Monday, January 05, 2015


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This year I committed to unofficially homeschooling  my granddaughter and her friend a few days a week.  Mostly, we read great literature together, write a lot, learn a ton of new vocabulary words, memorize all kinds of things, and touch on history and geography. Science and math are their mothers' problems responsibilities.  
Kenzie working with Bennett . . . doing what Bennett does
After homeschooling my own kiddos for 14 years, I went to work at a classical Christian school for 7; and if there is one thing I took away that has changed the way I now homeschool my granddaughter, it is a better understanding of children's capabilities. Again and again, I witnessed the unbelievable ability children have to memorize.  On my first go-around, my expectations were in direct proportion to my ability--or I should say, my inability--to memorize or assimilate new knowledge.  

I often said during school tours, that if I had to do it again, I would expect so much more from my children.

Kenzie and Anna have given me that chance, and I have likewise challenged them quite a bit.  And they have cheerfully accepted that challenge.  Why?  Because it is not difficult for them to memorize or learn new things.  Their ten-year-old brains are designed to do so.

On Christmas Eve, they amazed quite a few when they stood in front of a church congregation and flawlessly recited Luke 2.  If they were nervous, you never would have known it.  I was so proud of them; but more importantly, their discipline and work were affirmed.  That opportunity has laid a foundation--even though they don't realize it now--for future success.

Then when the family visited, Kenzie went through her repertoire which included poems, states, presidents, helping verbs, prepositions, etc.  

It really is important to give homeschooled children the opportunity to perform or to present in front of others.  I will go so far as to say that it is one of the most important skills that must be developed.

With four adult, homeschooled children, I can say that with great authority!  
Kenzie reciting Luke 2 on Christmas morning
If I can caution homeschooling parents against one thing, it is to become so invested in your children's work, that it becomes more your work than theirs.  Yes, you guide and critique and inspire; but in the end, you release and let them deliver.  If you don't, you will never get the desired results.  What you will get are happy, albeit lazy children.  That happiness will eventually fade when you and they realize that they are not prepared for the real world--a world in which mom will not be accompanying them.

I have also been super impressed with how my girls' writing abilities have developed--way beyond what they or I thought they could.  Since being able to write well is as important to me as being able to speak in public, I am thrilled that the girls  have also cheerfully complied to being pushed in this area.  The book that has helped the most with their writing is Banish Boring Words.  You can just click on the graphic below to order one on Amazon for under $10!

(Even if you don't homeschool, your kiddos could benefit from having this resource available to them.)

The girls write, and then we circle all the saids and any other common word that lends itself to replacement.  Then they go on a treasure hunt, so to speak, to find more interesting ways to communicate their ideas.  This is a long process, but so worth it.  We worked on their creative writing stories for at least a month, which means some other subjects probably got short-changed.   Their moms and I are okay with that because, in the end, their stories were amazing.  

I am including fifth-grade Kenzie's story in this post as an example of the fine use of dialogue, new vocabulary words (from our lessons and the book above), and literary devices such as repetition and alliteration.  

Peri's Christmas Mistake

It was a frigid Colorado night in the middle of November, and Kosie’s fake fire was flickering.  Kosie was decorating her treehouse mantle for her Christmas photo shoot for rescue animals.  She thought that there was something missing.  “Ah-ha!  I’ve got it.  It needs an ornament wreath and maybe some candy canes.  What do you think, Spike?”

“Ruff, ruff,” replied the little brown and white terrier that Kosie had rescued on this very same night just one year ago.

“Okay, so you think it is too much.  I will only do the ornament wreath.”

Kosie’s treehouse was not like any ordinary treehouse.  Her dad built it with windows and electricity so that she could use it year round to spill out her ideas.  Every once in a while, Kosie and Spike would even spend the night in it.  Kosie glimpsed out the window and realized that it was snowing pretty heavily.  She and Spike would most likely spend this night in the treehouse because they loved to think of it as their winter wonderland.

Far away at the North Pole, the elf, Peri, was in a deep, deep, deep sleep when he suddenly awoke.  He clicked on his tablet to check in on his girl, Kosie, and was astonished by what he saw.  Kosie was decorating for Christmas, and it was snowing!  Peri ran around his room recklessly, putting on his clothes as he flew out the window.  On the way to Colorado, he was trying to figure out how he had missed the start of the Christmas season.  Maybe he had eaten too much and had fallen into a short hibernation. He had no idea, but he would have to figure that out later because he had reached Kosie’s house. 

Peri checked on his tablet to make sure that Kosie and Spike were fast asleep.  Seeing that they were all snug in their bed, Peri sprinkled his magic dust on himself so that he could get into the treehouse.  Poof!  He was in.  As he skittered across to the mantle he heard the creaking of the floor beneath him.   He froze.  After making sure that Kosie and Spike were still asleep, he went on his way.  Positioning himself on the mantle next to the ornament wreath, he switched himself to freeze mode.

“Ahhhhhh,” Kosie woke with a yawn to Spike’s barking.  She pulled back her covers commanding, “Spike, stop that!”  Realizing that she had overslept, she jumped out of bed.  Her friend, Anna, was already there.  Anna was going to help her prepare for the photo shoot for rescue animals later that day.  She brought her dogs, Cookie and Noel, so that they could do a test run. 

Trudging into the house, Anna exclaimed, “Hi, Kosie.  Wow!  Your mantle looks beautiful!”  She unleashed her dogs and sat down, exhausted from the walk through the snow with Cookie and Noel. 

“Thank you,’’ Kosie said looking at the mantle.  “What in the world!  It’s November!  He shouldn't be here.”  

“Who are you talking about?” Anna questioned.

Flipping open her day-planner, Kosie confirmed that it really was still November.  

“I was right.  It is November 14, and he should not be here!”

“Okay, but who are you talking about?”  Anna asked again.

“My elf, Peri.  He is supposed to arrive on December 1, but he is here in the middle of November.”

“Is that the elf that reports back to Santa?” 


“No elf ever comes to my house to watch me,” said Anna.

“Really?  No elf comes to your house in December?   Hmmm . . . well, that’s peculiar.  Oh my, look at the time.  Let’s go grab some breakfast at my house and get the cookies and hot chocolate to bring back for the guests.  Then we need to practice the photo shoot with Cookie and Noel.

“Sounds good,” said Anna. 

“Oh my goodness!  I can’t believe I am here in November!  I am so embarrassed!”  Peri said.  “I have to get back to the North Pole before anyone notices that I am gone.”  He threw the magic dust on himself and POOF!   Peri landed outside in the cold.  On the way back to the North Pole, Peri thought, “I am so embarrassed.  When I get back, I will tell Santa about everything.”

Knock!  Knock!

“Come in,” Santa said with a jolly voice. 

Peri opened the door and blurted out, “Santa, I went to Kosie’s house early, and Anna doesn’t have an elf, and that is not acceptable, so I guess it was a good thing that I went early because now you know that she doesn’t have a elf!”  

“Ho, ho, ho . . . slow down, Peri!”  

“Okay.  I went to Kosie’s house early because when I awoke from a deep sleep, I saw on the tablet that she was decorating, and it was snowing outside.  I thought I had slept through December 1.  So without checking, I went to her house and placed myself on the mantle.  When she woke up, she noticed me and was dumbfounded.  I was also dumbfounded when she flipped open her day planner, and I saw that it was actually November 14.”

“It’s okay, Peri.  That happened to me one year.  I got ready to go to  on December 23 instead of December 24.  I was about to set off when Mrs. Claus stopped me.  I am so glad she stopped me.  Ho, ho, ho!  So, what were you saying about Anna not having an elf?”

“Oh, yeah!  Well, while I was there, I overheard Anna telling Kosie that no elf has ever come to her house in December.”

“Racing reindeer!  I have just the elf for her.  Go tell Gumdrop that he finally has an assignment.  And you, Peri, have done a great deed.  I am proud of you.  Ho, ho, ho!
It was December 1, and Peri was back in position on the mantle in Kosie’s treehouse.  Gumdrop was also in position at Anna’s house ready for his first Christmas season.  The last two weeks, Peri had spent time sharing all his shelf elf experiences with Gumdrop, and they were both so excited about the twenty-four days ahead of them!

I have to say that nothing has fulfilled me more than learning alongside my kids and now, my grandkids!  Over the Christmas break, Kenzie told me that she could not wait for us to start back up with school.  That just makes my heart smile, and confirms that learning can be fun!


Becca Hill said...

You are such a GIFT! I only wish my kids had the investment you are giving!!!

Denise Voccola said...

You are so sweet, Becca. We have the perfect set-up for investing, a set-up that I sometimes take for granted. Love you!

Kolein said...

LOVED every drop of this! Kenzie's writing is amazing! I completely agree with public speaking. The boys have been doing this for years now - at home, at church, now in the academy they attend. It never really occurred to me that it would be an excellent life skill. Thanks for sharing the links too - the one here and the other on FB. Gonna go check them out.


martinealison said...


Toutes mes félicitations pour ce beau dévouement !
Gros bisous ♡