This week in homeschooling: A Q&A at soccer practice

Homeschooling at

“My wife and I have been talking about that,” said the dad at soccer practice. “So how do you do it? Do the kids have to take a test every year or anything?”

People frequently have questions when they learn that we homeschool. Every now and then they’re a little judgey, but for the most part they’re just curious. I’m usually happy to answer to the best of my ability, even if the questioner is just being snarky.

The “have to” stuff is pretty easy to answer. Our state doesn’t have the most draconian standards for homeschoolers, but there are a few rules to follow. Yes, I told him, homeschoolers do have to take an annual standardized test here; Poppy and Pete did theirs just this week. We also have to register our homeschool with the state, we have to operate on a regular schedule during at least nine months out of the year, and we’re required to keep attendance records on file. Our state also encourages — the state emphasizes that word on their website — homeschoolers to, among other things:

  • Offer instruction that is similar in quality, scope and duration to local schools. I haven’t spied on our local schools to see what they’re doing, but I think we’re doing fine on this one.
  • Do at least five hours of instruction with the students every school day. Maybe once they’re in higher grades, but we’re definitely not sitting down with the schoolwork for five hours a day right now.
  • Log 180 days of school every year. We do this, mainly because the kids and I like having a goal.
  • Keep a daily record throughout the school year detailing the time and information covered for every subject, every day. I’m really, really glad this one’s just a suggestion. Ahem.
  • The “how to homeschool in general” question is always trickier for me to answer, because there are roughly 1 billion ways to homeschool. You can get a curriculum-in-a-box or do school online. Unschooling, Charlotte Mason and Classical Education are all popular. Or you can take aspects of lots of different curricula and philosophies and cobble together what works for you, which is what we do.

    Here’s a bit of what we did this week:

    Language Arts

    Pete is making good progress in “All About Spelling,” and depending on the day he’s either enjoying or enduring “First Language Lessons, Volume 2.”

    Poppy started the “Wordly Wise 3000” vocabulary program after finishing her spelling book a few weeks ago, and she’s working her way toward the end of “Growing with Grammar: Level Three.”


    The woman who administered the kids’ testing this week had some suggestions for us on the math front.

    Poppy isn’t behind, but she’s ahead of grade level in everything else and just at grade level in math. The test administrator said RightStart Math would be a good fit for her. We only have a month or so of school left this year, so I’m not switching it up just yet. Poppy will be trying it next year, though.

    Regarding Pete, she said he ought to be doing more challenging work. I gave him the next two end-of-unit tests in his McRuffy book, and he only missed two out of the combined 30-plus problems. So we’re accelerating his progress a bit. He’ll be skipping the rest of the current unit altogether, and we’re going to skip lessons here and there in the next unit.


    Poppy’s reading speed is off the charts, but her reading comprehension isn’t as strong. I know where she’s coming from on that front. We’ll probably both be well-served by the reading comprehension book I ordered for her.

    In read-aloud news: We’re still reading “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart, and I still don’t love it. This kids do, though.

  • Pete tests for his yellow belt at tae kwon do tonight!

  • Our homeschool co-op has a Field Day every spring. This is the first year that we’ve been able to go, and the kids loved it. There was a soccer skills challenge, a long-jump station that turned into a high-jump station, a sack race and a hula-hooping station, and there were a couple of different relay races. The most popular “event” seemed to be rolling down the giant hill next to the field, though.
  • The test administrator — a former elementary school teacher who homeschooled her five children — said we might consider committing four days a week to our core schoolwork and using the fifth day to do things like nature walks, projects or field trips. I like that idea a lot, and I think we’re going to incorporate it next year.

    How was your week?

    Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!

    Introducing a new addition to our table: The Festival of Frozen Foods

    This weekend was busy and nice and busy. My brother and his family came for a visit, the kids had birthday parties and playdates and an Easter egg hunt to attend, we bought groceries for the week, we saw “Rio 2,” Rockford mowed the lawn and planted the garden, and I tried on but did not buy swimsuits, made a giant outdoor Twister board for our upcoming homeschool co-op field day, planted a bucket of potatoes and made Easter dinner.

    I think I need a nap and a snack.

    "Camp Scene. Cooks at work." photo by Matthew Brady, courtesy National Archives.
    “Camp Scene. Cooks at work.” photo by Matthew Brady, courtesy National Archives.
    Monday: Scalloped ham & potatoes
    Yesterday we had The Easter Dinner, with ham and potatoes and carrots and salad and deviled eggs. Today we will revisit the ham and potatoes, in a slightly different configuration.

    Tuesday: Festival of frozen foods
    The kids are doing their annual standardized testing tomorrow, so I thought it might be good to make it a super-simple dinner night. I told everyone to pick their frozen food of choice at the grocery. Rockford will be having cheese enchiladas, I’ll have Palak Paneer, Pete will have Indian Butter Chicken and Poppy will have a cheese pizza.

    Wednesday: Oven-roasted cheeseburgers
    I’ve been trying to make a return to Kids Choice Night lately. Last week, Poppy chose butternut squash lasagna. This week it’s Pete’s Choice, which means we’re having cheeseburgers.

    Thursday: Lemon chicken
    We tried Stephanie O’Dea’s orange chicken recipe a few weeks ago, and it was good. (I thought it was OK; Rockford and Pete loved it.) Rockford is a big fan of lemon chicken, so when I noticed that she also has a lemon chicken recipe, I thought we’d give it a try. It has frozen lemonade concentrate in it, so I’m a little dubious. We’ll see.

    Friday: Pizza!
    On Saturday night I made pizza using garlic-herb pizza dough and fresh mozzarella from Trader Joe’s. It was delicious. That’s probably what we’ll do again this week.

    I’m linking this up with’s weekly Menu Plan Monday thing.

    Notes from the vomitorium

    We’ve been having something of a norovirus (probably) plague at Butterscotch Sundae headquarters. It started with Poppy on the night of March 20th, hopped to Pete for a bit and then returned to Poppy. Here’s a handy graphic I made, which should be just as informative and helpful as that terrifying one about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the ocean:

    I have done so much laundry.
    I have done so much laundry.

    It’s a really odd virus. No fever, no aches and pains, no 24-hours-and-everything-is-fine-and-dandy. The kids only feel truly awful when they’re in the middle of an incident. The rest of the time they’re feeling well enough to watch movies, play video games, wrap blankets around themselves like capes and tell me that they’re very, very bored.

    I’ve bleached every surface in the house, I’ve washed everything I can put into the washing machine and I’ve even put a cut-up onion in the room just in case it really does soak up the germs, but nothing seems to be getting rid of it. Fortunately — knock on wood — neither Rockford nor I[ref]I’m having chills and an increasingly sore throat as I write this, though, so we’ll see.[/ref] have come down with it. I’m especially happy that Rockford’s been OK, since he’s been out of the country for business since Saturday. I think being sick in a hotel in Morocco would be worse than being sick in a hotel in Virginia. At least there’s no marathon plane voyage to worry about if you’re just in Virginia.

    Homeschooling at ButterscotchSundae.comAs you may have already surmised, it’s taken a toll on the schoolwork. We had planned to do a field trip day while we were in Virginia for Rockford’s grandmother’s memorial service (I wouldn’t choose to be sick in a hotel, but it was a relief to just stuff the linens in a large garbage bag and leave them in the hallway. With the staff’s blessing, of course. I wouldn’t have left them a surprise like that. I also asked them to leave a bucket of cleaning supplies with me so I could clean and disinfect after every incident. TMI? Maybe, but keep it in mind in the event that you ever have the same problem.), and we were supposed to meet The Ivey League in Atlanta for a mega-awesome-fun-fest but I like Bridget too much to give her the plague.

    So. Things haven’t exactly fallen to pieces at home, but we’ve definitely been on a reduced schedule.

    Spelling & Vocabulary

    Pete finished Step Six — the short A sound — of All About Spelling this week. He hasn’t been super-enthusiastic about it, but I think part of that is the virus talking. He gets pretty crabby when he doesn’t feel well; it’s a trait he inherited from his mother.

    Poppy finished her SpellWell book last week, and I decided to let her take on a vocabulary curriculum rather than replacing it with more spelling. She’s doing the internet-based WordlyWise3000, and she seems to be enjoying it so far. You can only buy subscriptions for an entire school or classroom on the WordlyWise site, but they offer single-kid subscriptions through the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op. (I get some kind of points if you buy through that link. It isn’t money, exactly, but I figured I’d go ahead and disclose that anyway.)


    History has really taken a hit lately. We started back to it this week, but the only activity we did was gluing pieces to the timeline.


    Since I was adhering to the 24-hour rule, the kids have been going to their activities sporadically. I feel very guilty about that, although I haven’t heard from anyone saying they’d gotten sick. I just kind of figured if they hadn’t thrown up in three days we were safe, you know?

    Anyhow, Pete started tennis lessons this week. His first lesson was on Wednesday, and he loved it.


    We’re still working our way through “The Mysterious Benedict Society.” Progress there has been a little slow, too, because I’ve had a touch of a cold (or allergies or hey why not a sinus infection?) for a few weeks and sometimes I lose my voice.

    Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!