The Three Lessons of Monopoly

We have a new obsession around here. It’s Monopoly.

At any given opportunity, my children will pull it out and begin playing. It’s surprising to me, really, how often they will beg me to play it with them and I find myself saying, “Are you kidding? We have to leave in thirty minutes!”

“Please?” they will whine then, “please, please, please?” with the blithe carelessness children have for time.

I usually cave and we end up forgetting lunch and extend bedtime. I play with them, but not only because I usually win. (And they still want to play. I’m in awe.) And not even because I’ve waited a long time to find anyone else as in love with it as I was as a kid.

I agree to play it so much because Monopoly has some fantastic lessons. (And before you roll your eyes, let me say, of course it’s okay to play it just for fun. Not everything has to have a lesson.)

However, if you’re an overthinker like me and you appreciate myriad reminders of frugality, budgeting, cash reserves, you’ll know where I’m coming from. Otherwise, maybe it’s best to go read about how to win at Monopoly each and every time.

Here are three lessons “the world’s most popular game” has taught me.

Pay attention

Children (did I say that out loud? I meant people – in general, but let’s stay focused) tend to have tunnel vision, especially when something looks fun. I find that Monopoly is a fantastic reminder to get them to be aware of their surroundings.

The Lessons of Monopoly

When a property goes to an auction, my children almost always reject if they’re not actively seeking it out as a monopoly or if they think it’s unimportant for whatever reason. (The light blue properties, for instance, are treated like trash and sold back to the bank with the least hesitation.) Here’s where I remind them.

“Look, I’m picking it up for a song.”


“No, look!” I insist, as I turn back around and resell the property to the bank and make some extra cash or hold it until it becomes obvious that it’s valuable to someone else wanting a monopoly. It’s been a hard lesson for my children to learn that even if they’re not interested in a property and it isn’t as expensive or high rent as Park Place or Boardwalk, it’s still a great way to make some money by what we now call “flipping.”

Also related to the auction is keeping an eye on what the other players have in terms of money and / or properties. Many a time, it is a good idea to let a property go to auction and not buy it for asking price if the other players don’t have ready cash available. My children rarely notice this and happily pay asking price if they’re excited about landing on a past favorite.

In terms of developing the art of paying attention, Monopoly is as good as a game as the Where’s Waldo puzzle books or playing Spot It and Spot It Jr. with younger children.

It teaches them that gathering information at all stages of the game – not just when it’s your turn – is a fantastic skill to develop.

Currency is not Value

My children never, ever want to part with their hundred dollar notes. Never. Ever. And this is not an exaggeration.

If there is ever a time that they have to pay fifty dollars, they would rather gather up all their change in five and one dollar notes rather than break the hundred dollar notes.

Also, once they own a specific property, even if they owe another player rent, they will get rid of all their cash and refuse to liquidate it, claiming they have “no money.”

Indeed, they will make all kinds of arrangements to simply keep playing. It’s fascinating to watch the odd combinations and permutations they come up with – including debts, forgiveness of said debts, even paying each others’ rents!

At some point, my husband declares, they’re not even playing Monopoly; they’re playing “rotten economy,” if such a game exists.

The Lessons of Monopoly

“So what is money?” my daughter finally asked at the dinner table the other day after a long conversation with my husband trying to explain the concepts of money, price, value and currency.

She may not have got it all, but at least the conversation had begun. And I understood that based on the classical model of education, they are still in the grammar stage and money versus currency is definitely a logic stage conversation, but there had been a hint in that direction.

“What is money, then?” she asked. I wanted to applaud. She’s only eight. It took me until I was in my mid-twenties to ask that question.

Fortunes change, be kind

This is one we all stumble on, but one specific child (I won’t mention who) really, really likes to win. I mean, really. And this specific child likes to rub our noses in the dirt when such a victory is about to take place, takes place and after it takes place.

I’m all for celebrating, but learning to be kind has been one of the best lessons from this game. And yes, while I will say that there is a tipping point after which fortunes certainly can not change, we have had some very interesting reversals.

Helping my children to manage their emotions and temper both their wins and losses has been challenging, to say the least. What are the chances that I would get one of each child who loves to win and one who hates to lose? (That sounds redundant, but I assure you, it’s not.)

So we have to learn, I guess, in one word, humility. Me too.

The Lessons of Monopoly

This is one subject with no lesson plan. I can’t put “kindness” in our daily planner. So we practice when we play. And when the winner loses, we remember the quote I had glued above my desk when I was much, much younger, a quote from Kipling’s poem If that I still recall with fondness.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;”

And if you’re here reading this post and nodding up and down, saying, We knew this for years, maybe consider the Monopoly Luxury Edition! I can’t show this to my kids yet, because they’ll want it for tomorrow instead of for Christmas. *wink

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The Trouble With Eclectic Homeschooling

I was going to title this post “The Trouble With Classical Unschooling” but chose to go with “eclectic homeschooling” because I think defining the term “classical unschooling” is its own beast. (Which, by the way, if you’re interested in what that’s all about – go read my book.)

But I also chose the title because I think it defines the battle for us finger-in-every-pie kind of homeschoolers.

The struggle is real, people.

I wish, I really do, on some days that I was one of those who knew exactly what style of homeschooling I fell into, that I wasn’t one to pick the best from this style and the most from that one.

Yes, it gives me immense freedom to be able to do so, but it’s also a great burden. Being eclectic means, amongst other things, never being settled in a nice, neat routine.

Lately this concern has centered around extra curricular activities. Mainly because how you feel about your children being in various activities will likely be influenced by your style of homeschooling, if not parenting. Do you think they need to be in activities? Do you believe they will learn by being in a classroom?

And do you need a teacher to teach the things you are not able to teach them? Is music important? Is art? Do you sign them up? Or do you merely wish to expose them to various things and wait for them to decide? Do you make them continue when they do not want to?

If you know the answer to these questions, you, my friend, know exactly where you stand and are, very likely, not an eclectic homeschooler.

Because those questions put me in a tizzy. I do not like a bunch of activities. I have sworn to never be the mom who is rushing from one engagement to the next and driving kids around to various sports and activities they are not interested in. Never, ever, ever. Ever. Not happening.


What do you do when you want to simply expose them to something they might just be good at? Do you force them into something non-academic that makes them unhappy? Or do you pick your battles and let the rest go?

That is my current predicament.

And that is the trouble, in essence, with being an eclectic homeschooler. Of course, this can be a problem with homeschooling in general, but one that is definitely accentuated by a style that tries to incorporate more than one style.

What do you think? If you are an eclectic homeschooler, how do you navigate the zone of activities for your children? 

Teaching Children to Quit

When was the last time you quit something? When did your children stop doing something? Here’s why we need to seriously consider teaching children to quit. 

“I have been thinking about quitting,” someone says and there is immediate silence.

Most of the time, “quitting” makes us feel like we’re giving up. We immediately assume quitting something is a negative thing.

I know I do.

Teach Your Kids to Quit - The Classical Unschooler

About a year ago, when I still felt green about homeschooling (okay, okay, so I don’t have a doctorate in homeschooling now, but it’s our fifth year and I’m quite “settled in,” if you will) I asked some friends a question about a read aloud (that shall go unnamed) we hated. Here was the question:

“…if a read-aloud sucks, do you dump it? […] I hate, hate, hate it. I think it’s uselessly dumbed down. I don’t care for it, but we only have one more full day of reading it. Ugh. I’ll plod through if I must. But we all hate it. Thoughts?”

I got various responses – everything that ran the gamut from “dump it!” to “children need to learn perseverance” to “it’s just one more day – get it done!”

It’s been a whole year since then and looking back, I think I have something to say to myself about this internal struggle. Because looking back I can see slightly more clearly now. What I want to say to myself has to do with quitting.


Quitting is a skill. We need to cultivate it. Knowing when and how to quit and when and how to persevere is perhaps the most important skill our children (not to mention we ourselves) need to learn.

“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt.” – Seth Godin.

We need to learn to quit fast.

As homeschoolers, we tend to stick it out far longer than most people sending their children to public schools. This is not derision, it’s truth. We persevere with the co-op, the program, the curriculum, the classes even when we see that they are not working.

We do this because we worry that there might be something we are not seeing. Or we stick with it because we know the importance of time and developmental stages and we have paid attention to such things in our homeschool.

But by the same token, we wait too long on some other things. We need to be able to tell the difference between what is working, what it not and be able to quit faster.


Teaching this skill to children can be tricky, but effective. If the way they are thinking of a math problem, for instance, is not helping them figure things out, they need to drop it and think of it some other way. There is no inherent value in doing things a certain way only because a text book says so.

(For full disclosure, I will mention that we have memorize math facts, but even as I saw my children memorize, I saw how differently they came to the same answer. I saw no reason to teach them my way when their own way was unique to them.)

We need to learn to quit often.

My personal challenge is to read 100 books by the end of 2016 and December is drawing close extremely fast. (You can check out my Goodreads profile and follow me here.)

Having never before made the decision to read as many books, I got a little carried away in the winter months and read a lot. Then came summer. I get almost no reading done in the summer because we dig deep into homeschooling. At last count, I have read 82 books – something I have never done in any other year.

How did I manage? The truth is I read as many books by quitting many, many more after the first page or the first chapter. I did not persevere in these instances. In fact, it was by dumping the wrong books that I was able to read the ones I truly enjoyed and thus achieved my goal.

In other words, I quit often.

We need to quit without guilt.

The kids and I were playing Monopoly yesterday and the game was dragging. We all knew the rules fairly well and fortune was favoring no one. We all had managed to block the others’ attempts at a monopoly and were basically moving our tokens around the board paying rent and collecting it.


What was interesting is that no one wanted to quit for fear that someone would feel bad. We often do this – as homeschooling parents, as people in general. We have misplaced guilt. We are too polite to quit.

Please note that I am not talking about issues of morality here.

Of course there will be times when we need to persevere and stick through it come what may, but when it comes to the mundane, practical tasks, we need to be able to see them as such as quit without guilt.

Yesterday, I saw how my desire not to hurt my children’s feelings had been internalized by them. Never again, I assure you.

Quitting faster, more often and without guilt helps us to focus on what is important by getting rid of the trivial. It is something I intend to be incorporate into our homeschool.
What do you think? Do you think we need to teach our children to quit or persevere? How do you teach this important skill?

Homeschoolers and Sports

Homeschoolers and if they should be playing on public school teams are in the news again, albeit locally. The idea surfaces every few years or so, it seems.

Often referred to as the Tebow debate, there are two sides to this argument.

One side argues that they pay the same taxes as the others and since schools are funded by tax payers, that their children shouldn’t be held behind just because the student isn’t part of the traditional school setting. The other side claims that “high school is a privilege, not a right.” Read the rest of the argument here as covered in Time Magazine.

On a personal level, we’ve never been a family interested in sports. We do not shun all extra curricular activities, but require that our children show a certain level of commitment before we insist that they compete on any level. But I am following this argument with some general inquisitiveness if not interest.

What do you think? Are sports considered important in your family? What options do you have and where are your children enrolled?

Of course the final say is that of the state where you are located. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has published the state laws for each state so you can find out if joining your local high school sports team is an option for your child. You can find that list here.

As a self-proclaimed unschooler though, I wonder about what the unschoolers among my readers think about this argument. Most unschoolers want little to do with any kind of organized event and so it would probably follow that high school sports are not an attraction for their families.

What say you? Are you a homeschooler or an unschooler and involved in sports? Does your state allow the involvement of homeschoolers in public school teams?  

Does College Scare Homeschoolers?

Every once in a while, we receive those questions: the odd ones from people who don’t know any homeschoolers and weren’t educated at home themselves.

I have had numerous conversations with people who swore up and down that the only reason they have sent their children to public school was because they wanted them to get exposure to all the diversity out there and be able to have conversations with people.

I had to laugh. Because all that day our children were with us talking with everyone just fine. Imagine that!

Perhaps the most annoying of all those questions is how homeschoolers will adjust to college. The question isn’t ever about academic achievement, mind you, it’s about how they will adjust to the socialization that the new environment requires because they haven’t shared in the popular culture.

So here’s a great article I recently read that deals expressly with the homeschoolers in college question. It’s written by someone who was homeschooled herself. Perhaps my favorite part is this one:

Ultimately, the transition from homeschool to college isn’t a matter of getting out of the house and talking to people for a change, but merely of continuing academic studies in a different venue and in a different manner. Unlike many who feel that college is unstructured, for me, college feels more structured than high school did (for instance, my classes start at the same time each week). While my peers might feel at a loss with their newfound freedom and scheduling flexibility, I am eager to fill the slots in my schedule so that my week runs like clockwork. I’m used to self-imposing order and routine, rather than being forced into a routine by a public high school.

Oh, and if you were wondering about homeschoolers and how they interact with college, there are numerous articles about homeschoolers attending college, not just here, but worldwide.

Or perhaps we should just stop trying to get into college in the first place?

Do you get the odd questions about college as a homeschooling parent? Were you homeschooled and attended college? Please share your experiences!

Our Three Read Aloud Rules

Ah, reading aloud.

Cozy blankets, some squabbling to find the right spot, rainy days and a book – the longer, the better. How inviting, right? Especially now that it is fall – if summer will ever accept that! Everyone – okay, maybe almost everyone – reads aloud.

Whether verbally acknowledged or not there are rules all homeschoolers use to pick their next read aloud book.

Either they eschew what Charlotte Mason referred to as twaddle, or they stick to a list recommended by a particular person or a group that they admire to find good books or they undertake the great and wonderful task of researching and digging through Facebook groups, online encyclopedia and asking friends and family. Sometimes, they even go (gasp!) through boxed curricula lists.

Our 3 Read Aloud Rules

I have written before about reading aloud and how we got a bit of a late start on it. I am happy to say that as of today I consider nothing else more important. Although we tend to favor read alouds of the fantasy genre more than others, I have nevertheless developed some “rules” around which I base our reading.

Here they are.

Read Aloud Rule #1: I pick what I want to read

Homeschooling parents are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met. When we stop by our public library – something we do almost every week –  I can almost always tell when a homeschooler has visited before me by the number of good books I can find sitting next to each other. That said, I will add that sadly I can also tell when someone is following a boxed curriculum.

Not all boxed curricula are created equal, of course, some like Sonlight have excellent books which I am delighted to find. However, I don’t insist that we read all of them for the simple reason that I don’t like them.

I will no longer pick books based on the idea that they are great works of literature, that everyone else is reading them, that they are in this list or that one or that there is a connection with something else we are currently studying in a different subject.

Reading aloud for introverted, taciturn me takes a lot of time and effort. As such, I want to make the most of it for all of us. Reading a book that I hate makes the entire process so tedious that I am likely to avoid it. And the children sense it as well.


They catch my boredom and begin getting listless, or worse, fidgety. And pretty soon, what should be an enjoyable activity that brings us together, helps us share a world, increases comprehension and develops language devolves into an unrewarding, unfulfilling task. After learning that lesson from trudging through a particularly boring book or two, my read aloud rule #1 states that I will read a book aloud only if it’s something I am personally interested in. I will no longer pick books based on the idea that they are great works of literature, that everyone else is reading them, that they are in this list or that one or that there is a connection with something else we are currently studying in a different subject.

In other words, if I am not going to enjoy reading them, out they go. They’ll just have to wait until my kids are older and can read them on their own.

Read Aloud Rule #2: I don’t stick to grade levels

The first book we read that we all thoroughly enjoyed and still talk about to this day was The Hobbit. My older two children were 6 and 5 at the time. I am still amazed when I write that they understood and appreciated what we read. Sure, I paraphrased and of course some themes that we explored needed a little grappling with to be understood. It wasn’t easy, but it was immensely rewarding.

The vision of the world we came away with was more than what was contained in the plot, the characters or the fantasy in the book itself. The vision we came away with that settled itself into the recesses of our minds was that of freedom. Because it was the freedom to be able to look at something and discuss it, regardless of the time of day, the age of the person talking or the issue we were mulling over.

It was reading aloud that I finally believed that my children had the ability to surprise me, surpass me and no boxed curriculum or boxed in classroom would ever take that away from us.

Nothing was out of reach; nothing was “too mature,” nothing that they would only understand when they grew up. Sure, they probably did not fully comprehend certain nuances, but do we ever capture every nuance in every book? However, I discovered the true strength and beauty of homeschooling in reading aloud. It was here that I finally believed that my children had the ability to surprise me, surpass me and no boxed curriculum or boxed in classroom would ever take that away from us.


By the same token, I will also read good picture books to my older children. Sometimes, the youngest wants a picture book and the olders will come and hang out and enjoy it as well and expressly ask for one the next time. And I have already written about my love for graphic novels, which I will not read aloud, but my daughter will!

Read Aloud Rule #3: Kids don’t have to sit still

When reading aloud, silence is necessary. However, sitting stock still is not. I read tons of blogs before I started homeschooling and made the mistake of trying to incorporate the practice of getting my children to sit still as recommended by some of them. One particularly annoying post suggested that getting children to sit still while reading aloud made it easier for them to sit in other situations like classrooms, restaurants, church and so on. Great, I thought, extend their time of sitting still so that they can sit still.


Our 3 Read Aloud Rules

Sitting still might be required in classrooms where the teachers have to deal with multiple students, but it is an unnecessary burden to place on yourself as a homeschooling parent. I abandoned that practice very early on.

My children find themselves in all kinds of positions while I’m reading to them. Some will hang upside down, some will listen lying down. My daughter prefers to sit up and listen, but that’s just her personality. I will sometimes catch my kids at breakfast or lunch and read to them. Some days, very rarely, we do sit still and read with the occasional run to the kitchen for snacks.

So there you have it. Our three simple rules for read alouds. Do you have any rules for picking the right read aloud? I’d love to hear them! 

“Teach Kids How to Think, Not What to Think” is Terrible Advice

I was having an online “conversation” a.k.a. argument with someone yesterday. Actually, let me rephrase that: I had asked for resources for teaching something specific and had instead been admonished by someone “not trying to be rude but just wanting to say” that I should teach my children how to think, not what to think.


I did my best to explain why I would pointedly not be doing so and left it at that and the argument ended. However, since that phrase and that ridiculous bit of advice is bandied about incessantly over the internet every single day, prattled out by homeschoolers, teachers, and other (usually) well-intentioned folks, I wanted to write about why I hate that phrase so very much and I wish it would die.

If wishes were curses, about 80% of the internet would be writhing in pain and flames on my living room floor. Sigh. One can hope.

So here are my reasons for why I think the argument to teach kids how to think and not what to think is terrible advice.

Children are not ready to think well until they have mastered the grammar of whatever it is they will be thinking about.

If you have read my book, The Classical Unschoooleryou probably know that I tend to value the classical system of learning as much as the unschooling side. In the classical system, logic (and what people usually mean when they refer to as “how to think”) is the natural progression of the grammar stage. In other words, it’s the second step after the child has developed a good grasp of the grammar of a subject.

This is essentially where public schools get it all wrong. With their supposed emphasis on “critical thinking,” that is, how to think and not what to think, they jump ahead to the logic stage before the children have had a chance to grasp anything in the grammar stage. I have seen a history curriculum start to teach history with a fictional story designed to evoke an emotion. The children are then asked to comment on how they felt through it. I’m sorry, but how is that history? And, by the way, how is appealing to their emotions and then asking them to have an opinion about a real, historical event teaching them to think critically?

I tend to agree with Don Bartletti (who wrote that above article about critical thinking – seriously, go read it) that most of what passes as critical thinking is just “uninformed opinion lacking intellectual valence.” And I am loathe to teach that kind of intellectual laziness to my children.

Logic and reason carried to its pure, objective end can justify almost anything.

The biggest lie out there is that only religion justifies murder and that if people would only turn to reason and logic, we would all live happily ever after in Science Land. It’s as if Critical Thinking is the beautiful Cinderella kept captive by her ugly stepsisters of religious war. All we need to do, say the princes of Science Land is to get that glass slipper and go rescue her. Thinkerella is our salvation.

The unfortunate fact is that Thinkerella has some skeletons of her own in her fireplace she should consider first: the Nazis, abortion and infanticide, and racism to name just a few.

Thinking does not exist in a vacuum.

Even with the purest logic, there is still an overarching morality (call it world view, if you will) you subscribe to and that will come through. And maybe that is my problem with this kind of advice all along. It shows that people haven’t really – excuse the redundancy – thought about it hard enough.

If the personal is political, I would argue that the personal is also universal. Even the most objective thinking does not exist in a vacuum. It requires a personal philosophy which is the lens through which you are seeing it. Now, it might be a purely materialistic / empirical lens, but there is a lens all the same. So, right there, you are teaching people not just how to think but also what to think, no matter how desperately you think you are avoiding doing so.

To clarify, let me add that I’m not, in any way, saying that we should not be teaching children how to think. In fact, that is the basis of all education after all – to teach someone to learn and think for themselves. My argument is simply with the idea that we can teach people how to think without teaching them what to think.

Then again, maybe I’m just splitting hairs. Either way, I’m glad I got you to think while telling you what to think.

How To Schedule An Effective Homeschooling Day (Part 2 of 3)

If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, you should go do that. In part 2, I intend to talk about exactly how to go about scheduling a homeschooling day that works. I have also written a looser way of writing a basic curriculum in another post. If you’re interested in creating your own curriculum, you should go read about it here.

The key to a good plan is not to plan too far ahead.

Yes, I said it. You know those beginning of the year curriculum plans you have to submit along with your intent to homeschool? (At least that’s what we do in California – laws in various states differ. Check yours!) I don’t do so well with those. I mean, I do write them and we usually get everything on there done, but as a daily and weekly task reminder, those plans are a bit… well… let’s just say they can be overwhelming.

A wise homeschooling mom once told me not to consider daily progress but monthly progress.

But wait a minute – didn’t I just say not to plan too far ahead?

Yes, yes I did. You see one thing I have realized about scheduling anything is that it’s a lot like budgeting. You have to consider the overall scheme (what we want to learn) and then you have to consider what is coming in (how much time and ability we have) and how we intend to spend that resource. (What curriculum/workbook, etc. to use, if at all.)

Just like a budget works with both an overall scheme as well as daily accounting, homeschool scheduling works when you have an overall structure with weekly or monthly chunks of goals. And just like a money budget needs an emergency fund, a homeschooling plan must have some wiggle room.

How do we achieve this? Five ways.

  1. We plan a good overview of what we’re going to learn for the year
  2. We break it up into how many days we plan on working…
  3. …with wiggle room for vacations, birthdays and do nothing days
  4. We prioritize what’s important and how many days a week we need to dedicate to it
  5. We say no – a lot.

So, essentially our homeschool planning follows this basic trajectory – overall, general idea based on abilities and interests —> broken into 2 halves —> broken into monthly chunks —> broken into weekly and daily goals —>written down. That last part is important and incidentally is the part that gives us the wiggle room we need.

In part 3 of this series, I’ll go into more detail, pull all these ideas together and talk about one of my favorite things – stationery!!! 

How to Schedule An Effective Homeschooling Day (Part 1 of 3)

Last week, I mentioned on my Facebook page that I had been taken with the bug of how to schedule a good homeschooling day. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (and/or have picked up my book The Classical Unschooleryou know that I tend to find myself smack dab in the middle of classical education and unschooling. As such, planning an effective school day can be a bit of a challenge.

What do I mean by an effective school day? I mean a day where we

1. are not overwhelmed by pacing ourselves after an institution or peers

This is important to me, especially in the younger years. There seems to be a certain push to learn earlier and earlier lately, to push children into an institutionalized way of thinking. And don’t get me started on the back to school posts that are no doubt ubiquitous on my Facebook feed at this time of year. (Yours, too? This might make you feel better. Read it.)

But all that aside, I still don’t like the idea that children have to learn reading one year, that some curricula ties writing with reading, that they have to learn multiplication and division in third grade and that somehow time is running out. I detest that way of thinking in my bones.

And so anytime I hear someone say that children should do something in a specific year, my answer is No. They will do it when they’re ready for it. Sure, I’ll check often for readiness, but I’m not going to make them do something just because they’re seven or eight. And I certainly won’t suffer overwhelment because of it.

2. have an overall structure that helps maximize what we’ve set out to learn

I know, I know… I’m an unschooler with classical leanings. What a weird character! I’ve always sought to bring together extremes. So in my world, I don’t think it’s crazy at all to give the children free rein to learn whatever it is they want but having a schedule to cover the basics that they will need to help them get to the thing that they will enjoy.

What do I mean by that? Well, my daughter loves stories, for example. And teaching her to read was important so that she could get her hours of entertainment by reading. Also, my son loves video games and math and has a mind with the ability to remember details – lots of them. I can help him learn that about himself and ways to use those skills to enhance his enjoyment of what he will undertake in the future.

The way I see it – I am a guide, and what does a guide do but impose a structure on and make sense out of what would otherwise be confusing wilderness?

3. keep a consistent eye toward self-directed, interest-led learning

All that said, I have to add that the focus of our day while we are learning to read, write and do math is to encourage self-directed learning. I tend to model this as well. A quick example might help illustrate this. We’re currently studying The Middle Ages. So we’ve been listening to Beowulf in the car. We’ve been memorizing the Middle Ages timeline. My reading is centered in the same time period (that’s my reading on my own, not for my children) and when we pick family movies, we favor the Medieval times.

This does not always work.

Their interests are varied. They collect rocks and try and identify them. They want to read widely, play in the water, do things that children do – build tents in the living room, annoy each other, squabble over toys and who gets to sit where, but my push is toward self-direction when it comes to learning.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, next time I’ll write about how I’m bringing this all together. Yes, it’s possible!

Rhymes and Songs for Disciplining

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I tend to be more of an unschooler with classical tendencies (or a homeschooler with unschooling tendencies, depending on how you see it.) I have written before of how it took us a long time to get to where my daughter began to enjoy read aloud time. We spent most of our early preschool days on doing craft activities and some math because she seemed to like that. My son did not mind being read to but they have both had a desire to be taught to read for themselves. 

My youngest is nothing like that. He is my first child that loves being read to. Seriously, people, what a joy it is when a child wants to be read to and will sit while you read and at the end of the book, say, “Again! Read again. One more time.” Oh, my heart. (And my voice, but that’s another matter. Haha!)

To get back to the point I’m trying to make though… I’ve discovered that it doesn’t hurt to wait. Now my daughter – yes, that same one who wanted nothing to do with being read to – has not only read every fairy tale, easy reader and short chapter book I can get her for herself, but insists on me reading to her as well. She loves good audio books. We’ve read countless read alouds. And we memorize. What do we memorize, you ask? Poetry, songs, history timelines, hymns, church creeds, you name it.

Putting what I know now about my children together, I recently hit upon a way to get my children involved in disciplining themselves. It went something like this: I got tired of repeating the same instructions which they seemed to forget, so I thought they should spend some time repeating them, not me.

Repetition, I thought. Repetition… aha! That’s what we did every single day when we memorized. That was the answer!

So  I made some rhymes that I’m posting here. Feel free to use them with your own children. People, these work! When the kids start acting up now at the grocery store or before bed, I ask them to sing the song I taught them. And they do so. And in saying it, they repeat my instructions without me having to say them. This is like some serious magic. 

Here are the two rhymes I’ve made so far. (And I know there are more coming. Because, well, kids.)

The Grocery Store Song

(Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

When we are in the store
We walk and do not run.

We will not climb or fight,
We’ll play when we are done.

We will stay with the cart,
We will help find things,

We will not block the aisles,
We’ll act like human beings.

Time For Bed

(Sung to the tune of Hot Cross Buns)

Time for bed, time for bed,

Half past seven, almost eight, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

Brush my teeth, change my clothes, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

Get some books, what’s in my head, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

One last pee and a prayer, time for bed!

So there you have it. I love that these little rhymes work like a checklist, give the children something to memorize and develop habits without me having to nag them. It makes the day that much smoother.