Inspiration

52 Weeks of Happier Homeschooling Week 17: Keep a NO List

Death to Stock Photos

Death to Stock Photos

Homeschoolers are always making lists—books to read, field trips to take, websites to check out—so we’re definitely no strangers to the joys of a good list. But one list that we often skip is the NO list—a list of things that we’re not going to worry about, wonder about, or fret about—at least for the time being.

My list includes things like “using coupons,” “cleaning out the garage,” “my son’s reading habits,” and “standardized test prep.” All of these are things I have worried about, I could still legitimately worry about, and some people might think I should worry about—but I’m not going to. Not right now anyway. I’m worrying about other things (notably algebra and handwriting practice this year). I’m too busy to worry about whether I should participate in a homeschool focus group—so I say “no, thanks” and put it on my NO list. I’m more concerned about getting through AP U.S. History this year than I am about whether my daughter should try another sport—so we take more walks, and I put “find a physical activity for O” on my NO list.

The NO list, like any good list, isn’t a set-in-stone, established-for-all time dictate. Rather, it’s an evolving reminder of how you’re prioritizing your homeschool at a given time—this year, you’re going to stop obsessing over finding the perfect science curriculum and focus on making the one you’ve already bought work better. This year, you’re going to let the idea of picturesque, cozy morning time go because it’s never worked for your family, and you’re going to plant a vegetable garden instead. Right now, you’re going to stop panicking about your kid’s less-than-ideal grammar and focus on helping her find her voice as a writer. You get the idea. You can’t do it all. We never can. So knowing what we DON’T want to worry about right now can help you get where you want to go just as much as knowing what you DO want to do.

Ideally, you’ll keep an actual written version of your NO list that you can check back in with every couple of weeks (or months, if obsessing over lists is on your NO list right now). Are you worrying about the things you’ve designated as not-worth-your-worry right now? Are you worrying about things that should be on your NO list? Is it time to move that don’t-wordy-about-it item back onto your everyday radar? The NO list helps you prioritize, but it also helps you keep up with things you know should eventually be important, even if they’re not really that important this particular year.

Your challenge this week: Start your own NO list by choosing at least four things that you aren’t going to worry about right now. They can be homeschool specific (socialization, finding the right park day, writing research papers, writing on the front side of the paper) or more general (meal planning, painting the dining room, volunteering at the food bank). Remember: Putting something on this list doesn’t mean it’s not important or that it doesn’t matter to you—it just means that, right now, you’re focusing your energy in other areas.


52 Weeks of Happier Homeschooling Week 14: Give Your Space a Lift

week 14.jpg

If you’re easing back into your routine post-holidays, one of the best ways to get everyone excited about back-to-everyday-life is to give your learning space a little makeover. This doesn’t have to mean painting and building bookshelves (though, gosh, wouldn’t that be nice?). Instead, focus on a few little changes that make your space more fun to use. Pick up a couple of fun new posters for the wall. Set up a reading corner with a comfy chair and a cozy blanket. Buy a groovy lamp, and set up a special math desk. Move your books around so that your family room shelves look new and interesting. Set up an easel and art supplies in a sunny corner. Set up your telescope and hang up constellation maps. Start a giant history timeline. Move your table to a different corner. Paint your chairs a different color. Take down your curtains or hang up new ones. Put up a tent for storytime.. Start a nature table, and venture out each morning to collect treasures for it. Build a little stage with a curtain backdrop in the playroom. Hang up chalkboard panels on your walls, and pass your kids a box of colored chalk. Paint a giant mural on your family room wall. 

The idea is to make your space feel new and exciting again. By the time January rolls around, you’ve found your routine and figured out your rhythm, but you don’t want to give familiarity a chance to breed contempt. One or two little changes to the space you spend the most time in will keep things interesting.

 

Your challenge this week: Make an obvious change in one of your family’s learning spaces.


Monday Pep Talk No. 41

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Need a little Monday morning pick-me-up to get the week going?

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and there’s no better way to appreciate one of the world’s best known speeches than by listening to the original recording.

Mark Pluto Demotion Day (August 24, 2006 was the date Pluto officially got knocked down from “planet” to “dwarf planet”) by watching NOVA’s “Chasing Pluto,” which includes information from the New Horizons flyover.

As pool season winds down, transform those pool noodles into backyard games fun.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

It’s still gazpacho season!

Mix up your August grilling routine with coffee-crusted grilled pork chops.

Possibly your new favorite sandwich: Grilled cheese with zucchini, bacon, basil, and Gruyere

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I discovered The Midnight Folk in childhood because it’s one of the books mentioned in Edward Eager’s Magic or Not? (I love Eager’s habit of paying in-the-text tribute to the authors he loves), and I’m so glad I did! This is a playful, charming fantasy story that deserves a spot on your shelf next to the Chronicles of Narnia or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
— Andy Rooney

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

best-ever pina colada


Monday Pep Talk No. 40

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Let the week begin!

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

It’s Davy Crockett’s birthday on Wednesday. Celebrate the man, the myth, the legend by reading Davy Crockett: His Own Story: A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, and follow up by watching the Disney classic Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier so that you can identify all the film’s historical liberties.

Brush up your amusement park physics so that you can count a trip to the park for Rollercoaster Day on Tuesday.

Photography Day (on Friday) is a great excuse to set up an outdoor photography nature scavenger hunt.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

For me, a lobster roll tastes just like the end of summer, even if I’m not lucky enough to be spending August on the beach.

This roasted tomatillo tortilla soup is quick and so good.

The surprise green beans are the stars of this summery BLT salad, but you can throw in any veggies you happen to have hanging around.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Castle Hangnail
By Ursula Vernon
 

Castle Hangnail is an utterly delightful readaloud—and you need to get it on your library list before the Ellen DeGeneres-produced movie version comes out and the wait list gets ridiculous.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

What was difficult
was the travel, which,
on arrival, is forgotten.
— Louise Glück

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

the tempest


Monday Pep Talk No. 39

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Hello, Monday! Let’s get this week started, shall we?

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Celebrate Bowling Day (on Monday) with a trip to the bowling alley. (If you sign up for Kids Bowl Free, your kids can bowl two games at participating bowling centers for free.)

Find out what it actually takes to build a skyscraper in PBS’s four-part documentary Skyscraper: The Making of a Building. (It’s free to watch online.) What better way to mark Skyscraper Appreciation Day on Wednesday?

Decorating our new notebooks is a tradition in our homeschool. Get inspired with this Pinterest collection of cool notebook upgrades.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Something different to do with that zucchini: Zucchini basil soup with creme fruit and picked corn. (I think I’d serve this with tomato toast, but that’s what I want to serve with pretty much everything in August.)

Can you believe you only need five ingredients to make this summer squash pizza?

You could serve this warm faro salad with chickpeas, feta, and spicy dressing all by itself — but it’s also yummy with grilled portobello mushrooms, grilled chicken, or grilled pretty much anything.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

The Adventures of Miss Petifour: The whimsical, episodic adventures of Miss Petifour and her sixteen cats make a perfect easing-back-into-your-routine readaloud. This book has a Pippi Longstocking-Roald Dahl-ish vibe that we really loved.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.
— Madeleine L'Engle

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

tequila-colada cremoladas


Monday Pep Talk No. 38

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week. photo by death to stock photos

Just FYI: We’re going to be moving the Monday Pep Talk over to a newsletter soon, so if you’re a Monday Pep Talk fan, keep an eye out for details. 

 

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

The summer Olympics start on Friday! Here are some fun ideas for Olympics projects you can work on together while watching the events.

Use your science skills to make your own ice cream for Ice Cream Sandwich Day (Tuesday).

Make a a batch of fizzing sidewalk chalk and decorate your driveway.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Ready in the time it takes to cook spaghetti: spaghetti with tomatoes, bacon, and eggs

This vegetarian take on the classic gyro is a great base for whatever summer veggies you have lying around.

Miso corn soup may just be my new favorite summer soup.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
 

Celebrate Yorkshire Day (Monday) by reading the book that puts your Yorkshire accent skills to the test: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

blackberry-green tea cocktail


Monday Pep Talk No. 37

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Get outside and make a mess with paint Alka Seltzer rockets. It’s the perfect art project to kick off summer.

Don’t forget your towel and your copy of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—Wednesday is Towel Day.

Celebrate Learn about Composting Day (on Sunday) by starting your own compost heap. Start it now, and it should start giving back by fall.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

This grilled chicken with grapefruit glaze comes together in a snap and tastes terrific—the perfect combo for a weeknight cookout.

Update your regular pasta dinner with 20-minute chicken parmesan bolognese.

Why did I never think of this before? Spring roll salad takes all the yumminess inside a spring roll and turns it into an irresistible salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Space pioneer Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951. Celebrate her birth with a readaloud of Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space, a book that tries to capture some of Ride’s exuberance and brilliance written by her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.
— Judith Minty

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

no-bake nutella cheesecake


Monday Pep Talk No. 36

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Celebrate National Transportation Week by exploring some of the ways people got around before the Industrial Revolution.

Hit your library for Biographers Day (Monday). We published some of our favorite women’s history biographies in March and will pretty much never stop raving about Lerner’s STEM Trailblazer biographies, but you can find a biography on almost anyone.

May 18 is International Museum Day. Take a field trip to a museum in your neighborhood that you’ve never visited.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Upgrade taco night with double pork carnitas.

Easy, endlessly adaptable simple California style omelets are a perfect vehicle for a great farmers market haul or for cleaning out the veggie bin.

Kick off official grilling season with honey grilled chicken with citrus salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I Lived on Butterfly Hill
By Marjorie Agosin
 

I Lived on Butterfly Hill, a story about a girl who’s sent to live with her aunt in Maine when a coup destabilizes her family’s life in an imagined version of Chile, makes a great conversation starter for Latino Books Month. Older kids may enjoy comparing the events in the story to the history of Chile.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Have faith that your child’s brain is an evolving planet that rotates at its own speed. It will naturally be attracted to or repel certain subjects. Be patient. Just as there are ugly ducklings that turn into beautiful swans, there are rebellious kids and slow learners that turn into serious innovators and hardcore intellectuals.
— Suzy Kassem

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

peanut butter choco tacos


Monday Pep Talk No. 35

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Make a sock puppet to mark the solemn occasion that is Lost Sock Memorial Day (on Monday). I love this fun rock and roll puppet and these googly-eye puppets.

Mother Ocean Day (Tuesday) was created to encourage ocean appreciation—and there’s no way not to marvel at the wonders of the deep when you’re watching the gorgeously filmed documentary Oceans.

Celebrate Limerick Day (Thursday) by—what else?—writing limericks. This tutorial from Kenn Nesbitt’s Poetry4Kids website has all the info your family needs to create limerick masterworks.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I’m not saying that I guarantee this crunchy tofu chopped salad will convert the tofu-reluctant, but if it won’t, you may have to accept the possibility that nothing will.

When you have leftover salmon and leftover rice, you want salmon fried rice. (Honestly, I would cook the salmon and rice just to make this.)

Portobello burgers, or the only veggie burger me entire family will actually eat. (We like them with sweet potato fries on the side.)

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which seems like the perfect excuse to read Lawrence Yep’s Dragon's Gate—a funny, tender book about a reluctant 14-year-old boy from China who finds himself in 1860s California. 

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Education doesn’t make you happy. Nor does freedom. We don’t become happy just because we’re free – if we are. Or because we’ve been educated – if we have. But because education may be the means by which we realize we are happy. It opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever, that of the mind, and gives us the assurance – the confidence – to walk the path our mind, our educated mind, offers.
— Iris Murdoch

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

sarasota lemonade


Monday Pep Talk No. 34

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

May the Fourth be with you! Shelli has a great roundup of fun ways to celebrate Star Wars Day on Wednesday with your family.

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. Find a participating shop near you, and score a shiny new comic book for free.

Get hands-on with a simple art project, and paint your own version of budding spring trees with this cake tempera paint tutorial.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I have been craving these smushed lamb meatball burgers since I discovered them.

Shakshuka is one of my favorite quick dinners, and this smoky white bean version looks terrific. Think of it as an outside-of-the-box take on breakfast for dinner.

Shrimp curry with chickpeas and cauliflower tastes like you spent all day cooking it but comes together fast enough for an it’s-so-nice-we-stayed-too-long-at-park-day dinner.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Celebrate Leo Lionni’s birthday on on May 5 by reading Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, a whimsical story about a real mouse who years for the affection given to a mechanical mouse toy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
— A.A. Milne

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

salted chocolate matzo toffee


Monday Pep Talk No. 33

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Commemorate Richter Scale Day (on Tuesday) by building your own seismograph.

Save the Frogs Day (Saturday) was created to raise awareness about the threat of frog extinction—a real possibility if certain environmental factors don’t change. Nature’s Frogs: The Thin Green Line make a good introduction to the subject.

Take a cue from the spring issue of home | school | life, and celebrate William Randolph Hearst’s birthday (on April 29) by watching American Experience: The Battle over Citizen Kane, a fascinating look at the battle that raged around one of the world’s great movies. (There are more Citizen Kane resources in the spring issue.)

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I think these artichoke gratin toasts might be one of my favorite spring recipes.

Upgrade your standard side salad with this pea, feta, and prosciutto salad, and your regular grilled chicken rotation will feel new and exciting again.

There is some advanced kitchen puttering involved in making Rick Bayless’s creamy enchiladas with chicken, tomatoes and green chile, but if you’ve got a lazy day at home on the calendar, they’re worth the effort.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Celebrate Children’s Day / Book Day—El dia de los niños / El da de los libros—a.k.a. Dia—a multicultural celebration of the joys of reading by reading Tomas and the Library Lady, the true story of a child of migrant workers who discovers new worlds with the help of a kind librarian. The author, Pat Mora, established Dia in 1996, which makes this year its 20th birthday.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
— Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

icy-cool green tea mojitos


Monday Pep Talk No. 28

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

 

one great readaloud

  • I had not heard of The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay until I read an interview with Philip Pullman, who described it as his favorite children’s book. You might feel the same way when you finish—it’s delightful.

 

one thought to ponder

  • “Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”  ― Rumi

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

Monday Pep Talk No. 27

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Happy Monday! We’ve got a few fun ideas to add to your to-do list for the week.

3 fun things to do this week

Monday is Leap Day! Learn more about the science and history behind our extra calendar day this year

Mark National Anthem Day (on Thursday) by traveling back in time to 1814 with the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary “A Star-Spangled Story: Battle for America.” Plus: 9 things you may not know about “The Star-Spangled Banner” via the History Channel

What better way to celebrate World Book Day (on Thursday) than by exploring the history of books? The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has a terrific online exhibition of books through time, starting with clay tablets and continuing all the way through to modern-day editions.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Dress up your standard grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup dinner with this labneh grilled cheese sandwich. (Have you made your own labneh? It’s really easy and also tastes delicious on your morning toast with honey and hazelnuts—just saying!)

Nigella’s French lasagne is really a savory bread pudding made with leftover croissants, and it’s the perfect dinner for a chilly winter evening. I’d serve it with an easy kale salad.

If you are looking for a side idea for your regular grilled or rotisserie chicken, these barbecue carrots with yogurt and pecans will steal the show.

 

one great readaloud

Wrap up Black History Month by reading The Book Itch, a lovely history of Lewis Michaux’s National Memorial African Bookstore, which opened in the 1930s and became a rallying point for the civil rights movement.

 

one thought to ponder

“Men become builders by building houses, harpers by playing the harp. Similarly, we become just by doing just acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
—Aristotle

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

vodka, blood orange, and fennel cocktail


Monday Pep Talk No. 26

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

There is absolutely no better way to celebrate Curling Is Cool Day (on Tuesday) than by listening to the great David Attenborough narrate a curling match, documentary-style. (Seriously, though, why do we not have David Attenborough narrating all sporting events?)

There are lots of activities and reading ideas to choose from in Scholastic’s Myths, Folktales, and Fairy Tales workshop, which means there are lots of fun options for celebrating Tell a Fairy Tale Day on Friday.

Put your kitchen science skills to work making a batch of homemade yogurt together.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Put a twist on the breakfast-for-dinner standby by serving huevos rancheros. 

Nothing’s better than slow-cooker versions of family favorites, like this butter chicken. Serve with a big bowl of basmati rice.

Comfort food at its best: sweet potatoes with porcini gravy. (Bonus: Monday is Cook a Sweet Potato Day, so you’ve got that covered.)

 

one great readaloud

Sometimes in the middle of winter, you just want a readaloud that will make everyone laugh out loud. Put The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher on your library list, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

one thought to ponder

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
—Jessica Hische

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

spiked coffee milkshakes


Monday Pep Talk No. 24

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

Celebrate Opera Day (Feb. 8) by digging into some of our favorite beginners’ opera resources.

Make your own printing plates for a fun art project. (The foam sheet version is so easy that even completely non-arty parents can pull it off.)

Make sweet sesame crips (and a big pot of red tea) to ring in the Chinese New Year on Feb. 8.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Cheesy grits with poached eggs, greens, and bacon is like the ultimate winter comfort food dinner.

In case the name doesn’t give it away, this broken dumpling soup tastes like your favorite Chinese dumplings in warm, liquid form.

When the weather is frightful, sweet potato and coconut soup with brown rice and lentils is the coziest way to warm up dinnertime.

 

one great readaloud

Lincoln's Grave Robbers
By Steve Sheinkin
 

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is Friday—and while there are plenty of biographies about the President who led the United States through the Civil War, the wild, weird, and completely true Lincoln’s Grave Robbers—about a little-known historical incident—is middle grades non-fiction at its very best.

 

one thought to ponder

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

boozy frozen mocha popsicles