My book, A Simple Choice, is now out-of-print … good news or bad?

A Simple ChoiceAs of yesterday, my second book, A Simple Choice: A practical guide to saving your time, money and sanity, is now officially out-of-print.

That might sound like bad news, but in this case it’s actually good news and very exciting for me.  The rights to publishing the book reverted back to me from the publisher.  Now I can update the book and revamp it to my heart’s content.  I’d been wanting to re-do the book, but it was out of my hands.  And now it’s mine to do with as I wish.  Hooray!

So stay tuned!

If you haven’t read the original version, it’s still available (new and used) via third party sellers on Amazon.  It’ll be at least six months (if not longer) before it’s re-released.   I frequently hear from readers that it’s their favorite book of mine.  :-)

First change will be the cover so it doesn’t look like a feminine hygiene product box anymore.  I never had any say over the cover with the previous publishers.  It’s not a bad cover … but not a great one, either.  I want a great cover next time.  :-)

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Living Books and Reading Aloud


Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren, 1888

One of the most valuable activities in our home is reading often and at length from good books, “living” books, chosen carefully for their literary value—interesting, educational and pleasurable to read.

I remember my grandmother baby-sitting me often when I was quite young due to my mother’s on-going health problems. Each night, Grandma would read one of the Beatrix Potter books to me. Those moments curled up, warm under the covers with Grandma sitting on a chair beside the guest bed reading delightful stories about Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle are some of the warmest and fondest memories I hold dear from my childhood.  Years later when reading those books to my own children, it evoked happiness in the deepest part of my being.

I started reading aloud to my children when they were just days old. I know they couldn’t understand what I was reading yet, but I knew that the love and care communicated to them by being held in my arms as I read softly to them was a gift beyond measure. By the time my children were about three-years-old, they were all able to sit and listen to chapter books like Charlotte’s Web or A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh series.

For a list of twaddle-free literature by grade level, go to:  Debi’s Twaddle-free Reading List

I continued reading aloud to my children for as long as they were living in my home.  If my children ever have children, I hope to be able to read to my grandbabies someday, as well.

Once my kiddos were reading fluently on their own, they did their school work from their own books, but we still continued our family read aloud times just for the fun of it. I think all the reading aloud in our home did wonders for our family. It served as a treasured family activity, a foundation for a love for great literature in the children, a means for developing a stronger command of the language, and an avenue for increasing listening skills.

Reading aloud was always a cornerstone of our family time, as well as our homeschooling adventures.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


Are you homeschooling or car-schooling?

Who says homeschoolers aren’t socialized?  Sometimes I felt I needed to guard against too much socializing!

I usually would limit my kids to one activity of their own so I wasn’t driving all over town all the time.  I wanted to homeschool, not car school.  A lot of the outside things we did were things all the kids could be involved in at the same time.  For example, when my younger two were going to a local summer Camp, my oldest daughter and I volunteered as Camp Leaders.

Over the years my children have been involved in both formal and informal cooperative types of groups and classes with other homeschoolers (science, history, Moms/Kids group at church).  My kiddos were also involved with writing, editing and publishing a newsletter with a group of unschoolers from our community for several years.  We studied a number of short stories with some friends.  My kids (all three) took ballet.  There have been music lessons, a neighborhood 4-H Club, nature camps, Vacation Bible School, and the list goes on and on.

Other than an official science/history co-op we did with four other families for a year, I never really liked using the local homeschooling cooperatives that were springing up.  I found that the other parents really didn’t understand the direction I was going with my homeschooling.  They were just basically recreating a pretty traditional classroom setting for their kids which was actually what I was trying to avoid through homeschooling.

If you feel like you’re doing car-school rather than homeschool, you might want to examine the amount of outside commitments you’ve allowed to creep into your schedule.  Some seasons of life are just busy, but sometimes we allow ourselves to say yes to everything that’s good and then spread ourselves (and our kiddos) too thin.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


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Curriculum Temptations

The only time I ever succumbed to the temptation to buy a complete boxed curriculum was back when my oldest daughter was ready to start Kindergarten.

I guess I was feeling insecure about teaching my own kids, so I purchased the complete Kindergarten package from Calvert School.  I felt it was the program that best fit with Charlotte Mason ideals at the time.  There weren’t a lot of curriculum options back then — we’re talking nearly 25 years ago.

Much to my surprise, my daughter had already learned EVERYTHING in the entire Kindergarten curriculum already just through us living our lives naturally and educating organically.

Rather than feeling I’d wasted my money on that year’s curriculum, I always felt it was the best money I ever spent on homeschooling because it bought me confidence in my abilities to teach my own.  Never bought another box of curriculum again.

Confidence in your homeschooling abilities?  Priceless.


The Play’s the Thing: Introducing Shakespeare to Children

Studying/enjoying Shakespeare has always been a mainstay in our family’s educational efforts ever since our children were fairly small.  About age six or seven is when we’d start introducing comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dreamor something exciting and full of adventure like The Tempest.

First, we tried to always read through Charles and Mary Lamb’s version of various plays in Tales from Shakespeare  or Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit, just to enjoy the plot and make sure we understood the basic story line before attempting to wade through or listen to the Elizabethan English of the play, itself.

The Bard’s plays were intended to be seen performed on the stage with live actors — not read from a book with all the stage directions, etc.  I think teachers get it backwards when they try to introduce anyone to Shakespeare by having someone sit down and read the play from a book.  Personally, I think there’s nothing quite like seeing a live production of a Shakespearean play.  He wrote them as plays, not as novels.

If you don’t have a professional Shakespearean company close by, don’t despair. Check for local high school and college productions of Shakespeare’s plays (these are often very good productions and not nearly as expensive as seeing a professional Shakespearean company).  In the Seattle area, Greenstage puts on live Shakespeare-in-the-Park events throughout the summer which are free (donations welcomed).

If you’re children enjoy Manga comic books, you could even introduce the kiddos to the basic plot of Shakespeare’s plays through the new Manga Shakespeare editions.  I especially like the Manga Midsummer Night’s Dream version.  One of my college professors actually had the Manga edition of The Tempest as part of our required book list (as well as the full-text version, of course).

I also like the No Fear Shakespeare series which include two versions of each play side-by-side on the page … the original language and a modern English version.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


Stay focused on the goal of reaching the educated state

Excerpt from my article, “Are All Homeschooling Methods Created Equal?

According to [John Taylor] Gatto (2001), the process of “education describes efforts largely self-initiated for the purpose of taking charge of your life wisely and living in a world you understand. The educated state is a complex tapestry woven out of broad experience, grueling commitments, and substantial risk” (p. 49). This highly subjective description of what it means to be an educated person is explained in further detail throughout Gatto’s writings, especially as outlined in the pages of his book, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, and his Harper’s essay, “Against School” (Gatto, 2003).

His combined “curriculum” as stated in the preceding sources, can be condensed into the following general description of methods Gatto recommends to achieve a well-rounded education:

  • Teach serious material
    • History
    • Literature (real books)
    • Philosophy
    • Music
    • Art
    • Economics
    • Theology
    • Be flexible about time, textbooks, materials, and tests
  • Encourage maturity
    • Think critically and independently
    • Self-control
    • Financial responsibility
    • Self-entertainment
    • Capacity for insight
    • Examine political and commercial statements
    • Develop deep friendships/relationships
  • Train to be leaders and adventurers
    • Encourage curiosity and questions
    • Give autonomy to take risks now and then
    • Adventure
    • Resilience
    • Introduce kids to competent adults

To read the complete article, go HERE.



Tip-a-Day oops

Life sometimes gets crazy … and this has been one of those weeks.  More than crazy … horrendous, maybe?  Anyway, sorry the Homeschooling Tip-a-Day didn’t happen everyday.  Should be back at it again soon.  :)


Content Ideas for Nature Notebooks

Nature Notebooks are artist sketchbooks where the children can draw whatever natural items strike their fancy.  The more options you offer the child, the more likely they’ll find one or more ideas that spark their interest.

The Nature Notebooks should be voluntary, by the way–not an assignment or a plea from the parent (“Now, draw the pretty bird for Mommy, honey. . . .”).

  1. Information from first-hand observation the child has done themselves (not things they’ve learned from “teaching” or in the classroom).
  2. Drawings of leaves, flowers, birds, insects or anything else discovered by the child in it’s natural setting.
  3. Labels for their drawings—both English and Latin names if applicable.
  4. Notations on where the object was found.
  5. Notations about the temperature or weather conditions, dates, etc.
  6. Life cycles of plants. Draw the bare tree in Winter; the Spring buds; the Summer blooms; the Fall colors and seed pods. Or in a backyard garden you could draw a seed; draw the sprouting seedling; draw the full grown plant; draw the stem, leaves, flower, etc.; draw the fruit, vegetable or flower; draw the new seeds for starting the cycle again.
  7. Draw and describe an ant hill or a bee’s nest.
  8. Take out a hand-held high-power magnifying glass and draw the intricate details of a bee’s wing, or whatever else might be fascinating viewed through a magnifying lens.
  9. Science experiments the child has actually performed. Set-up, observations, results, etc.
  10. Pressing and mounting leaves or dried flowers.
  11. Samples of different types of leaves: divided, heart-shaped, fluted, needles, etc.
  12. Samples or drawings of different types of seeds: nuts; seed pods; seeds that fall to the ground; seeds that float through the air; etc.
  13. Parts of the flower: petal, sepal, stamen, etc.
  14. Sketches of animal tracks.
  15. Sketches of the lifecycles of animals. Caterpillar to cocoon (or chrysalis) to moth (or butterfly); or egg to tadpole to frog (or salamander).
  16. Nature-related poems or quotes. The poems can be ones found during the child’s reading time, or poems composed by the child.


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Charlotte Mason’s Thoughts on a Method of Education

I really really like the way Charlotte Mason describes method in this first paragraph.  Especially the part about method implying a mental image of the end of the matter, and using the circumstances of the child’s life easily and spontaneously to reach that end.

I love the words she uses:  Natural.  Easy.  Yielding.  Unobtrusive.  Simple.  Watchful.  Careful.  All prevading.  All compelling. :-)

There’s plenty of food for thought in the following excerpt from her book, Home Education, the first volume in her popular six-book series on education.

Today’s “tip” is to read this and think on it as you go about your day (or week, or year).


Vol 1 – Page 8 – from Charlotte Mason

Method a Way to an End.––Method implies two things––a way to an end, and a step by step progress in that way. Further, the following of a method implies an idea, a mental image, of the end of object to be arrived at. What do you propose that education shall effect in and for your child? Again, method is natural; easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple as the ways of Nature herself; yet, watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling. Method, with the end of education in view, presses the most unlikely matters into service to bring about that end; but with no more tiresome mechanism than the sun employs when it makes the winds to blow and the waters to flow only by shining. The parent who sees his way––that is, the exact force of method––to educate his child, will make use of every circumstance of the child’s life almost without intention on his own part, so easy and spontaneous is a method of education based upon Natural Law. Does the child eat or drink, does he come, or go, or play––all the time he is being educated, though he is as little aware of it as he is of the act of breathing. There is always the danger that a method, a bona fide method, should degenerate into a mere system. The Kindergarten

vol 1 pg 9

Method, for instance, deserves the name, as having been conceived and perfected by large hearted educators to aid the many sided evolution of the living, growing, most complex human being; but what a miserable wooden system does it become in the hands of ignorant practitioners!

A System easier than a Method.––A ‘system of education‘ is an alluring fancy; more so, on some counts, than a method, because it is pledged to more definite calculable results. By means of a system certain developments may be brought about through the observance of given rules. Shorthand, dancing, how to pass examinations, how to become a good accountant, or a woman of society, may all be learned upon systems.

System––the observing of rules until the habit of doing certain things, of behaving in certain ways, is confirmed, and, therefore, the art is acquired––is so successful in achieving precise results, that it is no wonder there should be endless attempts to straiten the whole field of education to the limits of a system.

If a human being were a machine, education could do no more for him than to set him in action in prescribed ways, and the work of the educator would be simply to adopt a good working system or set of systems.

But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being, and his business is to guide, and assist in, the production of the latent good in that being, the dissipation of the latent evil, the preparation of the child to take his place in the world at his best, with every capacity for good that is in him developed into a power.

Though system is a highly useful as an instrument of

vol 1 pg 10

education, a ‘system of education’ is mischievous, as producing only mechanical action instead of the vital growth and movement of a living being.

It is worth while to point out the differing characters of a system and a method, because parents let themselves be run away with often enough by some plausible ‘system,’ the object of which is to produce development in one direction––of the muscles, of the memory, of the reasoning faculty––were a complete all-round education. This easy satisfaction arises from the sluggishness of human nature, to which any definite scheme is more agreeable than the constant watchfulness, the unforeseen action, called for when the whole of a child’s existence is to be used as the means of his education. But who is sufficient for an education so comprehensive, so incessant? A parent may be willing to undergo any definite labours for his child’s sake; but to be always catering to his behoof, always contriving that circumstances shall play upon him for his good, is the part of a god and not of a man! A reasonable objection enough, if one looks upon education as an endless series of independent efforts, each to be thought out and acted out on the spur of the moment; but the fact is, that a few broad essential principles cover the whole field, and these once fully laid hold of, it is as easy and natural to act upon them as it is to act upon our knowledge of such facts as that fire burns and water flows.

How to Memorize Poems

What I do with poems that we’ve decided we’re going to learn by heart is this:  I put the poem into my word processing program then I increase the font so that the poem takes up one entire typewritten page.

Then I print it out, slide the printed sheet of paper into a plastic page protector and hang it in a highly visible place in the house where the kids will see it regularly (i.e.: on the refrigerator, the classroom wall, or even in the bathroom!).

Several times each day, we’ll stop by the displayed poem and read it aloud together. After we’re done with memorizing a poem, I’ll place the poem and its plastic page protector into a three-ring binder to use with subsequent children.

It’s amazing how quickly you and your children will have an entire poem memorized with very little effort. And with a seasonal poems (springtime, fall, or the holidays for example), you could even recite your poems at a family gathering such as an upcoming family dinner. Impress Grandma — and make poetry memorization a fun-filled family event!

For more about poetry, see this reprinted article from the Parents’ Review magazine (edited by Charlotte Mason) “On the Teaching of Poetry.