curriculum with a DIY approach, which provided us with a very nice first week of school. It was a little hectic, but I attributed that to the general “we’re still trying to find our groove” sense. We were looking forward to slightly redesigned schedule for week 2.

Then we were the victims of a hit-and-run car accident.

Happily, we only had our youngest in the car with us and his carseat protected him so well. My husband and I have some injuries, but nothing severe. We tried to do week 2, but the constant phone calls with our auto insurance, the police, the doctor, imaging done to check for broken bones; and the fatigue that comes with being in pain – I decided to reboot our entire school to account for my fatigue and pain (hopefully both of which will be short-lived). I decided to combine all the kids! into all the subjects! and using my 6th grader’s subjects as the template to follow.

Here’s my selections for Term 1 of our 2019-2020 school year. Links to Amazon are affiliate links, thank you for your support!

Language Arts

  • Spelling: copywork and Phonetic Zoo (sixth grader), copywork and spelling lists I find online (everyone else)
  • Handwriting: copywork and Harry Potter cursive (sixth grader), and a cursive workbook for my second grader. My fourth grader will keep working on refining his printing.
  • Reading: all kids have read-aloud time with me each day so I can monitor what they’re getting stuck on. My dyslexic child has some gaps to fill with regards to reading, so we’ll be using the “whatever works for us at this time” method. I have at my disposal: Progressive Phonics, Phonics Pathways, MCP Plaid Phonics, and lots of easy readers and graphic novels.
  • Grammar: everyone is getting focused grammar. In addition to reading well-written material, we’re using grammar workbooks from Amazon for my sixth grader.




World Religions, Logic, and Philosophy



I’ll post what we’re doing for Afternoon Rest once I finalize what exactly we’re doing! I have some ideas but I need some uninterrupted time to think and figure out if I’m overloading everyone or not.

Homeschool Conferences

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Dale McGowan – Engaging Ethics

Special note: even though Dale writes about parenting from a non-religious point of view, his talks were not from any pro or anti-religion point of view. The two books of his I’ve linked at the end of the post were not referenced in his talks, but are included as a small sample of his work.

Not knowing what is wrong is rare – you already know what is right. Example: “you mean to say murder is WRONG?!” No one says that.

Morality – prosocial, helps people, improves lives

Moral stages (1950s-1970s)

  • Piaget’s developmental stages
  • Kohlberg’s moral development

Moral development stars earlier than previously thought – 12-24 mos = shame, guilt, pride etc can be felt. Theory of mind – can be used to comfort or mess with someone else. Parents are the early regulator.

Moral development acts on existing temperament – 40-70% of temperament is genetic. Temperaments – open, slow to warm, negatively reactive.

Moral development positively correlates to healthy attachment to primary caregiver.

Moral development: experience > formal teaching.

Religion is an unrelated variable — Dr. Larry Nucci — studies children’s moral development. Moral indoctrination interferes with moral development, children can’t think morally.

Moral development has a mostly positive default. Children will hit moral landmarks regardless of what parents do.

The Ethical Eight

  1. Responsive and prosocial home life, strong attachment
  2. Encourage active moral reasoning
  3. Don’t hit or humiliate kids
  4. Encourage kids to question authority, including yours
  5. Make them comfortable with differences
  6. Use knowledge to drive out fear
  7. Teach and expect responsibility and maturity
  8. R E L A X

Some of Dale’s books:

Dale’s Website

Homeschool Conferences

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Kieran O’Mahony – Ignite Your Children’s Learning With A Neural Lens

Basic overview of the brain

The amygdala controls defense (fight, flight, react)

Boredom results in shutting down and can move us into the defense mode. If a child doesn’t feel safe they can’t learn.

We can move the brain to use the prefrontal cortex and restore calm.

Learning Components

  • Physical Movement – BDNF (brain-derived neurtrophic factor)
  • Choice and Prediction – we all hate being told what to do (can cause us to be reactive)
    • when we are predicting we can not be functioning from the amygdala
  • Fun and Laughter – releases feel-good neurotransmitters, makes the brain “talk”
    • serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin
  • Human Interaction – also releases feel-good neurotransmitters
    • a lack of human interaction releases cortisol
  • Sense of Discovery – prefrontal cortex –> curiosity, imagination, creation
    • discover the answers vs being told them
    • we are hardwired to learn
    • boredom activates the amygdala

Dandelion vs Orchid Children

Serotonin Transport Gene – short, long.

  • Dandelions: long/long
  • Orchid: short/short
  • can be a combination (short/long)

Dandelions are resilient kids who thrive in any environment. Orchids need to be greenhoused – very sensitive children. 23andme can show the results of this. You’ll know if you have an orchid.

Always teach towards the orchid, dandelions flourish wherever they are.

The Environment

Also important for learning:

  • Safety (obviously)
  • Sleep (regular routine, 7 days a week – practice good sleep hygiene)
  • Low cluttered spaces keeps working memory open

Working Memory

1950s – Miller’s Law –> 4+/- 2

The Finger/Palm Game

Engaged a lot of learning components

Anticipation is often greater than the reward


Keep lessons short, end on success

The younger the child, the more activities are needed

Kieran’s Websites:

Kieran has a book coming out this fall (IIRC) as well.

Homeschool Conferences

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Dale McGowan – The Four Parenting Styles

Special note: even though Dale writes about parenting from a non-religious point of view, his talks were not from any pro or anti-religion point of view. The two books of his I’ve linked at the end of the post were not referenced in his talks (The Altruistic Personality was), but are included as a small sample of his work.

  • Parenting guidance in the 1920s:
    • John Watson
      • Little Albert and conditioned response
      • Holding babies will spoil them
  • Parenting guidance in the 1950s:
    • John Bowlby
      • attachment theory
  • Parenting guidance in the 1960s:
    • Harry Harlow
      • cloth and wire monkey experiment
    • Diana Baumrind
      • discipline
      • warmth
      • communication
      • expectations
  • Four Parenting Styles:
    • authoritarian
    • authoritative
    • permissive
    • uninvolved (added by Martin)


  • Permissive Parents can be:
    • affectionate
    • anxious to please
    • can’t say no and stick to it
    • easily manipulated
  • Permissive parenting outcomes in kids:
    • demanding and whiny
    • easily frustrated
    • lacking empathy and kindness
    • poor to average student
    • a follower
  • Uninvolved parents can be:
    • emotionally removed
    • unpredictable
    • inconsistent
  • Uninvolved parenting outcomes in kids:
    • clingy and needy
    • rude
    • troublemakers
    • poor students
    • a follower
  • Authoritarian parents can be:
    • emotionally aloof
    • “because I said so”
    • emphasize differential in power and rights
    • physical punishment and/or verbal insults
    • dismisses a child’s feelings (eg: “that’s not something to cry over!”)
  • Authoritarian parenting outcomes in kids:
    • well behaved
    • average to good student
    • moody and anxious
    • a follower
  • Authoritative parents can be:
    • affectionate and engaged
    • set limits and enforce consequences
    • use reason, logic, and appropriate negotiation
    • empower decision making
  • Authoritative parenting outcomes in kids:
    • happy and kind
    • good at problem solving
    • a leader
    • a good student
    • cooperative and responsible


  • How to parent authoritatively
    • listen repsonsively
    • validate emotions
    • establish clear rules with clear reasons
    • positive incentives
    • logical, proportional consequences
    • allow small choices from an early age (but beware the paradox of choice)
    • balance freedom and responsibility
    • encourage self-discipline by always moving toward autonomy and allowing mistakes

The following book links are Amazon affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you use these links to purchase. Thank you for your support.

A book recommended by Dale: The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Germany
Some of Dale’s books:

Dale’s Website

Homeschool Conferences

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Ed Zaccaro – 8 Components of Quality Math Education


Math is typically taught as “all scales, no music”. By tuning into our children’s passions, we can help them achieve excellence.

It is important to include real life math investigations – helps eliminate the “I’ll never use X” thought.

Make math interesting, challenging, and important.

Example: Dr. Alice Stewart used math (statistics) to show that X-rays of pregnant women had a valid result of an increase in childhood leukemia in the 1950s.

A child’s interest and passions are NOT always their areas of giftedness. Don’t squelch them.

Use math to solve real world problems:

Example: the gold kangaroo coin for $100 that is absolutely tiny because the advertisers used mm to show the diameter.

Example: whalers would promise 1/200 of profits, some hired men would DEMAND 1/300 of the profits not knowing they were getting ripped off.

A way of making math interesting: take boring worksheets and turn them into a game, ie “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”



We can benefit from our mistakes. Some math mistakes in media:

Wizard of Oz: the scarecrow doesn’t properly quote the Pythagorean Theorem after he gets his brain

Proposition 203 in Arizona (cigarette tax)

Help kids develop GRIT

When working work variables, try the 2-10 method. Example:

Tom paints n cars in t hours. How many cars does he paint in an hour?
Tom paints 2 cars in 10 hours. How many cars does he paint in an hour? (5, t/n)


Introduce various subjects like math, history, science, analogy, etc. Dinner time trivia is a good painless way to do so.


Example: marble jar

You don’t need to be a math superstar in order to teach math.


Example: Level 1, 2, 3, and Einstein level of math problems.

Kids in primary grades can do much harder math problems than we expect (intuitive learning)


Keep learning basic facts

Teach thinking, not rote


This forces a thorough understanding of place value

Base 2, 5, 10, etc

Some of Ed’s Books:
The following links are Amazon affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you use these links to purchase. Thank you for your support.


Book Notes for: Rewiring Education

Title: Rewiring Education: How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc
Authors: John D. Couch, Apple Inc’s First Vice President of Education and Jason Towne, research fellow at Harvard University

Why I read this book: I’m always interested in how technology and education fuse and I’m especially interested in challenging educational norms. I’m a product of the public school system and while a lot has changed since I went through it; a lot has still stayed the same.

The premise: our current educational models are in dire need of reform. The traditional public school system was designed to produce workers, not thinkers. In a technological age we are in need of thinkers. Before we can revolutionize education we must first understand aspects of learning such as potential, motivation, and even the learning environments. After we’ve understood that, how can we harness and utilize technology – and encourage our kids to become creators, not consumers? How can we use the technology our kids know and love to transform their education, to enable them to solve problems – but more importantly; how to think.

Interesting to note: David Thornburg (an educational futurist) talks about three learning spaces – the campground, the watering hole, and the cave. Couch and Towne add the mountain. Campground is one to many (think stories around the campfire), the watering hole is peer to peer (think of workers in the office or a group project in school), and the cave is one to one (reflective assimilation of what you’ve learned). The mountain is the environment where mistakes are encouraged and supported (like climbing a mountain, you’re going to slip and stumble from time to time).

Examples: Mythbusters, Sal Khan, Wifi on Wheels, Apple Camps, The Primary School, Ad Astra School, Minecraft

Worth Googling: challenge-based learning, Health Without Borders, blended learning

Overall take-home message: Technology can be the great equalizer in terms of giving every child access to a watering hole. An online course for coding can link children all across the United States regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, geographical locations, or schooling choice. Provide access, opportunities to build things, and teach your kids to code. Coding teaches kids to THINK – even if they never go on to be computer programmers. Technology is just like any other tool – used well and it can do great things for us, used poorly and it can be extremely detrimental. Therefore, it’s important to look at psychology long before we look at technology; so we can make sure we are using technology appropriately.

Recommended for: people interested in the intersection of technology and education, people looking for an outside the box approach to education, people who need some positive information about technology and kids, homeschoolers or afterschoolers who are tired of the same old approach to learning that they experienced


Grades 2,4, and 6: Wildwood Curriculum

After lots of thought and research, I’ve decided not write my own curricula this school year. While I thoroughly enjoy writing my own, this is not the season for me to do so. Some factors that weighed in my decision:

  • the newly diagnosed learning disabilities
  • the number of appointments each week for therapies + regular checkups (vision, dental, medical)
  • my health
  • my goals for the kids for the upcoming school year
  • what worked and what didn’t work from the previous school year
  • where the kids are at in terms of age
  • what I’m expecting the upcoming year to be like
  • and so on

I decided to definitely go with Wildwood Curriculum as much as possible, substituting books that we already have read as needed. I’m not expecting too much modification, except for my 9 year old who isn’t quite ready for Form 2 but has done most of their Form 1 readings. For him I’ll be making a combination Form 1/Form 2 transition year.

Now that I have my bearings for all the kids, the fun part begins: selecting books and writing out the weekly plans!


Pre-K: Blossom and Root Early Years

While I figure out what I’m doing with the older kids, I figured I could at least write out the general plan for my younger kids. The toddler will continue to blow through life as usual, although he is starting to be more and more interested in listening to stories be read to him.

My next youngest, who turns five this summer; has been itching to learn how to read and write. She isn’t quite ready for formal lessons or learning the basics of reading, but she’s not content to listen from the sidelines or play when the older kids are doing school.

I decided to use Blossom and Root’s Early Years curriculum for her. I like its approach: gentle, interesting, varied topics of learning, affordable, and actually implementable. I don’t follow it to the tee, but I use it as a backbone for the week. Amazingly, my library has a lot of the books used in Volume 1 (which is what we’re working through now), so I can just pick them up when I’m in that area. She’s enjoying the activities, and nothing we’ve run into thus far seems to be “too young” for her.

It scratches the itch for her to “do school” and I don’t have to really stress or worry about what I should be doing with her. Print off the plans, open it up to the correct place, pick out our activities, and sprinkle them throughout the week. It reduces my decision fatigue, and that’s always a help. (If I’m especially on top of things, I’ll have the library reserve 2-3 books from the plans for me so I can just go for 3 weeks before I have to go back to the library for the next batch of books.)

We aren’t too far into Volume 1 but right now it’s definitely a great fit for my daughter.