Happy Not Back to School: Homeschool Encouragement

Monday was the first day of public school where we live. Yes, already! Can you believe it? Of course, it wasn’t our first day of homeschool, because learning never really stops around here. ūüėČ

Anyways, I LOVE the first day of public school. Honestly I am downright giddy about it. I feel like a kid skipping school. Not that I ever did that to know the feeling, of course. ?

Not every homeschool mama is doing the happy dance this week, however. All the back to school posts on social media leave some feeling sad and left out. How about you?

Ever feel pangs of envy when you see photos of kiddos with shiny new backpacks, hopping on the big yellow bus? Or perhaps you catch yourself wistfully wondering what it’s like to have SIX WHOLE HOURS to yourself? ūüėČ

Of course, public school moms get their perks too! Sure, when my kids went to public school, there were things about it I enjoyed. But in the end, it just wasn’t a fit for our family.

If you’re already homeschooling, I bet you put a lot of thought into it too. You weighed all the benefits and drawbacks and decided home education was the best fit for YOUR family. That doesn’t mean you will never doubt yourself again, but there’s also no need to wallow in thoughts that don’t benefit your purpose.¬†?¬†(Furthermore, comparing your real life to someone else’s social media life is a sure way to feel crappy about everything, so just don’t even go there.)¬†?

If you’re feeling sad, remind yourself of why you chose this path. Then, celebrate what makes homeschooling awesome!


  • Letting growing kids sleep as long as they need to.¬†?
  • Making pancakes and eggs when you would be rushing for the bus.¬†??
  • Plenty of time for kids to explore their talents.¬†??
  • Teaching your children things they will use in real life.¬†?????
  • Freedom to travel.¬†‚úąÔłŹ??
  • Empty pools for the rest of August!¬†??

What other benefits can you think of?

homeschool, homeschooling, unschooling, benefits of homeschool

Personally, the first day of public school reminds me how grateful I am. I am thankful to have the freedom to choose what method of education is best for my children. I know not everyone in the world has that freedom, and many who technically have that independence don’t give themselves the autonomy to take advantage of it. Also, I know we may not always have these privileges to this extent, which makes me contemplate how we can make the most of the time we have with our little ones. You could say that the first day of public school is my personal Independence Day, that I celebrate in my own head.¬†?

In conclusion, it’s a new year and a new chapter in our lives that WE get to write. Exciting!!! What will you design for your family this year? ūüôā

Homeschool Musical

Very exciting news. We have a new addition to our family. Meet… um…

Oh yeah, it doesn’t have a name. Earl is my first instinct… hmm. Okay, for now we’ll just go with Piano.

Meet The Piano!!! 

homeschool, music, music appreciation, piano

I have no idea how that bird got there…

So, Beau has been taking piano lessons for two years now. Or is it three years? I have no idea. It’s all a blur. ūüėõ Anyways, he has gotten pretty good and it was high time for him to graduate from the electric keyboard.

homeschool, piano, music appreciation, tjed, sibling rivalry

Even Finn has gotten a little more inspired to learn how to play since The Piano arrived. (He has opted not to take lessons yet himself.) In a rare few minutes of being in close proximity to each other without fighting, Beau taught Finn to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. <3 ¬†Hey, if Beau teaches the other boys we will have gotten a 3 for 1 deal on lessons… I like it. ūüėČ

Anyways, I’m really excited (and hopeful) that having The Piano will help inspire a love of music in my kids. This is something we’ve tried to do in our homeschool, despite neither of us having any musical knowledge other than how to operate an ancient artifact called the CD player. So how do we do it?

One fun and inspiring field trip we did last year was going to the symphony. I for one loved it!!! We’ll definitely be going again this year.

music, homeschool, symphony, field trip ideas

Even if some people weren’t ready for all that culture. ūüėČ

Sure, it’s embarrassing when your kid is sitting at the symphony groaning and rolling their eyes, but there have been a few moments where you just pat yourself on the back and know you’re doing this right.

One incident… er… instance that comes to mind; we were at the juice bar ordering a smoothie. Finn chose the Purple Rain smoothie off the menu and told the barista he would like “the Prince One”. “Wow! How does he even know that?!” Yup. Possibly the proudest homeschool moment of the year. He can not only read the menu but translate the pop culture references. #winning ūüėČ

Or the time we were being super cultured at home, watching classical music concerts on YouTube. No one could hide their enjoyment of the Piano Guys and their renditions of Star Wars and Mission Impossible. And I think we can all say we were moved by a stadium full of musicians playing Ode to Joy, so much so that Finn and Dash decided to join in playing. With what instruments, you may ask?

They played Ode to Joy with arm pit farts.

And I must say, although Beethoven may have been rolling over in his grave, they really have a natural gift. #proudmoments

How do you inspire a love of music in your homeschool? Share in the comments!






Pirates, Dinosaurs, and Dogs: Great Books for Boys

Let’s talk books. ¬†Finding great books for boys has been a challenge for me. ¬†Everything I loved when I was a kid is met with “GIRLS??? WE DON’T WANT TO READ ABOUT GIRLS!!!”

Little House on the Prairie? ¬†“NO!” ¬†The Secret Garden? ¬†“NOO!” ¬†Little Women??? ¬†“NOOOO!!!”

Just when I was starting to lose all hope, my mom brought over¬†Treasure Island¬†.¬†Low and behold, they actually sat mesmerized through the first three chapters. ¬†Beau’s reaction said it all: “That book is so THRILLING!”

Thrilling!?! ¬†Now that’s a rave review! ¬†Did Finn like it too? (Finn liking a book is akin to Mikey liking the breakfast cereal, know what I mean?) ¬†Well, he doesn’t readily admit to “liking” anything, but he did immediately start making a Lego pirate ship, which he had to play with in the bathtub. ¬†He was pretending that the ship was sinking and the Lego pirate guys were fighting in the water. ¬†I said “Oh no, I hope they have a life boat!” Finn replied, “No way, this is like old times, Mom. ¬†Before they had stuff like that. ¬†Like IN THE EIGHTIES.”

great books for boys

Yup.  In the Eighties.  Lean times it were for ye landlubbers.

Here are a few other books the boys have loved, occasionally even to the point of admitting it. ūüėČ

Dinotopia, A Land Apart from Time
The illustrations in this book are seriously amazing. ¬†“I wish Dinotopia was a real place and I could live there” gushed Finn. ¬†Yes, Finn gushed. ¬†And if that isn’t a rave review I don’t know what is.

Dinotopia, The World Beneath

After devouring the first Dinotopia, the next in the series was an obvious choice! ¬†Right now we’re about halfway through it. ¬†You never know if a sequel is going to be as good as the first, but so far The World Beneath does not disappoint.

Because of Winn-Dixie
This was a random pick from the library. ¬†Beau sat down and read the whole thing in one sitting. ¬†This is the FIRST TIME Beau has ever been so engaged in a book that he could not put it down. ¬†Welcome to The Voracious Readers Club, Beau, it’s good to have you with us. ūüôā

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread
This one is by the same author as Because of Winn Dixie, Kate DiCamillo. ¬†I am now of the opinion that you can hardly go wrong with her works. ¬†I had no idea a story of “A Mouse, A Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread” could be so moving. ¬†Finn claimed not to care for it, but he would still yell “PAUSE!” when I was reading and he needed to leave the room. ¬†Paying more attention than he would like to admit??? ¬†Mmhmm…

My Side of the Mountain 
This is our current family read aloud, recommended by my husband as one of his childhood favorites.  I cannot be held responsible if your kids want to run away from home and live in a hollowed out tree after reading it.

This has been one of my all time favorites to read aloud. ¬†I remembered it from my own school days, but I had no idea until I was a boy momma just how exciting snakes and mongooses fighting could be. ¬†My eyes have been opened. ūüôā BTW, it’s zero dollars on Kindle right now. You’re welcome!

So, there you have it, a few of our favorite books for boys, tested by some of the world’s pickiest little readers. ¬†And if you happen to overhear my kids singing “Yo ho ho and a Bottle of Rum”, you’ll know where they got it from. ¬†Of course these picks aren’t JUST for boys, I’m sure your girls would enjoy them too! ¬†(I know I did!)

So, what are you reading lately?

great books for boys

Beau and Finn wrote their names in the dinosaur alphabet during our reading of Dinotopia.

*Disclosure:  This post includes Amazon referral links.  When you shop through them your price remains the same, but The Ordinary Chaos gets a small token of gratitude from Amazon.  Thanks for helping support our site!



Keeping Boys Busy: The One With Play Dough and Puppets

Hey there! ¬†What have you been up to? ¬†Us? ¬†Oh, just the usual fun, keeping boys busy…

Don't you just love Play Dough???, keeping boys busy

Don’t you just love Play Dough???

Never mind.  I hate Play Dough., keeping boys busy

Never mind. I hate Play Dough.

Yup, so that’s pretty much what we’ve been up to. ¬†Clean the Play Dough up. ¬†Get the Play Dough back out. ¬†Clean it up. ¬†Get it out. ¬†Clean it up. ¬†Say were not going to get it out. ¬†Cry about it. ¬†Get it out. ¬†Cry about cleaning it up. ¬†Clean it up… but somehow it’s never quite gone. ¬†Look, I know this is gonna sound crazy, but I SWEAR that the bits of it appear on the floor overnight while we’re sleeping. ¬†Even though I swept before bed, in the morning I will inexplicably find the kitchen sprinkled with colorful bits of dough. ¬†How did I miss them? ¬†Were they stuck to the ceiling with gravity slowly working them back to Earth? ¬†Or is Dash up during the night playing while we sleep??? ¬†Hmm… it’s not an implausible theory…

Anywho… ¬†I promised you all pictures of our Sea Animal Stick Puppets project, and I know you were just waiting on the edge of your seat to see how they turned out. ¬†No???

seapuppetscollage, keeping boys busy

Hey, is that Manty-Manty? ¬†Or Manty-Manty-Manty??? ¬†It’s so hard to tell.

Aren’t they cute? ¬†This is what we used to make the puppets:

  • Poster board
  • Felt
  • Google-y Eyes
  • Yarn (for walrus whiskers)
  • Glitter Glue
  • Wooden Dowels
  • Tongue Depressor style sticks

Additional supplies:

  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Pencils

This is an easy peasy project!  First:  draw animals with pencils on poster board, cut them out.  Next: trace poster board animals on felt and cut them out.  Hot glue the felt cut outs onto the poster board cut outs.  Hot glue eyes and decorations (like walrus whiskers and manatee snouts) onto the felt.  Let them dry a bit, turn over the puppets and glue tongue depressors on the back, along with wooden dowels on the larger puppets.

Notice in the bottom right photo we had to touch up the glue where Dash was already tearing his apart. ¬†Perhaps these puppets AREN’T two year old proof. ¬†But really, what is??? ¬†Lastly, we decorated with glitter glue. ¬†Okay, that was just me and my mom, getting carried away with decorating the turtles. ¬†Even grown ups gotta have some creative fun, right?

Well, that was last week’s art class! ¬†Everyone enjoyed it! ¬†This week, the boys drew tree houses, which of course included things like laser beam security systems, elevators, and walrus pools. ¬†Because if there’s one thing we’re good at around here, it’s Thinking Big. ¬†And thinking about walruses. ¬†Yeah.

Well, I’ve got plenty more big thoughts to share with you all, even some that aren’t about walruses. ūüėČ ¬†But right now I’m going to check the ceiling for Play Dough.

Talk to you soon,






Year of the Manatee

Hey, all! ¬†So here we are, almost through the first week of March. ¬†The good news is I got through Spendthrift February without going over budget. ¬†More or less. ¬†I think…

I did buy a little something for the boys; a purchase necessary to return peace to our home. ¬†Awhile back, I told you how Beau acquired a stuffed manatee in Florida and his brothers were OBSESSED with it. ¬†They each had the opportunity to choose a souvenir, but it soon became painfully apparent that Beau’s choice was just so cuddly and covetable. ¬†Everyone loved Beau’s Manty and it was a source of constant contention. ¬†I thought the novelty would wear off, and all too soon Manty would be forgotten about. ¬†But after THREE MONTHS of breaking up daily Manatee battles???


So I found Ron Jon Surf Shop online and ordered two more “Mantys”. ¬†Or Manty’s? ¬†Manties? ¬†I guess I don’t how to make made up words plural. ¬†How about Martinis? ¬†Now that’s an idea…


Meet Manty-Manty on the right and Manty-Manty-Manty on the left, who is just called Manty for short. Got it?

Trust me, it was money well spent. ¬†Manty, Manty-Manty, and Manty-Manty-Manty have taken over the place. ¬†They are the stuffed animals of the hour. ¬†The IT Toy. ¬†They’re EVERYWHERE.


If you take a picture, expect a Manty to photobomb it. Manty in a popcorn bag? ¬†Like I said, they’re EVERYWHERE.

SO… since the Manty trio is indeed EVERYWHERE, we decided to seize the moment and learn a little about Manatees. ¬†For example, our ¬†National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia¬†informed us that “Sea cows” (you know that’s another name for Manatees, right?) “eat a lot- up to a quarter of their body weight in plant material each day. ¬†The gas produced by their digestive systems makes them very buoyant.” ¬†As you can imagine, the fact that Manatees are gassy makes them an even bigger hit with little boys. @_@

We also downloaded this book from on Kindle for iPad:

Aren’t they just as cute in person??? ¬†Umm….

A Manty or two is bound to appear in our art projects as well.  My Mom has been organizing an art class for the boys once a week.  The last project was a crayon resist undersea picture.

manatee unit study, crayon resist

Note Manty on the cruise ship drinking lemonade. ¬†Hey, can you spot Finn’s camouflaged whale?

manatee unit study, crayon resist

This is Beau’s fantasy world where his favorite animals (Manatee and Walrus) meet in the deep sea.

The goal was not to be scientific, okay? ūüėČ ¬†Speaking of goals, the goal when you’re doing a crayon resist is to do lots of bright colors and get a really thick layer of crayon. ¬†Then you go over top of it with water color paint. ¬†We used large sheets of watercolor paper, but in retrospect, smaller sheets would be better. ¬†That way the kids don’t get too tired of coloring before the crayon layer is heavy enough to really resist the paint. ¬†It was still a lot of fun and they turned out great.

Looks like the Manty’s, er… Manatees, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. ¬†In fact, I caught Finn making Manty graffiti in his Bible study book. ¬†He wrote “2014” with a Manty face in the zero. ¬†How did I know it was a Manty face? ¬†Trust me, I’ve seen a few of them.

manatee unit study

If you’re doing an animal unit study, why not design a logo featuring your animal? ¬†You don’t have to commit to a full year. ūüėČ

You might be wondering if Beau was okay with Finn and Dash getting Manty-Manty and Manty-Manty-Manty, while he got nothing? ¬†The answer is NO, he was NOT okay with that. ¬†Turns out Beau got something too…

manatee unit study

You guessed it. Everybody wants a Tusky. Who knew a walrus could be so cuddly and covetable?

Well, I’ve gotta get going. ¬†But the Manty and Tusky show will be back. ¬†We’re making stick puppets today! ¬†I’ll be sure and show you how they turn out. ¬†Don’t forget to leave a comment and let Finn know if you saw his “camouflaged whale”. ¬†Thanks for stopping by!

Linking Up with Happy and Blessed Home’s Family Fun Friday! Because what’s more fun than a Trio of Sea Cows? Pop on over there for more fun! Thanks for reading. ūüôā


P.S. ¬†If you are really coveting Tusky, you can get your own Wild Republic Cuddlekins 15″ Walrus¬†at Amazon. ¬†He is too stinkin’ cute for $11.80, but I’m NOT buying two more! ¬†REALLY. ¬†Not gonna do it. ¬†(BTW, I’m an Amazon affiliate, so thanks if you decide to shop through my links!)

A Homeschool Day in the Life (7 Months In)

Hey all! ¬†How’s it going? ¬†I decided to do another Day in the Life post. ¬†It seems they’re all the rage right now. ūüėČ ¬†Anyways, I’d been wanting to catch y’all up on our homeschooling journey. ¬†When I saw that Simple Homeschool was hosting a Homeschool Day in the Life hop, I figured this was the perfect time. ¬†Except that now it’s 10pm the night before and I’m just getting around to typing it… Oops.

Okay, let’s get on with it!

So we’ve been homeschooling for about 7 months. ¬†WE LOVE IT!!! ¬†But do our days always go smoothly? ¬†If you are actually asking this question, I invite you to look at the title of my blog… ahem...

Things don’t always¬†(ever?) go super smoothly. ¬†It is bumpy. ¬†It is messy. ¬†It is exhausting.

But it is incredibly worth it.

Still, I wanted to streamline a bit. ¬†We’d gotten away from the strong routine we started with. ¬†The house was looking a bit disaster-zone-ish. ¬†There was too much whining and not enough “YES Mom!” ¬†at chore time or school time or any time. ¬†I decided a new written schedule was in order. ¬†So I called Finn and Beau to help design a schedule.

“Guys, what would you guys like to put on the schedule?”

Blocks World!” cheered Finn. ¬†What is Blocks World? ¬†Just a gateway drug to gaming addiction, that’s all. @_@

“Chocolate Chip Math!” ¬†(Finn’s suggestion again, which involves doing as little math as possible to eat as many chocolate chips as possible.)

Shockingly, no one asked for time to clean bathrooms? ¬†Unexpected! ¬†We discussed things a little further, making a list of “Want to Do’s” and “Need to Do’s”. ¬†Finally, Beau typed our new schedule up on the computer. ¬†It took him a really long time because he wanted to find a way to put the word “Butt” in the title. ¬†AT LAST it was done, no Butts included. ¬†And…..

No ink in the printer!!! ¬†AGGGGHHHHH! ¬†(Did I mention how things don’t always run smoothly???)

Good thing I had been writing it out on notebook paper as well. ¬†The newly proposed “Homeschool Day In the Life” looks a little something like this:

  • 6:00¬†5:30 Mom: Workout/ Shower/ Dress
  • 7:00 ¬†Boys get up, Breakfast and Daily Scripture Text
  • 7:30 ¬†Mom: ¬†Clean up kitchen, Boys: Get Dressed/ Brush Teeth
  • 8:00 ¬†Chores for all
  • 9:00 ¬†Reading together and discussion
  • 9:30 ¬†Exercise break
  • 10:00 ¬†Math
  • 11:00 ¬†Lunch
  • 12:00 ¬†Games INCLUDING Chocolate Chip Math
  • 12:30 ¬†Recess
  • 1:30 ¬†Rotating subjects (such as Science, History, Art, Music)
  • 2:30 ¬†Reading (Quiet for Beau, with mom for Finn)
  • 3:00 ¬†Free time (Yes, Finn, including Blocks World!)

Yay for STRUCTURE! ¬†Feeling highly motivated, we were ready to implement it straight away, even the Mom gets up at 6:00 5:30 and works out part. ¬†And then…

This is Dash, being up at 3AM. By 3:30AM, he was getting hungry for breakfast.  That wasn't on the schedule???

This is Dash, being up at 3AM. By 3:30AM, he was getting hungry for breakfast. Um…is this on the schedule???

So that whole thing kind of threw me off. ¬†Like threw me off so that I didn’t get up until 8:30. UGH.

We still got quite a bit done, just not by way of the schedule. ¬†The next day we’d try again! ¬†Failure is not an option! ¬†And then this happened:

Now, really, who can do school when there's a Snowpocalypse???

Now, really, who can do school when there’s a Snowpocalypse???

A Snowpocalypse is no time to be following a schedule.  It's a time to be holding your own Winter Olympics using baby ride on toys!

A Snowpocalypse is no time to be following a schedule. It’s a time to be holding your own Winter Olympics using baby ride on toys!

Okay, so our schedule is a flop so far. ¬†But is it a failure? ¬†NO! ¬†It’s a work in progress. ¬†And if I’m done proofreading this before midnight I just might get up at 5:30 6:00 6:30 and workout. ¬†The rest of the county is still shutdown for the Snowpocalypse, so I’m cutting myself a little slack, okay?

Lately I’ve been thinking about an old favorite book I have sitting on my shelf by John Maxwell. ¬†Maybe you’ve heard of it? ¬†It’s called Failing Forward, and that is exactly what we do around here.

We aren’t perfect.

We make a plan.  It goes awry.

We set lofty goals.  We fall flat on our faces trying to reach them.

We get up and we try again. ¬†We reassess, change our plans, push through it, and sometimes…

We still fail, but we fail better than last time.  Sometimes what looks like failure is just laying the groundwork for greatness.

Or perhaps what looks like Failure is just Success sleeping in a couple hours because Success was up late with a toddler.  You got a problem with that?


By the way, I’m not saying our 7 months of homeschooling have been a failure! ¬†Not at all!!! ¬†But homeschooling is a living, breathing, growing process and I am exploring and learning right along with the boys. ¬†I’m not about to sit back and say “Good enough!” ¬†That’s why we’ll keep tweaking our Days and trying to find a good balance between being structured and spontaneous, between being productive and getting burnt out. ¬†I’ll keep trying to get up early and Dash will keep interrupting my sleep.

Whatever life and the Polar Vortex throws at us, we’ll be here, just trying to make each day better than the last.

Thanks for visiting and hearing about our Homeschool Day in the Life! ¬†Don’t forget to visit Simple Homeschool and see what everyone else is up to!

Talk to you soon,




How Finn Got His Knack Back

There’s something we’ve known about Finn for awhile now.

Don’t worry, it’s not bad. ¬†It’s just that we knew there was something a little different about him. ¬†I remember back when he was¬†two year old and making towers out of Lego Quattro blocks. ¬†I realized he wasn’t just grabbing any blocks, he was making patterns with the block colors. ¬†At first I thought it was just coincidence and I tried to hand him blocks that did not match the pattern. ¬†Each time he would quickly reject my offer and go out of his way to find the block he had in mind. ¬†Hmm…

Then he started taking toys apart. ¬†No toy car or truck could be found in the house with all four wheels in tact. ¬†We were starting to realize… ¬†Finn had The Knack.

You know about The Knack, right? ¬†If not, this less than two minute video will fill you in. ¬†If you do know, you need to watch it anyways because the information in this Dilbert comic is pretty pivotal to the serious discussion we’re having here, okay?

(Obviously I don’t have The Knack. ¬†If I did, this video wouldn’t be too large despite my watching several YouTube videos on how to embed YouTube videos.)

So, yes, we knew Finn was a little different.  But it was so much fun to see him tinkering around in the areas he enjoyed.  He could build Lego sets made for much older children.  He was great with patterns and numbers.

young engineers

And at least I wasn’t worried about how he would do in school! ¬†Even though he would be one of the youngest in his class, I knew he would be fine. ¬†After all, he was SO SMART! ¬†Surely, school is MADE for kids who have The Knack. ¬†Right?

Not.  So.  Much.

In Kindergarten Finn was not happy.

young engineers

I thought he would get over it.  I thought he would adjust.  Sure, he whined every day when it was time to go into school, but CERTAINLY he cheered up once he got settled in?

Nope. ¬†He never did. ¬†When he had his Student Of The Week poster project, his teacher told me she was surprised. ¬†Why? ¬†Because Finn was smiling and having a good time in the pictures. ¬†She had never seen him smile like that. ¬†ūüôĀ

I realized that even in Kindergarten, there was A Box That All Must Fit In. ¬†And Finn didn’t fit in that box. ¬†He was smooshed and miserable and fighting it every step of the way.

And in the process, Finn was losing his Knack.

Now, I don’t know that this applies to all kids with The Knack, but Finn is Stubborn. ¬†The more he was pushed to comply with The Box, the more he fought it. ¬†Anything that was deemed “school”, aka “learning” was rejected with animosity. ¬†Math homework had Finn on the floor in tears, even though it was mostly very simple problems that had been so intuitive to him earlier in the year. ¬†He no longer enjoyed puzzling over numbers and how they worked. ¬†My former budding mathematician hated math. ¬†The joy had been sucked out of it.

I recently read A Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockhart. ¬†Here’s a quote: ¬†“We are losing so many potentially gifted mathematicians‚ÄĒ creative, intelligent people who rightly reject what appears to be a meaningless and sterile subject. They are simply too smart to waste their time on such piffle.”

TIME OUT! ¬†You remember what the Dilbert cartoon said, right? ¬†“If an Engineer loses The Knack, the results can be devastating.” ¬†Math is part of The Knack. ¬†A love of learning is vital to The Knack!

This is bad.

Well, the Dilbert part was funny, but it really isn’t a joke. ¬†It’s true. ¬†What happens if kids like Finn, kids who don’t fit in “The Box”, are being so squashed and molded to conform that they end up saying “FORGET IT!” and leaving their talents by the wayside like a crumpled piece of notebook paper? ¬†I imagine they would end up an angry shell of who they could have been. ¬†And that isn’t funny in any way. ¬†It’s tragic.

It leads me to think about the epidemic of kids who are being labeled with diagnosis codes and put on prescription medications.  Honestly I am sure plenty of doctors would have offered our family the same, if we had been so inclined to ask them their opinion on our child.   Certainly each parent is the expert on their home, and sometimes interventions are beneficial.  STILL, I wonder, how many kids are out there, taking pills to fit in, because their undiscovered brilliance and ingenuity is so astronomical it cannot fit in a One Size Fits All container???


young engineers

Well, as you know, we took Finn out of The Box. ¬†It’s taken some time, but I’m happy¬†to report that the old Finn is BACK and so is his Knack. ¬†If you know Finn, you know he can be a little curmudgeonly, but I have never seen that kid so happy. ¬†He still doesn’t care for dittos, but he loves a good math problem to solve in his head. ¬†He insists that we all be completely quiet while he sits there figuring and pointing at ¬†imaginary objects, until at last he jumps up and with great excitement shouts out his conclusion. ¬†He delights in building with Legos and Snap Circuits¬†and theorizing on how things work.

No, he will never be “normal”, but none of us are around here, so it should work out just fine.

mad scientist

So, do you have a kid with The Knack or were YOU once a kid with The Knack?  What has been your experience with school?  And how do you make sure your little mathematicians and engineers keep their Love of Learning alive?

And on a less serious note, is having ALL of your Legos out on the floor REALLY a necessary part of having The Knack???

I’d love to hear from you!



School Plus Dash: A Day In The Life

Before we started homeschool, people would look at Dash with wide eyes and say things like “How are you going to teach school with HIM???” ¬†And I would answer them with this well thought out response: “I have NO IDEA.”

And I didn’t.

I didn’t really know how it would work. ¬†I just knew it could work. ¬†I knew that others (some with many more kids than me) managed to successfully homeschool and that we could do it too. ¬†Yes, even with Dash, who by himself may have the energy output and destructive power equivalent of three calmer children. ¬†So, yes, I knew that somehow it would work and I’m happy so say that it is indeed WORKING. ¬†(mostly)

Of course, there are days when this kind of thing happens:


homeschool with a toddler = messes

There’s no use crying over smashed tomatoes. But a few tears might be shed over a broken Williams Sonoma plate.

Of course, stuff like that happens around here anyways. ¬†That is why I only have four plates left out of the original set of eight. ¬†That’s right kids, HALF of the plates are gone! ¬†See, learning all the time…

ANYWAYS. ¬†Following the theme of iHomeschool Network’s last week of The Not Back To School Blog Hop, I thought I’d share with you a bit about how we’re scheduling homeschool with a toddler.

What is my Secret Weapon? ¬†Here’s a hint:

homeschooling with a toddlerNo, my Secret Weapon is not decorating with subliminal messages.  Well, maybe it is ONE of my Secret Weapons.  But the point is, getting up before everyone else REALLY makes the day go smoother.  And  since Beau is an early riser, we can get some of his work done together before the littler guys get up.

Finn, on the other hand is NOT an early riser. ¬†He doesn’t sleep super late, but WHAT A RELIEF it is not to have to wake him up. ¬†He comes downstairs on his own around 8:00am and every once in awhile he will actually speak words that resemble a greeting, instead of just growling and retreating under a blanket.*

*Disclaimer: ¬†Some mornings do not go quite like this. ¬†Like this morning, I was sleeping on Dash’s floor, with a migraine, and woke up to the sound of an obnoxious Nickelodeon show about alien rabbits, blaring from the TV downstairs. ¬†Finn thought he could sneak in some TV if he got up early enough. ¬†I’m not sure if it was all that early. ¬†The Early Bird can go jump in a lake when I have a migraine.

Okay, so my inner drill sergeant feels guilty about ever letting anyone sleep. ¬†Drill Sergeant Mommy thinks everyone should get up at 6:30 and start being productive members of society just like if they were in public school. ¬†But a more reasonable inner voice tells me to respect the child’s need to sleep and work on setting an example of early morning industriousness myself (when I don’t have a blinding headache.)

After everyone has had breakfast we do our calendar, check the weather, and do some reading. ¬† Then everyone does a little bit of chores to get the house spiffed up for the day. ¬†NO, they aren’t working their poor little fingers to the bone. ¬†But they are learning some life skills. ¬†If these boys get married someday, their wives will be very thankful that they know how to wipe down a bathroom.

Next we do “Gym” using a workout video. ¬†Fitness is important to us and being naturally skinny doesn’t exactly run in the family. ¬†So I want to show the boys how to have good fitness habits. ¬†NO, I am NOT making the little children do P90X! ¬†We just pick something short with good music and they bounce around and do jumping jacks and whatnot. ¬†We don’t always have 100% participation, but I can ALWAYS count on Dash’s participation!

homeschooling with a toddler

After Gym we do most of our schoolwork. ¬†Thank goodness Dash just started getting into Lego Duplos! ¬†He also has a toddler safe magnet set he likes to stick on the magnetic white board. ¬†I keep the magnet set hidden and bring it out when we need it, so it doesn’t lose it’s novelty too quickly. ¬†If he wants to be up at the table with the big boys, he has his very own pencil pouch with chubby crayons and washable markers.

homeschooling with a toddler

Usually we take a recess before lunch.  If the weather is pleasant enough we will go outside to ride bikes and scooters.  After lunch Dash is *usually* ready for his nap.


homeschooling with a toddler

Shhh, Baby sleeping!

Nap time is when we can do fun stuff like board games, art projects, and science experiments! ¬†Um, wait, please don’t tell Dash what he’s missing. ¬†I’m afraid he may never nap again… ¬†Or we do some nice, quiet reading aloud time. ¬†Yeah, you can tell Dash about that.

So, by the time Dash wakes up, we usually have everything crossed off our list for the day.  Then the big boys have time to work on what they enjoy most,  (usually this equals Lego Time.)  Although sometimes it means reading or drawing or writing or just letting little imaginations go wild.  After 3:00pm they can watch a TV show (Wild Kratts is their current favorite) or play an IPad game.  Then they are back at it with the Legos until dinner.   And Dash is with me, probably in the kitchen, throwing clean dishes back in the sink.

homeschool with a toddler

Do things always go smoothly with Dash around? ¬†Ha! ¬†I’m sure if you have to ask that, you haven’t been reading The Ordinary Chaos for long. ¬†Life with Dash can be a wild ride, but he is part of the family and we are working on developing a family culture of learning. ¬†As he gets older it will be easier, but I’m confident that even now, he’s not hindering anyone’s progress. ¬†The kids seem to be thriving¬†in a comfortable, loving environment where they are free to move around, get messy, and explore what interests them. ¬†All with little brother close by, trying to keep up with the big guys. ¬†ūüôā





What I Want Our Homeschool Classroom To Look Like

As you probably know, this is only our third week of homeschooling. ¬†We’re getting our feet wet and tweaking the schedule. ¬†I’m tweaking my expectations, trying to corral my burning desire to PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. ¬†What do they call it? ¬†The Race To The Top? ¬†What exactly is at the top we’re not sure? ¬†Learning is not a race, learning is not a race… Deep breaths, Jennifer, deep breaths…

So, obviously I am new at this. ¬†But I wanted to share with you all my vision for what I want our classroom to be like. ¬†If you know me, you know I’ve been researching EVERYTHING homeschool for awhile, and I’ve seen a lot of cool classroom setups online. ¬†I’ve seen all the organizational cupboards, the tiny desks, the chalkboards and whiteboards and cork boards full of charts and maps and alphabets. ¬†At first I thought, I need this! ¬†And that! ¬†And two of those for sure! ¬†Yes, if I have all the exact right stuff, surely it will quell the unshakable feeling of pure terror that I have about this whole homeschooling thing!

But I got to thinking about some other things that I had read about homeschooling. ¬†The things that really resonated with me. ¬†I realized that the beauty of homeschooling is the HOME part of it. ¬†I don’t need to turn my house into an institution in order for learning to take place.

Sure, if you had the room and the money, it would be cool to have all your stuff in one place and not have a bin of ¬†supplies on your kitchen counter or books in your pantry, or an electric pencil sharpener and a laminator in your kitchen cabinet. ¬†But if you can’t have a dedicated room for school, I don’t think it’s going to hamper anyone’s ability to learn. ¬†And if you have kids like mine, who have been to conventional school and rather hated it, why replicate the feeling of the school room at home? ¬†Flashbacks, anyone? ¬†ūüėČ

homeschool closet

So this is what we have for our classroom right now:  We have lots of comfy chairs and couches to curl up on with a good book.  English and writing are my strong points, but TRUST ME,  I was as bored and annoyed as anyone when it was time to learn about adjectives and predicates and all that stuff.  I think the reason I love writing today is because I spent the better part of my childhood with my nose in a book.  Beau is a writer too, and I think a huge part of his education will be absorbing grammar, structure, and style through classic literature.  So, check, we have shelves to fill with lots of quality food for the mind and pleasant spaces to devour it.

our homeschool reading area

Beau making use of a comfy chair to read Little Britches.


baby making use of homeschool reading area

Soon after Beau leaves, I catch Dash looking at a book in the same chair.

We’ve also got a big kitchen table and a bigger table protector to keep it from getting wrecked! ¬†We’ve got a little magnetic whiteboard for writing on. ¬†And we’ve got a kitchen for cooking lessons and science experiments. ¬†Hopefully Finn will not be dismantling too many of my kitchen appliances while we’re hanging out in there, although I suspect he will be able to put them back together if he does.

What else? ¬†Well, we’ve got crafts and games on the top shelf of the pantry and curriculums on the bottom and food in between. ¬†Silly? ¬†Maybe, but we know where everything is. ¬†Is it perfect? ¬†No, but I think it’s working pretty well for us so far. ¬†Still, I do have some things on my Classroom Wish List:

-A bigger, fenced in yard with lots of room for little boys to run around and be in nature; digging in dirt and building forts and climbing trees.

-A garden where they can learn the value of real work and watch the miracle of real food growing from the Earth. ¬†It’s on the list for spring, per Finn’s request. ¬†Finn loves to really get INTO his learning!

So, those are my thoughts on the homeschool classroom for now. ¬†Maybe I’ll change my mind by week four. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†Oh, yeah, I also got this sign for the living room (aka reading area):

Sign idea for homeschool classroomDo you think it will help curb the brotherly antagonism? ¬†Danny says they’re not paying attention. ¬†Besides that Finn can’t read yet. ¬†I’m still hopeful that it will sink in somehow… I’ve also got one I like even better that says “Work Hard and Be Nice”, but I need to find another spot for that. ¬†Forget the classroom, file this one under “Decorating With Subliminal Messages”. ¬†ūüôā

I’ll be listing this post on the iHomeschool Network blog hop. ¬†Stop by and see lots of different ideas for homeschool classrooms. ¬†That’s the great thing about homeschool, each family can do what works best for them!

Going Gaga Over Math Curriculum. Yes, REALLY.

My boys are lying in their bunk beds right now talking about their MATH CURRICULUM.  Yes, seriously, that is really happening.  Beau, the child who hates math, pulled out the second book in the series, plopped down in a comfy chair and skipped ahead of the rest of us, IN HIS FREE TIME.  Now he is filling his brother in on the good stuff.


homeschool curriculum ideas

Who would have thought I’d be going gaga over a math curriculum? ¬†Thinking back to last year, when I started contemplating homeschooling, I thought the best option was probably the K12 program (aka public school at home). ¬†I changed my mind on that after about 20 minutes of research. ¬†I’m not saying it’s not a good option for someone else, but I knew it wasn’t right for us. ¬†It would defeat my purpose in homeschooling, which was primarily to give my kids a custom designed education. ¬†But what else was there besides K12? ¬†Ha! ¬†Silly me, I had NO IDEA!

Turns out there are about a gazillion options out there; enough to make your head explode. ¬†So research I did, until my head exploded and I had to piece it back together. ¬†The good news is, post head explosion, I think I put together a pretty good curriculum. ¬†I thought I’d share with you some of the highlights for those who are interested.


My primary goal is to READ, READ, READ. ¬†Classic books, not so much “twaddle” (as¬†Charlotte Mason¬†aptly described it.) ¬†Yesterday we finished Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and I must say, I think I enjoyed it more than the kids. ¬†I appreciate the genius of Rudyard Kipling’s work so much more than I ever could have imagined when I heard it *cough* thirty years ago. ¬†It was such fun to read aloud! ¬†I can’t wait to start The Jungle Book! ¬†(Did you know these books are in the public domain and you can get the e-books for free? ¬†Yay!)

I also have All About Reading (for Finn) and All About Spelling for both boys. ¬†I have a feeling Finn is going to fight me on it, so I’m waiting until we get really comfortable in the routine before introducing it.

The program I personally got excited about was the writing intensive from the Institute For Excellence In Writing. ¬†Now the question is, is it for Beau or for me? ¬†Okay, it’s for Beau of course, but I’m certainly hoping to pick up some tips and tricks along the way. ¬†Beau groaned when we popped in the first video class, but soon he was pretty engaged by the topic and style. ¬†He and Dash sat on the floor and ate cheese and crackers while they watched it. ¬†We’ll do the first exercise tomorrow. ¬†BTW, Beau thinks he’s already too good of a writer to need it. ¬†Anyone know where we can get some lessons in humility, lol?


Finn is really interested in nature (although he would never admit it), so I got the Handbook of Nature Study,¬†along with a nature journal for each boy. ¬†(They’re just normal journals.) ¬†So far we have a rolly poly and a worm drawn in them. ¬†I think they’ll be great to throw in a backpack and take on a hike as the weather cools down. ¬†We also have an elementary chemistry book and a Magic School Bus Science Club subscription for doing experiments. ¬†Of course, I found out *after buying the year subscription*, that after having the Magic School Bus in regular school, the boys consider it a total drag. ¬†I think (hope) they’ll be able to over look that for the sake of some cool experiments.

homeschool curriculum ideas


Oh, sorry, you’ve been waiting for this one? ¬†Well, I gave it away in my last post, but the curriculum we’re most in love with is LIFE OF FRED. ¬†AGGHHHH! ¬†PURE GENIUS!!! ¬†You know Finn didn’t want to like it. ¬†The first day I told him just to play on the floor and listen. ¬†Pretty soon he was up on the couch, begging to see the pictures. ¬†He still tried to tell me he didn’t like it. ¬†“Really, Finn? ¬†You didn’t like “Butter fries are buh-terrrrrr”?????” ¬†He busted out laughing. ¬†Even Finn couldn’t deny liking that. ¬†And no, I’m not going to explain. ¬†You’ve got to read it. ¬†No matter if your kids are in regular school or homeschool or whatever. ¬†I’ll stop waxing poetic now, you get the picture.

So, some people do use Life Of Fred as a stand alone math curriculum. ¬†But we’re also doing Miquon¬†Math using Cuisenaire Rods¬†as a manipulative. ¬†Beau is awesome at memorizing math facts. ¬†He’s a word guy and I think he remembers number sentences as ACTUAL SENTENCES. ¬†He remembers the WORDS, but the concepts are all fuzzy. ¬†So we’re starting at the beginning of Miquon with both of them (six workbooks for grades 1-3). ¬†The workbooks are such that I can make them easier for Finn and harder for Beau. ¬†Right now Finn thinks of the Cuisenaire Rods as another toy, doing ¬†all kinds of fun and imaginative things with them, which means he is playing right into my plan, ha ha ha! ¬†(Please excuse my maniacal laugh.) ¬†But really, Finn impressed me by comprehending right away that each rod stood for a number and he didn’t have to count to recognize which was which. ¬†I had to count. ¬†ūüėõ

homeschool curriculum ideas

Finn working on his Miquon book, adding his own style with a stripey shirt and bird flying away from the scarecrow. You wouldn’t expect Finn to color it per the instructions, now would you? ūüėČ

So, that’s the basics. ¬†I’ve got some other subjects and tricks up my sleeves, but you’re getting bored and I’m getting tired. ¬†I’ve got to get up and teach little boys in the morning. ¬†And there are still dishes in my sink. ¬†Only thanks to my mom coming by today and helping me they aren’t piled up to the ceiling. ¬†Thanks Mom! ¬†Anyways, this isn’t going to be easy, but I think it’s going to be Good.

P.S. ¬†I’m linking this post up with the iHomeschool Network Back To School Blog Hop. ¬†First time I’ve done one of these, so hopefully I don’t mess it up. ¬†Anyhoo, here’s the link if you’re looking for more great homeschool curriculum ideas! ¬†And if you happen to have stopped by from there, thank you for visiting! ¬†I hope you’ll pop your email address in or hit the ol’ Facebook like to keep up with The Ordinary Chaos! ¬†And Homeschooling Friends, do share what you’ve got planned for this year too! ¬†Hope to hear from you all soon. ūüôā