So my main focus is split into two themes:

1) more time interacting with me while learning
2) getting him confident and skillful in reading, writing, and math

In the Rockies

After much thought, I settled on Sonlight’s Core W as our main work for the year. We are secular and Canadian, so this is pretty much our only choice for the upper-level programs. There’s a very serious literature program that would work for secular non-Americans, too, but way beyond what we can use right now.

Core W is world history, with scads of fantastic novels set in all sorts of interesting places and times. Some of the read alouds I did with Sandra when she was younger and I’m happy to be exploring them with Tias.

The reading in Sonlight is heavy. Too heavy for Tias right now. We’ve done two things to address this. 1) We bought the full 5-day program but are splitting it into two years. 2) I’m assigning him only the chapter books and reading everything else aloud to him. It’s working well. He has gone from finding it hard going to finding it reasonable. As the year goes I hope to be able to add a bit more to his plate, but as long as he’s learning I don’t mind reading aloud. It gives us lots of time together, after all.


We have already been doing the “Key to Math” series to bring Tias up to level. Since these workbooks are topic-based, they have two strengths for us: he can go through them as quickly or slowly as each idea needs because they go from the easiest concepts through more sophisticated applications; they’re not graded and make no assumptions about what you’ve already done. These factors mean that he doesn’t feel dumb as he is presented with ideas that in a traditional school would have been covered with younger kids.

This year we are doing the Algebra series. I hope to be able to go through them before the end of the year and then transition him over to the Teaching Textbooks course. We’ll start with Algebra 1, which will hopefully cover much of the same material, giving him confidence as he switches to the the program. He will probably be required to do it over the summer as we are trying to get him through all of high school math in the next few years.

A program I discovered this summer and am happy to tell you about: Friendly Chemistry. I wish I’d known it was out there with Sandra as I wasn’t particularly happy with the method we went with. This is a great course so far.

Other subjects:

Fine Arts: Dance (hip hop)

German: Rosetta Stone

With Sandra and my father, he’ll do a comparative religion course from the Great Courses company.


I’m almost done the post about Matthias’ homeschooling this year. In the past week I’ve done a lot: been sick, coached soccer, prepped for and then welcomed Rainer’s parents for a visit. Last week was bafflingly hot. 34C one day. As of yesterday, though, the energy and zip of autumn were back in the air.

Knit Night Hat, modified
Knit Night Hat

It’s great to be back in my fall/winter wardrobe. I never feel like I quite nail summer dressing. But layers and dark colours give me play for the dramatic yet classic style I feel flatters me.

I’ve taken Sandra to our favourite cafe this morning, to make math and Monday seem more palatable. It was a good call. She’s much more settled and patient than I think she was headed for. And it means that I have time to send you this quick hello as I type up the longer post for tomorrow.

Before we get into my plans for homeschooling Tias, I need to explain about his homeschooling career so far. He is an amazing person, and nothing at all like I expected to have to deal with when I decided to homeschool. When he was younger, he was my lesson in the Tao – accepting what is, being in the moment, waiting for the ripe moment. He was like parenting a force of nature: not a wild horse that I had to decide wether I was going to patiently tame or break in a short period. He was more of a whirlwind of energy, unpredicabilty, passion, and passionate refusal.

I did what I could without breaking our relationship. I did what I could while respecting his emotional and intellectual state. I tried to surround him with a world of ideas, art, debate, words, stories, and images while waiting for the other things. I tried to steep him in an atmosphere of possibilities while we waited for potential to unfurl. I gave him time. I let him spend hours swordfighting our trees and play hours of video games.

One of the most difficult things I have had to face as a homeschooling parent is a recurrent fear that I am failing him. What is the difference between a true recognition that he wasn’t in a state of readiness and just taking the easy way out by homeschooling Sandra, my more compliant child? Was I taking a course of wisdom? Or neglect?

There isn’t really a way to know. No rewind button so I can try another set of choices and see where we end up that time. I just know that I like him. He’s 15, funny, moral, perceptive, great to talk to, and interesting to be around. I also know that with time has come readiness. He can look at a math page without turning intimidation into anger at me. He can face a day’s To Do list without instantly negotiating for an easier day. He is teachable now. He has an openness and the beginnings of confidence.

I’ve been hesitant to write this, uncertain how to talk about this in a way that gives you important information yet respects that he’s a person that can read this. I’m really proud of our homeschooling plans for this year – I think I’ve put together a very clever set of resources to build his confidence and skills while speeding him along to grade level in the areas where he needs that. I want to tell you about them and you need context to understand why they’re a good set of ideas and how they might apply to you. I blog because I want honest information about homeschooling out there. Not just the best moments. I want you to know that you’re not the only one with doubts and insecurities. Yet I also know that I need to find ways of talking about this that are kind to my son. It’s too easy to toss off a laughing description of this, but this is a rather permanent place, not the intangible atmosphere of a support group conversation.

He is having a very productive year so far, and I am excited to tell you what we’re doing.

Do you believe in supporting people? Support designers.

The True Cost of a Pattern – a revealing breakdown of what goes into delivering a quality knitting pattern.

I have an interesting insight into this particular perspective, since I test knit for Woolly Wormhead. I know for a fact that we go into everything, from wording of instructions, to double-checking that the charts match the written instructions, to seeing if the crown decreases play nice in multiple sizes. (Because if there’s one thing Woolly Wormhead is fantastic at, it’s getting the right crown decrease for the pattern!)

She pays us. Not a lot, but neither are we expected to use our time and yarn for the ‘privilege’ of knitting something before it’s out to the public. She values us.

Value designers. Paid-for patterns are things that people put their creativity, meticulousness, tenacity, and flair into.


Sandra at her desk, working on her physics pre-lab assignment.

I haven’t done this often in the past, but I thought I’d share our plans for how we’re going to tackle this year. Today we’ll do Sandra’s year and next we’ll talk about Matthias’ year.

Math is Pre-Calculus with Teaching Textbooks. Man, we continue to love that program with a fierce and fiery gratitude.

Science: Sandra is taking Physics 90 and Chemistry 90 at the university here in town. This will take up a fair chunk of our time with 11 hours of class and lab time per week, plus homework and reading.

We wanted to figure out a way to cover all of the things we wanted to hit in this, our last chance year. Which is a funny thing in and of itself because she’s going to do her undergrad studies while living at home, thereby giving us years more together to talk about any gaps that come up.

Our solution was to brainstorm a list of things we wanted/needed to cover. A whole buffet of ideas, subjects, and possibilities. Then we narrowed it down to a manageable list and are designing one or two-month units for them. We plan: (with assignments in brackets)

One Month Units:
Norse Myths (mini screenplay of one story)
Non-fiction (PowerPoint recap of “Guns, Germs, and Steel”)
Sustainability (10 most important changes our family could make, with reasoning)
History of Islam (5 page report on some topic)

Two Month Units:
Canadian History (two 5 page papers)

She is also doing:
German (Rosetta Stone, reading novels, a grammar course, and watching German television)
Spanish (Duolingo) (just a bit, about 10 minutes a day)
Phys Ed
Comparative Religious Studies (with her brother and grandfather, using a Great Courses lecture series)

And, to top it all off, she wants to be more widely read. However, while the vision therapy has worked marvels, she still finds reading ‘work’ and with this slate of classes, we’ve chosen to use audiobooks. Each month we have an audiobook to listen to. Some are classics, some are non-fiction. Right now we’re both listening to “Jane Eyre”. We are confirmed fans of and have had a monthly subscription there for years. This year we’re upping that by a credit so that we can still have fun books when they strike our fancy, too.

*Note – as far as I can tell American and Canadian high schools approach this differently. Rather than one science subject per year, we do general science in gr 9 and 10, then separate them into Bio, Chem, & Physics and let students choose how many of those 3 they’ll take in the last two years of high school.

First Day of School (with a backpack)

It’s the first time our back-to-school season has involved a backpack.

The local university has 90-level courses in maths and sciences for those who need to get prerequisites for the 100-level classes. Sandra is taking Physics 90 and Chemistry 90 as her grade 12 science credits this year. (We are doing biology at home.)

We are really happy about this. It gives her a slow transition into university, into being marked by a non-relative, into working in labs, and it gives her a chance to meet people.

Each class covers the material from Gr 11 and 12, so we’re hoping that mostly it’s a review of information and the newness lies in the setting and the testing. It’s 6 hours per week of class and 5 hours of labs. That’s a big shift for us. It means that a sizeable chunk of our week is gone, and we’ve been creative in planning how to do all we’d love to do this last year together. More on that to come.

I’m tweeting our first day of school today. You can find it here.

(and in case that link is as tricksy for you as it is for me, find me @PrairiePoppins)

I didn’t mean to take the summer off blogging, but I did.

In many ways, it’s been a time that I could categorize as ‘less talking, more listening’.

It’s been a slow time, a thoughtful time, a busy time, a laughing time. And through it all, I’ve felt compelled to listen and to think rather than to talk.

Quiet and calm

This morning I had planned to run errands, do housework, and generally Win Life. But I had forgotten the electrician was coming and so instead of winning life, I won a quiet morning…which just might be the same thing.

Good to see you again,

I’ve been really very idle today. And that’s an accomplishment.


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