What Our Children Read, or My Childhood Desire for Books With People Who Looked Like Me

One of these stacks of books features people who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, either as the main character or as the main characters. The other stack of books features people who are white. Guess which stack is which?



Did you guess that the taller stack has the books with white characters? That’s correct. Why does that matter?



I am pointing this out because books are one of the key gateways to learning, imagination, education, knowledge, and culture that our civilization has. Books can lay the foundation for children to gain understanding about how the world works. Who and what they see portrayed in books (and media, which is related) have a conscious and unconscious part in building children’s worldviews and opinions and biases about themselves and others. So, if we say that we value diversity of cultures, inclusion of many different kinds of people, and a wide range of storytelling, then shouldn’t our literature reflect that?




This is the stack of books with animals or non-humans as the main characters. Animals are fun, kids love pretending to be animals and drawing parallels between humans and other creatures, and animals, machines, etc. are a nice way to illustrate different aspects of diversity. But children still need to see characters who look like them, other children who they can relate to, and learn from, and learn about, and learn to empathize with.


If a child never sees people who look like them in the books they read, what kind of message is that sending about their importance in the world?


If a child never sees people who look different from them in the books they read, what kind of message is that sending about their importance in the world?


I rarely saw girls who look like me in books when I was little. I grew up in California, and then Idaho, and was homeschooled in environments where I was almost always (99% of the time) the only non-white child. It was like a slap in the face when I experienced racism as a child because I didn’t have my heritage pointed out much except when people (often strangers, but sometimes folks we knew) made hurtful comments. My mom actively sought out books where children who were dark-skinned had the spotlight. Some of my favorite literary memories involve my mom buying books about Native American children at the history museum gift shop for me, which I read so much that I wore them out. I read the American Girl books about Josefina and Kaya (a Mexican American girl and an Indigenous girl) from the library over and over again. My mom even found beautiful nursery rhyme books with characters in it who were of different ethnicities, which I still use today for my own daughters. But the sad truth was that books with children who weren’t pale-skinned were very hard to come by, let alone children who were from families who spoke languages other than English or celebrated their cultural identities.


It’s easier to find books that are more diverse now, especially picture books for little ones, especially from the library, especially from our favorite local bookstore. This picture shows our current stack of books from the library; there are so many gems! I have been overjoyed to use this community resource for our everyday reading and our educational pursuits all year long. Plus, there are a lot of awesome chapter books that have been written in the last ten to fifteen years that feature BIPOC, which I’m thrilled to have on my upcoming booklists for Harmony to read, either by herself or with me!


But when it comes to our home library, I still see the bias in how many books I have that are considered “classics” which do not feature any kind of diversity. That’s the way it has been for so long… entertainment and media and books and resources have reflected the dominant culture for the entire duration of America’s history. But it doesn’t need to be this way! Children deserve to hear the stories of the fantastic people who came from so many varied backgrounds and cultures to make up the great Melting Pot of our country. Yes, we still keep many of the children’s books I grew up with, which the girls enjoy, but I don’t want that to be the only books they find on our shelves anymore. I am constantly searching for books and excited to find them to share, which I’ll be doing on my Instagram homeschooling account!


We need to widen both our own perspective and our children’s. We need to welcome books that feature humans of all sizes, colors, features, heritages, ages, and dreams. We need to show children the struggles and triumphs and failings and wisdom from people who look like them and people who don’t look like them.


Great, diverse books help us see the possibilities of living in a society where people can be together in harmony, honoring our shared ground, respecting each other’s differences, and growing in our own ideas of what the world could be.

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The First Seven Years, or How I Realized My Parenting “Plan” Was a Mistake

Harmony reminded me that her birthday is in one month. Almost eight years old! As I look at her, how lanky and lean-strong and joyful and lighthearted she is, I can barely remember the anxiety I felt years ago when she was a toddler, Adaline’s age.

Harmony would never let me out of her sight, as an infant, a baby, and even later without screaming as if the world was ending. Even when I tried to give her to Chris, she would wail, day after day after night after week after month after year. “Surely she will grow out of this… she has to accept that she has two parents… she needs to know that mama will always come back,” we would say, after another exhausting evening of her screaming at Chris for hours while I was at work teaching. This had not been what we had planned when we began preparing for children! Eventually, she became calm enough where she could stay with him, or my folks, without having a total breakdown, but it took a very long time. It was several years before she would stay with a babysitter (who had to be someone she knew and liked), and she refused to be in a nursery setting or class without me or Chris next to her.
It was difficult to take her to playgroups with other babies or children. If anyone came close to her, she would shy away from them, often crying if she was touched or felt cornered. She didn’t play with others, but preferred to watch them. I was as supportive and loving as I could be; I tried to be her safe place, never pushing her beyond her comfort zone, yet continuing to encourage her to try new things, to go down the slide as I held her hand, to wave hi to a child instead of crying if they talked to her, to go get a toy across the room herself instead of me getting it for her. Slowly but surely, she began to accept that she could venture out without clinging to me, and that I would be always supporting her when she needed it.
Many hours were spent researching “highly sensitive children”. Books, articles, stories… I discovered better ways of helping my daughter, understanding her, and loving her. I made mistakes. I apologized to her many times. I cried (when she wasn’t with me) because I sometimes felt like I was failing, when she didn’t do what I had hoped or expected her to do. I projected my own expectations on her too often. I learned to let her move at her own pace. I learned to love who she was, not who I had wanted my projected image of a daughter to be.
There was (and is!) so much about her that was amazing and beautiful, right from the very beginning! She loved learning about the world, was curious about everything, adored numbers and math from a very early age, began talking at only a few months old, could listen to books read aloud for hours, wanted to spend much of her time outdoors, danced constantly, made up her own songs, and had fascinating observations of the world. Harmony has always been her own person. She was happy being herself, with us, and never seemed to worry about how others perceived her. She is still that way, thankfully.
At age five, we started going to a homeschool co-op, after I asked Harmony if she would like to take classes in science and art with others. The classes were small (ten or less children, with two adults in each classroom), the families were friendly, but Harmony couldn’t handle being there without me. I was the assistant for her classes for months so she could continue to sit in my lap when she felt overwhelmed. She didn’t play with others during recess. I thought, during my lowest, most short-sighted moods, that maybe she would never have friends.
But, from the comfort of the safety we gave her, she grew. Slowly, she began interacting in her class. She would talk to her teachers. She played with kids at church instead of running away from them. She began to look at people when they addressed her instead of hiding her face. She went an entire class period without needing to hold my hand. She went over to a friend’s house to play, without me staying. She had fun at a friend’s birthday party, even playing party games. Change is inevitable, yes, but we came to understand that good growth is gained by patience, gentle encouragement, the freedom for our child to be who she needed to be, and most of all, love. Being a good parent didn’t mean changing my child, it meant loving her and supporting who she was becoming, giving her the tools to navigate the world around her as she wanted or needed them.
Harmony is very different now in many ways. She loves being with her friends, likes going to classes and places without me, talks to new children she meets, and enjoys giving hugs to everyone. She is talkative and endlessly curious and so excited to explore everything! Yes, she is still sensitive, and probably always will be, to some degree. After a few hours around other people, she is depleted of energy and needs to be alone, being quiet and doing activities that recharge her, like reading or listening to audiobooks or drawing or playing outside by herself. Loud noises bother her a lot. So do big crowds, sudden surprises, and busy places. She can’t wear certain clothes because the feel of tags or various kinds of cloth bothers her. We recently found her a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, after a melt-down occurred when we were at a children’s museum a few months ago; later, she told us there had been too many people talking at the same time in the museum. The headphones are such a good idea, and I wish we had thought of getting her them long ago!
I have learned so much. I am humbled by how much I didn’t know, at how much I have felt like I messed up in the past. I have had to become the parent Harmony needed, not the parent I thought I would be when I first found out I was pregnant. I am still working on all of this. I am constantly learning and growing. I am always hoping to change for the better, as a person and a parent. And thankfully, I know that Harmony loves me, just as much as I love her.
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Goodbye, Second Grade! What Worked, and What Will Change

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What a way to end the year… second grade finishes out with us still quarantined in our homes, where we’ve been since the third week of March. I’m grateful that we have remained healthy, and that I’ve been able to transition my job as a guitar teacher to online formats (and my husband still has his job and is working from home), so we really don’t have anything to complain about. Life feels very surreal, though, as we miss our friends and family, avoid going to stores as much as possible, play in our yard or go on neighborhood walks instead of going to the park or to friends’ houses, and read the books from our own bookshelves instead of the library’s. Truthfully, I miss the library and coffee shops the most for our homeschooling routine, with museums right behind them!

Normally, we would end the year with a homeschool co-op expo, a guitar recital, and a May Day celebration. Since those were cancelled, Harmony recorded videos of her poetry and verses she memorized to send to friends and family. We still made May Day baskets, hung on our neighbor’s doors and delivered by car to a few folks nearby (we are getting good at distant porch conversations). We rewarded Harmony with a subscription to Curiosity Stream, a site that has hundreds of documentaries available on many history and science subjects, which is exactly what she has been loving lately. So far, we’ve watched a few shows on dinosaurs, and this afternoon she chose a documentary on mechanics in nature and biomimicry, since that was the subject of our Earth School quest today. 

So what worked for second grade, and what didn’t? While I started out more focused on the Wildwood Curriculum, I realized that we are far more eclectic, and will probably never follow a set program or curriculum or methodology. And that is okay! Here is a rundown:

Character Study: We read a lot more picture book biographies than I originally planned, which went along with Black History Month, Women’s History Month, different cultural celebrations, etc. and it was FANTASTIC! I’m definitely going to continue finding important themes to study for 3rd grade. These helped us learn about various character traits that are admirable. We read more Bible passages, too, for the seasons of Advent and Lent. Fables went really well; I started those in 1st grade, but she didn’t really understand them until 2nd grade.

Music: Every day, we started by listening to our monthly folk song, monthly hymn, a science song, a Spanish song, and any other music we chose to focus on. This was the perfect way to begin! We also learned solfege from Sing Solfa and practiced guitar (I’ve been teaching her since age five). Music is an important part of our learning time together.

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Memorization: Harmony memorized a modern poem (For These, For All Things Beautiful, by Linda Peavy), several Bible verses, a quote, and a classic poem (Rain In Summer, by Longfellow). The key to doing so was months of repetition. Even Adaline, at two years old, ended up memorizing them, too! We all enjoyed being able to say these together. Definitely a habit we will continue.

Reading: Even though Harmony can read quite well and was capable of reading chapter books and manga by the end of last summer, I still wanted to make sure she continued phonics practice and reading out loud, so I chose different books for her to read aloud for just a few minutes each day. We went through Nate the Great, Encyclopedia Brown, Bink and Gollie, Mercy Watson, and the Magic Tree House selections. Her reading skills improved, for sure.

Writing: She finished the Handwriting Without Tears first cursive workbook. We both liked their print book, but weren’t huge fans of the cursive set-up, so we won’t continue the same program next year. She likes being able to write in cursive, yet still finds it difficult. Her writing isn’t super messy, but isn’t very neat, so we will work on that for 3rd grade by copywork and using writing skills for applicable subjects. We had started out the year using Writing With Ease by Susan Bauer, but we dropped it by the second semester due to Harmony preferring to narrate passages we read from our actual literature (she didn’t like excerpts from books), and because the writing involved just seemed like extra busywork.

Spanish: We used the free online songs and videos from Rockalingua. It was simple, nothing complicated or involving writing, but she did a lot of memorization for the song lyrics, and got more used to hearing and saying Spanish words. We will begin DuoLingo Spanish lessons together in 3rd grade; I was waiting for her to become more comfortable with reading and writing first, so I’m excited to do this with her!

Literature: As I wrote earlier, we read a whole lot of picture books about famous people from many cultures or different religious or cultural or historical events, multiple times a week. Besides those, I read aloud many chapter books to her, including Schoolroom in the Parlor, Heidi, The Story of Doctor Dolittle (heavily abridged by me because RACISM, ugh), Understood Betsy, and The Secret Garden. We ended up not reading a lot of the folk tales from various cultures that I had planned, simply because we were reading so many other stories, and that’s okay; I have plans for including those books in our various history studies in the future. The most difficult part about reading was getting Adaline to not interrupt constantly! Harmony loves hearing books read aloud, so she listens to audio books every single day (not even kidding), and during our weeks in quarantine my mom has been reading aloud the Chronicles of Narnia to her through FaceTime almost daily, as well. I’m already compiling our list of books to read aloud for 3rd grade!

Math: Harmony did half of Teaching Textbooks Level 4. Originally, I had planned to have her do the entire program and finish by the end of the summer, but after seeing the benefit of letting her do less math so that she still found enjoyment in it, decided to ease up and let the second half of Level 4 be saved for 3rd grade. Harmony is ahead of where she needs to be at grade level, and I would far rather let her take a slower pace and still love numbers! She likes Teaching Textbooks and asked to continue the program once we start back up again in August.

World History: Curiosity Chronicles: Ancient History, was a HUGE hit. Harmony loved the narration aspect of the textbook (it has two characters narrating each chapter back and forth, but I simply held up bookmark pictures for them and used different “voices” when I read it aloud to her), she loved the civilizations we learned about, she loved the projects we did, and she had fun putting together our timeline! She wasn’t as excited about the discussion questions and map work, but after looking back on it, she told me she would like it more if we simply discussed the chapters verbally instead of writing down the answers, and would prefer to not do the map work, but just look at a globe or map to find the locations mentioned. So that’s what we’ll do for the Middle Ages in 3rd grade, because she has already asked me to get that curriculum! I really appreciated how culturally diverse the program is; the author has done a great job of showcasing many different places, not making the focus Eurocentric, and showing how there were a lot of social, ethical, and technological advancements made by many cultures all over the world. Harmony loved Ancient History so much that she has already re-read the entire textbook on her own, once we finished the final chapter two weeks ago. She also really got into watching documentaries about the various civilizations we read about, which I’m totally fine with… who knew I would have a kid just as thrilled about seeing Mayan temples and Chinese tombs as I am!


Science: Sadly, we missed out on the final weeks of our homeschool co-op science class due to the stay at home order being issued for Missouri, but the teacher for Harmony’s class is continuing to give out the projects and lessons they were going to learn, so Harmony has enjoyed finishing her studies in botany. They have two more Zoom meetings to finalize their class! Harmony has diligently been writing down definitions of words like “chlorophyll”, “venation”, “angiosperm”, “stomata”, and “transpiration” in her nature journal, documenting the results of our science experiments, and watching her bean plants grow and change. We will be doing some leaf collecting this week!

Art: This class was also sadly cut short; Harmony was disappointed to miss learning more about drawing. Fortunately, my mom has done some amazing lessons for Harmony over FaceTime, teaching her how to draw birds and other subjects, and Harmony has continued to draw dragons and her favorite genre, abstract art, a whole lot on her own for fun! My mom, sister, Harmony, and I also started doing projects from the Brave Artists Club together, which have been awesome. It will be nice when we can actually work on art *together* instead of seeing each other through screens! Harmony loves art a lot, and makes creative, interesting projects or pictures almost every day.

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Nature Study: Since Harmony’s science class had been learning about botany this semester, and it was super cold and often raining outdoors during the winter, our nature excursions were few and far between over the last few months. Harmony was fine with this; we ended up going to more coffee shops to read and do school together, or going to a museum (St. Louis has soooo many free, cool places to visit), rather than going on a nature hike when Adaline could stay with my mom for a while. We will continue nature journaling in 3rd grade, and hopefully be able to go out on more hikes again soon!

American History: I’ve already written about the difficulty I had with finding any kind of curriculum for this subject that is diverse, inclusive, and not white-washed, but I did put together my own list of books that would take us through the first wave of Indigenous people groups coming into the North American continent thousands of years ago, the progression of other civilizations entering the country for exploration and conquest, and the European groups colonizing the Eastern coast. We got into the beginning stages of the American Revolution, and ended our studies with the Declaration of Independence. I used the show Liberty Kids to structure our studies about the beginning of the United States, and really like the various perspectives offered in the episodes. I must say that I learned a lot, right alongside my daughter. I have a deeper appreciation for the fight for independence the settlers went through to bring freedom to the colonies of America, but feel a lot of sorrow at the many injustices done to Black people, the many Native American tribes, and women, who also desired to be included in the liberties that ended up being primarily for white men. I am VERY happy to say that Blossom and Root has created an American history curriculum that looks amazing,and seems to be everything that I was looking for! I only wish that we had had this available at the beginning of last year, but I’m glad it exists now! I’m trying to plan our 3rd grade schedule, and haven’t yet figured out whether we will continue American history studies this next year or whether we will focus on Missouri history and geography instead, so if we decide not to do the Blossom and Root curriculum yet, it’ll be waiting for us in 4th grade.

Harmony and I are both happy with how our year of 2nd grade went. I always ask her what she liked, what she wished went differently, and what she would like to do more of in the future. I’ll be choosing various curricula and programs over the next few months for 3rd grade.

Adaline was a force to be reckoned with, the entire time! She was often disruptive, usually difficult because she doesn’t like me paying attention to anyone other than her, and always loud. However, after many days of working with her, by the end she was content to be included in our studies as much as we could, or play or draw while we did school. I need to write a different post about her, and what her path of learning as a toddler looks like! She is brilliant, loves to memorize, knows her alphabet and how to count up to twenty, can sing entire songs, talks incredibly well, and loves to be read to as much as possible.

Over the summer, Harmony will be doing some light math review from a 3rd grade workbook that she found interesting, reading books (we are crossing our fingers for libraries to open back up for their summer reading programs), watching Curiosity Stream shows, and doing whatever other projects she likes. We will continue doing Earth School from TED-ED until the middle of June together. I have a few books I was hoping to read aloud to her, too, including The Hobbit, which I promised to start over the summer. We’ll keep playing and listening to music, of course. Going outside to play and go on walks is a daily occurrence. She has a limited amount of time to play Minecraft and a few iPad games, and there are always pictures to draw, books she likes to read on her own, games to play, LEGO to build, and many other fun things to try!

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This summer will certainly look different than we had originally thought it would, as the world and our own city figures out how to handle the pandemic, but we are looking forward to figuring it out and being together as a family. Learning doesn’t stop just because we are on summer break, or because we are under a stay-at-home order, or because we don’t have the resources or locations we thought would be available. Learning is everywhere and all the time!

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The Hardest Subject: American History

History has been, for me, the most difficult subject to plan for and teach in our homeschooling journey so far. I’ve checked out over two dozen history curricula designed for homeschoolers, and even a few that are meant for public or private school classrooms. I’ve looked into secular history and Christian history options. I’ve investigated history curricula written long ago, and some written recently.

I was very disappointed by most of it.

History, in general, is written by the conquerors. This means that most history curricula is Euro-centric, glosses over injustices done to weaker people groups, glorifies “expansion” and “colonization” (i.e. stealing land and genocide), and tends to water down historical fact to the point of inaccuracy. I won’t name specific curricula here, but you can bet that if it’s one commonly used in homeschooling circles, I found that it taught history this way and would not feel comfortable using it to teach my child.

The good news is that I did find a curriculum I like for world history! We will be using Curiosity Chronicles: Ancient History. It is a secular curriculum geared toward grades one through three (for the first level, ancient history, and there are later levels for older grades available) that feels like it has enough variation in how it is presented to be able to connect to multi-aged children who learn in various ways, with hands-on activities, fun projects, written assignments, reading, etc. to bring history to life. They have their own supplementary book lists as part of their curriculum.

Side note: I don’t see anything wrong with fictionalized historical stories, either in picture books or chapter books. That doesn’t feel like “watering down”; it seems better to present history to children in story-form, so that’s fine! My issue is with changing actual historical facts to fit an inaccurate view of what happened, due to a socio-political agenda of the author or their own lack of true knowledge.

Why is so much of the historical curricula for homeschoolers so flawed?

I think there are many reasons. But I’m not going to speculate on that here. After being entirely frustrated with my search, I decided to create my own American history book list.

The suggested books from Whole Story History and The Parallel Narrative were very, very helpful in this endeavor. I highly recommend that anyone searching for history alternatives start with those two websites! My goal was to find books that presented European, Indigenous, secular, religious, and ethnic minority viewpoints on what happened in the early years of America, so that we could see history from multiple perspectives.

Here are the resources we will be using for American history, over the entire second grade school year:

~ Under Three Flags: Exploring St. Louis History, From the Ice Age to the Louisiana Purchase, by Maureen Hoessle

~ The Discovery of the Americas, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ Before Columbus, by Muriel Batherman

~ The eight part documentary 1491: the Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus

~ Sunset of the Sabertooth, from the Magic Tree House series (#7), by Mary Pope Osborne

~ Exploration and Conquest, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, by Joseph Bruchac

~ Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl, by Kate Waters

~ Roanoke: The Lost Colony, an Unsolved Mystery from History, by Yolen/Stemple/Roth

~ Mayflower 1620: a New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage, by Arenstam/Kemp/O’Neill Grace

~ The Pilgrims of Plimoth, by Marcia Sewall

~ Finding Providence: the Story of Roger Williams, by Avi

~ The New Americans, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ The first thirteen episodes from the television program Liberty’s Kids, free on Youtube

~ Liberty or Death: the American Revolution, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ Molly Bannaky, by Alice McGill

~ A Voice of Her Own: Phyllis Wheatley, by Kathryn Lasky

~ Abigail Adams, by Alexandra Wallner

~ Paul Revere’s Ride, by Henry Longfellow

~ Children of the Earth and Sky, by Stephen Krensky

~ Children of the Wind and Water, by Stephen Krensky

~ Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, by Gretchen Woelfle

This will take us up to the beginning stages of the American Revolution. We’ll pick up where we left off when we begin third grade in August, 2020!

If I could choose just three resources from this list, I would say you should check out the books by Betsy and Giulio Maestro, the documentary 1491, and Under Three Flags. They are really great, and can be used for multiple children as a backbone for discovering early American history.

I have about a third of these books in our home, bought from book sales in the past for a dollar or two each. The rest of them are borrowed from the library when I need them. We will read these books, narrate and discuss them, do a little map-work, add big events and people to our historical timeline, and occasionally do an activity based on the week’s book. A few of the books will only be used for excerpts; some will be read all the way through, over the course of a week or a month.

Since this is my first year truly teaching American history, I’m ready and willing to change or adapt what the list looks like! At the very least, I have peace knowing that I am working towards giving my daughter a more balanced look at our nation’s history. She has both European and Indigenous ancestors in her heritage, based on her dad’s ancestry and my own, and I want her to grow up knowing the truth about both sides of her timeline.


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A Homeschooling Parent Manifesto, Second Grade

This Homeschooling Parent Manifesto was created from a post I wrote over five and a half years ago, when Harmony began preschool in a tiny homeschooling group I was part of! My views on education have changed and grown over those years, and while I’m not appalled or upset at anything I wrote back then, I wanted to change my manifesto to better reflect where I am as a homeschooling parent today. 

It really helps me to focus on what my goals are when I write them down in this way! I will be printing it out to put in my homeschooling planner, for review when I need to be reminded of what is important.

If you want to copy any of this and use it for your own inspiration or manifesto, please feel free to do so! If you share it publicly, please credit it back to my authorship. Enjoy!


As a homeschooling parent, I determine to:

~ Instruct my child(ren) so that they will have the ability and desire to embark on their life-long journey of understanding themselves, loving others, exploring the world, and hungering for truth.

~ Trust my child(ren) to be active in their own education. They are the one(s) who will ultimately decide what to do with their lives, and their innate curiosity, energy, abilities, and talents will be key factors in their personal educational path.

~ Help my child(ren) discover their gifts and strengths in whatever area they choose to explore. I want to impart that learning can be done for the love of learning, not just because it is a chore or necessity. More importantly, though, I want my child(ren) to know that I love them for who they are, not for what they can do.

~ Develop individual academic paths based on the abilities, interests, and personality of each child so that they can best learn how to love beauty, how to think outside the box, how to think logically, how to gain understanding for themselves, how to express themselves, how to learn from the past so that they can become aware of the future, why things work the way they do, how to do practical mathematics, and how to succeed with practical life skills. 

~ Provide a supportive environment for my child(ren) to study, explore, investigate, research, learn, and experiment. I will encourage age/maturity-appropriate learning (regardless of assigned “grade levels”), letting my child(ren) take risks, be curious, and develop their skills and judgement. While the desire is for the child to be an independent, capable learner, I will always provide safety for the child(ren)’s personal well-being. I will provide resources, encourage mentorship, and give access to supplementary educational options as the child desires.

~ Focus on the development of the child as a whole person who is creative, expressive, passionate about what they love, resourceful, hard working, and wise, keeping in mind the end goal of a person who is healthy in mind, body, and soul. Education happens not only at a desk, but also in the kitchen, in the garden, at the store, out in nature, with friends, with a parent, by ourselves. The world is at our doorstep just waiting to be explored!


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Second Grade Curriculum

After agonizing over not being able to find a history curriculum I liked (as you can read in the previous post here), trying to decide what exactly to cover in second grade, and figuring out what I felt Harmony would connect with the most, I finally came up with an outline of what we will be learning about together for this upcoming school year! Yes, I view myself as learning right alongside her. I consider myself to be a life-long learner, and as a formerly homeschooled student myself, I’m excited to continue my own studies in each of these subjects.

This is divided by single subject, but we will only be reading short parts of these books as they fit into our schedule on a few days of the week, not doing every subject every day, and keeping academics to about three hours daily. Most of what we’ll be doing involves me reading aloud to her, just like last year! She still LOVES hearing stories read aloud, as long as they aren’t too intense or scary, so the Charlotte Mason emphasis on living books fits well. I got a lot of inspiration from the Wildwood Curriculum website and I’m grateful for the perspective it provides. I deviated quite a bit from it, so our schedule will look more eclectic than anything else, but it still has some Charlotte Mason principles that Harmony and I discovered worked well for first grade, like the loads of literature, narration, focus on character, lots of nature, etc.

I’m still writing out our weekly schedule, so I’ll do another post on that later, as well as more detail on some of these subjects, like history.

If something I’ve added to the list doesn’t connect with Harmony or serve her well, I have no problem taking it out! This is a tentative list. Some of the books are picture books that can easily be read in a single sitting; some of them will be covered over the course of an entire month. A few will be used for a semester or the entire year. Most will eventually be read entirely, over the course of study, but a few will only be used for selections. We will be using some of these books for multiple grades!

~ Character Study ~

I wanted to have three areas of focus: caring about self, caring about others, and caring about God. Everything here addresses one of those topics.

The Fruit of the Spirit

The Book of Matthew

Aesop’s Fables

Five-Minute Devotions of Nature

“Right, Wrong, and Being Strong”

“Learning to Be a Good Friend”

“Eight Keys to a Better Me”

“I Walk With Vanessa”

“Strictly No Elephants”

“The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade”

“What Does It Mean to Be Present?”



~ Music ~

I am a guitar teacher and freelance musician, and my husband is also a musician, so there is quite a bit of music around the house anyway. Harmony just entered the second level of the guitar curriculum from my studio, so we will continue that! We listen to a LOT of music all day, in the car, on the radio, on the CD player, on the iPad, on YouTube, everywhere. This is just the deliberate selections I’ll be making!

Guitar lessons

Folk songs from Wildwood Curriculum

Listening music from Wildwood Curriculum

Solfege lessons from Sing Solfa



~ Memorization ~

We enjoyed memorizing poetry and verses last year, so we’ll continue it this year. We may not have our previous selections memorized forever, but the way it allows us to see the world helps shape who we are and how we view life, which I find very valuable.

“Rain in Summer”, by Henry W. Longfellow

Colossians 3:12-15

Co-op selections

“For These, All Things Beautiful”, from With Joy poems


~ Reading Practice ~

Harmony will practice reading aloud excerpts from these books. She reads a lot on her own already, but we still need work with phonics, and there’s no need to do formal spelling or grammar yet. Reading aloud is wonderful work to begin learning the form of our language! I anticipate that she’ll probably love these characters and storylines so much that she’ll more than likely want to read them on her own, too.

“Mercy Watson” series

“Bink and Gollie” series

“The Land of Barely There” story books

“Nate the Great” series

“Mouse Scouts” series

“Encyclopedia Brown” series

“The Littles” series


~ Writing ~

Most of what she will be doing is copy-work still. At the end of the year, we will begin learning how to write sentences and short paragraphs, but we’re going slowly. 

Cursive Handwriting, from Handwriting Without Tears

Writing With Ease, Level 1

“Merry-Go-Round: Nouns”, by Ruth Heller

“Kites Sail High: Verbs”

“A Cache of Jewels: Collective Nouns”

“Many Luscious Lollipops: Adjectives”

Thank-you notes

Poetry copy-work

Introduction to paragraph writing


~ Spanish ~

We mostly sang songs in Spanish last year and watched episodes of Spanish cartoons from the free PBS show, Salsa. We don’t need a formal program yet.

Free songs and games from Rockalingua

Folk songs from Sing Solfa


~ Literature, Read-alouds ~

This was Harmony’s favorite part of school last year! I’m excited to read these aloud to her and have discussions about them!

“Schoolroom in the Parlor”

“Velveteen Rabbit”


“The Story of Doctor Doolittle”

“Much Ado About Nothing”

“Understood Betsy”

“The Secret Garden”

“Comedy of Errors”

“Half Magic”

Japanese folk tales

Irish folk tales

American folk tales

Native American folk tales

African folk tales


~ Math ~

Harmony liked this program last year. She is technically supposed to be in second grade math, and this calls itself fourth grade math, but it doesn’t seem very advanced, and she has done a good job handling everything so far.

Teaching Textbooks, Level 4


~ World History ~

We are excited to learn about the ancient history of our world! The other picture books are mostly from our library, to supplement the main stories of the Curiosity Chronicles book. I like this curriculum because it shows many different cultures and how they affected both the advancement of their own society, and it also shows how they fit into the civilizations around them, without making it seem like one culture should be elevated above another.

Curiosity Chronicles, Ancient History

Timeline documentation

“Sunset with the Sabertooth”

“Muti’s Necklace”

“Seeker of Knowledge”

“How to Build Your Own Country”

“Temple Cat”

“The Great Race: Chinese Zodiac”

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths

“I Have the Right to Be a Child”

“Archimedes, Take a Bath”

“What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?”

“The Librarian Who Measured the Earth”

Usborne Book of Myths and Legends

“Day of the Dragon King”


“The King’s Chessboard”

“The Chocolate Tree: a Mayan Tale”

“Why Do You Call Me a Barbarian?”


~ American History ~

After struggling all summer with the fact that no American history curriculum or main book exists that I feel comfortable teaching with (I explored and read through almost two dozen curricula), I finally decided to create my own book list that will cover the topics that I believe are important to know, in a more inclusive, less Euro-centric way. I also wanted to highlight more of the women in our country’s legacy. Having the perspective of Native American cultures throughout the entire timeline of America is very important to me, too, so I am seeking to include books that provide that as much as possible. I won’t use a lot of the usual books that are often recommended for this subject because they either minimize the damage done to the Indigenous people groups who were already present in America when colonists/explorers arrived or make it seem like the colonists/explorers were doing something positive in their actions against the Indigenous people. I want to be clear with Harmony right from the very beginning that history is filled with many difficult decisions and situations, and there were people on every side from every culture who tried to do what was good and right, but there were also many injustices done. We will cover the earliest people groups who inhabited America up through the beginning of the Revolutionary War. We’ll focus far more on the Revolutionary War and Westward Expansion of white colonists next year for 3rd grade. I’ll be writing another post on these books and resources for them later!

“Under Three Flags: Exploring St. Louis History”

“The Discovery of the Americas”

“Before Columbus”

“Exploration and Conquest”

“Squanto’s Journey”

“Sarah Morton’s Day”

“Roanoke: The Lost Colony”

“Mayflower, 1620”

“Tapenum’s Day”

“The Pilgrims of Plimoth”

“Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams”

“The New Americans”

“John, Paul, George, and Ben”

“Liberty or Death: the American Revolution”

“A Voice of her Own: Phillis Wheatley”

“Abigail Adams”

“Molly Bannaky”

“Paul Revere’s Ride”

“Children of the Earth and Sky”

“George Washington”

“Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence”

“Children of the Wind and Water”

Episodes from the television show Liberty’s Kids


~ Science ~

We belong to a wonderful home-school co-op where Harmony will take classes every week on different science topics! I’m grateful that she is getting a solid education in science that she absolutely loves, because I was never a fan of science as a student. I learn with her from the take-home work and the emails that are sent out after each class.

Co-op classes, with the subjects of Introduction to Chemistry, Chemistry, and Botany


~ Art/Handicrafts ~

She likes this co-op class, too, but “not as much as science”, she said. Grandma, who lives a few minutes away, will also be doing handicrafts with her, which is awesome. I will be teaching and assisting at the co-op as well in the art program.

Co-op classes, with the subjects of Collage, Set Design, Art in Ballet, and Drawing

Activities with grandma, such as cooking, baking, embroidery, and felt sewing


~ Nature Study ~

We had a difficult time getting outdoors for the last third of the year of first grade, because the midwest experienced record levels of snow and flooding, and because Adaline began to walk and RUN away from us whenever we went out! Most of our nature explorations happened at a nearby park or our own backyard, which isn’t bad, but wasn’t what we had hoped to do. So we are planning on letting Adaline spend time with grandma each week so Harmony and I can focus together on nature together again, much to our delight!

“Exploring Nature with Children: a Complete Year Long Curriculum”

Nature journaling

Nature excursions


There it is! We start school on the 19th this month, so I still have a lot to do to get the weekly schedules written out for the first semester, arrange our school supplies, get our household organization back in order so I don’t have to worry about it as much during the school year, and finalize my own schedule. Harmony and I are both looking forward to starting second grade together!



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Homeschooling: The Good and the Hard

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog! Wow. I’m sure some of what I believe has changed since I first began writing about education over eight years ago, and that’s awesome. I always want to be growing and changing as I become a better educator, both as a music teacher and as a homeschooling parent. It’s good for me to look back on what I’ve written before so I can see how I’ve grown!

So here is an update on where I’m at currently as far as our homeschooling journey has gone.

First, a little background, if you’ve never read about me before.

I was homeschooled my entire life (except for one semester when I was seven, when I requested to attend public school, disliked it, and came back to homeschooling very happily), and Chris, my partner, had been homeschooled, attended a public school, and went to a performing arts high school. I had studied education in college, and along with becoming a music teacher, I felt that it was important for children to learn about social issues, that children needed to have a lot of freedom, and that I wanted to give my own children the opportunity to learn at their own pace, all of which homeschooling would hopefully bring. Chris and I knew that we would homeschool our children before we even got married, so it wasn’t a matter of deciding to homeschool, just the difficulty of figuring out how to actually do it.

We did an eclectic preschool year for Harmony at age four which was fun and worked well. Our kindergarten year was pretty much the same. I had purchased or was given a few little workbooks, used the Bob Books for learning to read, found many free resources to print off from online sites, and was investing in good books for our home library, but otherwise didn’t want to make too much of our learning academic yet. The choice of which curriculum, which method, which books to use for your homeschooling academics is never going to be easy. Not only are there SO many choices out there, but there will never be a one-size-fits-all, so I wasn’t in a hurry to jump into that search yet!

At the end of kindergarten, I already knew that Harmony was more than ready for first grade the next year. She surprised me by saying that she wanted more math that was harder. Khan Academy, skip-counting, introduction to word problems, and basic addition/subtraction concepts with manipulatives were all we did for kindergarten, and I thought it was enough. But she didn’t! After she whizzed through not only a kindergarten math pack and a first grade pack from the dollar store, we gave her two math placement tests, where she ended up at the third grade level. I was surprised! She had just turned six at that point. But we wanted to follow her lead, so we found a math program that was both affordable and seemed like it would work well for third grade math, Teaching Textbooks.

We also joined a homeschool co-op where Harmony just finished her third year. The children at the co-op are ages three to sixth grade, with several ages in each class, and they study art and science. It has been WONDERFUL. We are so thankful for our homeschooling friends, and the community we have through the co-op! But I’ll write more about that in another post.

It was after Harmony turned six that I began thoroughly researching homeschooling methods and curriculum, because I wanted to have a solid plan for first grade. The most appealing, in many ways, was the Charlotte Mason method. I was happy to discover Ambleside Online, a free guide for homeschooling families to follow with a Charlotte Mason mindset. There were and are so many things about it that I love, like the monthly folk songs, the emphasis on living books, the understanding of the child as a whole person, nature journaling, narration, and much more, so after reading as much as I could to prepare myself, I borrowed, put on our library list, or purchased (with gift cards, in many cases) a lot of the required books that were laid out for the first year of AO. It was nice to have such a helpful guide to follow!

Some of the readings or books bothered me, though. I felt like it was very Eurocentric, which was understandable since Charlotte Mason was a British educator at the turn of the twentieth century! The books she selected for her students were designed to carry on the knowledge of what they deemed to be a fully educated British citizen. Now, the appeal of her work is that many of her theories, both in how to interact with children and in what constitutes a whole person, are timeless, and she has a lot of goodness to be passed down to today’s educators. But since I was not trying to raise a British citizen, I decided to substitute some of the suggested books in favor of a more modern view of the world. At the same time, I also knew that some stories are classics for a reason, and just because a book was written long ago doesn’t necessarily mean it is no longer relevant or should be discarded! I tried to be very thoughtful about what I substituted.

I would say that first grade went well! We enjoyed the vast majority of the books. We learned a lot together. We fell into a nice groove that was only disrupted when Adaline, my second daughter (oh yeah, I’ve had another child since I wrote my last blog post here!), became a wild toddler tornado. We both learned how to interact kindly with each other, despite being tired (me) or whiny (Harmony) or distracted (by Adaline). It was a wonderful time of growth.

I was prepared to do AO year two for second grade, while continuing with Teaching Textbooks for fourth grade, since that was working well. But as I began delving into what Harmony would be learning with AO’s suggestions, I became uncomfortable with what felt to me like an outdated view of world history, social studies, and American culture.

Perhaps it was because my mom raised me to see how racism is not just speaking badly about minorities (as Ma does in Little House on the Prairie), but also in erasing minorities from history (only studying men’s contributions historically, only studying white people, only portraying one side of a story, glossing over extreme injustices, etc.). I can’t, in good conscience, have my child read a white-washed version of the story of Thanksgiving. I can’t, in good conscience, tell my child that the pioneers blithely swept across the plains and settled into “free land”, as if it was a positive event. I can’t, in good conscience, tell my daughter that Columbus discovered America, or that Pocohontas was a willing agent in “helping” the colonists. I can’t.

After searching for history resources, both in world history and American history, that had a more inclusive, less Eurocentric viewpoint, I realized that not only was I coming up with nothing, but also that much of the Christian homeschooling curricula available was objectionable to me for the reasons I just wrote. Feeling discouraged, I went onto a secular forum and asked about history resources there. Instantly, people brought up suggestions. I found several options that looked excitingly promising! Plus, I realized that there were other families out there who were feeling disillusioned with Christian curricula, like I was, because of the same reasons. We would call ourselves “Christian”, in various theological positions, but we were leaning towards a more secular education because we desired more ethnic, gender, and historic inclusivity and historical accuracy in our children’s upbringing.

It’s been a few weeks since I have been investigating all these areas. One of the best discoveries I’ve made is of a fairly new website called Wildwood Curriculum, a secular Charlotte Mason group that takes what are considered to be her universal, timeless theories/truths, and brings them into an updated format that is far more inclusive, accurate, and meaningful for today’s students. It still encourages families to use their own religious or spiritual guidance, and we will, but there is a lot that I appreciate about it, despite the label of “secular”, which often has a negative connotation in the Christian realm of homeschoolers. The books lists are very similar to Ambleside Online, there is still a huge emphasis on Charlotte Mason principles, and the age/maturity level is similar, too.

This is not meant to be a dig at Ambleside. I greatly appreciate many of the resources they offer! Nor do I want to make it seem like I am rejecting any kind of of curriculum that calls itself “Christian”. My journey is a unique one, as is every single homeschooling parent out there who seeks to provide their children with a good education. Every family’s path will be different. Every family will need to make difficult decisions about what to read, what to teach, when to show the ugly side of humanity’s history, when to introduce hard concepts, what to leave out. Nobody’s education is perfect. Nobody’s parenting is perfect! This is my story of who I am as a homeschooling mother and the decisions I am making for my children.

Right now, I’m still making specific book decisions, based on the Wildwood Curriculum’s suggestions. Harmony is still just as sensitive to intense or violent stories as she was last year, when I had to leave out or heavily edit the fairy tales we were assigned to read in AO (they are also part of the assignments in WC). We recently tried to read aloud an abridged version of Robin Hood (even though Charlotte Mason recommends not using abridged versions of books), and within the first few pages, Harmony was pleading that I stop because it was too scary. So I have to be cautious with what we cover! But I will say, I am much more happy to be planning our second grade year, knowing that there is a guide and a method that I can believe in more fully, which meets my expectations for the kind of education I hope to provide for my daughter.

I’ll share more over the summer as I pin down what we’ll be doing!

Posted in Exploring education, Home-schooling 101, Homeschooling | Leave a comment

I Lost A Student

I lost a student.

He graduated high school, attended his last lesson with me, performed his senior recital, and is now no longer a student of mine.

But it’s not as simple as that.

Each student that walks through my door is a person. I always remember that. They’re a small person, usually, a person with little life experience, but a REAL person nontheless: a child. I teach children because I love how much they learn and how they can love music with a purity that is rarely found in most adults. But because I teach children, there is always the knowledge that inevitably they will one day leave to bigger and better things in the big adult world.

In my years of teaching, I have seen dozens, possibly even hundreds, of students enter my music studio and exit, some after a few years, some after many years. Some quit when they reach high school. Some quit because they would rather focus on another instrument. Some quit because they want to focus on their social or academic or sports life. Some quit because they don’t care for guitar anymore. Some quit because they are simply graduating from high school and moving on. But they all do quit at some point.

I don’t do well with transitions. I always care deeply about the vast majority of children I teach (there have been a FEW students who have made my life as a teacher horrible, but they are usually gone fairly quickly), so every time a student finishes their time with me, there is pain as my heart lets them go, as every good teacher does.

And that’s usually the end.

But not every time.

His name is Colin.

Usually I use a different name for the students I talk about here on this blog, because they’re underage and I don’t have permission to use their names, but this time I’m sharing his real name, because I think that some day you folks out there are going to hear of him. He is a musician. A good one. And he’s got the potential to be a really great musician one day because he puts his soul into what he plays and sings and he sincerely wants to grow into the best kind of musician he can become.

A year ago I was stunned to realize that he was seventeen.

Didn’t he just start lessons with me as a 6th grader? Wasn’t it just the other day that he was wearing his black hoodie to every lesson, keeping his eyes down and refusing to talk? No… now there is a tall young man in the chair, playing his own compositions confidently with a fire that I never would have guessed was in the heart of that silent little boy.

After winter break we began planning for his senior recital.

I saw the end coming.

These have not been easy years. If Colin reads this, he won’t say it’s not true; I was very close to asking another teacher to take him as a student instead of me, multiple times, because there were lessons when I was utterly frustrated with him. We had major rough spots. During the first year of lessons he didn’t speak a word to me. There were weeks of not practicing what I assigned, days of me trying to urge him to learn a new skill or concept, lessons of moodiness and struggle, and just feeling like I was hitting a brick wall.

But in spite of all this, the honest answer is that I was learning just as many lessons from Colin as he was learning from me. Being his instructor taught me things that made me grow.

How to turn a comment into a positive critique instead of a negative remark.

How to teach someone who learns almost entirely by ear how to read music.

How to push someone out of their comfort zone just enough to grow, but not enough to drive them away.

How to take a deep breath and focus on the music instead of becoming angry when a student is being stubborn.

How to explain a music theory concept four different ways because the first way didn’t click.

How to not take it personally when a student is snippy or silent during a lesson, because you don’t know what they’ve been going through.

How to know when to be gentle in your correction and when to roar in your backlash against musical mistakes.

How to help each student find their own niche of interest in music, even if it takes you completely out of your comfort zone (Colin is the only person I’ve seen who can rap Eminem songs while playing classical guitar….).

And most importantly, how sometimes the best thing you can do for a student is to simply be there for them. They show up at their lesson; you show up as their teacher. Maybe some days you don’t feel like anything musically productive was accomplished. But maybe all they needed that day was to know that you were still there, not giving up on them, still hoping for the best and pushing them to become better.

Then maybe one day you’ll find that the young student you never would have guessed would make it this far is suddenly almost an adult, and you are in the spring semester of his final months of lessons, and now you’re just wishing you had more time.

And now he’s turning eighteen, graduating high school.

And it’s his final lesson.

You remember that you told him at guitar camp when he was fourteen that he should smile more often, because it transforms his face completely and he would be able to make friends more easily. Now he smiles all the time. Although he’s still a pretty serious guy. That’s okay… at least there’s more of a balance now than there was years ago.

He remembers that you taught him to palm mute bass lines and forced him to learn chords for an ensemble piece involving blues. You have barely any recollection of that. It’s fascinating to find what sticks out in one person’s mind, but not another’s.

You go to the sound check for his senior recital. He’s not used to singing with a microphone. You fiddle with amplifiers and mic stands. It has to be just right. Or at least as close to just right as possible.

You feel nervous on the day of the recital. He looks nervous too, but you both know it will be fine. Probably. Hopefully.

Over eighty people come to see him play classical guitar pieces, his own compositions, and cover songs. The audience cheers and claps. He makes a few mistakes, works through them, improvises a little, recovers, keeps going.

Then it’s over.

Everyone loved it.

And that’s the end.

He is no longer my student. No more lessons, no more time. This is the moment of separation that each teacher prepares for.

Except that afterwards, he gives me a hug and says, “Thank you for being my teacher. Now this is the beginning of a new era. I’m going to be a musician; I’m going to keep studying music. Now we can be friends.”

My eyes are already tear-filled with the emotion of letting go.

“Are you kidding?” he says. “I’m not going to forget my guitar teacher! Of course I still want you around. I’m going to play at coffee shops and things. And I’m going to study music. This isn’t goodbye.”

And with those words, I am invited back in.

I lost a student.

But it looks like I’ve gained a friend.

And more importantly, the world has gained another awesome musician, one whom I’m proud to call a fellow guitarist, who I’m sure will one day make a name for himself. Look out for Colin, world.


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As part of Write Alm’s November Prompts, I saw that today’s prompt is: Harmony!

My daughter, Harmony, is now almost twenty-nine months old, or close to two and a half years. I’ve already posted about what our daily life looks like as home-schoolers, so here are more details of what we’re currently doing. It’s important for me to document what we’re doing as I study how children learn and what environment they learn best in, as well as understand better who my own child is and how she learns!

Harmony LOVES doing what I call “school”: projects with me or Chris that involve colors, numbers, letters, words, etc. Her favorite thing is for us to lightly write letters or words on a piece of paper so she can use a marker or pencil and trace over them. Also fun is color sorting, finger-painting, tracing/naming shapes, and spotting the differences in pictures on worksheets. Part of the fun is that she gets one-on-one time with us, and part of it is that she likes challenging herself to learn and focus. She will ask to do “school” with us.


We do allow limited use of technology now for Harmony. Almost every day she either watches a Richard Scarry Alphabet dvd or the Numbers dvd. They are twenty minutes long, sweetly done with music and singing and fun repetition that she adores. Sometimes she’ll watch an episode of Magic School Bus. She also likes to play an alphabet game that we downloaded for free on our iPad. It allows her to trace letters and words with her finger, explore pronunciations of letters, see pictures representing letters, and practice beginning spelling. We also listen to a lot of Bible songs on the radio or My Little Pony songs on Youtube. She requests music every day.

Harmony is truly having a good time with writing! She recognizes all her letters and likes to trace them. She also seems to be teaching herself basic words to read, recognizing certain words in her books and ones that we write for her to trace. This is NOT something we have pushed her to do. Writing is something that I love; she sees me do it often, and she’ll ask to “write letters too” with mama at the dining room table while I write a letter or in my journal!


We read an incredible amount of books together, too, which contributes to both of our love for words. I try to read different genres and levels of books: picture books for imagination, “educational” books about colors/seasons/shapes/etc., story books, introductory fairy tales, old classics such as Peter Rabbit, poetry for children, nursery rhymes, and science books (her favorite is the Magic School Bus book about honey bees). She is also memorizing songs and rhymes that she likes.


I will sometimes suggest activities for her to do, or ask if she’d like me to read to her, and follow her direction. If she says “no” to something I volunteer, I don’t force it. If she agrees, then we spend time together doing the activity until I can tell she is getting tired of it. If she seems bored, I’ll suggest something else.


She is learning how to play more independently, which is good too because I don’t want her to think that I am there to constantly entertain her! She is ALWAYS welcome to help with chores around the house. This week she:

~ Made pumpkin pie with me

~ Made her scrambled eggs for lunch with my help

~ Washed potatoes and peeled garlic for soup

~ Swept with her little broom while I swept

~ Learned how to rinse dishes off to put in the dishwasher

~ Put away the tupperware and silverware from the clean dishes

~ Sorted dirty laundry into piles for washing

~ Picked up her toys in the den

~ Made her bed

~ Took the sheets and blankets off our beds for washing

~ Helped daddy rake and pick up all the leaves in the front and back yards

~ Wiped off the dining room table with a washcloth

~ Helped with grocery shopping


I ask her if she’d like to help, and when she says “yes”, I give her a job to do. If she doesn’t want to help me, that’s fine, but I expect her to not hinder me or whine while I try to get my work done! Sometimes she chooses to go look at books by herself or play in her room while I work.

Not everything we do is “educational”. I try not to turn every moment into a lesson of some kind. We are not in a rush for Harmony to do academics if she doesn’t want to or for her to be measured with some kind of standardized achievement test.

As humans, we’re learning and growing all the time, whether academically, or in our character, or our personality, or socially, or in a specific skill, but sometimes we are just having fun or relaxing! Just like I enjoy sitting on the couch chilling with a movie, Harmony likes to watch Clifford occasionally, or we’ll go play at the park for hours, or we’ll walk to the local bakery for a cookie. Play is one of the most important things a child can do!





Much of what she does during the day is her choice. It’s a constant time of learning for us as parents and teachers, as well. We are teaching her that she needs to follow our directions when we do give them, such as getting her diaper changed so that she doesn’t get a rash (we’re potty-training, but not rushing it!), not chasing the cat, not leaping off the chairs, washing her hands after she uses the bathroom, and other similar things. Yet we want her to learn self-discipline, freedom, and independence, so we try to avoid ordering her around or needlessly saying “no”.

Ultimately, we want her childhood to be full of joy, play, curiosity, love, discovery, and wonder!

For more details on why play is so important for children, check out the great writing of Teacher Tom.

Posted in Exploring education, Homeschooling, Mothering | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Story of Joseph: the Boy Who Ran Away from School


“Where were you on Monday night? You missed ensemble rehearsal,” I asked Joseph* as he walked in for his lesson on Thursday night. “Oh…” he looked flustered. “Um… I had homework. Lots of homework.”

I sat down to tune the guitar he handed me, puzzling over his response. I’ve known Joseph since he was seven years old, so at fourteen, I usually know when he’s not quite telling the truth. He had informed me last month that he completed the majority of his homework assignments in study hall, or during class, which meant that he rarely had homework to do after school. But I could see that he was embarrassed about something; I dropped the issue and turned to his music.

As the lesson was ending, I said, “Now do be sure to come to rehearsal this next Monday. We really need the entire group there all the time to have an effective practice.” Joseph nodded, and I handed him his music book, expecting him to pack his guitar up and leave.

He hesitated. “Hey…. I didn’t really have homework on Monday.” He was looking at the ground, red-faced behind his glasses. I stopped mentally preparing for the next student and focused on him. Something was wrong. “What happened?” I asked.

Joseph sighed. “I was in trouble. I left school early that day without telling anyone. I had an awful day. School has always seemed pointless, but Monday was the worst it’s ever been. Three different teachers yelled at me, the work they made us do was dumb, and I couldn’t stand being there any longer. So rather than go to my last class where I knew the teacher I hate the most would yell at me too, I just left the school and walked home. My friend saw me leave and he came with me.”

“Then what happened?”

“The school caught us leaving on security cameras, so they called my dad at work. He came home and found us playing video games. And everything kind of exploded from there.” Joseph looked up at me for the first time, defensively. “You would have left school too! I couldn’t take it. I hate it.”

I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I managed, “I’m guessing you were in trouble at home on Monday evening, which is why you couldn’t come to rehearsal.”

“Yeah.” Joseph lowered his gaze again. “And I was suspended for a long time.” “How long?” “A week.”

“A WEEK?” I gasped. “For leaving school one hour early?”

“Well, the principal told me that I probably would have been suspended for just a day. But when my dad brought me back to the school to apologize that afternoon when I’d left, I told the principal exactly what I thought about his school, and my teachers who don’t teach me anything useful, and the stupid homework, and the stupid classes. I just got it all off my chest. The principal was super mad at what I said and my attitude. That’s why he kicked me out for a week.”

I stared at Joseph. Surely this couldn’t be the same Joseph the principal had suspended. I saw a competent, attentive, intelligent student every week who absolutely loved music. He brought a sharp wit and humorous outlook on life to his lessons, yet I was often struck with his deep, sensitive way of thinking. He was always calm, but I knew he had strong views about education, creative writing, good music, and movies. He seemed well-balanced with spending time indoors playing video games with friends and skate-boarding outdoors. He was very dedicated to guitar, even recently growing out his right-hand nails, despite digs from his buddies, in order to get a better sound with his guitar tone. He and his dad were always playing guitar and drums together. I looked forward to his lessons every week.

“Anyway… I wanted to tell you what actually happened,” Joseph mumbled.

“Thank you.” I watched him put his guitar in its case, pondering what to say. “Joseph, while I do sympathize with your feelings about being treated like just another dumb kid at school, of course I can’t condone your actions or behavior with the authority you’re supposed to answer to there.”

“That’s okay,” Joseph grinned a little, but I could see that his eyes were sad. “I won’t run away again. They can keep me there. They just can’t make me like it.”

*Joseph’s real name has been changed.


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