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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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My first book is finished!

Well, I have been working extra hard this month to finish up my book before the OCHEC homeschool convention in Tulsa. I am so excited to say, it's complete and has been published!

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read my book for free. If not, it's just $3.99 for the e-book, which is available right now, or $5.99 for the paperback, which will be available shortly from CreateSpace and also on Amazon.

You don't have to have a Kindle to read the e-book. A free app is available on Amazon so you can read it on all sorts of computers and mobile devices.

I would love for you to check out my first book. Please visit my store and share the link with all of your homeschooling friends, especially those who suffer from planner anxiety like I do. I hope that by writing about my own journey to homeschooling success, I can help others to embrace their own skills and limitations, to become more flexible and to enjoy educating their kids at home as much as I have these past several years.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Because He lives

Happy Easter, everyone!

I grew up on old time gospel music, and one of my favorite songs is "Because He Lives." You might be familiar with the song, but if not, here is the chorus...

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

More than once, I have sung this song through tears, laying whatever burdens I was carrying at the time at the feet of the cross. It's particularly meaningful to me at Easter, because I believe Jesus does indeed live, and I believe He does hold the future, and no matter what trials or difficulties we may be facing today, He is in control.

Sometimes it's hard to carry on without fear, especially when life throws big hurdles in our way. I've been there. I guess maybe we all have in one way or another.

One of the families I care most about in the world spent their Easter this year in the hospital with their 3-year-old little boy, who is just a few months into his battle with leukemia. I would like to ask all who read this, please say a prayer for Sean and his family, or read his story and send them your positive thoughts. You can also consider donating blood in Sean's name, which will not only help the local recipient of your blood, but will also help offset the costs of Sean's treatment.

Thank you so much.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Catch me at the convention!

I'm so excited, and more than a little bit nervous, to announce that I will be speaking at a homeschool convention this year! That's right, the Unplanned Homeschooler will be presenting a workshop at the OCHEC convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 24.

My workshop, entitled, "Planning for the Unplanned Homeschooler," will be all about how to embrace your own personality, accept whatever organizational difficulties you may have and work with your strengths to become a totally successful homeschooler.

I would love to see as many of my readers as possible at the OCHEC convention, not only because it would be great to see friendly faces in the crowd, but because it's always a fantastic place to learn about homeschooling, hear encouraging speakers and see some of the latest curriculum and products on the market.

But I know many of you are too far away to make it to Tulsa, so I just encourage you to look for an awesome homeschool convention near you, and please keep me in your prayers, that I would be able to help some of the disorganized, unplanned homeschoolers who are winging their way toward success in Oklahoma this year!