Friday, January 9, 2015

Homeschool Confessions


Sometimes, I think, people who would otherwise feel called to or consider homeschooling decide it's not for them because they don't fit into a certain mold or lifestyle or they have a certain vision of homeschooling that they don't think they can aspire to.  If so - if we're all supposed to think, prefer, read, and teach the same things the same way - I've come to realize that I should probably just hand in my homeschool card now.  But that's one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling, at least one we talk about even if we feel apprehensive in doing it:  you get to do things in a way that works for you and your individual unique family.  Anyway, I thought maybe it was time to clear the air and my conscience and share with you once and for all my homeschool confessions.

Deep breath.


1.
I'm nervous to admit this so I'm gonna get it out of the way real quick.  It's my mortal sin of the homeschool confessional.

I don't read, or even like, book lists.

I know…it's not you, it's me.  Really.  Everyone else in the world seems to love them so so so much.  For me, it's probably the quickest way to make me homeschool-anxious.  I think when you're looking for something specific they can be helpful and for specific recommendations, sure they're great.  But for me a general you or your child MUST read all these books on this list?  I've learned they lead me into unnecessary guilt.

My child hasn't read that book??  Educationally damned forever.  
I taught them about ducks without reading seventeen adorable and recommended storybooks featuring ducks?  How will they ever ever know about ducks properly?  No doubt they now hate or fear ducks and will forever.  

See?  Now you know how ridiculous I can be.  So I stay away from the booklists and make a deliberate act of trust in my intuition and that God will always provide in His own way for this homeschool.

2.
We don't "do" science.

I have come to the liberating and practical realization that it is virtually unnecessary to "do" science in the younger grades.  I'm finally giving myself permission to just not do it.  Almost everything they learn and remember on this subject they do so because they had a natural curiosity and learned it either on their own, through asking me or others questions, some good sciency books on the shelves, or through plain old cause and effect in everyday work and play.  It's not because I planned some elaborate lap book and experiment on the subject.  I fill in with definitions as I see things come up and I'm available (i.e.  Oh wow!  The gravity made that block tower fall down!) but I don't ever plan it.  Ever.  Giving my kids freedom to play outside and experiment on their own and use tools some would gasp at has been a greater education in science than any classroom lesson I could ever ever come up with.  

3.
We never ever go to the library.

I'm kinda ducking.
Reasons:  It's one of the most stressful, sweaty activities you can do with four children that has never really ended up being worth the work involved or educational benefit received.

The book choices there are getting poorer and poorer.  My oldest is now in the young adult reading age and ohmygoodness, are those shelves eye-opening.  Our local library doesn't have Treasure Island but they do have Twilight.  We went for the first time in over a year and a half a few weeks ago after I mustered the energy to comply with my oldest's request.  He was really hoping to learn more about lasers and wanted to find some books to check out.  Great!  The library is where we're supposed to go to do that!  We scoured the catalog and enlisted the help of a staff member.  Nothing.  Nothing in the whole library.  But had we wanted to learn about vampires or diversity or browse through The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft (really) we would have been all. set.

And now there are internet book sales.  For what I would inevitably end up paying in overdue fines, I can purchase a used copy on Amazon or Ebay and have that in our family's library for younger siblings to enjoy without me having to wrangle toddlers in a sweaty, sweary, supposed-to-be-quiet-in-here-so-why-do-they-have-toys-in-the-kid-section hot mess.

I will say, though, that I do love the library book sales.  They're usually getting rid of all the books I want to get :)

4.
We don't do all those…things.

We've never made a salt dough map.  Or a lap book.  Or spent a week learning about one letter.  Or charted the weather (We have windows!  They're great!).  Also, the use of glitter, play-dough, and markers around here are all strictly strictly monitored.  Those things are great if you like to do them, don't get me wrong.  But we don't.  And we're still (maybe?) okay.  

5.
I don't have or use lesson plans.

I've tried them but they have always fizzled out.  We simply do the next lesson in the subjects to be done that day.  If it's on their own, I check it, they fix any errors, and we're done.  If a certain lesson is long and the child is convincing enough, sometimes we'll split it into a few days.  Everything that I don't have a prescribed curriculum and routine for, I guess you could say we unschool.  The idea now of making daily or weekly lists makes me pretty twitchy.

6.
When I say physical education class I mean going outside.

When I say health education I mean I make them brush their teeth and eat their vegetables.
And when I say "HIV awareness and education" (thank you, New York state requirements), I mean I make sure they're not sexually active, aren't shooting up drugs, and are learning how to always treat others with dignity.

You'd be surprised how creatively you can word things on your district quarterly report ;)

7.
Vacations count.  Chores count.  Play counts.  Acts of service count.  It ALL COUNTS.

This isn't really a confession, at least not to those who have been doing it awhile but maybe to those who are considering or are totally unfamiliar with learning at home.  It's more of a revelation that I've had to make (and remake) over the years.  Homeschooling is not doing school at home.  At least not for us.  We aren't trying to replicate a traditional American classroom but rather educating our children under a vastly different (and much older and more time-tested) model.  Some things look the same but some things look very different.  It takes a total mind shift in the way many of us are used to looking at education.  In many ways it's much easier, in many ways much more difficult.  But the one thing that I'm learning is that they're always learning.  Always.  And it all counts and I don't need to feel guilty 'counting' it.


So now you know.  Whew.  That feels better.  As long as my homeschool friends promise to still talk to me.  (Please?)

So now that I've confessed, dare you share, too?  Got any homeschool confessions??


(And linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes!)



44 comments:

  1. What a great list! I had the no science teaching revelation this past year. He's six, he needs to be learning about the physical world hands on before he gets metaphysical. I like booklist but only as a source for finding books or series that I know nothing about. I hate eating YA books. Hope your day goes well!

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    1. You, too! Booklists definitely are useful and helpful…when I'm looking for something specific. (i.e. good novels for so-and-so age range or whatever) So I AM glad they're out there! :)

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  2. I LOVE book lists!!! (But I never feel like we have to read what people tell us to read!)
    I used to take my kids to the library, but since having a fifth I stopped. that. Don't know if we'll ever return :( I just order on line and have my personal assistant - I mean, husband, do my pick up and drop off!
    I'm on board with your 4,6, and 7 - but I don't feel like they need to be confessed! So far, I'm proud of those things :)
    I DO feel guilty that we haven't started any music lessons yet..........

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    1. You are so organized with your library runs! And some of these are tongue in cheek…or are confessions to the world about homeschooling not necessarily anything shocking to those who homeschool. I just hope our superintendent doesn't read this blog…not that she could do anything but still :)

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  3. We are very simiilar. I hate book lists as well. Although we do go to the library...quite a bit. We have an awesome library system and our library offers lots of free homeschool classes (free art classes..can't beat those!)

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    1. Free art classes?? That would totally make me rethink the library aversion!

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  4. Here, Here!!! I especially admit to 2, 4, 6, and 7. My kids joke with me (now that they are older) that all they have to say is: "snack sign up sheet" and "crafting with glue and glitter" to make me visibly shudder.

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    1. Ha! Or when they bring out the tiny beads…we do have those and I do let them play with them under strict guidelines but usually I regret it!

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  5. Awesome! I'm dabbling in homeschool with my 4 year old but there's a lot of things I already say "nope. no. not gonna happen" to. And the reason why...an insane amount of learning happens naturally. Great post!

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    1. Good for you! There is so much pressure (sometimes self-inflicted sometimes from outside) to do things a certain way. It's so good when you can know right away what will actually be fruitful and what is just busy work!

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  6. I hate the book list that look all flashy and say things like "Must Read" and "Your Child Needs". In my opinion, lists like that are more about drawing attention to the author of the list, rather than educate. Having said that, I do enjoy reading "This is what we have been reading" book lists and reviews. I usually end up finding a title that I think may be beneficial to read to my boys or to read myself.
    I think a list like yours is great for a new homeschooling parent or someone that is considering homeschooling because there is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming in the beginning.

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    1. I agree! Or when you click expecting something mind-blowing and it's kinda not. I guess that's what they call click-bait? But yes, reviews and certain lists are helpful but I find for my weirdo personality that they are good for when I'm already looking for that rather than adding *another* thing I "should" be reading or doing with my kids, if that makes sense!

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  7. Thank you for sharing this! I like booklists to a certain extent, because I had no idea where to even start when it came to getting some descent children's books for our home. I certainly haven't bought or read every single book on those lists, but the kids have enjoyed the ones we have got.

    We go to the library sometimes for 'storytime' because Lucia likes it so much, but I know she's like the oldest one there because all the kids her age are 'in school' and I try not to go too often so I at least look like I do some school sometimes! ;) I mean technically she could still be in pre-k because of her birthday. I know what you mean though about the books offered. She picked one once that was all about a child's parents getting a divorce!! I was thinking she doesn't need to be learning all about that subject from a children's book. Our libraries do a have an online system where you can ask for a specific book to be transferred to the local library, but they only have a few children's book I would actually choose, but it is a good system for that, but usually if it's a book I really like I'll just buy it, because I'm always late returning books.

    I haven't used a lesson plan yet, but I was thinking it might help me be more organized. How do you stay on track and organized? I really need to get some kind of shelves or organization system going on because I drive myself crazy wondering where something is all the time. I confess to doing the letter for a week, but I'm not really sure what else to do, with Lucia constantly wanting more activities and crafts to do all the time.

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    1. That's true…book lists when I was first starting out were helpful, at least to get an idea of what *kind* of books to be looking for and when I was first starting our little library. YES to shelves!! They are my sanity. We have one shelf for all the homeschool lesson books divided by child. That and a printed out routine of which subjects get done which day is pretty much all I do planning wise. And by all means, please do the letter of the week if you all love it and get something out of it!! That's great and some of the programs are super cute and give a fun framework to the week! I'm way too not fun :) I'm like, "this is an A, okay? Okay." Done. Very boring :)

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  8. I could say the same things about almost every one of your points....1. I hate book lists (hate bucket lists for the same reason...too much pressure and it takes the fun out of doing things). 2. I bought science curriculum and we all hate it. 3. We do go to the library - several times a week....but it's easy with only 2 kids and our library is small and stocked with great resources. Plus we have a great (huge) library system and I can get almost anything I want. 4. I hate all the enrichment activities...don't add anything to the learning. 5. I tried planning this year and I find myself just going with the flow and doing what works for us. 6. Our PE is hiking, walking, whatever... 7. Yes..it ALL counts! All of life is an opportunity for learning.

    A few more I would add...We don't do any sort of co-op. We tried it, but it was distracting us from school and learning. We hardly do any organized field trips - I'd rather use life situations to lead our days and our education.

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    1. You guys live such awesomely full lives, I don't think you have anything to worry about :) Though, I would think you'd be a bucket list type of person! I like the idea of goals, of course, but agree that sometimes the lists feel too…stifling or something. We don't do too many field trips either. I prefer vacations :)

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    2. I've tried to make bucket lists and it becomes such a burden and i start feeling like I "have" to do it ...and if I don't, then I feel like I've failed. Definitely have goals, though.

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  9. We don't homeschool. We're still in the discernment process. Though we've officially decided 3 year old preschool is unnecessary. But this is the first post that makes me feel like I really could do it. I would of course have my own confessions if we homeschooled but we'd share the library one. We've gone a total of 3 times in his 2.5 years and each time has been more stressful than I think it should be. Especially since we read books constantly at home.

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    1. Madeline, you just made my day :) I was really hoping someone out there would find this a bit encouraging. You're definitely right about preschool! If you ever happen to need someone to talk the decision through and you think I can help, feel free to shoot me an email anytime.

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  10. Hi Mary,
    Can I say how wonderful this made me feel? I am in the second year of homeschooling and am stressed out all the time about lesson planning. Hearing that you don't do it gives me such freedom! (BTW, I love what you write but I never comment. This was that important to de-lurk for!:))

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    1. Thank you so much, Rachel! And thank you for commenting!

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  11. I love this! I think I'm totally going to be the same whenever we *actually* start homeschooling... But right now? They learn a ton just by playing, and I'm pretty sure John Paul could go his entire life without any *formal* schooling because he's just so darned interested in everything academic and learns it on his own! I'm pretty sure I'm not going to need lesson plans or anything like that until the girls actually start doing "school" :)

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    1. Ha, John Paul could probably TEACH most homeschools!

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  12. With all my physical issues this last year, the Library was put on hold. Again. And, I've felt terrible about it! I loved the library growing up but I definitely see how the selection can be ridiculous. I like what Theresa does though! This post gives so much encouragement. With my mother being a retired teacher as well as someone who is not thrilled at all about our decision and hope to homeschool, I get stressed out about all the things she claims my 3.5 year old should already be doing ie reading sight words, writing his name, and lots more. I love how you mentioned the tried and true model of old. There is so much to it. So much good to the flow of how we grow and learn and so much to be respected in how our world around us naturally nudges us on. Can you re-post this in a couple years when we start being more intentional about our homeschool journey? Thanks! :)

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    1. Family pressure is really hard. Especially at that age! Yikes! Hopefully as your guy grows and develops and is learning things but just at a different time or way, she''ll come around? Maybe? Otherwise you get to put up those really fun boundaries :/ Don't feel guilt about the library thing, really. You do what you can do with what God is giving you in the moment. I bet the kiddos didn't even think about it and they're so little there's not much they'll remember at this point yet anyway ;)

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  13. Haven't been to the library in years - will not go - most resources are as you say here, too. I prefer to stock our own "library" full of appropriate reading materials. I like book lists for reference to see what's out there and browse Amazon, B&N, religious online shops, etc and see what's out there - it works for us. Having a child that needs a little more "assistance" ("special needs", as far as I'm concerned, is a wicked word - we're ALL "special" and we all have "special needs" in our own unique ways) it means that I need to be on top of my game (and thankfully the State is one of the stricter ones, so no slacking!), but that being said, I never do "lesson plans", check lists, etc, but rather I keep a "log" and "plan" in my head for the year ahead and we go as the pace goes, within reason. We do a rather eclectic type homeschool and there are many elements that come in an dout of play over the course of the year(s). Science is one subject that my daughter REALLY loves, but we don't "do science" in the strict sense, either. We will use a "spine book" to read a-loud from from time to time, but we tend to be much more un-schooling in this area and my daughter and I enjoy following the seasons and liturgical seasons from which to base our "year". The cycle and rhythm of the seasons really are beautiful and God knows best! P.E. is play - YES! I think finding the balance between the necessary structure (and state requirements/reporting, and freedom to explore and discover and learn is the key to unlocking the gold, ya know?!?!?? :) - Krista

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    1. It sounds like we do things very similarly, Krista! Thank you for sharing!

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  14. I am so on board with almost all of these.....I've been feeling guilty about not doing "science" and just counting the chickens, turkeys and pond as science...now I don't :)

    ...and lesson planning, I thought I was the only one to get twitchy over that! Even now I think I am having heart palpitations talking about it...

    ...book lists make me feel a bit guilty but I do like them sometimes as a guide...

    ...and lapbooking, yeah, I thought we would do that.nope.just nope.nope.nope....open and go please!

    ...If it takes too much planning in advance, yeah, not going to happen, spure of the moment over here, open the book do the next lesson call it good. :)

    ...and the library selections...we do order audiobooks and occasionally other books but I never bring them in. :)

    I. Love. This. So so so much!

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    1. Good, you shouldn't feel guilty! I have to remind myself that so many classroom 'experiences' are trying to replicate exactly what your kids are learning just by living the life you guys have chosen. Like when four or so years ago the science book I was using wanted us to plant the bean seeds in a cup and all that. We had literally just planted our garden the week before…I was like, "nope, think we got that whole seed to plant thing covered" :)

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  15. Remember when I got the first grade science book from CHC last year? It's like "did you know that _______" *insert thing they see happening every single day at our house already.* Anyway, that's when I stopped "doing" science with my elementary people. The science just happens, man.

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    1. Ha, yes! That *may* also be the text we were using when I made the same revelation ;)

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  16. But, but, but... my booklists! Haha, no actually I agree with you for the most - I like using the for a "what's a good place to go in the next step up in reading materials" or "what about this particular subject", but can ignore the "5 million books you must read in your lifetime" lists.

    I'm an artsy person and honestly, I think the amount of "crafts" done in school/daycare/homeschool is a bit rediculous. I love giving kids the opportunity and if you have a more visual learner it's a great alternative..... but why I need a craft project for every letter and every number is beyond me.

    I love building a home library... honestly, the library is a place to test drive books for me.

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    1. Ha, keep doing your booklists! People love them! It's just me that's the weirdo :)

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  17. I thought I was the only homeschooler who doesn't take her kids to the library! Besides the terrible book selection and loud toys, ours has three computers at toddler level in the kids section. Even when they know they can't touch them, my kids are drawn to them by some unseen force. They'll stand behind the kid who's playing and stare at those screens, completely forgetting they're at the library. If I wanted them to stare at screens, I could do that in the comfort of my own home!

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    1. Ah, yes. The screens! So much more stimulating than plain 'ole-fashioned books ;)

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  18. My confession: I don't really want to "do" kindergarten. I mean, can't we just do another year of reading, playing, games, etc? I also am not particularly stressed out that our as-of-today five year old can't read or write his name, whereas his cousins who have been in day care/preschool since age three can. Does it really matter? Not at this point. Thanks so much for comparing, "well meaning" family members.

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    1. Yes. Yes, you can. Tell your family that some random blogging lady on the internet said it was okay. I'm sure that'll fly ;)

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  19. Mary
    Oh I could write a post on Confessions, I have a whole list. mm maybe I might do:)

    re your no 1- Not everyone gets excited about booklists. and I have a friend who doesn't read to her children as her voice gives out, we're all different:)
    2- same here. good news is they'll grow up and lead their younger siblings in science
    3- interlibrary loan is my friend. I go to the library, I mostly leave the children at home::)
    4- me neither or rarely
    5- as the years go by I write less and less plans, I'm the only one who pays attention anyhow. Started back lessons today and my 13 year old had written her plans and told me, "here's what I'm going to learn, don't bother writing me any as I'm only doing my list" pretty good list, so all good
    6- running outside = PE:)
    7- Yup it all counts:):)

    You're doing a marvelous job my friend{{}}

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    1. I love that your daughter writes her own plans! So encouraging that she takes such ownership and is excited about learning! (Her things anyway! ;)

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  20. I was homeschooled from Grade 2 through Grade 12 and my mom never made a lesson plan. We just did the next lesson, read the next book in the pile, etc etc etc. And now that I'm homeschooling and my kids are so little I still don't see the need, one of the beauties of homeschooling is just relaxing that little bit and learning at your own pace. Great list!

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    1. That's so encouraging! I love hearing from people who were home schooled themselves…if I could I'd sit you down and put you through an interview of all my questions and get all your advice!

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  21. Love this list! Homeschooling works best when you do what works best for your family! I, too, was homeschooled from 1st Grade through High School graduation and look forward to homeschooling our crew when they're old enough. My Mom and I both love a good booklist (ironically, I posted a giant one today) but only ones for chapter books or adult books...the "17 duck books" type make me collapse from boredom. They're just...ducks. I also agree that formal science in the early grades is generally pointless. Before middle school, it's mostly filler and most younger kids learn plenty from looking at the natural world and asking questions. Heading to the library for several hours was a staple of our week as kids (we brought a laundry basket to carry the massive stacks of books), but our library was one of the top 10 in the nation so the selection was very impressive. I'm a big cheapskate and love a constant variety of new books in the house so we'd go broke buying them all, even used (also I prefer to preview books to make sure they're keepers before spending money on them). However, our current library system is split up over eight or so branches so browsing at any one branch is always disappointing. I generally reserve books online/via inter-library loan if our system doesn't have the book I want (loans are free between all libraries in our state), then stop by to pick up the batch when they come in. The library is a nightmare with loose small kids though as they try to pull ALL THE BOOKS off the shelves. Generally I strap the twins into the stroller, strap the baby to me, spend ten minutes buzzing up and down the aisles picking likely picture books (our librarians are good about putting nice options up on the display shelves), then grab our reserved books on the way out. I love that you've found a good way to get books that works for your family! What worked for my Mom with a great library doesn't work for us with a mediocre one. I do like the free e-books available through our library system. My mother-in-law gave me a base model Kindle a few years ago, and we have a statewide system where you can reserve e-books online, get an email notification when the last reader checks them back in, then load them to your Kindle for two weeks with a click. Free books from the comfort of my kitchen table definitely wins the "easiest option" contest! My Mom also counted chores as Home Ec, and didn't do any of the salt dough/diorama/sensory play/letter of the week stuff. Apparently she tried once or twice out of a sense of obligation but we were bored and kept asking why we couldn't just read the information from a book.

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    1. I'm sure so much depends on the type of library you have near you, how close it is, the ages of children…in theory, I LOVE the idea of the library. In reality, in our situation not so much! We do have inter-library loan but I'm not on top of my books-to-read game enough to use it well!

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  22. Great post! I have a homeschool graduate, a homeschooled junior, and a homeschooled 6th grader. You are doing great!! I said/did a lot of the same things as you "back in the day" although I think with even less school stuff (but we practically lived at the library...we live in Florida so instead of being a sweaty trip, it is/was a great place to cool off). Keep doing what you are doing, it is perfect for your family.

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