Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: May 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Homeschooling is the best!

I've shared before that I was a wildlife biologist back before, you know, I chucked all that aside to be a full-time mom and the Unplanned Homeschooler. Well, a post I saw today in one of my favorite Facebook groups really caught my eye.

Fellow homeschooler, Kara Alysce, shared photos she'd taken when she and her daughters went for a walk and happened upon one of the most awesome unplanned learning adventures I have seen in a while.

Kara and her girls happened across this gorgeous turtle. And guess what she was doing...

Laying her eggs! Look closely and you can see one of the eggs about to emerge from the cloaca.

And here's the best part. Kara didn't stop with just observing the turtle. She called a Turtle Rescue hotline to learn more, and shared that information with her girls and with all of the homeschoolers on the Facebook group!

Here is the post she wrote, shared with permission...

  • The girls and I went for a walk and we found this Mama Turtle laying her eggs! Homeschool is the freaking best! We learned that these Painted Turtles are on their own from now on. The Mama takes off and the father(s) only serve one purpose. His sperm can stay inside her for 5 years and each baby could have a different father! They will hatch under ground in 60-90 days. When they hatch, they will stay under ground all Winter. They freeze! Their hearts stop beating and freeze and when Spring comes, their hearts start beating again and they thaw. They come out of a hole the size of thumb and go on their way. Incredible.

Homeschooling really IS the best! Keep having those unplanned learning adventures, everyone!

The Unplanner is available now!

THE UNPLANNER is not like other homeschool planners you may have seen. Brought to you by the Unplanned Homeschooler, this organizer will help you record all of your amazing learning adventures without overloading you with pages and blanks you'll never fill in.

I understand that too much planning can lead to stress, anxiety and even feelings of guilt, especially for new homeschoolers. You don't need that!

What does THE UNPLANNER include?

In addition to helpful advice, you'll get attendance sheets for each of your students, Month at a Glance pages to help you track your appointments and upcoming events, Year in Review pages to help you record all the work your kids have done as you go and do a little light planning, and Learning Adventures pages to record the field trips, experiments and other special experiences you won't want to forget.

I designed THE UNPLANNER to cover a full 13 months, from July 2015 all the way through July 2016, because I know how frustrating it is to procrastinate and not get your new organizer in time. And priced at just $6.49, it probably costs less than what you would spend to print your own planner pages and bind them yourself.

THE UNPLANNER is professionally bound in a convenient 6x9 inch paperback, perfectly sized to toss in your bag and carry with you wherever you go. It has all the pages you need, and none of the ones you don't.

You can do this! You'll never feel like you're a failure at planning again. So relax, place your order, get your pencils ready and let's get started.

How to purchase THE UNPLANNER

It's easy! THE UNPLANNER comes in six versions, customized for 1 to 6 students. You can order the version of your choice from Amazon and take advantage of free shipping or order directly from CreateSpace by clicking one of the links below.

THE UNPLANNER from Amazon - $6.49

THE UNPLANNER for 6 Students - $6.49

And don't forget to check out my first book, The Unplanned Homeschooler: My Disorganized Path to Homeschooling Success. It's available in my store on Kindle or paperback. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Not one more day

Today I watched one of the saddest videos I have ever seen. In an excerpt from the Champion of Choices DVD, bereaved mother, Amy Briggs of New York told the world about her son, Daniel.

Daniel was a loving and caring young man, who had been bullied horribly at school for most of his life. His mom talked about how he helped a neighbor who had cancer until he died, then carried on assisting the man's wife after she was widowed. He was, for all accounts, a good kid.

But like so many good kids, he became a target for bullies at his school. And when he could no longer take it, he decided to take his own life.

Briggs wept as she told of how her son lost hope, and after a particularly awful text message from a classmate, decided to end it all. She shared how her son told people at school, and even the bus driver on his way home, but no one listened. No one did anything.

This bereaved mother told her son's story, begging viewers not to let the same thing happen to anyone else. "Do something," she said. Don't just stand by and let someone you know become a victim of suicide.

I see so many posts, at least a half dozen every single week, from moms whose children are being tortured by bullies at school. They are on the fence about homeschooling, asking for advice about whether they should pull their kids out of school.

I don't know if homeschooling might have saved the life of Daniel Briggs, or so many other young people who have committed suicide after years of being bullied in school. But I think if your child is being bullied, and you are worried about them, you should follow your instincts and do something. Don't depend on classmates, or teachers, or even counselors at school to save your child. 

Don't wait. Not one more day. Do something before it is too late. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sneak peek at The Unplanner, available by June 1

I've been putting together organizers for myself for years, including the pages I need to record all the important information about what we did, and leaving out all the superfluous blanks that I knew I would never fill out anyway. These streamlined organizers allowed me to do a little light planning, but not so much that it bogged me down and left me feeling defeated. 

My Unplanners, as I called them, gave me a place to write down what we did each day, in brief, and to record attendance. And I always included extra space for writing about our many field trips and adventures, because that's the part I want to remember the most.  

This year, at the regional homeschool convention, several moms told me that if I were to customize an affordable Unplanner for the number of kids in their families, that they didn't have to print out and have bound, they would buy them in a heartbeat. I thought, why not?

So here's a sneak peek at the cover of The Unplanner, this one customized for one student. I'll also have customized versions available for use with two to six students by June 1. 

The Unplanner covers the months of July 2015 through July 2016. That's right, I included a whole extra month because I know we're not all organized enough to have a new planner ready to go the day the old one runs out.

I understand that too much planning can lead to stress, anxiety and even feelings of guilt, especially for new homeschoolers. You don't need that!

The Unplanner has all the pages you need, and none of the ones you don't, so you'll never feel like you're a failure at planning again. Look for it in my store or on Amazon by June 1!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Free video lessons on the periodic table

You're going to want to share this post with all your homeschooling friends, especially those who are about to start teaching physical science or chemistry.

I was a bit of a chemistry nut. I spent the summer of my eighth grade year auditing a chemistry class at the local university, and the next summer volunteering as a lab assistant for a professor who knew how to get students excited about science.

I think most kids like chemistry, because its fun! Things change colors and explode, liquids become solids or gases, and everything happens right before your eyes. It's like magic, but with the answers right there at your fingertips if you're just willing to learn the secret formulas.

Parents are often afraid to teach chemistry, though, and this can lead to their kids being scared to learn. You don't want your kids to be afraid to learn about chemistry. You want them to be excited. Well, I just stumbled across a free tool that can help both you and your kids get excited about chemistry, one remarkable element at a time.

A team from the University of Nottingham put together a set of videos and lessons on the TED-Ed platform featuring the elements of the periodic table. They're called Periodic Videos. Starting off with a boom, you and your kids can learn all about hydrogen, the smallest element, and work your way through the periodic table one at a time until you've learned about them all.

I just finished watching the videos for hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, three of the most important elements in our world, and even after years of chemistry classes, I actually learned a thing or two I didn't know before.

If you register on TED-Ed, you and your students can take quizzes and learn even more after watching the videos. And it's all free! This resource would be a great way to introduce young kids to the periodic table, even before they are proficient readers, and a terrific supplement to any chemistry curriculum you are using for older students.

Please share this free resource with other homeschoolers, especially those who are feeling nervous about teaching science. It's just one of the many ways they can have fun with chemistry while educating their kids at home.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Free grammar and spelling lessons on Facebook

Sometimes free resources just fall into your lap, as did this little unexpected lesson in grammar and spelling correction I found on Facebook.

A woman in Wills Point, Texas made an angry post about a formerly homeschooled student who was selected as this year's valedictorian. According to her post, the senior had been in the public school system for two years before being chosen as the valedictorian, and that angered some in the town. The principal even reportedly protested the award, refusing to announce the young man as valedictorian.

According to this poster and other Facebook users from the Wills Point area, the school board will consider the situation, and possibly the principal's continued employment, at a meeting scheduled for May 28.

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to let my own homeschooled students use the post as a free grammar and spelling lesson, because learning to recognize and correct errors is an important language arts skill. I recommend printing the gems you find on Facebook for your own children to correct. You can't beat free lessons that just keep on coming!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Fun with fungus!

It's been a very rainy week in Oklahoma, but today the sun came back out and, of course, we got outside. One of the first things my daughter noticed in the back yard was something reddish brown growing on a dead branch in the walnut tree.

"What is that?" she asked.

"It's some kind of fungus," I replied.

"What kind is it?" she asked, genuinely curious.

"I don't know. I'm not a fungus expert," I said, much to her disappointment.

But of course, as a biologist I love an opportunity to explore science and nature, so I grabbed the camera and a ladder and we took a few pictures and collected a sample. Some of the fungus was slimy, but most of it had a smooth, velvety exterior with a gelatinous middle.


The fungi ranged in size from small, firm, cup-shaped structures about 1 cm in diameter to larger structures, maybe 10 cm across, droopy and slimy. The medium sized structures were shaped a lot like ears.

Not knowing much about mushrooms ourselves, and without an expert to turn to, we decided to look them up online. Our main goal was to identify the fungus. We found a couple of dichotomous keys, which we were able to use to narrow our search, and then we started looking through photos and descriptions of different species, until we found what seemed to be a good match.

We think the fungus we found is Auricularia auricula, a common jelly fungus known as the Jelly Ear, which can be found growing on decaying hardwood in much of North America. The characteristic ear shape, along with the gelatinous structure and other features suggest we are on the right track.

After more than two hours of research, we went back out to take down the ladder, and we were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this fungus as the afternoon sun shone through and lit it up like something fairies would be proud to call their own.

Next, we're writing to Michael Kuo, who is a fungus expert, to see if maybe he will help confirm our identification. It was his website,, that we found most useful in researching the fungus we found. I'll post an update if we get a reply.

All in all, it was a very fun day, spent doing some unexpected scientific research, learning about how dichotomous keys work, learning more about all sorts of beautiful fungi in the world and having yet another unplanned learning adventure!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day! You're AMAZING!

To all the homeschooling mothers out there, let me just take a moment to say how amazing you are. You're doing something incredible for your kids, way above and beyond what society expects from you. You're taking on a job most parents willingly turn over to others, because you believe it's what is best for your children.

Whether you are homeschooling to accommodate your child's academic needs, to keep them away from bullies, to give them a chance to spend more time with their family, to protect their health or for any of a million other good reasons, you deserve a little recognition and appreciation.

Sure, the rewards of homeschooling are great! Yes, you are enjoying the gifts of time and closeness with your children you might otherwise miss. But you are also accepting so much additional work and responsibility. And chances are, most days you do it all with grace and a sense of humor, and most of all, love.

Keep up the great work, homeschool moms. Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Gardening with your kids

This week, my kids and I spent some time in the garden, planting seeds, pulling weeds and chasing our puppy out of the flower beds. Kids like to help out in the garden, especially when helping means getting dirty and working with grown-up tools, and gardening together can be a terrific learning experience.

Of course, sometimes it is easier to just do the job yourself and tell your children to go play and stay out of the way, but you may be missing a great opportunity. The garden is a perfect place to involve kids. There are so many lessons to be learned, and so many ways children can help out in the garden and make your job easier. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.